Outdoor Toddler Learning Activities

It's summer and my busy toddler loves being outside.  We are in the process of selling our home and try to keep it in immaculate condition most of the time.  This can be challenging with a little boy who just wants to have fun and play with all of his toys.  I have found myself trying to keep our little guy out of my way more often so I can focus on a spotless house.  I have realized that I need to get my most important focus back on track and plan daily activities for us to do outside.  This way our house will stay clean and Rylan will be happy he gets to be outside.

Here are a few fun activities:

1.  Water balloon Fun:  Blow up water balloons in different colors.  Talk about the different colors of balloons while playing.  Play catch, throw them through a small basketball hoop, see how high in the air they can go.  Skills: Colors, gross motor
2. Car Painting:  Tape down a long sheet of paper.  I used the back side of wrapping paper.  Have your child dip the cars into the paint and drive around on the paper.  You can create a car track around the paper or a start and finish line.

3.Ice Cube Painting: Fill ice trays with water and a drop of food coloring in each cube.  Once they harden, let your kids paint on paper with ice. Skills: Colors, fine motor, written language

4. Fishing for Letters: Fill a kiddie pool or large bowl with magnetic letters.  Let your child fish for the letters with a magnetic fishing rod.  Skills: Hand eye coordination, concentration, letters, colors

5. Chalk: Talk about the colors, what you are drawing, and write letters or names.  Skills: Fine motor, written language, colors, numbers, words

6. Bubbles: I never understood why bubbles were so popular until I had a toddler of my own.  I am amazed at the love children have for bubbles.  We incorporate counting by counting each bubble that Rylan pops.  Skills: Gross motor, counting

7.Water bombs: Cut up sponges and attach together to make balls that you can soak up with water to make water bombs.  Throw them at targets or play catch.

8. Water beads: You can buy water beads at The Dollar Tree.  There are so many different things your child can do with these beads that will him or her busy for hours.

What are some things that you do to keep your active toddler busy and out of trouble?

Pizza Pizza! Easy Homemade Pizza and Mountain Mike's Pizza

This pregnancy I have had one main craving and that is Pizza.  I haven't given into that craving too often, but when I do, my favorite way is by making homemade pizzas with my little guy and my recent discovery, eating at Mountain Mike's Pizza.  My little guy is almost 2, but he sure loves to help in the kitchen and making pizzas with his mommy is a great way for him to help.  While we often end up with clumps of olives and piles of cheese, that's just fine because my little boy is having a blast and learning how to help in the kitchen.

My cute little pizza chef.

Easy Homemade Pizza Recipe
1. Rhodes Rolls, thawed to room temperate. (I usually leave them in the fridge over night and then about 30 minutes before I make the pizzas I take the rolls out of the fridge and let them get to room temperature.
2. Can Pizza Sauce/ Pasta Sauce
3. 2 cups grated cheese (your favorite kind)
4.  Meat toppings such as: Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, Sausage
5.  Vegetable toppings such as"  Onions, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, tomatoes
1. Spray baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.
2.  Depending on your preferred pizza size, combine 2 rolls together or use just 1 roll per pizza.  Roll into a circle and place on baking sheet.
3. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
4.  Remove plastic wrap.  Spread sauce over crust.
5.  Add cheese and all your favorite toppings.  We have each family member make their own pizza just the way they like it.
6. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crust is golden and cooked all the way through.

Our homemade finished products.
Making homemade pizza is a lot of fun and tastes great, but it is also a lot of fun to go out with the family for pizza too.  It's nice not having a mess to clean up after.  Going into a sit down pizza parlor always reminds me of trophies and my early years end of sporting season parties.
Mountain Mike's Pizza in South Jordan, Utah
       I was invited to an event at Mountain Mike's Pizza this week and brought my little family with me.  I've had friends mention how much they like eating at Mountain Mike's, but never checked it out myself.  I am glad I got the opportunity to see for myself how great Mountain Mike's really tastes.  Not only is their food delicious, but they have great service too.

  My family enjoyed the all you can eat buffet that includes pizza, soda, salad bar, pasta, garlic sticks, and dessert pizza.  I love that they provide the option of a buffet.  My family always has the hardest time deciding on what pizza to buy, especially since there is just two adults and a toddler, we only really need one pizza.  A buffet allows us to each get the pizza we want and try a few different types of pizza.  While at Mountain Mike's my family each had their own favorites.   My husband definitely  loved their dessert pizza which has cinnamon on top.  My favorite was the Chicken Club pizza and cheesy garlic bread stick.  My toddler enjoyed the cheese pizza and mandarin oranges off the salad bar.
I love having an assortment of pizzas to try.
The dessert pizza is so delicious.  It was tempting to not eat it first.
Mountain Mike's Menu
 My family went to Mountain Mike's a second time to get a Medium Pizza. We went with the Diamondhead (Hawaiian Pizza).  It was so delicious.  While we were waiting for our pizza to bake, an employee brought us out some extra bread sticks that they had and told us, "They're on the house."  It seems like most places you go to these days will just throw out any extra food or messed up orders. It was great to see them making use of left overs and establishing a great relationship with their customers.  What a fun and delicious surprise.  Thanks Mountain Mike's for the delicious food and great service. 
    Right now through August 31st they have a birthday special going on.  You can buy any medium or large pizza and get another one for just $7.  Grab your family or a few friends and try them out.  Mountain Mike's address is 2785 W South Jordan Parkway.  Go check them out.  You won't be disappointed.

