Friday, June 14, 2019

4 Simple Strawberry Recipes & Berry Picking Favorites

We got to go strawberry picking this week and it might have been our best experience yet.  It's always a FAVORITE summer activity for us.  The kids both picked berries (although Fletcher did a lot of eating and not a lot of filling the basket :), were happy to go along for the ride, ate berries and the weather was PERFECT.  Like 70s, blue skies and the perfect amount of wind.  What is this Summer weather in the Midwest!?!  We'll take it although it's feeling much too cold for swimming.  Maybe next wee!

I loaded up the kid and headed about 30 minutes north.  We have picked strawberries and apples at Ditzler Orchard for 3 years now.  We look forward to this short little road trip regularly.  The first year was hard - baby Fletcher hated it and every year has gotten easier after that.  So moms of littles... keep it up.  One day your outings will get easier and your kids will be able to do more and more!!  I promise!

Strawberry Picking 2017
Strawberry Picking 2018

 Summer perfection!!

We got home and went on a bike ride or two.

We ate all of our strawberries pretty quickly.  I thought you might be interested in 4 SUPER easy, SUPER fast recipes to use fresh strawberries in this Summer.  It's hard to call them recipes because they really are so basic.  I guarantee you'll enjoy these easy ideas for strawberries this Summer.

Strawberry Lemonade
(pink lemonade + finely chopped strawberries.  You can mash them or chop them fine)

Strawberries + Whipped Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream
Finely Chop strawberries + favorite vanilla ice cream.
Let the vanilla ice cream melt just a little and stir in fresh strawberries.

Sugar Dusted Strawberries
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve.

Yum!  Tastes like Summer!

 It's time to link up with my favorite blogging buddies for High Five for Friday.  Join us with a few different blog posts and be sure to look around to find some new blog friends

Becky @  By BMG Blog
Della @ Della Devoted
Tif @ Bright on a Budget
Whitney P @ Come Home for Comfort

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

DIY Lemon Topiaries

It's no secret that I love lemons.

I love everything from lemonade to lemon printed clothes to lemon decor.

Lemons are just so cheerful.

I picked up these lemon topiaries at Walmart for $7.88 each in their Spring decor section!!  What a steal!!

There is no way I could have purchased the supplies to make one of my own for that price.  However, I wasn't completely happy with the way they looked.  You could see the styrofoam ball pretty clearly and they looked a little sparse.  I opted to buy the Walmart topiaries and head to Hobby Lobby to buy some half off greenery.

The whole project cost me about $24

2 - $7.88 lemon topiaries
1 - $7.50 half off greenery garland from Hobby Lobby

I LOVE the way they turned out and they make me smile every time I see them on my mantle.

Let me walk you through the step by step DIY process in pictures.

BEFORE: 2 topiaries straight from the store.  The leaves have wire in them so they were easy to adjust.

TONS of lemons of various sizes.

They looked great from overhead, but sparse from the side.

I picked up a similar shape/color leaf garland to add into the topiaries.

Fletcher helped me pull off half the leaves on the garland.  I cut it in half - saving half the garland to keep in tact and half the garland to pull apart.

I counted out the same number of leaves for each topiary tree then hot glued them on.

See all the gaps in the leaves/lemons.

Ta Da!!  The AFTER lemon topiary trees with more leaves!

Up close.  Much more dimension and interest.

I love how bright and Summery these look on the mantle.  I had to play with the mantel set up for a while to get it right.

1. Two topiaries looked sad and too small for the mantle.
2. Added the greenery garland in the middle.
3. Stacked the topiaries on pillar candle holders
4. Still not tall enough so I added a stack of 3 books under each tree.
5. Love the final look!

Be sure to play around with your decor until you love the look.  I just shopped my house and kept pulling things from my decor stash until the mantle looked right to me.

The final look in our family room!

What's on your mantle right now??

Monday, June 10, 2019

My Tips & Tricks for Flying with Kids

We just got back from a super fun week in Florida!

But you know what's not super fun - when travel does not go as planned.  Our flights to Florida could not have gone better.

Our flight from Florida was not allowed to land in Atlanta (after circling the airport for a while - barf! - due to weather) got diverted to Birmingham with no great options to get us home.  I read that they diverted 50 planes on Saturday so I know there were a lot of travel turfs as we call them.  There were storms everywhere and not many answers for when we'd be able to get a flight home. 

