February 28, 2017
by jenny

My current favorite podcasts

I really like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I listen in the car (with or without kids), while walking the dog, while running errands (with earbuds) and sometimes while doing stuff around the house if no one else is around or with earbuds if I’m wishing no one else was around! [I’ve found Skullcandy brand earbuds (Amazon Affiliate Link) to be super comfortable where other earbuds never fit or hurt my ears – they come in women’s size, sports, etc. check them out if you’ve sworn off earbuds.]

For audiobooks, we have an Audible account, and we also like to get audiobooks digitally from the library using the OverDrive app. I’ve tried Hoopla from the library as well, but am used to Overdrive. Someone told me recently you can get apply for a Boston Public Library account online to use for these digital library apps and have a bigger range of books, but I haven’t done that yet. Most of the books we want we need to put on hold and then wait a month or so to come in, so at some point, I’ll probably look into the Boston option further!

For podcasts, I use the Overcast app to handle my subscriptions. I typically can catch up on all of my podcast subscriptions while I’m waiting for a new audiobook to come in. Sometimes I run out of shows to listen to and try out new ones. I’m always on the hunt for suggestions.

I’ve learned that for the most part I like edited podcasts the best and not radio show style with people conversing. My kids will tell you I like the science shows the best because I tend to come back from a dog walk excited about something I’ve learned, but I enjoy a variety of topics, except self-help, economics, and most politics. I like non-fiction much better than fictional.

Here’s what I’m enjoying to these days in alphabetical order:

Some others that I subscribe and listen to are TED Radio Hour, The Tim Ferriss Show,  Invisibilia, Surprisingly Awesome (sometimes, sometimes I don’t like it), and Homemade Stories. Sarah has me listening to Modern Love as well!

What podcasts do you listen to? Do you have any recommendations for me?


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February 12, 2017
by jenny

Another game thing we’ve been loving

We bought Usborne Pencil and Paper Games book at The Paper Store near us, and it looks like it’s out of print through Amazon (Affiliate Link below), but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s likely out of print because the pages don’t tear out nicely (which is annoying!), but the games inside are fun!

There are the standard paper games, like the grid of dots, and players take turns connecting horizontal and vertical lines and see who can make the most boxes, and then twists on those games. I think all of the games are two players (though some could be adapted easily), and each game seems made to be played in about 5 minutes.

This book has been fun at the table for us, and fun when my kids are sitting around at the ice rink watching games.

Do you have books like this? We’d love suggestions!

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February 11, 2017
by jenny

Board Games: What we are playing now

We love games of all kinds in this house. We love to play games when we eat, so our favorites are most often games we can play at a table with food on it and have time to eat in between turns. We like one on one games (like chess), multiplayer games (like Monopoly) and team games (like charades). I’m not sure if its lack of experience, lack of coordination or hand size, but my younger two don’t hold cards well so we haven’t gotten much into card games – yet. Once in a while I’ll try to teach my kids a new card game. We played “Bullshit” a bunch last month (I told them it was called “Bull,” I think others call it “I doubt it.”) My youngest is so good though and after beating the rest of us 6 games in a row, no one wanted to play anymore.

My kids are 8, 10 and 12, so they can understand and hang in there for most older games, and be reasonable to excellent competition on some of the more thinking and strategy games. I’ve mentioned that we play some games make my kids cry; most of our favorite games don’t involve stealing or sabotage. Sarah and I have posted about games before (see Games and Board Games) and given/received  good suggestions).

We still enjoy chess, Uno, Pass the Pigs, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue, Ultimate Mastermind, Dixit, Apples to Apples, Googly Eyes, Pie Face, Shut The Box, Pit, and GobbletSet has our renewed interest and has been our go to game over the past month.

Here are some of our current favorites, in no particular order (Amazon Affiliate links.)

Codenames: I requested and received this game for Christmas for myself and we played with family of mixed ages. I’ve also played at home with kids. It’s similar to the gameshow Password, with some twists. I really like it and many of the adult and kids family members and we played with liked it, but it wasn’t for everyone. It’s likely best for a group of about 6 “cerebral adults” because pushing your cleverness to the limit and appreciating other’s out of the box thinking is the biggest part of the fun. My kids can hang in there, and my younger kids are fans, but there are definitely references and words (geography, current events, history, vocabulary) that make it a lot more fun with adults.

Ticket To Ride: My younger two and I love this popular strategy game. My older daughter isn’t a great risk taker, and only reluctantly plays with us. My son plays by impulse and can win here and there, and my middle daughter has a strategy that gets her a win most of the time. It’s fun to play because the strategy can be as simple or complex as you make it.

