Readathon 2012

Join Readathon 2012

As summer time begins next week and for many of us it has really started since school is out, it is important to remember to take time to read and to have our children read. As a former teacher I can tell you how much our children forget during each vacation, but they forget so much over the summer. It is important for us as parents to encourage their reading to help them maintain their knowledge and learning experiences.

I know as a parent the summer time often means an increase in social time, family vacations, and just time to enjoy the beautiful weather, however while doing these things we often forget or let our guard down on the educational things. This is what creates the summer slump or the summer slide. (For more ideas about combating this visit PBS Parents.) I know Hazel cannot read yet and I do not plan to teach her unless she starts to on her own, but this is because of our choice to send her to a Waldorf school. However, we always try to read to her each day at least before bed time, but also throughout the day. So this year, I am joining to support Readathon 2012! 

What is Readathon 2012? It is a program where MeMe Tales, PBS Kids, Harper Collins and several other publishers have joined together to help combat the summer slide. The program will be six weeks long and kids will be able to get free books to read in each week's themes. And for every person who signs up at MeMe Tales they will contribute money to send one child to school for a day via The Food for Education Program. Kids will earn badges and certificates for their reading during the program. Parents will have access to many resources to encourage the reading as well as many bloggers sharing crafts and activities to go along with the books.

How do you join? Go to MeMe Tales and create an account. For more information visit this wonderful post at MeMe Tales.

Each week there will be a theme for books. The first week is Animal Fun. I know I cannot wait to see what books we can get for free with that theme. Hazel loves animals!!

So come join me and Hazel in reading this summer with free books (electronically) including stories like Thumbellina, Jack and the Beanstalk and Exploring India and these are all free right now! And if you are like me without a smart phone or Nook or Kindle, you can read the books on your computer.

Multicultural Monday: Learning about the World through Animals

On Friday Hazel and I went to the first of three Toddler Treks that I signed us up for at our local zoo, Stone Zoo. We will be going to one each month this summer. Since the zoo expected 800+ students from various schools, the instructor decided to keep us in the Discovery Center since it would be too hard to stay together as a group. She had planned several activities for the kids including showing them cards and asking what animal it is and would you see this animal in your backyard or at the zoo. This got me to thinking that the zoo is a perfect place to look at some multiculturalism. It is where we go to see the animals we do not see every day or in our own neighborhoods. The Stone Zoo is one of two zoos in the Boston area known as Zoo New England. The other is bigger and is in Boston. The Stone Zoo is nice since it is a good size for a young one and we do not have to drive into the city and deal with parking. (You may remember I shared our last visit to the zoo in a Happy Family Times post.)
 A great book to go with this lesson is Around the World on Eighty Legs by Amy Gibson. The book has hand drawn animals from around the world--broken up by regions of the world with poems and sometimes information about them. It is a fun read, but not as informative as I had hoped. However it is a great starting point to see which animals live where and then you could easily research them more.

Stone Zoo itself is divided into sections having to do with where the animals are from (or at least the environment they live in). Since our class was to start (and ended up staying in) the Animal Discovery Center, we went to the right (which is the way we usually go anyway). The first animal you see is the American Bald Eagle. They also have a replica of a nest. As the visitors we were talking to said their family of three could lay in it comfortably if they had to. Then there are the black bears. This is one of the newest additions to the zoo and one of my favorites. Since both of these are native to the United States, I will not go into them. Then we looked at the llamas. By this time it was time to head to our class so we went to the Animal Discovery Center where they have a corner of the room as windows to watch the llamas. The llamas like to come and stare into the glass so it was quite fun. These of course are normally found in South America. Although according to Wikipedia, they originated from North America and migrated 3 million years ago.
Llama on left is staring at window!
Inside the Animal Discovery Center they have six Panamanian Yellow Frogs (I found four of them in the tank), corn snake (who was very active), gecko, tarantula, and box turtles. From this list you can see they are also from all over the world. The Panamanian Yellow Frogs are obviously from Panama. The other animals can be found in parts of the U.S.A. as well as other places. A box turtle was taken out of the tank for the kids to learn more and to touch. I did not take any pictures in here, but I did take a picture of Hazel's craft. They had the kids play a game where they were caterpillars and had to bring the instructor five of the foam leaves they had "hid" around the room. Once they had found five, they received a butterfly and then had to find a flower of the same color. Then they had the kids make a paper chain caterpillar and if they wanted they stapled the butterflies on to change them to butterflies.
Hazel's caterpillar
Turned into a Butterfly
After class we joined the crowds to check out some of the animals. We continued in to the Sierra Madre area of the zoo. This includes the llamas, coyotes, bats, coati, cougar, jaguar, and gila monster.
Sleeping Jaguar
We got to see the coyote, but did not get a picture of him. The jaguar and the cougar were sleeping.
We did see the coati briefly, but there were large crowds around their cages. We didn't bother trying to get into the bat area  or the gila monster because of the crowds. We did see the rosy boa (in a cage here as well as in the Animal Discovery Center). After all this, we went and saw one of Hazel's favorite animals--the flamingos! They were building their nests and sitting on their eggs. Hazel thought they were sitting on rocks, but I showed her that they were mud and not rocks. This of course took our journey to the Carribean!
We went indoors to the exhibits there. They have the African crested porcupines, the Inca tern, a hornbill, Emperor tamarins, blue macaws, meerkats, and two-toed sloths and a large tortoise. I did not get any really good pictures here because it is dark and the windows tend to show dirt in pictures. Sorry!

