Tag Archives: summer

Lunchbox Trivia

16 Jul

We’re at the halfway point in the summer and I swear, when I look at the kids I can practically see their brains starting to turn to mush.  The enthusiasm for my summer reading challenge has waned, interest in math games is lukewarm at best, and they’re onto my efforts to trick them into writing and spelling.  The standard response to the suggestion of any activity is to squint and look me square in the eyes, trying to determine whether there might be any subversive learning lurking behind the activity.

Guess what?  There is.

To combat the mid-summer learning slump, I decided to make up a new game that relies heavily on two facts:

  1. If there is a LAFFY TAFFY JOKE or FORTUNE COOKIE around, a kid will read it.  Even when they don’t quite get the jokes or when the fortune is too confusing, they’ll still read it.  They read it to themselves, share it with me, and run off to show it to another kid.  Every. Single. Time.  So if short bits of information in a sharable way is what they like?  We can do that.
  2. Kids love a scratch-off game.  There’s a tiny thrill in that moment before the reveal.  Very tiny, but still, it’s there.

This week we’re combining both of those facts into scratch-off trivia cards.  Each morning, the kids will choose a trivia card to place in their lunchbox.  At lunchtime, they can scratch the top of the card to reveal the question, then the bottom half to discover the answer.  In order to qualify for a new card the next day, they need to bring the card home to read it to me.  Simple idea and not very hard to make, I think the kids are going to like them.  Even if they don’t find all of the facts interesting or don’t know many of the answers, I can guarantee that they will like scratching off the ticket each day to reveal that day’s questions and answers.

To make your own lunchbox trivia cards, you’ll need:

  • A list of questions and answers
  • Lunchbox Trivia Cards Printable sheet
  • Colored cardstock (cut into 2.25″ x 3.75″ rectangles)
  • Clear packing tape
  • Pen
  • Acrylic metallic paint
  • Dish soap
  • Paintbrush

To start, I made a list of questions that I thought would be age-appropriate, that would interest my kids, or that I thought they should know.  Not every card will hit the mark perfectly, but that’s the beauty of providing info in this way.  Don’t care who invented the cotton gin?  Try again tomorrow!

Once you have a list of questions and answers, print the trivia card sheet and add your own information.  Cut out each card and adhere it to the construction paper rectangles using packing tape.  Most packing tape is just under 2″ wide which will cover the entire surface of the trivia card, with enough room to adhere it onto the colored backing.  Center it if you can and smooth out any wrinkles with your fingernail.

According to Martha Stewart, to create perfect scratch-off paint, mix 2 parts metallic paint with 1 part dish soap.  Not one to argue, I did exactly that and it worked out fine.  Apply the paint mixture over the question and answer on each card.  I applied 2 coats on each one, letting it dry between each layer (about 30-45 minutes drying time with each layer).  I tried both thick and thin layers and found that it didn’t matter much.  You’ll need to keep applying layers or paint until the words are covered, so give each a try and do whatever works best for you.

Print it: Lunchbox Trivia Cards (15 per sheet)

P.S. If you decide to make these cards and find that about halfway through you feel like you are a chump for doing the project and I am a double-chump for suggesting it, try watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries while you complete the project.  It helps, trust me.

Bourbon Peach Tea with Mint

12 Jul

This summer while we were in Texas, we were lucky enough to visit the Garrison Brothers Distillery.  It is a lovely spot, and I’ll tell you what, they make some mighty fine bourbon.  It is smooth, delicious, and if you find yourself in the Texas Hill Country, it is well worth the visit.  While we were there, we attended the Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner fund-raising event for The Hye Preservation Society, the highlight of which was a super refreshing bourbon cocktail.  I could have sat there all day, in the shade, listening to music, and sipping away on that bourbon-laden goodness.

Bourbon Peach Tea with Mint, you are mine.

I’m not exactly sure how they made theirs, and I wasn’t stealthy enough to snag the recipe.  But since I had that first sip, I’ve been busy trying to recreate it.  I knew that the tea and mint parts of the recipe would be easiest, so I set out to tackle the peach portion first.  I wanted a really full peach flavor, but without a whole lot of effort.  I started out by making my own peach puree, then tried canned nectar, and finally settled in on the version that was easiest and lowest in calories – diet peach tea drink mix.  Lipton makes a really tasty diet peach tea mix that is only 5 calories per serving, and tastes just as peachy as the versions that require more effort and are higher in calories.  So while it is the least natural of the options I tried, easy and low-cal won out this time.

