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Easy Outdoor Games

I have had the joy of leading some outdoor games for groups of kids of various ages.  There are many games that are easy to play and don't require expensive equipment.  These are games that are easy to bring to parks or just hold them in your back yard. Use these games for birthday parties or family reunions!

Capture the Flag - This is the favorite game in our home school P.E program.  The teams are usually boys vs girls.  Or one team is marked with a red bandana tied around their arm or leg.  You don't need lots of equipment, this is what I use (you can be creative).  Four Hula Hoops, some cones or long rope to mark the middle boundary, and two balls or similar objects for the "flags" to steal. 
Girls vs boys is always fun!
 The basics of the game go kinda like this: Two teams (with equal number of players) cross the center line to go get the ball or "flag" from the other team.  Any opposing team member can be tagged and taken to jail at any point of the game.  To get out of jail the team member has to be tagged out by their own team, once that happens they all get a free walk back to their side (no runs for the ball).  The first team to successfully take the opposing ball or "flag" back to their base is the winner.  There is a lot of strategy involved and adults can really get into it, I have seen military type tactics implemented when adults are playing!

Tug of War - The kids NEVER get tired of this game, I am amazed.  I have also seen adults get into this tug of war with such abandon.  All you need is a strong rope and some knots at various points at each end for hand holds.  I purchased two long ropes from Home Depot for about $6 each, and twisted them together for a super strong tug rope.  We had an incident at a birthday party last year where our tug rope broke people went FLYING, adults fell on kids and dresses went in the air.  I emphasize STRONG rope for this game.

Tag Games - There are numerous tag games out there, these are a few we like to play, some of which need equipment.  Hoop Tag discussed in an earlier post  Centipede Tag - start with one "it" and as people are tagged they become part of the "it" by joining hands forming a long line.  There is great strategy with this game because untagged people can be surrounded by the centipede, it promotes cooperation.  Partner tag - basically everyone has a partner and one set of partners is "it" they run around freezing groups of people.  Groups can be "unfrozen" when tagged by another player.
 Sack Race - This game requires a little handiwork, but it is totally worth it.  I made sacks out of old sheets and random bits of cloth.  If you have a sewing machine or know someone who does this is SUPER SIMPLE to make.  It only has three straight stitches to form a "bag".
To play the game you simply line people up and they hop in the bag to a finish line.  To make the game even MORE fun make it a relay race.  Sack relay race is played by partnering up and passing the bag off at the opposite side and the second person hops back to the start line.  Adults and kids loved this game at our family reunion.

My brother got some serious air on his jumps!

Sack race relay.

Sack race relay pass off. 

The pass off is really hard, but fun!


Grow Your Own Mushroom Kit

I have been wanting to do this for awhile now.  So I finally broke down and bought this Grow Your Own Mushroom Kit.  It was about $30.00 and is supposed to produce lots of button mushrooms.  It will be a great experiment if nothing else.
    I am growing my mushrooms in a bathroom cupboard.  Out of the way and in a damp warm environment.  The mold smells a little musty, that is something to consider if you want to try this.   There are detailed instructions in the package so you can't go wrong.  I will just give you a quick visual of the process.
It mails to you in the box you grow in.
Dampen the soil and cover the box for a week.

This is about 2 weeks later, it is starting to grow.
This is about 3 weeks into it.
At this point everything starts to happen pretty fast.  I keep the soil moist.  I check it once a day for signs of little mushrooms growing.
 Look really close and you can see the little button mushrooms forming in week #5. 
Week # 6
Week #6 close-up
And this is two days later!!!!!
Week # 6 and two days I have MUSHROOMS.