At this point we went to the gift shop. I found some great books for references and learning more.
This book was written by an 8-year-old about the zoo!
Dover Press Books that use stickers to help learn about animals and their environments!
A coloring book that gives details about each animal on the page
Some origami for us to try!
Next we saw the American river otter. Ok, I have to share this picture because it was so cute. The otter came out to say hi to a zookeeper. Maybe he thought it was feeding time or something. You can see him standing on his hind legs towards the back  here (look below here).
Then we saw the monkeys and the white cheeked gibbons. The white cheek gibbons take us to Asia. They have a family of them. The father lost part of his arm at his previous zoo. The mother was carrying her baby this time.

At this point, Hazel was getting tired and wanted to go to the playground which is in the barn yard. It was a bit crowded there with older kids and I had to help her get down the slide since the older boys wanted to climb up the slide and then were chasing each other around it. Then we went for the rides near the snack bar. She of course had to go on the train.
Then the pink hippo.
Then she went on the zebra truck. Then it was time to go. We were tired and hungry. We talked about getting lunch but the snack bar was full of all the school kids getting lunch. So we went to the car. There I called the vet's office and found out we could pick up Fluffy (second day of x-rays), so we headed there which is basically down the street from the zoo. We found out Fluffy was fine! Best news of the week but we needed to watch her as we started to feed her again. Overall it was a fun day with many things to learn about and how animals live in different parts of the world. I am sure we will share more zoo visits with you soon.

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T-Shirt Weather

Reminder: Sharing Saturday is still open!! So is the Teacher Gift Link Party! Please stop by both and share your amazing ideas!!
Hazel's Mermaid T-Shirt
My Mermaid T-Shirt
Summer has finally hit here in New England. So since it is t-shirt weather, we decided to paint our own. T-shirts were on sale this past week at Joann's (4 for $10) and AC Moore ($2.99). We bought a bunch in different colors for both of us and a few for gifts. I also used my 50% off coupon at Joann's to buy some metallic and glitter fabric paints. Needless to say we will be making some for the various holidays this year. I had seen a few places using freezer paper stencils and read somewhere that contact paper would also work. I also had seen a tutorial in Family Fun Magazine to make your own silk screens so they would be reusable, but I didn't want to invest the money and time into this. Since I had a piece of contact paper cut that wasn't used for its original intention, I went with that. It was so easy! I googled for free stencils and for certain pictures. We had decided we wanted mermaid t-shirts to enter in the Mermaid Project Competition.

So to start I traced the stencils onto the clear contact paper. Then using an Exacto type knife I cut out the portions for each color. (On some of the multi-colored ones if the colors were not too close I would cut them both out of one as to not waste Contact paper.) Then we chose the color for the first part and I put the stencil on the t-shirt with a magazine inbetween the layers of the fabric. We put some paint in a plastic egg carton and Hazel dabbed it on with sponge applicators I bought the last time we painted t-shirts for Valentine's Day.
Hard at work on her mermaid!
Close up on the mermaid painting
The mermaid was the only one we used twice. So we did these together each layer. First we did Hazel's and then I would remove the stencil and put it right on my t-shirt and dab the stencil with a paper towel since I wanted different colors.

Stencil Removed
Painted stencil

In between colors we had to wait four hours for the paint to dry completely. So we did all the first round and then waited. Did some second round before Hazel went to bed, but finished the second round in the morning as well as the third round from the ones we did the night before. Here are some of the ones we did. (There are more methods below!!)
We bought Hazel a new sun hat which she loves and she wanted a t-shirt to match it so I copied the fish and used the picture as a stencil. It came out pretty good. The unicorn I want to fix. I let Hazel choose the colors and the white she chose doesn't really show up well and neither does the pink mane and tail. Still thinking about what I will do with it though.

