While Summer doesn’t officially start for a few more days, the summer temps (and humidity) have already invaded central VA. Now that the kids are out of school, they’re ready to spend every waking minute outside in the sun playing, wrestling, fishing, climbing trees, and all the other outdoor activities a boy can think up. On top of making sure they stay hydrated, sometimes they just need a little something extra to take the edge off and help cool down. A quick, easy, sweet, and COLD treat is always a summer-time hit. I love this easy ice cream because it’s so simple they can actually take pride in making their own. The mess is contained and easy to dispose of when they’re done. Science experiment, anyone? This activity is so easy to incorporate, as a little extra sensory play and learning, in your daily routine without the kids actually realizing they’re being ‘schooled’. Everybody wins! This is, without a doubt, one of the kids (and, secretly, mine too) favorite ways to beat the Summer heat.
5 Minute Ice Cream In A Bag
- 1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp sea salt
- 2 cups of ice
- sandwich sized ziplock bag
- quart sized ziplock bag
- In the sandwich sized ziplocking bag, add milk, sugar, and vanilla. Seal bag tightly.
- In the quart sized bag, add the ice and salt.
- Place the smaller bag inside the larger bag and seal tightly.
- Shake the bag as hard as you can, without popping it open, for 5 minutes or until it reaches the consistency of ice cream.
- Remove the smaller bag and give it a quick rinse to remove any pieces of salt. Make sure you rinse the opening as well.
- Open the ice cream and eat it straight out of the bag with a spoon.
Since my youngest was old enough to move, and kick his hands and feet, bath time has been his absolute, all-time favorite part of any day. As he’s aged and grown, this hasn’t changed a bit. Partly because of that, and because clean-up is easier, we do a lot of crafts and activities in the tub around bath time. A glow in the dark bath was definitely on my to-do list. This was a huge hit with the boy. So much so, that he built up an entire back story about how he was exploring in space and had found this plant on his rocket ship. It was a ‘blast’ (pun intended). Simple to do, easy to clean up, and provides endless, thought-provoking entertainment. My son’s ‘glowing’ reactions were confirmation enough that this activity was a total success.
Glow In The Dark Bath-time
- 1-2 yellow highlighters (I bought a 3-pack at the Dollar Tree)
- black light
- Break open the yellow highlighter, removing the cylinder ink pad.
- Soak the ink pad, or pads, in bath water for about an hour, or until the pad loses its color.
- Note: You can dilute this A LOT and it will still glow; however, the more water you’re trying to color, the longer it may take the ink to disperse evenly throughout.
- To activate the ‘glow’, aim your black light at wherever the water is located and turn it on.
- Prepare to watch your children’s amazement!
I always have ground beef on hand. I get the best bang for my buck on lean ground beef by purchasing it in bulk at Costco. I come home and package it in meal sized portions, and then store it in the freezer. Knowing I’ve always got ground beef on-hand ready to defrost for supper, I’m always on the lookout for something ‘new’ to do with it. When I found this Six Sisters’ recipe and tried it, it was amazing! Simple, easy, and satisfying anytime I’m craving those ‘Asian’ food flavors. Save money, and forgo ordering out. Make your own meal, at home, tonight and still get your fix.
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 -1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
- basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the ground beef, with the garlic, in the sesame oil.
- Drain most of the fat.
- Add brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, salt, pepper, and crushed red peppers.
- Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors.
- Serve over cooked rice and garnish with green onions.
I love cheesecake, and the fruitier it is, the better. When I saw a recipe guaranteeing all that rich flavor, but with the ease of a cookie, I knew it was something I had to try. I had originally spotted this recipe on Pinterest; however, it took me almost a year to get around to actually making them. When I smelled them baking, I had a moment where I actually began to drool. Just a tiny bit. When I took that first bite, I could have, quite literally, kicked myself for waiting so long to give these a try. Since then, over the past year, I’ve been taking them to events and get-together’s (they’re unbelievably easy and taste spectacular), and so many friends have asked for this recipe that I just couldn’t wait another minute to share!
Blueberry Cheesecake And White Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 boxes of Jiffy blueberry muffin mix
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup white chocolate chips, optional
- Beat together cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated.
- Combine the butter mixture with the muffin mix, mixing until evenly combined.
- If using the white chocolate chips, using a spatula, fold them in now.
- Chill dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours (this prevents the batter from spreading out too much during baking).
- Form into tbsp sized balls and spread about two inches apart on a lightly greased cookies sheet.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 13-15 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Another graduate, somewhere, is preparing to walk down the aisle to receive their long sought-after diploma. Friends and family are trying to figure out the best way to recognize their achievement, or a way to put some finishing touches on a celebration or gift in their honor. I remember, after my sister’s graduation, when she was preparing to leave for college, she couldn’t help but be nervous. I mean, college is a big step. Life on your own for the first time since birth. I wanted to give her a little something at her dinner the night before she left for school, and I hate just sticking money inside of a card. This was the resulting ‘brain-child.’ She truly got a tickle out of it, especially after having seen all of the fire extinguishers in the dorm room whose displays had read them same. This is a quick and easy graduate gift, perfect for the high school graduate preparing to head off to college. It’s easy to make ahead, or even throw together last minute if you’re scrambling for some creative way to display a monetary gift. This would also be cute to give to the college graduate preparing for a move into their first home or apartment. Who doesn’t love a gift that gives them a good laugh? Especially when preparing for such a tremendous transition as embarking on the next chapter in life.
‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift
- A typed up ‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ header, printed on 81/2 x 11 computer paper
- Either an 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 picture frame
- 2 bills in whatever monetary increments you choose
- Tape your two bills, evenly spaced apart, to the ‘Break In Case of’ sheet.
