Homemade Graham Crackers…

… Also known as “The Most Delicious Snack Ever”.

Yesterday, Ava came to me asking for crackers.  We were fresh out.  Zero.  Zilch.  None.  Not even something I could pass off as a cracker.  I had zero interest in walking (or driving) to the grocery store, only to buy processed junk crackers.

Homemade crackers it is!

I remembered that I picked up a book at the library.  This was actually the second time I check this book out.  That rarely happens.  I actually love this book so much, I think I’m going to buy a copy.  I very rarely buy books because I’m such a fan of borrowing them from the library.  The book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making, is  so overly useful.  I’m in love!

The Homemade Pantry

Anyway… so off we went, making homemade graham crackers.  I try to be very patient when cooking with Ava.  I let her scoop, pour, and stir.  She loves to help.  Even though it is completely unimportant at her age, we talk all about the measurements and each ingredient as we add them.  She touches the flour and smells the cinnamon.

Cooking with Toddlers

The dough for these crackers needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  This perfectly fell during nap time.  When she woke up, I had just pulled the first batch of warm crackers from the oven.  She was beyond excited.  These little gems of cinnamon-sugar are too good not to share.  Next time (which will be soon), I think I will use some fun cookie cutters!

Homemade Graham Crackers copy

Whole Wheat Graham Crackers | Adapted from The Homemade Pantry

Makes 45-50 2×3 inch crackers

  • 1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Rye Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 TSP Salt
  • 1/4 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1/2 TSP Baking Powder
  • 1-1/2 TSP Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar (Make your own with raw sugar and molasses!)
  • 3 TBSP Cold Butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4 TBSP Coconut Butter
  • 4 TBSP Honey (Local, if you can find it!)
  • 2 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1 TSP Raw Sugar
  1. Combine the flours with the salt, baking soda, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the brown sugar.  Mix well.  Add the butter and the shortening and mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and vanilla with 1/4 cup of cold water.  Stir until the honey is dissolved.  Slowly add the honey mixture to the flour mixture.  Form the dough into a bowl and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days.  (She says you can freeze it at this point.)
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator 20 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cut the dough in half and roll one half on a dusted surface (or between waxed paper).  Roll the dough as thin as possible, about 1/8 inch.  Cut your crackers into 2×3″ rectangles (or use cookie cutters!).  Place on a baking sheet using a spatula.  They won’t spread, so they can be very close.  Reroll the scraps and repeat until all of the dough is rolled.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the 1 teaspoon sugar.  Sprinkle the crackers with the cinnamon-sugar and prick the dough several times with a fork.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown (about 12 minutes in my oven).  Remove from the oven and cool.

Graham Crackers From The Homemade Pantry

These crackers are incredible good.  Nothing beats homemade!  Enjoy!

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Reader Q&A: How Do I Get My Family To Eat Healthy?

How do I get my family to eat healthy?

Reader Melissa A. sent me an email asking a question that I think most mothers and wives face: How do I get my family to eat healthy?  See what she had to say.

I am on a path to start eating clean but I am having trouble getting my husband and children on board. 

My children are 2 and 3 and would not eat/throw a tantrum for hours if they don’t get their standard terrible toddler food (hot dogs, crackers, tons of sugar loaded processed foods).   I’ve actually tried for over a year to correct their menu just to throw it away in the trash every time.  Since I’m the grocery shopper in the house I have tried to reduce their intake where I can, improving the amounts they receive. 

Our biggest challenge is that my husband feeds them 5 out of 7 dinners as I work an hour away.  He’s not much of a cook/leftovers guy so they almost always eat Take and bake pizza or corn dog nuggets on a daily basis. 

Any words of wisdom?

Thanks so much,
Melissa A.

I know exactly how you feel.  While Ava has always had fairly good eating habits, Tony has not.  My husband had what I considered to be the “typical American diet”.  He is a lover of  meat, fried things, and anything containing the ingredient “partially hydrogenated oil”.

When I started this clean eating journey, he thought I was totally nuts.  He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to eat meat, or that I didn’t want our daughter eating Doritos.  I continued to do what I knew was right.

