June 30, 2015

When Should a Child Learn to Use a Knife?

I'm one of those parents who tries too hard at some things and totally neglects other (important) things. However, I think life skills need to be taught at home. I'm still trying to figure out what life skills need to be learned and when. The life skill I'll write about today is children using knives.

My children see me use sharp knives in the kitchen every day. When I can safely supervise children using a sharp knife, I allow them to do so. In fact, making homemade applesauce is a family event.

But what about the 3-year-old? Is she too young to use a knife?

No. I have taught Little Sister to use a knife. By slicing her own banana with a butter knife, she learned how to use the knife.
But that was a butter knife. What about a sharp knife?

June 22, 2015

20 Free Outdoor Family Fun Ideas

School's out for summer! The summer sun shines! Let's enjoy it-together. As a family. Summer means more play time. Most of the playtime is spent with the children outside. But it's so much more fun for all of us to play together. We all need to engage with one another in meaningful ways. Summer allows us to do that while enjoying the warm sun.

I thought I'd share a few ways to have everyday family fun this summer. These are all simple ideas that don't require money and almost no parent preparation. By the time I finished brainstorming for ideas, I had more than twenty summer fun and free ideas. They are all simple. No prep. No money. Just family.

 I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Banana Boat®. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

  1. Hike a trail. 
  2. Swim in  a pond, lake, river, or ocean.
  3. Pick berries. (Then make strawberry jam.)
  4. Turn on the sprinkler.
  5. Jump in a grass pile.
  6. Visit a farm.
  7. Dig in the dirt.
  8. Roll down a hill.
  9. Play backyard ball.
  10. Plant seeds. Pull weeds.
  11. Draw with chalk.
  12. Fly a kite.
  13. Or fly a plastic bag "kite."
  14. Splash in a kiddie pool.
  15. Play at a playground.
  16. Find beauty in nature.

June 8, 2015

Morning Routine Makeover

I need to make some changes to my day. When I am intentional about how I spend my time, my whole family benefits, and I feel better for being more productive. But it takes effort.

My readers know I'm working hard to get serious about writing. (Read about my new ventures here and here.) I may be a stay-at-home-mom, but I'm also a writer and sometimes a teacher. If I'm going to be successful, I must be intentional about it. To be intentional about life, I must prioritize my day.
For me, I need to start my day by completing the most important tasks first. It's eating the frog, you know. If you have to eat a frog, do it first to get the disgusting task out of the way. Then you can go on to other, more pleasurable, tasks during the rest of the day.

June 3, 2015

Teaching As a Stay-At-Home-Mom

I have been a stay-at-home-mom for the past nine years. During that time, I have found small ways to feed my passion of teaching. I teach children in my local church. I have tutored several students. Yet, it's not the same.

This past year I've learned a new way to teach while being a stay-at-home-mom: presentations and workshops.

Read more about my presentations and workshops, including how I came to this point and presentations topics...and see my new website.

~ Annette
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June 2, 2015

Preparing for Summer Camp

With June's arrival, it's time to prepare for summer fun. Camps are a great option for fun. Sleep-away, day, and family camps all provide enjoyment. We attend family camp every summer. In addition to that, our children will attend day camp when I teach a week at a science and engineering camp and again when I teach pioneer days. I can't wait!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mabel’s Labels. I received a voucher to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

As an adult (sometimes sleep-deprived, but still...), I have misplaced a few things at camp. That means I actually understand and empathize with tween and teen campers who leave their new sneakers, glasses, and all of their underwear behind. 

At family camp I've left my camera in the big hall. It was on the last day. Someone noticed before we left, but it was close! You'd think it was only small things that would be forgotten. That's not true. A couple years ago we left a stroller behind. A stroller. I hadn't even noticed. It wasn't until we'd been home for a couple of days that we received a phone call from the camp director letting me know it was there-and his suggestion of returning it us (without a giant shipping fee or driving several hours out of the way).

And I'm a responsible adult.

That's why when I was offered the chance to review Mabel's Labels, I said YES! Knowing my kids would spend seven days at day camp and another week at family camp, I knew we'd be able to put Mabel's Labels Limited Edition Camp Labels Pack to good use to prevent lost items and avoid mix-ups.

Labels for Camp

Mabel's Labels are great. I used their website to customize my labels. To make them extra-versatile, I used our last name so all of our family can take advantage of them. The children helped me decide on one of the many, many designs. We opted for a cute raccoon which all of the children liked.

Mabel's Labels are laundry, dishwasher, and microwave safe and 100% guaranteed! We've already used our labels for water bottles, beach towels, camera, sunscreen, and CD cases. 
Before camp, we'll add Mabel's Labels to our toiletries, hats, shoes, and especially any sweatshirts or jackets. They really seem durable. I think they're practical, and my kids love that it personalizes their items. 

