Easy Xylophone Craft

It is summer, my kids would live in the pool or perched on a swing, with possible breaks for snacks, lemonade and some screen time if given the opportunity. While I am a firm believer in the importance of play, I am a firm believer in learning year round and brushing up on the things that kids already know too.



One afternoon we were talking about instruments and toying with a few drums, triangles, and maracas when I mentioned a xylophone. My son couldn't picture what I was explaining so I decided to make a quick craft with the kids to see if it would refresh his memory without grabbing the ipad to give him a visualization.


This craft took about 4 minutes for my speedy little boy. It would have taken half of that time had I not nudged him to color the sticks completely.



You will need
6 craft sticks
markers
glue



As you can see I placed 2 of the craft sticks at vertical slants almost mimicking a V

I had Roo color 4 of the sticks in whatever colors he liked


Next we placed the sticks horizontally on the vertical sticks, like rungs on a ladder, securing with 2 beads of white glue per stick

By the time we had placed 3 of the 4 sticks on the frame, Roo remembered what a xylophone was. This was easy to make and the kids had fun banging on the craft stick xylophone. I enjoyed that part too because it was quieter than the real deal.


This was also a great way to discuss colors, shapes, ladders and how one might use a ladder as well as how rungs are like steps in a trickier way. I loved that so much conversation happened around one simple project, involving 6 craft sticks!





Don't miss this fun paper sandwich craft for kids!





Peanut Butter and Jam Pound Cake Parfait Inspired by Hagensborg Chocolates

 This recipe was inspired by friends at Hagensborg via samples received. 

A few weeks ago, I partnered with my friends, The Chocolate Princesses at Hagensborg Chocolates to bring you a really sweet giveaway! We loved hearing all of the ways that you guys are making the world a sweeter place. It was truly inspiring!

Last week was rough for my husband. Mr. Sweet Silly Sara was wrapping up the year at his job as a school librarian and he had not been getting enough sleep. We were busy every night of the week and despite his long week and his weariness, he was on a baseball field, volunteering to help coach a team of 3-6 year old kids.  I  was inspired by Hagensborg Chocolate truffle pigs in peanut butter and jam flavor to make a sweet dessert that would bring a smile to my husband's face.

This is such an easy recipe. I normally would have baked a sponge cake to use, but as I mentioned we had several weeknight games! With that in mind, I had picked up a sponge cake to serve with berries one evening. The berries were consumed but the cake was stashed in a cabinet and forgotten about for a few days.

I put the cake to good use and created a 5-minute recipe that anyone can make and will love!


Peanut Butter and Jam Pound Cake Parfait Inspired by Hagensborg Chocolates

Ingredients

4- 2 inch slices of pound cake, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons of raspberry jam
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of cold water
4 Hagensborg Truffle Pigs in Peanut Butter and Jam flavor
Chocolate sauce for garnish

Directions

In a small bowl mix the jam and the water together
In a small saucepan melt the peanut butter over low heat, stirring often until it reaches a smooth liquid state
Place several cubes of cake into a parfait cup
Add a spoon full of jam to the top of the cake cubes
Add another layer of cake cubes
Add a spoonful of melted peanut butter to the top of the cake cubes
Drizzle Chocolate Sauce, jam and peanut butter over the top layer
Garnish with a Hagensborg Chocolate
Repeat until the ingredients are gone in additional parfait cups



My husband suggested that whipped cream would be excellent on top of this Peanut Butter and Jam Sponge Cake Parfait! 



How do you like to serve sponge cake? Do you ever garnish it with something fantastic like chocolate? Hagensborg offers so many fantastic flavors. We are hog wild for their Truffle Pigs. It was nearly impossible to pick a favorite. My son loved the milk chocolate and dark chocolate ones. My daughter was all about the Peanut Butter and Jam. My husband liked Caramel and Peanut Butter... Me. I just couldn't decide. I was impressed by each flavor. Look guys, lets be honest. I am a gourmet kind of girl. Hagensborg is the way to go when you want to indulge in something delicious and cute. My tastebuds thanked me after we tried this brand, and yours will too.


You might also enjoy this Chocolate Fondue recipe.




Feed Me Fine Motor Activity

I have always encouraged fine motor play in my children. Not only is it important for their development, but there are so many ways to offer an invitation to fine motor play!



