Summer day trips are one of my favorite things. It is nice to be able to pack up for the day and go have a fun time with the family. It is even better if you can have a fun day-cation for not much more than the cost of a tank of gas. If you find yourself close to the DC area, check out Colonial Beach, VA. This small town has a small beach on the Potomac River with street parking right there. Parking is $1 per hour that you prepay at a machine (that takes credit card!) that are well marked. Once you pay, it prints a receipt and you put that on your front dash.
Earlier this week we packed a cooler with lunch, snacks, and drinks; grabbed our beach bag (beach umbrella, flat sheets, floaties, sand toys, and sunscreen; hopped in the car and drove! Because of the location of Colonial Beach, you don't encounter the same traffic that you do when you drive to larger ocean beaches. It is a very small, sleepy town and we have never encountered large crowds, so as a mom I'm able to relax a little more. It is easier to relax under the umbrella and watch the children play from a distance. Since it is a beach on the Potomac River, there aren't ocean waves. Small children are able to play more independently.
We had a wonderful day of playing on the beach as a family. This has become one of our go to day trips. If you live close by or are in the area visiting, go check it out!
Click here to see the Virginia is for Lovers page on Colonial Beach.
A cool aside: While we were there, at lunchtime, a bus came around with free lunches for school aged children. It pulled up and the driver, over a loud speaker, announced "Free lunches for school aged children." Many children ran up to the bus from the beach and got a lunch. I've heard of many school districts implementing a summer lunch program for school aged children to help combat hunger when children are out of school. I was so very happy to see this! Thank you Colonial Beach Public Schools for having this program and giving me a chance to see it in action!
I don't know about you, but my kiddos are still a little on the young side to be staying up to watch the ball drop in Times Square. And if I'm truly honest with myself, I don't want to try it. My kids are not the best sleepers. No matter what time they go to bed at night, they're up the same time every morning....and that's usually about 5:30 am. 7 am is sleeping in...and that happens very rarely. SO, staying up to watch the ball drop would result in very cranky children for a day or two. But that doesn't mean that we can't still have fun!
When my oldest was about 3 years old I started to have an early celebration with the kids. I searched YouTube for the ball drop from the year before, made fun snacks, popped open the sparkling apple juice, and we settled in front of the laptop to ring in the new year! Now that my oldest is more aware of what year it is, she realizes that the ball drop we're watching is from last year. But, with a promise to record the ball drop and watch it the next morning, she is still content with our New Years Eve traditions...and in bed by 8!
What does your family do to ring in the new year?
Life moves so fast that the ability to unexpectedly slow down is often a welcome treat. Yesterday while I was at school I heard rumblings of the possibility of snow. In schools these rumblings spread quickly among the teachers. Many were bummed that it was coming on the weekend, but snow is still snow!
We woke up to a dusting, but weather reports suggested a day of snow where we would get 1-3 inches of snow. I was a little nervous about the snow...I had a full day planned. We were supposed to be at church in the morning for a training and then in the afternoon we were supposed to drive about an hour away for a surprise party. I do not like to be out driving in the snow. BUT, everything that we were supposed to do got postponed today! Today we got the gift of time. The unexpected kind. It is so nice.
Since we were going to be out and about all day, I didn't have anything planned for dinner. I poked around the kitchen and pulled out the crock pot, some frozen chicken thighs, a can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, some taco seasoning, and a box of Spanish rice. I put the frozen chicken thighs, taco seasoning, and diced tomatoes in the crock pot and cooked it on high for a couple of hours. When the chicken was cooked all the way through, I used a couple of forks to pull it apart, then I added the rice with a cup of water and stirred it. I cooked it on low until the rice was cooked all the way through. I plan on serving it with some re-fried beans. It was so easy and wasn't much work at all!
What do you like to cook on snow days?? What are your favorite things to do when you have found time?
My youngest has been really into drawing and coloring lately, which is awesome! We have a ton of crayons, colored pencils, and washable markers at our disposal for all of our artistic musings. Yesterday morning he was hard at work creating a book. He spent all morning coloring and writing his book. When he was done he very proudly showed it to me and read it to me and that's when I saw it...
THE MARKERS BLED THROUGH THE PAPER! No problem! We use washable markers in this house!...wrong. He had decided to go into my drawer and get out the "teacher markers" (read permanent markers).....Hmmmm...So, I went and grabbed my go to cleaner. The kind that a neighbor growing up taught my mom how to make that I use now and it cleans everything. No joy...didn't even come up a little bit.
So, I got to thinking. In my classroom when I need to get permanent markers off of things with a glossy finish I use a dry erase marker. Our kitchen table isn't raw wood. It has a glossy type finish. I figured worse case scenario, I just add a little more art work to the table, right? So, I go grab my handy dandy dry erase marker and start coloring the table and wiping little bits at a time...
Wouldn't you know, it worked! Little by little the permanent marker came off our kitchen table with the help of a dry erase marker and a paper towel! Afterwards I used my normal cleaner to get the residual dry erase marker off the table and it was as good as new!
So, if you have a glossy finish to your table and find yourself in a similar situation, don't fret! Go grab a dry erase marker and a paper towel and give it a try. Hopefully it will work as well for you as it did for me! :)
This year a lot of our after school activities are soon after school gets out and they last until dinner time...or beyond. This makes feeding the family healthy meals a bit more of a challenge. It is so easy to get into the habit of running through a drive through or grabbing something real quick. This ends up costing more money and more calories than I want to spend. I have been trying to brainstorm on meals that I can prepare over the weekend that are quick, healthy, and that most of the family will enjoy eating.