Schmovie: This is a silly sort of Balderdash-esque crossed with Apples to Apples game that has the players making up movie titles given a topic and genre. My kids love it. Sometimes it’s super funny. Sometimes you want it to be funnier. It’s generally always fun enough.

Telestrations: Telephone meets Pictionary. This game is great for all ages, crowds, levels of intoxication, etc. My kids love to play with their friends and we’ve given it as a gift a bunch of times.

Bellz: This is another game my younger two and I love and my older daughter isn’t that into. It’s like magnetic pickup sticks, but less arbitrary if something moves.

Tenzi: Everyone gets 10 dice and you make up what happen next. There are a few game rule suggestions to get started (for example first player roll all 10 the same number) and you can buy an additional book of game ideas (or I’m sure the internet holds many ideas!), but we have fun making up our own games. The dice come in all different colors. We don’t recommend getting a set with blue dice and yellow dots as they are by far the unluckiest dice in our set, even bringing down the luckiest set when teamed up together. In kindergarten or first grade my daughter wanted to (very randomly) give her class dice for Valentine’s day, and I bought a 5 lb bag of dice on Amazon for a few dollars, you could do that and make up your own Tenzi style games too.

LCR: Left Right Center. Another dice game. It’s totally a game of chance and you can lose your chips right away and still win in the end. We’ve played with candy (M&Ms) and pennies as the chips, and winner takes all. You can play with any age or bigger groups with no skill or concentration needed, making it very versatile. We have a game, Swipe, which two of my kids enjoy, that is similar to LCR in concept but requires slightly some stealing from neighbors.

What are you playing these days? We’d love recommendations!

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January 31, 2017
by sarah

MESSY = Paper Mache

I just ran an art class the other day. We started with paper mache. So messy and the biggest hit with the kids! I also just found this article about the importance of being messy.

When my littlest needed a birthday gift to bring to a 5 year olds party. I decided to make a paper mache making kit. I know this particular family well. I am thinking that messy is OK with them since they invited 40 friends over to carve pumpkins with power tools at Halloween.

Here is what I included in the kit: a small Rubbermaid plastic containers, strips of newspaper, strips of white copy paper, strips of tissue paper, some pompoms, an old jam jar 1/2 full of white flour, a roll of tape. I also added a couple recycled things like toilet paper roll to get her started.  I also included these instructions.

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January 13, 2017
by sarah

DIY Valentines

It seems like the down time we enjoy on the MLK long weekend has often turned into the start of our hand made Valentines. Here are some of our past attempts: heart crayons and paper flowers. This year my 7 year old wanted to use the sewing machine to attach painted paper hearts to card stock. I set her up and she was off and running (or sewing).

Sewing on paper was one of the first things that connected Jenny and I. I think it was 6 years ago when I sewed a family photo on to a folded piece of card stock and sent it out for our yearly holiday card. After Jenny received it I quickly got an email enquiring why and when and how! We were friendly before, but it connected us as fellow crafters and experimenters.

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January 6, 2017
by jenny

Some of our favorite movies

In honor of Hayao Miyazaki‘s 76th birthday yesterday (January 5th), I’d like to recommend Miyazaki’s movies to people and families who haven’t watched them.  My kids and I love watching these movies. We are definitely not original or alone in that.

These Japanese anime style movies are often talked about because of their strong leading female characters or their amazing imagery, but there is so much more to talk about.

We started watching Studio Ghibli films when The Secret World of Arriety came out around 2010. My daughters (who were 4 and 6 at the time) LOVED the movie right away. The story is that of The Borrowers. The film is very gentle and beautiful, which is what my girls were into at the time. The story concept in this one is pretty easy to follow, especially for girls who love playing with dollhouse/Polly Pockets/Legos.  We have rented Arriety on Demand and borrowed it from the library again and again and again. After seeing the previews before Arriety so many times, my girls starting asking to see Ponyo.

But a couple years later (by now my son was old enough to follow a movie) we watched My Neighbor Totoro. And we watched it again and again, until I bought our own copy. Totoro is a big Studio Ghibli fan favorite, and a good example of what the movies are like. Most of the movies are somewhat of fairy tales and magic happens in different ways. Because the main characters are relatable in such a real sense and the imagery is so awesome, it’s easy to melt into the world created by the movie. But then there is so much that happens around the characters that stretches the limits of your imagination. A cat is a bus in Totoro. When we first watch one of Miyazaki’s movies, it’s both very comforting and very uncomfortably confusing. Having a little time to digest, and wrap our heads and stretch imaginations around character concepts (there is a lot of spirits becoming animals, beasts or human like), plots and probably knowing the whole story helps. We re-watch and usually appreciate it even more.

(I got these socks for my daughter for Christmas and she reported a couple other kids at school also received them over vacation!)

