Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

On a Little Winter Break

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

The winter has already been so wonderful for our family! We have made snow angels, indulged in a thousand batches of gingerbread waffles, warmed our hands with mugs of cocoa, took a trip to the theater to catch a movie, saw the amazing Santa and put in our gift requests, visited the neighborhood of holiday lights, and got to see The Nutcracker that was performed at our theater downtown. We will be doing lots more of that while the children are on Winter Break.

MomAdvice will be back in the New Year with many more ideas for simple family celebrations, great dishes to share around your kitchen table, craft ideas to keep your family under budget, and ways to manage your home simply and easily!

Many blessings to you and your family this Christmas and I hope you have a happy and safe New Year!

How to Create an Advent Calendar Out of Common Household Items

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season. Today I wanted to share with you a “use what you have” Advent calendar that we created last year. It was such a hit that I plan to make another one for this year! This requires no pricey materials and is based around what the holiday season should be all about… being together!

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!

Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins

I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.


Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.


Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.

Our Activity List

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Going to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack (possible visit for the tree lighting ceremony in town).
5. Going to a Christmas Concert.
6. Decorating gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for our special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa and a trolley ride through downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Color a holiday picture.
17. Holiday party to attend.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights.
20. Deliver holiday treats to our friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Big bubble bath with holiday music.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Watch a holiday movie.
24. Celebrate our family Christmas.

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Holidays from the Clark Family

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Well, sweet friends, for the first time ever…I am taking a little vacation from the blog.  In almost seven years, I have never purposefully taken a week off unless it was because of technical difficulties.  This week will be a crazy one as I have a film crew moving in for the day to shoot a webisode for my spokesperson job with Cheer and I am hosting both sides of our fabulous family for Thanksgiving. Vacation timing, for me,  could not be more perfect.

I leave you with these beautiful portraits of our family that my wildly talented and awesome friend Nancy took of our family. I must be the luckiest girl in the world because I have, like, ten close friends that are all wildly talented photographers in town. We never have a shortage of wonderful people to take our picture here. We were so excited to do a portrait session with Nancy. If you live here, you should too.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with laughter, love, great food, and family. I will be back in a week as we gear up with holiday crafts, traditions, and food to create this holiday season.

With much love and thanksgiving for you,

Amy

Family Holiday Activity: Fighting Hunger Together Today!

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

In the busy chaos of trying to prepare for the holidays, it is often overlooked that so many people will not get the beauty of sitting around  a table and indulging in a Thanksgiving feast. In fact, 1 out of 6 people will not even know where their next meal will come from. It truly breaks my heart when I hear that so many are in need and I often feel helpless in how I can possibly help.  As someone who desires to live a frugal and simple life, I am always looking for those “scraps of life” ways that I can give back to others.  This is just another way that I want to share with you that you can give back to others, both simply and within your own budget.

You may not have noticed the food barrels at your local Walmart store as you are hurrying off to do your holiday shopping. Well, I am excited to share that Walmart is running a Fighting Hunger Together Campaign and providing barrels where you can make a food donation to help support food pantries that are desperately in need right now. These barrels are conveniently located near the entrance of the store (mine was located right outside of the grocery side of our local store) where you can drop off your donations as you are entering or leaving to do your shopping.

If you’re thinking about giving to a food drive, here are a few of the items currently needed:

  • Canned Meats (tuna, chicken, stews)
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Spaghetti Sauce & Noodles
  • Canned Beans (baked, garbanzo, kidney)
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits (in light syrup)
  • Juice Boxes (100% juice)
  • Cereals (boxed, oatmeal)

The food pantries can also use basic household items and toiletries, like toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant and diapers (sizes larger than newborn). If you’re thinking about donating to a food drive, Walmart is conducting an in-store food drive through Monday (11/22), so please head out there this weekend and lend your support.

I encourage you to take a moment to visit the Fighting Hunger Together site and learn more about these efforts to feed the hungry. When you visit, be sure to “Like” your own community. Votes will be tallied to see where the donations will be going.

