Crock Pot Mac n’ Cheese with Broccoli

Crock Pot Mac n’ Cheese with Broccoli
My kids love Mac n’ Cheese.  I love the fresh baked, hot out of the oven, home made kind.  I was trying to find a recipe for Mac n’ Cheese in the Crock Pot and decided to try this one with a few alterations…
Cooking spray
24oz Uncooked Macaroni
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 cups Shredded Mexican Cheese Mix
12 oz can of Evaporated Milk
1 can of  Cheddar Cheese Soup
14 oz Frozen Chopped Broccoli
3 cups Milk
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray.  Pour the uncooked macaroni and oil into the crock pot and stir until the pasta is covered.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed. Turn the Crock Pot on low heat and let cook for 3 hrs. 
I would recommend stirring every now and then.  It looks really runny at first but after awhile it will start to thicken.  I used 3 cups of milk but I think I would try a little more next time.  Mine was on low heat for several hours after the first 3 and got really soft.  The babies loved it!

It ended up being pretty tasty!  I would recommend using a thicker noodle, maybe a spiral noodle or something with a little more texture (the elbow macaroni got soft fast). 
Hope you enjoy!

A Day at the Farm

A Day at the Farm
Fall is here!  I love this time of year…the leaves changing color…the cool breeze…the smell of pumpkin latte 馃檪
We went to the local pumpkin farm last weekend and had so much fun I had to share some pictures.  My little guy is looking so big!  He is so funny making animal sounds at every animal.  I think his favorite sound is “moo” at the moment.

Warning…this is a picture overload!

 Jacob was a little excited (as if you couldn’t tell, lol)

 He thought this goat was HILARIOUS!
 So did Gwen. My kids love kids, what can I say!
 This little donkey didn’t move the whole time..Jacob was very interested.
I got my husband to take all of one photo.  He is not into taking pictures, I gotta work on getting him used to using my new camera. 
Me and my little man.

When did he get so big? I love it when babies stand on their tip toes. 

The following week we checked out another pumpkin patch (can’t get enough!!!).  Check out this “corn box”.  The kids loved this…a huge box of dried corn with cups, shovels, rakes, and pails.  This was a hit. 

Such concentration!  He was pushing the corn all around, shoveling, pouring, just having a blast. 

Thanks for letting me share!  Happy pumpkin picking!

Nature Adventure

My kids wanted to go for a Nature Hike one beautiful, sunny, fall day.  I pulled out some squares of contact paper and we went around the yard, gathering leaves, acorn tops, flowers, grasses, pine needles…all kinds of fun, fall things. 

Big Sister is learning about the senses in her Pre-K Science class.  We talked about the 5 senses a little bit, but mostly just enjoyed the warm sun and crunchy leaves.

Big Sister came up with the idea to use this as their “map”.  I thought this was a pretty cool idea, and it coming all from her is so exciting.  I love the imagination at this age!
Big Sister and Little Guy are really into Jake and the Neverland Pirates right now.  Everything is a pirate adventure with pixie dust and gold doubloons!
We went off on our adventure around the yard to visit Acorn Island, Leaf Land, Flower Isle, and Pine Needle Island.

Such a fun day!  

Learning Red, Apples

This Apple Gross Motor Activity is the perfect way to introduce learning about the color Red and Apples this Fall with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies. 聽We made our own life-size apple tree (well, make that Toddler-life size!) that kids can really climb and develop gross motor skills while learning. 聽We’ve recently update our聽Toddler Play page with all of our play ideas in one place. 聽Your Toddler will love some of the other creative play ideas we’ve shared in the past.
Gross Motor Apple Tree activity for learning red and apples with toddlers and preschool children. Kids love this in the Fall!

Gross Motor Apple Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

So, two days a week, I have my nephew here with us while my sister is working. 聽That makes a 5 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old, and 11 and 1/2 month old. 聽We had a Red/Apple play day one afternoon, with something for each age to love! (This post contains affiliate links.)
Even with two children in two different stages of preschool (3 y/o class and Pre-K), it is easy to聽supplement聽school lessons at home (and keep the babies occupied). 聽Keeping the activities PLAY makes learning fun. 聽They never know that you are actually teaching so many ideas (turn taking, manners, colors, handwriting, developing motor skills…& so much more)!

