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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwich

The addition of the new griddle grill has been VERY fun so far!  Brad is having so much fun creating…and we are having so much fun indulging!  Our family loves cheesesteak sandwiches so of course he got to work on this new family favorite.   I hated to have him cook on Father’s Day, but it’s what he loves.  His chipotle cheesesteak sandwich has been added to the growing list of family favorites!

Ingredients for Sandwich ~

  • Beef shaved steak
  • Onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Provolone cheese
  • McCormick’s steak seasoning
  • Sub buns

Pretty simple ingredients for such an awesome sandwich.   I sometimes feel if it is that delicious, it has to be difficult to make…right?  (Kind of like rice krispie treats🤣)   These of course can be done on in indoor griddle as well, but I’m telling you, you HAVE to consider getting an outdoor griddle grill.  They are simply so much fun!

Prepping for the Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwich ~

The amounts of the ingredients are obviously going to depend on the number of people you are serving.  We were cooking for 8 for this occasion.  I bought the beef shaved steak at Kroger in the packaged meat section.  Sometimes I can find it at the meat counter of other groceries and get the exact amount I want.  However, it is often hard to find (at least where we live).  You can also sometimes find it frozen.

(Four of these packages were used for our party of 8.)

We used red, green and yellow bell peppers.  You can certainly use just green, but we prefer the beauty of all the colors.  Five bell peppers were sliced and placed in a bowl for cooking time.  Slice 1-2 onions depending on the size and the flavoring you wish.  There is a package of sliced peppers and onions in the frozen section that you can use as well to save on prep time.  It is usually called the 3 Pepper Blend (depending on brand).

Griddle Time ~

The steak was liberally seasoned with McCormick’s Steak Seasoning.  For those of you who have been following me for a while, you already know Brad is what we would consider a “heavy seasoner.”  Believe me, it always tastes amazing!  After placing the meat on the grill, he chopped it while grilling.  His preferred method was cooking the meat in one sandwich proportion at a time.  It was then smothered with peppers and onions and topped with provolone cheese.

The buns were placed on the grill right before serving to give them a crispness.  You can choose to skip this step if you prefer, but I would highly recommend it crispy.  It keeps the bread from getting soggy and just tastes better!  There are many types of sub buns in the bread aisle at the grocery store, but we prefer the ones found in the deli.

The above pictue is Italian Beef (which will be coming soon!).  I have included this picture for you to see the bun.  As you can tell, we love these buns for so many different recipes….too bad they aren’t Keto-friendly!  Oh well, they are too good to pass up!

Chipotle Mayo Recipe ~

You guys, this sauce is a must to top off these delicious sandwiches.  I made a large bowl of this sauce and poured half of it into a squeezy bottle for easy application.  I was going to use the remaining for refills when needed, however, it ended up being a “dip” for chips and veggies.  Everyone loved it that much!

You can of course scale the sizing down if you do not wish to make as much.  I would go ahead and make more if I were you though.  Seriously, the kids all wanted a small bowl of it to take home with them for lunches the next day.

  • 2 cups Hellman’s Mayonnaise
  • 1 can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Adobo All Purpose Seasoning

Place all of these ingredients in a small blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.  I have discussed it before, but I LOVE our personal Ninja for blending sauces.  Check out the Ninja Personal Blender…it’s good for sauces as well as smoothies!

Those Squirt Bottles I mentioned ~

I use squirt bottles for so many things in the kitchen, so I love to have several.  They can be used for baking or for cooking reasons.  Squirt bottle set is a MUST in my book for many cooking needs!

This is a set I am getting ready to purchase as I love the labels.  I have a simpler set that I started out with and I tape on labels.  For instance, on Lauren’s birthday, she wanted a hot dog bar.  We made several fun sauces so each one needed to be labeled.

I also have special squirt bottles for cookie decorating.   Who knew there were so many types of squirt bottles out there, right?  These have metal tips for more intricate designs, which we use a lot when decorating cookies.   Squirt bottles for cookie decorating…makes precise decorating so much easier!

It seems crazy to write so much about sqeezy bottles, but I truly find SO many uses for them!  Do you use them in your kitchen?

