Friday, July 22, 2016

5 Ways We Encourage Creativity




Four is turning out to be such a fun age.  We are having a blast watching Emmie figure out the world around her and navigate it with that little creative spark she's always had.  Every age of childhood has its pros and cons; the creative, whimsical part of this one is my absolute favorite.


Emmie is just naturally just a very clever little girl.  If we did nothing else to inspire it, I feel like she would still find ways to think outside the box for every situation that's thrown at her. But I want her to live up to her absolute fullest potential; I want her to forever think creatively when she faces new and different situations.  So we're doing our absolute best to encourage her inventive personality and hone in on her strengths, even at this young age.  My teacher side says that, even at four years old, we can still begin to lay a foundation for a ingenious, unique personality that will benefit her forever.

I have a few routines that we've integrated into our everyday that have proven absolutely essential for crafting an open, innovative, and fun atmosphere in our home.  Here are a few of my favorite tips for integrating that creative foundation into your child's routine!

1. Have lots of crafting supplies available.  Emmie constantly has access to many different crafting tools that let her express her artistic side anytime she wants.  In addition to crayons, stamps, paper, tape, and stickers, we have a mutual understanding that any paper/cardboard/clean items that would otherwise be thrown away is hers until recycling day.  She is always welcome to make different creations with those whenever she'd like.


Of course, these supplies would depend on the trust level you have with your child...Emmie definitely wouldn't have had open access to crayons a couple of years ago (and my walls thank me for that ;)).  You'd really need to evaluate your child's readiness and willingness to obey the rules.  But I'd recommend having any supplies that help artistic/visual expression thrive readily available.

2. Integrate pretend play into everyday routine.  There is such a huge misconception that you have to spend money to spark creativity in a child; so not true.  Creative play can be woven into even everyday conversation with a small child.  For example, I tell Emmie that we have a "secret mission" when I need her to help with chores.  We practice making science experiments or imaginary concoctions when cooking dinner.  I even have her make up alternate endings or guess what's happening next when we're reading her favorite books.

Try to turn at least one situation a day into something imaginative and fun!  It doesn't have to be anything huge or different; as a matter of fact, I think it sparks creativity even more to weave it into everyday situations.  Remember, by modeling a creative spirit now, you're teaching your child to turn their everyday experiences into something special and enjoyable in the future.

3. Make sure children have the fuel they need for creative energy. Did you know that moderately active boys and girls need 1.5 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables a day to fuel activity?*  While I know parents strive for this, sometimes it just isn't possible.  Busy lifestyles (and yes, sometimes picky eaters) can encourage a lifestyle that might not be as healthy as we'd like for our children.

That's why we love products like L’il Critters™ gummy vitamins for easily establishing healthy habits in Emmie. These vitamins not only taste great but provide essential nutrients to growing and energetic children. They're made with natural fruit flavors and colors derived from fruits, veggies, and plants.

We make gummy vitamins a daily habit to ensure that Emmie is getting the essential nutrients she needs for creative play.  In addition, we strive for healthy eating habits and make sure she gets enough sleep each night...I can tell a massive difference if bedtime is too late, or even if she doesn't have a rest time in the afternoon.  Those little bodies are still growing and developing; it takes a lot of rest and fuel to allow them the energy they need for pretend play!

4. Ask questions.  As a teacher, I know that asking lots and lots of questions is crucial for developing comprehension and literacy in the classroom.  Children must be taught how to reinforce their own learning by reiterating key points over and over.

But questions are also so crucial for challenging your child to think outside the box.  It's so easy for a child to fall into a standard way of thinking; constantly question them as to how we can think differently about a situation and they'll begin to learn how to think differently on their own!  When your child is finishing homework, ask how they could have solved a problem differently on a few of the questions.  Or challenge your child to tell you a story about the picture they just drew.  There are so many ways to spin so many different situations.  This requires the parent thinking outside of the box too.  You'd be surprised how much you're challenged (in a good way!) by growing your child's creativity!

5. Be a cheerleader.  I get it; we're all busy. You try to listen to the million stories your child has for you each day, but it's hard, I know.  But when you see that your child is excited about a situation or a project, get excited too.  You are the biggest cheerleader in your child's life.  When they see you are excited about their new idea or new situation, they'll be excited too.