Now I’m no bourbon expert, but there’s one thing I know for sure – it is a crying shame to drink really expensive bourbon in any other way than served over ice and sipped VERY, VERY SLOWLY.  When deciding which bourbon to use for this cocktail, I decided to go with Maker’s Mark.  It is different than the bourbon distilled at Garrison Brothers, but it is still very tasty.  I love to use it in cocktails and cooking, and it’s perfect in this one.  Any bourbon could be used in this recipe, so if you have another favorite, feel free to use it.

Other than the tea, peach flavor, and bourbon – the only other thing you need for this cocktail is some fresh mint.  Throw a small handful of leaves in the bottom of a glass and muddle it, which is basically smashing it around a bit to release some of the mint flavor.  You want to just mash it slightly so that it is a bit darker in color, somewhat limp, and smells minty.

So good, so easy, and very refreshing.  Enjoy.

Bourbon Peach Tea with Mint
Serving size: 1 tall, cool drink of summer
Serves: 1

Glass filled with ice
Handful of fresh mint leaves
8 oz. water
1 T. Lipton Diet Peach Tea Drink Mix
1-1/2 oz. bourbon

Muddle mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass.  Fill glass with ice cubes.

In a separate container, mix together the water and peach tea drink mix until well combined.  Pour over ice, and add bourbon.  Stir gently and serve.

Estimated calories:  110 cal/serving

Print it: Bourbon Peach Tea with Mint

Healthy Summer Challenge

12 Jun

As an adult, the connection between food (what and how much) and exercise (how much and how often) and how I feel is something that I can clearly see.  The more I eat and the less I move, the worse I feel.  Sometimes those feelings are physical like an upset stomach or discomfort in clothing that does not fit as well as it used to.  Other times, those feelings come in the form about how I feel about myself.  It seems like common sense that by eating the right amounts of good foods and exercising regularly, you are giving yourself the best possible chances for feeling healthy, strong, and comfortable in your own body.  And while it is common sense, it doesn’t always come easily and it rarely happens without thought and effort.

As a parent, I struggle with how to talk to my kids about health and nutrition in a way that is both age appropriate and positive.  We started last year by using the Lunch Log as a way to help illustrate the different factors that go into a making and eating a healthy meal.  In a worksheet format, the Lunch Log can help a kid to make sure they are eating something from each of the major food groups and getting some variety along the way.  In our family, tracking meals helped the kids to understand that while they like apples and it is a healthy choice, mixing up the kids of foods and vegetables that you choose helps to give your body different nutrients.  Full disclosure: they were more interested in eating something from each of the color groups so that they could use more  markers, than they were with the nutrients that those foods provided.  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  At this age, seeking and consuming variety is a lot more important than understanding the nutritional value that each option provides.

Lately I’ve noticed that we’ve gotten into a bit of a food rut, and this led to some interesting discussion about making healthy choices.  The more we talked about health and wellness, the more I realized that two of the hardest parts about living a healthy life are AWARENESS and CONSISTENCY.  While it is not that hard to plan out a healthy lunch, it is just one part of a day that is just one part of a week and so on.  And of course, when you start to look at the big picture, the focus moves off of just food and onto the other stuff you do for yourself that helps you to feel good.

To help us to take a look at what we’re doing to help ourselves be healthy and feel good, we’re putting into action the:

Healthy Summer Challenge

And because we’re nothing if not competitive, we’re making it into a game with prizes.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Fill out a Healthy Summer Challenge Form (example below, printable page at the bottom).
  2. Write down the basic information in each category to show what you ate, what you did for exercise, and how much water you consumed.
  3. Give each category a rating from 1-10 (10 is high) to show how you think you did that day.  Making pretty good food choices for a day could give you a 8 or a 9.  Eating a bunch of junk would warrant a low number.  These ratings are subjective.
  4. Add any Notes for Tomorrow to help you to identify things you might like to do differently.  This gives each person the chance to reflect on the day and determine if there is a positive change to make for the next day.
  5. Add the date and the person’s name to the bottom, then drop it in a bucket.
  6. Once a week, draw a slip from the bucket to select a winner.
  7. The winner gets to select a prize from the Healthy Summer Challenge Prize Pack.
  8. All remaining slips stay in the bucket, earning more chances to win.
  9. One entry per person, per day.

