Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Lunch Love Notes.

When my big guy is at school, I miss him! 
Sometimes I write him a quick note on a scrap of paper.  And even though he is a big tough boy, he really enjoys getting a love note from mommy in the middle of the day!
Today I decided to make a few printable cards to place in his lunch. Here is a free printable that I made with 9 different ways to tell your child you love him/her during lunch!
To download and print your own lunch love notes, go HERE!

I printed them on card stock, cut them out, (again trying to figure out why I don't own a paper cutter!!) and they are ready to go. I will probably place them in his lunch bag, but I might also use a hole punch to tie them onto his bag, or surprise him in other places while he is at school.  I have other plans to make more personalized cards with his name, pictures of us, etc. 
I don't think our kids ever tire of hearing that we love them and are thinking about them throughout the day!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Imagination Booster: Lunch on a Pirate Ship

One day while running errands, we found a wide, sturdy cardboard box just begging for an adventure. So we brought it home, and after studying it on all sides this morning, decided it would be a PERFECT pirate ship.

I cut off most of the top flaps, leaving one short one for the front deck, then bent one long flap to make the hull, taping it all together with clear packaging tape. After much deliberation, we settled on a not-too-scary name for our vessel...The Sea Wolf

We added a dowel for the mast and my son created a Pirate flag from cardstock. And LOTS of glue.

I taped one side for durability, then hole punched it twice for the dowel to run through.

Everyone promptly ran to find their best pirate dress-up clothes...stripes, bandanas, eyepatch, jeweled swords...typical pirate duds.

I wasn't sure what pirates ate for lunch...but decided tuna "fish" sandwiches cut with cookie cutters, and cucumber Sea slices with cream cheese to hold fish crackers and seaweed (cilantro) were just the thing for Captain Mario, Pirate Pinkey, and our Little Messy Matey. 

So me 'n' these here scurvy scallywags drug our sorry keesters out t'th'ship'n'had us a grand great adventuaaarrr! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Fall! What Can we do in the Upstate?

Are you looking for some fun things to do with your family this Fall? 
Is it time to start a few family traditions? 
Here is a list of our favorite Fall things to do in the Greenville area.  Please let us know your favorite Fall activities and we will add them to our list!

Fall for Greenville
Fall for Greenville takes place on Friday Oct. 14th -Sunday 16th
This year is the 30th anniversary of Fall for Greenville! Fall for Greenville takes place downtown on Greenville's Main Street. With over 40 of Greenville's finest restaurants showcasing almost 200 menu items, St. Francis Fall for Greenville is a fun event for the entire family. It has a festival atmosphere with carnival rides, a Ferris wheel, etc. There are also several stages set up throughout with local musicians playing for all 3 days.
Check it all out here

Happy Cow Creamery
I have to give a shout out to Happy Cow Creamery—one of our favorite places to visit! I love their products, my kids love their products, and we love seeing all the cows!
An exciting event is happening soon at Happy Cow. They are celebrating their 9th Anniversary on Saturday, October 1 from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Happy Cow will have lots of samples, and their Famous All Beef Hot Dogs w/drink will only be $1.00, and a Bag of Popcorn for only 25¢. There will also be a live Band, The Balloon Pirate (he is awesome!), Trolley Rides, Pumpkin Decorating. Check it all out here:
If you can't make it to the fun on Oct. 1st, stop in any time to enjoy their amazing products. They are located here: Happy Cow Creamery/ 332 McKelvey Road/ Pelzer, SC 29669/ or call (864) 243-9699

AutumnFest at the Market/ Greenville State Farmers Market.This event begins this weekend at Greenville State Farmers Market, Greenville, SC! AutumnFest offers an opportunity to come out and indulge in the colors and flavors of Fall. Locally grown apples, pumpkins, plants and produce will be available as well as unique lawn accessories. Located @ 1354 Rutherford Rd., Greenville, SC, 29609/ (864) 244-4023. Here are the dates and times: Friday, Sep 23 8:00a to 6:00p, Saturday, Sep 24 8:00a to 6:00p, Sunday, Sep 25 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Sky Top Orchard
Our family LOVES Sky Top Orchard. It is only a short drive up the mountains from Greenville and offers a fun family experience that we enjoy year after year. They have all kinds of apples to pick or buy, as well as pumpkins, cider, and a variety of other things. Do yourself a favor and be sure to get a home-made donut from the stand. Yum. Here is the link
1193 Pinnacle Mountain Road Flat Rock, NC 28731 (828) 692-7930

Boo in the Zoo!  
Many of you have a local zoo membership, but even if you don't, you can enjoy Boo in the Zoo at the Greenville Zoo. This event offers safe, non-scary trick or treating for kids 12 and under! The dates are Oct. 21st and Oct. 28th from 5:30-8 for members only. Oct. 22-22nd and 29-30th from 4-8 it is open to the general public.

Barnes and Noble 
has several activities that carry over into fall.
Barnes and Noble the shops at Greenridge has stories around the Campfire 7 p.m. (every Friday!)
They also still have a Tuesday morning story time at 10 a.m.
The Barnes and Noble on Haywood Road has Story time for kids @ 10 a.m. on Thursdays.
Story times also continue at Great Harvest Bread on Woodruff Road.

The Library!
As always, don't forget about library events! Your local library has a very full activity if you are looking for something to do on a rainy day, or if you simply want to get out of the house and do something FREE with your little ones! Our local library has many events on the calendar here:

Stingy Jack's Pumpkin Patch?
I have not been to Stingy Jack's Pumpkin Patch, but the information below has me intrigued. Has anyone ever been here? I might have to check it out!
Friday, Oct 14 4:00p at Mountains and Meadows at Turkey Pen. 324 McGuire Rd., Pisgah Forest, NC, 28768
Children 5 and under are free and do not require a ticket for entry. All parking for the event will be located on Asheville Highway and is $5 per vehicle. Just look for the parking signs as you approach the event area. Looking forward to seeing you at Stingy Jack's Pumpkin Patch!

The Saturday Market! 
The Saturday Market takes place on Main Street in Greenville, SC, between Court and Washington streets. Market Hours are 8 am to Noon, May 7 to Oct. 29.

This place (The Happy Berry) has a great listing for local Farms

They are open Saturday 8am until 6pm
Sunday noon until dusk
Monday thru Friday 8am until dusk

Stewart Farms
I have never been to this farm either, but this place looks awesome.
Stewart Farms is a real, working farm and nursery, pumpkin patch, Greenhouse,and Farm Store.
Opening Saturday Sept. 24 The SC MaiZE opening Saturday, Sept. 24 Farm Admission - $2.00
You have to check out the pictures for this Corn Maize!
When: Opening Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Closing Date: Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011
Fridays 4-10
Saturday 10-10
Sunday 2-8
Weekdays and November by apt. only
6600 Highway 92
Enoree, S.C. 29335

SC Childrens Theater
This theater has a dramatized story time for $1 per child every other week on Monday and Tuesday. This sounds really neat! It starts Oct 3. Here is the link

The cost is only just $5 a kid. Check it out here!

Fountain Inn theater for kids
Shows are $5 for kids. More information here!

Nivens' Apple Farm 
This farm also has apples, hayrides, pumpkins, and a corn maze. It is open August 15th thru Thanksgiving (or until apples are gone) 2.2 miles west of Moore, SC. from Hwy. 290 or Exit 63, 6.2 miles east of I-85 down Hwy. 290 toward Moore, SC. Phone: 864-574-8889 or 864-576-4195. 
8 am to 6 PM. U-Pick apples, hayrides, School tours, U-Pick pumpkins, farm animals, corn maze, apple cider.

Mini Miracles Farm
This farm also has blueberries, pumpkins, Fresh eggs, snacks and refreshment stand, Bouncy castle or moon bounce, pony rides, farm animals, birthday parties, school tours, events at your location (call for info)
Mini Miracles is located at 708 Old Rutherford Road, Taylors, SC 29687. Phone: 864-248-7752. Alternate Phone: 864-968-9678.
Open: Call or visit our website for Updated Hours. Directions: Visit our web site for directions please.Pumpkin Patch and Fall Family Fun Days open Monday October 4th and runs through November 14th; Hay rides, Animal Education Station, Bounce House, Pony Rides and Food are Friday, Saturday, Sunday; Pumpkin Patch open all week long; Private Educational Tours booked Monday-Friday; Birthday Parties any day but Saturday. 

What are your favorite Fall Family traditions? Comment below and we will add them to our list!  Happy memory-making!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Make Your Own Play Teepee!

Note: If you aren't into sewing, there is good news! TheMudPieMakers has opened an Etsy shop...we have custom teepees available for order! See side bar for a link.

A play teepee is a super-fun hideout, reading corner, or ready-made fort for pretend play! And I promise it's not hard to make. If you have a sewing machine and can sew a basic straight line...and you can find a free can make this! It will take 3-4 hours. It is fairly inexpensive as well...actually, it could be pretty much free if you repurpose a used twin sheet and are lucky enough to have bamboo growing in your yard.