Baking Soda

Oh the many uses for baking soda.  I just have to share the wonderful applications for this versatile product.  You may want to buy this stuff in bulk after reading this!
Don't confuse baking soda with baking powder please.  Baking powder has added acidifying and drying agents.  Baking soda is pure bicarbonate of soda.   
The most common use for baking soda is as a leavening agent in baking. In combination with a liquid and an acid, baking soda undergoes a chemical reaction that releases bubbles of carbon dioxide. Trapped in batter or dough, these carbon dioxide bubbles enable the baked good to rise. Baked goods leavened with baking soda, therefore, generally have a light crumb and are aerated with many holes left by the escaping bubbles of carbon dioxide. 

It helps regulate pH — keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline. It acts to neutralize acids and break down proteins. It makes a great tenderizer and a leaven. Also, it is baking soda’s neutralizing action on acidic scent molecules that makes it an effective deodorizer. Added to the water when doing laundry, baking soda stabilizes the pH level, enhancing the detergent’s effectiveness. Baking soda may also be added to swimming pool water to balance the pH and keep the water clear.

 Freshen your mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit, and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.

Use as a facial scrub and body exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use.
Use as an antacid
Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach, and/or acid indigestion. Refer to baking soda package for instructions.

Make a surface soft scrub
For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile, and sinks — even fiberglass and glossy tiles — sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra cleaning power, make a paste with baking soda, coarse salt, and liquid dish soap — let it sit then scour off.

Polish silver flatware
Use a baking soda paste made with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry for shining sterling and silver-plate serving pieces.

Clean the oven
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum, and rinse.

Clean furniture
Clean and remove marks (even crayon) from walls and painted furniture by applying baking soda to a damp sponge and rubbing lightly. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.

Boost your liquid laundry detergent
Give your laundry a boost by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to your laundry to make liquid detergent work harder. A better balance of pH in the wash gets clothes cleaner, fresher, and brighter. Or you can add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle for fresher sheets and towels or to neutralize gym clothes and odoriferous clothing. 

Remove odor from carpets
Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let set overnight or as long as possible (the longer it sets the better it works). Sweep up the larger amounts of baking soda, and vacuum up the rest. (Note that your vacuum cleaner bag will get full and heavy.) An added bonus: You'll also deodorize your vacuum cleaner. 

Deodorize sneakers
Keep odors from spreading in smelly sneakers by shaking baking soda into them when not in use. Shake out before wearing.

Extinguish fires
Baking soda can help in the initial handling of minor grease or electrical kitchen fires, because when baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire — and call the fire department just to be safe. 

Scrub fruits and vegetables
Baking soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse

Here is a great site with 60 uses for baking soda! 
 Here is another web site with some more uses for baking soda.


Worm Bin Basics

 Maintaining a worm bin isn't that hard.  I don't have a fancy schmancy worm bin so it is pretty easy to stay on top of it.  If you have never made a worm bin check out my post on starting a worm bin  or just look it up on the web ( I have included some web links on this last post.)
     So you have a worm bin, or you just started it, what now?  I am going to start with LOCATION. 
Worms like to be kept warm so keep the bin away from the cold winds and frosts, ideally situating the bin in a sheltered spot that is sunny for only the early part of the day. Avoid very sunny locations where heat can build up as too much sun could overheat the bin which will cook the worms. Be sure to give your worms at least 12 inches of soil for protection from extremes. If you want your worms to keep on making compost during the winter, it may be necessary to locate them in a shed or garage where temperatures do not fall below freezing. 

Avoid extremes!
      As the weather get colder keep an eye on the bins to make sure the worms are still active and breaking down the organic matter. You may have to slow down the rate at which you add food or you might want to throw an old blanket or towel over the bin to keep it warm. A build up of too much food may result in it putrefying and the bin will begin to smell.
You should locate your bin in a partly sunny spot away from flood zones in the winter and away from intense heat in the summer.
    FEEDING the worms is pretty simple, here are some examples.
 Strawberry tops and that stuff that comes out the back of a juicer are great choices for worm food.  Don't throw this stuff away!
 Worms LOVE banana peals, LOVE them.
Egg shells are also a great choice for worm food.  The worms don't necessarily eat the shells it is just a great addition to the soil for aeration and organic matter.  I guess it isn't food, just a good soil amendment. 
Tea bags, loose leaf tea and coffee grounds.
Paper napkins and junk mail.  Shred up the paper so the worms can easily access the material.