Below is a video of our family taking our own trip to do a donation. With just fifty dollars, we were able to donate 49 items for the cause. We gathered up many of the items for just a mere fifty cents or so each! The kids were thrilled to help and we were proud that we were able to contribute to such a worthwhile cause.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

A Family Day at the Pumpkin Patch

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

It is my favorite family day of the entire year. Pure and unadulterated pumpkin loving and picking for the entire family. My heart practically bursts every year that we get to do this together and this year was no exception. This year though my heart was just bursting and my eyes were all welling up as I saw my kids in the same exact spots as just two years ago. Yes, they looked completely different than they did before. They had to duck in places that used to easily slide under. They reached spots that they couldn’t reach before. Taking them was a whole heck of a lot easier. We all seemed to enjoy it more than the time before.  Family fun was even more fun this year.

It is bittersweet to watch them grow.

Happy and a little sad all at the same time.

Apple Picking & Apple Potpourri

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

It is that time of year again and I couldn’t wait for fall to arrive. This year we took a trip to Jollay Orchards to go apple picking as family for the first time and the kids absolutely loved it! What a beautiful day it was! We splurged for the admission into the petting zoo and rides for a fun family day together. We also picked a ton of apples this year and I will be creating a lot of apple dishes in our kitchen to use up the apples we have on hand! The kids enjoyed every minute of this activity and we all enjoyed our cider and donuts treat at the end of the day.

Some ideas of fun were better than others. Apple picking, hay rides, and corn mazes…a blast. Haunted house… super bad idea. Poor kids-  that picture speaks a thousand words!

We also can’t wait to do a little pumpkin picking next month. I have to say,  personally, the pumpkin picking is my favorite kind of picking. You know why? No obligation to do kitchen duty with a pumpkin and I get to just enjoy the pumpkin out on my front step and time spent with my husband & kids. A lot of the other picking translates into lots of work for me!

With apples though, there is a no apples go to waste policy in our house! While I have been creating those apple dishes in the kitchen, I throw all of the cores, peel, and leftover apple bits into a pot. With a generous sprinkle of  cinnamon and filled to the top with water, I simmer these leftovers on the stove. This creates a delicious apple pie smell throughout the house with items that would go in the trash.

What fall activity do you look forward to with your family? Please share!

Back-to-School Celebration Feasts With Recipes

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I hope you will allow me the beauty of indulging in my endless brag book of photos of my children. There is nothing like the freshness of a new year, a new opportunity to do better, a new opportunity to be better, new teachers, new friends, and the same old sappy mom who won’t stop taking your picture. Ah, some things just will never change!

Emily is all tutus, ballet shoes, and anything purple, pink, or sparkly. She is wildly dramatic, has the sweetest little voice in the world, and is fiercely independent. She plays pretend for hours with her Little People and in her little doll house.

This year she was off for her last year of preschool. My heart just aches when I think that next year my little baby will be going off to kindergarten. I am savoring this last year together more than I can say.

Ethan & Emily started on two different days this year and so we  had two fun-filled celebrations for each of them. I have never cooked so much in my life, but they each got to request their favorite main dish and a favorite dessert to celebrate their big day at school. I look forward to having one giant celebration next year to celebrate them both at once, but I might have to make an investment into another celebration plate to make that happen!

Emily’s celebration request was a taco bar and chocolate cupcakes with pink icing. I have a feeling you are going to really love this celebration dinner because it is thrifty and absolutely delicious!

This taco meat is the best taco meat in the world- truly! The mixture of tomato sauce and chicken broth take away the beefy taste and give it just the right hint of flavoring. Since my kids can’t handle the heavy spices, we modified the chili powder to 1 teaspoon and skipped the cayenne pepper.

Beef Tacos (Courtesy of  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced (I use a tablespoon of the bottled minced garlic)
2 tablespoons chili powder (adjust to your personal taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 pound (90 percent lean) ground beef (or use a higher fat beef and rinse the meat)
1/2 cup smooth canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
8 taco shells

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant about thirty seconds. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, about five minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar until thickened, about ten minutes. Season with salt to taste. Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells and serve passing any desired accompaniments separately.

Make-Ahead Version: The filling can be fully prepared, cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated for up to three days. Reheat over medium-low heat, adding additional water to adjust the consistency.

These cupcakes. These cupcakes. No words. The cake is moist  and gets its beautiful texture from a few pantry ingredients and a little boiling water. The batter looks like a watery-looking mess and turns  out to be the most delicious cupcake I have ever made in my life! The cake was moist and flavorful. Use a batter bowl or a ladle to scoop the watery batter into the lined cupcake pan.

