hands free mama. it’s hard. but, good.

Have you ever tried be a {hands free} mama? It’s hard. Do you even know what I am talking about? It’s my new mantra and I am hoping you will come along on the journey. I can’t promise it will be easy. But, I think it might be life changing. Are you in?

Here’s the truth? I have caught myself checking my email a million times a day or double checking my text messages, instead of being present with my kids. Over the past few months, I have noticed a chance in me as a mommy. I have spent more time with my phone or my computer than I should. I know it. I am sure my kids know it. And, it has been in the back of my brain for months now.

Did you notice? I took a break from blog posts. I tried to step away from the things that were distracting me, but it still didn’t feel quite right. On my nightstand was a constant reminder that I needed to refocus. It has been sitting there since last May. A book. A book that kept staring at me.  A book that my MOPS group handed out to every mama as a goodbye gift. Yep, it sat there all summer collecting dust and staring at me.

Last week I couldn’t handle it looking at me any more. I picked it up. I started reading it. And I was hooked. I love it. I am trying to take baby steps, but have quickly realized the power of the words in that book.

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The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, is so honest and truthful in her search for balance, something I, too, struggle with on a daily basis. By the second page of Chapter 1 she reminded me of my purpose and aspirations for my own kids. I have only just started, but I am already committed to being a {hands free} mama. Scratch that. I am going to work on being a {hands free} mama/wife/friend/daughter.

I don’t want to be that mom who forgets to cherish the moments that are in front of me. I want to look back and know that I have made the most of every moment.

As I started on my new journey last week I decided to start a journal. It’s not cute. I quickly grabbed it out of the kids’ art drawer {it pains me that it is not cute. sad, but true}, but my first page is what reminded me of why this is so important.

My middle baby woke up early before school and snuggled in bed with me while I was reading. He asked if he could write in the journal too. As he was so engrossed in his part of the journal entry I was overcome with just how important this is for me. Just look. His picture reminded me of the mama I strive to be.

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Maybe you are past the mama stage in life, but I am thinking this might also be an avenue for strengthening a marriage. I know I am using it as a tool to make my marriage as strong as it can be. Perhaps it will do the same for your marriage. Won’t you come along on the journey too? I sure hope so. We can share notes. Are you in?

Want to learn more?  Visit the Hands Free Mama site and learn more about how life changing it can be. Though I am only a few chapters in, I imagine it will be a great way to ‘free’ myself and be the best mama I can be.

love. enjoy. share.

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who knew? four clubs that make life oh so easy.

It is not news to me when I find out I am not in the loop about something totally awesome. It actually happens quite often. Why? Well, probably because I don’t Facebook {did you just die? I might be the only human in the world!} and I find myself living in a bubble at times.

Case in point… my sis-in-law {thx, m!} let me in on this little secret that is traveling around the fashion world. Have you heard? It is called Stitch Fix. Thank goodness she told me so that I could share with everyone I knew. She keeps me in the “know” and makes me sound uber cool around my friends.  Too bad I hadn’t read my Better Homes & Garden September issue that had been collecting dust. If I had, I would have had a little insight into her new find!

Thanks to my sis-in-law  and Better Homes & Garden I am sharing with you four new phenomenons {why didn’t I come up with them?} that just might make your life easier and your daily mailbox run a little more exciting.

  Clubs from BHG Your own personal styling service?
|
stitch fix |

Trendy new nailpolish colors? 
|
 square hue |

Seasonal shoe stylist?
|
shoe mint |

Monthly jewelry and bling?
| mynt box |

 Maybe one of these new online “clubs” and personal stylist services will strike your fancy too. Don’t shoot the messenger if you get totally hooked.

try. enjoy. share.

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chalkboard wall. september. be awesome.

Goodbye summer, hello fall. My opinion? Too quick. I love summer. But, I must admit that there is something extra special about the start of school. Almost magical. Do you feel that way too?

Our SEPTEMBER chalkboard wall. A place where our kiddos are reminded to be awesome, make someone else’s day and start the year off right.  And, one of our household favorites… Oh, snap.

The theme for this month? School is starting. What type of year will we make it?

september 2014 wall

oh, snap. it’s september and time to get serious again.
Three things to keep in mind.

{one.} Don’t forget to be AWESOME.
Kind of important, don’t you think? I am crossing my fingers that this daily reminder will help our little boysies remember just how awesome they are. Inspired by one of my besties who proudly displays this at the bottom of her stairs for her boys to look at each morning they come down. Brilliant.