聽This time of year, it is all about apples in preschool. My聽3 year old is learning all about red, apples, and circles in his class. We pulled those concepts into our play with this fun apple tree activity. 聽I placed this set up on our living room floor and had the kids pick ‘apples’. We counted them as we put them into baskets. 聽My 5 year old loves writing when I spell out a word, and so we worked on writing the words “red”, “apple”, “circle”, and “tree”. 聽She was “in charge” of 聽simple math ideas (We have two apples in the basket. Adding one more apple makes 3 apples).

The babies loved putting the red balls into baskets, taking them back out and then putting them into a different basket.聽 They are learning through exploring!

We did some Gross Motor balance beam play on the “trunk” of the tree. This was a hit for all of the kids. 聽These babies WATCH the big kids and try their hardest to keep up!

Gross Motor Apple Tree activity for learning red and apples with toddlers and preschool children. Kids love this in the Fall!
Gross Motor skills are tasks that require the large movements of the body. 聽Development of gross motor movement is聽important聽for so many play skills of聽childhood聽(riding a bike, throwing and catching a ball, hopping, skipping, climbing). 聽Developmentally, we refine our fine motor skills after and as a result of,聽appropriate聽gross motor skills. For example: Stable shoulder聽girdle聽strength is needed to produce controlled fine motor control needed to hold the pencil and write in a small area.

Baby Apple Theme and Red Learning Activities

The big kids did a few more motor tasks including tossing the balls into the baskets. 聽The controlled balance needed to stand on the balance beam, while tossing the ball into the basket is really working their eye hand coordination and can be a聽challenge聽for many kids! 聽
(The babies had a blast carrying the baskets around).
We went on a search for red toys, keeping with the red theme. These were put into a pretzel tub that we keep to store the baby pop-beads.
Babies love to manipulate objects, explore how they can move objects…love to see what they can do to a toy (chew it, bang it, throw it…). 聽And then see if they can do it again! 聽

Baby Girl is always putting these stacking rings onto her wrist. She’ll walk all over the house with one on her wrist, just like a bracelet. My other two never did that at this age! Is she a future fashionista??? Have your babies done this???

The babies loved pulling red objects out of the bin, chewing on a few, putting them back in (…pulling them away from each another, grabbing it back with a screech…these two cousins are more like siblings…LOL)
This is a great聽opportunity聽for language development. 聽Say each item that baby has. 聽Babies, at this age, love to hear your voice in different pitches. 聽Describe to baby the details of a toy, pointing out interesting parts. 聽Talking constantly to baby聽truly聽does wonders for their language development.

We finished up with a snack of sliced apples for the big kids and applesauce for the babies.
This post was originally posted in 2012. 聽We’ve recently updated to share with you again!

Our favorite ways to work on gross motor skills:

National Cookie Month!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love cookies. I love to bake them. I love to make them for people I love. I love love love to eat them!
My husband laughs at me because one of the highlights for me at any wedding, is the cookie table 馃檪
So, when I found out that October is National Cookie Month, I knew I needed to celebrate in the ways that I love the best! I thought I would share what I have been baking up in the kitchen over the last year or so. Some of these have been for my own kids birthdays, some have been for nieces and nephews birthdays, and some have been actual cookie orders!
I love taking new orders and working on custom ideas, so if you see something that you like, or have a party theme you would love cookies to coordinate with, just message Colleen at 
Check out this cookie picture overload….
Circus theme party, I wrote about here
Snowman cookies 
Snowman snow globe cookies
Manger scene and stars cookies
Cars Party cookies
Baby Girl Baptism cookies
Baby Boy Baptism cookies
Fish party cookies
Minnie Mouse party cookies
Sesame Street Party cookies
Cars and Candyland Party cookies, see it all here
Butterfly party cookies
Sports and Dress-Up party cookies
We had a busy day with TWO birthday parties (a certain superhero-obsessed nephew turned 3, and a sweet little friend of ours turned 4) but I’ve had an original cookie recipe on my mind I am hoping to try out (and share if it tastes ok…) in the next few days. Think: pudding/cream cheese/fudge cakeballs with a surprise coating….I’ll let ya know how it goes!

Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes

Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes

With summer coming to an end, I decided to bake something to remind me of the hot days- what could be more summery than raspberry lemonade? These little minis were such a hit at my work bake-sale. People bought them two for a dollar!

I went the easy way and bought a lemon cake mix- whipped these up and baked them according to to the box.  I watched them a little closer making sure not to over bake since they are minis.
I found some cute cupcake liners with little lemons on the bottom of them.  They were on sale which made them even better!


The icing recipe was a buttercream that I added a few drops of red food coloring and a teaspoon of Raspberry Extract instead of vanilla.

 I didn’t have a pastry bag so I used a Ziploc and cut off a corner…this made a big mess.  This works in a pinch, but next time I will make sure I have a pastry bag handy. 

These little yummies were so fun to decorate.
Aren’t they so cute?

 Here they are all dressed up!
   The fresh raspberry on top really added a nice pop of flavor.


Recycle Bin Project

 Multi-step planning, Handwriting, Cutting, Coloring, Painting, Taping, Tearing, Creativity, Imagination…this one’s got it all 馃檪

Big Sister and I had a couple of hours to ourselves when the other kids were napping one afternoon. We went on a hunt for crafting materials in an interesting place…the recycle bin!

I pulled the boxes out and Big Sister used her imagination to decide what to make with them. She came up with a plan…a castle for barbie!

She helped me to tear the tape and construct the castle, instructing me what we needed to do first, and second, and third…We decided to work on a list. Big Sister wrote each word on a page in her notebook and she would turn the page as we did that part. (This was such a great planning project!) 
She said we needed to make a flag for the castle, so I told her how to spell “flag”. 
This age is so much fun. She asks all the time how to spell words as she writes them out. 
After she wrote the word, she drew her flag and colored it in. She cut out the shape and taped it to her flag pole (paper towel tube).

The moat: strips of water colored paper taped together. Tearing paper is a fantastic fine motor activity. It works on the intrinsic muscles of the hands to hold the paper while using a Tripod Grasp to hold the paper.

Babies woke up…They played a fun game of  “put some markers into a box and then take them out”.
They loved it.
We took the whole thing outside and painted it, added stickers, and stuck on gems.
And played.
The bad guys even showed up…This is The Green Lantern sneaking into the castle.
Not bad for some old boxes. Lots of creativity in that trash!
Posted by Colleen

Golf Tees and a Hammer

Counting Manipulatives and Fine Motor Skills 
I picked these golf tees up earlier this year during a shopping trip, figuring we would use them for some activity…or actual golfing 馃槈 They were only a buck for 100 tees. We have these hammers from a Melissa and Doug toy and I thought we could use that to hammer the tees into some egg cartons. 

Little Guy used the golf tees (or Golf Teeth, as he called them), to count out how many he needed for the egg carton, learning to count out manipulatives. 
He’s working that tripod grasp to hold the tees, pushing them into the egg carton for resistance, building those intrinsic muscles for fine motor dexterity. 

Little Guy LOOOOVED this activity! He said, “Mom, when I grow up, I am going to do this because I’m going to be a Dad and Dads hammer.”  He has been asking to do the “Golf Teeth Hammer Game” every day, several times a day, ever since. 

Look at that Tripod Grasp. This is such a great activity for pre-writing and working on the correct and most efficient way to hold a pencil.

Holding the tee and the hammer provides awesome bilateral coordination (using two sides of the body together) and eye hand coordination. These are needed for so many functional skills in play, dressing, handwriting, shoe tying.

You could do this with a cardboard box or Styrofoam. Putting it on an incline or vertical incline would add an extended wrist for improved grasp on the tee. 

We will be doing this activity again, for sure!
~Posted by Colleen