These are things you should NOT feed your worms.  

It isn't because the worms can't break it down (it would take a while to do) it is because other animals will try and get at it first.  Mice and small carnivores will work really hard to get into your bin if you have meat, dairy or fats inside.
Avoid too much acidic material such as lemon and orange skins can be hard for the worms to digest. Adding egg shells to the mix on an on-going basis will help keep the pH balance.
Be careful how much food you add: too much may heat up the bin and drive the worms away, leaving the food to putrefy and the bin will begin to smell which a well run bin does not.
  •  Kitchen and household scraps - Old fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, tea leaves, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, etc.
  • Paper & Cardboard - Small amounts, torn up (avoid magazines and color inks). Mix well with other items.
  • Wood Ash -Provides potassium and lime
  • Hair - From the family pet, or the family, moistened
  • Leaves - Add a little at a time. If there are large amounts these are best made into leaf mold in a separate heap.
  • Grass cuttings ­ Caution - High in nitrogen and a good "activator", but care must be taken not to overwhelm the compost bin with grass as it can turn into a slimy mess. Mix well with other materials. Do not add more than 2 handfuls of grass clippings to a 70-90 liters worm bin at any one time.

  • Dog & Cat droppings - This type of animal manure may carry parasites
  • Man-made fibers - These will not rot
  • Material infected with diseases - Composting may not kill these diseases
  • Materials sprayed with weed killers - The residues may remain in the heap
  • Meat bones 
For a more in-dept reading on what worms eat check this link out
Soil moisture is a big thing to look out for in your worm bin.  A great test for moisture is to grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your hand.  Does it crumble?  Then the soil needs water.  Does it squish out your fingers?  Then you have too much moisture.  Does it hold it's form? Then the soil is about right!  You should water your worm bin like it was a growing plant, the summer months will demand more moisture than the winter.  It is a good idea to check your bin everyday, as you add your worm food just squeeze some soil.
Good damp soil clumps together.

Dry soil will fall through your fingers.

Here is another great link if you want to read more about the ins and outs of worm bins


Grain Free Brownies

Yes you read the title right "Grain Free" brownies.  I was also skeptical. I have to tell you that they are very good, the kids LIKED them.  The are a a nice vegan, dairy free, gluten free dessert!  This recipe is from a blog Kelly has some GREAT recipes over there, so check her out! let us get to the recipe now shall we?

(mix this together first)
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
(Add to mixture)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup almond butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown)
1/4 cup carob or cocoa powder
1/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
A brownie pan is a great investment.

Beat all ingredients together and pour into a greased brownie pan or pan of your choice. Smooth batter so it reaches the corners of the pan.  Bake at *325 for about 30 minutes.  This recipe has a total of 154g of carbs and a serving comes out to about 8g of carbs (18 servings).  My type 1 diabetic daughter likes these, and why not, she can have four at a time with such a low carb count!


Mother's Day

Well here we are at Mother's Day again.  I am a mother of three children.  I often wonder what my kids will look back at in their childhood.  Will they remember the times I yelled at them?  Will they remember when I stayed up late reading them stories despite my fatigue?  I hope Robb and I are creating a special childhood for them.
   Having children can definitely point out your weaknesses and your strengths.  I have learned so much about my self and my marriage through the parenting of these little darlings.  So here is to Mother's Day, hip hip hurray.
Happy Mother's Day!

2009 Me and the youngest.
Me and the three in 2008
Number three in the oven.

Me and the two in 2006

2005 me and the middle child.
2004 Me and my middle child with my mom and her mother.  4 generations.
Me and the first born sleeping in. (2002)
My oldest in 2001.
And it all begins in the year 2000.