Friday, June 29, 2012

It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer: 15 Ways to Beat the Heat!

It's official.  Summer is here to stay and it's not always pretty.  Today?  Over 100 degrees before the heat index?!  So we're pulling together our most favorite ways to beat the heat!  Here are our top 15 (OK, 16) ways to chill out.

Got some new ideas?  SHARE 'EM.  It's gettin' hot in here.  We're taking a few days off for the holiday, but these should keep you cool!

Outdoor Art
1.  Ice cube painting -- we didn't do this outside, but you could do so easily.  Mix some tempera paint or food coloring with water and freeze in ice cube trays with a popsicle stick stuck inside.  When frozen, paint some paper or yourself!  Check out our post here from last summer.

2.  Pop-up stained glass -- we like to use our outdoor acrylic easels to make this temporary art that you can wash off with water and cool yourself down, too.  It didn't leave any color on our easel, so you could likely try the outside of a glass door (but be careful -- the bleeding art tissue will stain wood).

3.  Ice block salt painting -- this is super easy to do and can be done indoors or out.  Freeze a milk carton/juice carton of water.  Peel off the carton and go at the block of ice with salt and droppers full of liquid water colors or food coloring.  We both spent A LOT of time coming back to ours to investigate and play.

Been there, done that?  Check out what's pinned as outdoor art ideas here.

Cool Sensory Play
4.  Giant sensory squish bag -- that's a technical term.  We didn't have the best luck getting ours to hold up (even before we started jumping on it), but we still had a blast.  If it had stayed in tact, we're pretty sure you could have found our moms having cocktails on it in the evening.  Here's our post on it from this week.

5.  Tropical sensory table -- pretend you can feel that ocean breeze.  We filled up our sand/water table with lots of cool tropical sensory items.  We even tried to climb in.  This could be done in a storage bin if you don't have a water table.  Check it out.

6.  Jello Sculptures -- we planned to do this outside, but the day threatened rain so we made a giant mess out of our kitchen instead.  We put ours on our light tables, but this would be an excellent outdoor afternoon snack.  We lit it up here.

Not sensational enough for you?  Get thee to pinterest!

Spraygrounds/Splashgrounds and Pools
7.  Yards Park -- one of our most favorite ways to beat the heat -- not really a pool, not really a fountain.  But spectacular either way.  Check out our visit last summer.

8.  Georgetown Waterfront Park -- a new addition to the splashground scene and a super fun one at that.  We stumbled upon it on a recent rainy day, but you'll find us there plenty this summer, too.

9.  Outdoor pools -- we honestly haven't spent any time at outdoor pools.  The indoor pool at Wilson has been enough for mom to handle by herself.  But we hope to check some out this summer.  KidFriendly DC's recent summer post has links to area pools.

Looking for a sprayground near you?  Mommy FTW has some great info on local spraygrounds, including a list!

10.  National Postal Museum -- museums can be slammed during the summer, making them less attractive to us despite the air conditioning they offer.  But we've always found the Postal Museum to be fairly empty and still just as cool.  Easy too because it's right across from the Union Station, which avoids the need to schlep across the scorching Mall.  Here's our post from last summer.

11.  U.S. Botanic Garden Children's Garden -- not technically a museum, but it's museum'ish.  The Children's Garden has fountains flowing cool water and encourages soakage.  And this year they've added an awning for shade.  Love it - you might just also catch the outdoor sprinklers on, too.

12.  National Gallery of Art -- start out at the Mercury Fountain to cool off your fingertips and then make your way to the gelato bar, checking out some art along the way.  It's big enough not to feel too crowded.  You can check out our post from last summer here.

Shady Hikes
13.  Theodore Roosevelt Island -- scurry across the sun-scorched bridge to take a hike in the shade.  Pop down to the shore to dip your toes in or, when Teddy's fountains are on, cool off there.  Make sure to bring your water bottle, though!  It can still get hot on the island.  As we found out last summer.

14.  Riverbend Park -- take the shaded trail that winds right along the river and stop at points throughout to cool off.  We especially loved hanging out at the picnic spot along the way.  AND the snack bar at the visitor's center has cool drinks and ice cream!  We posted one of our recent visits here.