Back to those YUMMY Chipotle Cheesesteak Sandwiches ~

The chipotle mayo recipe does not have to be used.  The sandwiches are delicious on their own.  Maybe you have a favorite condiment you love to use on sandwiches?  Many places slather plain mayo on the bread, which is good as well.  Also, you may be saying, “I just don’t like spicy!”  I promise you, this recipe is not spicy….it is just really flavorful!

I would love to hear any variations you may have cooked up!  Let me know in the comments below!

Happy grilling –

Mimi

 

 

Frozen Fruit Yogurt Bites

Finding snacks that are just as much fun to make as they are to eat can be challenging.  While our frozen fruit yogurt bites did not turn out exactly as anticipated, Addi, Max and Mimi had lots of fun in the kitchen and still enjoyed the end result.  This post is a tad different as I will fill you in on the right way to make these….and the wrong way! 🤣

I am notorious for just “winging it” in the kitchen.   The kids used to sit and watch at the kitchen island and marvel at how I just added a little of this and a little of that.  They have now learned that as you get more comfortable in the kitchen, it becomes easy to guesstimate while cooking.  However, sometimes one should really follow the directions.

Frozen Fruit Yogurt Bites Ingredients ~

  • 1 Cup Plain Greek yogurt
  • Handful of Frozen fruit of choice
  • 1 tsp. Honey (or more to taste)
  • Spinach (let’s get real sneaky!)

Directions ~

  • Place frozen fruit and honey (and spinach if you choose to add) in blender to puree.  We love our Ninja Personal Smoothie Blender… it makes smoothies so much easier to make.  By using the personal size, each person can choose their own fruit flavors.  Check it out here➡➡➡ Ninja Personal Smoothie blender – we LOVE it!

  • Scoop the puree into a bowl and add 1 cup greek yogurt.  Stir until well mixed.
  • Pour the yogurt mixture into a baggie (or a piping bag if you have one).  I definitely suggest a zip type baggie to alleviate any future messes.

Of course, even with a zip type baggie you can still get leakage out of the top if it isn’t sealed well.  Oh well, at least this is a recipe that is safe to eat even before you freeze!⬇⬇

  • Put in freezer for 3 to 4 hours or until solid.  These will melt fairly fast, so be sure to have them completely frozen before enjoying.

Very Important Tips ~

***Do not add water when making the puree.  This is the first step I messed up on.  I told Addi to add water to her cup to make the puree process easier.  Instead, we should have let the frozen fruit thaw a bit and NOT add water.  By adding water, the mixture came out runnier than it should have been! 

***Puree completely as small chunks will create a hole in your bag later….which you do NOT want!

***Greek yogurt helps with the consistency.  

***Let the kids use a whisk to blend.  They enjoy that so much more than a spoon and it blends better.  We started out with a spoon and switched once we realized it wasn’t mxing well.

***When letting kids help, as I highly recommend that you do, be prepared for the fact that you may not get “dots” as you originally intended.  That is ok!

***Add that spinach….it will make a very fun green color frozen yogurt bite and yet the kids won’t realize it’s coming from spinach.  Unless of course, you let them take part in the puree step as the spinach should be pureed with the fruit and honey.

End Result ~

Ok, so ours did NOT end up in the cute little button style.   I realized very early on that this step was not going as planned.  So, I put on my big girl panties and said to myself, “That’s ok!”  Afterall, isn’t learning in the kitchen part of this whole process?

Seriously, look at that determination in his face.  Who cares that they weren’t perfectly formed.  They still taste the same.  It was time for a little improvision.

We smeared that stuff around and decided to cut little squares instead.   This way, they got to use Addi’s new kid-safe kitchen knife that I talked about for her birthday post.  Did you catch that post?  If not, check it out here as I showed several great kitchen tools for kids….Great ideas for kids in the kitchen!

Does it look like she cared that her yogurt bites weren’t in the button shape?  Who can resist the happiness in that face?

Quick and Easy Version ~

While it is so much fun to create your own flavors, there is an easier version.   Using store bought Go-Gurts , snip off a small corner as mentioned earlier(do not use the precut pull tab they provide).  Proceed to squeeze small dots on wax paper and freeze until solid.  This is quick and easy!

These frozen fruit yogurt bites are a big hit with the kids and adults alike.  Everyone chooses their favorite flavors.  You can get creative and mix different fruits to make new fun flavors.  Have fun and enjoy!