Kevin took charge - rented us a car and car seats and drove us 8 hours home - our hero!  It was so good to sleep in our own beds.  But we still have not been reunited with our 4 suitcases, stroller and 2 car seats - MAJOR bummer!!  Here's to hoping Southwest comes through for us and we're reunited soon because we are missing a lot of stuff.

Now on to the fun tips and tricks for flying with kids.

We fly a couple times of year with the kids.  They're little traveling pros.  In fact, they were pretty unphased by all the travel chaos this past weekend and were super flexible.  I think it was hardest on the parents, as it should be - right??

Our kids are 3 and 6 and they each get their own backpack when we fly.  It might be their favorite part about the traveling.  I gather things for weeks ahead of time so that they'll have a variety of special surprises on travel day.

I like to save party favors, kid's meal toys, Dollar Tree finds, favorite candies, etc.

I try to make their surprise count equal and do a similar variety of things.  They both get things to eat, play with, art type of things, reading things and things to share.  It works great.

Here's their special surprises this trip:

Olive's Backpack (6yr old):
Stickers and blank paper
Hatchimal Mess Free Marker set
Nerd Rope
Push Pop
Mini Polly Pockets
Twisty Petz
Squishy Unicorn
Paw Patrol Party Favors
Trash bag
Snacks - Nutragrain bar, smarties, pretzels, cheerios, bubble gum and suckers
Kindle Fire (both kids share this)
Bunny & Blanket

Tips & Tricks:
The Twisty Petz were the favorite!  They came from Target.  They were fun to play with and parts were easy to keep together.

The Polly Pocket was very cute, but Olive was hesitant to want to play with all the tiny parts on the airplane.  They would be really easy to lose and hard to keep track of.  

Meijer had the stickers and candy.

I found the Mess Free Marker Pad at TJ Maxx for $2.99.  My kids love these.

The unicorn squishy came from Dollar Tree.  It was fun and super cute, but ripped easily.  It wasn't nearly as durable as the other name brand squishy toys I've seen.  I would not recommend them.

Fletcher's Backpack (3 yrs old):
Water Wow Water Reveal Pad (can fill paint brush with water bottle water)
Stickers & blank paper
Tiger squishy
Paw Patrol Party Favors
Nerd Rope
Push Pop
Snacks - Nutragrain bar, smarties, pretzels, cheerios, bubble gum and suckers
Trash bag
Puppy & Blanket

Tips & Tricks:
The Water Wow pad came from TJ Maxx and was so much fun!  Both kids loved it and it held up SO well.  It was $3.99 and I'll definitely be buying more.  The brush was so easy to fill with water from our water bottles and didn't need refilled very often.

The airplanes, candy and stickers were from Meijer.  They were metal and great quality.

We went to a family friendly event in the community and they were giving out free spinners.  I saved it for Fletcher's surprises and it was great!  I also saved our latest magazine subscriptions for the kid's backpacks. 

I always fly with plastic bags to use for trash, dirty clothes, or to contain messes on the go.  Each kid gets one in their backpack and then I put a few in mine.  I also pack a change of clothes for each kid, empty water bottles to fill at the airport, LOTS snacks, wet wipes, clorox wipes, hand sanitzer, paper towels and important documents in my backpack.  Kevin packs electronics, a book to read and charging cords.

I also try to save back a special surprise or two for the return trip home.  I just put them in a bag in my checked luggage and add them to the kid's backpacks when I'm repacking us to head home.  They get to play with all of their initial surprises plus one or two new things.

 What special surprises would your kids like to play with on an airplane??

Friday, June 7, 2019

Amazing Kid Safe Knives for the Kitchen

My kids love to help me in the kitchen, but up until now, I haven't been able to let them help me with any chopping.  Sharp knives are the last things that I want to give my children.  I recently discovered some really great KID FRIENDLY KNIVES and put them on Olive's birthday wish list.

I knew she'd love them.

I didn't realize that we'd ALL come to love them.

These get used every single day at my house and I'm about ready to order a second set.  This post isn't sponsored - just a friend sharing something I love!!

