Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Easy Summer Art Activities

We're headed into that home stretch of summer: August. Sometimes I feel like the season is dragging,  but this year I feel like it's been going way too fast! Nevertheless, when August hits I always find myself in need of a few good, simple art projects that the kids can handle on their own. Head over to the OOLY blog to catch a few of our favorites! 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Friday Five!!

Whew! August came real fast. We are in vacation prep mode this week and, for some reason, the kids have been totally focused on starting to get ready for back-to-school too. But we've still got lots on our Summer Bucket List to tackle, so onward!

Cooking -- I don't really think that these Greek Chicken Sausage Sandwiches count as cooking, but they were so easy and also such a crowd pleaser that I am definitely working them into our regular rotation.

Making -- my seasonal purging efforts have continued which means I actually made accessible and organized space for all our yarn supplies. Cam's been making pom poms again and I love it. We have a few different kinds of pom pom makers, but these are our favorites.

Playing -- I broke out a bunch of board games this week to keep math practice fun. I forgot how much I LOVE Clue (we have the version that has a second side with a Boardwalk setting)! Incan Gold continues to be a favorite as well.

Reading -- we have all been obsessed with I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. It definitely brings up some really mature issues and I have edited a little bit as I read, but it's been a really great vehicle for conversations with the kids about issues such as poverty and privilege. And the fact that it's a true story just adds layers of both incredulity and credibility that I don't think a work of fiction about the same would have. I highly, highly recommend.

Wanting -- when we moved I got rid of my old non-stick pots and pans and went stainless steel. I love them, but I hate making scrambled eggs in them. I just can't do it without ending up with a filthy pan that's hard to clean. I'm in need of at least one non-stick and I have my eyes on this one. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa + 30 Days of Dinner!!

This just might be the summer of the taco for us. From veggie to fish to meat, they are always a crowd pleaser. And they are super weeknight friendly. I made this steak version for a neighborhood barbecue and served them with all kinds of easy accoutrements so people could customize their own. It's such an easy recipe I was able to mix it up while talking to people during cocktail hour.

The rest of the month is a mixed bag of dining out, old family faves, and new meal kit options. Enjoy!

Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa 
(4 servings, slightly adjusted from Epicurious)

- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb skirt or flank steak
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems, divided
- 4 radishes, trimmed, chopped
- 2 spring onions or 4 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1/2 serrano chile or jalapeno, seeds removed if desired, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 8 tortillas (corn or flour -- I like flour better here)
- 2 oz. queso fresco or Cotija cheese, crumbled (Feta also works)

1. Heat grill. Season steak with salt and pepper and grill about 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let steak rest 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, chop half of cilantro and toss with radishes, onions, chile, lime juice, and 1 tbsp oil in a medium bowl. Season radish salsa with salt and pepper.
3. Warm tortillas on stovetop until they just start to blister. Slice steak and serve on tortillas topped with radish salsa, queso fresco, and remaining cilantro.

*                    *                    *

Day 1 (Sat) -- dinner at NJ shore - BBQ with friends
Day 2 (Sun) -- dinner out at the NJ shore

Day 3 (M) -- dinner out at the NJ shore
Day 4 (T) -- dinner out at the NJ shore
Day 5 (W) -- One Pot Cheesy Taco Skillet 
Day 6 (Th) -- Plated Grilled Chicken Souvlaki
Day 7 (F) -- Plated Grilled Pork Chop
Day 8 (Sat) -- sushi out with Cam for girls night
Day 9 (Sun) -- hosted neighborhood BBQ: Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa; Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (delish!); Mexican Rice; and Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime 

Day 10 (M) -- Plated Salmon with Salsa Verde
Day 11 (T) -- Plated Vietnamese Pork Bun
Day 12 (W) -- dinner out
Day 13 (Th) -- dinner out
Day 14 (F) -- Beef and Bean Chili (my kids never met a chili recipe they didn't like, but particularly liked this one!)
Day 15 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 16 (Sun) -- Chicken with Red Onion and Lemon (I still leave the sugar out)

Day 17 (M) -- Plated Grilled Fish Tacos
Day 18 (T) -- dinner out
Day 19 (W) -- Plated Beef Bolognese
Day 20 (Th) -- Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Blue Cheese Coleslaw (a runner-up for the featured taco recipe this month); sweet potato fries
Day 21 (F) -- dinner out
Day 22 (Sat) -- Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Olives, and Lemon; green salad
Day 23 (Sun) -- dinner out

Day 24 (M) -- dinner out
Day 25 (T) -- Plated Blackened Cod
Day 26 (W) -- Plated Chicken Burrito Bowls
Day 27 (Th) -- leftovers
Day 28 (F) -- Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes 
Day 29 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 30 (Sun) -- Slow Cooker Chipotle BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (everyone loved!)

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We've been having a great week. The kids are back at one camp, which makes for a much easier dropoff/pickup for me. I've been cleaning and purging the house like a madwoman. AND it's Shark Week, which always makes everything better in our house. Here's what's been going down .... 

Playing -- we're having a pool playdate for some of Kane's classmates this weekend and it happens to be float day at the pool, so we had to test out our new floats! Kane picked out a lobster float, Cam went with an emoji, and we had to get a ride-on banana float for good measure. 

