Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Local last minute Christmas gifts that won't clutter your house!

Christmas is coming up quick, but there's still time to buy last minute gifts without adding to the holiday clutter!  Here are some great local options for non-stuff gifts!

Give the gift of a night off from cooking with a certificate for Rose's Home Dish.  Rose's home dish delivers delicious homemade meals to your home or office for less than the price of eating out.  They use seasonal & local products as much as possible too!
Give the gift of fun and fitness with a gift certificate for kid's yoga like at Yoga Mariposa, classes at the YMCA like ZumbAtomic or swimming lesson, or dancing at the Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA).

Give the gift of musical family time by registering for music classes!  Jams classes (Toddler Jams, Preschool Jams & Afterschool Jams) are available in single classes or 3 or 4 week sessions this January-March kids from 9 months or to 1st grade (full disclosure, I lead these classes).  Music Together of Ithaca holds 10 week sessions throughout the year for babies through 7 year olds.

Give gift of physical fun with a gift card to Niki's Party Place bounce houses or a $20 pass to Tot Spot, available for purchase at the Ithaca Youth Bureau.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Holiday Fun!

December is nearly half over, but there are still a few fun things to do in the area!  Here are some of the events going on in the next few weeks.  For more, check out the Ithaca Family Fun calendar or the Holiday page

Cayuga Nature Center Winter Festival - decorate Treetops!
Saturday Dec. 17, 4-8
Come enjoy the Cayuga Nature Center all decked out for the holidays. Put on your hats and mittens and explore six stories of decorated Treetops! Afterwards, enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa by the warm fire in the Lodge and make some holiday crafts. $5 for adults and $3 for kids. $3 for adult members and $1 for kid members. Bring a present for the animals and receive $1 off admission per present. Wet and dry dog and cat food, wild bird seed, canned corn, and fresh produce.

Living Nativity at Calvary Baptist Church in Trumansburg
Dec 17 - 18, 2011 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Drive through Bethlehem and behold the live animals and over 40 costumed characters at the Living Nativity at The tour begins at the Fire-hall in Trumansburg each evening. this event is free and open to the public.

Skate with Santa
Santa Claus will be making a stop at Cass Park Skating Rink on December 17th & 18th from 3-4 pm.  Santa will be on the ice to greet and skate with the children.  There will be free candy canes and surprises for all children.

Chaunukah Party
Tuesday, December 20, 5:30 p.m.
at Congregation Tikkun v'Or (Ithaca Reform Temple, 2550 N Triphammer Rd at Burdick Hill Rd)
1st Night of Chanukah with Rabbi Brian Walt
Join together to fill the sanctuary with the light of the very first Chanukah candle.
Singing, music, dreidels, and latkes, fun for all ages!
Bring your chanukiyah (Chanukah menorah) and candles if you have them!
All are welcome.

New Year’s Eve Skate
Come down to Cass Park to Skate in the New Year from 9pm to 12:30am.   There will be free noisemakers, popcorn and hot cocoa for all.  Special Admission Rates will be in effect: youth-$5, student or seniors-$6, adult-$7! for registered IYB Rec Customers and youth-$7, student or seniors-$8, adult-$9 for NON-Registered Customers. NO Passes of any kind (Season or other) will be accepted for this event.

Of course, there are lots of fun Christmas lights to look at this time of year.  Check out the Christmas Lights Page to see neighborhoods with good displays, and please let a comment if you know of a good place to see lights!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis the Season to Repurpose

Although I usually think myself to be ahead of the curve, I have JUST THIS WEEK learned about the fabulously fun and dangerously addictive website Pinterest.  This site is basically just idea sharing by “pinning” thing on your online bulletin “board.”  All your pins are shared with your friends and theirs with you, and there are general public boards as well.  This website is full of ideas of ways to repurpose old items (turn an old t-shirt into a necklace/scarf, old tank top into a purse, etc). 

We recently switched my 4 year old’s convertible crib from toddler bed stage to it’s final purpose, a full-sized headboard.  This leaves us with sides and a metal frame that were shoved into the basement, likely to never be used again.  UNTIL…Pinterest to the rescue! 

I found this fabulous pin by Mandy at Sugar Bee Crafts where she converts her old crib frame into a holiday card holder.

Brilliant!  I put the frame up last night and I love it so much that, like Mandy, I may keep it up year round.  I hung it on nails pounded into the only two studs I have in that area of the wall.  Then I used command hooks to secure it a little more.

