A Grandma's spin on crafts, games, recipes & lifestyle

Month: July 2021

Blackberry Festival Family Date Night

Are you trying to squeeze the last bit of family fun into the remaining days of summer?  Why not plan a family date night?  Our family headed out to Wild Blackberry Farms for the inaugural Blackberry Festival.   While it can be difficult (but oh so worth it!) to find a night that works in everyone’s schedule, this was so worth the planning of our Blackberry Festival family date night!

I’ve had many people ask me how we knew about this particular festival.  I agree that it is hard to know about every fun event around you, but it led me to look into festival informational sites.  Each state has many local resources, but I also found a couple of sites that you can search all 50 states….

Blackberry Festival Family Date Night Activities ~

U-Pick Blackberries ~

This particular festival was a smaller fare, but not short on fun family activities.  We started out with the U-pick blackberries.  I wasn’t sure how much the younger ones would enjoy this part, but they loved it!  We had a quick lesson on which berries were ready to pick and everyone headed out with their buckets.  They had so much fun searching the rows for the ripest berries!  Also important here is that it kept them entertained for quite a long time!

What was even better was they could pick down low on their own while also enjoying a little help up from the family members.

Face Painting ~

This is the part of the festival that the littles were looking forward to the most.  In fact, it was so much fun that kids AND adults got in on the fun.  Aunt Karleigh and Pappy had their faces painted to match the kids, which made them so happy!

Food Trucks, Family Games, Petting Zoo, Photo Opps ~

Whether you are on a diet or not, you HAVE to eat the festival food!  Am I right?   So many yummy choices from lemon shakeups to bbq sandwiches of all kinds!  Of course, if you look closely at this picture you will see that some blackberries were definitely enjoyed along the way as well!

Other Family Date Night Ideas ~

While I definitely recommend festivals for a fun family date night, don’t let that keep you from planning other fun activities.  Plan a family date night once a month.  This a routine that will defnitely help to forge strong family bonds.  **On these special nights, be sure to put those phones out of place and concentrate on the family unit!

Family Date Night Ideas ~
  • Park Hopping – take a bit of time to map out local parks and go to several of them in one day.  It’s so much fun to see what equipment each park has to offer and discover which is each child’s favorite.
  • Splash Party – Put those bathing suits on…you too parents…and have some good old water fun.  Have plenty of squirt guns, water balloons, maybe a slip and slide and a small kids pool (for both swimming and refilling those water guns) on hand.
  • Bowling – Have you done this in a while?  For some reason we had ventured away from bowling and recently got back to it….the kids LOVE to bowl!
  • Scavenger Hunt – You can plan a scavenger hunt in your own house or yard or better yet, break off into teams and run around the neighborhood looking for items.
  • Glow in the Dark Fun – Purchase some glow sticks and glow jewelry (they almost always have them at the Dollar Store) and turn out all the lights for some fun family glow in the dark fun!  Add in some dancing or hide and seek!
  • Backyard Movies – There is a large assortment of video projectors available.  I do suggest going ahead and purchasing one with a screen as well.  I tried the cheaper route at first and tried to use a white sheet…the image wasn’t sharp enough with that.  Check out this video projector with screen for outdoor family fun!

  • Family Cooking – Plan, Cook and Eat the meal together.  Be sure to let the little ones help with the cooking…they will love it.  For extra fun, add some fun candles and pick some flowers from the yard for a beautifully set table.
  • Dance Party – You guys, this is a win-win here!  Not only will there be lots of giggles, but it’s a good workout too!
  • Family Puzzle – My all-time favorite puzzles are the ones that have different size pieces so everyone can take part in the puzzle.  Check out this fun family puzzle with small, medium, and large sized pieces! 

  •  Family Room Sleepover – Gather ALL of the blankets and pillows and make a big living room fort…but you also ALL have to sleep in it!  Have fun!

These are just a few fun ideas to create family fun.  The most important part of all of it is that everyone engages, you add in some good munchies and put down those phones.  Have some laugh until your belly aches fun with those kids!

Back To Those Yummy Blackberries ~

The fun continues as we decide what yummy recipes we are going to make with our buckets of blackberries.  Of course, we head straight to Pinterest!  Wow!  Seriously, do a quick search on blackberry recipes!  How do you decide on what you want to make?  I think I may have to figure out how to succesfully plant our own blackberry patch because I want to make SO MANY of these recipes!

This time around we are going with the Old Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler.  I prefer the cobblers where you cook the berries like this recipe from Saving Room for Dessert…Old Fasioned Blackberry Cobbler by Saving Room for Dessert.  I will be sure to let you know how it turns out!