15.   Potomac Overlook Park -- despite the lack of overlook, we love this park for its nice, shady trails.  And make sure to cool off down in the Nature Center's kidcave (where there is also a drinking fountain and restrooms).  Here's our recent post.

Want more?  We've found The Natural Capital to be a good source of hiking spots for kiddos.

Will Melt Your Popsicle
16.  Popsicles!  You don't need any fancy equipment -- you can make popsicles using little paper cups and a popsicle stick.  But we are big fans of Tovolo popsicle molds and are still angling daddy for a Zoku rapid-freeze machine .... Here are some of our top pops!

Need some additional ideas?  Check out this 100+ idea list of homemade popsicles!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bright Lights, Big City: Jello Light Table Sculpture

It had been a while since we'd broken out our light boxes and we've been on the search (like everyone else out here) for activities to keep nice and cool.  So we decided to whip up some Jello and see what would happen!  Mom used one of the leftover pieces of acrylic sheeting from our easels and put it on top of our two light boxes to make a nice big surface for play.  Cam had helped mom make several Jello flavors earlier in the day and mom cut them up using different cookie cutter shapes.  And she gave us some toothpicks and wooden skewers to use, which turned out to be too skinny to give much anchoring to our sculptures.  And that turned out to be OK because we mostly wanted to eat it.  Well, I mostly wanted to eat it.  Cam actually did stack some of the Jello blocks together and made different shapes.  Either way - we stayed cool!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I am a Simple Goat: Chevre Brownies

We're not sure why we used the recent heat wave to stay inside and bake (other than the fact that we've been inside a lot more than normal), but we're not complaining.  During one of Cam's naps, mom and I whipped up some super easy chevre brownies using TJ's boxed brownie mix, which is technically low fat (but not when you use TJ's full fat cream vanilla yogurt in place of the low fat vanilla yogurt it calls for).  Cam and I both love goat cheese and mom stocks up on 3 or 4 kinds of it on her monthly TJ run (sliced goat cheese, goat cheese cream cheese, goat cheese minis, and goat cheese logs).  Cam loves it mixed with avocado and spread on bread.  In fact, if we could find a non-disgusting way to combine goat cheese, avocado and brownies, we'd do it.  These avocado egg-cups are topping our cooking to-do  (you know we're gonna schmear some goat cheese on them, too).

We followed this recipe from Pink Apron, including mixing in a little bit of honey into the chevre (although we didn't add the powdered sugar).  OMG.  These did not last long in our house.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Walk on the Water: Giant Sensory Squish Bag

This one has been on our list for a while now.  But seeing as it required a trip to Home Depot and someone generous enough to let us use their backyard, we just had not gotten to it yet.  Fortunately the start of summer camp (for both of us), the extreme temps, and our super nice buddies all came together last week.  We followed Go Kids Yourselves' (formerly The Mommies Made Me Do It) tutorial -- mom picked up the 2 pack of 125 sq. ft. Husky Plastic sheeting from Home Depot (3.5 mil thickness) and we used up our pirate, gold and regular duct tape.  We used just one sheet and folded it in half, overlapped the edges, and then duct taped that baby up -- twice.  We left a small hole in one of the corners for the hose and spread it out in the backyard.  And we snuck some water beads in there, too.  Unfortunately, mom didn't make to sure to place it on level ground -- one corner was downhill from the others, which was ultimately the demise of our squish bag.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to fill this sucker up, so leave yourself plenty of time for the fill.  We got some minor leaks almost immediately and mommy and our friend scurried around duct-taping it up.  It seemed like it would hold, but with all the pressure on the one corner, they could tell it was a matter of time before it busted completely open.

So they taped up the corner and let us have at it.  Even with the leaking, we got in a good amount of time playing on it.  But once we started jumping, holes developed in the top, too.  And then it was more like a ghetto swimming pool, but it was a million degrees out, so it was kind of perfect.

