Category: Family Fun

6 Easy Trick or Treat Alternatives

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This year, trick or treat may look and feel a bit different. Many parents are rethinking ways to enjoy the candy filled spooky season without creating a super spreader event. Even my own family is working on a COVID friendly treat distribution. But, what if you aren’t totally feeling the traditional walking door to door for candy?

Here are 6 easy alternatives to trick our treating:

CANDY HUNT

Make the kids work a little harder this year for their stash of candy. Hide some clues around the back yard that will lead them to a mega trove of treats.

GLOW IN THE DARK CANDY HUNT

Put a few treats in a clear bag and add in one glow stick. Hide the treat bags in the back yard after dark (or around the house and turn off the lights). Turn on the spooky sounds and let the kids follow the light for their Halloween sweets.

DRIVE BY TRICK OR TREAT

This is especially great if you live in a more remote area and normally do not get a lot of trick or treaters. Set up a table of pre-packaged, store bought treats and invite your friends to drive by to pick up a treat from you personally. It’s like the birthday parades that were fashionable in the spring, only everyone else gets a take home treat.

HOLIDAY DRIVE BY

If trick or treat is completely banned in your area, you can provide a little eye candy for passersby. Decorate the yard with lights and spooky décor. Encourage folks to drive by to take in the sights.

HOST A VIRTUAL PARTY

If social distance is keeping you apart from friends and loved ones, dial up a Zoom conference to create a virtual Halloween party! Put together a fun “scare package” of crafts and treats to drop off at someone’s door before meeting on Zoom. Then, kids can show off their costumes, craft together and turn up some Halloween tunes for a dance off.

HOST A SOCIALLY DISTANT PARTY

If you have a yard or park area large enough for kids to stay spread out and stay at a healthy distance away from each other, there’s no harm in hosting. Keep it small, encourage masks and hand out prepackaged treats. It’s really smart to stay cautious, so no one will hold it against you if you take temps or offer hand sanitizer at the event. A lot of kids are struggling right now without in-person social connections. This will definitely keep the traditional Halloween fun alive and give kids a little boost of joy.

Are you changing the way you trick or treat on Halloween? I’d love to know how!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She writes about the challenges in her motherhood, like how to keep her kids at a socially acceptable distance while trying to work from home.

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Halloween Recipe Round up

Halloween is a fun tradition for many families, including my own. My kids are always excited to show off their costumes to our closest neighbors and spend time walking door to door with their friends. But before we head out, I want to make sure their tummies are full and they have enough energy to make it through the neighborhood.

I’ve rounded up some of our quickest and most favorite Halloween dinner ideas. When my kids were just toddlers, these fun recipes were also a fun holiday themed activity and eating our creepy morsels was part of the fun.

MUMMY DOGS from Home Made Interest are super easy and super fun!

Mummy Dogs is an easy Halloween recipe

MUMMY PIZZA from “Cents”able Mama uses store bought ingredients to make this fun dinner fast!

BAKED QUESADILLAS from That Fit Fam are perfect for your little cheese lover! Serve with some carrot sticks or an apple sauce pouch for a quick meal before heading out the door.

Halloween shaped baked quesadillas

SWEET AND SOUR BAT WINGS from Sprinkles and Sprouts. How spooky are these?? Marinate overnight in the fridge and put in the oven in time for your pre-treat dinner.

close up on the wing tip of a black chicken wing on a grey plate

If you have time to make all of these at once you’ll have a variety of fun things to offer the kids before heading out for candy. We usually don’t serve a dessert since we know we are going to eat a bunch of candy as soon as we get home. Happy treating!

What’s your favorite Halloween recipe to make?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She spends most of her time making food her kids won’t eat and fantasizing about how a beach vacation where naps are required. You can find her at The Whatever Mom on Facebook and on Instagram. For more recipe ideas, follow her on Pinterest.

