Traditions Aren’t Just for Holidays

20140430_120015Every family has their own traditions, especially on the holidays. Hot chocolate on Christmas eve, the Memorial Day wiffle ball tournament, even knowing who gets the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner….these are all special and cherished moments.  But you shouldn’t just reserve traditions only for the holidays.Traditions can also be daily moments that bring your family closer together.

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Even with our hectic schedules we always make our time spent together as a family a priority and dinner is a great way to make that happen. Do we spend every night gathered around a dining room table? No, but we enjoy our favorite shows together and still have a great time. We also have a goodnight ritual with the kids, which consists only of talking about our favorite part of the day while cuddling together. So simple, yet so incredibly special.

Traditions don’t have to be a big production, and they can be flexible. As Parker and Anika get older, our nightly talks may become a little different and that’s ok. Especially with blended families, flexibility about traditions helps everyone feel a part of the family. The goal is to just spend time together, and you don’t need the excuse of a holiday to make that happen.

Surviving Summer Break

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

summerSummer is in full swing. Now that the kids will be home, you’ll have many more opportunities for quality family time, which is great. However, it’s ok to admit if you felt an inward groan at the thought of summer vacation. What are you supposed to do with hyper children all summer long?

Last year, our summer was filled with a cross-country move and settling in to a new home and life. The year before, we took a month long road trip, which certainly took up most of our summer, but not everyone has the luxury to take their work on the road. It’s more likely that a family vacation will consist of a week or two, which will hopefully result in some great family bonding. But then the rest of the summer becomes an endless assault of “I’m bored.”

You wouldn’t be the first or last parent to kick your child out the door and tell them to get some fresh air, within safe boundaries of course. Having accessible libraries and recreation areas nearby doesn’t hurt either. Take the time at the end of the school year to connect with your children’s friends and parents to set up get-togethers as well, which gives you peace of mind that they are somewhere safe but also out of your hair.

We’ve signed up for ixl.com for the summer so that our daughter can brush up on her math skills, since she will be skipping sixth grade and jumping head first into middle school. And our son has summer homework for his coming AP History and honors English courses. He’s also signed up at open2study.com to take an online anthropology class this summer. (Yes, our kids are geeks).

Most importantly, set aside some time to spend with your kids. Summer vacations are precious and they will whip right by you. Before you know it the school year will start again. These moments together will be what you and your children remember.

Spring Fun with the Family

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

IMG_0454We moved to Utah last year, and one of the most wonderful experiences of living in this state is the Spring weather. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and makes it perfect for family outings and activities.

Here are 3 ideas to help your family spring into Summer!

1.  Zoo!

The zoo is a wonderful place to head in the spring and early summer. It’s warm enough for the animals to be out, without it being too hot. The Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake recently opened the first portion of the new African Savannah; it is a magnificent sight to walk through the gates and see the lions. This time of year is the perfect time to see new babies at the zoo, too.

2.  Explore the Outdoors

Whether it’s a walk on a trail or a drive up to the mountains, the roads are clear and the snow is gone. It’s a perfect time to explore your area – maybe even time for a staycation!

3.  Grill, Baby, Grill!

While we tend to use our grill all year long (even when it’s freezing cold and there’s snow on the ground) there is just something about being able to be out on the porch without being in a parka that makes it a lot more fun. Our favorites: Dave’s “famous” burgers or salmon steaks.

Do you have a favorite Spring family fun ideas to share? Stop by our Facebook page and let us know!

 

 

 

A-Tisket, A-Tasket: How to Make a Bargain Basket

We’re always looking for frugal ways to enjoy the holidays, so we asked Ashley McCann, PushPenny’s expert on running a home on a budget, to give us some ideas we can put into action for Easter. Enjoy!

MomsGetReal Contributor Ashley McCann

Spring is here and that means Easter is on the way. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute and being forced to choose from overpriced, picked-through items in the specialty aisle of a convenience store the night before the big day. The Easter bunny can be on a budget and still put together a bountiful basket without breaking the bank, with a few practical and heartfelt homemade ideas to help celebrate the holiday.

The foundation

Get creative with container choices and enjoy long-term use with something like a beach bucket, a hard-sided lunch box, a decorative storage container, a flower pot, a popcorn bucket, or a small wicker laundry hamper. Your Easter basket certainly doesn’t have to be a basket, and doing something different can set the stage for a fun theme or more interesting presentation. Consider containers that may make life easier and see if you can incorporate those ideas.