A well-meaning friend purchased tennis balls for my senior dogs. Bless her heart, but my pooches are too old to do much fetching. As much as we love the dogs, truth be told, they are hounds and have always been prone to take it easy; to sleep in bed only waking for food, water, and a walk. As I type, both are snoozing on pillows at my feet. No fetch will be played willingly by these dogs!

My kids were delighted. Balls! In the house?! YAY!!

I acted fast. With a moment of my time and some very basic supplies, my kids were distracted from the idea of throwing balls and were enthralled with the idea of feeding the ball.

To make a feed me ball you will need

A tennis ball
A utility knife
2 peel and stick eyes or a black magic marker to draw eyes
A few pom poms or cotton balls



The first step is the trickiest. Use caution while using the utility knife to cut a slit in the tennis ball, this will become the mouth.



Next affix or draw the eyes. We went with what we had on hand and used small stick on eyes. The kids and I agreed that really big eyes would be lots of fun!




After the eyes have been added you can offer the pom poms or cotton balls along with the ball.



Play combined with fine motor skill development is ideal for kids of a variety of ages. Both of my kids have fun feeding things to the ball over the years. From cotton balls to barbie doll shoes. The fine motor aspects remain, but we have added in simple math, counting, and color sorting to the ways we use the feed me ball.

You might also enjoy these 7 Ways to Entertain a 3 Year Old.

A Stroll At The Kingwood Center

As a family, we love to visit The Kingwood Center in Mansfield several times a year. My husband and I love the flowers and plants. The kids love the statues and we all love the exercise! It is easy to spend an hour strolling the paths with the kids.




The Kingwood was one of the first places Adam and I visited when we moved to Mansfield, pre-kids. Over the years we moved, but we make a point to visit The Kingwood several times a year with the kids, not only for the experience but also to revisit our roots in a way.


The Kingwood Center is a 47 acre estate that is open to the public. The grounds are compromised of gardens that are breathtaking. Kingwood Center Gardens develops and displays exemplary gardens on the former estate of Charles Kelley King for the pleasure and education of its constituents.  While admission is free there is a parking charge. It is minimal and helps to support the operation of this amazing place in Ohio.



If you visit, plan to stop by the greenhouses. It is easy to get swept away in the fun of the outdoor experience, but the greenhouse offers many gems including a fantastic banana tree. We seem to make a purchase of a plant on each visit.




This is a great place to snap some awesome photos of your family. The flowers are awesome in the spring and summer, in the fall the leaves add a lot to the experience.



Be sure to bring quarters to buy a few handfuls of food for the ducks! If you pay attention you may see the peacocks. They were nesting on eggs on our last month so we really hope to make it back this summer to see babies!



Do you have a favorite public garden? I would love to hear about it!


Hand Print Fish Puppets


One of my favorite things about being a mom is to watch the pleasure my kids get from simple items. Last spring my husband cut out a photo of Colonel Sanders and glued it to a craft stick. He casually laid the Colonel on the table for the kids to discover at breakfast. They went wild over this! 

Last night after the kids were tucked into bed, inspiration hit me and I got busy crafting up something fun for them.  I hoped that the idea would inspire them to want to get crafty with me after seeing how fun these little puppets could be!

These are so easy to make. This is maybe a 3 minute project that will bring hours of entertainment. While entertainment is important, there are subtle and vital things happening when your kids engage in imaginative play. 

Benefits of Pretend Play
Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition (Jent, Niec, & Baker, 2011; Seja, & Russ, 1999; Slade and Wolf, 1999).  Pretend play, fosters language development, thinking skills, and helps to develop emotional and social skills in children ages 2 thru 7. The creativity unleashed thru dramatic play has long-term benefits too. From problem-solving thru imaginary situations to the ability to express feelings.

Isn't it incredible to think that so many things can come from playing with a handmade puppet!?  Well, let's get to it and make one so the play time can begin!




Supplies needed

handprint cut out on colorful paper
small paper triangle
small paper heart
white school glue
a googly eye
craft stick

Directions

To begin, trace a hand and cut it out on colorful paper. 


I applied a little glue to affix the eye.



I also cut out a small triangle from another colorful paper and an oddly shaped heart for lips.



I applied a small amount of glue in the middle of the handprint for the small triangle.

I applied a small dot of glue for the heart paper for lips.



Next, add a little glue on the top of the craft stick and affixed it to the back of the handprint, in the middle of the handprint.

Allow the glue to dry and you have a fun fish puppet.

What Did the Kids Think?

