Monday, March 25, 2013

Holidaze: Happy Spring Break, Passover, Easter, etc.

(um, yea, it's snowing on our first day of spring break. but we're going to pretend we're at the beach)

We know, we know. We've been absent. Neglectful really. But, we've been busy. No big wow of a reason. Just having a busy couple of weeks and our scribe (aka mom) had to let something slide. We're going to continue our little hiatus during our spring break this week, but we promise we'll be back with some new goodies soon.

In the meantime, here are some timely activities to keep your little's hands busy:

* Make some Passover playdough (not Kosher)

* Dip a bunch of naturally dyed easter eggs

* Make a tropical sensory tub OR, even better in our opinion, jump in a tropical bath

* Pretend you're actually having a warm spring break and make some popsicles

* Use all those egg cartons for some additional fun. Make egg carton flowers or a quick color scavenger hunt

* Older kiddos not into dying eggs? Save some and do a science experiment

* None of those strike your fancy? Check out our holidaze and artworks pages for a gazillion (no lie) other ideas.

Happy Everything to Everyone!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grub It Up: (Spicy) Sesame-Soy Rice Noodles with Tofu and Edamame

As part of our effort to eat "greener," mom has been trying to make one meatless meal a week. No one besides her is particularly pleased, but we generally make do. However, mom had to reinforce the "two bites" rule for everyone (including dad) when she made this -- at least for the tofu. We loved the noodles and edamame, but the tofu did not go over well. Mom said she liked this recipe because it was easy to make a non-spicy batch for us and then add the heat for the 'rents. Give it a try, pretty tasty (well, the not-tofu part).

Sesame-Soy Rice Noodles with Tofu and Edamame: makes 4 servings
(slightly adapted from Prevention RD's recipe)

- 1 package extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 8 oz dry Pad Thai rice noodles
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1tsp red pepper flakes (if you like it less spicy, try 1/2 tsp)
- 1 1/2 cups shelled, frozen edamame
- 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

- Preheat oven to 425 F.

- Line a baking sheet with parchment and mist with olive oil (we don't have a mister, so mom just kind of sprinkled it over the sheet with her hand). Arrange tofu on baking sheet and mist/sprinkle with olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to boil. Add the rice noodles and cook for 6-8 minutes, until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

- Heat the olive and sesame oils in a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; saute 1-2 minutes. Add the noodles and toss for just a few seconds.

- Add the soy sauce and broth and toss. Stir in the tofu and edamame. Portion out your kids' servings. Then add the red pepper flakes and cilantro to the remaining portions for the parents (we don't like cilantro, but if your kids do, you can add that to theirs as well).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Artworks: Design Your Own Fancy Masks

Mom was making her kid art idea rounds and came across this fantastic FREE printable set of "design your own masks" from the picklebums (via The Crafty Crow) and knew we had to make them immediately. These great masks combine a lot of our current faves -- superheroes, princesses, animals, magicians ... too good to be true.

Mom printed the templates out on heavy cardstock (110 lb. weight) and we all took our watercolors to them. Once they dried, mom cut them out and we picked out the pieces for our creations. Then you know we added some bling. Mom taped them together (but will probably go back at them with glue once we take them off and likely reinforce the eye holes with packing tape on the back) and pierced holes in the side with scissors. The picklebums used yarn to hold their masks on, but we had some extra clear elastic left from my superhero party masks and we used that.

As of press time, we are working on incorporating our masks into a play where I am "King Spider King" and Cami is a "mermaid ballerina princess" (on a scooter). We've turned the corner of our living room into the "dressing and costume change area" and the couch is going to be our stage. We have a ton left and can't wait to mix and match some more. Such a smart idea for a rainy day or any type of birthday party!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Keep It Local: U.S. Naval Academy

We've been to Annapolis plenty of times, but mom and dad had yet to take us to the U.S. Naval Academy. I think they sort of forgot about it, but on a nice day, it's a great place to visit -- tons of space to run around, random weaponry on which to climb, fancy buildings to check out, and it's all right along the water. There is a nice visitor center and a museum, but the real fun is roaming about the Academy grounds. Dogs are welcome too (although only service animals are allowed in buildings and ceremonial areas) -- back in the day they used to take Vegas, but they thought all of us might be a bit to handle for our first visit.

