Blue Star Museums – Kicking off summer!

Memorial Day is upon us so that means it’s time for Blue Star Museums to kick off for the summer! What is Blue Star Museums?

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America.  Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Every summer we are happy to get to explore some of the areas institutions a little more. In Florida we visited the Ringling Museum and MOSI. In Ohio we’ve visited Brukner Nature Center, Dayton Art Institute, Springfield Museum of Art, and Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm with this program. Follow this link to see which museums are participating in your state.

This program is for military and their family but all of these museums sound like great places to visit.

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Now that the girls are a little older, we’ll try exploring a little further this summer as time permits in addition to the Dayton area organizations, Dayton Art Institute (the Experiecenter theme is “performing arts” right now), Sunwatch Indian VillageAullwood Audubon Center and Farm, and Brukner Nature Center. Some of the stops on our summer bucket list this year include:

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Ohio History Center, Columbus

Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wapakoneta

Take a minute to follow your favorites or get a calendar of events so you can plan a return visit during the year. If you are heading out for a summer trip, add one to your vacation itinerary. If you are new to taking children to museums, Blue Star Museums has some tips here.

 

Did you know that this is a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program? The NEA is currently looking at funding being eliminated but arts advocates would like to see an increase in funding from its FY17 $148 million to $155 million. That sounds like a big number doesn’t it? However, it actually only makes up 0.004 percent of the federal budget. Did you know that the nonprofit arts industry supports 4.13 million jobs and contributes $729 billion, or 4.2% of the gross domestic product? That sounds like a pretty good return on investment.

In case you were wondering, if the increases to the NEA had grown in relation to inflation it would be over $300 million at this point. Given that 40% of its money goes out to the 50 states to be redistributed, imagine how many more afterschool arts programs, theatre camps, and writing workshops there could be in all congressional districts. NEA also funds Art Works, Our Town, Rig Read, and Creativity Connects programs.

If you would like to let your representatives know that you support funding for the arts that reaches all Americans, take a moment to let them know by clicking here and help #SavetheNEA.

 

I have not been paid by any organizations mentioned in this post I just enjoy them and want other people to enjoy them, too!

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Thanks, Moana

We are still pretty hard core Frozen fanatics over here, but Moana has been creeping into playtime more and more lately.

We had a trip to Florida planned to visit family and go to a wedding so I worked in a stop at my parents beach condo just outside of Fort Lauderdale. Every time we have been up until now it ends up being windy or rainy or too chilly or all of the above. If the weather is half way decent, my girls have way more interested in the pool than the sand.

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Thanks to Moana, however, the girls have been interested in the beach and the ocean so they were quite excited to hit the beach on this visit. Still, I wasn’t sure how long they’d last or if they’d be willing to give the ocean a try.

We ended up spending at least an hour playing in the sand, collecting and exploring shells, chasing birds, running from the waves, and enjoying time with my Mom and sister, Erin. Erin found a little friend we named “Tommy,” as in Tomatoa, the crab from Moana, since we thought it might be some sort of crab. Turns out it was a fighting conch.

The moment of truth finally came and the girls tentatively tiptoed into the ocean. My sister and I had been walking around in the water off and on trying to coax them out but, of course, they weren’t going to try it out until they were good and ready.

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Thankfully, the tide was out so we could walk out a bit and still only be mid calf high. The girls splashed around, sat in the water, and jumped over waves. While Kelsey was sitting down a wave went over her head – I froze up for a moment, nervous that it would end Kelsey’s time in the ocean but, thankfully, she laughed it off and went on having fun.

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We did eventually head up to the pool – after putting Tommy back in the water and dragging our sea shell finds up with us to go through. We ended up bring back a good sampling of shells and fossils that we looked up to identify so Kelsey could take them into school to share with the class. Poor Aubrey was wiped out and fell asleep on the floor for a while.

I thought I’d take a little “we’re in the ocean” selfie only to realize later that Kelsey decided to show off the bucket she was playing with and cover her sisters face in the process. I posted it anyways and ended up getting featured on Average Parent Problems on Instagram. With over 4,900 “likes” I guess a lot of parents have had this little problem.

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It was a great day at the beach. So, thanks, Moana, for finally convincing my girls that the ocean is awesome! And thanks to my Mom and sister for helping to make the day happen.

Goldfish Swim School Grand Opening in Dayton!

Goldfish Swim School has announced the grand opening of a new 8,600 square foot Dayton, OH location. The newest addition to the Goldfish Swim School family joins three other thriving Ohio locations and dozens of other successful Goldfish locations throughout the United States.

In a few weeks, our girls will be starting swim lessons in a warm 90-degree pool with a state-of-the-art water purification system. I like that they have small class sizes (max 4:1 student to teacher ratio) and that even with each girl at different ages and skill levels I was able to get both a 5 year old and a 2 year old in the pool during the same half hour time slot. 

Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years-old. In addition to swim lessons, Goldfish Swim School of Dayton offers weekly family swims (for both members and non-members) and party packages. Their facility highlights include an air conditioned viewing gallery for parents to watch lessons, a spacious family dressing area with private changing rooms, snack bar, retail shop and warm, tropical décor.

Located at 671 Lyons Road, Goldfish Swim School of Dayton offers a wide range of swimming classes for all ages and skill levels at times that are convenient for every family’s schedule. Families can register for lessons now by visiting the website or calling (937) 972-0177.

All are welcome at a FREE Grand Opening Party on Sunday, March 20, 2016 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Event highlights include free family swim, facility tours, face painting, a balloon artist, raffles, games, crafts, complimentary snacks and more. Visit their events calendar for more details and connect with their Facebook Page to learn more about what’s happening at the new facility!

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About Goldfish Swim School

Established in 2006 by husband and wife team, Jenny and Chris McCuiston, Goldfish Swim School provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages four months to 12 years. Classes are offered by specially trained instructors in a safe, kid-friendly and fun environment. Goldfish currently teaches more than 31,000 students per week to swim and be safer in and around the water. Headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan, Goldfish Swim School opened its first franchise in 2009 in Farmington Hills, Michigan and is in the process of expanding franchise opportunities throughout the country. Currently there over 30 schools open or in development in more than 10 states. For more information, visit www.goldfishswimschool.com.

 

*Sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

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Letters Make Words

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My 4 year old doesn’t turn until 5 until January so we have one more school year before Kindergarten. At daycare, she has been moved to a Pre-K class but even before this move, her teachers have been doing a great job of getting her interested in writing and reading more and more.

It still impresses me when she points to a word and can tell me what it is. Wasn’t she just learned how to walk yesterday?! I have been trying to work in ways to encourage her to practice identifying words at home.

When we were practicing recognizing letters I came up with this fishing game. I revisited the idea with words she knows. When she catches one, she has to say what it says, maybe find a matching fish, etc. I plan to make more of these using sight words to reinforce those as well.

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Words used: hat, bee, mop, pop, map, dog, top, fun, bat, log, tap, sun (Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop provided some inspiration on word choices.)

I was fortunate to get to review these Bath Toy Organizer with 36 Alphabet Letters and Numbers from Brilliant Babyz. Almost immediately, my 4 year old started trying to make words with the letters she was wading through and it has continued to be a popular activity.

In the video below, you can see what we talk through swapping letters out and sounding words out to get to a new word. My almost 2 year old participates in playing with the letters by putting them on and off the wall and I name the letters and numbers as she picks them up.

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The foam letters, once wet, stick right on to the shower wall and side of the tub without any damage to the wall grout, etc. The best part is the organizer it came with sticks right on to the wall so all the letters can dry out between uses. My girls can also put them away by themselves.

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You can see I am all about the bath toy storage. My Pinterest-y solution was putting a shower curtain rod across the back of the shower and attaching a couple of dollar store bins to it. They slide across, I can add more if I need it, and it only cost a couple bucks.

With summer, incorporating word practice into water activities has been an easy way to make it interesting. I’m going to have to work on some other ways as we head into the cooler months.

How do you encourage kids to practice letter recognition, letter sounds, and sight words?

*I received a product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Birthday in Dayton

I have officially been on this planet for 35 years. My birthday fell on a Friday that I had off but since it wasn’t a holiday, both girls were at daycare for the day. I decided to spend most of my day checking out some spots around Dayton, Ohio. Thankfully it was also a gorgeous weather day.

After my frugal start to the day utilizing a free breakfast at a restaurant then yard sale shopping – snow boots for a $1? Yes, please!

My husband decided to take the day off, too, to get some things done so we were able to meet for lunch at Olive, An Urban Dive. Typically, you need a reservation to get a table since it’s a small place, so since I wasn’t at work, I knew I’d be able to keep it. It doesn’t look like much from the outside since the exterior is off the original restaurant, Wympee Diner but the inside has been completely redone.

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They serve fresh meals with local ingredients as much as possible (they have their farm just to assist in the fresh produce) and since their kitchen is so small, they say they don’t even own a freezer or microwave since their ingredients are brought in almost daily. The have every “friendly” kind of option possible to fit anyone’s needs and everything tasted delicious. I had the “Over the Top” Tuna Melt, salad and sweet potato soup and my husband had the day’s special, the Atomic Sloppy Joe with sweet potato fries. We were definitely full but I didn’t feel heavy nor was I starving an hour later – those things count in my book!

I stopped by Sew Dayton to peek at what fabrics they had in and decided to grab this unicorn print to make some skirts for the girls. Then, I grabbed a cup of cold brew coffee from Press Coffee Bar.

