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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Toddler Fun, Week 17: Letter S, Number 7, and Snakes

Snakes.  Not my thing.  BUT, being a boy-mom means if I want something to stick, I have to make it fun for him, not for me.  So, "S is for Snake" week it is!

Week 17
Letter: S
Number: 7
Animal: Snakes


1. Look out for snakes everywhere
We stopped at a rest station (because our big boy said he had to go potty, woohoo!), and saw this sign right when we got out of the car.  Now, I have enough of a brain to not go on a snake hunt.  BUT I did ask Aidan to find the S-s, and took the minute to explain what venomous means, and why we don't just touch snakes in the wild.

2. Letter Sorting/Matching 
 I love the lids on baby wipes.  I save them all, which I think drives my husband crazy.  BUT  I cut holes in the sides of this box, then hot glued the lids over them.  I printed and cut out pictures of the last 4 animals we learned about, plus the letter they start with.  I did a zebra, a jaguar, a kangaroo and a snake.  Then I printed out a bunch of each letter.   It's more of a matching game, rather than  recognition.
Later on, I might cut off the letter, and make it recognition.  Anyway, he had to take a letter at a time, find the right lid, open it, and put the letter in.  He really seemed to enjoy it!  It used fine motor skills, as well as was a good review of the letters we've learned lately.

3. Animal Movement Cards
For this activity, I printed out some animal movement cards, laminated them, and then set them out, face down.  Then, one at a time, I had Aidan turn them over.  He had to tell me what animal it was, and then I told him what action to do.  He had lots of fun with it!   I'm still me, so I had a towel for him to slither like a snake on, haha! :)


1. Veggie Snake
For this snack. I cut a cucumber into rings, which I then cut in half.  I used a piece of carrot for the tongue, and a raisin for the eye.  Then, I put some hummus in a ziplock, cut the tip, and used  it to "pipe" the sun and ground.  Aidan loves anything he can dip in hummus, so this was a big hit!

2. Banana and Strawberry Snake
This one was super easy, just cut up strawberries and banana slices, and arranged them in an "S".  Sssssuper yummy!


1. Slippery, slimy, spaghetti painting
I found this idea on pinterest, and love it!  I don't think Aidan could believe I was letting him do this!  For this craft, I boiled half a box of spaghetti, then added finger paint.  I printed out a big letter "S" coloring page, dumped the spaghetti on it, and let him go to town! 
He was in love!  I should've known, but all the colors mixed together to make black, which actually worked out perfectly for a snake. :) 
This is what it looked like afterwards.  I let it sit and dry overnight, then cut out the letter "S", to make a...

2. S is for Snake
Aidan glued it in the middle, then added a tongue and eyeballs!  He really liked it, and kept making hissing sounds.

Books and Media

We Read:

1. The Greedy Python by Richard Buckley, illustrated by Eric Carle
 This is a cute book about not being greedy.  The python eats every animal insight, but then they all grumble and kick, and he spits them all up.  It was a little ironic, because Aidan had just gotten sick, lol.

2. Verdi by Janell Cannon
When I read that this book was by the author of Stellaluna, I knew it was going to be great! I was right!  It's a very sweet story about a young python, and how he tries desperately not to grow up.

3. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle
Another great Eric Carle classic!  It just so happened that all three of the books were about pythons!  How cool is that!?

We Watched

1. The Jungle Book (1967) - "Trust in me..." this movie is a classic, of course.  We bought it when it was on sale one time, and I'm so glad we did. :)

2. Aladdin - I couldn't find any movies that were specifically about snakes, or where snakes weren't the "bad guys".  We had recently bought it, and he thinks that Jasmine is "beautiful", so there's that!

3. The Lion Guard, Season 1, Episode 7 - Fuli's New Family - In this episode, Bunga the honey badger gets bitten by a cobra, and all his friends get worried, but then they all find out that honey badgers are immune to snake venom.  Fun fact!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

I'm A Girly Girl, Raised On A Healthy Diet Of Disney Princesses - And I'm Not Sorry

As we're entering the realm of kids' movies with Aidan, I've been thinking more and more about how Disney characters (especially princesses, in my case) affect the people we grow up to be.
I was one of those little girls with all the obnoxious pink stuff.
I also went through a rather unfortunate boy-crazy phase.  Or two.
I love(d) anything that sparkles.  A couple months ago I went online shopping with my mom, and one of the items I got was a great, simple black tee - with sequined shoulders.  I can't help it.  I love simple, uncluttered lines.  But I also love things that sparkle.
When I was very little, my consequence for being disobedient was having to wear pants to church - instead of a dress.

