Apple donuts

It always amazes me when something so simple, like cutting food into shapes, can get my kids to eat food without fussing. Not that my kids don’t like apples, but ever since my husband came up with “apple donuts,” the fruit has been requested daily. It’s really easy and I’m wondering if I can apply it to other fruits and vegetables as well. I think it would work on pears and watermelon and, if you baked them, perhaps sweet potatoes. All you do is run your apple through a mandoline (or thinly slice one up by hand) so you have a stack of slices. I improved on the recipe a tad by using a miniature cookie cutter in the shape of an apple, but my husband used a bottle cap to make his holes. Voila! Apple donuts. I think the key here is to actually call them “apple donuts.” My kids have never actually had a donut, but they know donuts are a treat so the whole idea was a novelty. The kids can even help punch out the donut holes.

A miniature cookie cutter gets out all the seeds while making fun shapes. The pieces that don’t have seeds are fun to eat too!a miniature cookie cutter can make fun shapes

The finished product! A stack of delicious apple donuts. If you’re really adventageous (or if your kids are really picky!), peel the apples prior to slicing.
the finished product

Procrasti- ooh, something shiny!

Ah, spring cleaning. The time of year when, after months of being cooped up due to bad weather and family gatherings, our bodies start to crave a good domestic purge. Some people love throwing stuff out and do it on a daily basis while others hold on to every scrap of paper they might need over the next 5-50 years. Unfortunately, I’m the latter. I’m not quite “Hoarders” material, but sometimes I look around at all the junk I’ve been holding onto and think “WHY??” Logically I know it’s unnecessary crap. But there’s a tiny part of my brain that thinks “this little plastic box your Venus razor head came in would make an excellent container for odds and ends!” or “what if I need to have my German phone number from 4 years ago for records of some kind??” Really? REALLY??

I’ve been slowly feeling the need to purge creep up (mostly because the piles of crap are starting to have babies all over my house) but I keep putting it off. Why? Well duh. It’s snowing outside right now! It’s still winter. Spring isn’t here, therefore I can’t do spring cleaning. That’s just logic.

… or laziness. So starting this weekend (not procrastinating, really! I’m just thinking my husband, who has contributed vastly to the copulating paper skyscrapers should help out) I will be busting out the huge black trash bags and getting rid of anything and everything I can before my neighbors glance in my window and turn me in to a self-help television show. It’s time.

So if you’re like me and putting off the inevitable, join me. It’s time. The kids will be out of school soon and you don’t want their messes mixing with your messes and producing mutant mess babies. Your home might never recover. If it seems overwhelming, set a timer for 10 minutes. That’s all I’m asking, just 10 short minutes of your 525,600 minutes this year to make yourself a nice spot on your kitchen counter (or wherever you pile your mail, bills, kids schoolwork, receipts, etc) so that you can breathe a little easier this spring. After all, you’ll probably be using that breath to sing RENT songs now that I have it stuck in your head. “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes! How do you measure, measure a year…?”

Craft time

This Valentine’s Day my daughter and I decided we wanted to make valentines for her preschool class rather than buy them. I busted out my 500 lbs of scrapbooking paper, some glue and a few googly eyes and this is what we came up with:

6 fish
close up

The prep work (AKA, “mommy work”) was kind of a pain- I had to cut out 36 large hearts and 18 small ones by hand- but the actual crafting (AKA, “kid work”) was easy and my preschooler had a blast. You start by cutting out your hearts (you’ll need two large and one small for each fish). I used two heart-shaped cookie cutters as templates. Then you glue the two large hearts tops together to form the fish body. You want it to form a sort of eye shape. Then you glue the small heart on, point in, to form the tail. Draw a smiley face and paste on a googly eye and voila! A fish! I think these would also be really cute invitations for an Under the Sea themed birthday or even a pool party.