I even copied the cute little triangle flag banner.  Cut my triangles out of wrapping paper and glued them to a piece of ribbon. I can't wait to fill it up with Christmas cards! 

Have you been inspired to create this season?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last push for Thanksgiving leftovers!

Thanksgiving was a week ago and we still had a little turkey left.  We ate it til we were sick of the taste, then we started to hide it.  I successfully hid it in taco salad, but my greatest victory was hiding it in a yummy peanut sauce noodle salad.

I had a recipe I hadn’t used in a while and thought I’d modify it using the turkey and whatever else we had in the fridge.  It turned out DELICIOUS so I thought I’d share it. I was really lenient with measuring and it still turned out great.  I’ll put up the original recipe plus my substitutions and additions.

Hot or Cold Chicken Peanut Salad
2 bundles (about 6 oz) of Soba noodles (any noodles will do, though)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream (I was out so I used yogurt -all I had was vanilla)
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce or to taste (again, out, so I used Buffalo wings sauce)
1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (I used powdered)
1/3 cup orange juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups roughly chopped cooked and cooled chicken (Turkey!!!)
2 large carrots, diced
3 scallions, chopped (I used onion!)
Fresh cilantro (I used TONS because I love it!)
(I also added the leftover corn we had on hand)

Cook the noodles as directed and drain. 

In a large saucepan, cook veggies for about 5 minutes (carrots should still be crunchy).

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the peanut butter, sour cream, hot sauce, vinegar, ginger and orange juice. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add orange juice or water until it is pourable.

Throw all ingredients, including fresh cilantro in a large bowl and mix until all ingredients are well coated. The salad can be refrigerated or served immediately.  When eating it the second time around, I liked it better lukewarm than cold.

It doesn't look pretty, but it tastes great!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A parenting adventure from the summer

I was going through some Facebook blogs and thought I'd share this piece that I wrote last summer.  My family holds an annual disc golf tournament and music event every summer called Discstock.  Since I no longer live in Minnesota, I don't make it back for Discstock every year, but I love it when I do.  This is what happened at Discstock this year:

So, about an hour after I arrive at Discstock on Saturday, Finn projectile vomits all over me. My shirt, shorts & bra were coated in barf.  Luckily, no one from the tourney was around at that time, just the non-players, who were largely female.  I was so covered in barf that I couldn't help Finn, who seemed pretty good at that point anyway, so I had to strip down naked and get hosed off. Yes, with an actual hose. My sister had a shredded too small t-shirt her hubby had brought along as a rag that I was able to put on.  She also found me a fleece blanket made a nice sarong skirt. Then we had to clean off Finn, make a plan, move car seats, & load up all our stuff before I was able to go into town to shower & change. Total time either covered in puke, nearly naked in the middle of a disc golf course, or wearing makeshift clothing, around an hour. 

By the time I was redressed, Finn seemed fully recovered & we went back out & had a great time.  He was dancing to the music and throwing frisbees like he'd never been sick a day in his life.  Hubby had been playing in the tournament and didn't even know Barfstock 2011 until we were already back out to the farm. Parenthood is always an adventure.  Special thanks to my sister, sister-in-law and nieces for helping me out of a very icky situation.
 ·  · 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Up Up and Away! It’s a Hot Air Balloon themed birthday!

Finn has loved balloons since he was old enough to say “LOOOOON” while pointing to anything round and floating. It started as a fascination with any balloon, but for the last year, he’s been especially enamored with hot air balloon.  We had several books and movies that showed them, and soon he was pointing them out everywhere from Diego’s Rescue Pack to the tiny Usborne books logo. His favorite “movie” is watching hot air balloon festival footage on You Tube. So, when our little guy turned 2, it only made sense to surprise him with a Hot Air Balloon theme birthday.

I bought a couple of inflatable hot air balloons, but frankly, the ones I made are just as cute if not cuter, and a lot more cost effective. I made them with beach balls! We also printed off a simple hot air balloon picture from online and added his name for the Happy Birthday banner and hung flags made out of construction paper and tie dyed coffee filters from previous art projects.

11 inch inflatable beach balls (69 cents each online).  Yellow ductape.  Small baskets (I found for 25 cents each).  I folded the duct tape over  so it was thin with just a little bit of stickiness and lined the bottom circle of the beach ball with it.  I attached the baskets to the middle of the circle with another piece of duct tape.  I slid fishing line through the closure at the top of the beach ball for an invisible string to hang it by. 

