Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer Time :: Activities for Families

In Texas, when the weather starts to bring 90 degree days and the images of playing on the lake trickle through your mind, you know its summer. What better way to kick off summer than to start it with a fun, kid-friendly list!

Please feel free to add to the one I've started!

Summer Activities for Families

     1.  Have an all-out water war with water balloons, water  
          balloon launcher, and water guns!

     2.  Visit an art museum and replicate your favorite piece when you return

     3.  Join a library summer reading program

     4.  Take a nature walk and bring along a camera to document your trip
     5.  Enjoy a snow cone or make your own frozen treats

     6.  Catch lightening bugs for outdoor dining (remember to let them go!)

     7.  Attend Vacation Bible School

     8.  Visit a Drive-In Movie theatre or participate in Regal Cinemas'
          Summer Movie Express 
     9.  Pick your own produce

   10.  Visit a State Park

   11.  Make lava lamps, gak and oobleck!

   12.  Have a stargazing party

   13.  Write a song about your pet

   14.  Go fishing!

   15.  Have a family camp out

   16.  Visit an observatory

   17.  Float a river

   18.  Have a tea party

   19.  Go to a baseball game

   20.  Break out the old-fashioned games (checkers, chess, dominoes)

   21.  Create a compost bin

   22.  Try a water sport (skiing, wake boarding, tubing, knee boarding)

   23.  Explore a cave

   24.  Burn fire ants with a magnifying glass ( my husband's suggestion)

   25.  Join the Texas Nature Challenge

   26.  Venture out letterboxing or geocacheing

   27.  Sharpen your picking skills at garage sales

   28.  Catch a play at the Texas Shakespeare Festival
   29.  Go to your family reunion and meet new cousins

   30.  Chase hot air balloons at the Great Texas Balloon Race

   31. Make a mud pie kitchen!

   32. Teach the children how to make their own paper

Dandelion Moms Project Kindness :: May Recap and June Projects


As you all know, I contribute monthly articles to Dandelion Moms, a place for beautiful, strong and resilient moms to gather online. Recently, the Head Dandelion herself, Melissa Northway, started Project Kindness - a simple idea with great potential. Melissa writes, "Much like a dandelion seed that blows in the wind landing at different places – acts of kindness can also be far-reaching. We don’t always know how much a simple act could affect someone’s life."
The best part about Project Kindness is the ease of partaking in the list of activities Dandelion Moms provides and the gratification of knowing you have had an impact on someone's life.

Last month, a few of my friends and I decided to contribute to One World Running by donating gently used tennis shoes. One World Running helps to promote health in the United States and in developing countries by sending new or nearly new athletic shoes to American shelters as well as Africa, Central America, and Haiti.
Here are a list of projects for you to work on for June.

SoccerShots.african boys soccerball
Beyond Boundaries Academy is a nonprofit organization which travels internationally and donates sustainable soccer academies to communities in developing countries. These academies are award winning in their own countries, recognized not only for the quality of programing that the kids are receiving, but also for the strength of the business model that is in place. Their next project is in Rwanda: July 2013, where they will be partnering with a local school and a Boys Home (for street kids) to donate a sustainable soccer academy that provides a revenue stream for the school that currently serves 650 children.
You can join their team and support them in a number of ways, one is by visiting to see more about them, and donate directly to the projects. If you have any questions about what they are doing either here or overseas, they would love to hear from you at  To read more and see how you can help go to:


There are a couple ways to help the Beyond Boundaries Academy:

  • Contact your local sporting store and see if they would like to donate some soccer balls for the Rwanda project. You can let the store know more about the project and since it is a nonprofit, it is a tax-deduction!
       Please send any new or gently used equipment to their warehouse:
       Beyond Boundaries
       1835 Newport Blvd
       Costa Mesa, CA
  • Donate a soccer ball to be used in the program. This could be a great summer activity to do with your child and opens up the conversation about giving to others.
Other ideas for June:
  • Do some summer cleaning and donate items you no longer need (or used) to your local Salvation Army.

  • Contact your local women’s shelter to see if they need any donated clothing items.  This time of year is usually a slow period for donations and summer clothes for the women and children are always appreciated!
If you complete any of these Project Kindness tasks, Melissa asks you share them with Dandelion Moms on their Facebook Page as well as Twitter and Instagram (make sure to use #dmprojectkindness). You are also more than welcome to post your kind acts (and photos) on Texas Homemaking's Facebook (@TexasHomemaking) page.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Time :: Reading Programs Abound!


Every summer, children are offered up a plethora of free reading programs encouraging children to read over the summer break. Oftentimes, your local library plans a wonderful summer reading program for children ages PK through the teen years. Be sure to stop by or call your library and get the scoop.