Cheeres to each of you enjoying the rest of your summer and some good family fun!

From Our Family to Yours ~

~Mimi

 

 

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing!

You may already have a scalloped potato recipe that you love.  However, do yourself and your family a favor and give this recipe a try!  Then once you try it, please come back and let me know if it is the new family favorite.  This recipe has been handed down through my family for years, and I decided to be very nice and share.  These, my friends, are cheesy scalloped potatoes that are ahhh…mazing!

It’s been a family debate over whether we should share special recipes.  One common belief is that if you keep the recipe secret everyone looks forward to you  bringing that special dish to family gatherings, right?  While this is indeed true, I am here to attest that your are still thought of when someone else makes your recipes.  I can’t tell you how many times I have made a special dish and stated to everyone, “Now you guys are going to love this because it is so and so’s famous recipe!”

Helpful Tips ~

There are a couple of different secrets I am going to share with you.  Mainly, just because I’m a nice gal! 😏

  1. This recipe is best if you cut the potato slices thicker.  You may be asking yourself, “If I make them thick, how can I ensure they will get done all the way when baking?”  There, my friend, is the first secret.  You need to parboil your slices.  Parboiling can be tricky because if you overcook them they will get too soft.  I truly can’t give you a specific amount of time needed because it depends on how many potatoes you are using.  I use the old fashioned fork test.  After about 5 minutes of boiling, I consistently and gently poke one of the potatoes with the fork to see if it is slightly soft.
  2. You are going to cook the sauce over the stove and then pour it over the potatoes in 2 layers.  Many people just layer cold cheese, however, by making a sauce you are creating a much more flavorful and saucy potato dish.
  3. Timing everything while cooking is one of the hardest things to learn for new cooks.  Once you put your potatoes on to parboil, you should start your cheese sauce.

How to Make Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes ~

Ingredients ~
  • 10-15 Medium Sized Russet Potatoes – sliced thick
  • 32 Ounce Block (2 lb) Colby Cheese -cubed
  • 2 Cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 Cans Milk (using cream of mushroom soup can)
  • Salt & Pepper – to taste
Directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Peel and slice potatoes.                                                                                                                                                   
  3. Parboil sliced potatoes for 10-15 minutes.  Check for softness with fork starting at about 5 minutes.  The time needed will vary according to thickness of potatoes.  You want them to be slightly soft.
  4. While potatoes are boiling cut cheese into cubes.                                                                   
  5. Mix cheese cubes, soup and milk in pan.  Cook over medium heat until completely melted, stirring occasionally so mixture doesn’t burn.                                                                                                                                                   
  6. Spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
  7. Drain potatoes.  Place half of cooked potatoes in casserole dish.
  8. Top with half of cheese mixture and salt and pepper to taste.                                                                 
  9. Layer remaining potatoes on top of cheese mixture and then top with remaining cheese.  Sprinkle again with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  We like ours with the cheese browned quite a bit so I bake it for the longer amount of time.
More Tips for those Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing ~
  • If your casserole dish is filled to the top, place it on a foil lined baking sheet to catch spillage of cheese as it melts.
  • Since parboiling potatoes can be tricky to get the perfect consistency, I always insert a fork into my casserole when done to ensure they are completely cooked through.  If they still seem a bit hard but your top is browned, put foil over them and bake for 15 minutes or so longer.
  • Since you are parboiling the potatoes, there is no reason to cover with foil when first baking.  However, see bullet above for example of when you may need foil.

I get requests to make this recipe ALL THE TIME.  I sometimes feel like I should stop making them for awhile because I don’t want people to get bored with the side dishes.  However, they just keep requesting them.  This alone tells you how awesome they really are!

Also, if you are thinking that your family may not like them because it is Cream of Mushroom soup, stop thinking that right now.  If it is that big of an issue just don’t let them know what is in it.  I promise you that once you make that cheese sauce, they will have NO idea!

What’s even better is that these potatoes can be paired with so many different meat items.  In fact, they would go awesome with the Smoked Poor Man Burnt Ends that I wrote about…see that by clicking here!  Heck, there are times we warm them up the next day (that is IF there are any leftovers) and have just potatoes for dinner!

As always, good food keeps people coming back….so be sure to give this one a try!

Printable Version of Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes that are Ahhh…mazing ~

Happy Cooking ~

Mimi

Shark Week 2021

It’s almost here guys!  Shark Week 2021 begins July 11 and we are pumped!!!  Are you ready for an exciting week filled with new reasearch on the  amazing world of sharks?  For the 33rd year, Discovery Channel will be airing programs hosted by many celebrities to help us better understand the behavior of sharks and respect the “fin-tastic” world they live in!