For our Prize Pack, I selected a few things that would encourage activities, stuff they’ve been begging for, and items I knew would catch their attention.  Also, I made an effort to choose items that did not use food or inactivity as the reward (except for the Mad Libs, they are on the sedentary side).

We’re one week into the Challenge and so far, they’re doing great.  I’ve set the Prize Pack up like a display so that they can stare down the options while they decide whether or not it is worth it to fill out the form.  And once they have the form in hand, they want to make choices that will give them a higher rating.  And although I won’t tell them, my plan to get them to be more aware of their choices is working.

As the summer progresses, I anticipate that their interest in filling out the slips will wane.  As that happens, I may throw bonus options into the mix:

  1. Bonus form for the person who has the most activity in a single week
  2. Bonus form for the person who plans and makes a healthy meal
  3. Super prize, like an afternoon at the water park
  4. Double-prize award

Want to have a Challenge at your house?  Download and print the form below.  Each sheet includes four slips – print and cut the sheet into quarters.

Print it: healthy summer challenge slips

If you participate, let us know!  We’d love to hear your ideas for bonus options, prizes, and how it works at your house.

The Poolside Companion | 2012 Summer Reading List

15 May

A mild winter combined with 80’s in the forecast has me daydreaming about tattered paperbacks and sunscreen aromatherapy.  While Memorial Day will most likely mark my first sunburn of the season, I’m kicking off summer reading early.  This summer, my list includes old favorites, all books I haven’t read in ages, with a penchant for the slightly trashy.  These books are best in paperback, improve when splashed with chlorine or marked with sunscreen fingerprints.  And as long as you’re packing for the pool or beach, might as well load up the cooler with a drink that is book worthy.

The Poolside Companion: Trash, Tragedy, and Thirst

Valley of the Dolls | Jacqueline Susann
Published in 1966, this book follows a group of women over a twenty year time period marked by affairs, occasional fame, and pills (or DOLLS to you, 1966).
Drink Pairing: Vodka on the rocks

Rebecca | Daphne du Maurier
I first read this book in high school, having picked it up at a garage sale.  I remember nothing about the book, except thinking that it was a shockingly good for a garage sale find.  Love, mystery, and deception – the perfect poolside trifecta.
Drink Pairing: Port

Flowers in the Attic | V.C. Andrews
As a teenager, this was one of several books I read in secret, knowing that my mom would never allow it.  Hard to imagine how she could disapprove of children being locked in an attic, inappropriate relationships, and being called names like “the devil’s spawn.”
Drink Pairing: Wine Cooler

The Sixteen Pleasures | Robert Hellenga
Just after the waters of the Arno rose to flood the streets of Florence, book conservator Margot travels to offer her assistance in restoring works damaged by water and mud.  Art, books, and Florence, oh my.
Drink Pairing: Chianti

Prince of Tides | Pat Conroy
If you have never read anything by Pat Conroy, you are in for quite a treat.  A story filled with love, tragedy, and great characters, this book is beautifully written and will make you feel as though you’ve spent some time on the South Carolina coast.
Drink Pairing: Salty Dog (Highball with salted rim filled with ice + 2 oz gin + 4 oz grapefruit juice)

Still Woman Enough | Loretta Lynn
I love Loretta Lynn.  Love, love, love her.  This book is what I imagine is exactly what it would be like to sit at the kitchen table and have a long conversation together.
Drink Pairing: Shot of Whiskey

Blue Dahlia | Nora Roberts
Love, ghosts, and a little gardening.  Not usually one to choose a romance novel, I whipped through this book in no time.  And the next two in the series just a few days later.
Drink Pairing: Baby Blue (Highball filled with ice + 1-1/2 oz Blue Curacao + Diet Ginger Ale)

Skinny Legs and All | Tom Robbins
If you have never read anything by Tom Robbins let me start by saying this – his books are weird.  Weird, and awesome, and interesting, and filled with well-written sentences (unlike this one).
Drink Pairing: Skinny Ginger (Highball filled with ice + 1-1/2 oz 2GINGERS Whiskey + Diet Ginger Ale)