It seems like lots of other people have made these with the same thickness of plastic sheeting and had no problem.  So we're not entirely sure what happened.  The thicker sheeting was significantly more expensive, though, so I'm guessing we won't be getting that.  We have another sheet and we'd like to  try it again - although our poor, generous buddies have a large patch of brown grass now in their yard, so probably not there!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Heat Wave Blew Into Town Last Week: Outdoor Sponge Painting

As if we need to tell anyone on the east coast that we've been looking for ways to keep cool!  Our outdoor acrylic easels are really coming in handy with this hot weather -- we keep them on the roof deck and water play is always involved when we break them out.  This one was super simple -- mom cut up a bunch of cleaning sponges; we dipped them into paint and sponged away.  I was more into it than Kane -- although he liked trying to paint the table.  Then we broke out the hose and used the same sponges to clean it all up!  And you know we got naked.  What else are you going to do in this heat!?

Friday, June 22, 2012

There's Something Happening Here: National Children's Museum "Groundbreaking"

Ever since mommy first became pregnant, people have been passing along rumors of a children's museum in Washington, D.C. that "will be opening soon."  That was more than four years ago.  But, in case you haven't heard the news yet, the National Children's Museum REALLY will be opening soon.  Mom lucked her way into attending the "groundbreaking" of the NCM last week at National Harbor.  As some of you may know, although this was news to mom as it predated her "kid days," the Capital Children's Museum was actually founded in 1974 and served the area until 2004.  Just prior to its closing, Congress designated the CCM as the National Children's Museum and a search was on for a new location.

Since CCM's closing, the NCM has operated as a "museum without walls," by serving the region through outreach programs, traveling exhibits and partnerships with other organizations.  And since 2009, NCM has operated its Launch Zone at the National Harbor.  But the NCM has also been busy on building out a permanent spot at the Harbor too, which will include both indoor and outdoor spaces. And guess what?  The indoor experience is now scheduled to open Winter of 2012!  The NCM indoor space will have two major exhibit areas:

(1)  3 & Under: designed for infants and toddlers under 3 feet tall, this exhibit area will feature Sesame Street characters and themes, including: a baby crawlers area; tactile experiences; a climbing structure; a global lunch truck (!); a sensory water bed; motor skills play areas; and arts, crafts, and storytelling areas.

(2)  Our World: geared towards children over the age of 3, this exhibit will feature three main areas: Map Zone, My Town and World Cultures, all of which will serve to give children a global perspective. Highlights include an airport conveyor; freight dock/shipping yard; a school; campaign office (obvi); home; fire station; a pizzeria; a kitchen; an interactive clothing store; and a language area.

In addition to the two main exhibit areas, there will also be a theatre and program rooms.

AND the outdoor experience is set to open in May of 2013!  Current plans include gardens, play areas (for, among other things, building forts and engaging in imaginative play), and an open ampitheater.

So there you have it.  Get yourself ready (and be ready to purchase a membership -- unlike the Launch Zone, the NCM will not be free) and get yourself to the Launch Zone, which will be closing in September 2012 in preparation for the grand opening of the permanent museum space!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cool It Now: Tropical Water Table Play

Oh hello, summer.  We thought we'd hang on a bit longer without you, but you have once again dropped it like it's hot.  Can't get us down.  Oh no.  Sand, shells, water, ice, tropical flowers, water beads.  Naked Barbies.  Take that, hyperthermic heat index.

digging for treasure.

Barbie hair wash.

Kane's summer Mummer strut.

wash Cam's hair, too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sugar, Sugar: Peanut Butter Cup S'mores Bars

Our daddy doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but he is a sucker for a dessert with peanut butter in it.  When we spotted these peanut butter s'mores bars, we knew they'd be a big hit for Father's Day.  Kane and I both helped make these -- Kane crushed up the graham crackers for the crust, I mixed the crust together, and we both helped place the peanut butter cups (without eating any!).  Mom ended up spooning on the marshmallow fluff -- she quickly realized that we'd all be covered in it if we helped with that part.  The whole baking process went incredibly smoothly -- I did dump the entire bottle of vanilla in at one point, but fortunately there was only about a teaspoon in it (which was how much we needed to add).  Plus the sheer sugaryness of the finished treat blocked any overvanillaneyness anyways -- these were outrageously sweet and delish.  If you don't like sweets, these are not for you.  But, we'd bake these up any day!

p.s. they are even better cold out of the fridge....