Planning the Perfect Spiderman Birthday Party

Is your little boy crazy about Spiderman? Then why not throw him a Spiderman Birthday party? Here are some tips for making the party fun for the kids yet simple for you.

I always find the best way to start planning for any party is the guest list. Once you know how many people to plan for then you are ready to focus on the rest of the details. After finishing the guest list, it is then time to get the invitations ready. You can either purchase character themed invitations from a local or on-line party supplier or you can make your own invitations using Microsoft Word’s invitation templates. The invitations need to be mailed out two weeks before the party date. This way all of your anticipated guests have plenty of time to make sure they can attend and RSVP. Just a side note, I have noticed that most people do not feel the need to RSVP anymore, so when you send out the invitations, make sure you are prepared for all of those people to attend.

Next, you need to make a decision on a cake. You can order a Spiderman themed cake from any local bakery or supermarket. You can also make your own cake. I find that making my own cake saves me quite a bit of money. There are a couple of options when making your own Spiderman cake. You can purchase a Spiderman shaped cake pan from a specialty baking shop. This choice is a bit more complicated to decorate, however it is well worth the effort once you see the finished cake. You could also make Spiderman cupcakes. There are several ways to do this, here are a few of my favorites. Cupcakes decorated with Spiderman Faces, or web designs, or you can even do web designs and put a Spiderman figure on top.

If you want something different than cake, you can always make crispy treats instead, or in addition to the cake. Rice crispy treats are easy to shape and color. You can make them in to Spidey heads, or even web shapes. If you are not ready for a complex decorating job, you can always get your local bakery to transfer any Spiderman picture onto edible image paper. There is a charge for this, however it is usually very minimal. You could even take a photo of your son dressed up as Spiderman, and then your cake is absolutely one of a kind! The image is easy to place onto any cake. You want to make sure the cake is ordered, pan or supplies are purchased, or the image is able to be turned into an edible one, so start the cake process about the same time that you send out the invitations.

Now comes my favorite part of planning a child’s party, the games and activities! There are so many ways to make the party memorable. Below I am going to list several of my favorite ideas. Depending on the age of the kids that will be attending you party you should choose 2 or 3 activities for them to participate in.

Spiderman coloring pages printed from the web or taken from a coloring book

Pin the spider on Spiderman

Capture the villains! Use silly string as web, and place pictures or action figures of the Spiderman villains around the yard or room. Let the kids shoot the bad guys with “web” If you use action figures, this would make a great party favor, the villain that each child shoots, they get to take home as a favor!

Spider crafts. There are tons of spider crafts out there. Just do a search on the web for Spider crafts and you will get tons of options!

Spiderman dodge ball. The birthday boy is first to be Spiderman, and all the guests are the villains The final villain left standing is next to be Spiderman. You can continue on with this through all of the party guests. Another great idea is to use a ball that looks like Spider man’s head for this game.

A child’s party is not complete without favor bags to send him with the friends that attend. You can purchase a variety of character themed goodies at party supply stores. Some of these stores may even have bags already filled and packed for you, so you don’t have to worry about filling the goody bags. You don’t want to just send home toys though, the kids will want to find something yummy in the bag as well. Spiderman fruit snacks, fruit rolls, or even red and blue candies make great choices for this theme party!

The final week before the party is the time to get all of the final details into place. Pick up all the snack foods, drinks, and other party supplies. You will need cups, plates for food, and also plates for cake and ice cream. Make sure you don’t forget napkins and plastic silverware. You will also need to make sure you chill the drinks ahead of time and have plenty of ice on hand too. You will need to order balloons from the floral department of the grocery store, or from the party supply store near you.

The day of the party everything should be all ready. The cake should be picked up right before the party, or made the day before. All decorations can also be put up right before the party. As the guests arrive you will be calm and collected and be able to enjoy the party along with your child. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of the birthday boy enjoying all the web-slinging action at his party. He will remember it forever, and I am sure you will too!

Planning the Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Is your little girl as sweet as Strawberry Shortcake? She is? Then a birthday party centered around this sugary sweet character and all of her friends is the perfect choice for your little sweetie! Here are some suggestions from my daughter’s recent party with this theme.

As I have stated in my other party planning articles, always start witht he guest list. It isn’t a party unless you have all of your friends and family there to celebrate with you. Invitations can be purchased at your local store, any store with party supplies will have them. You can also choose to order your invitations on-line. Many on-line party supply sites also carry party packs including many of your party necessities. You can also make your own invitations using any card making software or by using Microsoft Word. YOu can even make Strawberry shapes from construction paper and let your child help you cut them out and decorate them! To give your guests ample time to plan to attend and to RSVP, mail invitations at least two weeks prior to the party date. Even if you do not hear back from everyone on the guest list, still be prepared for all you invite to attend. The simple act of an RSVP seems to be a dying art these days.