Mountain Mike's website:  http://www.mtnmikesutah.com/

*Mountain Mike's provided my family with delicious food, but all opinions are mine.  Thank's again Mountain Mike's Pizza.

Baby Sprinkle

I learned something new.  Did you know that when you have a baby shower for somebody that already has a child it is called a "Baby Sprinkle"?  I threw my first Baby Sprinkle in February (I know, I am way behind) for my friend who was having her first boy.   A baby sprinkle usually isn't as "big" of a party as a baby shower.  The day of the baby sprinkle I was extremely busy and had a toddler to chase around, so I didn't do a very good job taking pictures.

    I had a bunch of circle cut outs that I used to put on a plain white table cloth.  The color scheme I used included different blues, greens, and cream.  The circles kind of gave you a "sprinkle" feel.
Ignore the wrinkled tablecloth :(

     We had ice cream sundaes as treats that included vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, crushed strawberries, bananas, crushed oreos, cookies, brownies, and of course sprinkles.  I was in such a hurry that I didn't get any pictures of the food or final baby sprinkle decorations.
     For drinks I covered water bottles with labels.  I just sliced some scrapbook paper into strips and added a sticker to the center.  Then I taped a strip onto each water bottle.

I put sprinkle streamers on the wall.  I made these by sewing a straight line of circles together, leaving a little room in between each circle.
We didn't really play any games, but did a fun little activity.  We explored a variety of gender wives tales to see if the mommy to be "really" was going to be having a boy.  Luckily, according to the wives tales, she was having a boy, only by one extra wives tale.  Here is a list of wives tales that we asked and checked with her.  

Carrying the Baby
Carrying low
Carrying high
Morning sickness
Not a lot
A lot
Face shape
Gets longer and narrow
Gets fuller and rounder
Carrying the Baby
Carrying in front
Carrying horizontally
Getting wider
Staying the same
Ring on a string
Swings in a circle
Swings back and forth
Dreams about a boy
Dreams about a girl
Sleep preference
Prefer to sleep on left side
Prefer to sleep on right side
Dad’s weight
Stays the same
Shows hands
Shows hands palms down
Shows hands palms up
More clumsy now
Nothing changes
Picks up a key
Round part
Narrow part

Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich "BLTs"

 Something about BLTs scream summer time to me.  It seems like most people who have a garden always have way too many tomatoes and don't know what to do with them all.  BLTs are a great meal to use up some of those garden ripe tomatoes.  

Bread, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Ranch dressing, Mayonnaise, Avocados (optional) 

1. Fry the bacon. 
2. Cut the lettuce and tomatoes.
3. Toast the Bread
4. Spread mayonnaise or ranch dressing on the bread.
5. Make your own BLT just the way you like it by adding your preferred amount of bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.
6. Enjoy!

Baby Announcement

We are very excited to announce that we are adding another member to our family.

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken Dumplings are one of the meals that I remember my dad cooking often that all of us kids loved.  I now make it for my own family and it is a huge hit.  It is so simple and so delicious.  I also love that it is a one pot meal.

Chicken Dumplings (Serves 6)

1 (32 ounce) can chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 (16 ounces) package baby carrots
2 stalks celery, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste (other favorite seasonings, if you wish)
2 1/4 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup milk

Combine chicken broth, chicken breast cubes, onion, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper, and other seasonings  in a large pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer until chicken is no longer pink in the center and vegetables are tender.  About 20 to 25 minutes.

Mix Bisquick and milk in bowl until dough is sticky.  Drop golf ball sized pieces of dough into the soup.  Cover pot and cook until dumplings are cooked through,  About 10 minutes.

Tips and Tricks for Shopping at more than half the price!

I am a bargain shopper.  I love getting good deals on groceries and other products.  95% of the time when I shop, I buy things on sale, clearance, with coupons, or other deals.  I have made a list of why I like to shop at certain stores and their "perks." I have also included my tips on how to save money while shopping.  I hope it helps you save lots of money!

