DIY Ice Cream in a Bag

– johanna | July 13th, 2012


Making ice cream in a baggie is super easy and loads of fun. We had several failed attempts before we successfully got the mixture just right. For our first trial we used whipping cream. It reminded me of a show I once watched where the woman tried to convince a family to use butter as toothpaste. We immediately had to go brush our teeth.

The second trial we used only whole milk. The mixture never set. We even tried placing the bag in the freezer. The result was not good. Actually, it was pretty gross. Icy and without flavor. Our final batch we had the correct recipe but learned a bit about the ice to rock salt ratio. The more ice and salt the faster the ice cream will set.

Another problem we incurred was with the baggies we used. We started out with dollar store brand baggies. Don’t skimp on the baggies. Use the higher quality freezer bags only or a large can with a lid that will not leak.

This is a great activity at a backyard BBQ or party. Set the ingredients up into stations. Make up cards for each ingredient detailing how much to measure. The kids can walk down the row of ingredients filling up their own baggies (with supervision of course). Make it an ice cream relay race. Fill up the bag as the recipe states. Have the first person take the bag and run around the block or a specified distance. When they return they hand the bag off to the next runner. Keep going until the ice cream is firm.

The texture of this ice cream is smooth and loose. It will never harden like ice cream made in an ice cream maker and it melts fairly fast. Recipe can be doubled. It just takes longer to set.

Makes 1/2 cup ice cream
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
6-8 tablespoons rock salt
4-6 cups ice
quart sized baggie
gallon sized baggie

Place the half and half, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar in a quart sized plastic freezer bag. Seal shut.

Place the baggie in a gallon sized freezer baggie. Fill baggie with ice. Add rock salt. Seal the baggie shut.

Shake bag until mixture solidifies. about 5-10 minutes. Remove the ice cream bag from the ice bag. Rinse or wipe off the bag to remove the salt. Eat the ice cream straight out of the bag with a spoon. Or in some cases with a straw.

*note: this ice cream is extremely soft.

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Twilight Camp

– johanna | July 6th, 2012


My summer vacation started out in a room full of sixteen eager three to nine year olds. We spent our three days of TAGS twilight camp making crafts, playing ball, and competing in our very own Olympic games. We did everything over a three day period but the activities could be condensed into one day for a neighborhood, or play date, camp or stretched out if using as a bordem buster for the summer.

I loved having camp from 4:00pm to 8:00pm because the weather was just perfect. In fact it was so chilly the first two evenings I was in a panic hoping the third day would be warm enough for our water olympics. By then I was out of money and ideas so lucky it all worked out as planned otherwise we would have resorted to a movie night theme.

My agenda went as follows:
Each day when the kids arrived we made a craft. The first day we made all sorts of things using beads. Then we tie dyed t-shirts, made individual flags using paint and shaving cream, and decorated visors. After that we went and shot BB guns with the Cub Scouts in the field. The evening ended with a treasure hunt and two hours of kick ball, sharks and minnows, telephone, basketball and free play. Whoo!

The next day we made tambourines using paper plates, bells, and streamers. Rain sticks were also on the agenda but I have a really thorough cleaning lady (my 6 year old daughter) who disposed of my bag of paper towel rolls I had set aside by my desk.  Then the games began. We used the flags we made the day before during the opening ceremony. After the olympic field games we joined the Cub Scouts for a round of archery.

Then we made puppets and marionettes for the puppet theater the next day. Finished the night off making homemade ice cream in a baggie, freeze dancing and the Le Crem De La Crem– Neon glow in the dark tag. I had a few other games planned but the kids were enjoying the glow in the dark tag too much.

The final day I had planned on teaching weaving for our final art project but we needed to get started with our puppet show. I made a theater out of a huge piece of cardboard. I had thought to make fabric curtains to use with tension rods in the doorway but lacked the time. Luckily someone left a pile of large boxes in the gymnasium the day before.

