Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Visit Plumpton Park Zoo - Link
Plumpton Park Zoo is located in Rising Sun, MD not too far off of 95, it's much quieter and more relaxed than other Zoo's I have been to, and it's why I thought this would be a perfect summer activity for the girls and I to go and do. The Zoo's website has tons of information on ticketing, visiting hours, and group rates - so go and check it out. The prices are very reasonable and affordable and there is even a playground and picnic area. I knew my eldest niece would love it there because she loves peacocks right now and there are many there just roaming around, she even found a feather that she got to keep. My youngest niece kept saying this was her first real trip to the zoo (that she could remember) so she was beyond excited; she absolutely loves animals and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if she was a Veterinarian or somehow works with animals someday. Both of the girls actually love animals, so it was a win-win.

First things first though - we had to read the rules! The girls are very respectful and well mannered. It's nice too that they could read all the signs, which animals they could pet and feed, and anything else. Another thing about the zoo that I really liked was that there were various hand sanitizer stations throughout the park. I could just hear my mother - their grandmother - in the back of my head "make sure they wash their hands". Especially too since every time we walked by the bathrooms there seemed to be an never ending line of groups or field trippers in line waiting to use the bathrooms. The girls read and followed most of the rules - I even had a hard time not calling the animals or mocking their sounds - which I believe was one of the rules. We did purchase the feeder cups (the orange cups in the pictures - they were $4 - they have cheaper options too) which I liked that they could keep them.

Arden feeding the ducks
When you purchase your tickets make sure to grab a map. You might not actually need one, the zoo isn't that massive, but it helps to make sure you've visited all of the enclosures and each animal. I'm glad that we did grab a map or else we would have missed out on an entire section. Another thing I love about the zoo is that it wasn't crowded and we could navigate around in our own pace and in our own time; we weren't being sucked into a mass crowd movement - if you know what I mean.

Eryn's turn feeding the ducks


Peacocks are everywhere and they're lovely

They loved the little baby pig

Close-up of the baby pig - adorable!

Mr. Tortoise chomping on his lunch
Jimmie the Girraffe
You can pay $5 to feed him
The girls loved the Zebras

He didn't appreciate my question:
"Excuse me Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Lollipop?"
The world still may never know...
Compe-e-e-eting for food - the girls loved this area...

Timber Wolf - she seemed so sweet and attentive - but I kept letting the girls know which were carnivores...

Both the White Tiger and this one were sleeping exactly the same - precious!
While we aw'ed the Tigers and other carnivores that were adorable, I made sure the girls understood and respected that they were still wild animals; In the wild that we would be considered food! I think it's really important to teach kids to respect animals in this way. Yes, we get to see them and we get the chance to aw over them, but in the wild it would be a different story. Right across from the Tigers were the bears, and it actually scared me that I couldn't see the bear at first, it had been in the corner (nearest us) and once we repositioned ourselves to see him better, the look on his/her face actually was giving me the sense of: if I weren't in here I would be having you for lunch. I backed up and respected his space. Most of the animals enclosures are double-fenced, so you feel perfectly safe. I'm just sayin' Mr. (or Mrs.) Bear wasn't having it! :)

The girls loved that the Gibbon Apes came out to hang with us

Ms. Bobcat was taking an afternoon nap

This adorable Arctic Fox came out of her little house so that we could visit with her - so sweet!

This was the girls favorite area because it was full of enclosures where you could feed and pet the animals. There were lamas, alpacas, goats, baby goats, sheep, lambs, and donkeys. We had been warned by one of my friends before we went to watch out for a particular alpaca because he's a klepto! Sure enough he tried to take the feeding cup right out of my nieces hand. It was hilarious actually. Even one of the goats tried to snatch it away from her too. They loved how the animals would follow them around. Overall it was an amazing experience and we had a wonderful time. I think the girls would definitely go again!

Right now Plumpton Park Zoo is attempting to raise money in order to build Jimmie the Giraffe a better enclosure. So please help by sharing this post and getting the word out about a great cause. This is a wonderful zoo and if I had the money I would definitely donate to their efforts. There are amazing staff there that were working so hard, and there are a lot of different programs going on there too. While we were walking around some of the volunteers or staff would help the animals interact with us. The girls loved when a staff member was playing with the porcupines. Overall too, I was thoroughly impressed with how much the animals interacted (even on their own) with us. It's an amazing zoo and they definitely deserve the funds to continue their causes and efforts. So - help to support them if you can monetarily - if not, then help by spreading the word. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Monday's are usually pretty manic after surviving the weekend. We usually take it easy on Monday's to let our bodies rejuvenate. While we were keeping it on the down-low for the day, the girls worked on some Rainbow Loom bracelets.