Feeling crafty but already have your omega 3s for the day? Check out my friend Kim’s blog, learn.create.love

The clean (or not so clean) you don’t see

The other day I noticed my living room was in desperate need of some dusting. We’ve recently had a bout of illness so I decided to clean with my Clorox wipes to disinfect everything at the same time. I came upstairs to grab my can and realized that my computer desk was almost dust-free. Interesting, seeing as how I couldn’t even remember the last time I had wiped it down. Then I realized- it’s maybe three feet from my air purifier. Cool, I thought. My air purifier keeps my desk dust-free! But then I started to think about it- air purifier cleans dust from air before it lands on desk. Dust in air. We breathe air. We breathe dust. Gross.

According to the EPA, indoor air can be as much as 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. The easiest way to improve it is to ventilate by opening a window or door. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do when it’s -18 outside is crack a few windows. They also recommend using vents (like from a stove or bathroom) and to change the filters on your air conditioners (remember to sprinkle a few drops of essential oil on the filter to make your house smell good!) but I barely remember to clean the lint from my dryer and I use that every day. Air purifiers like mine are an easy way to clean up- just press a button and forget it. I have a Honeywell with a lifetime HEPA filter that cost about $140 that actually had good ratings but only for smaller areas. Hello, people- just pick it up and move it around. It weighs like 8 pounds. A few hours in each room and you’re golden. No need for a $1000 Trane system. And like I said before, it practically dusts for me. Clean air, clean house. It’s like a small maid you don’t have to worry about rifling through your underwear drawer.

Did you know?

When my daughter was about two years old she got ahold of a red smiley face stamp and decided to redo my beige microsuede couch. After laughing so hard I cried (or maybe I cried so hard I laughed?) I attacked the thing with a bottle of fabric cleaner and paper towels and managed to get it all out after about an hour of scrubbing. Apparently, I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble by using clear hand sanitizer. According to my friend Tara (another military wife and mother of two brilliant and apparently artistic kids), Purell isn’t just good after disposing of zombie corpses (or Bill Murray, for that matter- name the movie and you earn a cookie!)- it can also get pen out of furniture and clothes. I like to bathe in Purell, so I happen to have a bit sitting around. I’m tempted to give my kids some pens and say “go to town.”

Gimme a break!

I’m one of those people who have a hard time asking for help, even if I really need it. I guess I’m afraid I’m putting the other person out and they’ll secretly resent me, which is stupid because I rarely feel that when the situation is reversed and I’m helping other people. In fact, I felt BAD when I offered to pick up some stuff at the grocery store for a friend who recently had twins and she said she didn’t need anything, that she had just gone the day before. I also think another small (okay… or not so small) part of me wants to prove that I can do it all. I can keep it together while my GI Joe is gone for a few months, raising the kids alone and keeping the house in order all by myself. After all, many women have it a lot worse than I do and get by just fine.

A month into the hubby being gone, of driving the Princess to preschool in the mornings and Monkey Boy to preschool in the afternoons, of lugging 50 pounds of groceries across an icy parking lot while holding a newborn in his carseat and the wiggly hands of two young kids, of 102 degree fevers and countless temper tantrums and meltdowns, of cleaning a room and walking into it five minutes later to find it covered in toys and cheerios, I’ve officially proven that YES, I CAN DO IT!
Rosie

…however, that doesn’t mean I WANT to. Luckily my mom and grandma flew up to visit. It was their first time meeting our newest addition (I think he needs a cute nickname… Sir Chunksalot? The Beefinator?) and my mom’s first time to Alaska. I told them before they left that I fully expected them to come up, wreck my house, spoil my children and leave me to deal with the mess and that this was (sort of) okay- as long as they helped while they were here.

