DIY Fine Motor Feed The Monster Toy

Harper is a curious little girl. She is always watching and wanting to get in on Roo's fine motor play. But I worry about her choking on the smaller parts because she still puts everything in her mouth.

I made a fun toy for Harper that gives her a chance to work on her fine motor skills while doing something she thinks is quite fun.

What will need:

For the Monster
An empty baby wipe tub
Pipe Cleaners
googly eyes

I glued sequins as bases for the eyes and made funny eyebrows out of pipe cleaners.
But I made sure that the lid would close when this wasn't in use!

I added another sequin for a nose.

And all we had to do was wait for the glue to dry.

Things to Feed the Monster

items such as :
Milk caps,
puzzle pieces
basically anything that can fit into the "mouth" of the monster but isn't a choking hazard.

Waiting for the glue to dry was the hardest part. When the monster face is dry, you set the tub upright and feed the monster in his squiggly mouth. This was great for Harp to put the things in, as well as get them back out. She quickly decided it was easier to just open the tub and dump the goods out.

This DIY toy was great for several reasons.

I spent $0 to make it. I used items we had on hand.
It gave my child a chance for fine motor play at her level and she loved it.
There was no worry about missing parts, damaged stuff, etc. This project was basically made with scraps and things that might go in the trash otherwise.


Is it just me or is this summer absolutely dragging on? The crazy weather {rain, rain, hot as can be, more rain then almost too cold, more rain, hot, hot, blah}; the never ending amount of activities and events to rush to and from, and then there is work, normal day to day chores, the housework and trying to keep the kids entertained all at the same time...

Are you exhausted now too? All of the hustle and bustle of this summer has me day dreaming about a get away. To where you might wonder? The Four Seasons St Louis of course!

The Four Seasons St Louis is a resort with the added benefits of all that the beautiful city of St. Louis has to offer.

Listen up to what the Four Seasons St Louis has planned for the summer now through labor day!

“Every summer, our Hotel turns into a resort,” says General Manager Alper Oztok. “This year, we are bringing some of our signature Four Seasons resort pool services and amenities to our guests in St. Louis.  Our guests enjoy family time or a romantic couple's escape without having to travel far.”
All guests through Labor Day Weekend enjoy the new Four Seasons resort-style amenities at the 8th floor pool terrace overlooking the Gateway Arch from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.  Hourly complimentary pool amenities include sunglasses cleaning, fruit kabobs, frozen grapes, chilled towels, and special cold sample drinks.

Doesn't this sound lovely? There are several packages you can book for couples and families with kids, that makes this a premier vacation destination for your end of summer adventures!

Check out this video to get a glimpse of what the Four Seasons St Louis has in store for your resort style getaway in style!

Fine Motor Name Practice

Roo is enjoying his summer break, but I intend to send him back to school on track. I don't want him to lose any of the skills he developed last year at school and I want to send him back with a whole new set!

We try to do a variety of things, like dot to dots, writing, sight words and refreshing on colors, shapes, letters, numbers and etc. Several days a week. I like to give him chances to further develop his fine motor skills while having fun spelling his name.

To do this activity you will need:
Foam Sheets (I get them in a multi pack at Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree)
Foam sticker letters that spell your childs name, you might want to have letters to do this 2 or 3 times on one foam sheet.

To get my son started I simply peeled a tiny edge back for him so that he could work on getting the backing of the sticker off. These foam letters were pretty cheap and even I had a hard time peeling them, so I guess we both got some fine motor work in on this one!

I told him he was going to spell his name, but I wanted him to sound each letter out as he placed it on the foam sheet.

Roo did pretty well with this activity, it took about 5 minutes to put together and complete and it gave him a chance to practice 2 skills!

Cauliflower Steaks

Eating Healthier takes a determined mindset for people like me. I am a foodie. I love to look at food, smell food and of course prepare and eat it too!  Before starting my diet, I honestly sobbed over a cheeseburger. Hey, don't judge!

One of the first steps I have taken in the long term of family eating habits is I am re-discovering what a serving size is. Nearly everyone I know serves and eats more than the recommended serving size regardless of what kind of food it is. When I started re-visiting portion sizes and good food choices, I decided to start in 2 places. To serve a smaller portion of food to myself everyday and to cover more than half of my plate in vegetables.

I love cauliflower, but it seems I only buy it in bags of premixed veggies. This week I stepped out of my normal zone of purchase and bought a head of the white stuff. 

I trimmed it down and gave it a good soaking. After I let it dry for about 10 minutes I began to slice 1/2" to 1" steaks of cauliflower. From there I drizzled it with E.V.O.O and gave it a delicate sprinkle of coarse black pepper and a pinch of salt.  I flipped each steak over and repeated this process.