The craft was well received with Harper, who took both of the fish puppets that I made and dashed off to play with them before her brother could see them. I chalked that up as a success.

Once Roo got a peek at the fish puppets he said, "Mom can you trace my hand?" That was all it took and the construction paper came out for handprint tracing.  After lunch today we are going to make a few of these together for an afternoon of crafting and puppet play!

Puppet play is a lot of fun for kids, but there is something almost magical about creating a puppet of your own design and bringing it to life via imaginative play. This project required the most simple of supplies and it can be completed in a matter of moments. There is no reason not to give it a shot with your kids! The benefits of simple projects like this that create an invitation to play are abundant, the mess from such a project is minimal and you likely already have these items on hand, or you could improvise with any paper or cardboard, tape and a straw if not!

Saturday #320

On Saturday #320 it was hot and humid. As it is summer and every day kind of feels like Saturday, we didn't have many plans for the day. My husband suggested we take the kids to the Splash Pad that has just opened in our town.

We did 90 minutes of water play. The kids were happy and exhausted. I got a bit of a sunburn due to poor sunscreen application on my part. We made our way home for snacks, with the intention of getting out and about for more activity later in the day.

As we arrived home and snacks had been handed out, the kids melted on the sofa and watched television. Ideas of things to do were tossed around, but in the end, ice cream sounded like the only real plan worth making and keeping.
Harper says cheese with the ever present binky in her mouth.


Saturdays are not overly thrilling around here in the summer, but that is only because we are on summer break, as a family for 3 months. In the summer months we reserve weekends for more downtime as the crowds are always lighter at activities during the week. Maybe I should include a weekly recap during the summer months of 940 Saturdays?

During the week we went to story time, played at a park, went shopping, and went swimming a few times.

I hope that on this Saturday in the life of your kids that you made a lot of fun memories. If this is the first time you are reading 940 Saturdays on Sweet Silly Sara, the idea is that you have only 940 Saturdays from birth until your child leaves for college. I started this series for my son Rolf many years ago and have tried to keep up with it so that both my son and my daughter can look back on these entries someday and have a history of how we spent time as a family.


Mushroom Hunting with Sweet Silly Sara

I have an interest that you might not know about; I am especially fond of mushrooms! Photographing wild mushrooms is one of my hobbies that I rarely talk about. It is one of those things that I do for the sheer pleasure it brings me to find a mushroom growing somewhere and to capture it, as it is at that moment in time. I have toyed with the idea of turning my collection of photos into a book, but in the meantime, I am going to share a few with you.  I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my life and one of my interests.


I spotted this beauty on a walk in the woods with my son.



This specimen was discovered growing in a yard on a walk downtown. 


Jackpot!! Look at all of these babies!


These ones were  discovered on a walk in my neighborhood.


Not the best photo, but for some reason I am drawn to it.


On a fall walk one morning, I took a side street I had never walked. I walked upon hundreds of these beauties. I loved the way the mushrooms resembled buttercups. This was a fantastic reward for exploring!


A few days later I returned for more photos, I found the mushrooms were in a state of decay, but they were still an impressive sight. 


I ran across these guys in a random field.

I do not, at this time, attempt to identify the mushrooms. I simply enjoy their beauty and appreciate the mystery of the fungus. 

My interest in mushrooms began about 12 years ago. My then boyfriend, now husband and I took a walk around a lake after an especially rainy couple of days. We saw a large mushroom with lovely purple hues to it. I snapped my first mushroom photo at that moment and have been intrigued by them since. 

I often joke with people that according to my photo collection all I ever do is eat, visit parks with my kids and take photos of mushrooms. There are that many mushroom pics on my phone!

Thanks for stopping by for a glimpse into my life!

Lazy Affogato

Lazy Affogato is the perfect summer treat. Chocolate, coffee, and ice cream come together for an unforgettable after dinner treat that will cool you off while adding a little pep to your step.

I love to prepare delicious things that take very little effort. I imagine that is the dream of many home chefs, to produce the gourmet taste without too much effort. Lucky for a lazy chef like me, that is possible! When you combine ingredients of a good quality with a little creativity, anything is possible. In this case, a few shortcuts come into play and the results are not too shabby!

My Lazy Affogato Recipe is incredible. It combines 3 of my favorite things for a ready in a flash dessert that brings a taste of Italy to your kitchen.