It's an affordable craft that kids not only love, they can make really cool designs too! The craft teaches focus and can also help to learn how to follow directions - some of the designs are even too difficult for me! But, the girls taught me the basics and I have to admit, I even love my anklet I made. The rubber bands come in all different colors and you can make them for anything: favorite sports team, school colors, or whatever! It's also a great gift the kids can make for others.

To get their bodies moving we tried to play outside, while the weather cooperated. We walked around the garden and checked things out. We admired the growing sunflowers, we respected a bumble bee's space, and admired a white little butterfly. The storm was quickly approaching though and as soon as we heard thunder we headed in for safety!

Tuesday's @ the Library

Arden finished her reading requirements for the Summer Reading Program and earned her free ticket to a local baseball game. Since we started making regular trips, both Arden and Eryn have their own Library cards now. Today was the first day I took them and they were able to check-out whatever they wanted. The library is such a wonderful resource. Eryn must have checked out nearly 10 books and she renewed The Tales of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo that she has been enjoying.

Usually, the library opens a little later on Tuesday's, which is fine because it gives us more time in the morning to get everything together. Tuesday's also begins their half-hour time slots for grade level math games. Today, the website they worked on was ABCya.com where you can pick the grade level and what math games associated. While one is on the computer for their math time, the other is in the living room where there is a stationary bike and an elliptical glider so that they can also have a structured physical aspect and the importance of exercise within their daily lives.

Coming home from the library I had to stop and run an errand. Before we had left I reminded them that we would be going to a store, so if they wanted to get anything that they would have to bring their own money that they've earned to purchase what they wanted. They both picked out what they wanted, took their turn in-line at the store, and paid for their item. I love doing this with kids because they learn so much! After lunch the girls retreated for their half-hour reading time before they left. Among Eryn's many book that she picked out at the library were a few craft books ... so I'm sure we'll be checking those out and making some cool things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014



Looking through project ideas on Pinterest  my youngest niece picked out a really cool sun catcher craft. Thanks to A Little Craft In Your Day for their DIY Suncatcher, we decided to give it a try! We actually started this project after we had already made Homemade Play Dough; two projects in one day - crazy! Nonetheless, the girls were geared up and ready for this.

It was a long process ~ but they loved it!!

What You'll Need:

Plastic Pony Beads
6" Cake Pans
Muffin Tin
Drill/Tiny Bit
Jewelry Wire/Fishing Line

Step 1:

Place the plastic beads within the tins as desired. I decided to make a rainbow design as the main part of my suncatcher, with my deceased son's name KALEB within the muffin tins. My eldest niece loves peacocks, so to go with her room design she decided to use dark blue, light blue, light purple, green, and clear within her design (I helped her with the middle design of her peacock feather). My youngest niece decided to do a peace sign. This is the longest process - picking out the beads and placing them within the tins.

Translucent Plastic Pony Beads

Step 2:

Preheat the oven to 440 degrees (Fahrenheit) and placed finished designs in the oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes or until just melted. Remove tins carefully and place aside to completely cool.

When cooling they'll make cracking and popping noises...

Step 3:

This is where an adult will be needed. After the plastic is finished cooling, have an adult drill holes (carefully) into your suncatchers. If you are having someone else drill for you, make sure to mark where you would like the holes to be drilled using a marker (permanent). 

Make sure to have a block of wood underneath when drilling...

Step 4:

Using the jewelry or fishing line, put your catcher together. We used fishing line and everyone seemed to use different knotting techniques. Last, but certainly not the least ~ hang your catcher where it will best be manipulated by the sun and enjoy!



One of Wednesday's activities included making homemade play dough. We found a recipe online thanks to The Imagination Tree. It is messy! Overall the girls loved the activity, even though there was a time during the mixing process that they were tired. Truly, I think it was my fault (I added too much water at once). Either way if you want a great activity for the kids and don't mind the mess - make some play dough!

Eryn & Arden posing before the chaos...

What You'll Need:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Salt
2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar
2 Cups Boiling (warm) Water
Food Coloring

In a bowl combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and mix. We split the ingredients into two bowls so the girls could choose their favorite colors. We also used Neon food coloring drops. I let the girls put 10 drops into a coffee mug before adding the boiling water. The instructions stated to add the food coloring drops to the boiling water before adding to the other ingredients. Another tip: do each batch for one color.

Eryn 'mixing' her ingredients
Also, we just poured the water straight into the bowls and it took us forever to get the right consistency. If it's too dry, add more water. If it's too moist add more flour until you get the consistency that you desire. We had to add A LOT of flour. I actually ran out of flour and we used Bisquick too. A LOT of mistakes were made - but, you live and learn...

The girls mixed and mixed until they were nearly going to give up. We kneeded the flour in until it became the consistency that they could form the substance to make stuff. Overall they did love the activity. It wasn't too fun afterward cleaning up the mess or the counters (we even tried using wax paper to limit the mess). I said I would never do this project again - but honestly, if they wanted to I would try again (once we get more flour) and follow the direction better (I had my eldest niece reading us the directions).