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{two.} Give HIGH FIVES and smile.
Kind of important. A kind, smiling kid will make a lot more friends when the school year starts. Well, that and the fact that I just think being nice is a good idea. A perfect way to showcase Mr. G’s adorable little hand and his handwriting {smile}. So cute. High five to you, Mr. G.

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{three.} It’s a new year. Enjoy it, cuties.
What? Two of my babies are leaving me for school? So sad. My big guy is off to 1st grade and my lil’ ball of energy starts TK {transitional kindergarten}. I’m hoping they eat up every minute and second of the fun that is to come. Obviously not quite finished yet, but once we have their first day pictures they will fill the wall for all to see. 

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For our first day pictures we have started a little tradition with some adorable {poster packs} from the Caravan Shoppe. You can see my original post from last September here.  Eventually, we will have the latest and greatest 2014 shots, but here is a sneak peek at what last years 1st day background looked like.

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On another note, I found a little treasure while browsing the aisles at JoAnn’s. In love. In heaven. I just had to test it out on our September wall. Let me introduce you to Washable Liquid Chalk. Some kind of amazing.

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 I tried it out on some stencils that I had lying around my craft room. It was ridiculously easy and simple. I chose to go over the liquid chalk to make it look more authentic, but it definitely made the job easier. Want it? Find the Martha Stewart Liquid Chalk here.

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I hope your September is magical and you remember to be AWESOME. Enjoy the beginning of the school year and all the growing up that will come.

try. enjoy. share.

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{If you missed it, learn how you can make your own {DIY Chalkboard and Magnetic Wall}. Take a quick peek {here} to find out just how easy it is to transform an empty space into something that will make you smile.}

Want some other great ideas? I linked up at I Heart Naptime. Take a lookey loo..

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peach and blackberry grilled pizza. stop it. so good.

No. I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Yes. I am still here. I promise. It’s crazy. This little thing called {summer} hit and I realized that sitting in front of my computer was the last thing I wanted to do.

I am one of those who can’t get enough of summer with my babies. I think it is because there are no routines or schedules or places we HAVE to be. Needless to say, I wanted to spend the last few weeks soaking up the little moments with my little monsters before they headed off to school. I admit it. I am sad. With each year that passes I realize how quickly time is passing. Oh boo.

I am back. Well, for now. And, I just have to share our new favorite kitchen treasure. I owe it all to one of my besties who inspired the evening after we spent a weekend at their house. It all started with pizza on the grill {yumm-y!} and a pizza stone. Let me introduce you to our new weekend staple, Emilie Henry Grilling Stone.

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Seriously. I can’t even tell you how amazing this thing is. I spent a little time in Sur La Table and got this recommended to me over other pizza stones because it is durable {10 year warranty, yo.} and is easy to clean. Oh, and did I mention that you can also cook these tasty treats on it? For the record, no I did not cook all these fabulous things in the last week. You can ooh and awe to Sur La Table for those pictures.

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No. I am not kidding. Look at everything you can make with it, albeit on the grill. That is my type of cooking. Do I think you should put one on your Christmas list? Heck ya. It is that good. Both me and my other half couldn’t stop raving about it all weekend. Sur La Table, we thank you.

Now, here is the good stuff. We tried out a few different pizzas on our new BBQ stone and found one that was a total winner. {translation:  both me and the mr. were drooling} It looks like you slaved over it, but it couldn’t be easier.

If you follow me on instragram I apologize for the repeat, but I figure the recipe will make up for the duplicate picture.

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{ingredients.}

  • pizza dough
    {i use the trader joe’s dough and break in half}
  • olive oil
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • basil
  • peach
  • blackberries

{grill it up.}

  • Following stone directions, heat grill to 500° with stone on BBQ
  • Grill peaches until browned on both sides
  • Shape dough into a round circle
  • Spread 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough
  • Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over base
  • Layer with blackberries, grilled peaches, goat cheese crumbles
  • Place on grill {follow stone directions} until fully cooked
  • Remove from grill and add basil
  • Voila!

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Trust me. Too die for. Easy to make and easy on the eyes. What could be better? Doesn’t it make you drool just looking at it? You have my word, it will be a crowd pleaser. Give it a try. You just might fall in love too.

eat. enjoy. share.

