Friday, July 27, 2012

Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey

It's blueberry season! So I decided to read the classic children's book, Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey, with my son. I was not sure how he would do with it because the pictures, while beautiful, are done all in monochromatic pen and ink. So the illustrations are not the bright, bold pictures he sees in many of his storybooks. But he loved it! He has been totally engrossed in the story (all 15 or so times we've read it in the past few days) and he especially loves the onomatopoeia. The blueberries make a "kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk" sound as Sal drops them in her tin pail and Mama Bear makes a "gulp" sound when she munches and swallows her blueberries. Both sounds cause my son to chuckle every time we read the story.

Activity #1: Kuplink, Kuplank, Kuplunk

We've done several activities over the past few days based on this story. First, we reenacted the "kuplink-ing" of the blueberries. But rather than using blueberries and a tin pail, we used a plastic pail and some marbles. **Note: Marbles are a definite choking hazard so be sure your child is old enough to understand not to put them in his/her mouth and even if you think they understand, it's a good idea to monitor this activity closely.** If you are concerned about the marbles, then by all means use real blueberries!

We read the story together and when we got to the parts where the character, Sal, put her blueberries in her pail, we practiced doing it ourselves. After the story was complete, he LOVED putting all the "blueberries" in a pail and pouring them into another pail. He didn't want to stop this activity, but I finally got him to move on by telling him about our next activity...making blueberry smoothies!

The focus of this activity was on the action of putting the blueberries in the bucket and the sounds that they made; great for a young toddler. If you wanted to adapt this for older children you can focus more on the mathematics of Sal's actions. Your child can practice addition and subtraction by adding blueberries to the pail and then taking away the one's that Sal eats. It'd be more fun to use real blueberries for this because then your child can subtract in the same way that Sal did, by eating the blueberries!

"kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk"

Activity #2: Smoothies

The next activity we did was making blueberry smoothies. We make a lot of smoothies and usually I just throw together some yogurt and frozen berries, but this time I decided to try a recipe I came across in Health magazine that involved the addition of tofu! I had all of the ingredients measured ahead of time so that my son could do the pouring into the cup and become an active participant in making the smoothie.  I don't love tofu, so I was a little skeptical about this recipe, but it was pretty good and my 2 year old devoured it!

Blueberry-tofu smoothie. Yum!

Activity #3: "Blueberry Pie"

The third activity was a "blueberry pie" art project. When doing an art project with a child, always have all of your materials prepped ahead of time. This will save your sanity immensely.

You will need:
a paper plate
blue finger paint
brown construction paper cut into strips using shape scissors (prepare these ahead of time)

Have your child make "blueberries" on the plate by using one finger to make small dots of blue paint. When the paint is dry, your child (probably with some assistance from you) can glue the "crust" on top of the blueberries in a lattice pattern.

I'm not actually sure that my son knows what pie is yet, but he still enjoyed making this one!

Blueberry Pie!
Activity #4: Blueberry Muffins

Our final activity was making blueberry muffins. There are a million different blueberry muffin recipes out there. I decided to try a new one, a lemony blueberry muffin. They were not my most favorite, but I personally like muffins to be very sweet, and these just didn't have enough sweetness for me. I'll post the recipe in case these lemon blueberry muffins are up your alley.

Like any activity you do with toddlers, it is a very good idea to have everything prepped ahead of time. If you are cooking with older children you can get them more involved in the measuring.  I had everything measured and ready to go except for the flour. This was a mistake. Take the time to measure the flour too! I turned for a second and toddler hands were covered in flour! Baking with kids is bound to get a little messy, but having everything ready ahead of time will help keep things a bit cleaner.

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Activity #5 Blueberry Picking

One more activity idea is to take your child blueberry picking. I am due to have baby #2 any day now so I just don't have it in me to chase my 2 year old around a blueberry farm in the 95 degree weather we've been having lately. But this will certainly be an activity we will be doing next summer! Enjoy your blueberries!

To view the entire list of activities based on books and songs click here!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ice Cream Cone Cake Pops

Recently my friend and fellow blogger, Julie  at Sugar & Bows, needed an extra hand with a baby shower she was putting together. One of the items on the menu was the adorable ice cream cone cake pops. An easy, yet time intensive treat, the cake pops are always a hit. I was more than happy to lend a hand!

Since we are going to be moving soon and having a baby even sooner, I decided to do some baking to make some "thank you" treats for some of the individuals who have helped us along the way. So this week, I made ice cream cone cake pop treats for the babysitters at the YMCA where I drop my son while I get in the occasional workout, in order to say thank you for watching him.

