Five Great Water Games For Kids

Five Great Water Games For Kids. It’s been 2 months since Mr. Thermometer cracked 80, and the backyard hose will be constantly running until the first freeze of Fall.  My MacLeanie in particular loved water with a furious passion.  So, when the allure of our cheesy above-ground pool (my sister Jenne calls it the “White Trash Oasis”) runs thin, I’m plactating my kids with these ideas.

Five Great Water Games For Kids

  1. Water Balloon Toss. In pairs, begin facing each other with one water balloon. Each time the balloon is tossed and caught, the catcher takes one step backwards. Pairs can see how far apart they get. When the water balloon is dropped, grab another one and try again!
  2. Sponge Pass. Have everyone sit down in a line facing forward a bucket full of water with a large sponge. At the back of the line place an empty bucket. The object of the game is to get as much of the water from the front bucket to the back. Each player passes the sponge over their heads to the person behind them. When it reaches the back, the last person must squeeze the water into the bucket (again over her/his head) and pass the sponge back to the front.
  3. Duck, Duck, Splash. As in Duck, Duck, Goose, everyone begins sitting in a circle. One person stands and walks around the circle tapping the shoulder or head of the other players gently and says “duck”. Then s/he picks one person as goose, but does not say “goose”, instead s/he pours a small amount of water from a cup onto the goose. The goose stands and chases “it” one time around the circle. If s/he is tagged, that person goes again. If the player reaches the empty spot and sits down before s/he gets tagged, the goose is passed the cup of water, which is refilled, and s/he becomes the new “it”.
  4. Cup Relay. Everyone stands in a line behind an empty bucket. A full bucket is placed further away. The first person in line runs to the full bucket with a cup in hand and attempts to get as much water into the empty bucket then passes the cup to the next person in line. You can also have two teams play to see who can get the most water in their empty bucket.
  5. Water Pinatas. Hang a large balloon full of water from a tree branch, blindfold the kids, and let them swing away (supervised, of course). While it may not spill candy, it’s sure to bring out squeals and giggles as it cools down a crowd.

For more summer based fun for kids, check out Navigator.com

Cover image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mgifford/)

The 5 Best Books To Build Your Financial Empire

The 5 Best Books To Build Your Financial Empire. Yes, you–silly creature.  It’s true that we all dream of being wealthy enough to buy what we want, experience the adventures we dream of, to  joyfully share with others.  But, most dreams seem to start with “first, I win the lottery, and then…”

 

 

The Great Recession in 2007 shook everyone’s confidence in their ability to live a life of abundance.  But whether you’re starting from scratch, and there’s plenty of folks right there with you–or you have a nest egg slowly growing, it’s important to know your next step for this stage of your life.

 

The 5 Best Books To Build Your Financial Empire

Money_Saving_Tips_Suze_Orman_Young_Fabulous_Broke

Young & Broke: I used to call these my “Sex and the City” years, where I spent more on shoes than my 401(k).  Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I did not wait around for Mr. Big to come and sweep me off my Louboutins, and neither should you.  It never works out that way, and you don’t need him, trust me.   No one better than Suze Orman to get you moving in your 20’s and 30’s with The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. Yes, you can still be young and adventerous, yet own your own house and know the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA.

 

 

divorce thinking financially

Divorce: yeah, that stinks under the best and most necessary of circumstances.  Traditionally, women do not do well from divorce.  That’s why it’s important to know the steps to take.  I know your heart is breaking–or on fire with rage–but what you do now financially affects you for the next 20 years. Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally: What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, and After Divorce is an amazing and compassionate book.  If you know someone who’s going through this life stage, consider this the best present you can offer them.

 

 

single womans guide to retirement

Single: statistics show that more women will retire single in the next decade than in any time in history.  So why not be prepared for it? The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement helps you plan your own destiny, instead of worrying about someone else’s bad debt or cheesy credit history.