My oven was preheated to 350 degrees. After I kept an eye on my cauliflower and flipped it about 13 minutes into the roasting. 

When the cauliflower was a color I desired I took it out of the oven and slapped it on  plates with a communal dish of hummus and pita chips. 

My husband and I both went wild for this recipe. It was filling, made simply with  every day ingredients, and it gave the cauliflower such a wonderful flavor!

This is new favorite addition to our meals. It can be the main course, or a divine side that just about anyone would enjoy.

I am going to experiment with seasonings to add new dimensions of delicious to our "cauliflower steaks".

How is your favorite way to enjoy cauliflower?

Stuffed Cheese Triangles

This post, explains exactly why I am on the Nutri System Diet... I can't seem to stop myself from making yummy things like this!

We had a tube of crescent roll dough in the fridge and cream cheese. I initially planned to turn this into a veggie pizza until I realized we had eaten all of our fresh veggies the night before with hummus.
The wheels in my foodie brain started to turn.

I allowed the crescent dough to sit for about 15 minutes to warm up a little. I opened the dough carefully, forming triangle shapes. I placed about a teaspoon of cheddar cheese shreds onto the first triangle of dough. Next I sliced a sliver of cream cheese and laid this on top of the cheddar cheese. I carefully placed another crescent dough triangle on the top of the cheeses. 

I baked these at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the dough was a nice golden color.

I served these hot, my family gobbled them up!
I served them cold, they were good, but not as good.
I reheated them and they were almost as good as they were fresh.

We thought the flaky dough was a great combo with the cream cheese. 


30 Days to Move: Day 11 Get Serious About Junk

Okay, this series started with good intentions but obviously, I couldn't keep up in the midst of a move! (Smart idea, bad timing or bad time management... you be the judge.)

On Day 11, I got serious about what I considered junk and what I felt was worth the trouble of packing and moving. I went through our house (everything that wasn't packed and destined to be kept) and started tossing junk into one of two huge boxes.

What is junk?

By my definition junk consists of:

Shoes I haven't worn in at least a year
Clothes that are outgrown or worse for wear
Toys the dogs never play with because they are well... junk!
Toys the kids have outgrown
Kitchen gadgets I never use
Excess plastic bowls with lids
Magazines I will never read due to time

While I was sorting this junk, I made one box the to donate box. This was the box of things someone could use but I felt had no real value.

The second box was yard sale items.

Yes, I know moving is crazy, but having a yard sale is genius when moving. You will reduce the amount of junk you either have to haul to Goodwill or pack and move. Plus, if you do it right you will make a ton of cash and can buy new stuff for your new home!

Play Room Reveal

Cabbage Manor; I have lovingly coined our house Cabbage Manor. I can't tell you why, but it feels natural. 

The house is great. It is one of those houses that is peaceful. I like that. The house was special to someone at some time. It was moved from another location at some time in the past. It still holds some of the charm of a previous era with the heavy wooden door. The kitchen oozes like 1950's or 1960's. I like it. 

There is a lovely nook off the kitchen, it has a sliding glass door, it would be nice for dining in, but we have a dining room. I immediately knew this room would make a great play room for my kids. 

During the summer, they must share a little area with their father's plants until they can go back to the school library, but the kids don't mind. 

It is a long process of getting settled in. But I have one room ready to reveal. 

My daughter Harper loves playing in here! She has her little play kitchen, tons of play food, and a table to play at. This table is intended to be a place my son would play with his wooden train tacks or complete his busy bags, but my daughter really loves to play here!

I am working on several ideas to make the room more functional for the kids, such as mesh bags to hang from the wall with toys like the matching donut game, card games and small puzzles. I am in process of making an organizer for all of the chunky puzzles too.

This layout will change soon, because we want to use the tiny patio, but until we fence in the rest of the yard, it seems like a bad idea to even let the kids know that is a door. I worry about the little one and the dogs getting out.

So, there it is. One room in Cabbage Manor. I know, it looks a little messy, but that is okay, we are living here and having fun doing it!

Portion Control

You know, I have never really been on a diet before in all honesty. Sure there have been times I tried to eat healthier and be more active. But I have never seriously given too in depth thought to the foods I eat, or the portions of the foods I eat.

This week on my first week as a NutriSystem Nation blogger, I have learned a few big lifestyle changing lessons about food and eating.

Having food sent to my house to consume has been helpful, it takes the strain out of making good choices at the store when it comes to what I am going to eat. A challenge has been that, I might have a spread of meals awaiting me, but I am still cooking for 3 other people. If I want to eat healthier after this journey is over, I have to gradually get my family making better choices and enjoying healthier and simpler foods.

So, this week when I did my shopping, I tried to mostly stick to the perimeter of the store. I bought lots of veggies like cauliflower, squash, onions, tomatoes. I bought watermelon and apples, low fat cheese, hummus and carrots. Unsweetened tea, bottles of water.