Yesterday the girls and I went to the local library to return the books that they had read for their reading program and to check-out new books. It's great, the local library had a suggestion list of summer reading books for kids that are going into their respective grade. My eldest niece Arden checked out books that she wanted, she's no stranger to the library. Eryn, my youngest niece required more help locating and searching for books. No worries though, it was an enjoyable visit and they were able to rent some DVD's as well so they had something to watch for their down-time. FYI ~ If you want to go through the process of obtaining a library card for minors, it is best (no matter what the clerk behind the desk may say) if you have their parents go with them to get the card. We were originally told that the girls mother could fill out the paper, when we took Eryn's paper in we were informed that her mother would have to physically be there (just so you know).

After the library, even though it was quite hot out, we decided to stop by the local duck pond. Look for a pond that does not have signs posted about not feeding the wildlife if you plan on taking something. Also, be responsible and research what ducks can and cannot have. Here are the two links I researched before combining a "Duck Food" bag: What Ducks Eat & The Ultimate List of Duck Treats and Supplements. We put old blueberries, rice, bird seed, cut-up cherry tomatoes, cut-up cucumber and some multi-grain bread crumbs. Put it in a Ziploc bag and mixed it all together - the ducks LOVED it!

The girls enjoyed cooling off in the stream.

Monday, July 7, 2014



When I knew that I would be watching my nieces for my over-worked, single-mother sister for the summer, I asked the girls to write out a Top 10 list of what they wanted to do this summer. One of the activities requested from my eldest niece Arden was to learn how to bake. Since I had a preliminary list of what the girls wanted to do, I also quickly started boards for them on Pinterest. Today, when we were trying to figure out the activities that they wanted to do this week, I had Arden choose one of the pins on her board. She chose to make the Rainbow Cupcakes. The pins are great, but I used All Recipes for Rainbow Cupcakes Recipe.

Arden & Eryn posing with the ingredients

What You'll Need:

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Butter
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Eggs
Food Coloring
3 Mixing Bowls
Mixing Spoons
Quartz Size Ziploc Bags
Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons
12 Count Cupcake Tin

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray, grease, or insert cupcake holder into the 12 cup cupcake tin.
I let the girls pick which bowls they wanted to be in charge of. Since there were three of us it worked out well. You can always have kid(s) take turns adding ingredients or assisting in some way.

Bowl 1 - Arden

Mix together 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Bowl 2 - Eryn

Mix together 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract - mix well until blended.

Bowl 3

Add in 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup granulated sugar, mix until fluffy (electronic mixer).
Mix in each egg separately.

Step 2

Combine all the bowl into one of the mixing bowls and mix well together. Unfortunately our mixer died in the middle of mixing together Bowl 3. But, we managed to get it to the desired consistency without too much effort. Once you have mixed all the ingredients up divide your batter. Pick how many different colors you would like to do. We chose four colors, two for each girl. Arden chose blue and green. Eryn picked purple and pink.

Step 3

However many colors you choose, that's how many quart sized Ziploc bags you'll need. Since we chose four colors we needed four bags. Each of our bags divided evenly produced 1 full cup of cupcake batter. Once the batter is in the bag, add desired amount of food coloring, close the bag securely and have them manipulate the bag with their hands to mix the food coloring into the batter.

Step 4

Once the bags were finished mixing, I asked the girls if they would rather spoon out the batter or if they wanted to pipe the batter in. Arden was brave and wanted to try to pipe the batter. So, I squeezed the batter into one corner of the bag and taught her how to hold it and apply the pressure. We cut the very tip of the bag and she squeezed the batter into the cups. This is definitely the preferred method if you want to stay more tidy and clean. Spooning out the batter is messy - but the kids love it!

Piping - cut a little bit of the corner bag off to create this technique

If you want a rainbow layer, then you should try to layer the different batters as best as possible. Once they decided that they wanted to spoon in the batter, we discovered that it was more like Girl Camo Cupcakes! Either way, they loved it and had a wonderful time making their cupcakes. Once the batter all gone, we popped the tin in the oven and let it bake. The recipe says 15-20 minutes, we baked ours for 30 minutes. We tested the cupcakes using a toothpick after 20 minutes and the toothpick came out with some batter still on it. We let it cook for 10 more minutes and the toothpick came out clean.

Spooning - the girls spooning batter in - messy, but they loved it!

We used store bought icing. I was going to attempt to make homemade icing from scratch, but all the recipe's I searched on-line seem to require powdered sugar, which we did not have in our pantry. Nonetheless, we were able to have some white icing delivered to us. Let the cupcakes cool before applying the icing.

Eryn icing her cupcake


Enjoying the fruits of our labors...