 

 

women don't ask

Negotiation As A Way Of Life: the best bit of advice I ever got from a millionaire is the phrase “is that the best deal you can offer me?”  (Thanks, Richard Paul Evans!)  Nothing puts me out of my comfort zone more than trying to negotiate a better deal.  But other than purchasing a car or your home, most women never think of this strategy, and you can use it everywhere–from snooty department stores to a better salary from your boss.  But it’s like any muscle–you have to use it to grow it. Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change is a brilliant guide to making you the Dark Mistress Of Never Paying Full Retail.

 

 

cold hard truth on men women and money

The Power(less) Couple: being husband and wife these days has a whole new set of complications.  Maybe you’re a blended family…or have a child with special needs…or you’re happily thinking of retirement and you’re suddenly facing your children moving back in with you, or their children are now yours to raise? The Cold Hard Truth On Men, Women, and Money: 50 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them is crucial because men and women view money differently.  Working together instead of against each other is vital when you have others depending on you, too.

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Tales From The Playa – Adventures At Burning Man

 

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Tales From The Playa – Adventures At Burning Man. We’re back from Burning Man- a festival in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada- with wonderful memories and about 12 pounds of Playa dust in my hair. The concept of Burning Man is a wonderful one- in a temporary city of 65,000 people, no one buys or sells- gifts are exchanged. If you’re setting up camp or a wheel comes off your bicycle, there’s always an immediate offer of assistance. Strangers hug you, shouting joyfully “Welcome Home!” because for most Burners, this is home- at least the idealized one we wish we could take into the real world.

 

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The first reason to visit the Playa (the vast stretch of dust where the Man and most of the art and sculpture is placed) is for a visit to the Man, who’s burned at the end of the festival. He wasn’t up yet, so we hit the Temple, a beautiful space filled with tens of thousands of wishes, hopes, mourning those passed and resolutions for the future. It’s an extremely emotional moment, and strangers (including us) find themselves hugging other strangers to offer comfort.

 

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Then, there’s the art! My favorite installation this year was The Lighthouse- a wildly off-kilter display of gravity defying lighthouses filled with incredible notes, pictures and artifacts during the day, and then the sucker sends up huge gouts of flame at night!

Some other favorites…

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The Pyramid: with many, many tiny little steep steps. Many. You’ll note by my head gear that this is a bright moment in between two massive 40 mph windstorms.

 

 

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Some other favorites…

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This is a two-story wildebeest. That’s a lot of wildebeest.

 

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The Love Dragonflies. Note The Todd standing under the right-hand one for scale. These suckers were gigantic.

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Sigh…and yes, even in the middle of the freaking desert, my violent clown phobia is stoked once again. (shudder) Clowns. They ruin everything!

 

27 Brilliant Gluten-Free Recipe Substitutions

When our twins went gluten-free 6 years ago, we ALL went gluten-free.  While traditionally The Todd does the vast majority of the cooking, upon the rare times I am forced to go beyond merely heating something up, I tend to be thwarted by a recipe I cannot make gluten-free.

 

So, behold the Awesome:

1. Corn tortillas for sandwich bread Cold cuts and deli cheese just aren’t the same unless they’re sandwiched between something starchy. When gluten-free bread isn’t an option (or if trying to watch the carbs and calories), corn tortillas are a great stand-in.

2. Brown rice tortillas for crackers Feeling crafty? When cut into squares and toasted, gluten-free brown rice tortillas make a great substitute for crackers.

3. Gluten-free oats for breadcrumbs A quick whirl in a food processor or blender makes rolled oats the perfect substitute for traditional breadcrumbs. Add a sprinkle of herbs and some Parmesan cheese for Italian-flavored seasoning!

4. Crushed flax or fiber cereal for breadcrumbs Crush up that gluten-free cereal and mix in some herbs for a lower-sodium substitution for traditional breadcrumbs. Plus, it’s an easy way to get an extra dose of fiber or omega-3s!

5. Mashed potatoes for pizza crust Believe it or not, leftover mashed potatoes make a great alternative to pizza crust. Mix one serving with about ¼ cup of any gluten-free flour. Smooth the mixture into a thin layer onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes until crisp. Add favorite traditional pizza toppings, return to the oven until warmed through, and enjoy!

6. Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps It’s not a perfect swap, but forgoing the carbs for fresh lettuce is a fun (and easy) switch that can lighten up any wrap or taco dish. Plus, replacing the bread with an extra veggie will give the dish a nutritional boost with added vitamins and folate.

7. Corn tortillas for flour tortillas Half the calories and fat. ‘Nuff said. Just make sure to pick a certified gluten-free brand.

8. Grits for oatmeal Craving carbs for breakfast? If gluten-free oats aren’t available, try substituting corn grits. They’re often higher in calories and carbs, but they’re typically lower in fat and contain more folate.

9. Cornmeal pancakes for regular pancakes Sometimes it’s just a pancake kind of morning. Replacing the wheat flour with cornmeal or corn flour (like in this recipe) can be a perfect substitute.

10. Chopped nuts for granola in yogurt The oats in most commercially-sold granolas are usually grown and processed with wheat or other gluten-containing grains, making them unsafe for people who have to avoid gluten. Instead of grabbing the granola bag, opt for some fresh toasted nuts to go with yogurt or fruit.

11. Meringue for pre-made frosting Store-bought frosting can sometimes have gluten-based thickeners in it (bummer, right?). Made from just egg whites and sugar, meringue can be a tasty fat-free substitution for traditional frosting. Feel like going a step further? Take a torch to it. Lightly charring the edges of the meringue can add a nice caramelized flavor.

12. Nuts for croutons Every salad needs that extra crunch. To avoid gluten-filled croutons, try some lightly toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts. For a savory salad (think Caesar) try a spice or herb roasted variety!

13. Sorghum flour, almond meal, rice flour, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, or buckwheat flour PLUS cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch PLUS xanthan gum for flour Aside from the classic wheat, there are dozens of other unique types of flours safe for the gluten-free population. One problem: There isn’t really an exact 1:1 swap for wheat— a blend of several flours is needed to get the same texture. When in doubt, check out these recipes from Gluten-Free Goddess and Living Without for some flour combinations that work perfectly in place of wheat flour!

14. Black beans for flour Substituting a can of back beans (drained and rinsed) for flour in brownies is a simple way to avoid gluten and also add an extra dose of protein! And don’t be fooled— they taste great.

15. Almond flour for wheat flour This gluten-free switch lends baked goods a dose of protein, omega-3s, and a delicious nutty flavor. Start with something like a simple butter cookie to get a hang for the switch. Feeling creative? Try other nut flours like walnut or hazelnut for another fun switch!

16. Coconut flour for flour High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is a great partial substitute for wheat flour in baking recipes. Be careful, though— more than ¼ to ½ cup, and the flour’s bitterness can take over.

17. Zucchini or eggplant for lasagna noodles or pasta Thin strips (cut with a knife) or ribbons (easily made with a vegetable peeler) are a great substitute for wheat-filled pastas. The wider ribbons work perfectly in lasagna, and strips are a great replacement for spaghetti!

18. Spaghetti squash for pasta Roasted and pulled apart with a fork, spaghetti squash is a great low-carb and lower-calorie substitute for wheat-based pasta.

19. Rice noodles for pasta When veggie substitutes just won’t cut it, go for one of the many gluten-free rice-based noodles on the market. Chances are, they’ll be stocked in at the grocer’s international aisle.

20. Polenta for pasta or couscous Polenta is another great option to take the place of traditional pastas. Plus, it goes perfectly with all the classic pasta toppings, from marinara sauce to breaded chicken or sautéed veggies.

21. Grated steamed cauliflower for couscous Cut calories, carbs, and gluten with this simple switch. Plus, cauliflower offers a handful of other health benefits including vitamins and minerals, and even some cancer-fighting compounds known as glucosinolates.

22. Quinoa for couscous While couscous is made from processed wheat flour, quinoa is a whole grain superfood packed with protein and nutrients. Bonus points for having almost the exact same texture.

23. Tamari for soy sauce Many plain soy sauces contain wheat. Avoid getting accidently gluten-ated by going with tamari, a type of soy sauce that’s wheat-free.

24. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for soy sauce When wheat-filled soy sauce is a problem, go for liquid aminos for the same “umami” flavor without the risk of gluten contamination!