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Meet a Mom and Science Lover

Margaret Liberti is mom to Keaton, a science educator and a business owner. She owns Mad Science of the Capital District and provides hands on learning for kids in her community. She has hand delivered a bagful of science experiments for my own kiddos to enjoy. I love watching their faces light up as they work with magnets or take data on a set of growing brains. I also love learning right along side them. If you are looking for a way to keep your kiddos occupied this summer, need a virtual camp or want to encourage your child’s love of science, check out the Loop Lab subscription kits, camp options or the science delivered options on her website.

As a Professor, Margaret has witnessed the disdain students in higher education have for science. They’ve been told that they’re not good at science, or they’re not smart enough, or it’s boring, and they believe it. She is on a mission to change that for kids beginning at an earlier age. Oh and she is also a 2014-15 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an adjunct faculty member in the State University of New York system. Excelling in her field, running a business and being mom? That’s a whole lot of awesome!

Meet Margaret!

What is the name of your business? Mad Science of the Capital District

What products do you offer? STEM programming such as birthday parties, backyard camps, virtual camps, camp in a box, in person camps, special events, workshops, and after school programming.

Where are you located? I am operating in the Albany/Capital District, but Mad Science is a traveling business that owns the territories of the following counties: Columbia, Greene, Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer , Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Bennington, and can travel north and as far west as Syracuse!

What age group do you share your experiments with? Ages 3-12, anyone who loves/is interested in STEM!

Describe your business mission. As both a professor and a science education business owner, I want science to be fun and exciting. I want students to learn science without thinking, “yep. This is science. Still hate it.” Science is everywhere, and once applied in a fun manner, exciting, or related to your students, you’re going to see a change in their beliefs and attitude towards science. And igniting passion (or at least a lesser dislike) for science is my goal.

What makes you stand out as a mom? I think this goes for every mom, but my son comes first above all else. I went through a lot to have him, and although he’s what I have always wanted, I don’t let him get away with bad behavior.

How do you most relate to the Whatever Mom philosophy? We all have to roll with the punches, particularly in the current environment.

What do you want other moms to know about you? Being mom to Keaton and a fur-mom is my greatest accomplishment. I love science, education, students, and dogs.

Where can other moms find you? Visit my website, Facebook page or drop an email at [email protected]

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Dairy Free Ice Cream Cupcakes

Picking your own berries and fruit is a great way to get kids outside and enjoying nature. Strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries are all in season right now. And we are here for it!

This week we picked 4 gallons of strawberries and 8 lbs. of sweet cherries. We definitely could have picked more, but the storm clouds were moving in fast. We climbed into the car to go home just as the first raindrop fell. Perfect timing! My kids love cherry picking the most because they can climb the trees to reach the top branches. Thankfully, cherry trees are’t terribly high. Tomorrow we plan to pick blueberries and I can only imagine how many we will come home with.

After we picked all of our strawberries, I washed them and divided into freezer bags and tossed in the freezer. This assures me they will be usable later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let the berries sit for too long and wasted them, literally spoiling the fruits of my labor.

We have our standard uses for Strawberries. I toss them into our smoothies, pancakes and baked goods. And every year I make fresh strawberry ice cream. I make it right in my food processor and it is ridiculously easy.

I also make frozen banana ice cream pretty regularly. So, when I eyeballed those sad little bananas on my counter just turning brown, I had an idea. Why not make banana strawberry ice cream cupcakes? I’ll throw a little peanut butter into the banana ice cream for protein and it will practically be a health food! ~ genius

Here is the recipe I whipped up for my family to enjoy. It is dairy, gluten, soy, dye free and there is no added sugar. We did add a layer of graham cracker crumbs between the ice cream layers, but that is optional. Next time I am going to make the strawberry ice cream with coconut milk to see how that changes the texture. This makes six cupcakes, however, there will be about a pint of additional strawberry ice cream you can tuck away for yourself for later. You’re welcome!

I hope you make these and enjoy! Do you get out to pick your own berries? What do you make with all of those sweet berries?

Roxanne Ferber is a blogger mom and freelance writer. She enjoys the sweet silence of kids sleeping in and has a crippling coffee addiction. Motherhood has changed her in many ways, but remaining non-judgey and ready to support other moms are her strong suits. If you’d like to work with her, visit the work with me link in the side bar. If you want to send her happy thoughts or share your motherhood story drop a line at [email protected], or find The Whatever Mom on Facebook.