Barnes & Noble and Hastings both offer a summer reading program, as well. The boys and I have completed the Barnes & Noble program ever year since they became eligible.

Imagination's Destination is this year's theme for the program offered at Barnes & Noble. Basically, your child, whom is in the first through sixth grade, must read 8 books, fill out the reading journal, and return it to their local store to claim a free book from the reading journal selection. You can either print out the reading journal or pick one up in store. The reading form is also provided in Spanish.

Hastings offers a similar program - The Summer Book Club. While Hastings does not offer a reward of a free book for completion of their summer journal, kids are offered two coupons to use in-store as well as a chance to enter an online essay contest to win a computer. This contest is open to ages 18 and under.

If none of these programs seem to fit your family's lifestyle this summer, why not make your own and tailor the rewards to your children? Create a cute flier or reading chart, head to the dollar store for stickers, and pick out some cute prizes. Your children will have a set goal for summer reading and something to do besides playing video games!

Happy reading!

Garden Helpers :: A Dandelion Moms Article


Here's my newest post In the Garden :: Garden Helpers for Dandelion Moms and Texas Homemaking readers. It's about beneficial insects like nematodes, ladybugs and praying mantis and how they interact in the garden!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Changing Face :: JCPenny

If you haven't been to JCPenny lately, you might want to stop in and discover an amazing remodel underway. The largest impact is evident in the housewares section. Once your typically styled big box store, JCPenny has shed its skin and become a hodge-podge of little venues called shops. Each section features a specific designer or product line and caters to those yearning an aesthetic beauty when they shop.

I recently had the chance to speak with an associate on site to discuss the ongoing renovations.

Texas Homemaking: I really love what JCPenny is creating here; there are clean lines, less clutter and great product displays. Why all the changes?

JCPenny: We're reinventing ourselves and creating a space where people enjoy shopping. We've added several new product lines, including Martha Celebrations, and we're pleased to know you like it.

Texas Homemaking: I definitely do! I love all the little vignettes that have been created within the store - their color, style and flow. Do you see the new housewares section facelift transcending throughout the entire store?

JCPenny: Currently, our focus is on housewares. As you can see, we've made a couple of changes through men's ware and women's apparel, but we really wanted a wow factor for the store and housewares has it.

Texas Homemaking: I noticed the area near the cooking section looks like a kitchen. Was JCPenny considering having a test kitchen or cooking kitchen in store?

JCPenny: Yes, at one time the store was going to have a test kitchen, but at the last minute the idea was pulled.

Texas Homemaking: You also have a party section located in the store now. I think it's great JCPenny is offering up-scale party supplies and all the things you need for a candy bar.

JCPenny: That's right. We also carry gift cards, wrapping paper and party essentials. I truly think shoppers are going to be pleased with the new appearance of JCPenny, as well as their shopping experience.


I am just amazed be the transformation of the store. It's become a great location for gifts, parties and housewares purchases; I encourage you all to take a moment and stop in sometime over the next week. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Father's Day Gifts :: Gettin' Lit Torches, Dollar Shave Club & Trunk Club

No matter what your husband my tell you, Father's Day is important. It's the day Dads everywhere get pampered by their children (and wives) and shown how much the family unit truly appreciates and loves them.

This year, instead of homemade cards, oddly colored ties or another grilling gadget, why not give the gift of interesting usefulness. I know my husband loves the cards and art our boys create every year; they are sentimental and hold meaning. Yet, I know he would enjoy something more useful than paper carefully stowed in a drawer.

I recently discovered some great products and services the Dad in your life would thoroughly enjoy receiving this Father's Day.

Gettin' Lit Torches, based in Texas, is an independently run company offering the coolest (well, hottest) Father's Day (and any other day) gifts around. Founded in April of 2012, Gettin' Lit Torches offers a unique selection of patio and table top lamp torches created from upcycled alcohol and wine bottles. They sell individual torches and Gettin' Lit Buckets which include your choice of bottle torch, torch fluid, funnel and lighter - all in a handy, reusable metal bucket. Orders can be places through their Facebook page. Prices and shipping varies.

The Dollar Shave Club is a monthly club which provides 3 great options for shaving at price points ranging from $1 to $9 a month with shipping included. You can cancel, upgrade or downgrade your subscription at any time and the company offers several add-on options also.

Another great find is the Trunk Club in Chicago. The premise behind Trunk Club is the idea that men deserve to be stylish even if they lack the skill. Professional stylists help each client find fashionable attire for their style in their sizes and ship them to the client's home. There are no membership fees, minimums, or long-term commitments, and every trunk includes free shipping both ways. Clients have 10 days to return items they don't want and the entire program is effortless and hassle-free. What guy wouldn't love this?