Disney princesses fit my personality like the glass slipper fit Cinderella's foot.

I loved the classics, especially Sleeping Beauty.  Being a 90's baby, of course I also loved The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.  Because I refuse to grow up, I also love Mulan, Pocahontas Tangled, Brave and Frozen.  And don't even get me STARTED on Moana.

Then, I came across an article entitled A Feminist Ranking of All the Disney Princesses.  And while I don't necessarily disagree with the article's views, I was sad to see that my sweet Aurora was at the bottom of the list.  Yes, she spent most of the movie sleeping.  Yes, she married a dude she met once in the forest and then kissed her.  But is she really such a bad role-model for little girls?

Around the same time, I saw this, "Dream Big, Princess" commercial on Disney Channel, and I kid you not, I started to tear up.

No doubt, if I had a daughter, I would encourage her to be brave and confident like Merida, Mulan and Moana (maybe I just need to name her something that starts with "M").  But you know what?  I would also encourage her to be sweet like Snow White, and even graceful like Aurora.  (If she gets any of my genes, she'll need help in the klutz-department.)

I am glad that the message that princesses portray has changed.  I'm glad we have princesses without love interests.  But I also like when there is one.  Because love is something we all long for at some point in our life.  I am glad the princes actually have names now, and personalities.  Or aren't princes at all.

Recently I was talking to a friend, and told her that I really like Anna in Frozen, and wish she'd been around when I was little.  I totally identify with her clumsy, naive, chocolate-loving personality.  My friend said she preferred Elsa, because Anna wanted to marry a guy she'd just met.  That got me thinking.  And you know what?  I still like Anna better.  And I'll tell you why.  Because to me Anna represents a transition a lot of us go through.  Or at least I did.

At first Anna falls in love with prince Hans "of the southern isles", and immediately wants to marry him.  Later she meets Kristoff, and he points out how ridiculous her wanting to marry a total stranger is, and of course in true Disney fashion they end up falling in love.  

I certainly went through the teenager crush phase, where I felt like this guy was TOTALLY the one.  But then we grow up, and learn that that's not how true love works.  You have to take the time to get to know someone, and preferably find out their quirks before you commit to living with them every day of your life.

I am glad Disney princesses have evolved.  I am glad that if and when we have a daughter there are so many more strong, brave, even quirky role models to look up to.

But, if she wants to go skipping through a meadow picking flowers, wearing pink from head-to-toe with a tiara, I'm not going to stop her.  I may try to nip the boy-craze in the bud, because that really isn't necessary, nor probably healthy.  But if she does develop a crush, and I hear her humming "Someday My Prince Will Come", I will probably smile and join in.

So, what is this princess-rambling about?  I don't know.  Too much time on my hands?  Watching too many princess movies?  Maybe.  Probably.  But, I just wanted to say, that I'm a princess-loving-girly-girl, with unrealistic hair expectations, and that's okay.  And I'm not sorry.

Dream big, princess.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Toddler Fun, Week 16: Letter Z, Number 6, Zebras and Black and White

We recently found out that Aidan could read "zoo".  What!?
Dan gave him his zoo membership card to play with, and Aidan looked at it, and said "zoo"!  Dan said, "He read zoo"!  I said no, he did not, he probably just recognized the logo.  Dan insisted, so later that evening, I wrote out the word "zoo" on a piece of paper, and asked Aidan what it said, and he promptly said, "zoo"!  I asked him what letters he saw, and he said, "z, o, o"! So, I knew he actually knew what he was doing!  Crazy!  I mean, I know he didn't sound it out, and he recognized the word, but still.
So, I decided it would be a great time to focus on "Z"!

Week 16
Letter: Z
Number: 6
Color: Black and White
Animal: Zebra


 One of our supporting churches very graciously gave Aidan some money back in April, to use in however way he would like.  A few weeks ago, we were able to take Aidan to Animal Kingdom at Disney World.  We honestly had the time of our lives!!!  I was a little worried that Animal Kingdom was just going to be a glorified zoo, but it was so much more than that!  One of our favorite things was the Kilimanjaro Safari.
One of our favorite animals to see, was naturally the zebra!  We got to get up very close and personal, while bumping along in a jeep-type vehicle.  We sat in the very back row, which gave us the added benefit getting to look out the back uninhibited.
Animal Kingdom as TONS of acreage for these animals, which sets it apart from other zoos.  Walt Disney and Disney corporation are actually widely known for their conservation efforts, so you get to learn a lot about that on this "ride" as well as other parts of this park.

