Game On

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Being a parent means that it can be difficult to find time to go out on a date. But, it is still important to make time for taking a break from being a parent and just focus on being the two of you.

While we don’t go out that much, we have started making date time on Fridays by playing a board game while enjoying some wine after our daughter has gone to bed.

This is the perfect solution because we don’t have to leave and we get to dive into our collection of board games, which doesn’t cost any additional money.

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Depending on what types of games you like to play, you could spend all evening playing or just an hour. For us, we usually like to find a game that takes about an hour and half to play.

When you are looking for a new board game it can be difficult to figure out which game you want to play because there is a huge selection available both in stores and online. Here are just a few of our favorite selections.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon

“Betrayal at House on the Hill”

We really enjoy this game a lot. The premise is that your character (or characters if you are just playing with two people) have stumbled upon this house. You take your time building the house by drawing room cards and laying them down.

Once you draw too many “haunt” cards, that is when the fun really happens.

Depending on what card was drawn, what room you were in and who drew it will decide on what “story” in the book you will follow.

The final part of the game is following the instructions and watching the scenario play out.

Depending on how long it takes to draw the final “haunt” card, the game can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

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Photo courtesy of Target

“Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City”

If you are a fan of the computer game “Sim City” then you would like this game.

You spend time building up your city, winning money based off of what business you put in your town and trying to make your city bigger than your opponent’s.

What I really like about this game is that there are different ways to play and different strategies on how to win.

Plus, having a little friendly competition makes it extra fun.

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Photo courtesy of techartgeek.com

“Mysterium”

If you are looking for a game that will test your mental connection as a couple, then you will want to try Mysterium.

In this game the set up is sort of like the game Clue. You have to find your suspect, the weapon and the place where the murder happened.

However, one of you is the ghost and the other person is a psychic. It is up to the ghost to use beautiful cards of fanciful images to try and relay this information to your partner. You can’t say anything, but just give them the card and they to try and interperate it to solve the case.

These cards can help you see if you two are on the same wavelength.

These are a few of our favorite board games to play on our date night. But, you don’t need to have in-depth games to play. Just a simple round of a card game or even video games can make a quiet night at home more exciting.

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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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We are so lucky to live close to Pittsburgh that has a bunch of different activities and places for families to visit on the weekend.

The city hosts wonderful history, art, science and children’s museums, which provide families the opportunity to have places to explore over the weekend.

Since we try to go out and do something every Saturday as our “Adventure Saturday” the cost can really add up if you try to pay out of pocket each time you go.

Luckily, many of these places offer the opportunity to purchase memberships.

For example, the Carnegie Museum system (which encompasses the Natural History Museum, Art Museum, Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center) if our family of two adults and one child wanted to visit the Natural History and Art museums it is $19.95 per adult and $11.95 for our daughter. That would be a total (without tax) $51.85. This can really add up if you like to go frequently.

However, if you go with a family membership, which is two adults, four children and a caregiver it is $150 for unlimited visits for the entire year. This membership also covers the Andy Warhol and Carnegie Science Center.

The same is for the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. One visit for the three of us is $46, but a year long membership is $135 for the same family.

As an added bonus, this membership (and the one at the Carnegie Museum system) can also be used at other participating ASTC centers across the country.

One of the best things is these memberships can be given as gifts.

When Christmas time rolls around, we like to ask for these memberships as family gifts. This way we have a whole year of experiences to look forward to.

It is great because if we just want to stop by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs, we can just pop in, say hi to T-Rex and then leave. We don’t have to worry about cramming in so much stuff so that we get the most bang for our buck.

This past weekend, we went to the Carnegie Science Center and just visited the Exploration Station Jr., an area that is geared toward Preschoolers with a water table, playground area, ball factory, big blue building blocks and more.

We just popped in and played there for about two hours and left. We didn’t feel the need to try and do too much, which is great with a preschooler who can become overwhelmed if you try to do too much in one day.

Here is just a brief video to give you a look of the Exploration Station Jr. area of the Carnegie Science Center.

What do you and your family like to do on the weekends? Leave your comment below.

Finding Fun in the Simple Things

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Having access to the Internet is both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

While you are able to find plenty of suggestions on how to make the perfect birthday party for your one year old, it can also hurt because you don’t think that you can ever measure up to what you see on the screen.

Being a parent is hard enough you don’t need this added pressure of unrealistic expectations to add to it.

It was a year ago that I read an article about how this mother wanted to have a “1970s Summer.”

This meant more time outside and allowing kids to just be kids.

Like letting children get all sticky sweet from sugar loaded Popsicles minus the organic and no sugar added variety.

Letting them stay up too late to go outside and catch lightening bugs and camp in the backyard.

