Garden Caterpillar Kid Kit

How can you not love this little guy? He's so colorful and cute! My new Garden Caterpillar Kid Kit makes two caterpillars, so you can let one roam free-range style in your home AND stick one straight up in an indoor plant or in your garden. 

And cutting out the craft foam circles is great scissor practice for kids. Uneven circles just add extra charm! And of course we know kids love to paint, too! If you are working with a really young child and want to skip a few steps, I can easily paint the caterpillar heads and tails and/or cut out the body circles for you. Because I am super nice like that.

I always make my own kids be my craft guinea pigs. For the most part, they love doing crafts. The problem is that the craft that I end up producing is not always the first draft. And by the time I'm saying, "C'mon kids! Let's take pictures of your 15th caterpillar for my blog!" they are past the point of trying to impress me with their modeling abilities. So today when it was THAT TIME AGAIN, Peyton pulled out the ottoman, struck a pose, and declared, "Take my picture like this, Mommy!" And then he made me wait a moment so that he could compose himself and stop smiling to make this face:


I know, right? Watch out, Zoolander. I think your Blue Steel may have just been replaced.

And then Peyton cracked up and Ella jumped into the frame with her caterpillar and all hell broke loose. There was really no point in trying to take the standard "Show the people how proud you are of your cute craft" picture. They didn't seem to care about that. I think they feel that making 15 bazillion caterpillar crafts should be enough. Whatever.


Ummm.... Yeah. So buy my kit!

Our Easter Bunny Brings Paint

I freely admit that I use Easter as an excuse to buy my kids presents. Their Easter baskets are like Christmas stockings - as in, "Really? My truckload of love is supposed to fit in those? HA!" But I do have a reason. I rarely buy my kids random presents throughout the year, and both of their birthdays are within three weeks of Christmas. I want to buy them presents in the middle of the year, and Easter helps with that.

So, Easter morning represents a small present-palooza in our house. Seriously, Ella was still mid-flight as she grabbed at her first pink present.

I will say, though, that the presents the Easter Bunny brings are useful. He rarely brings toys. He brings crafts supplies, gardening supplies, sports equipment, that sort of thing. I mean, how can I feel guilty for giving my kids a bug catcher and a new pink watering can when those things help them enjoy the outdoors more?

And an orange baseball bat and blue jump rope for Peyton. And a pink baseball bat and pink jump rope for Ella. I can't feel guilty. It's awesome. The jump rope was Peyton's favorite gift of the day - definitely $1 well spent.

And Hello Kitty socks that make Ella's eyes light up like this:

And how could I not get Ella her first Big Girl scissors when Peyton got his first scissors on Easter 2 years ago? And they really needed some new shirts and bubble bath.... There was more, but you get the idea.

The only actual toys - foam swords. We tried forever to keep toy weapons out of our house. When Peyton was really little we didn't talk about guns or shooting or watch anything on TV that involved weapons. You know what? It doesn't matter. Before I knew it, Peyton was shooting his pretend finger gun. He would find a stick and turn it into a sword. Now I've just given in. I don't care. Go ahead and judge.

After all the presents were opened and the Easter eggs were found we sent Peyton and Ella into their rooms to open their curtains. And guess what they found - cans of paint! The exact color that they had each picked out just a few days ago when they went to Lowe's with James. See what I mean? Useful presents! And they were SO EXCITED!

We moved into this house a little over a year ago and we had yet to paint over the existing colors of their rooms. Ella's room was a light yellow and Peyton's was a light blue. They weren't bad colors, by any means, but we are big fans of big color and we had been wanting to paint for a while. So what did I do with my Easter Sunday? I painted Peyton's room bright green. And what will I be doing tomorrow? Yep, I'll be painting Ella's room bright lavender.

Paint might seem like a boring present. But let me tell you, all day long Peyton kept saying, "Thank you so much for painting my room, Mommy! I love it!"

And check this out! You might think that with all these gifts the whole meaning of Easter is lost on my children. Ha ha sucker! Last night I asked Peyton what we do on Easter. I thought he would say, "Look for Easter eggs, open presents, eat candy, bask in the commercial glory of Easter..." because that's exactly what I was thinking. You know what he said? "We celebrate Jesus." And I swear, today he actually set those foam swords in the shape of a cross and told me all about how Jesus was crucified and then he disappeared and then came back - "Like magic!" And THAT is why we send Peyton to Catholic preschool - so that I can focus on the fun stuff and they can teach the stuff I neglect to mention. It seems to work out well.