Tony’s eating habits are changing.

If you ask him, he may still tell you that my eating habits are a little strange, but I know he hears what I’m saying.  I realized that I had gotten through to him when I heard through the grapevine that he got on to someone who was trying to give our daughter excessive amounts of candy.  He explained to the person that we (yes, he said WE!) choose not to give junk like that to Ava and even though I wasn’t there, we stand together (together!!!) on our decision.  He was listening all along!  He made me proud!

So what did I do to get through to him?

In the beginning, I led by example.  I knew he would never just jump on board.  Like most men (sorry guys), I needed to let him decide that it was his idea.  Even though he thought it was all crazy, I ate healthy.  I also explained to him why I was eating the way I was.  Once the weight started falling off, I think he started to notice that it wasn’t a bunch of nonsensical hippie talk.   What I was doing made perfect sense, and he noticed!

I wasn’t above trickery.

I admit it, I tricked my family more than a few times.  (And I still do!)  I got crafty with the whole wheat and whole grains.  I learned how to add veggies into meals so that they wouldn’t  notice.

Don’t fight against them.

Although Ava is a fairly good eater, I know a little girl who sounds just like Melissa’s kids.  She only eats chicken nuggets (frozen or from McDonald’s), cookies, and a few other unhealthy items.  Her parents continued to feed her these things for fear of her being hungry.  Start by offering your children healthy options along with their favorites.  Slowly (over a few weeks) remove the unhealthy options from their diet.  They will probably protest, but if they are truly hungry, they will eat the healthy options.  If they won’t eat the healthy foods, set them aside for later when they are hungry again.  When they are hungry, they will eat.

Get your children involved!

Children who help grow or prepare their meals are more likely to try new things.  Start a small garden and let them grow new veggies to try.  Invite them into the kitchen.  Not only will your child be more likely to try new foods, but you will be bonding with them and building their self-esteem.

Prep your meals.

If you are not the one who cooks most of the meals, prep easy and healthy meals ahead of time.  Here I talked about prep being one of the three “P’s”.  If you can’t be home to cook a healthy meal, try doing once-a-month cooking.  Make and freeze healthy, clean meals that your spouse or kids can heat up.  If it’s just as easy as a frozen pizza, they just might cook it.

Getting your family to eat clean (or just somewhat healthy for that matter) is not going to happen over night.  Just remember to stay positive and lead by example.

Do you have any advice for Melissa or anyone else dealing with a picky family?

nopin

The Feeling of Health: Part 2

The Scacchi House: The Feeling of Health - How to Eat Clean

Last week in Part 1 I outlined how I got to this point. Oh the many years of believing spray butter was healthy. I was so wrong.

I firmly believe that food is 80% of the battle.  You can exercise all you want, but if you eat garbage, that’s all your body will ever be. You are what you eat, right. If so, I wanted to be bright, colorful, and healthy, not fake and carcinogenic.

The Scacchi House: Intro to Clean Eating

Photo Credit

So what exactly is eating clean? I guess it could mean slightly different things to different people. To me, eating clean is basically eating real, whole, and natural foods. Your food shouldn’t come from a package or have ingredients that you can’t pronounce. That mean no more Oreos. Don’t freak out.

When I began this journey I simply stopped buying crap. I let Tony finish up the few “bad” things left in the house and began from scratch. I stopped shopping in the center aisles at the grocery store (with a few exceptions). I began viewing processed food as poison, because that’s what it is.

The Scacchi House: How to Eat Clean

So what do I buy? What do I eat? It’s very simple. So lets say your typical dinner plate consists of 50% meat, 30% carbohydrate, and 20% vegetables, my dinner plate looks drastically different. My plate typically consists of 70% vegetables and 30% carbohydrates. Remember, I don’t eat meat, only on a rare occasion. If you don’t think you can completely cut meat, change your ratios around. Vegetables should make up at least 50% of your meal. Your carb should be a whole grain. Try recipes that use meat more as a side dish or as a flavor enhancer. A lot of Asian and southwest dishes come to mind.

