in summer

 Ah yes, it’s officially summer.  Both kids are home now and the craziness has begun.  I have to admit, underneath the layers of exhaustion, sweat, sand, and fingerpaint – we are having a ball.  It seems as though we’ve already established a summer day routine at our house.  We all wake up bright and early, around 6:30 am to be exact.  Every. Single. Day.  Like clockwork, my kids are up and at ‘em eager to rock and roll the day ahead.  I on the other hand, pray a little prayer every night for extra sleep-in time, but it never happens.  Needless to say, I’ve learned to embrace the wee hours of the morning.  We start our day with a nice breakfast together and before I know it I’m blowing up pool floats, endlessly re-strapping swimming goggles (what is up with those things?), and judging gymnastics contests.  Between water tables, sprinklers, and playing tag, my kids are all go, go, go.  They are on a mission and the number one task at hand is to play, play, play!  Not even bathing suit wedgies, blinding sand in the eyes, or pool water up the nose can stop them.  And it’s only 10:00 am.  Seriously, if our day ended at noon, the only thing my kids would be missing is the sunset.

There’s just something about summer-time that makes everything a bit better.  After all, the grass is finally greener, the smell in the air is sweeter, and spirits are freer.  Why would anyone complain?  Life is good.  And life is especially good in the summer.

It’s energy.  It’s beauty.  It’s pure joy.

It’s what you make it.

Don’t you agree?

5 Signs of Summer at My House

1. Watermelon — Our fruit of choice this summer.  I swear I must have sliced and served at least three or four watermelons this weekend.  Not for a family party or a fruit salad for 25 guests, but for my two little, we-can’t-get-enough-of-it, watermelon-loving kiddos.  My kids will eat watermelon for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack.  Is this normal?

2.  Flip Flops — Flip flops are a sure sign of warmer days, but at my house the foyer looks like the summer shoe clearance section at Old Navy.  Flip flops, flip flops, everywhere!  Polka dots, pink, orange, green, Toy Story, stripes, red, white and blue.  Some with ribbons and bows and ties, others with flowers and sparkles and gems.  Where did they all come from?  Did I really purchase all of these freaking flip flops?  How many pairs do I think my kids need?

3. Little Bags of Crap — Bags containing plastic toys and pads of paper and super balls can be found year round at my house, but in summer they can be found EVERYWHERE.  We have little bags of junk around ever corner.  In the garage, in the family room, in the backyard, under the dining room table, in the kitchen (Don’t think Hoarders, it’s really not that bad).  I keep cleaning them out and they just keep popping up.  Bags filled with hair clips, plastic necklaces, pool toys, Squinkies, board books, crayons, Hello Kitty Band Aids, chalk, doll clothes, toy cars, hats, sunglasses – you name it.

4. Target — I LOVE Target.  Apparently I love it a bit more in the summer time.  From their fun dollar aisles to their awesome glass punch bowls and Tiki Torches – Target has me hooked.  I’m sure I’m hardly alone on this one.  Maybe if I stayed out of there, I wouldn’t have so many little bags of crap to worry about - duh.

5. Longer Days — My kids are early risers no matter what.  When school is in session, I can count on a stricter bedtime ritual.  When it comes to summer vacation, it’s no-holds-barred at our house.  In summer, I become more free-range with the kids which is great for them, but poops me out entirely.  At least we don’t live in Alaska where it’s sunny until 1:00am.  How do you guys do it up there?  Really, the lower 48 wants to know!

Strawberries, Pineapple, and Brownies on a stick!

 

Ella celebrated her birthday in school this past Wednesday.  She is a summer baby (July 7th), but the class threw a cute little party for her since they won’t be together for her real birthday.  I needed to send in a birthday treat for the impromptu event.  I decided to forego the cupcakes, cake and ice cream.  I wanted to make a healthy snack, but I also wanted to make it “special” because it was her birthday.  In this case, ‘special’ means some sort of chocolate or candy or sweet yummy goodness that almost always includes frosting and almost always is not healthy for you in any way.  I went with brownies sans the frosting.  Then I got creative (by my standards anyway!).  How about fruit and brownies on a stick?  Um, hello!  Perfect.  What kid doesn’t like a treat on a stick?  Am I right?

