Friday, July 31, 2015

Super Easy Crab Dip with Avocado & Tomato

Cream cheese crab dip - a perfect easy cold party appetizer!

I'm a Maryland girl, so I love just about anything with crab. Of course, the best way to eat crabs is a big pile of hardshell crabs, preferably outside in the summer at a picnic table covered in newspaper. But that's a lot of work and gets pretty expensive. So when I need a crab fix I make a quick batch of this super yummy and unbelievably easy crab dip.


This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

This crab dip is so simple to put together and is so delicious. It's a perfect party food and packs well for potlucks. Here's what you need:

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. crab meat (lump or claw)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 large or 1 small tomato
  • 1/2 avocado

Directions:

Chop your tomato and avocado into small pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together your crab meat and cream cheese until well combined. The best way to do this is with your hands - super fun for kids who want to help in the kitchen!


Once the crab and cream cheese are well mixed together, stir in the Old Bay. I'm not giving you a measurement for Old Bay because it is really up to your taste. I love my Old Bay, so I make mine pretty spicy. Start with a 1/2 teaspoon and keep adding until it's spiced to your liking.

Spread the crab mixture into your serving dish. Add a little more Old Bay on top, if desired.

Sprinkle your chopped tomato and avocado on top. Serve with crackers or baguette slices and enjoy!


This post is part of the Tour the World Blog Hop, this month featuring food from cities, states, and countries around the world. Check out all the amazing recipes here:



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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

5 Ways to Play with a Shoebox: Activities for Preschoolers

Don't throw away your shoeboxes, make them into one of these super fun toys!

I've been on a big closet clean out lately, and one thing I have in abundance is shoe boxes. (OK, I love shoes. Who doesn't?) I've been storing all my shoes in their boxes, and now that I am purging my closet I am finding that there are much better ways to store my shoes without those bulky boxes. But I hate throwing them away because there are so many fun ways to recycle a shoebox into a fun toy or activity for the kids!

Shoeboxes are the perfect size for all kinds of fun projects - and they're usually pretty durable too. So before you toss that shoebox in the trash, why not recycle it into one of these 5 DIY toys. These ideas are frugal, clever, and oh so fun!

This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

5 Ways to Play with a Shoebox


We made these DIY Cardboard Building Blocks from shoeboxes back in April and they are still holding up. My boys love them!

Frugal Fun for Boys turned a shoebox into a Foosball Game - this is so easy and looks like a lot of fun!

Getting ready for back to school? Make a Shoe Box School Bus! Craftulate shows us how.

My little animal lovers can't wait to make this Animal House Shoebox Craft from Letters in the Sand.

And this DIY Cardboard Car Wash from Non Toy Gifts is so clever - I love how she made it waterproof!

I'm a big fan of recycling every day items into fun toys for kids. Check out even more recycled crafts and activities here. Or, grab a copy of Green, Crafty, & Creative - a really awesome book written by some of my favorite bloggers and filled with recycled and natural crafts, activities, and tips!

What can you do with an empty shoebox? Leave a comment below or message me on Facebook and let me know!




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Help Kids Connect When a Parent is Away with CloudPets™

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CloudPetsForever #CollectiveBias

Ways to help kids cope when a parent is away, featuring CloudPets™!

My husband often travels for work. These absences are especially hard on my twins, as they're at the stage of toddler development where they are experiencing big emotions and have a hard time expressing them.  I was finding that during his trips, they were more prone to acting out and having tantrums. I decided that I needed to find a way to help them cope when daddy was away.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Kids Books that ROCK by Musicians You Love

Awesome children's books written by classic rock stars that the whole family will love.


We love music. There's always a song playing and someone dancing in our house! 

When you think of great composers, you might start with Beethoven and Brahms. But for us, the great masters of music are more like Lennon & McCartney or Jagger & Richards. And some of our favorite rock stars have written children's books, so in honor of some of these great songwriters I've pulled together a list of books for kids that really ROCK!
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Kids Book Storage that Encourages Reading

A fabulous kids bookcase that encourages reading! A review of the Tidy Books bookcase & book display.

My kids love books, and as they are getting older our book collection keeps growing. They're also at an age where a daily nap is no longer a given, and some days they spend quiet time in their room instead of sleeping. Put these things together and I needed to find a way to store a lot of books in a small space. I found the perfect solution and they are reading more than ever!