In order to make these adorable treats you will need:

1 box of cake mix (chocolate, yellow, it's up to you)
1 container of frosting (again, any flavor will do)
2-3 bags of melting chocolates
1 box of mini ice cream cones

1. Make 13x9 inch cake according to box directions. Cool completely. Crumble cake into a large bowl.

2. Add the frosting to the crumbled cake and blend with a  hand mixer.

3. Use a small cookie scoop to make small balls of cake and push down gently into the ice cream cones.   Put them on a tray and cool in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

4. Melt the chocolates according to the instructions on the package. Then dip the "ice cream" into the chocolate. You can add sprinkles, mini m&m's, or other fun toppings. Just be sure to do it right away before the chocolate sets.  Before you add toppings you can also drizzle another color melting chocolate on top to look like to hot fudge. I had some peanut butter flavored ones which were delicious on top of the chocolate cake balls! Enjoy!

They don't look perfect, but that's ok because it looks more like melting ice cream with ooey, gooey topping!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hands-On Toddler Activity #10: Tongs!

I bought a bag of multi-sized, multi-colored puff balls at Lakeshore Learning, and they have been such a great investment for toddler activities because I've been able to reuse them so many times. This simple activity only requires a set of tongs and some puff balls. Actually if you don't have puff balls, any small objects will work (small toys, cotton balls, small rocks, etc). I think softer objects will make the activity a little easier for little hands though. If you have them, it'd be best to use tongs that have the rubber on the ends in order to avoid injuries, but if you are monitoring this activity I'm sure any kind will do. 

I gave my son a bowl so he could pick the puff balls up, put them in the bowl, and then dump them all out. Filling up containers is a favorite activity of his, and I think many other toddlers enjoy it as well. This activity took some time, but once he figured it out he was squeezing puff balls with ease. Because the tongs are quite big for his little hands he had to experiment with different ways to hold them. Occasionally he would even pick the puff balls up with his hands, place it in the tongs, then squeeze the tongs to hold it in there. Some might call this cheating; in this situation I call it creative problem solving. Though I haven't done it yet, I thought it might also be fun to do this activity out doors with a bowl of water and some ice cubes! 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The "I Look Forward To" List

I'd like to say that pregnancy is a wonderful, beautiful time, but let's just be honest, it's tough! The end result of course is a joyous miracle and there are a few perks along the way such as clearer skin, stronger nails, and the lack of a visit from your monthly friend. But for the most part it's exhausting, uncomfortable, and challenging. That's my experience anyway. As I was attempting to bend down the other day to pick up a sticker that my son had stuck to the floor, I began to compile a mental list of all the things that I take for granted being NP (non-preggo) and started to look forward to experiencing them once again in less than a month. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond fortunate to even be pregnant with my second healthy baby and to have a pregnancy that is free of complications and has allowed me to remain active. I know that there are many women who only wish that they could complain about lower back pain and swollen ankles, but  sometimes you just need a good laugh or a little complain session to get you through the difficult times.

Things I Look Forward To

I look forward to meeting my new little bundle of joy in just a few short weeks!

I look forward to being able to pick things up off the ground without nearly falling over, getting out of breath, or exclaiming "oomf" every time I try to get back up. 

I look forward to being able to sleep in other positions other than on my left side. 

I look forward to being able to get in and out of bed without getting out of breath. 

I look forward to being able to go for a walk that is more than three blocks from my house (in other words, near a bathroom). 

I look forward to having a mojito!

I look forward to once again eating any kind of cheese I want. 

I look forward to being woken in the middle of the night by a hungry newborn, rather than by my bladder. 

I look forward to using cleaning products and pumping gas without fear of dousing my baby in a chemical haze. 

I look forward to walking rather than waddling. 

I look forward to seeing less of my doctor's office. 

I look forward to clothes shopping at more than just the three or four stores that carry maternity clothes. 

I look forward to having a mojito! (Oh wait, did I say that one already?)

Pregnancy is a joyous, tiring, miraculous, uncomfortable, long privilege. There are bound to be some tears along the way, but it is mostly filled with eager anticipation and despite my occasional complaints it is a journey with the happiest of outcomes!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pasta With Kale and Walnut Pesto

"Mikey likes it!" We were reminded of the old Life cereal commercial tonight at dinner. Our son ate kale and asked for seconds. Ok, so it was kale pesto, not an identifiable vegetable to a two year old, but we felt triumphant on the war of the vegetables nonetheless. I've been trying a lot of pesto variations lately. We've tried the standard basil and pine nuts, and I've made variations using arugula, kale, walnuts, and even avocado! This has probably been my favorite though and one I'm sure to repeat. This dish was quick, easy, and so delicious!

Pasta With Kale and Walnut Pesto

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons walnuts
1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves torn (about 12 cups)
1 cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving
1 small clove garlic
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 pound fusili, penne, or some other short pasta

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool. Chop two tablespoons of the walnuts and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until bright green, 30 seconds. Transfer the kale to a colander (reserve the cooking water); squeeze dry when cool enough to handle.

In a food processor, combine the kale, pecorino, garlic, the remaining 1/3 cup of unchopped walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady steam.

Bring the reserved cooking water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2  cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the pesto and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss to coat. Serve the pasta sprinkled with the pecorino and chopped walnuts. Yum!