I Just Can't Wait to Get on the Road Again

Friday, June 28, 2013

As we've previously acknowledged, the season of the Great American Road Trip is upon us. And of course, what better time to listen to songs about cars and driving than when you're in the car searching for that infamous giant ball of twine.
So here's a playlist to get your road trip started:


You'll really feel like the master of road trips, Clark W. Griswold, once "Holiday Road" queues up (just make sure not to eat any wet sandwiches on YOUR trip).

Of course, you could just go old school like Clark, scrap the tunes altogether, and sing "Jimmy Crack Corn" with your family (but considering that YOUR kids won't know what that is either, I'm thinking this playlist is the better option).

Pair this playlist with some state specific songs, for any states you might be traveling to and through, and you're set.

While you're checking out sweet tunes, I would recommend that you also check out our other playlists: Valentine's Day Playlist, Spring Playlist, Patriotic PlaylistHalloween PlaylistThanksgiving Playlist, and Christmas Playlist. They are 100% Phil Collins free - which makes them the finest quality playlists for every occasion.

They just don't make 'em like they used to!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Time to take a trip down good ole' Ventnor Ave.


When I think of my kitchen of the last few months, this is what comes to mind:


I don't really recall winning a zonk on Let's Make a Deal, but I just would like to know, Carol Merrill, where is my donkey?  Because it would certainly be more useful than any of my appliances as of late.

The portable dishwasher that I was so overjoyed to get, started kicking up a fuss before it was even a year old.

Our oven decided to raise the white flag just a few months ago, right before I hosted a large number of people at my house (which is a rarity for me), and I had to send part of dinner to Daddy's house to be cooked. I finished up the rest out of my toaster oven!  Of course, Daddy was all too happy to take credit for the dish that he pulled out of his oven.

Then, there's the refrigerator. When I first moved to my little cabin, I enjoyed this bad boy:



Daddy actually remembered me saying once that I liked Rachel Ray's kitchen, and it just so happened he had a friend with a 1950s fridge. It still worked! (most of the time) Then Howard came along, and convinced me to purchase a new refrigerator. The only thing I like more than 1950s kitchen decor, is saving money on my electric bill. (So it wasn't too hard of a sell.)

We've had the new one for three years, or so the good people at Sears tell us, and it's on the fritz again. Sigh. Of course, they were all too happy to sell us a warranty for two more years.

So, has appliance ownership always been this bad, or has quality gone down hill and off a ravine?

Okay, venting over with. I suppose I can now pass GO (and shell out $200 for my fridge).



With A Cherry on Top - Summertime Table Decor

The wait is finally over.  As promised, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite table settings with you- CHERRIES!  And it's a good thing I love this tablescape so much because it stays out longer than any of my others.   I start the year with my Valentine table, followed by my Spring table, then cherries for the Summer, Halloween decor for a couple of months in the fall, and then Christmas to end the year.  So as you can see, it's a pretty constant rotation.  

A quick note for you before we begin the grand tour though...  Like all of my other table settings, this one has been lovingly and patiently collected over the years.  Sure, I could go out and buy up a bunch of pieces all at once, but to me, part of the fun is gathering special pieces as you go.  It makes it all the more special when you find  those long lost pieces you have been hunting for.  

So without further ado, here is my sweet little kitchen table all decked out for the summer.



And to give you a better look at some of the pieces, each place setting is all decked out with these precious napkin plates and chocolate cherry bowls and saucers.  It took me literally YEARS to collect enough of these bowls for the table.  This is the first year ever I have had enough to set the entire table with.  In fact, until this year, I only had one of these elusive bowls, so naturally I always sat it at my place at the table.  :)


Tea anyone?


And of course, you will need cream and sugar for that.


This cookie jar is a newer addition to this table as well.  She is lovely and one of those harder to find pieces. Where do I find my pieces?- you might ask.  All of these are from a discontinued Department 56 pattern called "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries".  I actually set up an eBay alert to notify me whenever pieces from this  collection are posted.  I'd say I get a random alert a few times a month.  At this point, I have most of the pieces I see come up for auction, but whenever I spy a piece I don't already have, I give it a good once over to see if it's something I "need" for my collection. 