They come as a set of three and they work perfectly for both my six year old and my three year old.  They're heavy duty and durable.  I don't worry about my kids hurting themselves with them.  They give the kids such a fun independence in the kitchen.  We've started having lunches that the kids can chop all on their own and they are so proud of all their chopping.

I love seeing them figure out how much effort is required to cut a nectarine vs a banana.  Or a cucumber vs a sausage patty.  We've had lots of fun conversations while they chop.  They think they're hot stuff being able to use knives and help me chop.

I really can't say enough wonderful things about this set of kid friendly knives.  You've got to check them out on Amazon.  Can you believe they're only $8.94?!?!?

Here are the knives in action:

Chopping favorites: Watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, cheese, bananas, sausage links, strawberries and apples have all been fun to chop. 

*Amazon affiliate link include.  Thanks for supporting PDP :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Summer: Day in the Life

I'm excited to have June and July off with the kids!  We're the bosses of our days!  Hooray!

We have a few things on the calendar - appointments for all of us, meetings, lessons, tennis, swimming, etc.  But there's still lots of open time where we can do what we want.

Some years I put together a big bucket list.  Not this year.  We have traditions that we'll definitely do - the County Fair, strawberry picking, road trips, Sunflower maze, etc.  But we'll be doing more fly by the seat of our pants and see what sounds fun that day.  We will be open to last minute invitations and fun with friends.

Our routine will look something like this: wake up, enjoy some time at home while we eat breakfast and make a plan for the day, get out of the house, pack a lunch to eat on the go or outside, enjoy some time playing at home, swim, see friends, lots of grilling, bike rides and catching lightning bugs with neighbors.

We started making daily to do lists on Friday (our first day of Summer break).  The kids love getting a say in what we do and I love mixing in a bit of routine into our days.  I wrote the list and posted it for reference in a high traffic area.  The kids kept checking it to see how we were doing.  There was no pressure to cross everything off the list.  Just work through as many things as possible.  We got through 5 of the things on our list this day.

I plan to offer fun things like:
picnic with Kevin on campus
favorite restaurants
backyard pool
various art projects
ice cream date
Summer reading program at library
Children's museum
road trips
overnight at a hotel
family gatherings
play dates with friends

Along with simple things like:
movie night at home
game night
book club
summer school = any at home learning
art free time
bubble bath
going for a walk

What things are you really looking forward to doing with your family this Summer??

Monday, June 3, 2019

Summer Salads

Happy Summer Break!  It feels good to have a break from our busy school year routines.  Speaking of breaks, I'm going to switch to blogging Monday, Wednesday, Friday this Summer.  I'll still be here and on instagram (@polkadottyplace), but I want to make sure I leave myself plenty of time to enjoy my kids and my family this Summer.

Now let's move on to some delicious recipes.  I'm all about fresh, colorful, quick recipes for Summer.

I really love recipes that you can make once and eat for several days in a row. 

I made up a recipe for a yummy pasta salad over the weekend.  It was so simple and so good.  I almost always have these ingredients on hand which means that this will be an easy side for me to whip up all summer long.

Italian Pasta Salad

1 box mini bow tie pasta
1 c chopped turkey pepperoni
1/4 c sliced black olives
1/4 c finely chopped sharp white cheddar cheese
2 mini cucumbers sliced very thin
purple onion to taste
You could easily add in sweet peppers or tomatoes
1/2 c Olive Garden Italian Dressing*

*This dressing is SO good!  Don't substitute it.

Cook the pasta.  Drain and let it cool.  (You can do this step ahead of time and refrigerate it)
Chop up all the add ins and pour the dressing on top.  Stir until well combined.  Let it sit for at least an hour before serving and add more dressing if the noodles absorb it. 

Here are a few other Summer salad ideas from the archives:

Grilled Romaine Salad (recipe here)

Fresh Avocado Salsa (recipe here)

Fresh Cucumber Salad (recipe here)

Quesadilla Explosion Salad (recipe here)

Cheeseburger Salad (recipe here)

Apple Salad (recipe here)

What's your favorite summer salad to make?

Friday, May 31, 2019

May Favorites: Birthdays, Bikes, Elections & a Chipped Tooth

May was a BUSY month for us.