I had neither of those, so my cost was $20, which included 2 sheets from Walmart ($5 each) and PVC pipes from Home Depot ($10).
Gather Materials:

  • 1 flat solid color twin sheet

  • 1 patterned twin sheet or 2 yards of any 45”w cotton fabric for contrast banner and pole pockets

  • matching thread

  • 37” length of single fold bias tape

  • 5 PVC or bamboo poles, each ¾” thick and 74 inches long

  • 10 caps for the PVC pipes

  • 1 shoelace or 24” length of cord or twine to tie the poles together

  • a drill with a 1/4” bit
Prewash your sheets.
Lay the solid-color sheet on the floor and use a measuring tape and pen to mark the triangles that will be the 5 sides of the teepee.

The far right triangle on the diagram, which is at the top of the sheet (where the big hem is) may vary a little in size...that's ok. It will form the door flap. Use a straight edge to draw lines between the marks. Now cut the triangles.

Lay out your contrast fabric. Cut 5 strips that are 60” long by 5.5” wide. These will form the pole pockets.

Cut a small triangle pattern piece for the banner that is 7x7x7.5" and 6" tall.

Cut 14 of them. These will form the pennant banner that is on the door flap.

Start sewing. *All seam allowances are 5/8” unless noted.

To make the front door section, overlap the 2 smaller triangle pieces. They should overlap 3" to 6", depending on length of your sheet. You will have to turn over the piece on the right so that the wrong side is up. The back of the hem will show in front, but it's not noticeable.
Overlap the two pieces (left wider hem piece over right piece) just enough so that together the bottom edge measures 36”. Make sure the overlap is same at top and bottom.

Pin together and mark a line 3 feet up from the bottom. This will be the top of the door.

The overlapped top piece can be cut to a point to match the bottom layer--up near the point. Now stitch along the upper edge and then along the overlap until the 3-ft mark.

Stitch across that line to attach the two layers and make the top of the door flap. It's a good idea to zigzag stitch this seam to reinforce will get pulled on when doorflaps are opened.

Now, on this and the other four triangles, measure 9" from the top point down each side, mark and then cut that piece off the top.

Hem the top edge by folding it down 1/4” then 1/4” again and stitching. The bottom edge is already hemmed for you.

To sew the pole pockets, first hem the short ends of each, turning the end under 1/4” and then 1/4” and stitching. Do this to both ends of each strip.

Next, you will fold the pockets in half lengthwise with the WRONG sides together. Put this long strip between 2 of the teepee sides so that the RIGHT sides of the teepee pieces are on the inside, against the pole pockets. All the raw edges should be even.

The pocket piece should be just a 1/2” to an inch shorter than the teepee pieces on each end. Pin and then stitch all the way down. As you sew, you may need to gently stretch the bottom piece to make sure your top and bottom edges end up even. Be sure to reinforce the edges a good bit where you start and stop your seam-—I stitched back and forth about 6 times over a couple of inches at both ends to make sure it wouldn't easily pull apart with use.
Repeat this step 5 times, so that you end up with the pockets showing on the outside of the teepee.

If you like, go ahead and zigzag stitch or serge the edges of those long seams to neaten them up inside.

Now for the banner. Put 2 small triangle sections right side together. WIth a 1/2" seam allowance, sew along the edge of the 2 slightly shorter sides, pivoting at the corner.

Leave the longer side open. Cut off the corner close to the stitching to remove fabric bulk.

Turn inside, using a pencil or scissors to gently poke it out to a point. Press. Cut off the little points at the bottom edge. Top stitch each triangle on the two sewn edges.
Open up the piece of bias tape and fold one end down a half inch. Lay a triangle piece under this end so the raw, unsewn edge is in the fold of the bias tape. Pin.

Lay the other six triangles inside, slightly overlapping the corners. Adjust so they fit just inside the 2 ends and there is an inch of bias tape left at the end that you can fold up a half-inch to hide the raw edge. Now, fold the tape over, and start stitching through all layers from one end to the other.

Pin this banner on the inside of the wider hem flap. Sew from bottom to top about 5/8” from the edge, making sure you don't catch the other door flap in your stitching. Now topstitch again next to the edge.

To prepare your poles: each should be 74-inches long. They will have markings on them from the store, so you may want to spray paint them or wind colored tape around them to make them prettier.

Measure down 8” from one end of each pole and mark. Drill through both sides of the pipe at these marks. Insert the poles through the pockets of the teepee and put a cap on each end of the pole.

With the teepee and poles all bundled together, thread your cord through the drilled holes and tie it so it has just a little bit of slack. Stand your teepee up, spread the poles and adjust the tie as needed.