And speaking of those elusive pieces, this one is the pièce de résistance.  Cherry boy was never actually produced as part of this collection.  Department 56 made him in a very limited quantity for stores to use as part of their displays when this collection was initially launched.  When he came up on eBay a couple of years ago, my jaw hit the floor.  As soon as I was able to collect myself again, we contacted the seller instantly to barter a deal.  Sometimes dreams do come true; they can happen to you.  :)  He has been a prized part of this tablescape ever since. 


And though it's not technically part of the Department 56 collection, these lovely pieces have quickly made their way to the top of my all time favorites.  What you see here is a vintage ceramic bread box and napkin holder.  John's dad scoped these out at one of his auctions, and surprised me at Christmas with them.  All I can say is SCORE!!!



So there you have it, folks.  Nothing says Summertime (at least in my book) like cherries.  Now to just sit back and mix up some Cherry Blossom Martinis, and let the good times roll!

Monster Spray - A Little Dab'll Do Ya

Monday, June 24, 2013

For the longest time, we had two very large and fluffy members of our family named Jasper and Randy. You may remember them participating in some of our earlier Family Halloween Costumes.

Here's Jasper:


And here's Randy:


For the longest time they WERE our children, and when the boys came along, they were excellent big brothers. Randy slept under Aidyn's bed every night, and Jasper took to sleeping with Jaxon. This worked out quite well for our family.

Of course, when the time came for Jasper and Randy to cross over the Rainbow Bridge, the boys took it very hard. Randy left us first, and the boys were comforted to still have Jasper. By the time Jasper passed away, we had Smitty:


And as much as they love little Smitty, that wasn't much comfort to Jaxon . . . especially at night time. He had developed a fear of "monsters." He was convinced that the monsters were going to get him since Jasper wasn't there to protect him. We told him that monsters didn't exist. And he told us that he knew they existed because he had seen them in cartoons! So we explained that Smitty would protect him like Jasper used to. And he told us in no uncertain terms that Smitty was smaller than he was and that the monsters would get him too! (So I guess sometimes you CAN be outsmarted by youngsters!)

In an effort to keep the peace and defeat the monsters, I made sure that Jaxon (and Smitty who sleeps in his room and is clearly also in mortal danger) are never without a bottle of "Monsteze Monster Spray." For those of you who may be unawares, this is simply a bottle of Febreze with this shmancy label:


If you'd like to recreate this for your own little ones, simply download the free printable Monsteze Label, trim to size, and affix to your own bottle of Febreze. (Note: This printable is made for the larger 1.05 quart size Febreze bottle. Perhaps print it at a smaller percentage if you wish to affix it to a smaller bottle.)

Directions for Use:
  1. Before bedtime, spray at doorway, at closet opening, under windows, and under bed.
  2. Explain that this will ensure that no monsters will enter the room and that any that may already be in the room will vanish in a puff of smoke (never to be seen or heard from again)!
  3. Also explain that since Monsteze Monster Spray is so very powerful, "a little dab'll do ya!"

Roadside Attractions

In honor of the Harris Sisters' upcoming girls' weekend and all sorts of summer road trips well underway all over this great land, I thought I would share with you a nifty little website we found last year about this time when we started planning our first annual girls' getaway weekend.   It's called roadsideamerica.com, and no matter what roadside attractions you are looking for, whether the world's largest ball of twine, or simply a random house of mud, this website is sure to help you in your quest. 



Once you make your way over to the Roadside America website, you will find all sorts of tools to help you plan your roadtrip around sites and attractions along the way.  There is a handy tool that allows users to plug in their beginning and ending locations, and it maps out all sorts of attractions for you that are either on your route or close by, if you aren't averse to getting off the beaten path a little.  You can also hunt for specific attractions, or report ones that you have found that aren't already loaded onto their map.  In addition, you can read reviews or create your own once you have explored one of their attractions.  

One of the other way cool components of their website is their Muffler Man map, which includes photos and locations for Muffler Men scattered all over the great U.S. of A.  In case you didn't know, Muffler Men are large sculptures that are placed along the road as advertising icons, roadside attractions or for decorative purposes, predominantly in the United States. Standing approximately 18-25 feet tall, the first figure was a Paul Bunyan character designed to hold an axe.  Derivatives of that figure were widely used to hold full-sized car mufflers, tires, or other items promoting various roadside businesses, thus giving them their name.