This sweet them gives so many options for yummy foods. Since all of the characters are named after foods, the options just go on and on. Of course the main attraction of the food at any birthday partyis the birthday cake. YOu can always order a cake from a local bakery. I have even seen bakeries put a bunch of cupcakes together into the shape of a strawberry and then ice the cupcakes all together as one cake and decorate as a strawberry. It looks almost as good as it tastes! This “cupcake” cake would be easy to do on your own as well. You can also purchase a Strawberry Shortcake cake pan from a baking specialty shop, or on-line. This does require more decorating, but once you see the finished result, it will be well worth the additional effort! Cake plans need to be made at the two week before mark also. Either order the cake from the bakery, or find whatever pans you may need to make the cake of your choice. Do not put off the cake until the last minute, this is one detail you do not want to let slip through your fingers.

After you finish all of the planning for the cake, it is time to have some fun planning the other foods for the party. Here are some of the food ideas I had to choose from when planning our party.

1. Orange Blossom Cookies – I made simple spritz cookies and added a bit of orange extract to the batter. I used a flower shape disc on my cookie press and made these. I even had my daughter add orange sprinkles to the tops of the cookies. You can even use sugar cookie dough for this same thing and roll it out and use flower shaped cookie cutters. These of course are in honor of Strawberry’s friend, Orange Blossom.
2. Strawberry Shortcake – of course this one is the obvious option. You could have this yummy dessert instead of cake or in addition to cake.
3. Blueberry Muffins – I made miniature blueberry muffins, another recipe inspired by one of Strawberry’s friends, Blueberry Muffin.
4. Lemonade – this is always a great party beverage. You could even make a lemonade punch for more pizazz. This came from Strawberry’s twin friends, Lem and Ada.

There are tons of other options as well. All you need to do is do a search for Strawberry Shortcake and Friends and see all the character names to get inspired.

Now it is time to decide on party games. You need to first consider the age of your child and the children that will be attending the party. Make sure to choose age appropriate games and crafts.

1. Strawberry Shortcake coloring pages is great for any age. You can get these out of a coloring book, or print some out from on-line. Just do a search for Free coloring pages and you will find a multitude of sites that offer all different pages with all different characters. Print them out and you are ready to go!
2. Pin the tail on Pupcake – You can draw or purchase, or print out a large picture of Strawberry’s dog Pupcake. Have the kids pint he tail on him just like pin the tail on the donkey.
3. You could decorate cookies or cupcakes or rice crispy treats with the kids. One of Strawberry’s friend’s has her own bakery and this would be fin for older kids!
4. Strawberry crafts – You could make strawberries from construction paper or pipe cleaners or many other materials.
5. Strawberry patch – You could buy or make fake strawberries and hide them in the yard, then have the kids hunt for them. You can give them buckets or baskets to put the strawberries into. These baskets or buckets can double as their goody bags!

Speaking of goody bags, no party is complete without these special packages of special treats to thank your friends for coming to the party! You can find all kinds of neat goodies for the take home bags. Anything candy, cookie, or cake related would be perfect. Candy shaped erasers, and notepads with pictures of sweet treats ont hem would be great for any age. Also you can get small Strawberry Shortcake dolls for a small price, these would also be a good choice to send home with your little guests. Strawberry candies, and even strawberry fruit snacks would make a yummy addition too. You can even purchase ready made goody bags and character themed toys at your local or on-line party supplier.

The final seven days before the party get all the final items ready. Make a trip to the store to get all the final necessities, drinks, plates, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, any other snack foods you may want, and extra ice. If you want balloons make sure to order these at least 3-5 days in advance. You can order them from a florist or party store near you. You will need to pick the cake up the day of the party or make it a day ahead of time.

All of the details will fall right into place come party day! You will love watching your little sweetheart enjoy her party with her friends. Plus all of the adults will thinkt his is the best party ever! They may just all want you to help them plan their next party too! Enjoy your party, I know we enjoyed ours!

The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN: A Cut Above the Rest

My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. The kids got shipped off to their grandmother’s house for the weekend so we could enjoy some time to ourselves. We wanted to make our dinner out special so we chose to go to The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN.

The Butcher Shop specializes in steaks. However they have lots of options on the menu if steak is not your thing. The evening that my husband and I ate there, we both chose steak to eat. However, we also enjoyed an appetizer,some wine, and a fabulous dessert. We chose the Crab Cake Remoulade for our appetizer. They cost $9, for 2 crab cakes. They were absolutely delicious! One for each of us to eat, and the flavors were so intense yet not overpowering. We each also had a salad that came with our meal. My husband went with the Ceasar salad, and I chose the house salad. They both were very well put together and fresh. For our entrees my husband chose the 14 oz fillet mignon for $29.00, and I chose the Stuffed Fillet for $26. My husband said his fillet was cooked to perfection and was one of the best he had ever eaten. My stuffed fillet, was heavenly! It was stuffed with sauteed portabello mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese and fresh rosemary sprigs and served with Au Jus on the side. We both chose to have a baked potato for our side item. We were able to choose whatever items we wanted to go into our baked potato. My husband had his loaded, and I chose a few of my favorite fillings cheese, sour cream, butter, and bacon. The presentation of our meals was gorgeous, and most importantly they were so flavorful that we really enjoyed them. The Waiter was so helpful. My husband knew exactly what wine he wanted, however, I was unsure. The Waiter brought me one to try and when I didn’t think it was the one for me, he brought me another which I loved and chose as my wine for dinner.