Furnish with a couple of good books, a little snack, and your children will have hours of fun in their new make-believe world!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Embrace the Matchbox Cars! Some Sorting Thoughts.

Does this look familiar?

What about this?
If you have boys, or a girl who simply loves all things cars, then you have probably stepped on a Matchbox in the dark of night and vacuumed up a Hot Wheels hubcap or two.

I have learned to embrace these toy car messes for two reasons: 
  1. They are not dirty.  As opposed to spilled Ritz crackers crunched into the carpet or the jelly from a pop-tart mashed into the couch cushions, a car mess may look crazy,  but when it comes down to it I can clean it up in about 60 seconds.
  2. Cars are great for imaginary play, my boys and my little girl have spent HOURS playing with cars throughout the years.  Cars are great for pretend play, and they teach sharing (just in case you don't have 2 or 3 of every single car you own!)
I have also discovered that a tote full of cars can be a quick tool for some basic review for your little ones. Yes, that huge pile of cars that you constantly box up to take to Goodwill can be put to educational use!

I may not have time every morning to sit down and review a book on colors, among other things, with my little guy.  And although it is important to have that lap time with him on a daily basis (and we attempt it!) he honestly seems to learn better with "hands on" training.
One way we have turned car time into a fun, educational moment is by car sorting.  My 4 year old also enjoys this game and is a big helper! She is thrilled because we often create a rainbow with the different colors.  Who doesn't love rainbows?

Next we piled all the cars back up and sorted them by style (ex. Diggers, Trucks, Racing Cars, Convertibles, etc.)
With a little imagination, I'm sure you can come up with a million ways to teach your kids to sort and organize cars.  This has also been a great way to teach counting.  My little guy does not always enjoy working in a counting board book or with flashcards, but he loves counting and moving his cars from one spot to the next.
Soon there will be a day when the little cars under our feet are boxed up in the attic, waiting for the day when a small grubby hand, sticky with the jelly of some futuristic pop-tart, will run them across the carpet again.  Make the most of these messes on the floor, and don't be afraid to occasionally turn play into something educational!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Super Quick Snack on a Stick!

Do you ever need 5-10 minutes to finish wrapping up your kitchen cleaning or baking? Here is a quick idea that I have successfully tried with my 1 (almost 2!) year old.  

All you need is a piece of pipe cleaner and a bowl of fruit loops.

My daughter was happily painting, but my little guy was ready to go play outside. While I finished unloading the dishwasher, I handed him a bowl filled with fruit loops and a pipe cleaner and showed him how to put a few loops on. He was thrilled with the new game!  Obviously I knew he would eventually start eating the fruit loops, but the "game" seemed to make snack time more fun.  My little guy was busy putting loops on and off the pipe cleaner for about ten minutes.  

Your own Toucan Sam will enjoy making snack time last a few extra minutes while also working on some fine motor skills. Bonus!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giveaway! Set of two Acrylic Paintings via I Can Teach My Child!

We are wrapping up our Teepee giveaway here, but never fear! We have another great opportunity for you to win something this week. Our friend at I Can Teach My Child is sponsoring a giveaway this week that includes two coordinating paintings that I (Tara) created. 

If you want a chance to win the paintings, the details are all right here. Thanks, and once again, Good Luck!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Being Here Now

When my husband and I were first married, some wise mentor-friends challenged us with this advice:      Be Here Now.

I often forget to live in the present. I think, I will be happy with our house when we finally have new furniture. Or, I long for when I can sleep through the night without a hungry baby waking me. Or, I can't wait until I don't have to clean up spills under the kitchen table after every meal.

Really, those thoughts wish away precious time. I don't want to waste the moments I have with my husband, with my sweet children at today's stage of life.

We had kind of an impromptu family afternoon yesterday...loading up our bikes, renting a kid trailer for the younger two, and hitting a bike trail together as a family. It was wonderful, active family fun. My six-year-old was so excited about a real bike ride..not just the driveway.

Near the end of our trail, we stopped at a playground to let the little ones burn off some energy. As I watched them run from slide to swing to climbing wall to spinning toy with utter joy on their faces, I thought...they are totally living this moment. Children know how to Be Here Now. They put their All into their play, into this instant of time.

I think I forgot as I grew up. I was too busy looking ahead to the next achievement or event.

I'm trying to be Be Here Now for my family. Not always looking ahead to the next stage, the next vacation, the next purchase. But to enjoy the simple pleasures of each day. The shared lunch, the interesting bug in the front yard, yet another game of Uno, the old furniture that is plenty comfy for cuddling together to read or talk.

Take hold of the moments that are Today.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14