Hugs ~

Mimi

 

 

The Buzz on Cicadas

I walked outside this morning and heard birds singing.  So cliche, right?   If you had the surge of Cicadas 2021 in your yard, you understand.  It’s truly the first time I have heard several birds sing at once this month.  While I am happy to have the birds and bees back in our yard, I honestly have learned a lot about cicads this time around.  Follow along for the buzz on cicadas ….and maybe some really goofy videos!

The first thing you hear anyone say about the cicadas is, “Gross!”  They are such an annoyance as well as being so very ugly…and THOSE CREEPY EYES!

Put those thoughts aside and what you actually have is a pretty cool phenomena!  Think about it!  These little critters are underground for 17 years!  Contrary to popular belief, they are not hibernating.  Cicadas keep busy feeding off the sap of trees, digging tunnels and aerating the soil while we cannot see them.  Isn’t it intersting that just as we are emerging from our homes after COVID, they too are emerging from their homes?

Nutrition for Nature ~

Aside from the noise, one of the biggest things I have noticed is my bird feeders have been empty.  Not empty of birdseed, but empty of birds.  It took me a couple of days to realize that my seed isn’t quite the delicacy that the cicadas are.  I’m assuming that after they fill up on that special appetizer they just don’t want dinner at the feeder anymore.  Now we know why parents always tell us not to ruin our appetite on chips and snacks before dinner! 😏

Basically almost every wildlife creature you can think of feasts on cicadas.  Heck, even while they are underground, “rodents” like moles eat them as well.  Afterall, while moles may be considered a rodent to many, they are actually insectivores (thus eating insects!)  As you can see, cicadas are a postive benefit to society right there just as food alone!

Slug feeding on dead cicada

Nutrition for Humans ~

Seriously?  People eat those nasty things?  The astounding answer is yes!  In this Keto diet loving world, cicadas appeared just at the right time.  They are high in protein and low in fats and carbs.  Did you create any fun cicada recipes this year?  While I think these little guys are pretty awesome, I will admit that my family had NO interest in chomping on them!

Cicada Life Cycle ~

  • Rice shaped eggs are deposited in small grooves of tree limbs
  • Young cicadas feed on tree fluids of those grooves they are in
  • Cicadas crawl from groove and fall to ground
  • 17 year cicadas are active underground for the whole amount of time
  • Cicadas emerge by digging up through ground and creating small holes

  • The outer shell of the cicada is shed

  • Wings of the cicada are inflated with fluid

  • They live their very short lifespan above ground
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat as the saying goes!

Can you even imagine working for 17 years with no credit?  No awards, no pay raise, no pat on the back with a “good job!”  When I think of it that way, I start realizing that cicadas are pretty awesome creatures!  Keep in mind that this is the 2021 Brood X cicadas I am talking about.  There are other cicada broods, some come out every summer and some every 13 years.

90 Decibels ~

The buzz on cicada sound is that they reach up to 90 decibels.  If you did not get to experience it, let me tell you, with a yard full of cicadas, it is LOUD!

The following video was taken a week before they got to their loudest.  You will notice you can hear one or two birds in the background.  Our backyard is usually filled with the melody of many birds.  TURN YOUR VOLUME UP and listen to the video ➡➡Cicada music at 90 decibels.

So what makes that sound?  These guys are pretty big as far as insects go, but how are they SO LOUD?  I was surprised to hear that only the males make the sound.  Obviously, this is a mating call.  They flex organs in their abdomens, just under their wings.  Pretty cool!

Cicada Attack ~

What is not cool, is if you make a loud sound similar to their mating call, they will FLOCK to you!  Seriously!  I figured that out by accident.  I am a gardener and yard person by nature so I am outdoors a lot.  While cutting the grass I would have to swat away a crazy flying cicada every once in awhile.  However, when I started the leaf blower to clean up the grass clippings, I was SWARMED!  Kid you not!

I have to assume now that it was all females coming at me since I have learned that only males make the noise.  Mind you, they do not sting, but when there are bunches of them flying at you at once, you get a little stinging feeling as they all hit you at the same time.  I truly felt like I was in a new version of the Alfred Hitchhock movie, The Birds.  If only someone had been home to video me.

I immediately turned the blower on the little buggers to get them away from me.  Have you seen how long the attachments on most leaf blowers are?  They are pretty darn long, thus making it hard to get at the cicadas that are already all over me.  I turned the blower off thinking I was insane (and secretly hoping none of my neighbors were watching me!)  They all flew away.