Even though we were almost stuffed, we couldn’t resist asking what was on the dessert menu. The Waiter described each of the dessert items to us. They all sounded divine, however, there was one that stood out. They were offering a special dessert at that time, it was Banana’s Foster. I had never had this before, but heard it was amazing, so we ordered it and enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant while we waited. The Banana’s Foster arrived and it looked exquisite. The Butcher Shop does not light it’s Banana’s Foster, so that was one aspect of eating Banana’s Foster we did not experience. I took a bite and looked over to my husband and asked him “Where is yours?” This dessert was so amazing, I couldn’t believe it! We ate the entire dessert and then enjoyed the atmosphere a little longer while finishing up our wine.

Since it was our anniversary, we asked the Waiter to take our picture so we could remember the night forever. However, even without the picture, I don’t think we will ever forget that night. The food was amazing, the atmosphere romantic, and the service impeccable. The prices are much too high for us to eat at The Butcher Shop on a regular basis, however, I will definitely want to go back there on our next special occasion!

Restaurant Review: Macaroni Grill, Memphis, TN

Just last week I celebrated my birthday. Instead of purchasing me a gift that I may or may not like, my sister decided to take me out to lunch. We hardly ever get time together anymore since both of us have children and stay so busy, so we figured this would be a good opportunity to enjoy some good food and some time together. We chose Macaroni Grill for our lunch destination. It was close to her work and we both like Italian food.

This was not my first time at Macaroni Grill. I have eaten there on several occasions, however I had not been there in several years. When I walked in I was not sure I was in the right place! The restaurant had been completely renovated on the inside. It really looks amazing! I love the way it changed the atmosphere of the restaurant. It makes each table seem more private and cozy instead of being in a wide open dining room. The waitress came by with fresh bread with Italian Butter (olive oil and freshly cracked pepper) and wrote her name on the table so we can ask for her by name if we needed her. She took our drink order and came back with the drinks to see if we were ready to order. We were not quite ready yet, so she gave us a few more minutes. I took my time gazing through the new menu. Lots of delicious dishes to choose from. When we finally made our decisions we could not find our waitress. We saw another Waiter walking by so I stopped him and asked for him to get our waitress. He got her and she quickly came over to take our orders. My sister chose the Chicken Florentine salad for $8.99 and also a bowl of Chicken Toscana soup for $3.99. The soup was good, however she said that the salad was not as good as she thought it was going to be. I chose the Chicken Cannelloni for $7.99. According to the menu description this is a hand-rolled pasta stuffed with oven-roasted chicken, melted cheese and spinach, then baked in an Asiago cream sauce, then it is topped with tomato sauce. It was absolutely delicious! I had my youngest child with me. She is 3 and a half and ordered the children’s spaghetti and meatballs for $4.79. It was a huge portion. It had a ton of pasta and one huge meatball for her. I really think my sister, myself, and my daughter could have split this one dish and had plenty of food for the three of us. My three year old daughter certainly was not able to finish it all, so we took the majority of it home with us.

Since it was my birthday our waitress brought out a delicious dessert with a candle in it. Usually Macaroni Grill has a singing Waiter, waitress, or hostess come over and sing you happy birthday in Italian. However, today they didn’t have any singers available during that shift. This was perfectly fine with me though! My daughter insisted on singing me happy birthday anyways though. The Smothered Chocolate Cake that was brought out was divine! It is a chocolate cake that is covered in a warm chocolate sauce and then sprinkled with nuts. It also had whipped cream at the four corners of the cake. Absolutely wonderful, especially for a chocolate lover like myself. My daughter’s meal came with her own serving of ice cream.

If you have never been to Macaroni Grill, or even if you haven’t been in a while, definitely choose this for your next evening out. On this occasion my waitress could have done better, however, that is hit and miss at times. The food was good, and the atmosphere was great! My daughter even learned some Italian while we were in the restroom. All around it was a great lunch out! Hope you give it a try and enjoy it even more than I did!

Holiday Visiting

I remember being a child and making coupon books for my mother for Mother’s Day. The small handmade book would have several coupons in it for things like a hug, a kiss, a clean room, breakfast in bed, and so on. My mother always loved those home made pictures and coupon books, or else she just told me she did! Now I am a grown woman and a mother myself. The thought crossed my mind as I mapped out my families plans for the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend. Where is my time to relax and enjoy a quiet moment on Mother’s Day? My schedule for the holiday weekend goes a little something like this.

Friday – take the kids to school, work, clean the house, do the laundry, pick up the kids from school, make dinner, have family fun time (our Friday night ritual), get the kids to bed and any other chore that pops up.