I bought some large farm animal stamps ages ago. Hazel wanted to use the duck one and I let her paint it whatever colors she wanted and as many times as she wanted. She wanted to make a mommy duck, a daddy duck and a baby duck so there are three. This was probably among the easiest method and the one she could basically do by herself!
Then for Father's Day, we made my father a t-shirt. Or at least I should say we started him a t-shirt. We did the front. We will bring it to him and give it to him but when my nephew comes for his visit this summer he will complete the back for him. I will leave him some of the paints to do it. We used Hazel's handprints to make a heart. I saw this idea at Craft Passion.
Hazel put paint on each of her hands and we made handprints. Then I used the paints directly from the bottle and drew the heart around her hands and wrote the words. Hazel calls my dad Pop. My nephew calls him by his first name so his will be different on the back.

We have some more ideas to try, so stay posted for another t-shirt post. Enjoy!

Sharing Saturday #23

Ok, first a little explanation and an apology. This week was a bit crazy for me. With the end of the school year all my committees at church met and I was tutoring every day and then on top of it Hazel and I were both sick and then when we got better our youngest cat spent an entire night vomiting (near our bedroom so I would wake up all night). After a very stressful 24 hours of her being sick and our beloved vet having switched offices and it took me a good 16 hours to find her, all is well now. I'm going to get back on board. So this is why I did not post yesterday. I had things I could post, but I couldn't find the energy to sit down and write without putting emotion that didn't belong there in it. It is also why I have not done my usual visits to your entries from last week. I usually try to visit more than half of them (Mia does as well and has had one of those weeks as well). So I am sorry if I have not made it yet and commented, but I promise I will get there and visit.I hope you will visit as well and leave some comment love for our fellow crafty moms!

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Ice Cream!

So we love ice cream in our house. My dear husband often eats it every night (he use to barely eat it and then after an illness started eating it all the time). The other day at the store Hazel and I saw a small ice cream maker for around $10. We bought it since Hazel wanted to try to make ice cream.

Now as a child, I remember making ice cream with my family. It was a big ordeal and we always made it in the winter so we could use snow instead of ice to cool it. Of course our old ice cream maker made a good amount and it was huge. It was the size of a normal household bucket to clean with and had a huge crank on top. I don't remember how much ice cream it made, but it was enough to feed the five of us. Hazel's ice cream maker makes enough to feed the two of us, but we shared some with Daddy as well. Over the weekend we tried the recipe that came with the maker for vanilla ice cream. (I'll admit I questioned the small amount of sugar and vanilla, but figured the makers should know a good recipe--they didn't.)
Original Recipe Mixing
The recipe was to mix 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a couple of drops of vanilla in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for an hour. Then prepare the drum of the mixer with 5 ounces of salt, 1/2 cup of cold water and fill the rest with ice. Set up maker and then pour three-quarters of your mixture in and turn and turn and turn. Once it begins to form ice cream pour remaining mixture in. Well we did all of this and it tasted like frozen milk. Not very delicious. Oh, well.
New Recipe Mixing

So I searched the internet for a better recipe. I found several recipes, but this one on All Recipes was closest to our failed one and All Recipes was nice enough to have a button to scale it to the same amount of milk and cream as the original. So we used 1/2 cup of milk (fat free since that is what we have), 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Then we put it in the refrigerator. We mixed it yesterday and then got too busy to finish it, so we finished it today.
Hazel helped me today prepare the maker. We measured the 5 ounces of salt and then she added the 1/2 cup of cold water. Then we added the ice cubes. She had fun adding these.
Then we closed the drum and put it in the machine and put the top and scaper on the machine. Then we poured 3/4 of the mixture in and Hazel started to turn and turn.
After a little while she got bored turning, so I took over. Then I added the last part of the mixture and then we started to get ice cream! And this time it actually tasted good!
Ok, I know there have been many posts about making ice cream in a plastic bag. I found a link at with the instructions as well as a good explanation of the science behind it. has a similar post but also includes the history of who founded ice cream. And for a little fun here is an ice cream flavor personality quiz. Science News For Kids offers some books to check out on ice cream. I'm going to check them out from our library. Science News For Kids also has an interesting article talking about the nutritional values of ice cream, etc. and has percentages of favorite flavors and a link to a word find.

So what is your favorite flavor? Mine has always been strawberry.

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