Beyond just verbal positive reinforcement of creativity, we make sure and display visual representations of creativity all over the house.  The playroom has a space where Emmie gets to display her choice of artistic creations.  I also love for her to sing and tell stories in the car, show off exercises and dances she learned at school each night, and even tell me why she chose the clothes she did each day.  I want her to get that I am not only proud, but interested in ways she uses her brain.


Thanks to L’il Critters™for promoting the best creative energy in all of our children since 1998!  In every child, there is a l'il artist, a l'il architect, a l'il inventor...each child has his or her own strength.  L’il Critters™ is giving children the essential nutrients they need to go on to achieve big things!
L’il Critters™Gummy Vites are available at most major retailers, including Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Costco.  Want more information about L’il Critters™?  Visit their website or Facebook page. You can even print a $1 off coupon at Gummyvites.com!

Now, you have the chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card!  To enter, answer the following question in a comment on this post: "What do you do to encourage creativity in the children around you?"

*SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fruits and Veggies More Matters® April 2016. Available here.

Entry Instructions:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/22/2016 - 12/31/2016
Be sure to visit the L’il Critters™ brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

This is a sponsored post for which I’ve received free product and/or compensation, but the opinions are 100% my own.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hawaiian Poke Rice Salad


Ok, today's recipe is a little off the grid... but stay with me.

Have you ever heard of a rice salad?  It's the perfect way to make a hearty, wholesome summer meal that isn't too overwhelming for a warm night.  You can really use anything in the world in them and still have a complete meal by using the rice as your starch.  I love trying different flavor combinations with these, because if you think about it, rice is a staple in so many different genres of cooking!


I absolutely could not wait to try today's recipe.  I'll admit that I don't try Hawaiian foods very often, but the flavors in them are out. of. this. world.  You can include spicy, sweet, and savory elements in the same dish and create an incredible flavor combination.  This definitely did not disappoint!


Here's a little recipe I crafted for Hawaiian Poke Rice Salad

Ingredients

1 bag Success® Whole Grain Brown Rice
1 lb (or about 2 steaks) Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna (If you can't or would prefer not to eat raw fish, you can use crab meat instead.  But, if you want to be a little adventurous, the flavors in the tuna are amazing!)
2 tbsp pickled ginger, sliced thinly
1/3 cup sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tbsp Sriracha
1/4 cup seaweed (I found dehydrated seaweed in my Asian foods section and rehydrated it with a little bit of water.)
1 medium avocado, diced
1/4 cup diced green onion
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped into 1" chunks
1 cup diced pineapple
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

Dice tuna into 1/2-1" chunks and place in a bowl.  Mix with pickled ginger.

Place sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, ginger, garlic powder, wasabi powder, and Sriracha in a sealable container.  Shake until well-blended. Pour a few tablespoons of dressing mixture on tuna.  Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cook Success® Boil-In-Bag Brown Rice according to package directions.  Allow to cool to room temperature while prepping your fruit and veggies. In a large bowl, mix rice, avocado, green onion, red onion, cucumber, pineapple, marinated tuna, sesame seeds, and remaining dressing.  Stir well.  Add extra soy sauce and Sriracha to taste.


No matter the meal, Success® Rice is a quick, easy addition!  This no-measure, no-mess Boil-In-Bag rice is ready in 10 minutes and cooks perfectly every time.  Whether you need the gluten-free varieties of Whole Grain Brown Rice or White Rice, or crave the fragrant and aromatic varieties of Success® Jasmine Rice or Success® Basmati Rice, Success Rice has the perfect variety for your unique meal!

Success Rice's Whole Grain Brown Rice is made from 100% whole grains.  This gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free variety is a great source of complex carbohydrates and has the nutritional benefits of long cooking brown rice, but with a fourth of the cooking time.

You can grab Success Rice at grocery retailers nationwide.  Join their Riceipe Club for hundreds of recipe ideas and special offers!

Want to enter for your chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card?  Tell me your favorite rice dish in the comments below!

Entry Instructions:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#Sweeps” and “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/19/16 – 9/30/16
Be sure to visit the brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Ultimate Planning Notebook Add-On: Birthday Tracker

Happy Friday, friends!  It just happens to be an especially happy Friday this week...it's my 31st birthday!