I went to the craft store and picked up some ribbon and some lollipop sticks.  I stopped at the grocery store and bought organic strawberries, an organic pineapple, and some organic brownie mix.

 

Quick and easy:

  1. Follow instructions for brownie mix, bake and allow time for them to cool.
  2. Wash your strawberries and pineapple before cutting.  Cut pineapple into chunks.  Cut stems off of strawberries.
  3. When brownies are  nice and cool, cut them into 1 1/2″ squares.
  4. Layer the pineapple, brownie, and strawberries onto the lollipop stick.
  5. Tie a ribbon onto the stick. Done!
Obviously you can alter the recipe to include any type of fruit you prefer!  I went with pineapple and strawberries because they mesh well with chocolate, but grapes, kiwi, oranges, apples, etc. will also work great!  Also, I found  lollipop sticks to be much safer to use than skewers (not so pointy!).  The sticks are shorter as well, which make them able to hold the perfect amount of food for the little ones.
Let me know if you try it!  Have a great weekend!

petroleum, coal tar, and popsicles?

The sun is blazing, the pool is open, the kids are energized, and school is on its way out!  This could only mean one thing – SUMMER is on the horizon.  I for one, could not be happier!  I ♥ summer.  The smell, the late nights, the campfires, the smores, the sand, the swimming, the people, the parties, the food.  Need I go on?  Okay, one more thing…frozen treats.  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Popsicles!  Freezy pops, italian ice, ice cream cones, and lots of yummy summer fun!

All these goodies are so colorful and pretty!  And refreshing.  And easy to market to kids.  I mean what kid doesn’t like the bright colors of the rainbow?  Or a box of crayons?  Or better yet, a rainbow-colored popsicle that looks like a crayon?  Popsicles are a summer staple and they are oh so good.

One question though:

Would these treats look less appetizing if instead of listing

Red 40, Yellow 5, or Yellow 6

(which sound harmless) on the food label,

it listed

Food dyes derived from petrochemicals?  yum. yum. yum.

Did that grab your attention?  Would you knowingly feed your child ingredients derived from coal-tar or petroleum?  Probably not.  Yet we do it every single day in this country.  I know if I were reading a food label and saw the words ‘petroleum,’ ‘petrochemicals,’ or ‘coal-tar,’ I would immediately put the product back on the shelf and I bet you would too.  The problem is we aren’t properly informed on what ingredients go into the foods we consume.  Get this, food dyes were originally synthesized from coal tar and now they are synthesized from petroleum.  Yes, chemical byproducts of petroleum are what make those red popsicles so red!  Uhhh, gross.  Food dyes have long been controversial because of their possible health risks.  No kidding?  Oh and they are in almost everything!  From frozen goodies to yogurt to chips to mustard to Jello to lemonade to Poptarts to salad dressings to candy.  You name it.

The problem…

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity and ADHD in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them – or at least require a warning label.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the dyes are a “rainbow of risks” for children and can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.  I must point out that 1 in 17 children have allergies in the US, 1 in 10 have ADHD, and 1 in 5 are obese.  Despite those concerns, manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year, according to the CSPI.

And now for the kicker….

Per capita consumption of dyes has risen five-fold since 1955, thanks in part to the proliferation of brightly colored cereals, fruit drinks, candies, and yes popsicles, all pitched to our children.

How do we avoid them?  How can we possibly go dye-free?

First read this: http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf to educate yourself on food dyes.

Second, avoid synthetic dyes by choosing organic products. Organic standards prohibit the use of these dyes in products bearing the USDA Organic label.  Organic products use natural food colorings such as:

Red = Beet Juice or Paprika

Orange = Carrot Juice

Purple = Grape Juice

Green = Seaweed or Spinach

Yellow = Caramelized Sugar

Blue = Blueberry Juice

Third, read your food labels!  If you see colorings such as Blue, Red, Yellow listed on the label, don’t buy it.