- Put the finished paper into the frame, and secure the back of the picture frame into place.
- Give to a wonderful graduate with a sense of humor.
I originally discovered this in a Taste of Home list of easy grill meals. After briefly scanning the ingredients and directions, I knew I had to try it, and it was love at first bite. Creamy, cheesy, bacon-y…what better elements to build a mouth-watering side-dish for any meal? These potatoes are delicious, and equally easy to prepare and cook. We love having them any evening we grill out. They’re great for just our family’s dinner, or I can easily double the recipe, making a second batch, to feed a larger crowd. I’ve also found that these make a great, easy side-dish for camping meals. Even better, use this recipe as a guideline and get creative in your kitchen, or backyard. These potatoes have plenty of potential possibilities. Try adding broccoli. We also make, and love, a sweet potato version based off of this recipe. Whether you decide to stick to the original, or spice your potato packet up a little, you can’t go wrong with these cheese potatoes.
Grilled Three-Cheese Potatoes
- 3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chives, minced
- 1/2 tsp seasoning salt, or plain salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cooked, crumbled bacon, or 1/2 cup cooked, diced ham
- 1/2 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.
- Transfer contents to a double thickness of greased, heavy-duty aluminum foil (about 18 inches square).
- Dot with butter.
- Fold foil around potato mixture and seal tightly.
- Grill, covered, over medium heat for 15-18 minutes on each side or until potatoes are tender.
- Carefully (very carefully because the escaping steam can burn you) open the foil packet.
- Sprinkle the bacon, or ham, and cheeses over the potato mixture.
- Reseal and grill for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
- Carefully open and let all steam escape.
I try to stock up on meat when it goes on sale, and lucky for me, pork chops go on sale often. When I’ve forgotten to plan ahead and am wracking my brain for something simple to make, I know I’ve always got some pork chops handy. I love being able to just pull them out, let them thaw, and know that whatever recipe I choose to use, it will be relatively quick and easy. Originally, my favorite way to fix pork chops had always been to bread them, fry them, and serve them with gravy and caramelized onions. However, these tender, juicy chops have now been dubbed the ‘best ever’ in our house, and in many other houses. Give them a try for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.
Crispy, Baked Italian Ranch Pork Chops
- bottled Ranch dressing
- 3 cups dry Italian bread crumbs
- 1 package (0.6 oz) dry Italian dressing mix
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 6 pork chops
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with aluminum foil.
- In a shallow bowl, or plate, pour a layer of ranch dressing.
- In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs, Italian dressing mix, Parmesan, and garlic powder.
- One at a time, dip a pork chop in the ranch dressing, turning to evenly coating both sides.
- Next, put the chop into the bread crumb mixture, coating well on both sides.
- Place coated chops onto the prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the insides are no longer pink.
My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.
Mexican Chicken Spaghetti
- 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
- 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
- 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
- Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
- Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
- Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.
This experiment is easy to do and is not time consuming, but the message for children, and even for adults, is priceless. The results are eye-opening. These are pictures of an at-home version of Emoto’s Rice experiment.
I apologize for not taking any before pictures, but these pictures are after the rice has sat in it’s airtight container for 4 months. These started as two empty tupper ware containers. I cooked about a cup of white rice, and put about 1/2 cup in each. Filtered water was added to fill it to the top. Then the lids were secured and taped to ensure it would remain air tight. Both the jars contain rice from the exact same batch and went into their containers with the exact same water at the exact same time. Even the containers used and the tape is identical. The ONLY difference are the words written and taped on top of the containers. When I taped the ‘LOVE’ the boys were asked to think ‘I love you’ and picture anything that they identified with love. I had them each say it aloud once. The exact same thing, but this time utilizing the word ‘HATE’ was done with the second container. Now, after 4 months the ‘love’ rice smells slightly sweet, and is still pure white. It looks and smells like it’s still fresh enough to eat. The ‘hate’ rice has turned completely brown and smells rancid. It just looks rotten. Everything was exactly the same about these two containers, yet there is clearly a HUGE difference in the rice in each.
It was amazing to see the actual power of our words and thoughts, and their impact on the things around us. It was a powerful message for my kids! Again nothing was put into these other than rice, and sterilized water. The only other ingredient was the thought behind each word. Then they sat and let those thoughts work on them. Looking at our tangible evidence, the conclusion we drew is that there is real power in words. Use them carefully.
With all my boys, it’s hard to get out for a manicure or pedicure, but I still love how silky smooth my hands and feet feel afterwards. To get those same results, without always having to arrange for multiple sitters and leaving the house, I’ve turned to making my own scrubs at home. There’s no reason my hands and feet should suffer just because I’ve had four kids. That being said, I love a good sugar scrub, especially in the Summer, for my flip flop feet. There’s nothing like smooth, scented feet as I sit poolside. I also enjoy experimenting with new scents and combinations, and when I stumbled upon this version from The Idea Room, I knew I had to make it immediately! It sounded that refreshing, and I just couldn’t wait, literally. The results were everything I was hoping for in a light, refreshing scent, but with all the dead-skin exfoliating power I am used to. Give your feet and/or hands a good scrub down with this, and then rinse. Not only will the delicious scent linger, but everything will be so smooth. It’s perfect for letting those feet or hands make their official debut out in the summer sun!
Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tbsp shredded coconut
- 6-8 drops of Lime essential oil
- In a microwave, or on a stove-top, melt coconut oil.
- Remove from heat and mix in the sugar, stirring until fully incorporated.
- Add the coconut and the Lime oil.
- Mix together.
- Use! This recipe only makes 1 cup of sugar scrub, but could easily be doubled to stockpile some, or even to make to give as gifts.