There was so much going on at work for Kevin, at Olive's school, with friends and with everything else.  The month just flew by and we are officially on Summer Break!  Hooray!

But not everything was all sunshine and roses:
1. I chipped my front tooth this week and have an appt to get that fixed.
2. We had to spend a chunk of change to replace all of our gutters (BUT the new ones actually work and look fabulous!!)
3. Fletcher has had a skinned elbow, knees, palms or all of the above for weeks now.  He's just such a wild man that I think we may start putting him in pants to protect his legs or maybe bubble wrap :)

Let's get on to the highlights:

1. We have lived in our city for almost 4 years.  If you've been around here for a while, you know that we have moved a lot over the years and it feels good to be putting down roots in a place.  Well a major bonus of staying put for a while and making friends here is that I just got elected PRESIDENT of my local Mom's group!!!  It really was a HUGE honor to even be considered and so I'm thrilled to have this role for the coming year.  It'll involve planning, coordinating, managing and organizing things for our group.  You know I've got lists upon lists of fun ideas to execute and an amazing board of wonderful women to work with.  It's been a while since I've gotten to have an opportunity like this and I'm SO excited!

2. Memorial Day Weekend
We had a blast visiting family, celebrating Olive and enjoying some time outside for Memorial Day.  We decked out in red, white and blue and had a great weekend.  Summer feels official now and we are so thankful to live in the USA.

3. Backyard Fun.
Fields of violets.

We have this cute cherry tree that the kids have dubbed The Climbing Tree.  They love hanging out in it and I love that they're playing together nicely.

The kids love wearing their helmets.  They call themselves rock climbers and wear them all the time.  Safety first :)

4. Fletcher is a wild man.  He's climbing our built ins, climbing our play set, climbing out of shopping carts, etc.  I can't take my eyes off of him.

5. Bike Rides
We've been going on multiple bike rides a day.  Most have been accident free and fun so I'm calling it a win :)  I'm also debating adding a first aid kit to my bike basket - ha!

6. Olive's actual birthday.
We celebrate early with family and friends.  It was fun to have a calm, quiet day of celebrations with just the four of us at home. We sent in a treat with her to school and she loved having her birthday on a school day.

She requested sugar cookies for her birthday treat.

I packed all of her favorite foods - unicorn noodles and 6 of all her favorite foods for her 6th birthday  and then I wrapped her yumbox in her lunch box.

She opened gifts - some in the morning and some after school.  It was so fun to play with them!  Polly Pockets are the best!

She wished for a real life unicorn again this year :)

7. Flowers!
Our flowers are looking so pretty.  These begonias from Aldi are stunning!!  Our peonies looked amazing this year.  It made me want to plant some darker pink peonies for next yea.r  And I swapped out our regular sheets for these pretty floral sheets :)

8. Perfect T-shirt
The Time and Tru line at Walmart has done it again.  They have the perfect tshirt for $6.24 or less!!  They are the perfect v, have a good sized pocket, come in solids or stripes and are so flattering on.  I might have purchased 8 of them to update my sad t-shirt stash :)  My mom found another version of this shirt without a pocket on sale for $4.44 at her Walmart.

9. Front Door Family
Another bird family has decided that our front door is the perfect place for a nest.  We've really enjoyed watching the bird commotion and are excited to see them hatch.  

10. Last Day of School
Thursday was the last day of school for Olive.  She was sad to be done.  She's loved her teacher, her class and school has been so good for her.  She brought home a Summer Learning Packet and can't wait to get started on it.  We were apprehensive about this big change for Olive of starting full time school, but man, she's done awesome!!  She loved it even more than we could have imagined.  It's been such a blessing to see her grow and cheer her on.  Bring on first grade!

Fletcher and I celebrated the last day of our school year together with Chick-Fil-A Minis.  I was telling him that our days would be changing a bit and Olive would be home with us full time.  His response was HOORAY!!!  It's going to be a really fun summer :)

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!!

It's time to link up with my favorite blogging buddies for High Five for Friday.  Join us with a few different blog posts and be sure to look around to find some new blog friends

Becky @  By BMG Blog
Della @ Della Devoted
Tif @ Bright on a Budget
Whitney P @ Come Home for Comfort