I received the product mentioned in this post free from the manufacturer in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

Since the boys are spending more time in their bedroom, and our book collection downstairs is overflowing, I needed to find a way to store books in their room. But they share a room so space is at a premium. I was so thrilled when Tidy Books asked me to review their kids bookcase. It looked like just the solution I needed.

I was also really impressed with the story behind Tidy Books. Tidy Books started in 2004, when the company's founder couldn't find the right bookcase for her own daughter. So she made one in her violin workshop (how cool is that?!). Besides being designed by a mom, I also loved the fact that Tidy Books products are made from FSC sustainable wood and finished in environmentally friendly water lacquer. I felt good putting this product in my home.

Shipping was super fast and everything arrived in great shape. The boys could not wait for us to put it together.


I could tell right away that this was a quality piece of furniture made from real wood. My husband is the furniture assembler in the house so I turned it over to him.


He was impressed with how easy it was to put together (even with his helpers). It took under 30 minutes from opening the box to putting it on the wall.


All finished and filled with books! One of the great features of this bookcase is that all of the books face forward, so the boys are able to see what they have. It holds a lot of books (85 according to the company, I know ours is no where near full yet!).


I think the boys' favorite feature is the 3D wooden alphabet on the front of the shelves. They are just learning their letters and they ask to go up and see their letters at bedtime. They love to touch them and sing the ABC song as they tell them all good night!


I love the space saving design of this bookcase too. You can fit a lot of books in here but it does not take up a lot of space in your room. It is so slim that even in a small room it is not overpowering. And it fastens to the wall so it is safe for a kids room - a must for me.


My boys are loving their new bookcase! Before, we just had books in baskets on the floor, and they could only see the first one. With the forward facing bookcase, they can see more of their books and they are finding favorites that they had forgotten. They love to spend time reading in their room and quiet time is much more enjoyable for all of us.


I truly believe that this new bookcase is encouraging my boys to read more. And the design is perfect for our home! It is a quality piece of furniture that looks great and will serve us for years to come. 

Looking to get your kids' books organized? Check out the Tidy Books Bookcase & Book Display here!

Want to keep kids engaged in reading? Try one of our book activities!

Need to get organized? Check out our Organizing page for tips!



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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Creative Ways to Save Money on School Supplies

Creative ways to save on kids school supplies! Easy ideas to save on back to school shopping.

I love seeing kids school supplies in the stores! There's just something about rows of pencils and paper and crayons that gets me in a shopping mood. But my kids aren't in school yet, so I don't have one of those massive school supply lists to check off. That doesn't mean I'm not looking for ways to save! I always stock up on things we'll use all year at back to school time, so I've pulled together some great resources to help you save on school supplies too.

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Best Ever Bisquick Banana Muffins

The best and easiest banana muffins you'll ever make! You won't believe they're made with Bisquick when you taste how moist and delicious these are.

I'm a big fan of Bisquick when it comes to making breakfast. It's my go to for pancakes and waffles, but sometimes I find it makes my muffins a little dry and crumbly. But I thought I'd give it another shot because I had some bananas that were going bad quickly and needed to be used. The result was AMAZING and so easy!

This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

These muffins were so moist and delicious I couldn't believe they were made with Bisquick. The texture was so much better than other Bisquick muffins I've tried. And the banana flavor was just perfect. My boys ate them up and asked for more at snack time.

Best Ever Bisquick Banana Muffins

Ingredients:
  • 2 c bisquick
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 c milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 24-count mini muffin pans or 2 12-count regular sized muffin  pans with non stick cooking spray (or line with paper liners).

In a large bowl, stir together bisquick, cinnamon, and sugar.

Add eggs, mashed bananas, and milk. Stir until well combined. Be sure not to over mix or they will be tough!

Scoop muffin batter into prepared pans. (I use a scoop like this - so easy!). Bake in preheated oven for 8-9 minutes for mini muffins, or 14-16 minutes for regular size (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly - ovens vary).

Serve and enjoy!



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Monday, July 20, 2015

Smack the Number Activity for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Easy, fun, no prep number activity for preschoolers! Help them learn numbers while playing a fun game.