Our puppet show was interrupted by the fire department. They arrived early to start the water day festivities. I did not realize how powerful fire hoses are. The kids had a blast running around like ants on a disturbed ant hill as the firemen sprayed them good and wet. We finished our day with more water day games, a brief game of cat and mouse and face painting.

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Backyard Summer Olympics

– johanna | June 29th, 2012


In May the Olympic torch was lit in Greece. It has been traveling the land passing from hand to hand well on its way to the London Summer Olympics. My children and I have had many conversations about the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to make it to the olympics. They are ecstatic to catch a glimpse of some of the best of the best the world has to offer.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the July 27th Olympic debut, we had a go at our own summer olympic games.

Day 1: Opening Ceremony and Field Games

Opening Ceremony-

Clipart: Runner with Torch by Dixie Allen via

Days prior to or morning of, have each child make a flag to represent them. Each child waves their flag as they walk in line around the block, backyard, park, or area where the olympics are being held. The leader of the line carries the torch part way then hands it off to the person behind him. Repeat passing the torch until the torch reaches the last person in line.

[**we walked around the gym then separated the group into teams as they neared the starting area. I had four cones set up on one side of the gym. We had four groups of four. So as the procession neared the area where the cones were we directed the first four kids into the first lane behind the cone. The second group of four into the second lane and so on. You could let them pick teams beforehand.]

Photo: Field Day, by Sam Wolfe via Flickr

Field Games-

Spoon Relay-
Give a spoon to each team. Each person gets a marshmallow (I found these enormous marshmallows at the grocery store). Set up cones or some type of marker about 30 to 50 feet from the starting line. Place the marshmallow on the spoon. Players must hold the spoon by the end of the handle. The first person in line of each team then walks down to the cone and back. Once they have reached the starting line the next person takes the spoon, places their marshmallow on the spoon, and then proceeds to the cone. First team to finish wins.

[**Decide beforehand what to do if the marshmallow falls off the spoon. Since we had quite a few little guys we opted to just place the marshmallow back on the spoon and continue. Depending on the age group one rule could be if it falls they are disqualified or they have to go back to the starting line and start over.**]

Bing Bag Balance-
The first person of each team gets a bing bag. They place it on top of their head. The object of the game is to race down to the cone and back without dropping the bag. First team to finnish wins.
[Same rules applied as with the spoon race.]

Wheel Barrel Race-
Each team separates into twos. Each group of two decides who will hold their teammates feet and who will walk on their hands. The first set of twos walk down to the cones then back. Team member tags the second pair in line then they go. First team to finnish wins.

[We had a young group so walking down to the cone and back would have been quite a heavy challenge. We did not want to kill anyone off so we sent the second set of twos down to the cone. Once the first group reached the cone then the second set could go.]

Three Legged Race-
Pair off members of each team. Connect each pair of children by tying a length of fabric around the ankle and/or knee. Start the race with the first group of twos walking to the cone and back. Once back the team member tags the second pair. First team to finnish wins.

Relay Race-
Each team races to the cones and back. Tags the next team member. First team to finnish wins.

Hula Hoop Roll-
Each team gets a hula hoop. First group rolls their hoops down to the cones and back. Hands of hoop to next team member. First team to finnish wins.

Shot Put-
Make a Shot Put ball by crumpling up tin foil until it reaches the desired size, slightly bigger than a softball. Smooth out the lumps by putting pressure with your hands while rolling the ball around on a hard surface. You will need enough for each team. [1 ball takes about half a roll of foil.]
Place a base or tape on the ground to mark where to stand.
To play, one member from each team must come forward and stand on their team’s mark. Bend the knees, and without stepping forward or backward, raise the ball to the ear then throw. Team with farthest average wins.

Hammer Throw-
To make, take a large brown paper bag and stuff it with newspapers careful to leave enough room to close and make a handle. Gather the bottom together and twist to make a handle. Wrap the handle with fabric or duct tape. Wrap the hammer part with duct tape, otherwise it will bust open after a few throws. Tie a piece of twine around the handle.

To play, one member from each team swings the hammer around above their head then releases. Team with farthest average wins.

Photo: Catch a Falling Star, by Paul Sapiano via Flickr

Day 3: Water Races

Water balloon Toss-
Divide group into twos. Stand groups in two long rows facing their partner and close enough to touch. The first side tosses the balloon to their partner. If they catch it then the both of them take a step backwards. If the balloon falls and breaks that pair is out. Repeat until there is one pair left. They are the winner.

Water Sponge Relay-
Set up a starting line with large buckets of water and empty buckets about 30 feet away for each team. Place a sponge in each bucket of water. Have a hose nearby to refill starting bucket as needed.
The first person of each team dunks their sponge in the bucket of water, runs down to the empty bucket, squeezes out the water into the bucket, and then runs back to hand the sponge off to the next person in line. First team to fill their bucket wins.

Sprinkler Tug-o-war-
Divide group into two groups or compete by teams. Lay out a tug-o-war rope with a knot in the center. Place a sprinkler on the group at the center of the rope. Each team takes a side trying to pull the other team into the water from the sprinkler.

Water Bomb-
Fill a large bucket with water and sponges. Keep a hose nearby to refill the bucket. This can be played like tag, dodge ball or a free for all. To play free for all everyone gets a sponge and throws it at each other. To play tag then only the “IT” person gets the sponge to tag with. To play dodgeball, set up buckets in a row in the middle of the playing area. This line cannot be crossed by opposing teams. Players rush to grab a sponge to throw at opposing team members to tag out.

Blanket Balloon Toss-
Use a blanker, parachute, or large sheet. Everyone grabs part of the sheet. Place water balloons on top of the sheet then bounce.

Water Hose Limbo-
Use a hose as a limbo stick.

Drip, Drip, Drench-
Played just like “Duck, Duck, Goose!” instead use the words Drip Drip Drench and a very wet sponge to pat heads with.

Mr. Wilson-
Played just like “What Time is it Mr. Wolf?”. To play one person is it. He stands on one side of the playing area. The rest of the group lines up on the opposite side of the playing area. They ask “What Time is it Mr. Wilson?” Mr. Wilson, replies with a time. They take that many steps towards Mr. Wilson. Repeat asking what time it is and answering. Once they are close enough, Mr. Wilson will reply, “It is spraying time!”. With that Mr. Wilson sprays the hose at everyone.

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Olympic Torch Craft

– johanna | June 26th, 2012


This is a tutorial on how to make an olympic torch for backyard Olympic Games.

I got the original idea off Kaboose. It uses poster board and tissue paper. I did not have any tissue paper. I did however have rolls of yellow and hot pink cellophane from Easter. Instead of a poster board base we used a paper towel roll. The effect was just as magical.

Step 1: Cut large squares of cellophane.

Step 2: pick up each square of cellophane from the center of the square holding them in your hand like a bouquet of flowers.

Step 4: Twist the part in your hand and insert into the paper towel roll.

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Turkey Meatballs

– johanna | June 22nd, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

In the past when planning the weekly menu I always have one night reserved for  kids preference. Together they had to come up with that nights menu. Now that they are a little older and more involved in the cooking, as well as planning of the meals, they each have their own night. My son loves Tortilla soup and so for his dinner choice he chose to serve Tortilla Soup. Problem was I forgot to pick up the chicken while at the grocery store. I did however have a package of ground turkey in the refrigerator. So we improvised and made turkey meatball tortilla soup instead chicken. We browned the meatballs then added the onion and remaining ingredients, substituting a can of diced tomatoes for the salsa. The soup was instantly devoured by a hungry family.

2 pounds Ground Turkey
1 cup of diced portobello mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 4 minced cloves
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 egg whites

Pre-heat oven to 320 degrees.

In a mixing bowl add mushrooms, turkey, and seasonings. Mix in the egg whites until all ingredients are combined.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet. Roll meat mixture into golf ball sized meatballs. Makes about 20-24 meatballs.

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until cooked throughly.

– Place a 1/2 cube of Monterey Jack cheese in the center of each meatball.

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Family Togetherness: A Random Act of Kindness

– johanna | June 15th, 2012


Photo: property of Heath Brandon via Flickr

One Tuesday morning I was waiting at a stop light when I noticed the van in front of me was none other than my friend Ednelle. She was on her way to grab her morning coffee from Starbucks. She texted me to tell me that the person in front of her paid for her coffee. The person in front of them had paid for theirs. Apparently the chain had been going on for much of the morning rush.

Ednelle’s kind act reminded me of a similar random act of kindness on the Florida Turnpike. Many times I was the recipient of a free toll. In turn I happily paid for the person behind me. It is a simple thing that amazingly brought a smile to an ordinary day.

The attribute I love most about my kids is their passion for life. They are so excited about the world around them. I decided to harness that joy and put it to good use. This summer to pass the time away we will perform random acts of kindness in the community. Our first victim was the pest control guy. We gave him a gift certificate for an icy treat at the frozen yogurt shop. He was a bit confused and suspicious at first. Once he realized it was a legitimate act of kindness and nothing fishy he smiled and graciously accepted the offer.

Our goal is to target the people in our community who tend to get over looked (like the hard working pest control man) and could use a little appreciation. In return I hope my children will see that it is far better to give than receive.

1. Leave a gift of appreciation for the mailman in the mailbox.
2. Take a tasty thank you treat to an area fire station.
3. Make lovely artwork to take to a local assisted living residence.
4. Make tissue paper flowers to take to patients at the hospital.
5. Take balloons to the kids at the children’s hospital.
6. Hand out flowers to cashiers at a grocery store or other place of business.
7. Put coins in several parking meters.
8. Mow your neighbors lawn.
9. Leave a small prize for the waitress.
10. Pick up trash at the park and in parking lots.
11. Donate food to an animal shelter.
12. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
13. Hold the door open for patrons entering a business.
14. Volunteer at a blood bank passing out water and fruit.
15. Deliver notes of appreciation to all your doctors. (including the Pharmacist.)
16. Take dinner to someone who is alone or financially strapped.
17. Send a homemade thank you gift to someone in the military.
18. Do an hour of yard maintenance for a preschool/daycare.
19. Donate several small stuffed animals, and coloring books with crayons to the police department to give to traumatized children.
20. SMILE!
21. Tape a thank you note to a police car window.
22. When going to the store call a friend to see if they need anything.
23. Give a flower to the receptionist at your next appointment.
24. Help an overwhelmed mom.
25. Help a co-worker.
26. Pass out tissue paper filled saches of candy to people at the park.

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Homemade Whipped Cream

– johanna | June 8th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

When our family decided to get away from processed foods one of my first hurdles of home baking was to make my mom’s cream puffs completely from scratch. Valentine’s day was on the horizon and I wanted to be able to make our traditional Valentine’s Day Cream Puffs. My favorite part of my mom’s cream puffs is the custard filling. I could just sit and eat a bowl of the stuff and forget the puffs altogether. The secret recipe calls for vanilla pudding mixed with whipped cream. The result is creamy decadence.

– If the ingredients get too warm the whipped cream will melt and become somewhat soupy.
– Chill the bowl and beaters beforehand.
– Use cool to cold ingredients.
– Watch the cream closely. Beating even 20 seconds too long will make the whipped cream curdle. Example, the photo above. I looked away for what seemed like a second and my whipped cream went from just about perfect to a little over done. But, it still tasted scrumptious.

Source: Schaeffer Girl’s Grub
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium just until cream creates stiff peaks. Chill or use right away.