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My last stop was for a little hair therapy at Salon J Ladner. It is a little sad to admit how long it has been since I’ve been to an actual salon to have some attention on my hair. Along with a cut I ended up getting PM Shine, a semi-permanent gloss to give my hair back a little shine. It definitely beats trying to dye it at home while trying not to get liquid all over the place. Plus, it’s s great chance to support a military spouses’ business.

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The salon just happened to be right down from Twist Cupcakery, which seemed like a sign from above that I should get myself a happy-birthday-to-me cupcake. I’ll have to remember them next time we need some birthday treats around the office.

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After a little down time back at home – because I could – my husband and I picked up the girls and went to the annual Dayton Celtic Festival in downtown Dayton for dinner and a show. More about that here.

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Pretty laid back, fun day in and around Dayton. We kept the festivities going by checking out Fifth Street Brewpub Monday night while the guest bartenders for the evening were raising money for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Alumni Society, Wright State University. It was nice to check out a new place and give back to an alumni group on date night. Talk about multitasking!

Many beer options, most brewed right there the rest are local, and a short but tasty food menu. I was surprised to find out they have a kids menu and even changing tables in the bathroom. We ended up splitting the Cheesy Baja Roll, my husband got The Fifth Street Steakhouse Sandwich, I got the Asian Lettuce Wraps with chicken as my meal, and we got Blonde Brownies a la Mode drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces. Every thing was really good. In the beer selections, we each got a flight so we could sample a few different beers. The FSB Dandelion Saison was an interesting favorite – a Belgian style Saison brewed with organic dandelion greens.

This year is off to a good start, let’s see what the rest of it brings!

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Garden Fresh

Tis the season for fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere you look. Farmer’s markets, u-pick, farm stands – we are trying to make the most of what is seasonally available. We are still working on the first batch of ice cream I made in my new ice cream maker, Blueberry Ice Cream, and I just put another batch of popsicles in the freezer, Watermelon Mint.

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I have two recent posts on Dayton Moms Blog that I wanted to share with you. While there is some information local to Dayton, Ohio in them, but the ideas translate to where ever you happen to live.

Farmer’s Market Fun for Kids

That’s My Jam: Making Homemade Freezer Jam

I recommend exploring your area’s farmer’s markets. If you are near Shelbyville or Bedford County in Tennessee, check out Bedford County Locally Grown Farmers Market. My sister-in-law is one of the masterminds behind it and it is unique in that it lets you pick exactly what you want from the participating growers. They offer everything from produce, to eggs, to bread, to handmade soaps and you make one stop to pick them all up once a week.

In the Garden

This year we scaled back what we are growing in the garden. We wanted to keep the girls interested in the growing and caring for plants but honestly didn’t know how dedicated we would be able to be to it this year. With all the rain, we haven’t had to water the garden and the flowers too often, but it is a chore the girls enjoy in addition to pulling weeds and just digging in the dirt, just because. Besides, it turns out we are awesome at growing leaves.

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We had a good run of spinach at the beginning of the season and the kale is about ready to start getting picked regularly. We tried broccoli but it didn’t really seem to take. It’s still in the garden in the hopes it attracts butterflies and the girls still pick the little buds and eat them right off the plant.

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The herbs are doing well, as usual. The mint is huge and I am happy we decided to put it in its own container last year because it was the first thing to take off running this year. We got new basil and rosemary plants and they are doing great. The surprise of the season has been the dill Kelsey grew from a seed at a program at our local parks system last year. It came back on its own this year and has been an interesting addition. Although, we still haven’t really figured out anything to do with it.

What’s in your garden this year?

Peach Recipe Round Up

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Oh, The Peach Truck. It was like going to pick peaches in Georgia without having to go pick peaches in Georgia. A half a bushel driven right to our fair city of Dayton (and maybe to a city near you). A knew a lot of peaches were coming my way, but I did not realize how many peaches it would be until I saw the box.

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Cue Pinterest search to figure out what to do with all of them. Apparently, a lot of other people were wondering the same about their The Peach Truck haul because I just had to laugh at all the references to it a came across in my search.

For starters, I knew we would be freezing a fair amount so here is how to peel a lot of peaches and how to freeze them as just plain peach slices, great for future recipes and tossed into smoothies.

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The Peach Truck does have a selection of recipes, but here are the ones we decided to try. Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas.

Peach German Pancake

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Baked Cinnamon Peaches

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Peach Mint Popsicles

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Dutch Oven Peach Dump Cake

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Peach Freezer Jam

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And, here’s one form the last time we a lot of peaches around: Spiked Peaches and Cream

Of course, between two little ones and a weekend camping trip, a fair amount were eaten straight from the box. Have a peachy day!

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