Ingredients:

4 ounces of cold water
1 tablespoon of instant coffee
Chocolate Syrup
4 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Combine instant coffee and cold water, blend and allow to sit for a few moments.
Place one scoop of vanilla ice cream into a parfait glass
Pour one ounce of the cold coffee over the ice cream
Drizzle chocolate syrup lightly onto the ice cream
Add another scoop of ice cream
Pour one ounce of cold coffee over the ice cream
Drizzle with chocolate syrup 
Repeat with one additional parfait glass to create 2 servings

This is such an easy way to make a super fancy treat that will impress your friends and family! I make affogato in several ways, from the lazy way to cold brewing coffee earlier in the day and shaving fine chocolate. As the summer rolls on I will likely share a few other Affogato recipes with you!




Saturday #319

On Saturday #319 we indulged ourselves with a sunrise walk and chocolate donuts. We felt awesome after getting some exercise first thing in the morning and then having some chocolate!

My son was excited about an event happening in our town, there were bounce houses involved, so I understood. They both bounced their hearts out and felt that the day was a major success!

We really, literally did nothing other than a walk, eat donuts and go to the bounce houses. We were okay with that as a family because we had taken a trip to the Hocking Hills and didn't make it home until late the day before.




I hope that your family had a great weekend and you made memories!

Where to Eat in Wayne County

Thanks to my friends at the Wayne County Conventions and Vistors Bureau for hosting my family for a weekend of fun!

In June my family headed east to discover what Wayne County, Ohio has to offer for families of small children. We have visited the area in the past, because, hello... The Rubbermaid Store... but admittedly, other than that and the local Bob Evans, we hadn't spent much time in the area. We knew an itty bit of Wooster.



As we headed out for a weekend of family fun, I had a worry. My son is a picky eater and my daughter is at the stage of imitating so she all too often follows his cues on culinary delights. I wasn't sure how the experience of comfort food {homestyle cooking} would go over with my kids.









Our first stop in Wayne County was at the Barn Restaurant in Smithville, Ohio. I am game for any style of cuisine, as is Mr. Sweet Silly Sara, but as I mentioned I have that picky eater. He was excited to eat lunch at this place for several reasons; first off, when you pull into the parking lot, you see a lovely sight of a clean well-kept pond, complete with maybe 100 ducks! Second, the kids heard a rumor that this was more than a restaurant; on-site there is a bulk food store and a toy store!



The Community Puzzle at The Barn 


As we entered the building, we smelled yummy aromas and enjoyed the sights of the huge community constructed puzzle, and the bee hive with a cleverly marked queen bee.





The food was great. My picky eater was delighted with the hamburger and fries he was served as was my daughter. I had the BLT which was perfect and shared barn fries with my other half.  We really liked our server, a sweet and cute lady who had a great smile and a friendly demeanor. Despite her crowded dining room, she took the time to talk for a moment and made us feel right at home.







On Saturday we had lunch in downtown Wooster, at a small and unique spot known as Local Roots. I had a great Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Adam, my husband had a veggie wrap. The kids had a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a grilled cheese. The food was interesting as was the atmosphere. Everything available in the cafe and the shop are locally sourced, which is awesome for the community and local economy.




Harpers grilled cheese came with incredibly sweet strawberries.
My gourmet grilled cheese had caramelized onions inside and a side of hummus with chips.


For dinner on Saturday night, we dined at The Dutch Kitchen. As we arrived late in the evening the atmosphere was peaceful, the service was fabulous. The kids both had chicken and fries; I had a giant plate of shrimp and wedges, my husband had roast beef with mashed potatoes. We enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere.





If I have an absolute food passion, it is for freshly baked bread. I have spent many years working on my own recipe for homemade bread, so I consider myself in the know when it comes to technique and quality when it comes to creating and working with a good bread dough. The bread at The Dutch Kitchen was awesome. We had to take a loaf back to the hotel with us! It did not make it back to our house.





Dinner was served quickly and the proportions were epic. We are definitely going back here on our next trip!





My kids were thrilled with the gift shop and bakery, we purchased cream sticks and bread to take back with us and the friendly helpful manager thoughtfully sent an amazing pie with us as well. When you visit The Dutch Kitchen make sure to save room for dessert or pick up a few goodies to take home!



Wayne County is definitely a great place for foodies! They had a lot of awesome spots to stop and grab a bite to eat! We caught a glimpse of a Scottish bakery in downtown Wooster that we can't wait to check out in the near future.