When I got home and put the groceries away I was happy. My family however was not. They said "There is NOTHING to eat!"

True enough I neglected them. The next day I did it again, but I got granola, pretzels, pita chips, plain popcorn sans butter and salt. Lemonade. Sausage and beef stew. One small package of Oreos 

They were happier this time.

But, I realized 2 days later they have eaten the granola, pretzels, pita chips, both bags of popcorn and all but 3 Oreos....

Okay... I ate those 3 Oreos,  and I did eat some of the pita chips. I didn't feel bad until the serving size came into my mind. What I thought was a little snack was actually more like 1.5 servings of Oreos and 2 servings of Pita Chips.

How easy it is to indulge or cheat on your diet {ahem} and go over board in a flash.

This led me to understand portion sizes and portion control in a new light.

Today, as we stopped at the store again, I helped them select good snacks. {Pretzels, popcorn, whole grain crackers}. When we got home I opened each bag of treats. I set up a food scale and an array of baggies. I made portion appropriate bags of snacks and placed them in a big basket.  {Don't forget to set the tare on your scale so it weighs 0 with a baggie!}

This was time consuming. This was tempting to sample one of this and one of that, but I didn't. I focused on the volume of food that should go into each bag and I walked away untainted from the call of snacks.

I also walked away knowing that should I falter, should I need a treat, I won't be blowing all of my hard work by overeating junk food. I can visually see how much I can have  and savor it while it lasts.

Traveling With Kids : A Day at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

I visited the location in this article as a guest of the Columbus Zoo.

On our first week of summer we traveled to Columbus, Ohio with the kids to experience one of the many fantastic offerings the city has for families. We got a chance to get our walk on, enjoy the sun and see so many breath taking animals all in one spot!

Where was this? If you are following me on Instagram you might have guessed that we visited the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! If you are not following me there, you should be! I am getting more active there and sharing lots of my adventures!

We visited the Columbus Zoo on a perfect June day. As soon as we arrived and decided on a path, we were able to take in the sights of the Black Rhino enjoying his morning munch.

The mom in me swooned over the swans with the eggs in their nest.

My son and I loved the Camels!

The sheer number of exhibits and animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium makes it well worth the trip to the city,

 The elephants were lovely!

The flamingos made a great group to photograph!

We have visited the Columbus Zoo numerous times over the years. I am never disappointed and I am always very impressed with the continuous effort to make this one of the best places for families to visit for a zoo experience!

This guy stole my daughters heart and attention. She was amazed with him!

I wanted to share a few tips with you to make your next trip to the Columbus Zoo even more enjoyable, if you are traveling with the kids.

Make sure your children wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking and this is a good thing! Kids will get plenty of activity and hopefully sleep wonderfully that night, but folks, do you really want to be carrying a 20+ pound child for several miles?

If your kids are not accustomed to walking very far, take them on a few walks around the block as preparation for the Zoo. 

Pack a few drinks and snacks for the kids to sustain them in between meals and exhibits!

Sunscreen! Enough said!

Bring a pack of travel Baby Wipes. Even if the kids are a bit older these are so handy for freshening up in the summer!

Make sure your phones and cameras are ready for lots of great photo ops!

Grab a map, if the kids are really little, like mine are, decide what exhibits are most important to see and aim for those first, seeing what you can on the way. You never know how much a small child can take in terms of walking in the summer sun.

Take advantage of the play areas for the kids. Give them a break and a chance to let loose. You can rest on a bench and bask in the sound of happy children at play for a little while!

Have you ever visited the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium? If not what is your favorite Zoo?

A Car Show With the Kids

My little boy likes Super Heroes, trains, dinosaurs, sports and of course CARS! Anything with wheels is a hit with Roo!

While we were strolling around at a little community event in Galion, Ohio my son was delighted to see a car show! He strolled among hot rods, classics and styles we had never heard of!

Holy Smokes! It is the Bat Mobile!

                                                     My guys went into a trance ...

                                        Even I had to admit this was quite a sight of a car.

                                     These are the kinds of cars that little boys dream of.

Imagine the delight of both of my kids when we found the Mystery Machine! We are just starting our interest in Scooby Doo so this was.... Ah-Mazing!

Then we ran into a really great Micro-Bus. My husband was wide eyed and tye dye dreaming for a few minutes over this one.

I loved that seeing this in our little town. It was like a mobile part of history that we got to show our kids. They are little, but someday I will show them these pictures and maybe trigger their memories of this day when they want to learn about the 60's!

Isn't it amazing how out of the blue you can find things like this in the smallest towns? While I am not a "car person" I love sharing in experiences that my kids are interested in and experiencing the magic and joy of it through their eyes.