Saturday – breakfast, get all three kids bathed and dressed, get myself bathed and dressed, drive an hour and a half to visit my mother and my grandmother for the day, drive an hour and a half back home, cook dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed and do more laundry.

Sunday – breakfast, get everyone bathed and ready again, drive an hour to visit my mother in law for the day, drive an hour back home, cook dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed, and do laundry yet again.

Where in this packed schedule is there time for me to bask in the joys of motherhood or enjoy this holiday at all? Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly looking forward to each moment that I get to spend with my mother, grandmother, and mother in law. Each of them are such wonderful women and I love them all dearly. The problem is not just with Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. It is every holiday. At Christmas time it is the same thing. Days of packed schedules and no real time for our children to sit and enjoy the gifts they have received or to learn the true meaning of the holiday. We are too busy carting them from one place to another to just enjoy time together during the holiday. At Thanksgiving, we find ourselves so stuffed from eating three separate Thanksgiving dinners over the course of the weekend, that we may need to be rolled home instead of drive ourselves home.

I found holidays much simpler before I was married with children. Back then, I only had my parents and extended family to worry about seeing on any given holiday. Those were simpler times. Then I got married and that added a whole other set of parents and extended family to see on each holiday. Then you add in children that you are having to cart around with you each time you go visit anyone. You have to carry diapers, bottles, changes of clothes, baby wipes, formula, baby food, pacifiers, and whatever else your child needs to make it through a day away from home. Not to mention keeping the child entertained in the car while you drive to and from your destination, or keeping them occupied while at your destination. Luckily, I have wonderful parents and in-laws that have toys at their homes to entertain the children so we don’t have to bring something along to keep them happy at the grandparent’s house. Many people are not so lucky though. You begin to feel like you are taking your entire home with you. As you drive, thoughts start circling in your head. “Why can’t they come to visit us?” “Don’t they realize how hard it is to travel with children?” “There has to be an easier way to do this every year?”

After the whirlwind of the holiday ends, you sit down and start trying to think of a solution to make things easier the next time around. Thoughts of trading off each year and only visiting one set of family each year instead of all of them every year. Well, that isn’t fair of course. Then the family you don’t get to see that year will feel left out, and you will miss seeing them and so will your children. What about having everyone to your place instead? Well, this poses a whole other set of issues. Do you have room for everyone at your house? Would everyone be willing to travel to you instead? Every option comes to the same conclusion. This is the way it has been done for years in ‘my’ family.

I have found, there is not any real solution to this problem. Of course you feel obligated, they are your family. You love them and want to be with them and enjoy the holiday with them. They raised you and cared for you just like you are doing for your children. It is a matter of respect, love, and devotion to your family and your roots that keeps you running on every holiday. As my husband has said in years before, our parents had to travel with us when we were young, they have earned the right for us to come to them. Now it is our turn to teach our kids to not forget about their roots, and to continue loving and cherishing family even once you are grown and have a family of your own. It is an important lesson for every child to learn. At times while traveling from place to place on the holidays, I find myself frustrated and tired. The kids may be fighting in the car, or cranky and tired of riding for so long. Whatever the frustration is at that moment, I try to remember how much fun we had while visiting this time, or how much fun we will have at the next place. I try to remind my children of those things too.

Why do we feel obligated? Because that is the way it is, and I don’t think it should be any other way.

How to Throw a Princess Birthday Party

My daughter is one of the biggest princess lovers that I have ever seen. I remember loving lots of things when I was a little girl, but I do not remember being so enthralled by something as she is. We have now had to have two princess themed birthday parties in her life of now 8 years.

The first princess themed party was for her third birthday. The second one was for her eighth birthday. However, she has wanted to have a princess themed party pretty much every year. I have had to coax her into other themes for variety. Each year the ideas have flooded us with how to make the Princess theme more fun, and even better. This year I felt like it would be one of the last few years that she would enjoy having a princess theme so we went for it.

First things first
Invitations are the first thing to do. You need to make a guest list. Start by deciding how many people you want to invite. After you make this decision you can focus on getting the invitations. You can always go buy Disney Princess themed invitations from a party store, that is the easiest solution to the invitation dilemma. However, there are lots of other options that you should explore too.

Making your own invitations is a lot of fun. If your daughter is old enough she could make the invitations herself. Let her be creative and you can assist with the finer details. If your daughter isn’t old enough then you can make the invitations easily too. Microsoft Word is an excellent resource to get creative. You can try out many different versions of the invitation. You can even go to the Microsoft website and download different borders to use. I also like going to a local stationery store and find some cute paper that is already bordered. You can either hand write the invitations or set up a template in Word and print them off.