 While Dan was visiting his mom last week, Aidan and I went to the (you guessed it) zoo!
Our membership is up mid-January, and since we don't plan on being in the States for too much longer, we decided not to renew our membership.  
So we're trying to get as much use out of it as we can.  When we visited the elephant exhibit, I noticed a sign where the word "zoo" was enlarged, so I asked Aidan to go "spot the Z", and he did right away!
Didn't want to pay for the carousel (which, if you ask me should be included in the yearly membership, but that's another matter), so I let Aidan sit on this one.  Mother-of-the-year award goes to me!
 We talked about what colors we saw on the zebras: black and white.
And of course, we (I) enjoyed reading the plaques, describing the zebra's habitats.

If you've visited my blog before, you know that we very much enjoy this indoor play space in our city.  It's kind of like gymboree, but SO much better!  We go a couple times a week.  We get there as close to opening as possible, and stay until about noon.  This week we looked for all the "zebra" things.  We found this flashcard, a pull-toy and some other"safari" themed toys.

4. Zig-zag Walking
 For this activity, I drew zig-zags in three different sizes, with chalk.  Then we talked about which one had the biggest zigzags, the smallest, and medium.  Then I modeled for Aidan how to walk on the line.  It proved a little more challenging than I'd thought.
My boy loves sticks, so when he lost interest, I gave him a stick and had him "trace" the "Z"-s with it.  I think he liked the scratching sound, and felt like he was getting away with something, haha!


1. Zebra Cake Zebra
Okay, so this has nothing healthy about it, or really anything creative, but I saved it for an after-dinner-dessert, and we all love a treat every now and then.  For this, I used 2 Little Debbie Zebra Cakes.  I used one for the body, and then cut the other one (carefully) to make the head, neck, tail and legs.  Then I used a candy eye.

2. Banana and Blueberry Zebra
For this cute snack, I just used a banana and and some blueberries.  I cut up the blueberries as thinly as I could (they were starting to get more ripe, so that was more challenging than expected).  I cut the banana in half long-ways, and then just cut pieces to what I needed.  Put it all together, added a candy eye, and we're good!


1. Z is for Zebra
For this addition to our Alphabet book, we used a brown piece of paper (I was debating between green or brown for the Savannah, but liked how it looked on brown).  I cut out a white "Z" and ear,  then black strips, and some fringe.  Next, I helped Aidan assemble it all (as you can see by the not-straight Z, which was SO hard for me to leave that way).  Even though technically zebras are black with white stripes, they LOOK white with black stripes, so that's what we went with.  Add a googley eye to complete, and you're done!

Books and Media

We Read:

This is Aidan's favorite alphabet book, and he knows most of the animals' actions by heart.  Lucky for us, there aren't many animals that start with "Z", so chances are, an animal alphabet book will feature zebras.  In this particular one, zebras are zig-zagging.  Even more perfect!

2. Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
This is a cute book I loved to read to my Kindergarteners.  Its about the zebra going through the alphabet, but the impatient moose can't wait for his letter, and keeps asking if it's his turn yet.  Then, when it finally comes to "M"... well, I guess you'll just have to read it. :)

3. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle
Did you know that zebras bray?  Well, read this book, and you will!  Also, flamingos flute, and so many more!  A fun book about animals, and the sounds they make!

We Watched:

1. Khumba - this 2013 South African animated movie is very cute! It's about a zebra who is born with stripes only on the front half of his body, so the other zebras think that the drought is because of him.  So, he sets off on a quest to get stripes.  What is (I think) very interesting about this, is it is homage to an actual subspecies of zebra, which had tripes in the front, but was plain brown in the back.  This species went extinct in the 19th century, and a scientist recently tried to use DNA samples to recreate this extinct animal, but to no avail.

2. TingaTinga Tales - Season 1 Episode 24 - I've mentioned this show before, but incase you aren't familiar, this is a great African animated series that uses folk tales about how animals got their unique features to teach lessons.  They are on Netflix.  

