Saturday, October 13, 2012

So the apple does fall far from the tree...

Or at least when I attempted to go apple picking today, the apples were even on them.

Between the rain and illness, we didn't have the chance until today to go apple picking.  I was so excited and so were the boys.  We love going.  We go every year.  It is one of the best things about fall.  So today when I went through the ProJo's list of places to go picking (put out 2 or 3 weeks ago), I decided to try Dame Farm Orchards, located 94 Brown Ave, Johnston, Rhode Island.
Dame Farm has quite a history in Rhode Island, going back to 1890.  It now boasts as being true family farm, having three generations making a living from the fruits of their labor.
The site itself is absolutely beautiful.  Today (October 8) was a crisp, fall day so the parking lot was packed.  But we found out that the apples were all picked out as of Saturday, so we had to chose from already picked.  Which was fine.  At least we were able to get a good variety including some GINORMOUS green apples the size of Mudge's head.  The boys insisted they were the most delicious apples they have ever had.  We picked some pumpkins as well, just 70 cents per pound.  I just couldn't talk them into getting the warty ones.
Though we didn't have time to do it all, Dame Farm has horse drawn hay rides in addition to a corn maze.  Even a Del's lemonade truck was there to tempt us.

Though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind, Dame Farm was a wonderful place to stop by.  I will definitely try getting there a little earlier, hoping to pick my own next time.

Moral of the Story: Call, before you (attempt to) pick.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Think FunAnalysis: Zingo! Sight Words

I really love Think Fun's games.  Many I have purchased, and some I have been blessed to get for the gratis so that I can share my ever so humble opinion.  This was one of them.  Gee, twist my arm!

I was super dooper excited to hear that Zingo now has a Sight Word version.  I had been trying to figure out what other concepts we could finagle out of the Zingo world.  In our game arsenal we've got the traditional, the numbers (1, 2, 3) , and the travel versions of Zingo.  There are Spanish and Hebrew versions as well, but we haven't gone that route.  I bring them back and forth to school on a daily basis.
When Sight Word Zingo came in the mail, Mudge was eager to get our first game going.  Though the boards themselves are a little visually busy, the concept is the same.  Match the word tiles to its board counterpart.   It still has the trademark Zinger, the Zingo slider with slots for the popping in unused tiles (great for fine motor development and wrist rotation).  The 72 tiles themselves are double-sided with 24 frequently used words from the Dolch list.

As Mudge is only in preschool, he did not know the words but could match the tiles by the letters.  He loved trying to figure it out.  His persistence and memory began to pay off towards the end as he recognized the groups of letters like  and, we and me.  This has proven to be a great starter game to get new readers recognizing letter combinations as words.  It is also a great review game for up to first and second graders.  Many of the children I know have requested me to bring it in for bus arrival time or indoor recess.  For children with special needs, one of my teachers even thought of using it towards her Alternate Assessments, as many of them need to identify sight words.
When our game was done, I asked Mudge his favorite part to which he answered, "I like the matching Mommy."  Was there anything you didn't like?  "Well, Mommy, the red side was very difficult".  Did you not like it?  "Oh no.  I liked it, it was just difficult."

Finding the just right challenge can be difficult sometimes.  But Think Fun has found another winner again for the early learners.  Sight Words Zingo is another great addition to the home and school family.       For around $20, Zingo Sight Words will happily engage young readers while helping them learn.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Planet Box are you from?

Last year, I came across Planet Box when I was looking for easy to open kids' lunch boxes.  I have been a traditionalist for the most part, choosing the simple pack style that holds their water bottles, lunch and snack items. I did upgrade from the annoyingly poorly manufactured character bags to the more indestructible Land's End brand.  My boys beat up their lunch boxes.

But Planet Box was expensive; I had a hard time justifying spending 40-60 bucks on a lunch system.  So I passed, not thinking of it until this past summer when I really needed and wanted to purchase new lunch boxes.  I had been using these plastic Bento-type containers, which I am sure were not BPA free, since they were close to 7 years old.  And the guilt was getting to me.  Not to mention that the boys are creatures of redundancy when it came to what went in their lunches.

So, I sucked it up and figured to give it shot.  I hoped that it was worth its cost....