The filler

Don’t waste your money on that annoying plastic grass; you’ll regret it when you’re vacuuming. Trust me, I know. Use inexpensive tissue or crumpled solid colored paper to prop Easter basket items up. This is more about eliminating a mess than about cost, but they are equally important in creating an enjoyable holiday. I’m just trying to help you out here, from one mom to another! But if you don’t mind the potential mess, you could run some colored paper through a shredder for do-it-yourself Easter grass.

The fun

Of course, the real cost and effort usually comes from what fills the basket, but you can save money and still make it fun by going homemade. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the thought if you’re not so crafty.

Here are a few easy ideas for the Easter bunny to bring, and you can always fill in the blank spots with items found in the dollar aisle:

playdohPlay Dough: Let kids use their imagination with this safe-to-ingest clay that’s so inexpensive that you won’t even mind when your child mashes all of the colors into one big brownish glob. It will be colorful and pretty in the basket, though. Mix together ½ cup of salt, ½ cup of water, and 1 cup of flour. Knead in food coloring until you reach the desired hue and store in plastic eggs, baby food jars or small plastic food storage containers with decorative labels.

Sidewalk chalk: Spring means more sunshine and time spent outdoors so let your kids make a more colorful world with egg-shaped sidewalk chalk. Mix 1 cup Plaster of Paris (available at craft stores), ¾ cup of water, and Tempera paint for color, and mix. Wipe inside of plastic egg halves with petroleum jelly and pour mixture inside. Allow it to dry halfway before reattaching egg halves, and then set aside to dry fully. Once you remove the chalk from the mold, let it harden for 24 hours before use. Wrap in cellophane and tie it with a ribbon or put the chalk in a small egg carton.

Crazy Crayons: Gather up all of the hopelessly dull and broken crayons you have lurking in the corners of the craft box, remove the paper labels, grate or chop them into pea-sized pieces, combine different colors and bake in a mini muffin tin or candy mold at 150 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool before popping the crayons from the mold and packaging them together prettily for your petite Picasso.

tweetiesCandy Krispie nest: For a sweet treat that also looks lovely, use Rice Krispie treats, candy Peeps and M&Ms or jelly beans to create a cute little love nest. Melt one 10-ounce bag of marshmallows and 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about a minute and a half and then stir in 6 cups of Rise Krispies cereal. Push the warm mixture into small, pre-greased bowls or a muffin tin to create a nest shape and add candy Peep chicks and eggs to complete this adorable tasty treat.

The Finishing Touches
Go the extra mile by letting the Easter Bunny make his or her own simple traditions. I always knew my mother was not the bunny because my baskets were shrink-wrapped (and I didn’t know she had the capability to do that with just a blow dryer and a basket bag). Whether it’s a fancy bow or scavenger hunt clues leading to the basket, doing something small but special can help create memories that last a life time.

Easter doesn’t have to be expensive! With a little time, effort, and planning you can create a beautiful basket on a budget that any bunny would be proud to present. So hop to it!

 

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Newly Single Friends

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Let’s face it: With all the hype around Valentine’s Day, being newly single around this time is no walk in the park. Everywhere you look, from TV commercials to Target, everything is plastered with cheesy red and pink hearts as a reminder of the big day ahead (along with a reminder for singles that they’re a party of one).

valentines dayIf you’re lucky enough to be in a loving relationship this year but you have a friend who just went through a tough breakup, you know that she may be dreading this impending holiday of love.

Be a good, supportive friend and lend her a hand. After all, she probably has done the same for you. Come up with a sensitive solution that includes your newly single friend (and maybe others!), all while embracing that special time with your sweetheart. Here are a couple of ideas.

Valentine Surprises

The joy of unlimited candy and watching as your shoe box filling to the top were among the things that made Valentine’s Day so much fun as a kid. Relive that excitement by sending Valentines and a surprise to your dearest friends. If your closest friends live nearby, create a small gift basket with the following goodies that you can make or buy in bulk:

  • homemade cookies
  • chocolate truffles
  • gourmet coffee
  • cute coffee mug

Leave the baskets on their doorsteps, either bright and early for a Valentine’s morning surprise, or in the afternoon to find as they come home from work. If you simply don’t have the time to assemble the baskets yourself, look online and check out the Valentine’s Day gifts on FTD.com.