Next, I did what everyone laughs about when watching scary movies.  You know what I ‘m talking about.  The lady walks by herself down the long dark hallway where she knows someone is hiding out to kill her.  Everyone watching the movie is saying, “You idiot, don’t go down the hallway…run!”  Well, I turned that lovely blower back on…yes I did!  Guess what happened?

The Buzz on Cicada Aftermath ~

Ok, I will tell you what happened.  Yes, they returned.  I was the idiot we all scream at and I paid the price.  However, I promptly turned it back off and the grass clippings remained on my driveway until a storm hit.

June 2021 is coming to a close and the cicadas have almost disappeared from our area.  I have to admit I actually kind of miss the little creepy guys.  Afterall, it is truly a a pretty miraculous lifecycle that is fun to learn about and teach to your children and grandchildren.   We can use their story to teach children about “coming out of their shell.”  Maybe even, “make noise when you need to be noticed.”

Some of the houses around me that got hit pretty hard may not miss them quite as much as me though.  Some of my neighbors were literally using snow shovels to clean off their driveways.   And the smell of rotting cicada carcasses leaves something to be desired.

 

So yes, they are creepy and loud, but they are really pretty amazing, regardless of the downside.  Besides, haven’t we always learned to look at the glass half full?  Find the beauty in all of God’s amazing creations!

The Promised Goofy Video ~

I’m letting you all in on the goofy side of Mimi….well those of you who know me know I’m usally always pretty goofy.  I decided we needed a little update to The Birds movie with my version of The Cicadas 2021…click the link and enjoy! Cicadas attacking

And if you want to have a little memento from this special time, Check out these cool cicada earrings!💚

Hugs~

Mimi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Griddle Fun for Father’s Day

IT’S NOT TOO LATE!!!!  Run, do not walk, to get Dad an outdoor griddle for this Father’s Day.  Maybe you are saying, “Mimi, I am not a procrastinator!  I already have Father’s Day covered!”  That’s ok, keep this idea in mind for the next time you need a great gift idea.  However, our family is definitely going to have some outdoor griddle fun for Father’s Day this year!

My son brought this perfect idea up about a month ago.  I casually mentioned it to my amazing chef of a husband.  I have to admit, at first he totally pooed pooed the idea.  Being the loving family that we are, however, we knew not to listen to him.  However, the joke was on us because exactly one week before Father’s Day, my loving husband decides he is going to go buy himself an outdoor griddle grill!  What?!?!

It’s Not Father’s Day YET! ~

Yes, you are correct!  He went ahead and bought it himself!  At first we were all frustrated, but seeing how happy he is made the frustration fade quickly.  The man is happiest with a grill and a beer!  Besides, we decided there are now a slew of accessories he will now need for this new type of grill.  So….many…..gift…..ideas!

Click here for a MUST HAVE set of accessories for the griddle!

Cast Iron Grill Press is another necessity!

Hard Lid Cover is a DEFINITE must if you purchase one without a lid attached!

All in all, I was personally glad that he went ahead and picked out the one that he wanted.  He purchased his at Cabella’s, however, you can find them at most home improvement stores and, of course, on Amazon.  As you can see above, it really didn’t ruin the gift idea for the kids as there are so many accessories available for the MANY different types of meals you can cook on this awesome grill!

Things to Consider When Purchasing ~

There are many features you will need to consider when deciding on which outdoor griddle you want:

  • Number of burners (Brad wanted 4)
  • Attached lid or not
  • Sturdiness of the whole unit
  • Drain hole in upper left front corner (for easy access to remove the grease)
  • Sturdy shelving on both sides

Pinterest Anyone??? ~

You can be sure that I will have a new Pinterest Board set up by the end of the day today.  There are so many fun ideas just waiting to be created on this grill!  The first night we did smashburgers (as you can see from the pics).  Wow!  Those were AMAZING!

Tonight we are doing breakfast for dinner.  We are huge lovers of the Waffle House (very low cal, I know! 😉).  Now Brad can recreate all of our favorites right here at home!

Do you follow me on Pinterest yet????  Mimi~A Great Name for Grandma Pinterest Ideas can be found here!  I am on Pinterest daily looking for new ideas from grandparenting to cooking to gardening and more!  Do you have a Pinterest account?  Drop your name in the comments below….I would love to follow you as well!