The weather this past Saturday was too ridiculous not to take a little Annapolis roadtrip, so we headed out around lunchtime and stopped at the popular Middleton Tavern for lunch, which is very close to the water (citydock) and is smack downtown in Annapolis. Kane was a little upset that we didn't go to Cantler's for lunch, which is usually where we go on our Annapolis trips. But after chowing some shrimp, oysters and crabcakes, he seemed to get over it (they have a good old regular kids menu, too).

The Academy is just about a 2 block walk from Middleton's and we got to steppin'. Despite having chowed a gigantic lunch, we were both a little whiney for the ice cream we'd been promised. The plan was to spend some time at walking off lunch and then head back downtown for ice cream from Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory. But we aren't fans of delayed gratification. So instead we stopped in for a quick treat to the Drydock Restaurant located in Dahlgren Hall and open to the public (even if you aren't eating, Dahlgren Hall is a neat building to check out -- it used to house the Academy's ice rink).

Fueled by sugar we spent the next several hours booking it all over Academy grounds. Mom and I checked out a bit of the museum in Preble Hall (mostly because mom knew I'd love the Cinderellasness of the ballroom) and met up with the boys on the track field for some serious wrestling and racing. After running all around, I discovered while in the museum that I'd grown too big for my shoes. I kept taking them off to check and, back outside, finally decided to just leave them off. I raced like a mad woman in bare feetsies to the cheers of many hanging out around the field. It was pretty awesome.

We watched regatta team practice and even checked out some of the classrooms. Out plans were to check out the Chapel before heading back to our car (which we'd parked in one of the public parking lots right downtown by citydock), but I wasn't interested in putting my shoes back on or walking, so we just hit the bricks and headed out.

The U.S.N.A. visitor center is open every day of the week, except for certain holidays. You can check out the schedule here. Access to the grounds depends on what's going on -- we like weekends better, but you can watch noon formation during the academic year during the week. Anyone over 16 needs a photo ID to enter the Academy.

The Academy offers public walking tours and we saw a private tour led by a guide dressed in colonial attire that looked pretty awesome, too. If your kids are a little older and really into it, there are kid-friendly bootcamps for littles as young as 6. For additional visitor tips and ideas on Academy activities, click here.

One last thing -- the Academy is participating in the upcoming "Maryland Day Celebration" March 22nd - 24th and will have special activities for kids. You can check out what's going on by clicking here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Artworks: Body Tracing

If there is one art supply that we use almost every day, it's our gigantic roll of kraft butcher paper. A few weeks ago, mom was rolling it over the table for some project and I asked if she'd trace my body on the floor. Why not?

It took us a few times because I kept laughing and squirming, but eventually we got a shape that sort of looked like me (wearing bellbottoms). Mom handed over washable markers and let me draw in what I wanted. The first go around I drew in my "bones." On another I drew random shapes. And another I drew a design. Cami drew purple everything on what appears to be a sasquatch or fist-pumping Cher rendering of her actual body shape.

Then, being the scissors aficionado I am, I wanted to cut out my body shape. There were several missteps on the following lines situation and, eventually, I just decided to cut the whole thing up -- a little gruesome, mom thought, but, whatevs. We spent an entire afternoon coloring in our body shapes and the rest of the afternoon cutting them up (before mom could photograph all of them, though). Winner winner chicken dinner.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: Snowquestered

this is what snow looks like in D.C. -- wait, isn't it just raining?

So, in case you haven't heard, it's snowing. No, really. Promise. Snowing so much that the federal government and all schools are closed. Really. What? You can't see the snow? That's what we call a "your problem," not an "our problem."

OK, ok. So maybe the weather is less than ideal to be out and about today. And maybe it will really actually snow. That means you are gonna be inside. All damn day. What to do?!? Don't panic. First consult our handy insanely-inclement-weather list of favorite minimal supply art projects.

Or, given that it's snowing outside, the temperature must be prime for freezing ice for ice play. Then you should check out one of our ice play projects. Wait, it's not freezing outside? Then how is it snowing? It's not snowing? Wait, whaaaaauuut? Well, maybe try fake snow?