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Want some other great ideas? I linked up at I Heart Naptime. Take a lookey loo..

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my six fave kid apps. yours too?

I know. What? Favorite apps? Well, let’s be clear here. I am not one to turn down something that makes life oh, so easy. Our iPad has some serious screen time regulations, but I will be the first to admit that it is my secret weapon when:

1. We want to eat in peace at a restaurant. No lie. Total silence and complete concentration. Who can say no to that?

2. The mama needs to shop. Three kids in a double BOB stroller, an iPad and some snacks {aka the perfect recipe for a two hour shopping trip}. I know, it is so horrible, but when I dangle that amazing techy device in front of them I can get in at least two hours of uninterrupted shopping.

3. My poor little guy has to wait in line to pick up his big bro in line for school. I tried having him read books, but I caved in watching him so restless. iPad to the rescue, yet again.

4. Pure bribery. Sure you can play… once you clean your room, pick up the playroom and give mommy a back scratch. Come on. Please tell me I’m not the only one who uses it to get some serious picking up done. I know you do, too.

Needless to say, I have learned that the iPad is my friend. I was once completely opposed to such a thing, but now realize the power of such a silly, rectangular little device.

Though changed, I am a bit crazy when it comes to the games on it. In my dear husbands words, “Does everything have to be a learning opportunity?” Silly boy. Yes. Yes, it does. Poor kids. Do you see what they have to put up with? I keep telling myself they {or their future teachers} will appreciate it some day.

With that said, my six fave iPad apps.

fave app collage

Why are they my top zix? Well, here it is in a nutshell.

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{Endless Alphabet}
The characters are so adorable and they speak the letter sounds as you drag individual letters to spell words, Not to mention, they work on vocabulary and show animated clips that explain each word. We get lots of giggles out of this one.

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{Dots}
Truth be told, this is addicting for all of us. We have a bit of family competition while waiting for food our tablet to be ready. The object is to collect as many dots in the same color or squares for bonus points. It works primarily on strategy and pattern finding. Be warned. A bit addicting, but a whole lot of fun.

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{Monkey Math}
A cute little monkey helps reinforce math skills while vacationing on the beach. You build math number sentences, pop similar sets of bubbles and even get to create your own aquarium as you master math concepts. My boys would play forever, if I’d let them. A fun way to practice math skills, number recognition and patterning.

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{Endless Numbers}
Clearly this brilliant group of people are onto something. A new addition to their alphabet game, this cute app helps kids with all things numbers. The best part? It speaks the number out loud as you drag it and prepares early learners with sound recognition. A fair as a backdrop provides lots of entertainment as kids learn all about numbers. Stop it. Too adorable.

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{Marble Drop}
Object? Drop marbles to complete puzzles. A little addicting and a bit of a challenge. Here, you use traps to meet your goal and successfully manage to get your marble through the level. A great way to work on cause and effect, strategy, and solving a problem.

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{Toca Band}
The honest truth is that this doesn’t work on any type of counting, sequencing or writing, but it is just too darn cute. With this app you get to create your own band and make up music beats. Sometimes our little mixer will drum up some sick beats and the rest of us will dance along and add some of our words. What’s to learn? Well, I tell myself that the kids are technically working on patterning with sounds and music components. If anything, it is just plain fun.

 

Are these some of your favorite kid-friendly apps to? Any to add to the list. Who would have thought that there would come a day when I would get sucked in to the world of iPad apps. Kinda’ have to admit that they are pretty awesome, at times.

try. enjoy. share.

 

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summer activity. secret scrolls.

I apologize {in advance} if you don’t have kids and are bored silly with these kid posts. I assure you, summer is half way over, so you will soon have a break from these silly ideas.  Soon. But, not quite yet. Who knows, maybe you can use these with grandkids, neighborhood kids or someone else who might get a giggle out of it.

Yes, summer is in full swing. Lots of hours in the day and some sweet babies who get bored oh, so quickly. Was I like that as a kid? Probably. If you’ve been following along, you know that we are deep in the trenches of finding things to do.

We started with our summer bucket list. And, then moved on to Laser Beams. Last week, we even got crazy with some science experiments. This week? Some serious fun that cost me nothing. I love that.

Hello, secret scrolls.

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Don’t you love those {in the moment} ideas that are way better than you expected? Well, this was one of those. It started with Mr. G wanting a ninja headband. Then we decided that a secret scroll was a must.