We had an afternoon party and we waited until naptime to decorate.  Finn woke up to find the balloons hanging all over the house and even outside.  He walked around in amazement, “A hotairballon! A hotairballon! Another hotairballoon!  A big one! A little one! Another one!!!”

Pyrex type bowl or round cake pan (I used this one) and cut part of the bottom, but a half dome would be enough.

Regular cake pan or mini pans for bottom of balloon and basket (I used pyrex bowls with flatter bottoms).

Cake Decorations: Frosting, brightly colored candies like Skittles, Nerds, Airheads Xtremes rainbow striped candy.

I cut the Airheads with a clean scissors to create the zigzag pattern on the cake.  I used Chex cereal for basket, and skewers or toothpicks to connect hot air balloon to basket, and added a little flag for his name.

Aside from the normal 2 year old playtime, we had a special treat of a real live mini hot air balloon - a sky lantern. We put ours on a fishing line so it wouldn’t fly away and potentially set the neighborhood on fire.  After the show, we doused it with water. The kids obviously loved the sky lantern, but we were pleasantly surprised to see how much the parents enjoyed it too!

2 year old Finn, Enjoying his Hot Air Balloon cake

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Halloween Follow-up

Hard to believe that Halloween was over two weeks ago!  As Nora’s birthday followed soon after, I haven’t have a chance to post pictures of their costumes until now.  Nora wanted to be a “rainbow unicorn with a yellow mane and a yellow tail.” (stay tuned for more rainbow unicorn fun, as that was also her birthday party theme).

After looking a bit on the internet, I found a unicorn costume that she and I agreed would be a good starting point.  In mid-September, we happened to find the perfect pants and shirt for her outfit at Mama Goose, our fabulous local kids consignment store.  I had already figured out that the mane would be attached with yellow duct tape, so the clothing would be completely in tact after Halloween.

We had a Repunzel wig that she had received for her birthday the year before that I used for the mane and tail.  I trimmed the tail and hot glued the trimmings on a strip of felt.  I used hair bands on the tail to make it look a little more horse-like at the top.  I hooked a piece of string though the top and tied it to her shirt. . 

The horn is made with craft foam and hot glue.  I painted it “rainbow,” as requested, with acrylic craft paints.  It’s then attached at the bottom to a piece of felt covered craft foam about 2-3 inches long, which acts to place the horn on the forehead rather than at the top of the head.  The original version of this costume suggested attaching the horn extension and ears to a headband, but after a trial run at the Wegmans costume parade the Thursday before Halloween, I found that this didn’t work well at all. The headband kept sliding out of place because it was on the hood rather than behind her ears.  So, instead I just hot glued the horn extension onto the felt part of the mane and taped it all down with a thin layer of duct tape.  I taped down the felt ears and “hooves” as well.

Total cost of the outfit was under $10, plus she’ll wear the rainbow clothing for the next year. I also attached the mane and horn back onto a headband so it can be reused for playing dress-up. 

Finn’s Dinosaur costume has been Nora’s from the year before.  He refused to wear the headpiece for more than the 30 seconds it took to get this picture.  It actually worked in our benefit, however, as without the triceratops head, his costume looked a lot like a dragon and everyone loved how well the unicorn and dragon went together. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blogging, Parenting & Protecting

I’m very excited to start posting some blogs about the great birthday parties we’ve had this fall.  I had the urge to write up all the details of my son’s party, but realized I’m getting ahead of myself.  I want to tell everyone about the party, but I don’t want to tell everyone everything about my son.  I’m the kind of person who has never really had anything to hide, so I’ve never been overly cautious about using my full name on the internet. 

However, now that I have kids involved, I want to protect them.  I use their names on Facebook, but I also have my privacy settings up pretty high.  Only my friends can read my information & status updates or see my pictures.  The blog, however, is open to the world. Therefore, when it comes to the blog, I’m going to do limited facial pictures of them and use pseudonyms.  As for our imaginary names, it seems right to highlight or Scandinavian heritage, since so many of the traditions we have as a family revolve around them.  My husband’s dad is 100% Finnish, whereas much of my family is Norwegian.  Therefore I present to you,

Nora and Finn, enjoying this year's first snow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ready for Halloween?

 I've always loved Halloween, so I love that the Ithaca area has so many great events for Halloween.  This year we went to the Wegmans parade on Thursday, the Sciencenter on Friday and Ellis Hollow Nursery School on Saturday.  We still have a preschool party on Monday and Trick-or-Treating in our neighborhood in the evening.   When I was growing up in the Midwest, we only celebrated Halloween on one night!  I guess at least this way the costumes get a lot of use. 