All Store Tips:

  • Ibotta: Sign up here to start saving tons of money.  I have already saved 85 dollars by using this App.  The way Ibotta works is that you get money when you buy selected items at most stores.  After buying the items, scan the bar code of the item and the receipt.  The money will be added to your account and after 20 dollars you can get your money through a paypal account or in gift cards.  
  • Checkout 51: Checkout 51 pays you cash when you buy selected items at any store. Offers go live on Thursdays at 12:00 in your time zone and then expire the following Wednesday at 11:59 of that same time zone.  After buying the items, upload your receipt using Checkout 51.  They will confirm your purchase and credit your account.  Once your account reaches $20 you can cash out a receive a check in the mail.  Wahoo! Just make sure you submit your purchase right away because the offers can go away after so many people redeem the offer.  You can download the App or if you don't have a Smartphone you can use Checkout51 on your computer.  I really like Checkout 51 because they often have deals for produce which I am always buying.  I have gotten 50 cents off bananas and 25 cents off tomatoes.  
  • Ibotta and Checkout 51 are very similar.  I have had Ibotta longer, but Checkout 51 seems simpler to use.  It is nice having both because sometimes you can buy one product and get money back from Ibotta and Checkout 51 getting products for dirt cheap or even free!  That's my kind of shopping.
  • Use Coupons: See my past post on how to get coupons and how to use them.  Want to see how I organize my coupons?  Check it out here.
  • Store discounts, unadvertised sales: When I go shopping and am heading to the next thing on my grocery list I keep my eye wondering at all of the store items.  This way I am able to see all of the store discounts for quick resale or unadvertised sales.  Sometimes items even have coupons attached.  By doing this I am able to find really great deals.  Be cautious though, if you are an impulse buyer this may not be a good plan for you.  I am very cautious of what I buy and make sure it is practical, a good deal, and something we need.  Otherwise, you can find a marked down item with a coupon, buy it and have no need or desire for it.  A good deal is only a good deal if it is something you need and like.  
  • Shop in a way that works for you.  If you are extremely busy, pick one store that will save you the most about of money and go there.  If you want to save more money and have a little extra time go to a couple of stores.  If you have time for a little prep work before going shopping, print coupons, look at sales, and do what you need to do to save money.  If you don't have time or energy to do any extra work besides walking in the grocery store, grabbing your food, and checking out then be aware of how to get the items you need for a little cheaper.  I have some ideas below.  
  • Open your mouth.  I have always been afraid to ask certain questions because I am afraid of getting the answer, "No." I don't like being told no, so I usually avoid asking questions that could result in a "no" answer.  However, I am learning that it is better to ask because I often get what I want and a "yes."  Just a month ago I saved 100 dollars buy asking my dentist if I could use a coupon even though according to the instructions you had to spend over 300 dollars to get the discount.  I wasn't going to ask, but last minute I decided to take the chance and save myself 100 dollars!  They said yes :)  So instead of paying them 250 dollars I only paid 150 dollars.  Don't be afraid to ask for a good deal.

Target: I love Target.  Their store is clean, they have a lot of great products, and have great deals after using coupons.  You just have to know how to use all the great things Target has to offer.   
  • Cartwheel: Cartwheel is an App for your phone or you can use your computer. It is a way to save money at Target. You add offers to your Cartwheel from hundreds of available products. New offers are added regularly! Then bring your smartphone or your printed Cartwheel to the store. Have the cashier scan your barcode and you will automatically save on all the offers loaded on your Cartwheel.  I love Cartwheel because you can even add the offers after your shopping cart is full.  You just type in what you are buying to see if they have any offers (ex, 5% off, 10% off).  I got my most favorite shoes at Target with a Cartwheel deal.  I loaded a 30% off on shoes to my cartwheel.  The shoes were already on sale, so they ended up costing my 10 dollars for a comfortable and cute pair of shoes.  
  • Women's Mad Love Laksha Canvas
    mad love shoes
  • Text Message Coupons: You can sign up to get Target text message coupons.  I love these because they include $1 off fresh vegetables, $1 off fresh fruit, $1 off meat, etc.  Sometimes coupons are for items that you may not need or aren't healthy items.  These coupons are great because they are for items that are good for you and that you are usually buying anyway.  Or you can just text offer to the number 827438.  They immediately will send you coupons.  Throughout the month you can get other codes to text to that number for additional coupons.  I usually find these codes on other coupon sites.  In one month I got about 3 set of $1 off fruits, so these text message coupons are great.  Other text message coupons I have recieved are 20 dollars off of 100 dollar baby purchase, 5 dollars off 25 dollar grocery purchase, and 10 dollars off a 50 dollar home purchase.  
  • Online Coupons: You can go here and print coupons.  Some of them are manufacturer coupons and others are store coupons.  You can use both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same product if you have them.  
  • Clearance: Sometimes Target has great markdowns.  They are usually found on the end isles.  I have bought clearance items with Target coupons to get very cheap and free items.  I love double dipping!