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Eco-Friendly Play Kits from Love Play Create

Summer time is here and I am stocking up on all the play kits and science experiments I can to keep my kids busy. My kids are almost ten, but they still enjoy creating with playdough and using their very active imaginations. Since we are an eco-friendly family, we are always looking for healthy options for playing and living.

I purchased two awesome play kits from Love Play Create because everything is made with love and attention to detail. My kids fell in love with the bumble bee and the dragon themes. Take a look at what’s inside!

How cute are these bees? The play dough is made from all natural ingredients and stored inside glass mason jars which keeps the playdough fluffy for longer. All the play things my kids use to build their imaginary meadow, or bee hive are made from paper, wood or glass.

The shipping materials are all paper based and can be put in the recycling or compost bin, which we love! For preschool aged players this would pair perfectly with a story about bumble bees in the garden or how bees pollinate our food supply. Planting flowers after playing with bees helps little ones connect the busy work of bees! (Always supervise little ones while playing with small parts).

The dragon theme box is an equal favorite and truly indulges a creative imagination. The toad stools are hand painted wine corks and the adorable dragon cookie cutter is reusable. Don’t you think this set calls out for an after play time tea party with dragon shaped cookies to decorate? This is such a fun box!

Here’s what my kids say:

What is your favorite part? The playdough is fluffier than store bought.

What do you think of the accessories? These things are fun to use to design the picture I have in my mind.

What do you think of the materials? I love that it’s safe for us and healthier for the earth!

Which theme do you like better? I love them both, I just can’t decide!

There you have it, we are in love with these adorable play boxes! Now you can get yours for 10% off THROUGH SEPTEMBER 1ST 2020!! That’s the entire summer! Check out all the awesome themes available to keep your kids busy at the Love Play Create Etsy store, and use code WHATEVERMOM.

What is your kiddos favorite way to create?

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Family Pizza Night Recipe

My family has had a long-standing tradition of making our own pizza every Friday night. It began while my kids were toddlers using their little chubby hands to sprinkle the cheese topping and smuggle extra pepperoni to their mouth while I wasn’t looking. Cooking together is one of the first educational activities we enjoyed together as a family.

I confess there have been several pizza nights we skipped the DIY process and just ordered out, because it was easier. Since we have been home and easing up on take out during this pandemic, we have found new tasty and fun ways to enjoy our family DIY pizza night. This is the next big hit at my house – pizza rolls. These are ridiculously easy to make at any age and it is a huge time savor since it uses store bought ingredients.

You will need:

Any store bought, pre-made canned biscuit dough.

Pepperoni slices

Shredded mozzarella

Grated Parmesan cheese

2 TBSP melted butter

Dried parsley (optional)

Tomato sauce

Begin by rolling out the individual biscuit slices until flat and three times larger than original size.

Next, sprinkle on a little shredded mozzarella and top with 2-3 pepperoni slices.

Now you can fold the ends of the biscuit dough toward the center and close it up. It looks like a cute little bun! Place the roll seam side down on a baking sheet (I love using my baking stone).

Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with grated parmesan and dried parsley.

Bake according to the directions on the side of the package (about 12-14 minutes depending on your oven).

You can serve with your favorite tomato sauce for dipping or serve plain for the picky eater refusing anything tomatoey this week. You can bump up the veggie count by adding puree veggies to the dipping sauce. You can bump up the vitamin and fiber content by sprinkling some nutritional yeast over the shredded cheese or swap out the melted butter for olive oil. You use whatever ingredients works for your family and just enjoy the silliness and conversation while building these delightful little pizza bundles!

Got a good family pizza night recipe? Feel free to email me at [email protected]

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Meet a Mom and Creator of Bespoke Commodities

Meet Kristen Haefner!

Kristen is the owner and creator of Bespoke Commodities. What started out as having fun making cute bows for her daughter to wear, has blossomed into a full on creative business that includes hosting craft parties, boxed gift sets and subscription boxes. Kristen built her dream business from the ground up while raising her little girl.