How Is This Grill Different?~

There are a lot of accessories available for the traditional gas and charcoal grills that allow you to do pretty much the same thing.  Believe me when I say, we own most of those accessories!  For instance, there is a griddle top that you can place on your  gas or charcoal grill.  If you do not do a lot of grilling, this is perfect!

Griddle top for Gas and Charcoal Grills

We bought him one of these a few years ago, and we have gotten great use out of it.  It was an earlier Father’s Day gift along with this fun breakfast set.  One of the things I love most about cooking breakfast outdoors is the clean up is SO much easier!

Check out the fun griddle breakfast set here!!!

Do We Still Love Our Traditional Grills? ~

The answer is definitely YES!  As stated earlier, Brad is happiest with a grill and a beer!  He has a deck, “The Penarve,” dedicated to all of his grills.  It got so crazy that we had to give it a name (thanks Kelly W 😉 for coming up with the winning name!)  My personal dream is that some day Brad will open a restaurant.  The tough choice is what name should he give to his restaurant?

  • Pappy’s
  • The Penarve

Cast your vote in the comments…I would love to hear your opinion!  Maybe you have a different name idea…let me know!

For now, he will keep doing his magic on the Penarve at the Latinovich homestead!  Stay tuned for some great cooking ideas because you KNOW he will be creating those wonderful meals and I will be sharing them!

Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful fathers!  Enjoy!

Mimi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Kids STILL Love Action Figures

I marvel at the different types of toys available for kids.  Let’s face it, there are some pretty amazing toys out there.  However, kids are the same today as they have always been…and kids STILL love action figures.  They are a pretty basic toy compared to what we normally see at the top of their wish lists, but if you put a set of action figures in front of a kid, I’m guessing 9 times out of 10 you will see their imagination flourish.

Kids also love sports.  What do you get when you merge action figures and sports?  You get sports action figures of course!  Kaskey Kids sent me a set of their Soccer Guys to give an honest review.  You already know I am all about finding awesome toys, books and crafts for my grandkids and this one did NOT disappoint!

The set includes two full teams, a referee, goals, ball, playing “field” and great storage container (with a handle for easy carrying…some times it’s the small things that make all the difference).   Our Max is a very busy guy who loves action.  This set has been awesome while we are at big sister’s soccer games.

KASKEY KIDS SOCCER SET ~

They have a variety of different sports available:

  • Soccer Guys and Girls Sets
  • Basketball Guys Set
  • Football Guys Set
  • Hockey Guys Set
  • Baseball Guys Set

Kids Using Imagination ~

Playing with action figures is a great way for kids to use their imagination.  Kids have to give a voice to each of the characters and decide how the scene is going to play out.  Without realizing it, they are learning about winning and losing as they are responsible for both sides in these sport sets.

I know I may ruffle a few feathers, but I am not a big fan of the idea that kids should always win.  While I want nothing more than for all children to be happy, I will always believe it is very important for kids to learn how to handle every situation they are going to face throughout life.  So how cool that they can accomplish this during play?!?!

Adding Another Player ~

Whether it’s a friend, sibling or parent, adding in other players is also a lot of fun.  As a parent, it is a great idea to let the child lead how the play is going to take place as then this helps the child learn some leadership skills.  However, when another child is playing it will most likely not go the same way.  Of course, this is yet another great learning opportunity for all kids involved here as well.

Someone can be the referee while others are the players.  They can choose their team names or for that matter, choose the player’s name.  As kids get a little older, you can even add in a scoreboard.  Why not add in some geography lessons and let the kids decide what country their team is from.  The ideas are endless when you use your imagination!

Toys On The Go ~

How many different events do you go to throughout the year that you need “on the go” toys to entertain younger siblings.  Soccer has just started up for my grandchildren, so there is no doubt these sets will go a long way with the family activities.  Do you do a lot of tailgating?  Maybe planning a trip to the beach?  Does an older child have some extra-curricular classes they go to weekly that you want to watch but are always entertaining the younger ones so you miss out?

Maybe you want to plan just certain times that they get this set out.  I wrote about quiet boxes a while back.  Put special toys and activities in a box that they only get to play with during quiet time.  If certain toys are only available at special times, that makes them desired even more.  Check out my earlier post on how awesome QUIET BOXES FOR KIDS are!  I keep quiet activity boxes for Addi and Max in our office and replenish items in there every once in awhile.