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes (Courtesy of The Farm Chicks)

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.  Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.  (I recommend a batter bowl to easily pour the batter into the cupcake liners).  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat with a mixer for about two minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the boiling water, and beat, just until blended.  (Don’t be alarmed – the batter appears watery).  Evenly ladle (or pour) the batter into the liners.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center of the cupcakes springs back when lightly touched.  Cool and frost.

I am not a fan of heavy frostings, in fact, I don’t even really like buttercream frosting. That being said, this frosting is my favorite frosting in the world. It is light, delicious, and reminds me a little of marshmallow fluff. It is not a decorator frosting, but decorating isn’t important if the frosting tastes like heaven. For the perfect little swirls on top of your cupcakes,  you can use a Ziploc bag and cut the corner to pipe the frosting on top or use a 2D tip that is gathering dust in your baking supplies and hasn’t been used since that last batch of Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. Get ready for a good old-fashioned mind-blowing frosting perfect for the frosting-haters.

PS- Be sure to break out your stand mixer for this or be like me and forget to do it and update your Facebook profile, tweet a bit, watch a You Tube video, secure a new freelance job, and do this all while simultaneously beating the crud out of those egg whites. Yeah, that really happened.

No Cook 7 Minute Frosting (Courtesy of Food.com)

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 unbeaten egg whites
food coloring

Mix sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites. Add boiling water. Beat on high til mixture forms peaks (like meringue) approx 5-7 minutes.

My sweet boy was ready to head off to second grade. I know many of you have read my site for many years. I still can’t believe that I have been doing this since he was only a year old. For many of you, this kid has been growing up right before your very eyes!

This year it is all Pokemon and Bakugan and, more recently, a lot of the magical Harry Potter. We started the tradition of reading the series together at night before he goes to bed. When he bursts through the door he begs for another chapter. One of the naughtiest thing he does is hide books under his pillow to indulge until the wee hours of the night. He reminds me so much of my bookworm self.

Ethan’s celebration feast was my homemade spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread sticks, with the new family favorite…peanut butter balls.

Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs

For Sauce (sauce recipe adapted from AllRecipes Dinner Tonight Cookbook):

3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For Meatballs (this recipe will make enough for a double batch, half to eat and half to freeze):

1/2  cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups grated Romano (or Parmesan)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)
1 pound ground beef

To make sauce: Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Five to ten minutes before serving, add in your meatballs and then serve over a big bowl of your favorite pasta.

To make meatballs: In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey & ground beef, then gently stir to combine. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. When done cooking, drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This will be just as delicious with a lot less mess and fewer calories.

****************************

I add a 1/4 cup of extra flour to make sure  the dough is sticky, but not too sticky. I cover the whole cookie sheet with plastic wrap and pop it in my fridge until our dinner hour. About a half hour before our dinner, I pull it out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter while our oven preheated.

Homemade Bread Sticks (Courtesy of Chocolate on My Cranium)

Dissolve:
2 TBSP sugar and 1 TBSP yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water

Add:
3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix and knead for 5 minutes with your stand mixer (using the dough hook)

Let rest for 10 minutes. Melt 1/2 cube (4 TBSP) of butter in a bowl in the microwave and pour into a 11×17 pan (jelly roll pan). Place dough into pan then lift and turn over so that both sides of the dough are covered in the melted butter. Press dough into pan. Sprinkle with desired seasonings (I love the Italian Cheese Blend cheeses and a sprinkle of garlic salt all over). Let rest 15 minutes. Cut into strips with pizza cutter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Recut with a pizza cutter and serve.

Our dessert was courtesy of last week’s notebook at The Southern Plate. I halved the recipe just to see if my kids would love these. The results were delicious and satisfying. The oats combined with the peanut butter and the dried milk create a dense stick-to-your ribs treat perfect for after-school or as a yummy snack before bed. My husband said they reminded him of cookie dough. I will definitely be making these again!

In fact, the bread sticks and chocolate cupcakes were both featured in our notebooks (and were notebook experiments) which is why notebook day is my favorite day of the week. We have gained so many family traditions and meal ideas from it. I love experimenting and being inspired daily by bloggers.  You all are wonderful!

After all of that, I collapsed into a puddle of endless dishes combined with a puddle of pure exhaustion. It didn’t matter though because I am so proud that we have these moments to cherish forever!