When Kristen isn’t working hard as a mom and creative genius, you might find her relaxing at the spa to escape the constant demands of parenting, raising awareness for the Bully Proof Project and playing gift fairy behind the scenes at Bespoke. She is known for randomly surprising a shopper or two with an entirely free order, just because.

What kind of products can moms expect from Bespoke Commodities? Personalized Gifts ranging from t-shirts and wine tumblers to gift boxes of all sorts, craft kits for kids and subscription boxes.

Describe your business mission: At Bespoke Commodities, we promise to help you celebrate life’s special occasions (or every day!) with personalized products. We provide superior value in terms of product quality, price and satisfaction and we offer a fun and ever-changing product line.

Do you make things just for moms? We make great gifts and personalized items for everyone!

What makes you stand out as a mom? I drop everything I’m doing when it comes to my daughter – whether she’s with me or at her fathers. She reaches out to me at midnight from the other house and I am there for her.

How do you relate to The Whatever Mom philosophy? That parenting isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

What do you want other moms to know about you? That it is absolutely worth it to follow your dreams – I took the jump from working for someone else to working for myself and I won’t look back!

Where can other moms find you? My website and Facebook

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Virtual Activities to Keep Your Kids Feeling Social

I know moms miss having the kids in school right now, for obvious reasons. There’s no time to work and teach and there is no time to work and teach and cook a million times a day.

Not being in school is incredibly hard on the kids too. Especially the kids who really love going to school each day to see their friends. My kids are social creatures and look forward to conversations with their bus drivers, their teachers, school staff and friends every day in school. There just aren’t as many people to talk to at home. So, we have to get a little creative with how we participate in our friendships from home.

Thank goodness for technology! We use Zoom and Google Meets to keep in touch with teachers and classmates and to have individual virtual play dates. My kids are young so they still like to play on play dates. Here is what they’ve loved so far:

Bake Some Treats – pick a recipe you both have ingredients for (we chose chocolate chip cookies). Follow the steps together and show off your progress. Kids can keep the conversation going while they are waiting for the cookies to finish baking. Once the cookies are cool enough to eat, it’s time for both friends on either side of the screen to grab some milk and get to dunking. There is something so comforting in sharing fresh warm cookies and chatting with a friend.

Play games – There is a whiteboard feature on the Zoom screen. Kids can use this to play tic tac toe, hangman, Pictionary or share the screen to take turns completing a drawing project. This one is so much fun because both kids can participate and no one needs to rummage for the same game pieces.

Watch funny videos together – Zoom and Google Meets allows you to share the screen so you can load up some funny pet videos from the Internet, or share a movie experience together. Everyone can grab their own snacks before they sign on and pick a video or movie to watch together.

Build things – If your kid loves to build with Legos, Blocks or magnetic tiles, or scraps of recycled materials, they will love building something along side a buddy to show off when complete. Kids absolutely love show and tell and sharing their creations.

Get artsy – my kids love to paint or draw or make their own books. Grab all the supplies you need, log on and let the kids brainstorm their own themes and get to work. This is a great way for kids to share in the creative process together while socializing.

Read together – it can be hard to encourage kids to read outside of classwork and school time. But if they have a reading buddy it makes it more fun and feels less like work. Have your child grab a favorite book to read to their friend (and their friend’s pet if they have one). They can chat together in the end about the books, or just about life and connect.

Host a virtual sleep over – we haven’t tried this one yet, but it is on our list! No need to leave your kid logged in all night (mine would never go to bed!). Just hop into some comfy pajamas and get ready to eat some snacks and play some games! You can throw in homemade facials, or chit chat while painting nails. Maybe watch some videos together or make your own silly videos to capture the memory of this really unique slumber party.

Even with the use of technology, it can be hard not seeing people up close and personal. So, we’ve had a few creative socially distant get togethers too. One morning we called our friends and told them meet us outside. We drove to our their houses with music blasting and had a dance party in our car while they were in their yard. We’ve dropped off surprise gifts and we’ve had friends do walk-bys and stand at the end of driveway to offer hellos and air hugs. Just parking 6 feet apart with our cars side by side so the kids can talk across the divide does wonders for their social emotional health.