Consider joining the Mabelhood community on Facebook and Twitter. If you have a child who loses school items or is going to camp this summer, be sure to check out Mabel's Labels. We've been using them for a couple of weeks and we all like them. They stay put, even after washing.

Be sure to get a Mabel's Labels coupon. Get a 15-50% off or FREE item coupon through June 22, 2015. Sign up for their newsletter and complete one social share to be given a one-time use code.

Mabels Labels Camp Combo

Best wishes for a fun-filled summer...without lost items!
~ Annette
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May 27, 2015

Spring "Leaf" Pile

When the cut grass had to be raked, the children took advantage with a spring "leaf" pile.
I think my son was preparing for the Olympics with that form!

~ Annette
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May 25, 2015

Red, White, and Blue Snack {Fruit Salad}

Memorial Day is set aside to remember and respect those who died while serving our country in the United States armed forces. We'll attend our town's small parade, but mostly, it will be a quiet day at home.

With strawberries just ripening now, I made this red, white, and blue fruit salad to eat with our dinner. Big Sister (age 8) immediately took note of the colors and knew it was to remind of us Memorial Day.
Strawberries, blueberries, and bananas make a patriotic fruit salad.
The patriotic fruit salad is made simply of blueberries, bananas, and strawberries. I've made this many times before and have substituted mini-marshmallows for bananas.

Use this patriotic snack for Veteran's Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and the Olymics.

If you are looking for a simple, yet decorative idea for a mantle or table, check out my red, white, and blue apothecary jar.

~ Annette
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May 20, 2015

Help Your Community

I participated in an Influencer Activation for State Farm Neighborhood Assist. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Big cities and small towns alike need to find ways to strengthen and revitalize their downtown areas. Some cities and town's business district sit like ghost towns. Others feel unsafe. Yet some downtown areas are booming with business. Some needs penetrate deep. Some communities commit to helping the homeless or unemployed, overcoming addiction, or reaching their senior citizens. In addition to volunteering for a cause and shopping downtown, we can help simply by voting. Keep reading to learn how you can support a cause that is important to you.

My own town, about ten minutes away from my home, works hard to maintain a positive downtown area. Each month they host a First Friday event in the evening. Businesses stay open late and offer discounts to their patrons. It's like a big festival with popcorn penetrating the air and balloons on every corner. Every month some big event takes place downtown like Country Christmas and Healthy Kids Day. The sidewalks and crosswalks have recently been beautified making our town more attractive to visitors and residents alike. Yet another business just closed. We must support small businesses, even if it means keeping a quarter in our pocket to feed the meter.

May 11, 2015

Cinnamon Dippers Recipe {Semi-Homemade}

We adore cinnamon rolls around here. We have our favorite cinnamon roll recipe, but when my mother-in-law shared this easy cinnamon slicers recipe using Rhodes frozen bread dough, I knew I had to try it. In fact, we've had it three times now. This last time I adapted the recipe a bit for our own preferences. I really like that the cinnamon dippers are semi-homemade. Frozen bread dough makes it quite easy.

Cinnamon Dippers

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed 45 minutes
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 ounce cream cheese (or 2 tablespoons butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1. Prepare loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.
2. Slice loaf into 24 thin pieces. (It's easiest to divide it in half first, then quarters. Then cut each quarter into six slices.) 
3. Place loaf pan on it's short side to stand it up.
4. Mix sugars and cinnamon well. Dip each piece of dough into the melted butter and then the cinnamon sugar mixture.
5. Place each dough piece in the pan, forming a new loaf. If you have pieces that don't fit like a loaf, place them on the side of the pan.
6. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 2+ hours. Dough will double in size.
7. Remove plastic wrap. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
8. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
9. Combine glaze ingredients. Drizzle over the cinnamon dippers or serve on the side with the warm cinnamon dippers.

Be warned. The last time I made these we finished them in one night. I just couldn't resist popping a dipper into my mouth each time I passed. (Thankfully I'm not a fan of frosting on anything...)
This makes a satisfying and easy sweet treat or dessert. I'm thinking I'll take it to a ladies' breakfast. It would also be great for Christmas morning. My daughter thinks I should make it more often. If you are looking for an oohey-gooey homemade cinnamon roll recipe, do try ours. It's a keeper. If you prefer to bake everything from scratch, try my 20-minute bread dough for this recipe. Try this simple trick for cutting bread dough.

~ Annette
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May 4, 2015

Fun Indoors: Nerf Target Practice

Last year for Christmas, every member of our family received Nerf guns (or bow) for Christmas. Every once in a while someone starts a war, and we have lots of fun as a family. Over spring break, I created a way for them to practice shooting since their aim isn't exactly on target.

Nerf target practice is a great rainy day activity. Please note, this is not a sponsored post; I'm just sharing a fun family activity.
Nerf indoor practice.