Favorite Family Board Games

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This family loves a great board game.  Any weekend or break or vacation involves a board game or 10.  The kids are 9 and 7 and have played enough games to pick up how to play just about any game.  For many of these games, they are REAL competitors at this point.  if you are like us, you’ve moved beyond the Sorry! and Chutes and Ladders and easy card games and on to some adventurous and interesting games for older kids and adults.   I’ve compiled a great list of our favorite games for families with school-aged children.

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The Settlers of Catan

This is one of our absolute favorites.  It seems complicated at first, but taking the time to learn it is completely worth it.  The directions include a “starter” way to set up and play, and I suggest starting with this.  After you get the gist of the game, you can move on to the random set-ups.  We’ve also tried out “Seafarers” which is an expansion.  This proves to be fun too with a new twist of water exploration and trade routes.

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7 Wonders

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This is my favorite game of the moment.  First of all, the topic is fun and interesting.  When we received this game as a gift, it prompted us to get some books out of the library about the seven wonders of the ancient world and read up on our history!  This game is complicated at first.  Again, like Catan, it takes awhile to figure it all out, but DON’T GIVE UP.  Both of my kids can easily play and set this game up and they are 9 and 7 years old.

Karuba

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This one is a bit easier in the directions department.  You each have an identical game board set up in front of you and use identical pathway pieces to build paths from explorers to temples to collect treasure.  It’s a quicker game but is fun nonetheless

Labyrinth

This games is great for younger kids and there is even a Jr version for the youngest in the family.  My kids played the normal version easily by 5 and 6 years old.  You try to collect treasure in a large maze that constantly changes!  It takes some thought and problem-solving….something great for exercising young minds.

Imhotep

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This was another game that prompted us to get to the library to find some history books.  In this game, you are in ancient Egypt, building pyramids and trading goods at the market.  It has fun little game pieces and such an interesting theme.

Risk

This is a classic that you have no doubt heard of, but I have to say it makes my list of favorite games every time.  No matter when in my life you would have asked me about my favorite games, I would have always included this one.  The classic gameboard is fun, especially when you reference the Seinfeld episode!!  But, you can find this game in a whole bunch of varieties, which can be fun if you want to change it up a bit.  For example, we have a Lord of the Rings version and a futuristic version.  Even if you play the classic rules with the new boards, it can be so much fun.  Capturing the Shire or occupying the moon adds some fun twist in this game of world domination.

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Playing the classic game of Risk….on a futuristic board.

Machi Koro

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I realized after playing this game for a month that we DON’T have the original version.  I picked this game up on a whim at Target and apparently have a new version called Machi Koro: Bright Lights. That being said, this game is an easy to pick up city-building card game.  It involves some pre-planning and money-handling and just all around thinking which is great for young minds.

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Monopoly

I hesitate to include this one because it is not MY favorite.  However, it is very much a favorite with my kiddos. I do believe this game has some merit though. The whole money management thing is great.  And the kids have to learn how to count out money and change too.  I have to say I don’t like the idea of the newest version that has a “bank card” that automatically keeps track of the money for you.  I like the old school version where there is a banker and each person has paper money and properties to take care of. Seems to me that the kids will learn a bit more in the process of using the “old” version!

Carcassonne

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Another great one that someone gifted us.  My kids even like playing with the tiles and creating a city and countryside with castles, roads, rivers and churches.  This game isn’t a super long one, so it is good for beginners, especially because you can adapt the game to make easier ways to play.

 

So what is everyone else’s favorite game for the family?  We are ALWAYS looking for new suggestions!

 

 

 

 

Fairy Gardening With Kids (in Wisconsin!)

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Last summer, the kids and I embarked on a fun, little, and currently quite popular mission….making fairy gardens.  I can tell it has become “all the rage” because the items needed for it are starting to be seen everywhere!  Bruce Company, in Middleton, WI has a fantastic display inside the store of all sorts of figures and furniture. Outside, come May, they have a huge table in the greenhouse of plants suitable for fairy gardens.  Jung Seeds also has some plants set up suitable for fairy gardens in the spring as well.

The idea of the fairy garden is to set up a little garden and scene in miniature.   The plants you include usually tend to stay very small ideally.  From there, you’re imagination can run truly wild.  There are tons of items you can make yourself to add to a fairy garden.  Just do a Pinterest search and you’ll see.  For our fairy gardens, we decided to try them first in pots.

I’m terrible at bringing pots indoors in the winter, so I thought I’d try a couple of plants that were cold-hardy.  I want to keep them coming back year after year.  I may try to add in some annuals this summer though too.  Our plants came from Bruce Co.  The fairy garden accessories were from Plow and Hearth and Bruce Co.  I picked up shallow but wider pots for the fairy gardens because I thought it would give a better display surface.   The kids loved picking out a couple of fairies and acccessories to add to their gardens, as well as helping me pick the plants.  My daughter received a set of fairy garden items for her birthday, which helped prompt this whole craze for us!

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I have silene acaulis and hen and chicks in this cute container. My daughter helped set up all her little figurines, and gathered the stones to add in.

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3 small plants, include hen and chicks, silene acaulis and a sedum are in this cute container.

 

The hen and chicks flourished in these pots, but also must have become slightly stressed because they flowered.  The flowering was BIG fun because they made “flower trees” for the pots and the kids loved it.

I can’t tell if all my plants are coming back this spring yet, but for SURE this one is:

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It is called a silene acaulis and it already has teeny green bits coming back.  So I KNOW that one is super cold hardy.  It stayed in the pot on my deck all winter. Next year I will be more careful with my pots and bring them into the garage if need be, but you know, with kids, we got side tracked and never did it!  At least I know the silene is a survivor!

I have found the PERFECT place for a fairy garden on the ground at our new house….think moss covered tree trunk near our patio.  It’s going to be great, especially when I add a little door to the tree.   I’ll keep you posted on that progress.

Last year, we went to the botanical garden in Austin, TX at Zilker Park.  There was a fantastic trail through the woods with many, many fairy garden set-ups and ideas!  Take a look:

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I LOVE the bunting with this one.  Must try this idea!

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I love the idea of using found, natural objects for this….thinking of rocks, sticks, tree bark, and more.

Thank heavens the spring has sprung around here, and we can start thinking about doing this gardening again.  Gardening is such a fun rewarding hobby to enjoy with your kids.

 

Summer of History

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This summer we decided to become members of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  I had already known we would be going to Old World Wisconsin at least once, as it is one of my daughter’s favorite spots.    Becoming members seemed like a natural next step….free admission to 12 spots in WI….our day trips were going to involve some very interesting Wisconsin history!

Old World Wisconsin

If you haven’t been to Old World Wisconsin, I highly suggest you get there!  My daughter even dresses the part, with a dress that looks like period clothing and a bonnet.  The complex is huge and exploring it is so much fun for both of my kids (7 and 8 years old).  Added to the fun and learning is the fact that there are so many staff, dressed in period dress, that lead the children (and adults) in activities of late 1800’s Wisconsin farm living.  It’s a living history museum where the school has an actual teacher that teaches a lesson, and the kids can do chores like thrashing rye, weaving linen, gathering eggs from a chicken coop, and carding wool.  Staff prepare meals in the manner of the time period for the other staff and the kids get to learn all about it.  This time, one woman was making a rhubarb pie in one kitchen, and in another kitchen, the woman showed my kids how to start yeast for bread.  We always leave thinking we wish we could stay longer and when can we come back.  The best part is, there is always something new too.  This year, you could get an old fashioned soda in the inn and could buy small items in the shop with an old fashioned coin!

 

Pendarvis

Another spot we enjoyed in our #summerofhistory was Pendarvis.  While this is a much smaller spot, we still enjoyed it.  The staff here gave us a tour that I thoroughly enjoyed.  There were all adults on our tour, aside from my own kids, and I felt that the guide geared it much more to adults.  Thus, I think my kids got a little bored.  They were glad when we got to the end of the tour and were able to explore on our own for awhile.  The mining aspect of this little town was very interesting and now the kids know why we are called the Badger State!

A great little day trip for us was rounded out by a stop at Hook’s Cheese for superior and delicious fresh cheese curds and a stop at the quaint and sweet High Street Sweets.  There is a very nice park with picnicking facilities directly across from Pendarvis too!

Circus World

We spent an afternoon at Circus World in Baraboo with friends.  This is also a stop that is free with membership in the historical society.  I personally loved the old circus wagons with all of their colors.  My son very much enjoyed the huge model of a working circus from the past that takes up a whole room.  It was very interesting to see the old buildings and explore the winter grounds for the Ringling Brothers Circus.  A lot of history right there!   The kids enjoyed learning both the history of the circus and seeing the shows, especially the silly and funny show with 2 goofball clowns.

 

 

We’d like to see Villa Louis yet, and we will return to Old World Wisconsin again soon I’m sure.   Another historical thing we did during our #summerofhistory was the mail boat tour of Lake Geneva.  This is pricey tour, and pretty expensive, but it had been on my own summer bucket list for many summers.    It has been around delivering mail for 100 years.  While delivering this way is no longer really necessary, it’s a tradition that is fun and a part of the history of the area.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to younger kids.  It is about 2.5 hours long and a rather slow, luxurious boat ride. However, you will learn a TON about the history of the area and see and learn about many of the huge, beautiful mansions that line the lake.  Plus, it really is fun to see the high school age mail jumpers deliver the mail around the lake, jumping off and on the boat as needed!