We started to do this last year by enjoying smores by the fire pit and doing indoor camping and letting her eat too much ice cream.

We plan on doing this again this year.

So when I was on Pinterest, ironic, isn’t it, I found a lot of places that had lists of things to do over the summer with your children.

Here is a list that I really like from Natural Beach Living.

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What ideas do you have for spending the summer with your little Mousekatots? Leave your comments below.

The Unthinkable Happened

Our daughter is such a picky eater. Not just a little picky and will turn up her nose at broccoli but loves hamburgers. No, she only eats cereal, waffles, pancakes, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, carrots, green beans, peas, quesadillas and that is pretty much it. Maybe mac and cheese or bananas, but that is on a good day.

So today the unthinkable happened.

I am off work on Fridays so Lily and I get to spend the day together.

I had some left over kale from salads for the week so I told Lily we would make “dino chips.” (AKA Kale with nutrtional yeast on them.)

The first step was preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

While we were waiting for the oven to reach temperature, Lily helped by stripping the leaves from the stems. We didn’t have to rip the kale because it was already in little pieces because I bought a bag already prepared for salads.

Then I tossed the kale with olive oil while Lily sprinkled the yeast on top. (Actually, it was more like dumping then sprinkling.)

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Making Dino Chips with curlers in our hair

I then spread it out over two cookie sheets and baked it for 10 minutes.

They turned out great and very crunchy and had a great cheesy flavor from the nutritional yeast.

It was a little bit of a fight to get Lily to at least taste it. But, when she did, she said it was really good and then continued to eat it.

I was so happy with this little victory.

I guess we can add another food to the short list of what she will eat. Baby steps.

Is your little mousekatot a picky eater? How do you get them to try new foods? Leave your comments below.

My Favorite Neighbor

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Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine

If you haven’t read a few of my older blog entries, then you might not know this, but I am from the Pittsburgh area.

The land of the best football team ever, The Pittsburgh Steelers; older church ladies that pinch pierogies; the record holder for most bridges; and everyone’s favorite ketchup, Heinz.

But one of our treasures that we are very proud of is Fred Rogers.

If you are child of the 1970s or later you will know him as the friendly face that would ask you to be his neighbor while zipping his sweater (which were all made by his mother) and putting on his Keds to start the show.

For me, Mister Rogers was more than a local icon, he was a friend.

Yesterday was his birthday and it really made me sit back and think more about this man that had a hand in the development of so many young people.

Every time I would sit down to watch his show, even to this day, I feel like I am home and I am a kid again.

He knew the perfect way to talk to kids without being patronizing and how to make everyday subjects and outings seem like an adventure. (To this day I still remember the video on how crayons were made.)

When I did my internship at WQED radio, which also houses the television station and Pittsburgh Magazine, I was given a tour which included the TV studio where the show was shot. There are still areas where the gumdrop-like flooring shone through in an almost homage to the man. Even in my 20s I was so excited to be stepping into the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

Now as a mom myself, I was really excited to see that the spirit of Mister Rogers lives well within “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” While my childhood favorites Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl are there, it is a whole new cast of characters that take center stage and allow this newest generation the opportunity to identify with these new characters.

I am forever grateful to Fred Rogers and the legacy that he has left behind and the continued work that his foundation and PBS have done to provide quality, educational programming for a new generation.

Now, this is where I am going to step on soapbox just for a second to say how important it is that public broadcasting stays around for not just this current generation of future leaders but for the ones after them, and after them and so on. And this is why budget cuts to this sector can be of major detriment.

While a lot of kids will have access to cable channels like Sprout, and pay for video services like Netflix, it is the underprivileged kids that will suffer. For many, the only channels they get are the major networks and PBS. Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo are who they rely on to teach them how to read and how to add, while Daniel and crew teach them how to be a good person.

I am not telling you to contact your political representatives to share your displeasure or even tell you to make a huge donation, but just to watch these programs with your kids. To help them cultivate an early love of learning, one that will continue for the rest of their life.

Mister Rogers would have wanted it that way.

Take it to the Bank

On the weekends we like to try to go on out little adventures.

Typically we go out to breakfast on Saturday and then usually go to the museums, or out shopping or different events that are happening in our community.

Sometimes when we go out, Lily gets a case of the gimmies at the store.

She wants this toy and that DVD, etc. When we say no she just like every other three year old and is upset.

So after much deliberation, we decided to come up with a way that Lily could do different things to earn some money to purchase a special toy on the weekend.

Now before I get into the logistics of how this all works, I know that this could cause some controversy.

A lot of people are against children doing chores and think that they should be focusing on just their childhood and spending their time playing.

But, for our Lily, she loves to have little jobs to do. She loves to take her little Melissa & Doug cleaning set and pretend that she is cleaning. She would often help us by putting down the cats’ food and also put her clothes in the hamper.