Smith's/Fred Meyers/Kroger:

  • Manager Special: The store puts yellow stickers on items that they want to get rid of quick because they no longer sell the item or its sell by date is coming up.  The items are often in their usual spot or at the back of the store or in a section that says,"Manager Special."  You can pair these specials with a coupon to really get a deal. If you need items from the bakery, Smith's usually has a ton of items on Manager Special.
  • Coupons: Almost every Friday Smith's and other Kroger stores have a FREE item that you can download onto your store card.  So far I have gotten free yogurts, protien bars, chips, pizza, and drinks.  Most of the items cost between 1 and 5 dollars.  You can also download other coupons onto your store card.  

Maceys: I love shopping at Maceys because they have great customer service and because of their carts.  They have shopping carts that have a car attached.  My son loves driving the car and moving the steering wheel around.  He actually gets upset when he has to get out of the shopping cart.  

  • Case lot sale: They have case lot sales where their can foods and other items are priced really low.  You don't have to buy the entire case to get the cheap deal too.  If you buy one or a case, it's the same price individually.

  • Price Matching: I usually leave Walmart frustrated for one reason or another, usually because of their long lines and their lack of help.  However, I love that Walmart has everything all in one spot and that they PRICE MATCH.  It is nice to be able to go to one store to get all the good deals.   I collect all of the ads for the week, sit down with my planned out menu for the week and plan my shopping list.  I write down the items I need to buy, the price, and what store has it for that price.  I also check for other coupons or discounts (Ibotta, Checkout51).  

Winco: There are certain products I always but at Winco because they have such great prices.  I also keep my eye out when shopping for signs that advertise really cheap items.   

  • Spices and Bulk: Sometimes I have a recipe that calls for a spice that I don't have on hand and that I probably won't use very much of down the future.  Winco has bulk foods that you can just get as much or as little as you need.  This saves you money by not buying more than you need.  Also, it is a lot cheaper than if you buy them in containers.  Cinnamon sticks are around 6 dollars for a container and you can get the same amount at Winco for about $.67. Huge savings
  • Bulk: Usually the bulk items are cheaper the same item prepackaged.  Winco has a great selection of candy, fruit, nuts, spices, pasta, cereals, and the list goes on and on. If you are going to buy a ton of one item you can save 5 % off bulk items.  Click for more details
  • Bread: Winco's bread is always so cheap.  You can always find a quality loaf of bread for around $1.25.  They have great prices on bagels, buns and english muffins too. 
  • Weekly specials: Winco doesn't have ads, but if you go into their store they have some amazing deals.  Some past deals have been $.75/ .lb strawberries and $.50 for Pillsbury crescent rolls.
  • Signs: Winco often has huge signs for the items when you enter the store and on the end isles.  They also have price tags that are colored that are right below the items.  Green price tags mean sale, Red tags mean very low price (stock up)
  • Almost out of date meat: I have gotten amazing deals on meat.  I talked with the butcher and he told me they mark down the meat at my store around 9 am and 6 pm everyday.  So if I want to get cheap meat that is when I go to Winco.  Don't be afraid to ask to find out when you can save money on meat.

Costco: Costco has some great deals.  You have to be careful though because a lot of their food and other products can be purchased elsewhere for a lot cheaper.   
  • Coupons/Instant Rebates:Costco has great instant rebates and coupons that are mailed out and can be found at customer service.  These are high valued rebates and coupons.  Use them.  
  • Great items: Some items that I find to usually be cheaper at Costco:
    • Diapers: Usually every month Costco either has Huggies or Kirkland brand diapers for 5 or 6 dollars off a box.  This makes buying a large quantity of diapers a good price, easy and hassle free.  
    • Bananas: They come in a bundle for 46 cents/ lb.  That is the cheapest I have seen bananas.  
    • Spinach:  You can get a large bag for cheap.
  • Pay attention to their labels and know what they mean:
    • Prices ending in .99 are full price, try to avoid these products.
    • Prices ending in .97 are deals that are decided by the store manager.  They won't be on sale long, but can be great discounts. 
    • Prices ending in .49 or .79 are a manufacturers special offer.  These products are usually priced lower than retail price.
    • Prices ending in .00 are products the manager wants to get rid of and are priced very low, but stocked low.
    • Prices or labels with an asterisk are items that will be discontinued, so once they are gone they are gone for good.  They are often priced low to get rid of them. 
If you want another way to save money around your birthday month check out my birthday freebie post.

I hope these shopping tips are helpful and you can end up saving a little bit more money than you have in the past.  It's amazing how much money you can save with using coupons, apps, text messages, and knowing each store's system.  Happy Shopping!

Are there any shopping tips you can share with us to help us save even more money?