Making -- we finally got around to doing our annual collective mural. I love this fizzing sidewalk chalk paint recipe and we use it for the mural even if we don't do the second fizzing step because it dries very quickly and has some staying power! 

Reading -- we've been on a kick with Wonder-esque reads, but I decided to kick it old school and start A Wrinkle in Time this week. 

Cooking -- these Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Olives, and Lemon are a serious family fave. I always double the recipe, but this week I also tried making them without browning them and was still pleased. The browning adds more flavor, but cooking them completely in the sauce makes for a little less mess. 

Wanting -- I always start back-to-school shopping right about now (yes, I know it's July) and that always makes me excited for fall. I wear my skinny leather pants constantly in cool weather and I'm in the market for a new pair. I love AG jeans, so I'm wanting these! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

2017 Summer Bucket List Update #1

We're a little late with our Summer Bucket List update this year, but we've been knocking things off in a somewhat more random haphazard way this year. The weeks the kids have been home from camp or we haven't been traveling had been filled with absurdly hot weather and other extracurricular  activities, so we simply haven't had a whole lot of down time to really get at our list. Plus, now that the kids are older and more independent, it's easier to just kind of putter about. We don't seem to need our bucket list to spur our every day activities. But, we've still tackled a good number of things so far this year ....

1. Summer playlist -- the kids are killing me with our playlist on repeat. Despacito needs to die. But we can cross that off our list!

2. Unplug for a day -- ironically the kids have had a lot of technology-free days this summer as a result of losing technology privileges for what feels like constant squabbling. They currently have audiobook privileges only, but they're always hopeful.

3. Buy lots of peonies -- I got a big bunch of beautiful peonies for my birthday -- thanks fam!

4. Cook together -- the kids have really bumped up their helping around the house game this summer and have actually been helping me cook quite a bit. I think their chocolate chip cookies were insanely good.

5. Go running together -- they are both into cross-training and strength and conditioning for their various sports, so we've been running together a bit (although not so much now that it's hotter than hell in DC!).

6. New hike -- when they are home from camp, they must assist in Penny duties. So we picked up a Rock Creek Park trail map and have been discovering all new hiking trails.

7. Water balloons -- easy fill water balloons are a total game changer. We had an epic water balloon fight over July 4th.

8. Sparklers -- the kids' grandparents put together a stunning display of sparklers and fireworks for the holiday. Penny was not happy.

9. New art museum -- we LOVED our visit to Artechouse.

10. 1 new science experiment -- we had a blast using saline solution to make a whole new kind of slime last week!

11. Family olympics -- our friends returned for another epic family olympics over July 4th. This year we had a bucket-filling contest, an unwind-a-streamer race, a shaving cream head/cheetos toss, a three-legged race, and the water balloon fight. And everyone cheated.

12. Swim club cookout -- the kids love our new pool and the swim team! Every Tuesday the pool lights up the charcoal grills for you, so that's when we grill :)

13. New sewing project -- Cam has been taking sewing lessons and made a quilted pillow and is working on a backpack now.

14. 1 new service project -- the kids accompanied their grandfather on one of his Meals on Wheels deliveries and got a big kick out of helping him. I hear they were a big hit too.

15. Chase fireflies -- we had a great dinner with the kids at our friends' house and the kids spent a lot of time debating the best way to catch but not kill fireflies. They caught at least a few when they stopped talking.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Workbook Fun

We haven't been crushing our Summer Bucket List in our usual fashion this year (although I promise an update next week!), but I am so proud of the fact that we've managed to make time to get a little math, reading, and writing in almost every week day. Sure, summer is about not-school, but also we really needed to be better about avoiding the seasonal slide. In any event, we're sharing our ways to make summer workbook time more fun over on the OOLY blog today -- check it out for a little colorful inspiration! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saltwater Taffy Slime

We've seen all kinds of recipes lately for "fluffy" slime. Mixing up mysterious compounds and potions is always really high up on our kids' fun lists. And, as I mention in Banish Boredom, I love how much we get out of sensory play -- from the making to the playing to the cleaning (everybody and everything else) up, sensory activities are always a good solid chunk of play time. Plus, I really love any activity that incorporates both science and art. Anyway ... we decided to try out a fluffy slime recipe ourselves (thanks to Little Bins for Little Hands!).

After watching the kids mix, shape, and play for the better part of a morning (including taking a break to shower up!), I decided that we'd have to call this Saltwater Taffy Slime! Watching saltwater taffy being made along the New Jersey boardwalk is one of our fave summer vacation activities and this reminded me so much of the sweet treat. And since the recipe we followed uses saline solution, the saltwater idea really stuck.

It was an incredibly messy activity, but the kids loved every single part of it. The slime we made ended up being really, really sticky for much of the mixing process. But the kids actually been bickering a lot that morning, so I got a huge kick out of them two of them being literally stuck together while they worked to make the slime. It was perfect!

They let the slime sit for a bit while they cleaned up and it got less fluffy, but also less sticky. It turned much more like flubber than slime, but they loved that too. They popped air bubbles, rolled it out, and even bounced it.

If you're in need of a good mid-summer activity, give this one a try!