So, this year, try something different for Father's Day. The Dads in your life will be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Simple Living :: The Farmer's Market

As the warm season approaches, Farmer's Markets begin to appear across Texas. Locally, we have the Historic Farmer's Market which offers bountiful produce, dairy products, organic meats, wines, artisan crafts and foods.

Most cities or towns across the state (and country) have lovely venues for this re-emerging trend. Not your grandparents' market, these newer Farmer's Markets offer a variety of gourmet palette appeasing items. With trendy home-made gifts and toys for children, these newer markets appeal to every age.

Tips for visiting your Farmer's Market

  • Arrive on time. Most of the vendors are setting up and are not ready to open if you are early. Be courteous and arrive at opening or a little after.

  • Bring your own reusable bags. If you're planning on purchasing several items, it is wise to bring your own bag. Most vendors will have a few plastic bags on hand, but it appears overly trendy, not to mention easy, to bring your own from home.

  • Bring cash. While technology has come a long way with the use of iPhones and the Square, many merchants will not have those offerings. Cash is king at the Farmer's Market and may allow you to barter if you feel the need.

  • Ask about the produce. If you are looking for organic produce, don't be afraid to ask the farmers. They will know best and you won't make false assumptions.

You definitely don't want to miss out on this summer's offerings - stop by your local Farmer's Market this week and support your local agriculture!

Simple Living :: 13 Things to Learn in 2013 Update

Six months ago, I made a list of things to learn for 2013. I'm actually quite shocked it has been six months!

I've been able to cross off some of those items, but they are all still a work in progress! I'm hoping to have everything crossed off by December!


Each year, many people make resolutions to uphold. While resolutions are not usually on my radar, I do pick a yearly theme and do my best to live up to that theme throughout the year.

2012 was a year of firsts for me. I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of things for the first time: feeding giraffes, traveling to Wyoming, South Dakota and Palm Springs, growing a produce garden, teaching JMG, hosting a cookie exchange, having a niece, starting a blog, and more.

This year, I want to continue my love of learning by learning new things as well as expanding my knowledge in areas I enjoy. Here are my 13 Things to Learn in 2013:
  • Learn how to fly fish
  • Properly care for Orchids
  • Perfect several French pastries I've definitely completed this task - although, I think I shall always want to learn how to make more!
  • CPR and First Aide
  • Learn how to design and build a museum While it is not finished yet, I feel I've certainly learned how to design and build a museum. And, it is a LOT of work!
  • Say Yes more to my family and No more to others
  • Understand how to use my DLSR and edit my photos I've really enjoyed knowing how to edit my photos. I'm planning on taking a photography class later this year to continue this goal.
  • Learn a yarn craft
  • Expand on suburban gardening and raised beds
  • Take a Hunter Safety Course and a Concealed Handgun Course
  • How to maintain proper fitness
  • Learn to Dance Jake and I recently learned how to Rumba. I still want to learn how to Waltz and half a dozen other steps, so each month we will be headed to class!
  • Learn a Foreign Language  I've learned construction speak. I'm not sure this counts as a foreign language, but it was definitely foreign to me! I'm still planning on picking up a real language through the year. But, I'm checking this one off!

Monthly Goals :: May Recap & June 2013

With each new year, I try to change and grow in positive ways to enhance my life and make the most of my time. I usually blog about my weekly goals each Monday, but this year I think I'm going to take away the small goals and work on reaching my larger goals on a monthly basis. We will see how it goes!

May 2013 Goals

I was thinking since May was already more than half way over I would have less goals, but now I'm not too sure...

1. Redo back patio layout
2. Go through school books for donation or sale
3. Finish backyard vegetable garden
4. Fertilize roses

1. Family Game Night on Fridays
2. Plan summer activities
3. Homeschool Show & Tell

1. Meet with possible LongviewWOW! donors
2. Continue with our JMG Classes on insects
3. Meet with exhibit designers and fabricators What an amazing experience! I felt like I was in my element : )

 1. Continue working on 13 Things to Learn in 2013. This month, I'm working on learning how to dance the Rumba! I know how to Rumba!!!
2. Start my new workout training
3. Select my summer reading

I didn't get the last two things on my list accomplished, but hoping this week they will be completed. The last week of May was busy, busy, busy!

June 2013 Goals

1. Continue working on landscaping with rock.
2. Organize my freezers.
3. Care for roses - they've got spots! eek!
4. Work on a clutter catching corner

1. Mice from Outer Space Production
2. Finish planning our summer vacation
3. Complete the 2012-2013 school year

1. Work on policies for LongviewWOW
2. Finalize community service project for JMG
3. Take boys to sing at assisted living facilities this summer

1. Continue working on 13 Things to Learn in 2013.
2. Start my new workout training
3. Select my summer reading

Here's to getting a lot accomplished in June!