It was a bit of a struggle for me to find a schedule of all the programs to be aired in a nice little chart format.  I’ve finally decided that I have looked so hard for it on the Discovery channel that at this point I am staring right at it and not seeing it.  I’m sure you understand what I am saying, right?  Further search led me to the TV Insider website where I found a layout by days of the week that I felt is easy to follow.  Click here to see the TV Insider nicely laid out Shark Week schedule…

Of course, how do we completely enjoy this special week without some fun food and crafts to go along with it???  We started a few crafts early so we could share with everyone.  Read through some of the old posts as well as this new one to bring some jaw-some fun to Shark Week 2021!

Shark Week 2021 Crafts ~

Starting with the old posts first, “dive in” to some of these below to start gathering ideas for fun food and crafts:

Now, let’s move forward to the first of this year’s crafts.  The paper plate shark puppet made a real “splash” with the kiddos.  One of the things I learned while doing these is you need to think ahead when painting anything so that you leave time for them to dry (especially because kids tend to paint very thick).  Keep this in mind when working on the one!

Items Needed ~

  • Paper Plate
  • Hole Punch
  • Paint (colors of your choice)
  • Paint Brushes
  • Yarn
  • Marker
  • Googly Eyes
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Wax Paper or Newspaper
  • Hot Glue
  • Popsicle Stick or Tongue DepressorHot

Instructions for Paper Plate Shark ~

  1. Cut the middle ring of the paper plate out.  Save this piece as you will be using it to make parts of the shark.
  2. Draw lines as shown in this figure below.  All sections will be used to complete the craft.  As always, don’t worry about perfection here.  They will turn out adorable, I promise!                                                       
  3. Cut along all lines.  The bottom curved section be used for the mouth (which you will cut teeth into).  The other 3 sections will be used for pectoral and dorsal fins.   This is why I stress perfection is not key.  Let the kids do the cutting!                               
  4. Spread out a long sheet of wax paper (or newspaper) for this next step.  We used another paper plate and squirted colors of choice on the plates for kids to work from.  Lay each of the sections of the paper plate across the wax paper and let the kids start painting.  Encourage them to get creative!                                                                                                                                                         
  5. Let all painted pieces dry.  We moved on to another craft (shown below) while we “patiently” waited for our works of art to dry.                                                                                                                                                                                               
  6. Once dry, punch holes along the inside rim of the paper plate.   Make at least 8 to 10 holes.
  7. Cut long strands of yarn of choice.  You don’t want these to be too long or it will be hard for the kids to work with.  We cut them about 12 to 18″.
  8. String yarn up through one hole in the plate.  Pull completely through until you have a small section (about 1/2″) left on the underside of the plate.  Tape that section down to the bottom of the plate to hold yarn in place.   
  9. It is very helpful if you tie a knot in the end of the yarn that the kids are holding and pulling through the holes.  This helps their little fingers to get it through the holes better and also helps with the yarn fraying.     
  10. Have them continue to pull the yarn up and down through the holes (working from inside the plate) until they have a small section of yarn left.  Tape that section to the bottom of the plate too.  You can then stop there or if they want to “sew” some more, cut them another piece of yarn and let them continue to fill the inside of the plate with yarn. 
  11. Hot glue the fins to the underside of the plate and the googly eyes and shark teeth to the yarn sections of the plate.
  12. Hot glue a tongue depressor to the bottom of the plate.  It is helpful to write their names on the tongue depressor for future arguments of which one belongs to whom.  This also makes it into a very fun shark puppet!

Fun Variations ~

You can also let the kids paint the entire paper plate before you do any cutting.  This allows for them to not get paint scattered more when painting the smaller pieces.  They can also use stampers and such to make fun designs on their sharks.  In the first picture of this blog, the stick part of the paint brush was used to make fun polka dots!

Let the children mix two colors of yarn to “sew” with to make a more colorful shark.  We stuck with blue and gray but you can, of course, get as colorful as you would like.

If you don’t have googly eyes, cut circles out of another paper plate or some paper and let the kids create their own shark eyes.

We used colored tongue depressors, but you can also use plain and paint them yourselves.

Stay tuned for the second sharky post this week for directions on another exciting Shark Week 2021 craft!  I hope you enjoy learning about these fantastic creatures as much as we do!

I will leave you with these fun jokes to share ~

Q:  What did the shark say after he was accused of eating a human?

A:  Not gill-ty!

🤣🤣🤣

Q:  What do you get when you cross a shark with a snowman?

A:  Frostbite!

😂😂😂

Have a Fin-tastic week guys!

Much Love~

Mimi

 

 

 

 

 

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