Take a look in your pantry. Make a list if your favorite things (or everything for that matter). You need to find replacements for them all or eliminate them from your diet. Read the back of every label. I guarantee that only a few things are worth eating.

The Scacchi House: Clean Eating Food Swaps

Swapping your food won’t be as difficult as you think.  Your peanut butter should be just that, peanuts (and maybe a little salt).  Take a look at your favorite coffee creamer.  I bet you will be shocked that it’s not cream at all.  Most likely, the first three ingredients are water, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oil.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to “cream” my coffee with oil.  Swap it for some half and half.  Watch the non-organic kind though, sometimes they have emulsifiers and preservatives, both of which are a chemical-slurry-no-no.  As for butter, real is always better.  Margarine has absolutely no nutritional value, bugs won’t even eat it.  Stay away from the fake stuff (any butter replacement) and enjoy some butter.

Look to your veggies for inspiration. For the first few weeks, look for vegetarian recipes online. Try new things. If you don’t know where to start, check out my Pinterest food boards.  Get creative!  I can’t even begin to tell you how many fruits and veggies I had only had frozen from a can. Don’t be afraid.  Try to buy as much fresh fruits and veggies as possible.  I do not buy anything canned, with the exception of these two bad boys.

Canned Goods

I love cooking with coconut milk.  I made a vegetarian curry just last night.  I tried it with bulgur instead of rice… AMAZING!  I use San Marzano tomatoes to make pasta and pizza sauce.  I just add a few herbs and spices, drop it in the blender and it’s ready to go.  Canned veggies are better than none, but avoid them if you can.  The cans are lined with BPA, which is no bueno (and another post all together).

As for frozen, I like to have corn, peas, and maybe pearl onions on hand for soups.  That being said, I ONLY buy organic frozen veggies.  TWICE I have found metal shards in conventional frozen corn, but never in organic.  I’m not taking a chance with my family.  Fresh fruits and veggies are not that expensive. Try everything, you will be pleasantly surprised when you find new favorites. In the first few weeks of eating clean, cooking and eating became an adventure. I was experiencing flavors and combinations I had never had before.

So you want specifics? This post could go on forever.  I’ll give you a few examples.

At breakfast you eat a bowl of fruity pebbles (or insert any other commercial cereal here). Put them down. You are killing yourself with overly processed grains, sugar, and artificial colors and flavors. Instead, make a bowl of 6-grain oatmeal. Yes, the kind you actually have to cook. Food should never be fast or cheap, that’s my motto. Top it with fresh fruit and maybe even some chia seeds. If you are missing the sweetness, drizzle a small bit of raw, unfiltered local honey or REAL maple syrup in top. A little goes a long way.

Swap everything for the REAL version. Yep, I’ve lost 20 pounds eating butter, no joke. I’m giving you permission. If it’s not real, it has no business being in your kitchen. If it says low-fat or fat-free, it doesn’t belong (with a few exceptions). I buy full fat dairy. Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, etc. I do buy 2% organic milk and my yogurt and cottage cheese are reduced-fat/fat-free of some sort, but that’s just how they come. Fat free translates to “full of sugar.” We don’t want any of that.

The Scacchi House: How to Eat Clean

I love love love plain Greek yogurt.  I put it on everything.  I use it like sour cream.  You can make it sweet (with fruit and honey) or savory (add fresh herbs and spices).  Get creative!

Stay away from sugar-free, no sugar added, and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are fake and don’t belong in your body. If you need sugar for something, use organic raw cane sugar. I use hardly any sugar anymore. In fact, I only buy it by the half-pint (Our local bulk store lets me bring my own jar!).  Once you wean your body off of it (in about 2 weeks), you will no longer crave it.  Seriously!

The Scacchi House: Eating Clean

If you are going to eat meat, try to find 100% grass-fed and organic if possible. Your body can’t handle all those hormones and antibiotics (this is why 9-year-old girls have boobs).  All seafood should be wild caught, never farmed and definitely not from China.

So what are some of my new favorite foods?

  • Avocado – Full of healthy fats, this fruit goes with everything. If you’re not sure about it, try it several ways.  I use it in salads, wraps, pasta and rice dishes, pretty much everywhere.  It’s Ava’s favorite food. She eats it straight from the skin.
  • Quinoa – This is sort of new on the scene. It’s actually a seed, not a grain. It cooks up just like rice. It is a complete protein, which is great for vegetarians. It has a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Chia seeds – These are the same seeds from everyone’s favorite chia pet. They don’t taste like anything, so they are a great addition to just about anything.  They are high in omega-3 and fiber.
  • Beets – Really!  I use them in tacos or slice them up and grill them for a beet slider.  Top them with some homemade green goddess and you’re ready to go.
  • Sprouts – I never liked sprouts because I thought they were all from mung beans.  You can sprout just about anything.  I love broccoli sprouts and I have some quinoa sprouts growing.  They are great to top salads, sandwiches, or soups.

Eating clean isn’t difficult.  Once you get through the initial week or two and you’re no longer addicted to sugar, you will look at cakes, donuts, and candy as toxic waste.  I’m not going to lie and tell you I’m perfect.  I did have ice cream last night and I occasionally indulge in an 85% dark chocolate bar (eaten over a few nights).  You will not get it right 100% of the time, but you can try your best.  Eat fresh, real foods and cook from scratch, that’s my best advice.

If you have any specific questions about eating clean or any recipes, leave me a comment or email me at scacchihouse@yahoo.com.

Here’s Part 1 if you missed it.  Stick around for Part 3: Beating the Sugar Addiction.

nopin

Pineapple Palm Trees and All That Jazz

My aunt’s niece (on her husband’s side) got married recently while I was on vacation in Florida and my Aunt Sue asked my mom and me if we could help out with a few things.  And we did!  She enlisted us to make the cupcakes (and display them) and do some sort of fruit table.  She sent me a few ideas , but for the most part, all of the details were up to us.

The wedding was in Titusville, Florida at the home of the bride’s friend.  The house was a charming old bungalow right on the river.  I was in love… with the house.  I’m kicking myself now for not taking a photo tour; we were just entirely too busy.

I’ll just cut to the chase and show you what we did.  Everything turned out fabulous, if I must say so myself!

Pineapple Palm Trees Fruit Table

 We pulled together this bounty of fruit.  Every tropical fruit table needs a palm tree or two.  You want to know how to make them?  Check out my tutorial here.  You can see some of the awesomeness that is the vintage kitchen behind the table.

Fruit Table

Along with the pineapple we served strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Tropical Wedding Table

Their theme was an eclectic mix of tropical rustic.  If you were to cross a Hawaiian luau with a backyard picnic, there you have it.  I will have to say that it was a very lovely, relaxing, and enjoyable reception.  No fuss and everyone had a great time.  That leafy green stuff is kale if you were wondering.  And yes, I did take it home after the wedding.  It was delicious in some fettuccine alfredo and it made me happy that it didn’t get thrown away (unlike the collard greens).

Hawaiian cupcakes

We made simple cupcakes; chocolate, vanilla, and carrot cake.  All three flavors were topped with my mom’s homemade buttercream icing. Yummy!  If you are wondering about the flower toppers, they are actually little plastic rings.  They were a hit with the kids.  Ava’s Elmo and Big Bird even came home with one as a bracelet.

DIY Cupcake Stand

We made roughly 80 cupcakes.  We made the cupcake stand with some hints from Annie’s Eats.  Ours is larger than hers, but the idea is the same.  We used the cardboard cake rounds that you can buy at any party store and quite a few cans of soup  (16 to be exact).  We wrapped the cans in white wrapping paper and added a burlap detail to match the burlap table runner the bride picked out.  It worked perfectly.

Toddler trying to get cupcake

I even caught my little helper trying to help herself to a cupcake.  Don’t worry, she wore a dress to the reception.  This was while we were setting up and she was having a few strawberries.  You have to keep the dress clean somehow.  It didn’t stop her.  By the end of the night her dress was covered in fruit.  Thank goodness Gymboree’s fabrics hold up to heavy-duty scrubbing!

Tropical Wedding Cake

The cake toppers are actually salt and pepper shakers.  Their lips are magnetic.  How fun is that?  Oh and if you were confused, there was a mirror behind the cake stand.

Ava Scacchi

We all had a blast!  I’m so glad we got the opportunity to help out.  I’ve got some mad pineapple cutting skills now.

Butterflies and Best Friends

This trip is flying by. A month might seem like a long time for a vacation, but it really isn’t. With only 10 days left, I feel like I have so many more people I want to see and so much more to do.

We met up with my friend Brittany in Gainesville. We took Ava to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida (which is also where Tony went to college). I had been before, but it had been so long. I think I was in high school last time.

Butterfly Rainforest Museum of Natural History

The main attraction for us was the Butterfly Rainforest that they have there. I knew Ava would be all about it!

Butterfly Rainforest

Ava had a blast! She ran around, pointing at all the butterflies. Brittany and I spent some time identifying some of the plants. We decided on a few we needed to have in our gardens.

Tropical Plant

The Butterfly Rainforest at the Museum of Natural History is a giant screened in room filled with lush tropical vegetation, trees, flowers, waterfalls and ponds, a few very interesting birds, and HUNDREDS of butterflies. The butterflies are all around you. One may even land on you. It really offers you the opportunity to get an up close look at them.

Butterfly on Flower

We took a break from the butterflies and checked out the rest of the museum. Although I had been there before, I had never taken the time to see the other exhibits.

Baby on Slide

Ava found the children’s discovery room right away. It had a slide. Guess what we did for about 20 minutes? We also found this contraption. It’s a sort of wind tunnel. The kids can put different objects in the tube and they fly up. I think we might need one for our playroom. Maybe a possible DIY?

Wind Tube

There were a few other exhibits about the history of Florida and the environment. Nothing I haven’t seen before. There was one exhibit that really intrigued me.

They had a set up with photos from all of the natural springs around North Central Florida. Each spring had a collage of photos, some old, some new. The purpose of this display is to show how much the springs have changed and how some are closed down. The springs are being polluted. The worst part is that some of the worst changes occurred in the pictures taken in the early 1990s to the present. The springs have changed significantly in my lifetime. I’m not old! It breaks my heart that Ava may never get to swim in and enjoy these natural wonders. If you are near Gainesville, Florida, check out this exhibit. It’s free. If you can’t make it there, do a little research. Sulphur Springs in Tampa, Florida is not just a slummy neighborhood, there’s actually a spring there. Stop and think before you pour things into our water supply.

Toddler at Butterfly Rainforest

Have you been to the Butterfly Rainforest? Which is your favorite spring in Florida to enjoy during the summer?

Our Kids Are Eating What?

School Lunch

My sister and I had the opportunity to attend an end-of-year carnival at my cousins’ school last week.  My aunt was helping out and invited us to come out and see everyone.  Ava had a blast with all of the kids and going down the inflatable slide with her aunt, Susie (or Suuusss-seee as Ava says it).  She thoroughly enjoyed a snow cone (without the syrup), but wasn’t a fan of the fireman trying to spray her with the fire hose.

Baby on Slide

While at the school, my sister and I were offered a school lunch.  We graciously accepted, but our expectations were not high.  I was even more appalled when I opened the bag.  As Susie and I surveyed the bag, we determined that half of it was completely inedible.  We unwrapped the “ham” sandwich and this is what we found.

School Lunch Sandwich

Although it is on what appears to be a whole wheat bun (whether it’s actually whole wheat, we may never know), the mystery meat “ham” made me want to vomit.  Top that with two slices of processed cheese product and you have one completely unappetizing sandwich.  Where are the veggies?  Don’t the kids deserve some lettuce and tomato on their sandwich?  Our bag also included one mayo and mustard packet, neither of which was going to save this sandwich.  We weren’t even willing to eat the bread.

The bag also contained the following:

  • A bag of Baked Lays (sour cream & onion)
  • A small bag of baby carrots and celery with two packets of fat-free buttermilk ranch
  • An apple
  • Grape juice
  • Your choice of 1%, fat-free, or 1% chocolate milk.