Do you have any special traditions for celebrating the back-to-school season? I would love to hear them!


Back to School Recipes, Organization Tips, and Other Hidden Resources

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Good morning, friends! Today my daughter heads back to school and my son will be shortly following behind her on Wednesday. I am a sappy momma and tend to sob on both days that the children head to school. I also am the one in sunglasses for the entire day to hide the tired circles and red eyes from all of the crying. They do drive me crazy sometimes when they are here, but I miss them when they are gone.

It has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping, back-to-school nights,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars (I think I like the word deliciously)

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Delicious & Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start!

Rediscovering the Simple Pleasures in Life

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Summer is coming to an end soon for our family and that will mean sliding back into the hustle and bustle of busy school days and extra curricular activities. As a mom, it can feel a little overwhelming preparing for the start of school especially if you have had a jam-packed summer like we have had.

My solution to keep me grounded as we transition back into this time is to have a minimum of one day a week where we do nothing. It is a day that I lovingly refer to as our  “detox day” from the busy running and commercialism that we are exposed to.  It is the day where we do nothing, we spend nothing, we are unplugged, and we just spend time together, making time to indulge in the good old-fashioned things in life. These days are filled with time spent around board games instead of  time spent around a television, library books instead of our electronic games, creating instead of buying, and rediscovering those simple pleasures in life.  It is this one day a week where I can come back to center and feel aligned again with my family and what is most important to me.

Forts are built and snuggled under with blankets and pillows from the bed.

Treasured books from the thrift store are lovingly read again.

Fancy meals are abandoned in favor of eggs and toast for dinner.

Homemade treats are baked with my children, while making giant messes in the kitchen.

Sheets are lovingly washed and hung on the line, waiting for each family member to indulge in the crispness after a day filled with nothing.

These days allow me to refocus on the abundance and the simple pleasures that are within my life, instead of the need to go, go, go, buy, buy, buy. After having one day like this,  I often want to continue the trend of simple living and simple pleasures and extend it further into my week.

It is these days when I am…

Thankful.

Centered.

Happy.

It is these days when I feel that I am at my best as a mom and wife.

It is these days that I wish I could fall into daily.

It these days where I know what is important.

Who is important.

Why they are important.

How do you bring focus back to the simple pleasures in life?

Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

(this article originally published on 06.30.09)

I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard all summer long. I will do anything to stay outside with my kids and hibernate in our big backyard. Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home.

Chores come first. We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

For work-at-home moms, I try to get up an hour before the kids and tackle any work priorities and I do most of my work on the weekend mornings. I encourage you to read my post on finding balance to work priorities to assist with figuring out a good work-at-home schedule.


Get the dinner prep done. After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.


Be prepared for outdoor excursions. The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

In our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.


Make the outdoors fun. My children will play outside for the entire day, but each summer we make an investment into outdoor activities that will help keep the outdoors fun. Some of my favorite summer investments have been a sandbox, a small water table, sprinkler toys, a new set of chalk, and a batch of homemade bubbles.

My children also love to create so I also put out a bucket of water with paint brushes for them to paint the cement or to paint their chalk drawings. We also make a batch of sponge balls to play with in their water table or for fun water play outdoors. Nature journals can help them document the changing of the seasons and what they see in nature. Homemade play dough with some cookie cutters and a rolling pin can lead to fun creations, without the mess, on an outdoor table.

Don’t forget that many activities that you can get your children to do outside can also help you. I have my kids use their water toys to water my garden. My children also love to help wash the cars and wash their own outdoor toys. Have them set their own table for lunch or help you clean up after an outdoor dinner.


Make easy evening routines. After a long day of playing outside, I bring the kids inside and we start tackling the baths. After the kids are bathed, they can have a small snack and watch a television show while I work on getting our dinner ready.

This usually leads to a little napping or general zoning out as they are usually so exhausted from playing outside. With this time, I tidy up and get our easy dinner together for us to dine outside. After that the kids play outside until bedtime and I am able to put them to bed earlier after all of their outdoor fun.

Outdoor chores are accomplished by my husband & I trading off the kids to get done what needs to get done. One of us mows in the front, while the other parent is playing with the kids in the back. As I have said before though, many of these chores are just done side by side with the kids while they are playing or helping.


Remember they are only young once. Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?