25. Cornstarch and water for roux Cut gluten— and fat! To thicken soups, stews, and stir-fries, replace the traditional fat-and-flour roux mixture with a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch and water (start with a tablespoon of each).

26. Potatoes for roux Another great option for thickening soups and stews is to add a few chunks of starchy potato (like Idaho). As the potatoes cook and soften, they break apart and slowly thicken.

27. Rice cakes for… just about anything Rice cakes work perfectly as a stand-in for crackers, pizza crust, and even bagels (we swear, they’re really good with cream cheese— just stick to one serving!)

 

Need more ideas?  Head to the excellent Greatist.com

 

Seven Tips For Creating Work/Life Balance

Let me clear when I say I love my career.  Working in radio has been an amazing opportunity.

I’ve been able to contribute to the support of our household–something that became crucial when our twins had some very expensive health challenges.  But, I know I’m not alone when I say I constantly feel like I’m not fully present at home or at work.  Especially given today’s economic climate when employers are demanding more and keeping your job means saying “yes!  Of course, boss!”  Then, life at home hasn’t become any less complex–there’s new and more sophisticated challenges facing our kids every day that require a fairly savvy oversight.

Oh…and then there’s that “pay attention to your husband” thingie…  I’m sure The Todd is incredibly flattered to be on my “to-do” list.

I stumbled across a really inspiring article by the “Get It Done Guy” that contained several excellent ideas.  Let’s follow along, shall we?

Seven Tips For Managing Work/Life Balance

Tip #1: Budget Your Time

We’re taught to budget our money and spend it wisely, but we’re not taught to budget our time. And while you can earn more money, you can’t get more time. When your number is up, it’s up.

A so-called work life balance is simply deciding how much of your non-replaceable time you’re going to spend working (including your commute), and how much you’re reserving for your actual life – the part that matters. I reserve 3.5 hours on alternate Saturdays for my personal life. I hope you do better.

Tip #2: Choose Your Risk Level

You’re probably already scared. “What if I have to work late some evening?” you ask, breaking out into a sweat. Well, the answer is that you don’t, unless it’s super-duper-important. And if you do, you skip out of work early later in the week or month to make up for those hours. Most businesses don’t give you extra money without expecting extra work or extra quality, there’s no reason the standards for yourself should be lower.

“But I’ll get fired!” you cry. Or, “The company will always favor someone who sacrifices their personal life.” Maybe…

Tip #3: Face the Reality, Not Your Fears

Those fears could be true. In that case, you have a choice to make: What’s more important, your job or your life? Whenever I ask this, people look at me like I’m crazy. They think the answer is obvious. In America, the obvious answer is “your job.” In other countries (where they have siestas), the obvious answer is “your life.” The answer, my friend, is not obvious at all.

Before you indulge your fear, though, look for evidence. In most workplaces, it’s hard enough to find an example of someone fired for any reason. People who put in a solid 8 hours but refuse to work weekends probably don’t get fired. They get laid off, of course, but so do all high-performers, to pay for the executive bonus pool. But fired for anything related to job performance? Not likely. Chances are your fears have no basis in fact.

Tip #4: Less is Really More

Working your crazy hours probably isn’t productive. Work more, sacrifice your life, and you get stressed. If your job demands creativity and problem-solving, you’ll tank your work quality by working 24/7. If your job is people interaction, you’ll bite the heads off customers. And if your job involves physical labor, like cleaning the store when you close at night, you’ll be sloppy and physically weaker.

Tip #5: Talk to Your Boss

If you have a strong relationship with your boss, it’s worth a serious conversation to scale back your hours or your time commitment. Start by saying, “I want to do a good job. The stress of no life is making it hard for me to function well.” Unless your boss is an ogre, you should have room to negotiate. If your boss is an ogre, it’s time for a new boss. Transfer to a new group, transfer to a new company, or replace your boss with an identical-looking robot that obeys your every command.