When was the last time you took your kids to something like a car show? Did they enjoy the experience of seeing so many cool cars?

10 Ways I Save Money

This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link I might earn a small commission.

How do you save money? I have been finding ways to make the most of my cash and I thought some of these are so good that I have to share them with you to help you get the most bang for you buck without jumping thru hoops to do so. 

1) If you have a paypal account, get the paypal debit card!  I earn 1% cash back for my purchases on the card. 1% doesn't seem like a lot, but if you spent $1000 a month on gas, groceries, clothes, restaurants and online shopping, that is like getting $10 back every month! Hey, that it is free money every month!

2) I use Ebates to make online purchases, depending upon the store I am shopping at I earn from 1% to 6% cash back, which is paid via paypal quarterly. I usually earn about $9 each quarter, which is fantastic! It is easy to use this program. 

3) I use mperks for grocery shopping. I love that I earn rewards from shopping. As an example, I earned $6 off of my next purchase after buying $50 of meat (in multiple purchases too) and $5 off after spending $25 on Dairy. If you shop Meijer, use m perks! Not only do they have rewards to earn but also you can clip a ton of great coupons to use with sale items.

4) I don't pay for cable anymore. We use Netflix and Amazon Instant Video with our Roku. We spend about $13 a month compared to a former bill of about $70 a month. We make use of the video store in town too. It is good for local business and we can rent a lot of movies and tv shows at a bargain price of 2 dvds for $1. They also have about 200 dvds that children can rent for free. You can save money on Netflix by getting access to Netflix titles through a VPN. Learn more at BestVPN's Netflix Guide.

5) We have a little one in diapers. We use Luv's which are exactly the same as Pampers, except they are cut a touch wider and lack the Sesame Street gang designs. They are about $3 a pack cheaper. We also have a few cloth diapers that we use in the mix. Both of my kids used Luv's and I have always been impressed with the performance.

6) I used Store brand formula for my daughter. When she was born I had a stockpile of Formula and frequently got coupons. But, ultimately whenever I had to buy it without a coupon we got the store brand of what she preferred. Ironically, all of the formula is made in the same place. WalMart's brand and Kroger's brand come from the same manufacturer. (Don't believe me? Call the number on the cans. Same place.) This saved us at least $6 on each can of formula.

7) We participate in fun programs like summer reading, story time and events at the Nature Center to keep the kids busy, making friends and having fun while learning. These are always free, and tons of fun for kids.

8) On a hot summer day, there is no better place to head with the kids than the movies. But, who wants to spend $30 to take the family to a movie that they may not make it through without needing to leave? Our local theater has a $1 kids movie every week. For $4 the whole family can go watch an older but family friendly movie, and they run a snack special that day too. For $2.50 my little ones share popcorn and juice.
At under $7 that is an activity we cannot pass up on a really hot day or a rainy day.

9) I shopped around for insurance and found I could take our rate from $107 a month to $55 with all of the same coverage with esurance. That is basically half the price. We have been with the company for 2 years now and have no complaints!

10) Before I buy anything I google it to make sure it isn't on sale somewhere else!

What is your best money saving tip?

6 Yummy Pancake Recipes

Whenever I am scrolling through pics on my phone to show someone something, they comment on the number of pancake photos on my phone... what can I say? My kids are crazy for pancakes and I fancy myself as an amateur pancake artist.

I was looking for some fun pancake recipes to work into our rotation of the kids favorite breakfast (and breakfast for dinner!) and I discovered a few that I think you will enjoy too!

Party Pancakes from Royal Little Lambs

Banana Pancakes from Danya Banya

Confetti Pancakes from Sweet Silly Sara

Bunny Pancakes from The Pleasantest Things

Strawberry Oatmeal Pancakes from This Silly Girls Life

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pancake Bites from B-Inspired Mama

How does your family like pancakes? Tell me about it in a comment if you please!

A Simple Fine Motor Activity

I like to keep Roo learning and developing skills even though he is on summer break. I also like to create tools for learning from items we already have at home.

I had an idea for a super simple fine motor activity that I could make in a matter of minutes. I had no idea how much bot of my kids would enjoy working on such a simple activity with such great fine motor skill practice.

You will need:
Pom Poms
A pair of plastic tongs
An egg carton

The rest is pretty self explanatory. Put the pom poms in the egg carton, then demonstrate how to pinch and pick up then sort the colors.

As you can see I used smaller pom poms for Roo exclusively so he would really have to work at pinching the pom poms with the tongs.

Harper isn't ready for the tongs yet, but using her fingers to grasp the varying sizes and the fuzzy texture of some compared to the hardness of the smaller pom poms is good for her fine motor development too. I use assorted sizes when working on this activity with her.