However you decide to go about getting the invitations, bought or made, you need to get the invitations out at least two weeks in advance of the party. This gives all the guests plenty of time to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Focus on the Food
The next thing you need to plan out is the food. The cake is always my first thought when I think of birthday party food. That is because without a birthday cake, it just isn’t much of a birthday party! I have to say my favorite thing to do is to make my kids cakes myself. I love the creativity in it and I love letting my child help with it. However, store bought cakes are always a good choice too. It is all about personal preference. Some people just don’t bake, others love baking. If you are not a baker, take your little princess to the bakery and let her help choose the cake, the colors, and the flavors. If you are a baker, this is the fun part! Have your child decide which flavor cake she wants. Then decide on what style cake you are going to make. When it comes to cakes, the possibilities are endless. For our first princess party we had a sheet cake that we put princess figurines on it and decorated accordingly. The most recent cake was a tiara shape and it had my daughter’s name written across it. However, while we were at the bakers supply store we found a castle cake kit. I am not advances enough to handle that cake yet, but maybe I can be ready for it for my next daughter!

After the cake is decided on you can focus on the other party foods. I like making suckers into magic wands or scepters. The little girls always love running around playing with them for a while before they eat them! You can make all the normal party foods that you like too. But I always like to throw in some fun themed snacks too. You could make cookies or rice crispy treats in heart shapes and write all the guests names on them. For some reason hearts and princesses just go together! You could also do this same thing with star shapes. Just make sure you use sugar sprinkles. They make the cookies or rice crispy treats sparkle, and what princess have you seen that was not sparkling?

Decorated to the Nines
A princess must always have everything done in a fantastic way. Therefore, the decorations are not to be overlooked. Head out to your local party supply store and start your search. Balloons have to be ordered in advance so make sure you do that first thing so you get the time that works best for you for pick-up. When choosing balloons you should look for the ones that are shimmery or sparkly, not just the plain colors. Choose your daughter’s favorite colors and have them scheduled for pick up on party day! You can pick up table cloths, streamers, cups, plates, napkins, and every other decoration you could possibly think of at the party supplies store. You can also look on-line for party supplies. Many on-line party suppliers sell party packs. These party packs include everything you will need. You can also make your own decorations from construction paper and tissue paper.

Party Games
No birthday party is complete without games! Princess parties are lots of fun with games. Games don’t have to have a winner in the end, they can just be an activity that everyone takes part in and enjoys. Here are a few options that we have always had fun with.

1. Pin the Shoe on Cinderella – similar to pin the tail on the donkey
2. Dancing princesses – similar to musical chairs
3. Color princess pictures – you can print these out from many on-line children’s craft sites or you can buy some princess coloring books.
4. Make your own tiaras, scepters, castles, or other princess item crafts
5. Older girls can do nails or put on make-up

Just a Small Favor
I am not really sure where this tradition started, but giving party favors has become a staple at birthday parties. It is a small way to say thank you to your guests for coming to the party. You can buy pre-filled goody bags at the local or on-line party supply store. Or you can come up with your own favor bags. I like coming up with my own. However, when I am pressed for time, picking up the pre-filled bags is super easy! When I make my own bags, I save money and my daughter gets to help pick out the things that she thinks her friends will like. This year we filled the goody bags with plastic rings, hair bows that I made, nail polish, glitter dust, and lip gloss. Any girly items will do great for a princess party. Toy cell phones, pretend make-up, chap stick, and candy jewelry are all great additions as well!

In the end, if you choose a few of these ideas from this article your princess party will be a huge success! People will start coming to you for great party ideas, and hopefully this article will help you think more creatively for your child’s future parties!

Summer Fun on a Budget

I have spent many a summer trying to keep kids entertained on a tight budget. Here are some of my favorites that we have done through out the years!

Fun In The Sprinkler
This is probably the easiest Way to have fun during the summer. The only additional cost is a bit added on to your water bill. However, your yard probably needs to be watered anyways, so why not let the kids play while the yard gets watered! Get the kids into their suits and put on plenty of sunscreen. Make sure you get into your suit and get your sunscreen on too. I know I can’t resist playing with my kids, but more often than not they will fall and need me to come and rescue them from being sprayed by the water at some point or another, so I always like to be prepared to get wet myself. Play time in the sprinkler is a great way to play with water guns and beach balls as well.

Craft Projects
Summer is a great time to play outside in the sun. However, many times it is just too hot to be outside. For days like this, find a great indoor activity! Crafts are a wonderful and inexpensive way to enjoy being indoors. Here are a few of my favorite summer craft projects!

1. Patriotic Crafts – With all of the patriotic holidays that happen to fall during the summer, it is a great time to work on patriotic crafts with the kids. This gives you an opportunity to explain the meaning of these holidays and he significance of the craft project for that holiday.
2. Outdoor crafts – These are crafts that are not necessarily done outdoors. They are crafts about the outdoors. You can make suns out of construction paper. If you live near the beach, you can make beach scenes in bottles with some sand and sea shells that you gather during a beach trip. You can gather flowers and press them or dry them. You can even make flowers from construction paper for an arrangement that will never need watering!
3. Sea life crafts – It is so fun to make underwater creatures as a craft. Fish, octopus, starfish, shells, you can make tons of different undersea animals and you can make tons of things from those animals! Picture frames, mobiles, calendars, the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination!