So far my grandma has a new nickname- the Baby Whisperer- and my mom has proven her mad organization skillz by helping me clear out our large walk-in hall closet and transform it into my new craft room. Do they make messes? Oh God, yes! Are they spoiling my children? Duh, they’re grandmas. But I cannot tell you how nice it’s been to have someone else calm my crying baby or have someone else read the 5th bedtime story. I forgot what it’s like to have 5 minutes to myself! They keep asking if I want them to spend a night or two at a hotel to give me a break and I tell them that while their almost constant bickering makes me a little batty, I am just so grateful to have them here that I could cry. Just this last week and a half I:
left the house BY MYSELF
went to the store with NO KIDS
took a NAP!
got my hair done (for the first time in TWO YEARS!)
didn’t have to make a meal
shoveled the whole driveway and walk without having to check on my kids every 30 seconds

It’s been…. well, beautiful. But it’s also made me realize that despite my unwillingness to ask for or accept help, I REALLY need it sometimes. I know this about other people. I yell at friends who don’t ask for help as much as I think they should. But when it comes to myself I seem to think I have to suck it up and deal or else I’m a failure. I’ll have another couple of weeks after my family leaves where it’s back to just me and this kiddos before my husband gets home, but at least I’ll have had this little break, a time to take a deep breath and relax before the weight of my little world is back on my shoulders. So my advice is this- take a break. Whether it’s a trip to the spa or five minutes of sitting on your bed with loud music playing to drown out the happy screams of your toddler playing in the next room, make sure you get some you time. No one can do it all but somehow most of us do, or at least manage some semblance of pulling “it all” off. It’s only going to be that much harder if you’re running on empty, so recharge and get some energy for the next big, awesome thing you do.

Having fun when it’s freezing

Since moving to Alaska it’s become clear that finding winter activities for kids is a must. Not only is it snowy and cold for around 7 months out of the year here, but it’s also dark for as much as 21 hours a day. Cabin Fever takes on a whole new meaning! Since my son started preschool I’ve learned that the school district continues recess down to -20 degrees fahrenheit! It sounds almost cruel, but there’s a good reason- if they didn’t, kids just wouldn’t get recess for most of the school year. Our first year here it was in the -20 in September and held steady through February. March “warmed up” into the zero range and by April it was pratically sweltering hanging in the teens. It would be cruel to NOT let your kids play outside here.

First thing you need to do is invest in good cold weather gear if you haven’t already. Start with a good first layer- thermals are awesome and I highly recommend spending a little more and getting silk if you live somewhere really cold. For kids, two pairs of socks keeps those little toes toasty. The second layer can either be your normal clothes or specialized winter clothes; we have fleece lined jeans and sweaters from Old Navy and LL Bean. The third layer is your waterproof layer- snowpants, thick jacket, mittens or gloves and a hat to cover your ears. If you’re living somewhere frigid like us, add a scarf (or a neck gaiter) to cover the neck and lower face and some glove liners. Also, make sure your shoes or boots are rated for the correct temperature. Mine are good to -60.

Now that you’re dressed and ready to brave the cold, check the thermometer. This is where I’ll tell you to use you’re own discretion. I’m not about to take my newborn out in anything under 0 and even then it’s only for a few minutes at a time. My older kids can handle it a little better, we’ve played in the snow down to -22. That being said, you need to be extremely careful and make sure they take a break every 15-30 minutes, depending on how cold it is and watch for signs of frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia. Things to watch out for: white, blue or bright red skin, waxy looking skin, excessive shivering in older kids and difficulty breathing. Anyone out in the snow is going to get a little blush, but you know your kids best. This last December it was in the -40s and I ran my son from the car to a building. He almost immediately started saying his hands hurt and in that short amount of time he got frostnip. He’s not a big complainer, so I knew something was wrong. My daughter went out to play in the snow yesterday for about 30 minutes and was laughing and screeching with delight the whole time- a sure sign that she’s okay, since she’ll complain at the slightest discomfort.

So now you’re all dressed and ready to go and it’s not too cold for your family to play. What are you going to do? There’s always the go-to snowman building, snowball fights and snowforts. But have you ever tried snowshoeing? Ice skating? Dog sledding? Before you roll your eyes, Alaska is NOT the only state with dog sledding, so do a Google search for your area! Can’t find anything? Grab your own dog and a pair of skis or a sled and make your own mush team (again, use your own discretion- if you have a chihuahua this might not be the best idea). A fun idea for smaller kids is to fill a few squirt bottles with water and food coloring and go out and paint the snow. Yellow not recommended.

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