So, it seemed for her, that giving her rewards based on helping around the house would make sense and it would also help her understand that “money” doesn’t grow on trees.

We will still buy her treats and little surprises, but now she feels like she is a real big girl when she picks out her special toy and uses her own money to pay for it.

But, this has to be based on your own child. Each child is different and this might not work for your child. You need to do what you feel is best.

Now, back to the logistics.

We looked around and decided to find her a piggy bank that couldn’t break because she would want to play with it.

We found this really cute Walt Disney World bank on Ebay that we picked up for a good deal.

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Instead of doing actually money we came up with the idea to use play coins.

Since it was near St. Patrick’s day I was able to find packages of green and gold plastic coins that were big enough to not get lost but also fit through the slot of the bank.

We decided that the green coins would be $.50 and the gold ones would be $1.

She could get green coins for doing simple tasks like put the cat bowls down for meal times, putting her dirty clothes in the hamper and setting her table area for dinner.

The gold coins would be reserved for bigger jobs like making her bed, cleaning up the mess she makes from all of her toys and helping to fold simple laundry like socks and washcloths.

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So far, it has been going well. She has been loving picking out her own stuff and using her own money to purchase her toys.

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However, if she loses interest in doing it, we will stop doing it.

 

Going to the ‘Ground

What the heck is going on with this weather? I am not going to complain, but this weather is so beautiful we had to take advantage of it. For a little one, there is no better place to spend a wonderful sunny day then the playground. And luckily for us, we live near an amazing one.

Round Hill Farm, that is located only a little way away from us, features an exhibit farm, picnic pavilion, a splash area and a wonderful playground.

We spent so much time running all over the place and enjoying our favorite thing at any playground, the swings.

She also had so much fun running all over the jungle gym and exploring all of the nooks and crannies. It took us sometime to get comfortable to go down the slide, but we did and we proud of our self. We even made a friend at the playground!

 

I am so proud of this little bug to meet her fear of going down the slide and for also showing kindness at the playground and making a friend.

What is your little one’s favorite thing to do at the playground? Leave your comments below.

Bonus Days

Living in southwestern Pennsylvania means that the middle of February is usually cold, windy and snowy.

This past weekend, and continuing through this week we have had wonderful weather that included temperatures in the 60s and sunshine.

We wanted to take advantage of this beautiful weather and decided to head to the playgrounds.

On Saturday we went to Morgantown to do some antique shopping and to visit some retro game stores. (We have become obsessed with playing old Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games. That is a story for another day.)

While we didn’t find any antique stores, we did have fun exploring Seneca Center (where the tea room is located) and we found some interesting murals and one particular antique of our own.

We did a little shopping and sight seeing and decided to take Lily to the playground and let her burn off some energy and enjoy this bonus day of beautiful weather in the middle of February.

We were so tired after a big day of playing that we slept all the way home.

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On Monday, we decided to take her to a local school’s playground to let her enjoy the fresh air since we both were off from work.

Did you have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful weather this past weekend? Leave your comments below.

Snow Much Fun

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We received a lot of snow the other day and Lily was really excited and had a lot of fun in the snow.

Luckily, I was able to find her snow pants and boots from last winter, which thankfully still fit from last year.

Our favorite thing to do was kick snow and just grab handfuls of it and throw it. Not make snowballs to throw, just fist fulls of snow.

Do you have a hard time getting your little one out in the snow, or is it harder to get them back inside? Leave your comments below.

Making Sweets With our Sweetie

Valentine’s Days seems to be a pretty popular holiday with our little one.

I don’t know if it is because of the hearts or all the pink and red (Lily’s favorite color), but she is a big fan.

One of her favorite things to do is bake (mostly because it involves sugar).

My Mom was shopping and came across a huge block of rice crispy treat that she thought we could cut into little shapes with cookie cutters.

We then bought lollipop sticks, cellophane bags and ribbon to make them into little rice crispy treat pops.

A few nights ago we sat down to make them and it turned out pretty well.

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The cookie cutters did a good job just as long as you have an adult help push down the cutter and you might have to use a knife to cut around the outside edges.

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What would a night of baking be without taking a little time to take a photo.

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After the hearts were cut out, I then applied the icing and put the sticks into place. This is better for an adult to do because it could get really messy icing and you have to have a little finesse to get the stick in the heart without pushing it all the way through.

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After the icing went on, then Lily got the pops back and added sprinkles.

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We ended up having to let the icing harden overnight before putting it in the bags. (We tried one and the icing smudged a little.) I think they are going to turn out really cute. But, even if they don’t Lily still had a great time making them.

Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day activities? Leave your comments below.