This year my 4 year old will be wearing a homemade “Rainbow Unicorn” costume, while my 2 year old will be wearing the dinosaur costume that big sister insisted on having last year after falling in love with it in Halloween edition of One Step Ahead, despite the large box of dress up clothes that we already had to choose from (I need to remember to hide that catalogue).  At least we can get a couple year’s use out of it. Hubby will be a clown, per the children’s request; and I’m excited to step out in my homemade Dora the Explorer costume.  This will be the first time since having children that I didn’t throw my costume together that the very last minute. (For those of you who still haven’t put together costumes, Mama Goose, Trader K’s and Trader K’s 2 all still had good selection as of last week.)

I’ve always enjoyed making costumes whenever I have the time and creative energy.  Growing up, I remember my mom pouring her heart and soul into homemade costumes, the best of which was an elaborate Strawberry Shortcake outfit that I probably wore for about 3 years straight.  However, once I was older, I learned that my memory is a bit unreliable.  My mom recently informed me that she dreaded making homemade costumes and did so only because it was cheaper than buying them (which isn’t always the case anymore!).  Turns out the main reason I was Strawberry Shortcake so often was because she didn’t want to make anything else. 

How about you?  Do you make your costumes?  Buy them new?  Buy them used?   Borrow from friends?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Favorite: The SPCA Annex in the Mall

From time to time I’ll post a blog about my favorite things in the Ithaca area.  I’d like to start with the SPCA annex in the mall!  The Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a great organization that finds “forever homes” for cats, dogs, rabbits, and pretty much any animal you could think of.  The Tompkins County SPCA is a no-kill, open admission shelter.  I highly recommend visiting their main shelter at 1640 Hanshaw Road. 

However, today I want to sing the praises of the SPCA Annex.  By opening this storefront, the SPCA smartly keeps their adoptable animals on the forefront of mall goers minds.  They also help to make the mall great place to visit on a rainy day.  When my 4 year old was a baby, the only place in the mall that really appealed to kids was the pet store.  Now the mall has Niki’s Party Place (bounce houses), Glow Golf, the arcade, and the SPCA (what my kids like to call “The Kitty Store”). My kids love to play with the cats using the cat toys available (if you can’t find a toy, ask an SPCA employee and they’ll find one for you). There’s an area near the back with toys and books that’s a great spot to kill a little time.  On Mondays at 11 they host a Storytime there too.  Best of all, this little nook is quiet and secluded.  Back when I was nursing, I found it to be the comfiest place in the mall to feed my youngest.  Plus the toys and books kept my toddler happy at the same time.

As great as the annex is, it is expensive for the SPCA to keep staffed.  They’ve had to reduce their hours of operation to 11-7 Monday -Saturday and 11-6 on Sundays.  However, it’s easy to help keep this great place running.  If every family visiting the annex dropped a dollar into their donation box, it would be more than enough to keep the annex afloat.  The Annex also accepts donations of everything from cat toys to paper plates.  For a full list of items needed, check out their web page.

Although we haven’t adopted an animal from the SPCA (our 10 year old cat wouldn’t stand for it!), they make it easy to find an animal that would be good for your home, creating and updating their animals' personality profiles on a regular basis. 

And finally, full disclosure, I am in no way affiliated with the SPCA.  I just love what they do and I love the smiles that their store in the mall brings to the faces of my kids.  They get excited every time they drop a dollar bill in the box to help feed the kitties.  Hope your kids do too!.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who knew?

So, apparently the Tot Spot opened for the season today.  I realized it was late October, so I called to check when they open, and sure enough, it was today.  Even though I browse the IYB emails I get, I had no idea.  Did you?

For those unfamiliar with the Tot Spot: The Tot Spot is an indoor play area with two slide/climbing structures, many push and ride toys, books and other fun things.  Located inside the Ithaca Youth Bureau at 1 James L. Gibbs Drive in Ithaca, The Tot Spot is generally open from the end of October to Mid-April. Days and times are as follows: Tues./Thurs./Sat. 9:30 - 11:30 am and Sunday afternoon 3:30 - 5:30 pm.  The Tot Spot is for children ages 5 months -5 years, but kids under 4 tend to have the most fun. $4 per child.  607-273-8364

Wednesday, October 12, 2011