Store whipped cream in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps

– johanna | June 1st, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

My friend was looking for something delicious to make for dinner and stumbled across Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps. We were both salivating as we stared at the picture. These wraps are super fast to make and a frugal way to use up left over chicken and rice.

Normally I have a container of plain Greek yogurt in the refrigerator. The past two week I switched to vanilla just for a change of taste. I like to use plain Greek yogurt in the place of sour cream in most recipes because Greek yogurt has more protein, and less fat than sour cream. On this particular day I resorted to using a little cream cheese in the place of the sour cream. The burritos were fine. If anything they were just really creamy. So in emergencies cream cheese is ok. But next time I will make sure I specify plain yogurt on my shopping list rather than just yogurt.

Source: Adapted fromMels Kitchen Cafe
*Makes 6 wraps*
1 cup cooked rice, warm or at room temperature
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green onion, finely sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 red or green pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded cheese (combination of monterey jack and sharp cheddar)
Sour cream (optional)
6 burrito-sized flour tortillas

Mix rice together with chili powder, cumin and garlic salt. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and sour cream. Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla.

**If using sour cream dot the cheese with about 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream before arranging chicken and rice mixture down the center**

Roll stuffed tortillas, leaving edges open.

Optional: brush the tortillas all over with oil.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange 2 wraps, seam-side down, in pan and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve.

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Homemade Grout Cleaner

– johanna | June 1st, 2012


Photo Source: Property of Flooring Liquidators

Grout can become dingy pretty fast. It is important to seal grout, with a penetrating sealer, to help keep bacteria and grime out of the pores. Sealing the grout also helps to make it waterproof. Grout sealer stops the water from seeping through the pores of the grout and underneath the tile. To keep tile and grout looking it’s best here are several homemade cleaners that are affordable and actually work.

For Basic Cleaning:

Combine equal parts table salt, baking soda and white vinegar into a bowl. Mix to form a paste. Use a sponge to scrub the mixture into the grout. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then wipe the grout clean with a damp rag.

Mold and Mildew:

For Colored Grout: Dampen a rag with white vinegar and scrub. Let sit for a few minutes. Wash grout with soapy water and rinse.

For Light Colored Grout: 1:1 ratio of bleach or use Hydrogen Peroxide. Spray the peroxide onto the grout. Let it sit for five minutes, then wipe the grout clean with a wet rag.

Hard Core Grout Cleaner for Floors and Bathrooms:

Combine 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup household ammonia, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 7 cups warm water. Scrub grout with mixture using a toothbrush or grout brush.

If this does not work, use Ajax Oxygen Bleach Cleaner Heavy Duty Formula. (This is the magic ingredient in the Magic Eraser.) Sprinkle Ajax on the grout. Use water to work up a lather. Let sit for 30 minutes. Wipe up cleaner. Mop the floor to remove any leftover residue.

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Summer Travel: Fly or Drive?

– johanna | May 22nd, 2012


Clipart: courtesy of

School officially ends in four days; although, my summer vacation will not start until 12:00 pm June 15th. I am so ready for relaxing days at the lake. What I really want is to take a road trip. We have family in neighboring states that we have not seen for ages. The plan is to take the car enabling us to stop along the way and explore the sites.

The big question when planning any long distance vacation is, is it better to drive or fly. I found this really great site that does all the travel calculations for you. The fly or drive calculator calculates the cost of the trip in addition to the amount of time it takes to fly and drive to a selected destination. For instance, air travel from the central valley in California to Seattle Washington will take us 5 hours and about $1400 in fees. This amount includes travel to the airport and parking fees. On the flip side, the drive is 14 hours and only $500 with an estimated cost of $79 for wear and tear on the vehicle. I can’t vouch for how accurate the data is, such as the fluctuating cost of gas, but it is a pretty nifty tool to give you a guesstimate to which is better: fly or drive.

**If a road trip is part of your summer plans be sure to log onto Road Trip America for planning advice to get the most out of your trip.

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