Summer School
I know the last thing that the kids are going to want to think about during the summer is school, but school will be back in session before you know it. You don’t want them to forget everything they learned the prior school year, and if possible you want to get them ahead of the game for the next year! It is a good idea to take a little time each day to go over the thing they learned next year and to prepare them for the new lessons coming in the next grade level. Reading books is a good way to keep them learning. You can also print out worksheets for them in a variety of subjects. There are several home school web sites that have free print outs available for you. You can also purchase a summer workbook that will have daily activities for your child according to their grade level.

Go on an Outing
A change of scenery is a good way to break the boredom. This change of scenery can be as simple as going to a park for a picnic. You can also go to a community pool, to visit relatives out of town, to the local zoo, or a children’s museum. If your kids are older you can even take a trip to a history museum or an art museum, these are great ways to keep them learning during the summer and have fun doing it!

Mix it Up
Normally you are the person making breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mix it up a bit, and have the kids help out with making the meals! You could choose one meal for them to help with each day or just one day that they get to help, whatever works best for you and your family. My kids love spending time helping out in the kitchen. Give them a task that is age appropriate. It could be measuring out some ingredients, cutting up ingredients, mixing up a batter or putting items into the bowl or pot. You can even let them help pick what you eat. This is a great Way to make grocery shopping with the kids easier too! They will be on a mission to get the items they need for their special meal!

Five simple tips, five days in every week, just pick a tip each day and your summer will fly by! You know what they say, time flies when you are having fun! With these tips, your summer will be more fun than ever before and it will all be inexpensive! Enjoy your summer filled with fun!

Summer Party Recipes

You just received an invitation to another summer pot luck party. Sure the party will be a blast, but what on earth are you going to bring? Do you bring the same old thing that you have brought to every pot luck you have ever gone to? Do you try something new? What if no one likes what you bring? Those are all the thoughts that go through my head each time I am going to go to a pot luck. Even as much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes I consider just going and buying something that way I know people will not be able to criticize my cooking if they don’t like what I brought along.

The key to picking out a good pot luck recipe is bring something that is a twist on something that people have already done before. Everyone coming to a pot luck is going to expect certain foods to be there. It is almost a given. There will be finger foods, casseroles, sides, and all of the classic simple desserts. Take those familiar items, and turn them into something new and exciting and your dish will be the hit of the pot luck, I guarantee it!

Finger Foods
Finger foods are easy to eat at a party so they are always a popular item at the table. When I have gone to put luck parties the finger foods I usually see are fruit trays, veggie trays, cheese plates, finger sandwiches, and appetizer platters. Sure these are simple things, however they are also easily turned into something different than the same old pot luck plates! Fruit trays can include more exotic fruits such as kiwi, mango, peaches, and pears just to name a few. This turns the same old fruit tray into an exotic fruit platter. Add a fruit dip to this for even more fun! One of the simplest fruit dips is 8 ounces of cream cheese mixed together with one small jar of marshmallow creme. However that fruit dip is seen pretty often, I even found this dip in the produce section of the grocery a few weeks ago! This would be another easy way to make your fruit tray different, switch the same old fruit dip out for a new one! Try mixing together 8 ounces of sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice and 2 teaspoons of grated lime peel. This makes a delicious difference to your fruit tray!

For a veggie tray you can easily switch up the dip as well, or you could offer a variety of dips instead of just the same old ranch style dip. You could even turn it into a hot and cold veggie tray and offer up some grilled veggies in addition to the standard uncooked veggies. However, my good friend Cat has the amazing idea to change up the fruit and veggie trays are to turn them into a fruit or veggie pizza instead! Cheese plates are usually a big hit as well, however you can easily take a cheese ball instead and it will still make a big splash at the party! Finger sandwiches and appetizer trays are probably the easiest of the finger foods to change around. There are so many choices for sandwiches and appetizers floating around the world. Switching up the sandwiches can be a bit risky though. My advice is to not go too far off the beaten path with the sandwich choices you make, but still make it different. Try a different chicken or tuna salad recipe out, or add a slice of avocado to the sandwich, bring along several different condiments to go with the sandwiches.

One of my favorite ways to spice up the sandwich tray is to turn the sandwiches into wraps. These are all very safe ways to change up your finger sandwiches. However, you can also change the sandwich tray all together and bring a grilled sandwich, or some other gourmet sandwich. Appetizers are the most fun of the finger foods to me. There is no reason to take the same old pigs in a blanket or chips and dip. Change things up and bring loaded potato bites, pita nachos, mini quiches, pull apart breads, stuffed mushrooms, crab dip with crackers, brushetta, or egg rolls. These ideas are only the start of the vast array of appetizer choices out there. Grab your recipe books or go to your favorite on-line recipe site and explore until you find the right recipe for you.

Casseroles and Sides
Green bean casserole, corn souffles, and all of the other casseroles that you often see at pot lucks parties can get boring pretty fast. They are delicious and expected, but easily traded off for something different. Try turning that green bean casserole into a fresh green bean salad instead! Forget the corn souffle and bring grilled corn on the cob. Spice up the baked beans with a different recipe. Switch up the casserole by looking to other cuisines for guidance. Go for something Asian or Italian instead of the same old American casserole traditions.