There is another spot that is worth mentioning in this feature as a spot to stop for a nosh is Smuckers in Orrville Ohio. We are going to talk about this is a place to see in another article, but they have a great little cafe on site and a fun little ice cream sundae bar, which was a hit with both of my kids. Okay, who are we kidding? I adored Smuckers all around. It is one of those places that my heart wanted to call home. {Ice Cream, coffee and this amazing, only available here ketchup!}











Wayne county is located in Ohio, east of Mansfield, south of Cleveland in the heart of the Amish country. This is a great destination for families with children of all ages. We travel with kids age 6 and under, and we had a wonderful time in Wayne County. There are so many culturally rich experiences to take in that Wayne County is surprisingly refreshing as a travel destination for families.
















Saturday #318

Guys, it has been like a year since I attempted to document how we spent our Saturdays as a family. I have had major guilt over my flakiness too. I started this series 3 years ago to keep a record for my son. Today I realized I needed to do the math, figure out what week this would be in the life of Roo and start writing again.  I will figure out the week number for Harp another time.

This morning, on Saturday #318, Roo and I bot woke up early. At 5:30 we headed downstairs for breakfast and play time. Harp woke up and was ready to go too. The morning was fairly quiet. I worked until around 7:15. The kids agreed I could nap on the sofa as I was feeling tired. Roo played K'Nex while Harp and I got cozy on the sofa. She watched a cartoon while I enjoyed 30 minutes of extra sleep.

It was nearly 90 degrees, so we decided there was only one way to beat the heat. To dive into the pool!


The kids saw our snorkeling masks in the shed and were intrigued, we haven't used them in ages, as we call Ohio home these days, so we handed them over to the delight of the kids.


Let me tell you, it might have been a horrible humid 93 degree day, but that water was icy cold as it had been filled and treated the night before. After swimming, we retreated to the cool comfort of the master bedroom and watched a family movie.


Saturdays are a challenge to keep track of in the summer. We are literally on a 3 month summer break as a family and the days all kind of run together.  We love the relaxed pace of the season!

Thanks for catching up with this day in our lives. Since it has been a long time since I added to this series; let me give you the logic behind sharing Saturdays with you.

From the day your child is born until they go to college, you get about 940 Saturdays together.

I wanted to document how we spent our Saturdays. To offer a glimpse into our lives to readers, to document memories for my son {and now my daughter too!}, and I wanted to keep these days for myself at a later time in my life, when my family is grown.

I would love to hear how you spent your weekend, if you felt like sharing via comment!


My Little Mover

My little girl isn't so little anymore! She is a mover and a shaker; ready to pounce on all the world has to offer. Keeping a busy body like Harp's comfortable and dry requires a special secret ingredient. Huggie's Little Movers!

Harper is a dancer by nature. If that girl hears a beat, musical or not, she has to get her wiggle on and dance! From the rhythm of the water cooler as we get a drink of water to the thumping of a happy dogs tail, it all gets her moving and dancing!

This new stage of movement and growth requires a product designed with your mover and shaker in mind, like Huggies Little Movers!




Let me tell you a little more about Huggie's Little Movers and why we love this brand of diapers!

Only Huggies® diapers have a stretchy SnugFit Waistband to help our diapers stay in place like no other diaper. The unique contoured shape provides a comfortable fit and stays in place as babies move and play.


Now even more absorbent with new and improved LEAK LOCK®—the protection and security you both need between changes.
DryTouch® liner. Part of the new Moving Baby System*, the new DryTouch® liner absorbs on contact, so your baby stays dry throughout all of their little adventures.

Benefits:

¥ Shaped for fit and flexibility
¥ Available in sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6
¥ DryTouch® liner** absorbs on contact
¥ Double Grip Strips for a comfy fit that lasts
¥ Leak Lock Protection for up to 12 hours of protection
¥ SnugFit* waistband
¥ Features New Huggies® Brand Moving Baby System*

We stock up on our Huggies Little Movers at Sam's because you can get a HUGE box of diapers at serious bargain pricing! If you aren't a member of Sam's club, there is no better time to join and start enjoying extra savings on great brands like Huggies!

Sam's Club members will save $3.00 instantly at check out starting June 22nd until July 17th on Huggies Little Movers! $3 is a pretty sweet savings offer!

The great opportunity doesn't end there! After stocking up on your Huggies at Sam's you will have the opportunity to enter a Sweepstakes by submitting a photo of your Little Mover  for a chance to win a $500 Sam's Club gift card!