Happy Easter!

Cranberry Nut Granola - Are You Serious About Deliciousness?

This granola is so good! It's the perfect mixture of crunchy, chewy, salty and sweet. And the aromas that waft through the house when you heat the cranberry, maple, brown sugar, cinnamon mixture on the the stove are amazing. James declared this granola "Perfect!" and then  tried to claim the entire batch for himself. Both of my kids love it. BOTH of them! I know - it's amazing. And it tastes really good on yogurt, too!

Cranberry Nut Granola

Nonstick cooking spray
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped roasted and salted almonds
1 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, cranberry juice, and cinnamon over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.

Pour the maple mixture over the oat mixture and stir until combined. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Stir in the cranberries and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture begins to brown. Cool completely. Store airtight in a plastic container for up to 1 week.

To give credit where credit is due, I adapted this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Her recipe uses unsweetened cranberry juice (which I never have on hand) and sunflower seeds. I also made a few other minor changes in my version.

Spring Fling at Reiman Gardens

Reiman Gardens always puts on great activities for holidays, so of course we've been counting down the days until their "Spring Fling" Easter Egg Hunt. And of course it was 40 degrees and very, very windy, but still very fun! Here are some highlights from our day.

First stop: Scary Easter Bunny. See that look of Ella's? "I only just stopped crying when Mommy picked me up. What the hell is that thing? It's ridiculous. And stupid. And poop!"

I threw that "poop" part in to make her pretend thoughts more authentic, since that is still her favorite word of all time.
Proof: Here's a new joke she told us tonight after I told her to eat her potatoes.
"Knock knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Potatoes who?"
"Potatoes, potatoes! I don't like poop potatoes!" (That last line was presented in song.)

Let the Easter Egg Hunting begin! Gazillions of kids, gazillions of empty plastic eggs, it was pretty cool. The Gardens had it set up so that the younger kids (Ella's age group) and bigger kids (Peyton's age group) went a'hunting for eggs in two separate areas at two different times. It really worked out perfectly. Then all the kids traded the empty eggs for cute little goodie bags at the Egg Exchange Station.

We rarely eat candy in our house, but I'm not against letting my kids have their perfect day, so they each had 2 suckers and 1 piece of chocolate while we were there. And then we we got home they each had 2 more pieces of chocolate.

And then Ella snuck an extra Hershey's Kiss into her room during nap time and then whispered loud enough for the entire house to hear: "Peyton! I just ate some candy!"
I go into her room: "Ella what did you eat?"
Ella (sitting on the edge of her bed, swinging her legs, smiling the biggest smile I've ever seen): "Chocolate! I LOVE CHOCOLATE!"
I tried to be stern, but it came out as laughter and a big hug. I mean, really, I just couldn't fault her for it.

And check it out - Nature! At it's best! This Canadian Goose was sitting on her (or his? I don't know who takes care of babies in Geese Land) eggs. Don't worry, I didn't get this close, I cropped the picture. Some other little kids got too close and Mama Goose really gave them an earful!

Then we headed inside to pet some real bunnies. There were 4 bunnies on volunteer's laps and Ella had to pet each one. Except she wouldn't do it by herself: "Peyton! Peyton! Come here and pet bunny!" After her big brother touched a bunny, she assumed it was safe, and then she would pet it. I could tell Peyton really didn't care about the bunnies, but he loves taking care of Ella, so he went around petting all of them with her.

There were a lot of craft stations set up inside, and Ella chose to make a basket. The volunteer craft helper person let her choose a basket color and she got to decorate it with stamps and stickers. Peyton watched and waited patiently. Sometimes he's just anti-craft.

When Ella was done decorating her pink paper, the volunteer folded it up and stapled it together into a basket shape and Ella was thrilled! She made us sit down as soon as we left the craft table so that she could transfer all of her Easter treats into it.

There's a big open walk-through area to the right of this turnstile, but Peyton and Ella always have to go through this way. I don't blame them, I still think turnstiles are fun, too! Peyton has a sucker in his hand. Check out what Ella is doing. Busted!

Okay, honestly, he had just told her that she could have a lick, but I still think this picture is hilarious!

And in the car, on the way home, Peyton said to me: "Mommy, I bet tonight, when we do the best part and worst part of my day, this is going to be my best part! This is the best day of my WHOLE LIFE!" He says this a lot, but I still think it's one of the best sounds in the world.