Desserts
Cookies, brownies, pies and cakes these are what you find at my favorite table at the party. The dessert table is probably the most anticipated table at any party, not just a pot luck. The great thing about a pot luck is the wide variety of desserts available to choose from! it is also the easiest table to go to to find something different. Cookies can easily be something new by changing the shape or by adding a hint of different flavor with some extracts. I love adding a bit of orange extract to sugar cookies! Brownies are a delicious go to recipe for any day. Try making a layered brownie bar instead of the same old brownies, both are delicious of course! Cakes and pies are an excellent way to bring variety to the dessert table. Cakes can be topped with fruit, baked in a different shaped pan, or filled with a fruit filling instead of icing. Pies can easily be the same old fruit filled pastries or you can transform them into delicacies never tried before. My friend Breanne loves to spice up strawberry pie by making strawberry margarita pie! Can you say yummy?

The main thing to remember when preparing that pot luck recipe is to give it some variety. Don’t fall into the trap of taking the same dish every time you go to a party. Take something new and different and watch everyone come to you and beg for the recipe!

How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

I am the mother of three great kids. It amazes me how when I am with each one individually they are so different than when the other children are with us. Sometimes it seems that I am dealing with three little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s. The problem is they are all wanting my attention and my attention gets stretched out as much as possible, but at times it still isn’t enough to go around.

I began to try to figure out ways to help fight back against sibling rivalry in our house. Here are a few tips that I have found extremely helpful!

Comparisons
Let me start off by saying that “never” is not a word that I use lightly. So when I tell you this tip, please realize how serious it is. Never compare your children to one another. This is so easy to do and not realize that you are even comparing them. Think back to the last time you told your kids to clean their rooms. One child got the job done quickly, and the other child took much longer. When you check in on the slower child, what did you say? Did you say something along the lines of, “I am so glad that you are taking your time and getting the job done the right way.” Or did your statement sound more like this, “Why is this not finished yet? Your sister/brother finished her/his room over an hour ago!” If you said something similar to the second statement, then you were comparing your kids. Even if you are the perfect parent, your children are going to compete against one another. That is inevitable, however, the better we can get at not comparing our children to one another, the less the children will feel the need to be better than the other. The best thing to remember is that each child is different and one child may be better at one task than the other, but that other child is going to be great at another task. Recognize these differences, and acknowledge that your child is doing their best at each task, or push them to strive for their best no matter what the task is! All you want is that child’s personal best, which may not necessarily be the same as your other child.

Falling into this same category, is playing favorites. This can not help any sibling rivalry situation. The only thing that playing favorites will do is make things much worse! Beware of favoring a certain child over another. Your children do notice it no matter what age they are, ad chances are they will not forget it.

Cooperate, don’t compete
Let’s use dinner as an example for this tip. I know I have children who like to dawdle at the dinner table. Instead of having the children try to beat each other to finish first, set a timer. The children can each try to beat the clock and finish eating their dinner before the time is up. This way they are not competing against each other. This works the same for picking up toys, books or clearing the table. Whatever the chore or task, this timer trick will work. Not only does it keep the children from competing, but it also helps them to cooperate with each other on many occasions. An added bonus with the timer trick, it turns just about anything into a fun activity. Cooperation works when it comes to fun projects too, not just the difficult stuff. If you are having the children make something for a holiday gift, have them all cooperate to make one gift instead of having each of them make their own gift. This way each child can use his or her own strengths and not feel like someone else did a better job.

Routine
If you find that your children are arguing at the same time each day, then it may be a time to change your daily routine. Something as simple as moving dinner up by half an hour can make a huge difference in the way your children react to one another. Making sure that you have a set schedule for your day makes children feel secure because they know when to expect meals, bath, bed, and any other activities that your family does on a daily basis.

Attention
The main reason that siblings bicker is because they want the attention of the parents. It does not matter what kind of attention they get, as long as they are getting attention. To a child, any attention is better than no attention. So a child will get attention any way that they can. Sometimes children will achieve the attention they crave in positive ways, other times in negative ways. You need to teach your children that negative attention is not the appropriate way to gain time with you as a parent. Negative actions will have negative consequences. The same must happen for positive actions, reward those with a positive reenforcement. There are always going to be circumstances when negative actions will happen. No child is perfect, and they will do bad things. This is one of the many ways that a child learns. It is our job as parents to help guide them toward making more positive choices rather than negative choices.

Family Time
An easy way to fight back against sibling rivalry is to show your children how much fun you can all have together as a family. Family time is a blast for everyone. Decide on a weekly or monthly activity that you all can enjoy as a family. It could be a ball game, a day at the park, a trip to the zoo or museum, a movie, or even a game night. See my other articles to find great ways to enjoy family time together.