 

 

My kids really do like learning about history, and I think it is very important to learn about the past.  My daughter enjoyed a Pioneer Day at Shake Rag Alley and now wants a butter churn for Christmas. Ha!

Washcloths and Dishcloths and a Great Little Gift Idea

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The first project I ever did was a dishcloth I made when I was 5.  My mom taught me to crochet.  It was a wonky piece, with uneven stitches, a few holes and was definitely NOT square.  She loved it and was so proud!  She used it for years.  Nowadays, I’m better at making those functional crocheted squares.  I have made all sorts of patterns, and the only types of dishcloths I use are hand crocheted or knit ones.  They last a long time, can be made in so many great colors and can be bleached and washed and dried ad infinitum (color fades…obviously…but the things hold up!).  They are a great first project for a newbie and a great gift item.  Think housewarming, wedding shower, and gifts for teachers, piano instructors, neighbors, friends, etc for Christmas!

Here’s how I made a couple of different dishcloths using common stitches.


 

Basketweave Dishcloth:

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Using a size G hook*, Ch 25.

Row 1: dc in 4th ch from hook,  dc across,  ch 2, turn.

Row 2: *bpdc in next 3 st, fpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, bpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 3: Repeat row 2

Row 4: *fpdc in next 3 st, bpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, fpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 5:  Repeat Row 4.

Continue repeating rows 2 – 5 until piece is square.  Dc around the whole thing.  Finish off and weave in ends.

*A note about hook size.  Some of you might have a way smaller square than me if using a G hook.  I am a very loose crocheter and often go down one or two hook sizes when using a published pattern.  If you are a tighter crocheter, try a size H or even I.


Diagonal Stitch Dishcloth

With size G hook (see note about about hook size), ch 25

Row 1: sc in 2nd chain from hook and in each ch across, ch 2, turn

Row 2: Skip one stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, work elongated sc: insert hook into skipped stitch, yo and draw up a big loop, yo and pull through both loops on hook, skip next stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, elongated sc, and repeat pattern across, dc in last ch, ch 1, turn.

Row 3: sc in each stitch across, ch 2, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until piece is square.  DC around the whole thing. Weave in end.

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For a great little gift idea, try tying up a cute washcloth with a handmade bar of soap or a specialty bottle of dish soap.  Could be cute housewarming gifts, teacher gifts, or anytime gifts!  For handmade soap, I really like Windrift Hill out of Montana.  Or locally try the Soap Opera in Madison for a large variety of soaps!

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There are so many different washcloth patterns out there.  Another favorite pattern I use is here.  Or I also like these blossom stitch cloths.

Bulky and Soft Crocheted Infinity Scarf

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I have discovered some amazing yarn.  Okay, I know there are TONS of amazing yarns out there, but this one is one of my new favorites.  It is bulky and works up quickly and the colors are, well, AMAZING.  Ha.  I try not to use that word lightly, but I love this yarn!  The yarn is Malabrigo Rasta.   Do a Google search and you will come up with SO many gorgeous projects using this yarn.  However, most of them are knit.  I decided to try a simple crochet scarf and was very pleased with how it turned out.  I put these scarves together quickly (under two hours each).    I’ve included my methods below.  Enjoy!  Make a bunch for Christmas gifts!!!

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With a size N hook, ch 9 LOOSELY (I can’t stress this enough…stay loose with this project.  The overall feel of the scarf will be even softer and will give you a bit more length).  Turn.

Row 1:  (sc, dc, dc) in 3rd ch from hook.  Skip next 2 ch.  (sc, dc, dc) in next ch.  Skip next 2 ch.  sc in last ch.   ch 1, turn.

Row 2:  (sc, dc, dc) in first sc (first stitch).  Skip 2 st.  (sc, dc, dc) in next sc (you’ll see that you are working in the “valleys” between little hills…if that makes sense!).  Skip 2 st.  sc in last st.  ch 1, turn.

Repeat row 2 until you reach desired length.  I made the above scarves with one full skein.  Finish off, leaving a long length for sewing.  Whipstitch the ends together to form the infinity ring.  You could also just leave as a regular scarf!

 

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Easy Project: Burlap Valentine Banner

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I see a lot of cute burlap ideas when scanning Pinterest, and I’ve recently seen lots of photos of burlap banners with cute hearts on them for Valentine’s Day.  Type in “burlap heart banner” and you’ll get a multitude of hits with ideas.  So this is nothing new.  BUT, since I had all of the items I needed, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

First off, I gathered supplies.  Since I have tons of fabric scraps from all my daughter’s dress projects, I had plenty of red and pink fabrics.