Some wrapping paper, scissors, washi tape and dowels {i seriously keep and have the weirdest things, including wooden dowels. technically for the bathroom curtain i am willing myself to finish, but this was way more fun.} helped us get the project done.

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A simple project that makes for some serious imaginative play. And, the kids can do MOST of the work. Give it a try. I’m hoping it will keep your kids as busy as it did mine.

secret scrolls steps

Start your own secret scrolls. A simple, inexpensive way to entertain those kids on summer break.

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try. enjoy. share.

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s’mores in a jar. can i get s’more please?

You’ve probably already heard the news if you follow along, but I had the opportunity to guest post on Tatertots and Jello! This girl is pretty excited to be sharing a personal favorite on such a huge blog. Here’s a look into what summer tasty treats we have up our sleeves. And, it is all about summer.

Summer in one word. S’mores. You say it and it takes you back to your younger years sitting around a campfire and roasting your marshmallows to perfection. The only thing I don’t love? The mess. Fun until the mama has to clean up all the sticky fingers.

Maybe you don’t have the campfire, but you can still have the s’mores albeit without the mess. Throw out the s’mores sticks and bring out the mason jars, a personal favorite, and you have yourself a little slice of heaven. But for the sake of pleasing others, lets call it S’mores in a Jar. Um, can you say yum?

{s’mores in a jar.}
adapted from the campfire favorite and a cake recipe of paula deen.
serves six.

s'mores in a jar with label

{ingredients.}

for the crust…

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt

for the cake…

  • 6 {1 ounce} squares of bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 {1 ounce} squares of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 {4 ounce} jars of marshmallow creme

{mix it up. crust.}

  • Crush graham crackers {approximately 1 1/4 packages} into fine crumbs.
    {hint: food processor is a quick way to get fine crumbs}
  • Melt butter in a separate bowl.
  • Add butter and a pinch of salt to graham cracker crumbs. Combine until mixed evenly.
  • Grease 6 small {8 ounce} mason jars.
  • Divide graham cracker mixture evenly into jars, pressing down firmly.

{mix it up. cake.}

Preheat oven to 425°.

  • Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler.
  • Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture.
  • Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth.
  • Stir in the vanilla.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the mason jars filled with graham cracker crumbles.

{bake it.}

  • Place in the oven on a cookie sheet and bake for 13 minutes.
  • The key… don’t overcook! Tops will be brown and toasty, inside will be ooey, gooey. Yum.

s'mores topping

{broil it.}

  • Preheat oven to ‘broil’ settings. Place cooked jars onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Spoon marshmallow creme onto the tops of the cake, filling to edges.
    {hint: spoon the cream and wait. it will spread evenly on its own if you give it enough time.}
  • Place in oven on lower rack for 1-2 minutes, checking continuously until tops are browned to your liking.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Serve warm. yum.

s'mores layers

I admit not as easy as the traditional campfire s’mores, but it sure is pretty and tastes like the real thing. So gooey. So yummy. Your guest will surely be asking, ‘can i get s’more please?’

s'mores in a jar

Want the label for yourself? Well, you are in luck. For you? Three different {free} printable s’mores tags to choose from. Which one will you choose?

tags printable label

It’s as easy as print, cut, attach. So adorable and so perfect.

printable labels link

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Trust me. This lil’ jar full of all the s’more fixins’ will leave nothing but smiles and happy campers. You have my word, it will be a crowd pleaser. Give it a try. You just might fall in love too.

eat. enjoy. share.

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summer activity. science experiment. oh so fun.

If you’ve been following along, you know that we created a summer bucket list. A little something to make sure we don’t run out of things to do this summer. You can find a {free} printable summer bucket list here, if you missed it earlier.

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One of the items on our bucket list was doing a {science experiment}. I have boys, yo, so science is always a crowd pleaser. Fun for us and maybe fun for you too.

For you, three experiments that are pretty simple, but provide lots of smiles. What could be better?

Experiment No. 1: blowing up a balloon with pop rocks

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The boys watched in awe as a balloon inflated after adding pop rocks to some Diet Coke. What made it happen? Carbon Dioxide. So cool. Love it? Follow Steve Spangler Science as he shares the {how to} and {why’s} of this experiment. Super fun and super fizzy.