Now that spring is here and we can be outside, it doesn’t mean we are ready to rush getting together. We still need to keep our socially safe distance apart to keep everyone healthy. We can’t participate in our friendships and socialize the same way as before, but with a little bit of creativity, we can find some new ways to stay together even while we are apart.

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Earth Day Coloring Contest!

Happy 50th Earth Day!

Today is the 50th celebration of Earth Day and on a personal note, it is my 30th celebration. I began celebrating as a high school student when I joined the Student Environmental Action Committee (SEAC). Every Earth Day we hosted a campus wide cleanup of the school grounds and planted trees. During the year we wrote letters to our state representatives asking them to consider funding recycling programs, and we wrote letters to large corporations asking them to stop testing on animals. And right in our own school we worked with our administrators to amplify our recycling efforts and limit the amount of waste we generated as a school community. It was my first lesson in creating change right in my community. I can’t remember if any of our larger efforts outside of our school made direct changes, but I do believe that all of our collective efforts helped power the eco-friendly movement. Thirty years later, I am so excited to share with my own family how to reduce, reuse and recycle what we have. We do our best each day to keep our planet and living creatures healthy, from recycling to pitching single use plastics from our home, we make sure to put thought into our impact on the environment.

This week, my daughter designed an Earth Day poster to share with her class. I shared her design with my friend Kelly at Olive & Elm Crafts who generously jumped on board with an Earth Day coloring contest! Use THIS LINK to find the FREE Earth Day Turtle coloring page. Let your kiddo color it and snap a pic to share on Olive & Elm’s Facebook post announcing the contest. We will pick a winner next week to receive a FREE reusable tote bag with their artwork on it! This is our fun way of celebrating the day with all of you!

* * * Now for the awareness part! * * *

Read on to learn more about small changes your family can make at home for a big impact!

Making eco-friendly changes can feel overwhelming when you aren’t sure where to start. The key is to make changes that your family is most likely to stick to and not give up on. We are so reliant on convenience, but there are plenty of swap outs you can make that are still convenient (and affordable) for a busy family. I always tell families to start with just one simple change and once you have that down pat, look for another. Every bit helps and the more families making small changes, the bigger the long-term effect!

Here are some simple changes families can make to help keep the planet healthy!

  1. Swap out your paper napkins for cloth. This might sound like more laundry, but it really isn’t. I toss our cloth napkins right in with the weekly load of kitchen towels. I am just pitching them into laundry I am already doing, so no extra step. I found our cloth napkins at thrift stores for near pennies!
  2. Recycle properly. I have learned over the years that not all plastics are created equal and many of us just toss all our plastic items into the bin assuming it will be recycled. The term for that is, “wish cycling.” The truth is, not all plastics are accepted in every town. Go to your town’s website and search for a listing of acceptable items. Hang the list on your fridge so everyone in your family can refer to it. Try to avoid buying plastics or other materials that are not recycled in your area.
  3. Pitch the plastic water bottles and sippy cups. Switching to stainless steal is a much healthier alternative. Not only are plastic bottles plaguing our waterways, but we can ingest microplastics and plasticizers (chemicals in plastics). We fill up our stainless bottles and leave in the fridge for a grab and go cold drink during the day and I send them along in the school lunches.
  4. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes instead of using plastic. Did you know every single toothbrush ever manufactured is still living in a landfill or floating in our oceans? It takes hundreds of years for the plastic to bio-degrade. Bamboo is compostable and biodegradable. Plus, it is antimicrobial which stays cleaner than plastic. These brushes are quickly becoming more affordable and only need to be replaced every 6 months.
  5. Reduce convenience packaging. Everything about modern parenting is created with convenience in mind from travel pouches and storage bags to plastic to-go cups that transport easily in the car. We will buy bulk sized snacks (or make our own) and store in reusable containers like mason jars or a soup Thermos for every day snack options and leave the convenience packages for long trips.