Variety of Sets Available ~

As mentioned earlier, they have several sports available.  There are also smaller tower packs that are a great package topper, party favor or even nice for a cake topper set.  The newest set is a Football Single Pack in Pink.  Kaskey Kids is donating 10% of the proceeds from this pink pack to support the Boys & Grils Clubs of America.  Getting great toys while also helping out important causes is a definite Win-Win!

Check out their website, not only for the fun sport sets that they have, but they also have a Kid’s Corner tab with “Good Reads” and “Party Ideas.”  I can tell you that Mimi has absolutely fallen in love with this company.  For those of you who have kids that I love to buy for….don’t be surprised when your sweet babe receives one of these cool sets! 😉

Check out Kaskey Kids Website HERE!!!!!

With Love~

Mimi

 

Cooking Fun with Grandkids

I got the best phone call the other day!  Picking up my cell phone, I expected to hear my daughter on the other line.  To my surprise, it was my sassy six year old granddaughter, Addi.  Excitedly, she says, “Mimi, I’m making dinner tonight.  Would you like to join us?”  Are you kidding me?  Of course I do!  I’m not missing out on a night of cooking fun with the grandkids!

What was on the menu you ask?  We were served mini pot pies/shepherd’s pies and a strawberry rhubarb tart.  Wow!  It was delicious!

       

Let’s back up to Addi’s birthday earlier this year.  We always like to find one special “big” gift to get for the kids.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be big in size, but it needs to be extra special!  A lot of time is spent thinking and shopping for that perfect gift.  Addi has recently become fascinated with the kid’s cooking shows so ideas started formulating around that.

The Birthday Gift Idea ~

I have enjoyed watching various bakeoff shows with the grandkids.  Have you ever watched them?  Let me tell you, that they are nothing short of amazing.  I truly would have never realized that kids can cook as “professionally” as they do…even better than a lot of us adults!  Through this the birthday idea came to life!  Addi needed all of her own kitchen tools.

We have already done some cooking with Addi over the past couple of years, so I knew her passion for time in the kitchen wasn’t going anywhere.  After watching the different episodes of Chopped Junior and MasterChef Junior, we realized Addi was ready to step up her game a bit.

Now, first of all my thoughts went  to purchasing  Addi her very own kitchen prep and storage rolling cart.  I will admit that I spent time shopping for the best one.  I then realized I should probably chat with my daughter about this.  Afterall, this would take up a lot of space in the kitchen, and I had to admit to myself that it is her kitchen and not mine.  So I scaled my gift idea down a bit so that Lauren could keep her kitchen in tact.

Cooking Basket Gift Items ~

These are a win/win…Addi was able to cut food by herself and we felt safe with her doing so!

 One thing Lauren and I noticed, having the tongue out while cooking is a MUST for any great chef! 🤣

Cooking Fun with Grandkids ~

As you can see, we tried a variety of different kitchen gadgets.  This will definitely be a gift that we can add on to in the years to come.  Fostering a love of cooking in kids has so many benefits…to the kids as well as the adults.  The important thing to remember is it’s going to get messy…and that’s ok!  If kids become afraid to mess up they will lose the passion to learn.

In an earlier post, I wrote about a great recipe book software.  You create your own cookbook…family, church, neighborhood.. or whatever you choose.  The first book I created was Pappy on the Penarve…Check out my fun cookbook here!  My intention was to make an “Addi” cookbook next…epic fail!  However, I am still going to make it and include new recipes for her to try plus old ones that she has made with the family.  What fun memories!

Make time to have some cooking fun with the grandkids….you will be glad you did!

Enjoy!

Mimi

 

 

 

 

Summer Bookworm Programs for Kids

Reading should NOT be a “chore” for kids!  Instead, books should open up a world of adventure.  When reading, your child may sail the ocean and dig treasures with those pesky pirates.  Perhaps they will dress in fancy dresses and dine on french pastries with Fancy Nancy.  Maybe they prefer to dress in scuba gear and do some deep sea diving to discover all of the unusual fish and corals.  How else can children do so many things in one day, one week, one summer?  It’s looking like we need to look into summer bookworm programs for kids!