Experiment No. 2: a harry potter potion

Doesn’t anyone love a good potion? My kids don’t actually know much about Harry Potter, but the potion side of it had them hooked. A little magical lesson in how the carbon dioxide in Pop Rocks can make for some pretty cool things. Find the potion directions by visiting the pop rocks site. We got a little silly and made up some magic chants of our own. A little bit of magic for the day.

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Experiment No. 3: homemade rock candy

This one falls in to the patient category because you do have to wait for those crystals to grow, but I promise it will be worth the wait. The boys followed a recipe by a very creative mommy blogger that shared her secrets {and tips} to rock candy. You can find her scientific and delicious recipe here.

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Our rock candy experiment was a the perfect way to wrap up our science day and add a little something sweet to our summer. The boys loved it. And, I loved the smiles that followed. Isn’t that what every mama wants?

A perfect way to spend a summer day and let those kids experiment a little. Give it a try. Maybe your little ones will love it as much as mine.

try. enjoy. share.

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summer activity. laser beam trap. free.

You know it’s summer when you feel like you are constantly coming up with new and exciting activities for your kiddos. Our first summer checklist item to tackle that problem? Our summer bucket list. You can find a {free} printable summer bucket list here, if you missed it earlier.

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This summer, I was all about finding as many free {or close to free} activities as possible. One of the items on our bucket list was creating a message using a secret code. Well, we accomplished that bucket item list last week and then decided to set a trap for the daddy to find when he got home from work.

If you follow along with me on Instagram you saw a quick snapshot of our sneaky secret trap. It was one of those spur of the moment things that turned out to be a total hit. Love those.

The next day we decided to try building some more secret traps, but with a twist. With two energetic {that’s the polite way to say it} boys this mama is always looking for crazy things to do that won’t leave the house in total shambles. But, I must admit that I may have had even more fun. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Seriously, give it a try. You just might love it more than your little ones too.

Laser Beam Activity

A super, simple task that requires a little bit of flexibility and a skein of yarn. Say what? That’s it?

Your task? String that yarn all over the place and make it as tricky as possible. This task kept my silly kids and myself busy for at least 45 minutes. String. Loop. Have some fun.

laser beam in action

My little ninjas decided that their trap was made of laser beams. After awhile, we started hiding treasures around the traps and they utilized their sneaky moves to find the golden gems. Just think of the endless possibilities.

A twist on your traditional summer activity that may just make your little ones giggle as much as mine. Give it a try.

try. enjoy. share.

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4th of july. our plan. are you ready?

Say what, it’s almost 4th of July? Can you believe it? That means that summer is officially in full swing, the sun is out and the kids are starting to get into the summer routine.

Now it is time to start planning the day. Who knows, maybe there will be a few ideas that you like too. I am going simple this year. Easy ideas to make the day feel extra special. And, I am enlisting in the help of a little something called the Internet. No time to come up with creative ideas on my own, so I will look to some crafty mamas and professionals.

Follow along. No need to look for your own 4th of July festivities. My friend, the work has been done for you. Hooray.

{first stop.}
Keeping the kids entertained.

The pool will only last for so long and I am in the market to make the day extra special. I think they are going to love it. Click on the links below to be linked to the creative genius behind each of these projects.

4th kids activities
candy bottle rockets.
patriotic rock art.
straw firework art.
washington sugar cube monuments.

 

{second stop.}
Keeping the kids and adults hydrated.

Fun drinks for the big and little kids. A little something to ring in the special holiday. Find recipes and the masterminds of these tasty drinks below.

4th drinks
layered drinks.
{a science project for kids. awesome.}
red, white and blue sangria.
berry infused water.

 

{third stop.}
Keeping everyone fed and full.

Food is a must. I’m lucky and our guests are helping out with some of the yummy items on our 4th of July menu. The rule? Everyone brings their own BBQ dish and the rest will be just as delicious. Love these too? Click links below to be find the recipes and the tasty chefs who thought them up. Yum.

4th food

red, white and blue chips with salsa
patriotic fruit salad
.
summer crostini.
watermelon and feta orzo salad.
pesto pasta salad.
flag sandwich for the kiddos.

 

{fourth stop.}
Keeping the kids and adults sweetened and smiling.

  4th dessert

flag fruit pizza.
red, white and blue marshmallow pops.

 

There you have it. A snapshot of our 4th of July activities. Hope some of our ideas make your 4th a little easier and a whole lot more patriotic.

try. enjoy. share.

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