For those who live out of town, bake your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and mail a fresh batch their way to sweeten their day from afar. Wrap them up nicely, and tie on your Valentine with a big red ribbon and bow.

Host a Party

Restaurants will be jam-packed with couples on Valentine’s Day so why not host a party at your place for couples and singles alike? Start by creating your guest list and purchase some printable invitations on Etsy, which you can personalize and print at home or take to a nearby Kinko’s. Start early so that your eager friends don’t make their dinner reservations before they hear word of your big celebration. Note on the invitation that all attendees should bring their favorite sweet treat to the party, so that there will be plenty of delectable goodies to go around. As a host, provide a selection of appetizers and finger foods, and shift your focus to the music and decorations. Select some cheesy 80s love songs to play in the background, and have a movie playing in the background such as “Lady and the Tramp.” Set out a few board game stations, and a cocktail table, and enjoy the company as everyone celebrates love and friendship together.

Dinosaur Fossil Fun for Kids

If your children are interested in dinosaurs, then they will love this fun educational activity. Let them dig for dinosaur fossils in your own backyard. For this project you will need some small inexpensive plastic dinosaurs that you can find at the Dollar Store. You can find Plaster of Paris at any craft store.

Supplies needed:
Small plastic dinosaurs
Plaster of Paris
A plastic storage container
A bucket
Sand

Older children will be able to do this entire activity themselves. You will have to help younger children with the Plaster of Paris.

Preparing the Sand

First you need the plastic storage container. It doesn’t have to be a large container, even a shoe box sized container will work. Fill the container with a couple inches of clean sand. This sand is used to create the shape of the dinosaur fossil.

Note: Don’t leave this container of sand laying around or your cat might be tempted to use it as a litter box!

Creating the Molds

Have your children use the plastic dinosaurs to create imprints in the sand. If it doesn’t turn out the first time then just wipe them out and make them again. Make sure the imprints are deep enough to pour the Plaster of Paris into. You should be able to clearly make out the shape of each dinosaur.

If you have large toy dinosaurs, try making dinosaur footprints in the sand.

Preparing the Plaster

dinosaurPour a small amount of the Plaster of Paris into the bucket. Add water slowly and mix until the mixture is the consistency of brownie batter. The mixture should be damp but not wet. Help your children carefully spoon the Plaster of Paris into the imprints in the sand. Let the fossils dry for several hours before removing them from the sand.

Removing the Fossils

After the fossils are dry, carefully remove them from the sand. The thicker the fossils, the less fragile they will be. Your kids will love the “fossils” they have made. For extra fun, you could also bury the finished fossils in the sand and have your kids dig for the fossils. Give them popsicle sticks and small paint brushes to unearth and “clean” their fossils.

Note: When rinsing out the bucket, do not pour any Plaster of Paris down the sink. When it dries it can be very harmful to your plumbing. Rinse it out with a garden hose instead.

Alternate Dinosaur Activity

For another fun activity, fill a small plastic storage container with water and freeze some of the small plastic dinosaurs inside. You can also add food coloring to the water, if desired. When the water is completely frozen, gently remove the block of ice from the container. Place the ice on the back patio or in a small wading pool and let your children use little hammers or kitchen table knives to break the ice and “discover” the dinosaurs.

These dinosaur fossils are a really fun family project. Your kids can pretend they are Paleontologists searching for ancient dinosaur fossils. Check out a few library books about dinosaurs, and you can turn this into a great easy science lesson for kids of any age.

Timothy Olsen is a professional blogger that provides information on dinosaur collectibles, dinosaur crafts and dinosaur history. He writes for Dinosaur Corporation, where you can find the best Dinosaur party supplies.

10 Wedding Mementos You Should Keep for a Lifetime

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Amy Chandler

Wedding PhotosYour wedding is going to be one of the most exciting days of your life. It stands to reason that you would want to keep mementos from your day for the rest of your life. While it doesn’t make sense to save every napkin ring, bad photo or dead flower, there are things that will preserve nicely. Here are 10 wedding mementos that you should plan on keeping:

1.Guest Book

A guest book can serve as a reminder of every person who shared in your happiness. Whether you have a traditional guest book or something more unique, be sure to save it. Research the best ways to keep your book from becoming ruined. How you store it will depend on the material from which it is made.