My boys are almost 3 and very excited to know their numbers! With a summer storm brewing outside I thought it would be fun to do a quick number practice game to help them get moving and work on their number recognition. This is a really easy activity that requires no prep and just a couple of supplies - and it's FUN!


This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

To play Smack the Number, you just need a set of foam numbers and a fly swatter.

I started out having my boys line up each number in order. They love to do this and sing a song they learned by watching Number Land, which is a really cute Leap Frog show about numbers that they just love! I'm convinced it's how they've learned their numbers so fast.



Once they were all lined up we got out our (clean) fly swatters! They started by smacking each number that I called out.


Then I just let them swat the numbers around - they loved this! And since they're made of foam, no harm done to the floor or our toes.


We really enjoyed playing this game - it gave them a chance to practice their number skills and have a little fun too. Next we'll try it with our ABCs!

Check out these great counting books too!



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Friday, July 17, 2015

Create a Reading Corner Filled with Free Books from Kellogg's

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #Back2SchoolReady #CollectiveBias

Create a reading corner for kids filled with free books! #Back2SchoolReady #ad

My boys are getting close to preschool age, and many days nap time is replaced by quiet time. I've been wanting to give them a cozy space for quiet time that would foster their love of books, so I decided to turn a corner of our playroom into a reading corner. And I found a really easy way to fill our reading corner with free books, just by buying products we already use!

I decided to put together our reading corner after a trip to Wal-Mart, where we find all our favorite cereals and snacks. I noticed the boxes that said, "Free Book" - how could I not check it out? 

Kellogg's is helping to spread the love of reading to all families by offering free kid's books when you purchase specially marked products. 1 Kellogg's product = 1 free, full-length Scholastic book, and each person can redeem up to 30 books. What an awesome deal - free books just for buying the foods we love anyway! 



When we got home, it was super easy to redeem our products for free books. We logged on to the website listed on the box, created a free Kellogg's Family Rewards account, and entered the codes that we found inside each box. Then we picked our books! It only took a couple of minutes. You just have to redeem your code for a free Scholastic book within 14 days of purchase (no matter when you purchase the item). Trust me, we couldn't wait that long!

The hardest part was choosing from one of the 80 titles that are offered from beginning readers to teens. There's even Spanish and e-books too. We found some of our favorites like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Peppa Pig, plus we picked out a really cool Animals book that I know the boys will love.



Just a couple of clicks and our new books are on their way - shipped free of charge and arriving within 6-8 weeks (though most come much sooner).

In addition to building your own library, you can choose to donate a book to your local school, shipped directly to the school with a note showing that your family has donated. How great is that!

While we're waiting for our books, we put together our reading corner. I cleared out a really sunny spot in the playroom - I love to have natural light for reading. I added a soft rug, some floor pillows, and our big snuggly bear. If you don't have a giant bear, you can just use heaps of pillows or a small soft chair.

Then I added the most important element, books! I found a nice big basket so we have lots of room for all of our free books. 


I also added a basket of stuffed animal friends for snuggling and play. Emerging readers can build confidence by practicing reading aloud to their stuffed friends and pre-readers enjoy acting out their stories with animal friends.


And no reading corner would be complete without snacks! I included some Frosted Mini-Wheats, Nutri-Grain bars, bananas, and Rice Krispies. We love to dip our bananas in Rice Krispies for a fun crunchy treat.


Our reading corner is complete! I'm so excited to have a quiet space dedicated to spending time with our books. Having a special spot for reading will really encourage my boys to spend time with their books to grow their love of reading.


Building our reading corner, and our personal library, could not be easier thanks to Kellogg's. Be sure to check out all the choices here.

We've updated our book storage in our reading corner! See the new solution here.



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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

5 Cheap Summer Fun Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Cheap summer fun ideas to keep the kids entertained and your wallet happy.

5 cheap ideas for summer fun! Free activities, low cost movies, and more to help keep kids busy all summer long. You'll love these awesome ideas and you won't hear "I'm bored" again!


Summer is almost half over. How is that possible? By now, hopefully you've done a few things on your summer bucket list and you may even be starting to hear "I'm bored..." once in a while. But summer fun doesn't need to break the bank! I've got some free summer activities and low cost ideas to help you keep the kids entertained well into August. 

5 cheap ideas for summer fun! Free activities, low cost movies, and more to help keep kids busy all summer long. You'll love these awesome ideas and you won't hear "I'm bored" again!

5 Cheap Summer Fun Ideas for Kids


Kids Bowl Free - Have you checked this out? Sign up and kids receive 2 free games of bowling each day at a participating center all summer long. This is perfect for play dates and even a summer birthday! Find a center here.

Dollar Movies - Regal Entertainment Group is offering $1 kids movies every Tuesday & Wednesday this summer. There are some super fun films that I know my kids are looking forward to seeing! Find your theatre here.

Kid's Craft Classes - AC Moore is offering craft classes for kids on Wednesday afternoons in the summer. They have some really cool projects planned! Check it out here.

Go to a Museum - Museums are great in the summer, especially on those hot days when you need an air conditioned activity. The Penny Hoarder has a great post on taking advantage of free museum days to help you save money. Before you go, check out these tips for taking kids to museums from Letters in the Sand.

Take Them out to a Ball Game - We love baseball games, as I wrote about this week in our 5 Stadiums in 5 Days Road Trip. But major league baseball games for a family are a pricey outing. Try a minor league game instead! You can see big talent before they are famous (and sometimes stars rehabbing) at a fraction of the big league prices. Find your local team and check out their promotions - most offer kids' clubs with special perks or even free tickets to kids in Little League uniforms.

Need more ideas? Check out our Printable Summer Bucket List with 50 classic ideas for summer fun!
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: 5 Stadiums in 5 Days



We're a big baseball family. My husband and I have made it a goal to visit every major league ballpark in our lifetime. We're making progress! Living on the East Coast, it was easy for us to start our journey with a little road trip. We took a week off and went to 5 major league games in 5 different ballparks. It was the best vacation of our lives! Here's how we did it.


This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

Depending on team schedules, you may be able to do this in 5 days straight. Ours was actually 6, which worked out well because we got to visit a few sights in between. I'll give you our itinerary and the low down on a couple great things to do in each city.


Day 1: Washington Nationals at Nationals Park

This is our home turf so we started here. Nationals Park is a beautiful stadium that is relatively new. We love watching the Nationals and if Bryce Harper is playing you are almost guaranteed to get some excitement.

At the ballpark:  Get a half smoke from the famous Ben's Chili Bowl and don't miss the President's Race, where the giant Presidential mascots run the bases.

In the city:  One of the best parts about visiting Washington is that most of the monuments and museums are free! If you're traveling with kids, the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum are always big hits.


Day 2: Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards

Just a quick hour's drive from DC (depending on traffic of course) is Baltimore's Camden Yards. This is my favorite ballpark and the first one I ever visited. Camden Yards is open and inviting and great for families.

At the ballpark:  Don't miss Boog's BBQ and be sure to stop at the Sports Legends Museum just outside the gates.

In the city:  The Inner Harbor is the place to go! Kids will love the Baltimore Aquarium and depending on your timing, a harbor lunch or dinner cruise.


Day 3: Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park

Head 2 hours north to Philadelphia to catch the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, a nice newer stadium with wide concourses.

At the ballpark:  Get a cheesesteak (when in Rome, right?) and look for the Philly Phanatic, the team's monster mascot for great photos with the kids.

In the city:  Check out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell for a real slice of American history. For something really offbeat, older kids will like the Mutter Museum (not for little ones or the squeamish).


Day 4: New York Mets at Citi Field

Another 2 hours north and you're in New York to see the Mets at the new Citi Field! It was still under construction on our trip (we went to Shea Stadium) and I can't wait to check it out.

At the ballpark:  The big red apple from Shea Stadium, a Mets trademark, was replicated for Citi Field. See it rise every time a Mets player hits a home run!

In the city:  Flushing Meadows Corona Park is right next door! Have a picnic in New York's second largest park.


Day 5: New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium

Cap off your whirlwind baseball road trip by seeing the Yankees in their new home.

At the ballpark:  There's a lot to see and do in the most expensive ballpark ever built. Visit the New York Yankees Museum and Monument Park for a bit of baseball history, or enjoy a good NY steak if you're tired of hot dogs.

In the city:  It's New York! You can do just about anything you can imagine.

And be sure to save your baseball memories with our DIY Handprint Baseball.



This trip is just one in a series of Summer Road Trip Ideas from some of my favorite bloggers! Click here for more great summer road trips from around the country and the globe!