But let's face it.  No one knew his way around a good roadside attraction better than Clark W. Griswold.  Perhaps he is a contributor to Roadside America???  One can only hope.  So it is in that spirit that I leave you for today with the thoughtful words of Clark and his lovely wife, Ellen. 

Ellen Griswold: Clark, let's just skip the house of mud. I think Dodge City was enough fun for one day. Besides, Catherine and Eddie are expecting us.

Clark: It's living history Ellen. But if you'd rather see your cousins. Personally I'd rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.

Happy trails!


40 Books Your Kids Should Read

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Remember how a few days ago we gave you a list of 100 Things to Do This Summer? Well, I realize that not every child LOVES to read, and so I purposefully didn't put that on the Summer list. (Because if that is your child, then prodding him or her to read every day over the summer will be like pulling teeth. During the school year? Yes! During the summer? Not so much . . . .)

However, whether or not your child loves to read, I DO believe that there are certain books that you can suggest that will help foster a love of books. And, hey, maybe one or two over the summer wouldn't kill anybody. Worth a shot, right???

And if your child loves to read, then dive right in:


These are the classics, and I would hate to think that any one of them has fallen out of rotation in favor of the Junie B. Jones and the Diary of a Wimpy Kids of the world (although I'm sure those books have their place).

Ages 3-5
1.       Puff, the Magic Dragon – Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton
2.       Mr. Men & Little Miss series – Roger Hargreaves
3.       Corduroy – Don Freeman
4.       Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson
5.       The Story of Ferdinand – Robert Lawson
6.       Blueberries for Sal – Robert McCloskey
7.       Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss
Ages 4-8
1.       Amelia Bedelia series – Peggy Parish
2.       Paddington Bear series – Michael Bond
3.       Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
4.       Stellaluna – Janell Cannon
5.       The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
6.       Harry the Dirty Dog – Gene Zion
7.       Frog and Toad series – Arnold Lobel
Ages 7+
1.       The Bobbsey Twins series – Laura Lee Hope
2.       Choose Your Own Adventure series
3.       Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Judy Blume
4.       Encyclopedia Brown series – Donald J. Sobol
5.       Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great – Judy Blume
6.       The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
7.       The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
8.       Tales of Mr. Pengachoosa – Caroline Rush
9.       The Lorax – Dr. Seuss
Ages 8+
1.       Nancy Drew mystery series – Carolyn Keen
2.       The Hardy Boys series  – Franklin W. Dixon
3.       Ramona Quimby series – Beverly Cleary
4.       The Indian in the Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks
5.       Bunnicula series – Deborah and James Howe
6.       The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
7.       The Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
8.       The Chronicles of Narnia series – C. S. Lewis
9.       How to Eat Fried Worms – Thomas Rockwell
10.     Magic Tree House Series – Mary Pope Osborne
11.     Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
Ages 9+
1.       Charlie & The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
2.       Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
3.       Because of Winn-Dixie – Kate DiCamillo
4.       Watership Down – Richard Adams
5.       Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
6.       Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stephenson

So, don't be afraid to dust off some of the books that you yourself read when you were younger and hand them down to your child. You'll be glad you did!

Feel free to leave comments below with any of your personal favorites from growing up.

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Time to Sit Back and Unwind

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's officially Summer! WOOT! So I just couldn't resist kicking off today with this CLASSIC tune by our good friends DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (AKA Will Smith and . . . dang! Does Jeff still go by "Jazzy" Jeff????).
Anyhootle, here they are back in the day reminding us of what Summertime should be like (evidently full of high-top fades, Speed Racer T-shirts, and Philadelphia Flyers gear, but I digress):

I've included both the video AND the lyrics because if your kids don't know this tune yet, NOW is the time to introduce it to them. In fact, this is one of the songs that we played last year at Aidyn's End of Summer Beach Birthday Party and it was a hit! Enjoy!



♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
Drums please!
Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.

Here it is the groove slightly transformed.
Just a bit of a break from the norm.
Just a little somethin' to break the monotony
of all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be
a little bit out of control - it's cool to dance.
But what about the groove that soothes and moves romance?
Give me a soft subtle mix
and if ain't broke then don't try to fix it.
And think of the summers of the past
adjust the base and let the alpine blast.
Pop in my CD and let me run a rhyme
and put your car on cruise and lay back cause this is summertime.

Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.
Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.

School is out and it's a sort of a buzz.
But back then I didn't really know what it was.
But now I see what have of this
the way that people respond to summer madness.
The weather is hot and girls are dressing less
and checking out the fellas to tell 'em who's best.
Riding around in your Jeep or your Benzos
or in your Nissan sitting on lorenzos.
Back in Philly we be out in the park
a place called the Plateau is where everybody go.
Guys out hunting and girls doing likewise
honking at the honey in front of you with the light eyes.
She turn around to see what you beeping at.
It's like the summer's a natural aphrodisiac
and with a pen and pad I compose this rhyme
to hit you and get you equipped for the summertime.

Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.
Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.

It's late in the day, and I ain't been on the court yet -
hustle to the mall to get me a short set.
Yeah I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there.
The temperature's about 88 -
hop in the water plug just for old times sake.
Break to ya crib change your clothes once more
cause you're invited to a barbecue that's starting at 4.
Sitting with your friends as y'all reminisce
about the days growing up and the first person you kiss.
And as I think back makes me wonder how
the smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia.
All the kids playing out front -
little boys messin' round with the girls playing double-dutch -
while the DJ's spinning a tune as the old folks dance at your family reunion.
Then six o'clock rolls around
you just finished wiping your car down.
It's time to cruise so you go to the summertime hangout
it looks like a car show.
Everybody come lookin' real fine
fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon.
Every moment frontin' and maxin'
chillin' in the car they spent all day waxin'.
Leanin' to the side but you can't speed through -
two miles an hour so everybody sees you.
There's an air of love and of happiness
and this is the Fresh Prince's new definition of summer madness.
Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.
Summer summer summertime
Time to sit back and unwind.
♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Thursday, June 20, 2013

TO DIE FOR? Really? Yes. They are that good, and this is clearly another example of a recipe that calls it what it is.
 
So, before you judge this recipe by its name with slightly 1980's slang origins, just know that these muffins are legit (because I like totally, wouldn't introduce you to anything lame, Dude).


To Die For Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with the flour mixture. Fold in blueberries.  Fill muffin cups and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture (recipe below).
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven.
Crumb Topping
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
 
  1. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
CAUTION:
These are so good - they'll have YOU talking like a Valley Girl in no time flat. For sure.

Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trust me when I tell you that this recipe is just as quick and easy as those little boxes of shells. And, you can actually identify all of the ingredients - SCORE!


Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese
Cooking spray
2 cups skim milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp onion powder (if desired)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
16 oz. cheddar cheese*, shredded
16 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
  1. Spray the crock pot with cooking spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, evaporated milk, mustard powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Pour milk mixture into the crock pot. Add cheese and uncooked macaroni. Stir gently to mix.
  4. Turn crock pot on low and cook 2-3 hours, or until the macaroni is tender. Serve immediately.
Notes:
Do not cook more than 4 hours, or it will dry out.
 
I prefer to use extra sharp cheddar cheese, but you be the judge as to what type of cheese your family prefers in this recipe.
 
Remember, 16 oz of cheese, shredded is more than 16 oz of shredded cheese (bagged)!
 
The recipe above is shown with whole wheat pasta. You could also "kick it up a notch" by using the new Hidden Veggie pasta. (And, yes, I know that I am totally dating myself by even entertaining the saying "kick it up a notch" - for my next trick, I will be "busting a move" - prepare yourself.)

100 Things to Do This Summer

Friday, June 14, 2013

I know that summer doesn't OFFICIALLY start for another week, but as far as the kids are concerned IT'S HERE. Don't forget we also have a 100 Things to Do This Spring List, a 100 Things to Do This Fall List, and a 100 Things to Do This Winter List, so pop over to those and pin for ideas of things to do later.

But for now, here's a list of some fun things that you might want to consider doing this summer.

There are activities that the kids can do by themselves, activities that they might need your help with, activities for outside play, and activities for rainy days. I tried make sure that the list was balanced between activities for boys and activities for girls (the majority are gender neutral).