2.Bouquet

Project 52 2012 #31: C'est le bouquet!

Not every bride carries a bouquet, but almost every bride carries something down the aisle with her. No matter what you choose to carry, you’ll want to keep it safely stored with the rest of your memorabilia. If you do carry a bouquet, consider having it freeze-dried to keep it looking lovely for years.

3.Cake Toppers

What are you putting on the top of your cake? Whether you’re going with a traditional cake topper or an exciting array of sparkling ephemera, keep the items that top your dessert. If your topper is plastic or ceramic, it will keep nicely wrapped in paper.

4.Invitations

wedding invitation card

No, you aren’t inviting yourself to your wedding, but you will want to keep at least one invitation for yourself. Wrap your invite in velum, have it laminated, or keep it in a scrapbook. Storing your invitation correctly will keep it from turning yellow or curling at the edges. You don’t want to save an invitation only to pull it out in a year and have it crumble in your fingers.

5.Centerpiece

Provided your table centerpieces don’t contain any living things, you can keep one for the rest of your life. The type of centerpieces that you have and what they are made from will dictate the safest way to store the one that you keep. Any living items should be removed in order to prevent mold from destroying your creation.

6.Banners

Are you planning on hanging a “Just Married” banner from the back of your car? Maybe you’re going to be hanging a personalized banner over the wedding party’s reception table. Plan on keeping this banner as a memento of your special day. Hang the banner over your dinner table on every anniversary that you celebrate together.

7.Garter

Wedding Photos

A garter, one removed, is traditionally flung towards the bachelors in the room. You can stick with this tradition while still hanging on to your garter by wearing two. Wear one garter slightly higher than another. Keep the one that you wear higher and toss the one that you wear lower. This saves you the embarrassment of having to beg the lucky bachelor for your garter back.

8.Pocket Square

Whether your groom is wearing a boutonniere or a pocket square, save the decoration as a keepsake of your wedding day. If your groom is going to be wearing both, save both. There’s nothing that says you have to pick and choose what you keep as mementos.

9.Menu

Wedding Cake

Every couple offers a different type of dining experience at their reception. If you’re giving your guests a dinner, hors d’oeuvres or cocktail menu to order from, keep a copy for yourself. If you write your menu on a chalkboard, keep the board and make it part of your home decor.

10.Decorations

Try to keep a piece of your decorating scheme with you after the reception has ended. Paper lanterns, strings of lights, balloons; any of these things can be kept as mementos of your special day. Every bride decorates her reception in a way that is unique and special to her. There’s little doubt that at least a few of your items will be worth keeping.

When you keep various items from your wedding, you’ll have a memory box to treasure. You can pull the items out each year on your anniversary to reminisce together. The things you keep may need to be stored in different ways; be sure to find out the best way to store all of your objects.

Amy Chandler is a blogger for www.discountbannerprinting.co.uk, one of the UK’s leading providers of printed posters, banners, bumper stickers, and vehicle clings. Follow her on Twitter @DBPamy.

 

5 Kid-Friendly Summer Travel Destinations That Don’t Involve Disneyland

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

With summer quickly approaching, families are eagerly planning their next vacation. But when traveling with kids, all destinations are not created equal. If you want to enjoy some family time minus all the frustration, consider taking a kid-friendly journey:

Dine, Whale Watch and Sightsee on a Cruise

Alaska, Mexico, Greece, Hawaii — take your pick and instead of booking flights and hotels, choose to cruise instead. You’ll be able to enjoy family-friendly entertainment while on board and experience your destination city through daily excursions. Many cruise lines cater to families, offering onboard rock walls, miniature golf courses, bowling alleys and water parks. Though many cruise ships offer onboard WiFi access, pricing tends to be expensive. If you want to call home, remotely access your security system or check in at the office, wait until you disembark and find an Internet cafe instead.

Trek Through National Parks

With nearly 400 national parks across the U.S., there are many outdoor summer vacation opportunities to choose from. Explore the geothermal features of Yellowstone while waiting for Old Faithful to blow. Hike or ride horseback across the beautiful terrain, pointing out any wildlife you see. Or visit Yosemite and tour groves of giant sequoias. If interested, your kids can even become junior rangers (and earn a Junior Ranger patch) by completing a self-guided booklet.