3. Wild Kratts - Season 1 Episode 27 - Zig-Zagged - in true Wild Kratts fashion, this is a great episode, that teaches fun facts about the zebras (like they're actually black with white stripes).  You can find it on youtube, or on Amazon Prime.

4. Lion Guard - Season 1 Episode 12, The Mbali Fields Migration - this new, Disney Jr. show is the continuation of the Lion King story.  It is about Kion, who is Simba's son, and follows him and his friends who form the Lion Guard, which protects the circle of life.  In this particular episode they are helping a herd of zebras and gazelle find new grazing ground.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hungarian Gulyas Recipe

Hungarian Gulyas.

So often I see people post recipes for "traditional goulash" on Facebook, and it makes wish I could introduce them to REAL goulash, or in reality "gulyas".  Goulash is more comparable to refrigerator soup (ground beef, noodles, etc.) whereas gulyas is a hearty, traditionally made by men over a pit, beef-and-potato stew.  It's to die for!

For Christmas this year, Dan decided to make it for our family!  We don't have a fire pit, or a traditional pot called a "bogracs", but the man of the house made it, at it was amazing!  Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how to make your very own, REAL traditional Hungarian gulyas.

1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium sized onions (finely chopped)
1 whole head of garlic (finely chopped)
2 Hungarian wax peppers (chopped)
3 lbs. potatoes
4 lbs. chuck roast (cubed)
1 parsnip (sliced)
5 carrots (sliced)
2 tomatoes (chopped)
Hungarian sweet paprika (1/3 cup)
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Ground caraway to taste
1 bay leaf
Around 5 cups of water (don't add too much at once, rather as needed - start with three, then wait until after you add the potatoes - they absorb a lot of the water, add the rest then)
Yummy crusty bread (we got a sourdough at Panera)

1. First, we prepped all the ingredients.
 Cut the chuck into about 1 square inch cubes.
 Put the cut up chuck in a ziplock, and put in the fridge.
 Chop up the onions (and try hard NOT to cry) and set aside for later.
 We have been able to find Hungarian wax peppers at Publix.  
Cut them in half, remove seeds, and then chop 'em up!
 Dan got a mandolin in his stocking, and was more than happy to cut up the carrots!  Cut them up, and set them aside.
 Slice up the parsnip too.  Bag and set aside.
Chop up the tomatoes, bag and set aside.
Chop up the garlic AS FINELY AS YOU CAN, bag and set aside.
 Chop up the potatoes.  You can use any kind of potato.  Dan got these, because they didn't have to peel them, and they were small, hence less cutting.  You try to cut them to about the same size as the meat.
Dan put the potatoes in water, so they wouldn't brown, since we were cutting them a couple hours in advance.

2. Add ingredients one at a time

Choose a large pot, like a chili pot.  Place on burner, on a medium heat.  

Start with the 1/4(ish) cup of oil.  
 Once it's hot, add the onions.
 Add the garlic.
 Add the wax peppers.
 Mix all the ingredients, until the onions start to look "glassy".
 Add some salt.
 Add the pepper.

Add the beef.
 There it is!
 Start to mix it together.
 Add the paprika.  Make sure it's the sweet paprika, or you will have a VERY spice gulyas!
 That whole packet got put in there!
 Mix it around, until the beef starts to brown.
Add the tomatoes.

Add 3 cups of water.  (One recipe we found called for beef broth.)
One bayleaf.
Add parsnips.
 Put the lid on, but stir often.  After about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, (when the meat is cooked) we'll start adding the last couple ingredients.
Add the carrots.
Strain the potatoes.
 Rinse off the potatoes, to get rid of any starch that may have seeped out.
 Add the potatoes.
 Be careful of splatter!  Add 2 more cups of water.  We careful that it doesn't get too watery.  I'd wait to see how much water the potatoes sucked up.

It's all in there!  Let it all stew for another hour, again stirring it regularly.

A couple things you could add to your meal 
- Hungarians always have some kind of "pickled" veggies.  We opted for some pickles, and then Dan made a terrific cucumber salad!  (Which Aidan ate seconds, and thirds of.)  
- Of course, you'll also want to have that yummy crusty bread, to lap up any broth!
- You can also have out some "Pista", a Hungarian paprika paste, so you can customize the heat.
- The use of sour cream in gulyas varies by region, but as far as I'm concerned, there's always a little wiggle room for sour cream in Hungarian food!


Look at that gorgeous color!

There's that yummy cucumber salad too!