So, what else would I share today than a printable birthday tracker to go with the Ultimate Planning Notebook collection?

This is such an awesome birthday tracker!  So colorful and bright...and the calendar is a free printable!


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jackson at 5 Months




Jackson Lee,

You're FIVE months old!  Time is flying!  We are well on our way to half a year and I absolutely cannot tell you how much we love watching you grow each day.  You've become such a sweet, fun little boy and every day with you is a complete joy!

Here's what you're up to at 5 months old.
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Friday, July 8, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake

Today, I thought I'd share Noah's birthday cake for this year!  He is a huge fan of peanut butter cups (more of an addict).  It's to the point where we can't keep them in the house because we'll both finish off a bag in a couple of days...like really.  So, when it came time to craft up the perfect cake for him, I knew exactly what to make!

Let me tell you...this turned out a thousand times better than I thought it would.  I knew it would be so-so, but it's just as addictive as the candy.  We've both had to talk ourselves out of a second piece all week!

Here's the recipe...

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!


Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake

Ingredients

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups peanut butter, divided
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
Chocolate syrup
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
30 peanut butter cups, chopped (divided)

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, milk, 1 cup of peanut butter, and 1 stick of butter.  Spread mixture in a greased 9x13" baking dish.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

In a mixer, cream together 1 stick butter, 1 cup peanut butter, and milk.  Slowly add in powdered sugar until frosting is mixed well.

Spoon half of the frosting mixture on top of the cake mix.  Add 6-8 large squirts of chocolate syrup.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

Very gently swirl frosting and syrup into the cake mix.  Don't completely mix.  Make sure you get swirls into the edge of the cake pan.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

Gently press in half of the chopped peanut butter cups.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

Bake cake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

Top cake with remaining frosting, more chocolate syrup, and remaining chopped peanut butter cups.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake is one of the most addictive things I've ever made!  The chocolate and peanut butter frosting swirls make it so rich and decadent.  This is a must-pin!

Enjoy!



print recipe

Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 Box of yellow cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
  • chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 30 chopped peanut butter cups
Instructions
In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, milk, 1 cup of peanut butter, and 1 stick of butter. Spread mixture in a greased 9x13" baking dish.In a mixer, mix together 1 stick butter, 1 cup peanut butter, and milk. Slowly add in powdered sugar until frosting is mixed well.
Spoon half of the frosting mixture on top of the cake mix. Add 6-8 large squirts of chocolate syrup.Very gently swirl frosting and syrup into the cake mix. Don't completely mix. Make sure you get swirls into the edge of the cake pan.Gently press in half of the chopped peanut butter cups.Bake cake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.Top cake with remaining frosting, more chocolate syrup, and remaining chopped peanut butter cups.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16-20 servings
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Create It Thursday - July




Welcome to Create It Thursday for July!  In case you missed the announcement last week, we're going to start doing this party just once per month, on the first Wednesday night at 7pm.  So glad y'all were able to check out July's party!

I'm sharing a few of my favorite creations from the last party below!  These are also on my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

















...and this week's fan favorite...



Thanks to everyone who shared with us at the last party!  If you were featured, you can grab your button below:




Let's get July's party going!
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Friday, July 1, 2016

Favorite Baby Products (Round Two) - First Four Months

When Emmie was a baby, I would do a round-up of favorite baby products every few months.  I heard from so many readers that they were helpful suggestions for them, and I actually ended up going back and referencing those posts when we were getting ready for Jackson!  So I thought I'd bring back that little series for the second time around.

If you missed my favorite baby items posts with Emmie, click the links below to see!






Below, I've listed products that we used and loved for our second baby!

This veteran mom lists out her must have baby products! This list is for a newborn, but she has links to her best items for several different age groups.


(Affiliate links used.)


1. Rock and Play - This is one I really had no idea that I needed until I bought it!  Everybody and their mother recommended this to me, but I just didn't think we needed one more baby item in the house. After Jackson refused to let me put him down for a few days, I finally caved and tried it...and much to my surprise, he sat (and even slept) peacefully in it pretty much every time we used it!

It's wonderful if you have a baby that loves to be held.  It's a deeper cradle that has legs to allow for gently rocking the baby.  They even sell an auto rocker version, but we don't have that one.  Just trust me...this is a must have!

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