We give up. We suggest you check out the projects on our Artworks, Light Play, Miscellaneous Madness, Your Dough is My Dough, and Weird Science pages. We're going to go attempt to build a slushperson on our deck.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Grub It Up: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta

So, no big surprise, I've been pretty staunch in my resistance to the Green Family's enthusiasm for green smoothies. Mom has decided to take a different approach and occasionally adds to vegetables one of my most favorite things in the world: bacon (turkey bacon to be more exact). She recently made this roasted butternut squash and bacon pasta from Cooking Light, but adapted it slightly to make it more kid-friendly -- she used familiar shell pasta and a more mild cheese (we'll chow whole bricks of goat cheese and blue cheese, but for some reason balk at sharp provolone). I would say vegetables + bacon = much more successful than vegetables - bacon. Plus mom served it with super yummy bread we bought from Union Market.

Here's the deal (slightly adapted from the Cooking Light recipe):

- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 a large squash)
- cooking spray
- 6 turkey bacon slides (raw) {the Cooking Light recipe calls for sweet hickory-smoked bacon, but we rarely eat regular bacon and like turkey just as much, so mom used that}
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 8 ounces uncooked mini shell pasta {the Cooking Light recipe calls for mini penne, but our fave mac and cheese uses shell pasta so mom thought we'd be more agreeable to that}
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) mozzarella cheese {the Cooking Light recipe uses sharp provolone}
- 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

- Preheat oven to 425 F

- Combine 1/4 tsp salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450.

- Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 tsp of drippings in a pan (not really applicable if you use turkey bacon); crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; saute 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.

- Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

- Combine flour and 1/2 tsp salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mozzarella (or provolone), stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 X 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.  


Monday, March 4, 2013

Keep It Local: Family Story Time at the National Museum of the American Indian

We've been to the National Museum of the American Indian's imagiNATIONS activity center several times before, but never quite made it to one of their family storytimes, which are usually held on Sundays and Wednesdays at 11:15 a.m. So we took the opportunity of our "day off of school because daddy stole our keys" a few weeks ago to go to the Wednesday storytime.

It turned out to be super neat. I was all for it. Kane pretended to object because he just wanted to play in the stilt house kitchen, but we caught him standing still and listening (hidden from our view of course). He couldn't help it -- the book being read was a "trickster tale," called "Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains" and told the story of a clever guinea pig who used his wits to outtrick a hungry fox. It was really funny and the reader taught us several Indian words used in the book (including "wawa," which in at least one Indian dialect means child. mom said that makes total sense -- the reader explained that Indians frequently named things based on the sound that they make and, well, according to mom, sometimes it sounds like all we say is "wawa wawa wawa ....") AND there were puppets to go along with the story. There were lots of little littles there, but we'd say we were just about the right age to get the story and the interactiveness of learning Indian words.

Afterwards, the center emptied out and we had the run of the place. We spent most of our time building the igloo, which has finally been returned to the center. We can see why it was taken out (it was hard for us not to turn the igloo circle into a WWF ring), but are glad it's back. We built and destroyed it several times and even brought in fish from the stilt house to cook.

We're going to guess the Sunday story hour is crowded (although we actually have no idea), but we'll definitely go back some other Wednesday we're "off" of school!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: The Harlem Shake

Lest you think we take ourselves too seriously at Casa Verde, we spent a significant amount of time yesterday developing, starring in, directing and producing our very own Harlem Shake meme. You see, earlier this week, our Uncle Steve got his office full of Silicon-Valley-startup-company youngsters to break down a real sweet Harlem Shake. We thought it was hysterical. And we thought we could do better, natch.

And after spending 45 minutes and several Venn diagrams explaining to mom what a meme was, we put our heads together and came up with a plan. If you want to see the finished product, you'll have to go to our Facebook page (and, while you're there, just "Like" us already). I gotta say, I was thoroughly impressed (but not that surprised) with Cam's natural ability to play it cool and ignore mom in the intro. And, boy do I have moves (mom's could use some work, but she's old, so we cut her some slack). Too bad the take with me wielding a bat didn't make the cut.

NOW, we have a challenge for you. We want to see your own kiddo Harlem Shake memes. Seriously. AND, in our full and totally balanced discretion, we'll give the best kiddo HS meme we see (probably going to help you out if you "Like" our page too) a little Not-So-SAHM random assortment of goodies from our arts & crafts closet (what? did you think we have corporate sponsors?). It'll be good. We promise lots of glitter.

So get your Harlem Shake on and post it to our Facebook page. We'll decide on a winner next Friday. And if no one submits one, well, we'll just have to put together another.