Tip #6: Schedule Your Personal Life First

My favorite do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do technique is to schedule your personal life before scheduling work. Then ask how you can meet your work goals in the leftover time in your schedule. “I plan to have dinner at 6:30pm every night with my husband, wife, spousal equivalent, children, or polyamorous family units. How can I still get my work done?” You might have ideas like working a half day at the office and a half day from home later in the evening. I used to carpool to work. I would say “I must leave at 5 pm to catch my carpool.” No one ever complained. We just got stuff done by 5pm. The carpool schedule limited the workday, not the other way around.

Tip #7: Reconsider That Commute

Think about this: Your 30-minute commute is taking up 6 work-weeks of time each year. That’s a month and a half! And it’s coming out of your personal time, not your work time. Move closer, work from home, or find a way to do something useful as you drive, such as have your cell phone read your work email to you.

Becoming “Good Enough”

Trust me…I’m the last person to offer helpful advice on this goal, because my entire life has been a pursuit of being more than I am.

It started in childhood for me with a wildly perfectionistic father for whom no achievement would ever be good enough.  Alan was very clever at pitting all six of us children against each other for the best grades…the best athletics…the most trophies.  And it was never enough.  Mind you, I’m not angry at my father, and I suspect it sounds like I am.  I do believe none of us would ever have been as ambitious as we are without him.  But it starts the vicious cycle of never allowing myself to feel pleasure or accomplishment because it always could have been better.

Parenthood only exacerbated this feeling for me.  I could have spent the entire afternoon finger painting with the twins, only to realize that Zoe didn’t get her reading time.  I suck!

 

 

Are you going through this, too?  It’s such a disservice to who we are, and what we’ve accomplished.  More troubling, is this something that we’ll pass down to our children?

 

 

Satisfaction is not the same as “giving up.”  It took me a long time to understand that.  There’s a great new book called “Being Good Enough Is The New Perfect” by Becky Gillespe and Hollee Temple.  Inspired by this book, I gathered some tips that I thought were worth sharing.  These are quick articles, read one at a time when you have a moment.  It was so nice to feel a bit a peace after I finished each one.

 

Disgusting Personal Habits of the Rich and Famous

After 20 years of interviewing celebrities, wanna-bes, and those painfully chipper First Season folks from any show on the WB, the only reason I have left to open the mike during a “celebrity” interview on our radio show is to ask my all time favorite question: “What is your most disgusting personal habit?”

 

Mind you, there’s no reason they should actually answer me, but they ALWAYS do. Maybe they’re startled into it. Who knows? But the only two that ever blew off the question were (1) Mel Gibson, who spluttered “what the hell?” when asked, and (2) the Jonas Brothers, who after an appalled silence, flatly said “Uh, no. Just…no.” (Okay, fair enough kids, but you have GOT to loosen up or you’ll never live long enough to see the far side of puberty.)

 

So, in no particular order of fame, here’s my all time favorite answers:

 

Alexander Skarsgard: “I have to touch my food before I eat it to make sure it feels the way I think it should.”
Brad Pitt: “I endlessly pick at body parts like my nose and ears.  I know it’s gross.  I just can’t stop.”
Donny Osmond: “I like to lick the salt off of pretzels and then smell the wet pretzel surface.”
Harry Connick Jr. “I can chew my own toenails off. I’ve never needed clippers.”
Duane “The Rock” Johnson: “I make protein shakes and get excited to eat the powdery lumps at the bottom of the shake.”
Bono from U2: “Is this an American thing? Will everyone ask this?”
Elton John: “I like to go into my closet and gloat over my selection of belts.”
Chace Crawford: “I wear my lucky underwear on the first day of shooting, even if it’s not clean.”
Patrick (McDreamy) Dempsey: “When I plan for a long bike trip, I carbo load on Little Debbie Snack Cakes.”
Sandra Bullock: “I prefer my beer warm and my bras cold, right out of the freezer.”
Bill Murray: “I slather hair product into my chest hair to make it spikey.”
The incredibly cool Harrison Ford: (short silence, then hesitantly spoken) “I like to sit in my favorite armchair in my boxers and drink warm cola.”
Do I have the best job or WHAT?

Brad Pitt photo credit: Just Jared