I could keep the list going. Every year my family and I take on one new eco-friendly habit to change. The ones listed above are the easiest and most affordable changes for families to make.

What is one change your family is planning to make in honor of Earth Day?

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Connecting with My Kids Is Worth Every Minute I am Disconnected from My Phone

Hey, hey, hey! Last week I was on vacation with the fam. It was the first family vacation we’ve taken that no one had a public meltdown! We didn’t even argue. We had a few kid attitudes and grumpiness, but I was totally impressed by my kids use of manners in all the public places.

We spent time at museums, aquariums and shopping in crowded candle shops (with lots of breakable things), we hiked and played outside and discovered we all love the hot tub. My kids not only handled it all, but they seemed to actually enjoy it. There were no complaints of being bored, or begging to go home? Color me shocked!

I never go into a family vacation with the illusion I will get time to relax. After all, parents are never off the clock. If your kids are picky eaters at home, they will be picky eaters on vacation. If your kids have melt downs at home, they will meltdown on vacation. When you are a parent, there is no real vacation, just a change of location. However, this time, I actually felt relaxed. Another shock!

This wasn’t our first family vacation together. We’ve had many colossal vacation fails over the years. So, what was so different about this trip? Was it the extra sleep? Was it less whining? Did my kids suddenly mature since our last vacation? Was it less time on my cell phone? BINGO!

It turns out, it is totally possible to unplug when you are on vacation. Before kids and cell phones my husband and I never made a single phone call, or checked an email while on vacation. We didn’t have the technology attached directly to our hip and it was cumbersome to locate the business center tucked away in a remote area of the hotel or resort, we never bothered to find it. Who has time for that?

This vacation, I decided to live like it was 1990 something. Well, sort of. I limited my social media check-ins and text message replies to early morning before the kids were up and again after the kids went to bed. I locked my cell phone away in the safe, or my purse during the day while we traveled. And surprise, surprise I didn’t miss a thing! Just like in the 90s, if there were any kind of emergency, my friends or family would have left messages for me and awaited my return call.

Besides my limited screen attachment, this was the first family vacation where my husband wasn’t bombarded by several text messages every hour asking him to put out a fire hundreds of miles away. Before cell phones people knew you were on vacation and had no way to reach you. Today, those boundaries are nonexistent with a 24 hour connection.

I noticed our family was feeling more cozy and connected. My husband and I weren’t agitated by other people’s demands and taking it out on each other. I never realized before how having a stressful interaction online or via text message made us less patient with our kids and each other. Toward the end of the week I witnessed how our connection to technology affects family life.

When we woke up to a rainy day we cancelled all our travel plans and planned to hang around the pool instead. The pool was empty except for ourselves and we took full advantage by cranking up our volume and jumping into the pool. After an hour, another family entered. Both parents remained on deck, while they sent their preteen son into the water alone. No judgement here, I don’t know their full story. Maybe it was their first day off in a while and they needed some down time for themselves too. But what I saw next really broke my heart.

One parent opened up their lap top and pulled out the cell phone and had one eye on each, splitting their attention between two screens. That left little time for their kid bobbing around the pool. The other parent laid back on a chaise lounge and pulled their screen to their face and never looked up. Here’s where my heart break came in.

As my heart warmed watching my husband willingly embarrass himself playing Marco Polo with my kids excitedly running and splashing through the pool, my heart broke watching this kid all by himself looking at us and back at his parents and back at us again. I know we don’t have to be our kids only source of entertainment, but the look on this kids face made it clear he felt like he was alone in the pool. He lasted all of 20 minutes in the water before asking his parents to leave. They willingly obliged and packed up.

In that moment I realized just how much our own addiction to being attached and busy affects our kids. I am not comparing my story to theirs, or my family to their family, but watching their child’s experience definitely made me reassess my own digital dependence. Not being connected to a virtual world made it easier to connect to the world right in front of me. And the benefits of my family feeling more balanced and connected was worth every minute I didn’t have a screen in my hand.

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