Planning a vacation? You need our Family Travel Planner! Click here to check it out.

Taking a road trip with little kids? Read my Tips for Road Trips with Toddlers before you go.
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gruffalo Party Food Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Easy Gruffalo party food ideas your kids will love!

A Gruffalo Birthday Party Menu! Fabulous ideas for kid friendly food based on The Gruffalo.

I am busy planning my twins' third birthday party - I can't believe how time flies! I love throwing parties and one of my favorite things to do is match our food to our theme. This year, we're having a party at a local nature center based on my boys' current favorite book - The Gruffalo! I've come up with some really easy ideas for Gruffalo party food that I know everyone will love.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Quick and Easy Ramen Pasta Salad

Quick and easy ramen pasta salad. Kid approved pasta salad that cooks  in minutes and tastes delicious!

Cold pasta salads are always my go to dishes for summer potlucks. They also make a great simple lunch or dinner when it's just too hot to cook. There's something about ramen that my kids just love - and I love how quick it is to cook! We had a potluck to go to so I pulled this together - all the kids loved it and it was super fast and easy to make.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

DIY Ideas That Save You Money on the Frugal Family

Great ideas for money saving DIY essential oils, cleaning products, and more!

I love when I can make something myself for pennies that I would otherwise buy. Besides saving money, you can often avoid harmful chemicals and additives when you go the do it yourself route. This week's Frugal Family features great DIY ideas that save you money and are good for you too!



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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Introducing Learn with Play: 150+ Activities for Year-Round Fun & Learning

Learn with Play: 150+ Activities for Year-Round Fun & Learning, the new collaborative book filled with kid's activities from your favorite bloggers!

I am so excited to write this. I'm an author!! Today, Learn with Play: 150+ Activities for Year-Round Fun & Learning is being released, and I am one of the contributors!

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Monday, July 6, 2015

In the Unlikely Event: Moms Book Club for July

Mom's Book Nook: a monthly virtual book club for moms! Join us in July to read and discuss In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

I have been a big reader for as long as I can remember. and as an adult I've loved being part of a monthly book club! There's nothing better than getting together with a group of girlfriends and a glass of wine to chat over a new book. Since I've had my boys I don't make it to book club enough, which is why I'm so excited to be joining my friend Meghan at Playground Parkbench to host a virtual book club just for moms!


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Friday, July 3, 2015

Keep Kids Reading with Summer Book Crafts & Activities


Summer is a great time to kick back, play outside, travel, and enjoy life a little more. Kids are out of school and schedules are relaxed. But that doesn't mean we should stop reading! Numerous studies have shown that kids who stop reading over the summer can lose up to 3 months of progress, and the loss is cumulative. But this "summer slide" doesn't have to happen! Keep kids reading all summer long with these fun book inspired activities and crafts, plus some recommendations for fun summer reading.

This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Policy for details.

Summer Book Activities & Crafts

Glow in the Dark Ocean Bottle based on Secrets of the Seashore

Underwater Doggies 1,2,3 (perfect for the water table!)

Read & Play with Mrs. Wishy Washy's Farm (another great outdoor activity)

Little Blue Truck Sensory Bin (try this in the sandbox!)

Shark Sight Words - Growing Book by Book

Dr. Seuss CVC Words (with One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish) - Dabbling Momma

Island Sensory Play - Teach Beside Me

Paper Plate Shark Visor - Letters in the Sand

Want more? Check out 50+ book activities & crafts here!


Summer Book Lists

Stop the summer slide with fun book activities and crafts for kids! Find books to keep kids reading all summer long.

Summer Books for Kids of All Ages - Superheroes and Teacups

20 Best Books About Beaches for Children - The Jenny Evolution

Books About the Ocean - Cutting Tiny Bites

Books About Bikes - Growing Book by Book

Want more? Find 70 book lists on all subjects here.

For more ideas on how to keep kids reading all summer, check out 7 Tips for Fun Summer Reading by Busy Moms Helper.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recycled Crafts & Activities Plus Top June Posts from the Frugal Family

Recycled crafts & activities that are low cost, easy and fun! Great ideas for families & kids.

I love recycled crafts & activities. There is nothing better (and more frugal!) than taking something that you would normally throw away and turning it into something new! This week we're featuring some really cool recycled crafts and activities that I think you will love!



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