I am happy to say they were.
Planet Boxes are a system, a lifestyle I dare say.  They are stainless steel units that have an easy clasp to open and close.  Mudge, the preschooler, can easily lock and unlock the unit.  They come in two sizes, Launch and Rover.  Rover, what we have, has 5 small compartment units to help provide spots for smaller portions of a variety of foods.  Launch has fewer compartments but they are bigger for larger portions.  I chose the Complete Rover kit, because it comes with your choice of insulated carry bag, 2 dipping units, and your magnet choice. The magnets are the cool parts that can totally customize your unit, cheaply.  Mudge has ocean theme and Boog has skateboard.  But I am thinking for Chrismakkah, to order a few more since the magnets themselves are only $3.95 a pop.  Then the boys can interchange the magnets depending on their moods.
When they came in, within a week of ordering, I have to say I was excited.  And so were the boys.  They were so intrigued that Mudge insisted to eat supper in it that evening.
What I love about the Planet Box is its visual cue for me to provide an ecclectic-as-I-can be lunch for the boys.  I am more conscious, as are they, about eating a rainbow.  It fits a Danimals yogurt drink, fruits and veggies, a mini treat (like yogurt raisins or m&ms) and the sandwich of their choice.  My boys have been coming home with less and less leftovers in their boxes, which has been a real plus.
Not only are they sturdy, easy to clean, but they are helping me teach my kids portion control, healthy eating habits, and green(ish) living.  They have cut down on my morning prep time, as we often make lunches at night.  I really feel that they will last, and hope they will out grow the boys so I have the chance to use them :).  For us, it really did provide a bang for the buck.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mommy's Special Ice Cream....

I can honeslty say I don't drink much or often.  But when I do, I drink Dos Equis.  Just kidding. I like girly drinks.  Sangria, Coffee (or Hot Chocolate) with Bailey's, or some spiked cider. But when I went to a wedding, someone told me about pudding shots.


I know.

Sounds ridiculous.

Sounds like dessert to me.

So using her recipe, my adult, over the age of 21 friends, and I began an Adult Ice Cream Adventure.
We went to town, probably making about 12 batches over a 7 day vacation period.  Mind you, there were 10 adults....

Basically if you have ever tried the Weight Watchers Ice Cream Sandwich recipe with Cool Whip and the graham crackers, then you are half way there.

Kid Friendly Version....
1 pkg favorite instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups of milk
Then fold in:
1 container of whipped topping (thawed)

Not-so-kid-friendly over 21 Version...
1 pkg favorite instant pudding
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup desired liquor
Then fold in:
1 container of whipped topping (thawed)

Place mixture into the same whipped topping container.  But be forewarned, there may be just a little too much to fit it that you are just forced to eat it right away.  If you can manage to wait over night, you will reap wonderfully creamy benefits.  If not, it is still freakin' delicious.  And depending if you used skim milk, fat free and sugar free versions, it is a pretty low calorie/low fat dessert option (with or without the alcohol).

Some great combinations include:
Chocolate + Kahlua = Mudslide Flavor
Butterscotch + Kahlua = Werther's Original Flavor
Cookies and Cream + Cake Vodka = Cookies and Cream Flavor
Banana Cream + Cake Vodka = Banana Split Flavor
Coconut Cream Pie + Cake Vodka + Shaved Chocolate and Almonds = Almond (Oh) Joy Flavor
Chocolate + Ameretto = Chocolate covered cherry flavor
Pistacio + Cake Vodka + graham cracker crumbs = Old School Watergate Pie Flavor

If you come up with any good combinations, please feel free to let me know :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Land of Ahs...

Over the summer, I got a call from a friend to meet her at this "cool playground" in Killingly, Connecticut.  Always looking for a new place to play, I agreed.
Well, let me tell you, this place is a great free find.  Land of Ahs is a comprehensive little playground with lots of extras.  As a Boundless Playground, it is pretty accessible for kids and adults using walkers and wheelchairs.  Located in Owen Bell Park, at 572 Hartford Pike, Killingly, CT., it is convenient right off 395.  
There is bike/skateboard park located adjacent to the parking.  There are bathrooms and covered picnic tables, which is something I don't often find but often need.  In the summer, there is also small splash zone.  So make sure to pack some extra clothes.

There is a decent partially paved path for bikes and walkers that lead the way around the field to a pond and ice cream shop.
Some of the other things I loved is the use of poured in-place rubber surfacing, which makes for smooth and safe play for kids of most abilities.  And though the Lions Club, Bryant College and Killingly townsfolk updated this playground, they also kept some of the older pieces in place too, so there is a large spread area of play available.

We reallllllly enjoyed our time there.  We brought bikes, water clothes, sunscreen and lunch.  We were set.  And had it not been for an appointment later in the day, we probably would have stayed longer.  So before the weather turns to wintery, take a hike down 395 to quiet Killingly and try out Land of Ahs.