I was walking through Costco last week and I saw a very large bag of tortilla chips and had an AHA moment that I'm going to test out this week. I've made a taco dip that the kids can eat with chips and the grown ups can put on top of lettuce to make a taco salad (and maybe dip a chip or two too).
1.5 lb ground beef
appropriate amount of your favorite taco seasoning
sour cream (I got 16 oz container and have some left over)
8oz bag of fiesta blend shredded cheese
1-16 oz can refried beans
salsa (I have an 8 oz jar and have some left over)
small can sliced olives
1. Brown and drain ground beef. Add seasoning following the directions on the package. Let cool.
2. Put refried beans in a medium sized bowl. Add about a cup of salsa. Mix.
3. Put half of the cooled, seasoned ground beef on the bottom of a 9x13 pam (i used my pyrex).
4. Place spoonfuls of the refried bean/salsa mixture on top of the beef, then spread with the back of your spoon.
5. Sprinkle olives over the refried bean/salsa mixture.
6. Place spoonfuls of sour cream all around, spread with the back of your spoon.
7. Use about half of the shredded cheese, sprinkling it evenly over the dish.
8. Add the other half of the ground beef, spreading it out evenly.
9. Add the other half of the shredded cheese evenly over the dish.
Cover and put in the fridge until ready to eat.
When I pull this out of the fridge in a day or two, I plan on putting diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and maybe some more olives on the top. I don't want to do that ahead of time because I don't want it to get mushy and yuck. I also have single servings of guacamole so that those of us who like guacamole can add it to our portion of the dip AND it won't turn brown while it waits for us to eat it!
During the school year between my commitments, my children's homework/extra-curricular activities, and family commitments we seem to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off. During this busy time I'm always longing for a time when there are less activities, places to go, commitments. But as we get to the end of the summer and our "regularly scheduled program" is approaching I'm always so ready and eager to jump in and get going. Why is that?...Because I know that as soon as we get back into our school/work/after school activities/everything else that pops up during this time I'm going to be wishing for less again.
This made a scene from "The Little Mermaid" pop into my head. My sister and I LOVED watching that movie and used to fight over who would sing Ariel's parts. Sebastian tells Ariel "...listen to me. The human world, it's a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything they've got up there..." Wise words...followed by a great song! :)
I'm going to read into Sebastian's advice a little more than I probably should. I'm going to say that even though (much to my 7-year-old heart's dismay) I'm not a mermaid, I can learn from his advice to Ariel. If I spend all my time looking for the good somewhere else, I'm going to miss the good right here in the now. The year is gearing up. All of our activities are going to throw up all over my planner (yes, I still use a paper planner) and there are going to be many moments when I'm not going to be sure how I'm going to get it done. But I will, with the help of God, family and friends we will have a great year. I'm going to look for the good right where I am. I have a feeling when I work to do this, I will find great beauty. I'm looking forward to seeing just how green the seaweed is over here in my "lake." ;) How about you??
It's been a busy week. We're getting into the last month and a half of school which, for me, means crunch time with a lot of paperwork that is associated with my job. This weekend is jam packed with amazing, fun things to do. In the midst of t ball and preparing for out of town visitors and a birthday party, my daughter is also attending a birthday party for a friend. I didn't have a chance to go shopping for a gift. I'm always torn when I go shopping because I want to get something that is nice that the child will enjoy and use. But, buying birthday presents for the birthday parties of the year can add up! This morning, instead of heading out to the store I went into our loft and we went "shopping" in our gift box. No checkout lines! :)
About a year ago I was at the Green Valley Bookfair. This is a large warehouse like building surrounded by farm land that is open for a series of weeks a few times a year. They have books, novelty gift items, games, puzzles, etc...all at steeply discounted prices. As I was walking around, some really cool children's games caught my eye. Then, I had an idea. What if I shopped for gifts when I found them on sale? What if I had a plastic bin or a space in a closet that housed these gifts? What if when there was a birthday party I could let my children "shop" for their friend at home? Each gift is still selected especially for the person it is being given to, it is just selected from a store of items that we have especially for this purpose at home instead of an actual store.
It has been amazing! I now pick things up that are on sale that I know people in our lives are interested in and I put them in our gift box. This isn't fail proof, there are times that we'd like to give someone a gift and there isn't something in our box that is right for them. Then, we go shopping. Since I have an idea of what is in our box, I'm able to plan for this when they pop up (which is rare). I used to spend about $20 on gifts when we went to a friend's birthday party. I'm now able to give equivalent gifts for $5-10.
It feels great to have found a way to be smarter with our money without changing the types of gifts we give. Try it out! Don't live near a place like the Green Valley Bookfair? Target, Kohls, and Kroger are other stores that I like to check out for our gift box. They have clearance sections and items where you can find some great deals!
My kids are old enough to start having responsibilities that they tackle independently, but they don't always do it right the first time...or the second...or the third. Much of the time their chores still need close supervision and I need to check to make sure that their interpretation of having done the job is consistent with mine.
Over the long holiday weekend we took the old chore of clearing their place when a meal was done and we added to it and I have been very pleasantly surprised!
They call it their mealtime chore. My younger child's job is to make sure that the table is clear. My oldest is responsible for clearing her spot and once the table is clear, she wipes it down and sweeps. They have embraced this and even remembered to do their mealtime chore when they're done eating an after school snack. Hopefully this continues and will rub off a little on their rooms and the playroom.