While I will applaud them for the apple and the carrots and celery, there are so many things wrong with this lunch.

While I’m not a fan of processed food, the Baked Lays are a far better option than traditional potato chips.  The carrots and celery are great, but why is it served with fat-free buttermilk ranch (that’s what they call it anyway)?  Would you like to guess the first ingredient in this particular ranch dressing?  It’s not buttermilk like the name would suggest.  High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in the fat-free buttermilk ranch.  Here’s the thing with “fat-free” foods (if you want to call them that), when you remove the fat, it must be replaced with something.  That something is usually sugar; almost always in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  So your children are having a side of sugar with their veggies (and GM sugar at that).

Our bodies need fat!  Young, elementary age children need the healthy natural fats (which should come from low-fat buttermilk in this case) for their developing brains.  Give the kids some full fat buttermilk ranch dressing, their brains deserve it!

Yay for the apple, but why is juice the go-to beverage for kids?  Why don’t they offer the kids water?  And wouldn’t water be less expensive too?

As for the milk, it’s unnecessary (this is whole other topic in itself).  But, if you’re going to offer kids milk, why 1% or fat-free?  Let them drink whole milk or at least 2%.

I think the absolute worst part of this is that more than 50% of this particular elementary school lives at or below the poverty level.  For many of those kids, this may be their best, most nutritious meal of the day.  For some, it may be their only meal.  Many of the kids have said that the lunches are just not enough; they’re still hungry.  Our kids deserve better.

Do your children eat school lunch?  Have you actually looked at what they are offered?

Toddler Fun: Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice

Ava and I are in Florida visiting my family. My sister is out-of-town this week and my mom went to prom this weekend (as a chaperone, not a date) and Ava and I needed to find something to entertain ourselves for a few hours.  I’ve wanted to experiment with some sort of rice sensory activity, so we got to work. (Please excuse the horrible pictures.  My mother’s kitchen has NO natural light.)

I decided on making some rainbow rice. It couldn’t be too different from dying Easter eggs, right? Before we left for Alaska, I gave my mom a half-full 50 pound bag of rice that I had. I knew there was no way that they had eaten 25 pounds of rice in 7 months. Sure enough, I found a giant container of rice. You will also need white vinegar and food coloring. I used gel food coloring since that’s what mom uses when she makes cakes. You could definitely use the liquid kind too. So here’s what you need for each color.

  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • food coloring (to your desired shade)

Sensory Rice

I decided on 5 colors to get us started.  First, pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees.  In 5 small bowls, I poured in the 1/2 cup of rice and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.  I then picked my 5 colors and added a bit of food coloring into each bowl.  Stir with a spoon until all of the food coloring is incorporated.  You can add more food coloring if the color is not dark enough for your taste.

Carefully spoon each color into a thin layer on a cookie sheet and smash into a flat layer.  Repeat with each color.  You will end up with a pan that looks like this.

Rainbow Rice

Bake the rice at 175 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and gently stir each color with a fork.  You will see that there may still be some moisture on the bottom of the pan.  Return the pan to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until all of the rice is dry.

Remove your rainbow rice from the oven and you’re ready to play!  I poured each color (as best I could) into different size measuring cups and bowls.

Toddler Rice Play

I also set her up with a few different scoops, spoons, and even a small funnel.  She had a blast!

Sensory Rice Play

I definitely plan on doing this on a larger scale once we get back to Texas.  Think: rainbow rice sandbox (ricebox?), but something with a lid.  Oh, and be prepared for a mess.  I think we will keep this as an outdoor activity.

Toddler Sensory Play

Even I had fun playing with the rainbow rice.  Do you think you will make some?

We Made It

We made it to Houston! We’ve actually been here for over a week now, but things have been crazy. Tony has been transitioning to his new work location, we’ve been looking for a car (ugh), I’ve had a few orders come in, and Ava has been spending lots of time playing outside.