Snorkel, Swim and Sunbath at the Beach

Besides hanging out at one of its many gorgeous beaches, San Diego has plenty of free fun for the whole family. Spend the morning sampling fresh produce at a colorful farmers’ market. Watch sea lions play at La Jolla Cove. Museum hop at Balboa Park — many of which offer free admission on Tuesdays. Roast marshmallows on one of the county’s bonfire-friendly beaches. And of course if you’re willing to spend money, there’s always Sea World and the world famous San Diego Zoo.

Museum Hop Around Washington D.C.

vacationRediscover history with your kids while exploring our nation’s capital by bike, bus or on foot. Wander through the Smithsonian museums, touching a moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum or seeing a recreated woolly mammoth at the National Museum of Natural History. Don’t miss other national monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial and Capital Hill. To keep the kids happy, stop off at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens or National Zoo as well.

Road Trip Across the Northwest

Stop your road trip in San Fransisco long enough to bustle through Fisherman’s Wharf and catch a glimpse of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. Explore the city by cable car then travel down the coast stopping by the many famed beaches and eventually making your way through Los Angeles. A detour to Hollywood could keep you busy for a day, but after you’ve had your share of museums and amusement parks, head west to Las Vegas. Spend a night or two in Sin City, walking the strip and catching a few family-friendly shows. Drive four hours then hike your way to a campground in the Grand Canyon for the night. After a few days of roughing it, you could go home or continue north stopping off in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

Your Little One Deserves an Adventurous Birthday Party!

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Adventure is out there! If your kid loves the great outdoors, look no further than a backyard-sleepover birthday party. Let the cool, crisp air be your backdrop for the perfect outdoor party.

You can find some outdoor birthday party supplies from Shindigz or other online retail stores. Use the following tips to help create the perfect party for your child.

Make it a Movie Night Under the Stars

outdoor birthday partyPottery Barn has a simple tutorial online on how to make your own movie screen. All you need are two thick, white queen-size sheets, two large poles(one 1.5 feet diameter by 10 feet long and one 3 foot diameter by 10 foot long) and some rope with two different thicknesses.

  • Start with two queen-size ironed-flat sheets. Sew them together with white thread so the long sides are joined, creating a tube.
  • Insert the 1.5-inch-diameter pole and let the fabric hang down.
  • Attach the thicker rope to the ends of the top pole so that it can be attached to a tree or something sturdy. Once attached to a tree, slide the thicker pole through the tube created by the sewn sheets so that it creates a weight at the bottom of the screen.
  • Attach the thinner rope to the ends of the bottom pole. Insert two tent stakes directly beneath the bottom corners of the screen, tie the thinner rope to both of the tent stakes and pull tight. This will secure the screen.

Once you set up your screen, all you need is a projector and voila! You have a completed an outdoor theater. A few simple drinks, snacks and outdoor seating are all you need to enjoy the movie. For the seating, try chairs, air mattresses, plush cushions or large pillows.

Pop on a fun outdoor movie like “A Bug’s Life,” “The Jungle Book,”UP ” or “Surf’s Up.”

Sleep Under a Canopy Tent

Make it more comfortable for the little kiddos by supplying and plenty of blankets. Air mattresses are great because they will support the kids’ backs much better than sleeping bags on the ground. You can attach blankets, tarps or curtains to the sides of the tent to help make the space more enclosed. For a fun, outdoorsy atmosphere, place logs and small lanterns around the space, just in case they want to tell bedtime stories with creepy hand shadows.

Make a Treasure Hunt

Ahoy, mateys! For a fun birthday game, make a pirate-themed scavenger hunt. Divide the kids in teams of two or three and give each squad its own set of clues they will follow to find buried treasure, gold and prizes. This will be an action-packed game filled with fun, excitement and mystery. If some of the kids are having trouble, offer clues to help them along the way.

Another activity to consider is panning for gold. Use assorted rocks and minerals and hide them throughout the yard. This gives the kids a chance to find and learn about precious gems. Parents magazine suggests gathering an inexpensive stash of turquoise, malachite, copper, quartz and other colorful gems at the craft store. Have a shadow box for each guest so they can glue all the gems they find inside to have as keepsakes.