Summer reading programs not only entice children to keep reading, but they offer different awards for their achievements.  While we may not want to admit it, everyone has discovered that bribery is a great motivator for kids.  Ok, maybe it’s not bribery, but it is a great way of rewarding them for setting goals and reaching them.  I’ve compiled a list of programs…and what’s even better is that they are free!

 Wait a minute….did you say FREE????

Types of Summer Bookworm Programs for Kids ~

Pizza Hut’s Book-It Program ~

It’s super easy to sign up for this fun program.  Set reading goals and once reached head on over to Pizza Hut for some FREE pizza!  Click here for easy access to register for the Pizza Hut Summer Reading Program…..  You will have 3 options to register:

  1. Homeschool parent for kids ages 4 to 12
  2. Enroll classs from PreK to 6th grade for public, private or charter school
  3. Parent of student(s) grades PreK to 6th

Once you are registered, there is a plethora of free resources such as activities, printables and reading trackers.  Seriously, this program is amazing and this Mimi thinks you would be crazy to not take advantage of all the stuff they have to offer.  We are all signed up in our family and just waiting for June 1 to roll around so we can get started!

Public Library Program ~

There are so many wonderful things about this program that has been around for…ever!  Let’s put it this way, I’m a Mimi and I enrolled my kids in this program every year when they were young.  You do the math!  😳

The INDYPL program is open to any resdient of Marion County and once again it is FREE!  (If you live outside of Indiana, be sure to look up fun programs at your local library!)  It runs from June 7, 2021 to July 31, 2021 and they provide 3 easy ways to register and track reading time of kids AND adults.  Yes, I said adults!  They offer special offerings for us big kids too!  How awesome is that?  Here are the options for registering:

  1. Create an account on Beanstack through the Apple App or Google Play Store
  2. Use the Beanstack website to register.  The link to Beanstack is right here….what are you waiting for?
  3. Sign up at your local IndyPL branch

Once you are registered for this summer bookworm program for kids (& adults), start reading and tracking the time of books read.  Older kids and adults who read to younger kids get credit for those minutes to.  The library even provides a colorful tracker that you can pick up at the library or download for free and print yourself.  They are offering a fun Discovery Bag…go check them out to learn more!

Barnes & Noble Program ~

Kids in grades 1 through 6 enroll in this program to earn free books!  A total of eight books need to be read to complete this awesome program.  The books can be borrowed or purchased.  Once they have finished reading each book, they are asked to write about their favorite part in the Reading Journal that Barnes & Noble provides.  Bring the completed journal into Barnes & Noble between July 1 and August 31, 2021 to choose a free book from the list provided.  Here is a convenient link to Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program!

Scholastic Summer Reading Program ~

Get started with this super exciting program by registering with Home Base.  Here is an easy link to the Home Base page for Scholastic!  I will say that it took me a few minutes to move around the Scholastic website to completely understand their program…but it is going to be so worth it.  I highly suggest you watch the short informative videos.  Once your child has registered with a fun avatar name he/she will be ready to go.

This program has really been updated to coincide with how our children learn today.  They can add to their own personal avatar by reading more books…I truly believe the kids will LOVE this program.  An added incentive is all of the fun games and reading they can do on site and watch their characters come to life.  I seriously think this is going to be an excellent reading source this summer!

Other Summer Programs ~

While researching all of these fun options, I have come across several others that I am still waiting to see if they are going to do a summer program this year.  They may or may not be available in your area, but if you are familiar with them, check them out.  I was surprised to see a bank offers a program for the kids.  This particular bank doesn’t exist in my area, but it helped me to realize I should check out others around me to see if they too have something available.  A list is provided for you so that you can look into them as well:

  • Books-A-Million
  • Tails & Tales
  • TD Bank
  • Lifeway
  • Half Price Books
  • Chuck E Cheese
  • H-E-Buddy
  • Amazon

I am sure there are many more than what I have shared, so now that you know there are so many options available, I hope you will check out some of the programs I have written about or look into what is available in your community.

What I have also discovered from my research is that summer bookworm programs for kids have gone above and beyond from when my kids were young.  Not only are they offering incentives for reading, but they now also offer so many other amazing resources.  They have done a lot of the legwork to make reading fun for your kids….so take advantage of all the FREE resources they are offering!

Happy reading!

Mimi

 

 

 

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