And to prove that these are things that we Harris Sisters endorse, I have included links and photos of our own experiences with many of these suggestions. (And of course, there are many on the list that my family has done that we just don't have photos of. Watching classic movies, for example, but it is well documented how we LOVE us some 1980s movies!)




1. Go to a Drive In Movie
2. Make Banana Splits
3. Catch Lightning Bugs






5. Rent and Watch Classic Kids Movies
6. Make Fun Summer Jewelry Using Free Online Tutorials
7. Play HORSE . . . maybe just not against this guy ;-)






8. Have a Slumber Party
9. Dip Dye or Tie Dye T-Shirts
10. Go on a Picnic
11. Visit a Science Museum




12. Go Tubing
13. Eat Breakfast for Dinner
14. Draw a Self Portrait (or Swap Names with a Family Member and Draw Pictures of Each Other) This example is courtesy of my wonderfully talented niece, Charlotte!


15. Have a Water Balloon Fight
16. Make Garden Stepping Stones
17. Play I Spy
18. Visit a Zoo


19. Make Milkshakes
20. Roll Down a Hill
21. Go to an Air Show
22. Pick Berries and Make Preserves or Old-Fashioned Cobbler


23. Play Simon Says
24. Paint Your Own Pottery
25. Assemble a Cookbook of Family Recipes
26. Go to a Baseball Game


27. Listen for the Ice Cream Truck!
28. Make an Obstacle Course
29. Watch Fireworks
30. Go for a Hike


31. Make Ice Cream Floats
32. Hula Hoop
33. Play in the Sprinkler
34. Tend Your Garden


35. Go Geocaching
36. Make Paper Airplanes
37. Build a Bonfire, Then Roast Hot Dogs or Make S'mores
38. Go to an Amusement Park


39. Play Charades
40. Perform a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK)
41. Go Bowling


42. Play a Game of Telephone
43. Decorate Your Bike or Wagon for a July 4th Parade
44. Build a Treehouse


45. Go Camping in Your Own Backyard
46. Visit Local Tourist Attractions
47. Fly Kites
48. Tour a Factory


49. Go to a Summer Movie Matinee
50. Make Homemade Ice Cream
51. Make Your Own Play KitchenDoll House, or Race Track
52. Hand Wash the Family Cars


53. Assemble a Puzzle
54. Make Fluffer Nutter Sandwiches
55. Play Rock, Paper, Scissors
56. Go Rollerskating


57. Write to a Pen Pal (on paper . . . and send it through the mail . . . GASP!)
58. Make Your Own Market Bags Using Free Online Patterns or Tutorials
59. Visit the Local Farmer's Market
60. Take a Themed Family Photo


61. Pick Flowers and Make a Floral Arrangement
62. Learn a New Card Game
63. Thumb Wrestle
64. Grow a Butterfly from a Caterpillar (The boys do this with their Grandma nearly every year!)


65. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
66. Go Horseback Riding
67. Make Homemade Pizzas
68. Visit a Petting Zoo or Animal Park


69. Have a Dance Battle
70. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
71. Play Hopscotch
72. Go to the Playground



73. Do Mad Libs
74. Go on a Road Trip
75. Visit the Library
76. Go to an Aquarium


77. Make Soda Rockets
78. Finish a Game of Monopoly
79. Go Fishing
80. Start a Collection


81. Limbo!
82. Start a Journal
83. Master the Rubik's Cube
84. Go to a Local Festival


85. Learn to Play an Instrument
86. Make a Movie or Music Video
87. Complete a Crossword Puzzle
88. Play Miniature Golf


89. Go Ziplining
90. Go Thrifting and Look for Treasures
91. Start a Compost Bin
92. Blow Bubbles



93. Hang a Birdfeeder and Watch the Birds
94. Learn Hand Clapping Games (Miss Mary Mack!)
95. Have a Karaoke Party
96. Go to a Car Show



97. Visit a New Restaurant
98. Go to a Planetarium
99. Start Making Homemade Christmas Presents
100. Take a Nap in a Hammock


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Marinated Cucumbers, Onions, and Tomatoes

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This looks super yum-yummy and perfect for summertime. In fact, it will be on my dinner menu tonight!  Enjoy!



3 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving