Monday

Nurturing Gratitude

It seems like these days stores go straight from bats and haunted houses to tinsel and holly.  I am partial to this time in between. It's a time when our thoughts can turn towards gratitude, pausing to reflect and give thanks.   While I think, it's great to do adorable thanksgiving gratitude activities, why not start a daily, weekly or periodic tradition that can sustain you throughout year?  Around here we practice gratitude daily.

You are going to have to be a long to reader to remember this one.  Way back in 2013, I wrote a post about, our gratitude jar.  Really the only change we have made since is where the jar lives.  It moved from the dining room table to the kitchen table. And yep we still use that same jar.  Everyday we write down what we are grateful for .  We do it as a part of our devotional in the morning.  It's a wonderful time to prepare and center ourselves for the day.

There is nothing better to me then glancing over my coffee cup to see that jar full of gratitude.  I don't have to open it and read all things we are grateful for to be uplifted.   It's just a sweet reminder that we are sustained, moving forward, and blessed beyond measure.  If you are wondering what we do when the jar gets full.  :)  We make a scrapbook.  I pull the slips of paper out, we read through them and piece together a scrapbook with pictures and mementos.   I would love to hear what you do focus on gratitude through out the year.  Leave a comment below:  ... And Thanks for reading.  :)

Saturday

Teal Pumpkin



Teal Pumpkins are awesome.  If you haven't heard about them yet.  I encourage you to take a look at www.TheTealPumpkinProject.org.  It's an exciting initiative that encourages people to provide non-food treats this Halloween.  There are so many good reasons to do this.  Primarily, it provides an option for trick or treaters with food allergies to safely enjoy your "treats".  But it also gives all children an opportunity to not choose sugar often heavily dyed candy.  

Let's face it, fall is a crazy busy time of year.  Frankly, change can be hard especially when have established routines that are widely supported by all stores and marketers everywhere.  Seriously, EVERY store we walk into this time of year has food treats piled high at the front of the store and all you have to do is buy the bag, dump the bag in any bowl, and your ready.  But I'm betting these 3 simple facts will help you realize it is just as simple to add a Teal Pumpkin.  

Number 1: It's about adding not subtracting.  If you follow me on periscope you know I've done more than a couple of Teal Pumpkin inspired scopes.  The most common question I heard was, "But I love providing candy" or "what if my neighbors are angry that I don't have candy?" The beauty of adding a teal pumpkin is that you don't have to subtract your traditional offerings.  You just want to be sure that you add a seperate bowl of non-food treats.  That's it.  (If you missed my scopes on the topic I have them saved for replay on my Katch Page.  Click here to check them out.  

Number 2: You don't have to paint a pumpkin.  Look don't get me wrong it's fun and so appreciated when you take the time paint and decorate teal pumpkins.  My kids and I had the best time doing it.  But don't let lack of craftiness or time stop you from participating in this wickedly awesome initiative.  Just grab a bowl or a bin and print out sign to let people now that this bowl contains only non-food treats. The bin I pictured above is for our trunker-treating event.  I purchased them at the Dollar Tree for, you guessed it, a dollar.  I got multiple ones and then made this little sign to print on each one.  EASY!  I'm including the full graphic below.  Feel free to print it out and use it.  (Just be sure to keep that line on the bottom regarding the FARE trademark.  It's required for use of the adorable pictured in the center.) To download our sign simply right click on the below image and save it to your device.


Number 3: Non-Food Items are everywhere.  You don't have to make an extra stop to find them.  This time of year the dollar tree is loaded with large packs of creepy rings, Halloween stickers, creepy bugs, bubbles, Halloween pencils and erasers.  If you aren't like me and always up for a quick browse of your local dollar spot.  You can also find great deals on these affordable non-food items at Halloween Costume stores, Party Supply Stores, Target, Walmart, and Most Grocers.  And don't forget about online retailers like oriental trading and amazon.  Those non-food treats come straight to you.

Are you planning to teal pumpkin this year? If so I'd love to hear about it or better yet see a pick of your non-food allergy treat stash!  Leave a comment below...


  

Friday

5 Silly Pumpkin Bath Bombs!

We love doing the five little pumpkins rhyme with friends.  We have done it as a felt activity and with clothes pins.  But my favorite way by far has been by making these adorable little bath bombs.  This is fun, semi-messy way to add a sensory experience to the rhyme! (Click Here to watch a replay our live stream making this recipe on periscope)

Ingredients:
Baking Soda: 1 Cup
Citric Acid: Half Cup
Witch Hazel in a Squirt Bottle
Food coloring as desired.

In a small bowl mix Baking Soda and Citric Acid until they are well blended and smooth.  Next whisk in your food coloring if desired.  Now for the two handed part of this adventure!  Spray the witch hazel incorporating it into the dry mixture with a wire whisk.  You want to make the product wet enough to clump together but not so wet that it starts fizzing.  It should be about the consistency of Kinetic Sand.  Finally Pop them into your silicone pumpkin molds to shape, then set out to air dry for 2 days.  If you would prefer to order your molds through amazon.  Check out these great ones: Wilton 24 Cavity Silicone Mold


Rhyme Time!
When your ready to rhyme.  I recommend providing 5 little pumpkin bath bombs on a plate to each participant and a bowl or mason jar.  Now here is the "choose your own adventure" portion of the activity.  You can fill the bowl with one three options: (Click here to watch our live stream on periscope of each of these options)

1) Water: This will provide a fun subtle bubbling effect and you can really watch that pumpkin roll in the water!

2) Vinegar: Brace for bubbles.  This will provide maximum fizz.  You will get to fill lots of tingly bubbles popping to the surface.  This is a much more rapid bubble and fizz then plain water.  But it typically will stay contained in your vessel.

3) Vinegar + a Few drops of dish soap: This will turn the fizz from step 2 into an overflowing bubbling cauldron of foam!  Super fun. You can also add a few drops of food coloring to this option it will turn your lightly tented foam into a bubbling rainbow caldron.  :)

We modify the rhyme slightly from "Sitting on a GATE" to "Sitting on a Plate"


Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a plate.
The first one said, "Oh, my it's getting late"
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "But we don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run, let's run!"
The fifth one said, "Isn't Halloween fun?"
 
Then Woooooo went the wind
And OUT went the lights.
 
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.



Saturday

Much Ado about Magic ...

Why do we love going to Disney so often? The magic. Simple, cheesy and true.  It's the magic.  I don't mean the magic of the amazing feats of creativity and imagineering, although they are awesome.  I mean the magic that floats around the air.  It's in the greetings, the attentiveness of the staff, and the wonderfully random conversations you have with new families on the monorail.   It's a certain intangible thing that is unique to Disney.  It's a magic we experienced in a big way at the Starlight Cafe on our recent trip to the park.

The Starlight Cafe is one of our sentimental favorites @ Disney.  It was the first walk up we tried with our little one's post food allergy diagnosis.  As you likely know from my previous blog posts, The Starlight has always rocked taking care of our food allergy needs.   This time was no exception!

It was hot and humid but we had been having a great time, taking frequent breaks, and staying cool.  We had just earned our race licenses at the speedway and decided lunch and a little air conditioning was in order.  We ordered our food, flagged the allergies, and started eating.  About half way through the meal our little started to cough.  It was concerning and a tense time because we hadn't yet determined if it was an asthma flare up or the early stages of a food allergy reaction. 

Our little one hadn't made but one or two coughs when Vivian appeared.  Vivian was one of the cast members sweeping the floors and busing the tables.  She immediately asked if she could help.  We explained that our Son had asthma and food allergies so it could be either.  She was calm and ready to help.  She helped us find staff members that could double check the food he had eaten and stayed right by our side even helping to comfort our son as we administered his medication.  She shared with such warmth from her own experiences with Asthma and showed such genuine compassion.

The food service staff arrived quickly and examined their process, our table and my child's plate looking for any evidence that our child had been exposed to an allergen.  They were calm, non-defensive, completely open, and clearly thinking about the safety of our little first and foremost.  After one manager looked and found nothing, he called for a second set of eyes to re-examine everything.  This all happened in a manner of minutes. 

Perhaps, the most amazing thing is that because of Vivian's attentiveness not once did we have to call for a cast member to help.  The information the food staff provided was essential for our doctors as they treated or little.   Thankfully there was no exposure to an allergen and with proper intervention our little one was on the mend within 24 hours.

So yeah.  It's the magic.  And Vivian is covered in the stuff.

Tuesday

How to love a Dandelion


If Ella Wheeler Wilcox is correct that, “A weed is but an unloved flower.”, then I can happily report we are 100% weed free at our abode. My little ones have always seen the beauty in all of nature.  Including Dandelions.   I tend to agree with them. Dandelions are lovely.  So what if they don’t grow in a straight line and ants just adore making a home in them?  They are brightly colored, hearty, and full of great nutrients like: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B complex, zinc, iron, and potassium. 

But sadly for those of us in residential environments they don’t go with most neighborhood guidelines.  At our house, because we do not use toxic pesticides and such we can harvest our dandelions, rather than “weed” them.   We typically turn our harvest into an awesome summer balm. 

 

Harvest:

1.       Where we pick matters.  We don’t dry dandelions we pick that are super close to a roadway or our neighbor’s property line.  We do however still “harvest them” and use them for crafting projects and play.  (They make great prints!)

2.       When we pick it tends to be the late morning or early afternoon.  I find the flower heads are more open at that time of the day.

3.       One more note about where, excuse the crass moment here.  We have three dedicated spots on our property were our pup eliminates.  This helps us make sure we don’t harvest any dandelions that may have received a visit from her.  Seriously, eeeew. Sorry to point it out but it’s totally important.  This is especially true if you intend on using your dried dandelions in any sort of food or tea. 

4.       We spend a lot of time singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.  Ants love these little flowers as much as we do and make themselves quite at home.  Shake them before dropping them into your baskets.   

Drying

At the moment we do not have a dehydrator.  <Insert deep sigh here> We find air drying works best for us.  I find air drying holds the bright yellow color a bit better than solar drying.  If you do have a dehydrator check out my fellow green mom blogger: The Homesteading Hippy.  Here is how we do it:

1.       Pluck the heads from the stems of the flower

2.       Rinse in cool water and pat dry.

3.       Lay flower heads out flat on an unpaper towel or two or three. 

 

Making our balm:

Once the flowers are dry we make an infused coconut oil using fractionated coconut oil and our dried dandelions.  If you have allergy concerns with coconut you can also use olive oil.  It works beautifully as well.  To infuse our oil we simply cover our dandelions in a mason jar in our brightest window for anywhere from 12 to 18 days.  We do check it daily to ensure it doesn’t go rancid. It’s not happened to us but it bares mentioning, we check daily.  There is a method for cooking your infused oil on the stovetop but I’ve not tried that.  Our Balm ingredients:

·         ¼ Cup of Beeswax

·         ¼ Cup Dandelion Infused Coconut Oil

·         2 table Spoons of Shea butter

Next up we mix …

1.       Fill a medium sauce pan with water and place on medium heat

2.       Place all ingredients in a mason jar and lightly screw on the lid. 

3.       Place the jar in the medium sauce pan of water watch as the ingredients melt together.  Swirl the ingredients to mix. 

4.       Once fully incorporated together, pour lotion into a small jar or tin for use. 

Voila! Weed no more.  You can harvest those dandelions and have a lovely all natural lotion to boot.  In the summer months we go through lotion quickly so the jar doesn’t have a chance to sour around here.  But it’s a good foot note that your lotions should stay in good condition for the life of the oil and butter.   

 



Monday

Big Hero 6: Meeting Hiro and Baymax!

 
 

Meeting Baymax and Hiro @ Hollywood Studio is without a doubt a treasure hunt.  The meet and greet is located in the back of the 'The Magic of Disney Animation" building.  At present none of the usual character information is available: the app doesn’t list the showing of Baymax and Hiro, it’s not posted on the website or in map schedules.  For this reason, I kept our plan to meet the fluff-tastic robot a secret from my littles.  The secret made it all the more exciting when we walked into Hiro’s work garage!   The astonishment on my little ones faces when they saw that puffy giant enter the room was well worth the wait.

The most consistent information that I have seen is that they appear between twice daily: first at 10 am, then again at 2:30.  It is not a continuous showing.  This means they do close the line.  There are no fast passes available for the meet and greet.  We arrived at 2:30 and were near the front of the line.  We had to try for the afternoon time because we had a character breakfast scheduled that morning.  But, if you can, I recommend you shoot first for the morning slot.  Baymax does take one or two 15 minute breaks to “recharge” his battery during each of the showings.  We saw several of our line mates have to get out of line just before meeting the big guy due to other reservations and such.

All in all we waited just over an hour to meet the duo.    The line is wonderful though.  It offers several photo opportunities with the other hero’s from the film and scenes from the film.  It's relatively quite and provides some fun air conditioned down time.     

 

Friday

One Hot Mickey!

Walt Disney World to Add 48,000 Solar Panels

We have clearly established that we are a Disney loving people.  We love taking our Walt Disney World vacations for so many reasons.  Now we can  add 48,000 new solar panels to that ever growing love list!  On Wednesday Reedy Creek Improvement District (that's the Disney Controlled taxing district) voted to accept a 15 year agreement from Duke Power and Disney to build a 20 acre, 5 mega-watt solar farm between world drive and Epcot Center.   The farm's panels will be in the shape of a GIANT Mickey Head.

 

This is a big step for Disney and a part of them keeping their promise to continue to move towards sustainable energy and innovation.  Disney has already used some solar energy in and around the parks.  Beginning at one of our favorite attractions to experience with the little ones, the theatre @ Epcot's Universe of Energy Exhibit.  They also currently use solar at the Animal and Nutrition Center and in some wardrobe water heating systems.  The new Solar Farm is expected to be completed by the end of the year with construction beginning mid-summer. 


This news comes on the heels of the companies big bus switch to R50 fuel blend in their bus fleet.  This fuel innovation launched Earth Day this year is expected to reduce the fleets green house emissions by 50%.  R50 is a cleaner renewable diesel that is made of cooking oil and non-consumable food waste. 
Even more exciting, Reedy Creek officials, confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel, this only a part of the overall plan to increase sustainable energy.  The larger goals of the group also include building a factory that will convert food scraps into electricity and fertilizer.







Sources: Orlando Sentinal

Monday

Label, Say WHAT?

Food Labeling is all too often viewed as simply a marketing tool by corporations focused on selling units of merchandise.  The most important details of our food items are printed in the tiniest of fonts in the faintest of colors and relegated to the most tucked away corner labels if they are listed at all.  It's a terrifying fact that our family and many others are put in immediate and grave danger as a result of these despicable practices.  Take a peek at this very deceptive label to the untrained eye you might think clearly the enormous font heralding a "Nut-Free" product is indication that this product is safe for nut allergy sufferers. But take a peak at the sneaky fine print in the corner. This product is not guaranteed nut-free at all.  The good news is after receiving numerous emails this company is removing the incorrect claim, a change that should reach all of their markets by June.  But the lesson is an important one transparency in labeling is essential. This is not only true for those of us with food allergies.  As consumers it is time for us to send a strong message that we will not purchase food without transparency in labeling. 

 

The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!