Our flight here was a very, very, verrrryyyy long 18 hours. I am going to take a second to brag on our daughter. Ava is a champ when it comes to flying. We had 3 flights with 2 layovers and this girl was AWESOME! For both of the first two flights, she didn’t say a word. She did flirt with the US Air Marshall that sat next to us on the second flight (Tony notices EVERYTHING). Ava loves to fly! Our last flight was a quick commuter flight from Dallas to Houston. The entire flight was only about 45 minutes long. Every time the plane dropped altitude, Ava would say, “Weeeeeeeee.” I love that girl!

Toddler at Airport

Ava in Airport

We normally fly Delta, but we took United this time because their tickets were less than half the price of Delta’s. The United flights were fine, but they almost saw the bad side of me when Ava’s car seat didn’t show up with the rest of our luggage. We had to send someone to look for it. They never took it off our last flight. It almost went to Pensacola.

We are thoroughly enjoying the weather in Houston! It has been very mild thanks to a few cold fronts. Ava loves running in the yard. It’s so nice to send her outside in sandals and shorts and not a snow suit and boots.

We are still getting settled. I have a lot of updating to do on the blog. I may have to take the computer outside. Who wants to be cooped up inside with beautiful weather like this!

 

 

 

Let’s Go Sledding!

The Scacchi Family

We went sledding on Monday afternoon at one of the wonderful parks in Anchorage.  This park has one of the best sledding hills in the city.  You can sort of see the hill behind the trees in the background.  This hill does not mess around.  It was super fun!  Don’t you love my $5 Columbia jacket from The Salvation Army?

Family in Alaska

It was a little chilly out, about 25 degrees.  After I ran back up the hill a few times, I was definitely not cold.  Ava always has a blast when we go outside.  (Trust me, she’s not miserable and cold like she looks in all the pictures.)

View from Anchorage, Alaska

This park has gorgeous views of the inlet and Sleeping Lady (the mountain, not an actual woman).

Alaska Mountains

Sledding in Alaska

We had a blast spending time as a family.  What outdoor activities have you done this winter?

Incorporate “Preschool” Everyday

Colorful Blocks Homeschool Preschool

I was told by a former co-worker that her child was better off at preschool than at home because she could not do all of the activities that they do with him. (Insert my blank stare here.) The preschool employees are not doing anything that you cannot do yourself.  YOU are your child’s best teacher. Don’t doubt your own abilities.

Even though Ava is only 15 months old, preschool has already begun. We do not do any form or formal teaching. Preschool is just that, the learning your child does “pre school”. We actually practice more of a Montessori style of learning at our house.

Eventually I plan to set up a more formal Montessori playroom, but for now we just try to incorporate learning into our everyday routine. Our current living space is fairly limited.

So what do we do to encourage learning? Here are a few activities we regularly do.

  1. Allow your child to cook and clean with you. Ava loves to help cook. I let her get right in the action. (I want her to have a kitchen helper stool like this one. I will probably build her one this summer.) She helps stir and add ingredients. This is a great way to introduce your child to the kitchen. She knows that the stove is hot and that knives are sharp. I also allow her to feel the different textures of food as well as taste new things. As a result, she has a very broad palate. This girl loves everything! She also loves to “help” me do the dishes. These activities may result in a little extra clean up, but it’s so worth it.
  2. Use everyday objects in play. Ava has a whole collection of random containers, jugs, an old cell phone, and a wallet among other things. We don’t buy a lot of commercial toys, we just don’t need to. An old oatmeal container becomes a drum. A small shopping bag is perfect for sorting blocks.
  3. Play! Yes, play. You may think that your life is too busy or that free play is not important; make time for it. Free play encourages your child to use his or her imagination. Children who engage in more imaginative play have more self-control and a longer attention span when they get older.

See the blocks in the picture above? They are actually gram weights that I picked up for $.50 at The Salvation Army. Right now Ava loves to stack them and sort them by colors. She also loves to put them all in their bag and then dump them out. When she gets older, we can use them for counting, building patterns, and as actual weights. There are 1, 5, 10, and 20 gram weights. And if you were wondering, they hurt just as bad as legos when you step on them. =)

Do you “preschool” at home? Do you have any advice?