Time & Space
Children need to have individual time to themselves or with a parent. Having time alone to do what they want without a sibling joining in or tagging along can change a child’s attitude around completely. I know that I need time to myself on occasion and this can be important for children as well. Each child should have their own time in their own space and not be interrupted during this time. Also, time just you and each child on an individual basis is just as important. Sometimes children are more willing to open up and discuss situations that are troubling them or even things that they are proud of if it is only you and your child. They need to have solo time with each parent so they have time to connect with each of you and feel important to each of you.

Even if you follow each of these tips, arguments will happen between siblings. The best thing to do in this situation is to sit and talk with your children about the best ways to handle conflict. This varies from one family to the next. Some families prefer children to work things out on their own, other parents want to be involved in the solutions. It all depends on which way works best for your family.

Even with sibling rivalry, my life would not be the same if I didn’t have my sister, and your children’s lives would not be without their siblings. I can’t imagine growing up all alone, without my sister. Life just would have been missing something! Arguments or not, siblings are something to be treasured and loved. Remind your kids of that when conflicts do arise. One day they will appreciate these life lessons that they were able to learn early on thanks to their siblings!

10 Great Games for Family Game Night

For the past few years, my family of 5 have had a weekly family night. I am sure we had family nights before this, but it was not necessarily a weekly occasion. This family night has become something that our children look forward to each week. We chose Friday as our night for family night. It seemed to work best for us and our schedules.

Since starting our family night, we have done a variety of things to enjoy this family time. Our favorite thing to do by far is play games! Playing games together is such a wonderful experience. It is a great time to teach your children about life, and a great time for you to learn from them as well. Here are some of our favorites.

Yahtzee
The game of Yahtzee has been around since 1956. It is a classic dice game. The object of the game is to get as many points as possible by rolling 5 dice into certain combinations. Some of these combinations are 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, straights, and Yahtzee (also known as 5 of a kind). There is also another way to earn points with the dice, by rolling as many of each number at a time as possible. If you were to roll four ones, you would choose whether or not to count that as 4 of a kind, or as your score for your ones. The game is over once all of the score boxes are filled. If you do not roll a certain combination then you take a 0 for that score box. This game is by far our families favorite game to play on family night. The kids learn about numbers, counting, and winning and losing. They have a blast rolling the dice. Even our youngest enjoys the game! Amazingly, she wins most times that we play. It must be beginners luck!

Uno
This card game was introduced in 1971. You must have a special deck of cards in order to play. The deck has 4 different colors and special cards. The object of the game is simple, be the first one to use all of your cards! Just don’t forget to say “uno” when you only have one card left, or else you will have to draw two cards. This game is a great game for all ages. My almost 4 year old can play with only a little bit of help. This game can be long, so make sure you are prepared for that. last time we played I was hoping for an early night and we played Uno for several hours. It was a blast the whole time though!

Life
That is the game, of course! This game was first on the market in 1860, however was revamped to the version we all know today in 1960. This was one of my favorites when I was a child. You get in your car and literally move your way through life. You go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, the whole nine yards! It is so much fun to play with your children even when they are small. They giggle and laugh about all of the different things that The Game of Life throws their way.

Pictionary
This team play game is a blast for those families out there with artistic ability, or even families without it! Your team has to guess what you are drawing. This can be much more difficult than you would think!

Scattergories
This game is best for families with older children. The rules say it is for ages 12 and up. This is a fast paced game where you must think of items in certain categories that all start with the same letter. It seems easy, but it is actually rather difficult at times. It is so funny to hear what each team comes up with each round. I have played this game and laughed so hard I was crying. It truly is a blast for any family to play!

Charades
To play this game, you do not need to buy a special deck of cards, or even a board or dice. It is all about your own creative imagination and how well you can act out your thoughts. This is also a better game for older children. I have tried to play it with my younger ones and it seems to just frustrate them more than they enjoy it. This is another game that will have you all laughing until your sides hurt.

Battleship
I know, this seems like it is not a family game. It is originally meant for only two people. However, my family of 5 loves playing this together. We will get into teams and play against each other. The teams decide together where to place the ships and where to hit next. It really is a great game to play as a team. the game doesn’t take that long to play either so you could even play more than one round if you wanted!

Twister
This is one for everyone to get up and get moving with! It is a mat with different colors and you have to contort your body in order to put your hands and feet on the right colors without falling. The last one standing wins. Of course, many times this winds up in a big pile up which is just as much fun as winning! This also should be played with players that are all about the same size. If there is an adult falling onto a smaller child, someone could be hurt.

Sorry
The game is called “The game of sweet revenge”, it is family night need I say more? What family member won’t enjoy sabotaging another family member’s game? It is just a blast to play this tricky board game!

Jenga
A tower of toppling blocks make for a very tense time! Each player takes turns pulling out a block from the tower. as long as the tower doesn’t fall the game is still on. You make the tower fall and you lose. This game is great, because each time you play there is only one loser, so everyone else wins. Plus the game does not take a long time to play, so several rounds can be played in the same night.

No matter what game you play, whether it is one of the games I mentioned above, or some other game that your family enjoys, Family Game Night is the perfect way to spend time together as a family!

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