Prayer for Owen Meany | John Irving
The first book by John Irving I ever read, this book became a fast favorite.  It was over this book that I found a lifelong friend and developed a fondness for armadillos.
Drink Pairing: BOOZY ICED COFFEE (Lowball filled with ice + 2 oz iced coffee + 1/2 oz bourbon + 1/2 oz Baileys)

Kitchen Confidential | Anthony Bourdain
If you’ve ever spent any time working in a restaurant, this book will make you feel nostalgic for days filled with fast-paced work and late-nights spent drinking and smoking.
Drink Pairing: Six pack of beer

Too hard to remember all of these things?  It is summer, baby, but don’t break a sweat thinking about it.  I’ve made you a handy bookmark-sized reading and cocktail list.  Tuck it in your book and head to the liquor store, it’s time for summer to begin.

Print it: The Poolside Companion Bookmark


P.S. Are you using Goodreads?  If so, join our summer reading group “The Poolside Companion“.  All of the books on this list have been added to the group bookshelf.  From there, you can add any of the books to your own bookshelf, start a discussion, or suggest other pool-worthy books.

JUMP: Summer 2011 Playlist

4 Aug

I have very fond memories of summers as a teenager – laying out at the lake, slicked up with baby oil for the optimum tan, lemon juice in my hair to try to encouraged sun-kissed highlights in my brunette permed hair, Poison blasting from the boombox.  Now that I’m an adult, some things have changed – I no longer have the time to dedicate to the pursuit of the perfect tan, baby oil has been replaced with SPF one million, and I finally have the streaky hair I always desired thanks to my hair stylist (who does not use lemon juice).  But the one thing that has not changed is that I still love to hear music blasting through the summer air, even when it no longer pours out of a boombox.

This mix is perfect for the summertime – for both kids and adults.  It is guaranteed to enhance your tan, make you jump the wake just a bit higher, and will totally streak your hair. [Note: it will do none of those things]

Big Awesome Bonus: Martin wrote the poem on the cover of this playlist.  I said, “It’s terrific.”  He answered, “It’s just what I do, mom.”  He was talking about the activities, but I meant the attitude. 

Printable CD Cover (designed for slim jewel cases): JUMP Summer 2011 Printable Playlist

Shelf Markers

28 Jun

We’ve been very lucky over the years to amass quite a collection of books.  It seems like everywhere we turn, there are stacks and piles on counters, in bags, and next to beds.  After collecting books from all kinds of places and attempting to organize them on shelves, it occurred to me just how many books have been going unread.  Books that used to be old favorites have been replaced by new ones, some that we’ve read a few times were set aside in favor of books from the library.  And while I’m not too particular about WHAT the kids are reading, and am mostly just glad that they ARE reading, I felt like we’ve been neglecting a pretty good collection. 

“Bet you couldn’t read every book on these shelves this summer,” I said.

“Bet I could,” answered Sophie.

And that bet turned into our own summer reading program – Shelf Markers. 

We made a deal – read an entire shelf of books, and I’ll pay $10.00.  They could organize the books in any way they wanted, as long as all the books in our collection were placed on one of three shelves.  After much discussion, they settled on placing the longest books all on one shelf, and split the rest of the books so that there would be subjects of interest to both kids on each of the two remaining shelves.  They determined the best strategy would be to try to fully complete one shelf at a time in order to maximize the payout. 

To track our progress, we made Shelf Markers.  As each book is finished, it is placed to the left of the Shelf Marker and the name of the book is written on the back.  This allows us to get a quick visual for how far we’ve come, and the names on the back eliminate the temptation to try to trick me into thinking we’ve read more than we actually have.

The kids and I all take turns reading the books, mostly depending on how tired we are.  So far, we’re only issuing credit for those books we’re reading aloud, but that could change as the summer progresses.  I’m all about following the rules, even when they are self-imposed and new ones are created frequently.

An artistic note: we made our Shelf Markers using manilla folders, crayons, pencils, and markers.  We chose to make them into the shape of arms because we wanted them to be long enough to stand out past the books on the shelves, and once we got started, they just looked armlike, so we added hands.  I’m sure lots of great art is created that way.