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Then I needed burlap.  Now, the nice thing about being the family craft guru is….people collect stuff for you that they think you might want for your crafts. So this Christmas, I was given a bag of random burlap bags. I had no idea what I might do with said burlap bags, but I took it.  And bam-o….now I’ve got a project for that burlap!  Wahoo!

The next steps were simple.  I made templates for a heart and a pennant out of scrap cardstock and traced out my designs on the fabrics.

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Then I just sewed them together.  Since it’s a shabby chic style, there’s really no need to measure things perfectly or even sew perfectly.  That is my kind of project!

I added a simple 1 inch-ish "hem" to the top through which to string the yarn.

I added a simple 1 inch-ish “hem” to the top through which to string the yarn.

I enlisted the help of my kids to finish the last few parts of the banner (they like to help me sew sometimes).  Then, with further help from my kiddos, we strung the pieces onto pink yarn and hung it up over my transom window.  Valentine’s Day decor!  Done!  I love how it turned out!

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My SAHM-iversary

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It has been one year since I worked my last shift outside the home.  I’ve been a full time Stay at Home Mom for one year. Time flies, as usual, but today when I thought about that little fact, I felt reflective.  I feel like I’m a different person than I was when I worked.  I was only working VERY part time at the end, but I still was a different person.  I do miss it sometimes.  My job outside the home was a break from the kids, a chance to talk to adults and a chance to shine in something I was good at.  I mean, I WAS good at it (for real…you definitely wanted ME to take care of you!).  And I got paid for it (nicely!).  And people NEEDED me (my patients!).  Those things are all still true.  People NEED me (my kids).  I’m good at this job: (Mom, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, organizational guru, counselor, volunteer, event planner, etc etc etc….Domestic Engineer I guess).  Oh but wait!!!  I don’t get paid for it!  And even though my kids need me, it’s different than getting paid or getting a good annual review or people just plain saying, “Oh good, we are SO glad to see you, we could really use your help!”  or “I don’t know what to do…what should I do?”….and then totally having the answer.

So I feel a little sad I don’t have that anymore.  But then I sit and think about what’s different now that I am a SAHM, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m around EVERY weekend to spend time with my family and my husband.  I used to work weekends.  For awhile, I’d work every Friday night, and every other Saturday and Sunday.  My husband works every Saturday during some parts of the year and travels, so there were times when we only spent time with each other and as a whole family once or twice a month.  Family meals didn’t really happen.  Ever.  Now, when there is an event on a weekend day, I can just say yay or nay….no trying to figure out a year in advance what weekends I would have off.  I worked until 10pm sometimes and finding a sitter for that time frame was impossible.  I don’t need to worry about that anymore.  If a kid gets sick, I can be there the whole time.  No scrambling to find someone to work for me.  Weekends are RELAXING for us now.  We can have our “Taco Tuesday on a Friday” and our weekend movie nights.  My husband can make his french toast for us on Saturdays, and I don’t have to rush off for work.  On Sundays, after church, I get to enjoy the family traditions that my husband started with the kids while I worked.  It often involves downtown Madison, the terrace, coffee and lunch.  Or sometimes a trip to museum.  Or a Packer game.  Sundays are all about the 4 of us.

Family chill time on New Year's Eve.....another night that I would have worked in the past.

Family chill time on New Year’s Eve…..another night that I would have worked in the past.

So what did I do today for my SAHM-iversary?  Well here’s the randomness that is a day in the life of ME:

  • Up at 5:30, got ready for my day, made bed, etc.
  • Got kids ready, lunches made, and kids to school
  • A brisk 4 mile walk at the Conservancy through the snow with a great friend
  • Stopped at the Co-op for a couple of things and tried kombucha for the first time
  • Worked on laundry
  • Vacuumed
  • Emptied dishwasher, picked up living room and kitchen
  • Went through some kitchen cupboards as part of a “minimizing my stuff” plan
  • Ate some lunch
  • Crafted in my craft room…my sanctuary

    Ahhhhh...my happy place.

    Ahhhhh…my happy place.

  • Picked up the kids from school
  • Made Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches cake
  • Agreed to my husband’s last minute idea to take the kids out for dinner and to see Paddington
  • Hauled sleeping children in from the car and put them to bed
  • Putz on the computer!

Well that’s it.  I did nothing special today, but I was Mom and I was happy.  I’ve been happier this year than ever before, so I think I made the right decision when I quit my job. I think I’m due for another “day in the life” photo shoot.  I did that once when the kids were really tiny and made a fantastic scrapbook spread out of it.  I need to document these days now.  I’m a proud SAHM.

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