Because we like to watch these movies over again, we know the next movie is going to be awesome and the list of movies is finite (we only have a couple left!), we have been savoring and re-watching each movie (and others we’ve seen) for a few months before moving onto the next film. We have been saving (and looking forward to seeing) Howl’s Moving Castle, which is also a big fan favorite. I bought it for Christmas. We’ve bought of the movies (before and after seeing the movie for the first time). We have watched some OnDemand (free and paid) and getting discs out of the library. Song of the Sea streams free if you have Amazon Prime.

We took a vote in our house and while we have a range of favorites, Kiki’s Delivery Service is currently the top by popular vote!

If you haven’t seen these movies yet, they likely aren’t like anything you’ve really seen before! Give it a try!

(Disclaimer: While not necessarily violent, in most of the movies there are monsters and big wind storms or tidal wave sort of scenes, my girls are generally sensitive to that stuff, but haven’t minded or been scared by these things, again, there are some common fairy tale sort of themes, but you’ll want to see what your kids are comfortable with!) (Second disclaimer: Links are Amazon Affiliate, but as mentioned, check your library!)

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December 19, 2016
by jenny

Stinky Boots/Skates/Cleats Solution

Last year my son’s hockey skates smelled so bad. I could smell his skates just standing talking to him. His skates smelled so bad that I literally gagged/dry heaved when I had to bend over to tie or untie his skates and would have to pause halfway to collect myself.  In between skating we would take the skates out of the bag to air out. I bought some specialty enzyme spray. My husband would put baby powder and other powders in the skates. I tried tea tree oil, vinegar, Lysol, sunlight, and freezing temperatures.  Sometimes these did nothing, sometimes the treatments temporarily helped or temporarily masked the problem.

BUT THIS YEAR, I have found a solution that works (at least for his stinky feet). Up until last week he had even been using the same skates at last year, and I could and did (no joke) stick my nose in the skate and it wasn’t like a bad dare.  I can’t believe it. Who knows, maybe my son’s diet has changed. He has practice even more often, and since the solution has been working, we don’t necessarily pull the skates out to air out after every skate. It’s awesome.  I’m definitely going to get another pair for his cleats!

I thought I’d share. There are definitely similar products on the market. I’ve been using a pair of charcoal filles inserts and they are awesome! Below is the Amazon Affiliate Link to the inserts we’ve been using, which are ~$10/pair. My son slides them right in his skates when he takes the skates off and leaves them in his bag when he puts his skates back on. We haven’t had to do any maintenance on the inserts and now more powdering/treatment of the skates. The inserts don’t even smell. It’s CRAZY- CRAZY GOOD!

Enjoy, hockey moms!
Mini Moso Natural Air Purifying Bags, Shoe Deodorizer and Odor Eliminator.

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December 15, 2016
by jenny

Looking for chocolate melting tips!

I saw a video on making homemade peppermint patties a couple weeks ago. Looked super simple. My middle and I decided to make them.

It was fairly simple. There are only a handful of easy ingredients – the filling was just sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and peppermint extract. We had to play with the amount of powdered sugar a little to make it workable. We rolled the dough into balls and flattened them instead of rolling the dough and cutting out into shapes like the video. We followed some reviews and experimented which would work better by leaving half of the patties to air dry a little at room temperature for a couple hours and the other half we put in the freezer to harden/freeze.

And then came the dreaded part for me – melting the chocolate for dipping. I am seriously horrible at melting chocolate. I’ve tried for literally decades to get this down. I improvise a lot when recipes call for melting chocolate and dipping (I struggle through, use my hands a lot, sometimes brush chocolate on, give up, etc.).

I know one has to go slow and can’t heat the chocolate too quickly. I’ve tried short bursts of low temperature on the stove. I’ve tried real double boilers. I’ve tried a bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water (not touching and not boiling).  I’ve tried the chocolate package instruction, youtube tutorials, cookbook instructions, online tips and instructions. I’ve tried microwaving for a minute. I’ve tried microwaving for 15 seconds at a time. I’ve tried microwaving for 30 seconds and then 15 seconds. I’ve tried microwaving at half power and full power. I’ve tried heavy bottom and cheap pans. I’ve tried many brands of chips, bars of chocolate, wafers of chocolate, high quality and low quality chocolate, and even chocolate specifically for melting. I’ve tried putting in butter and even bought shortening specifically to try. I’ve tried adding in cream, milk and condensed milk. I’ve tried melting small batches, medium size and large batches. Nothing has worked to make a smooth drippy dip-able dunk-able chocolate. Sometimes I can get it that way nice and smooth for a minute or two, I start dipping, and when I need to stir, to redistribute the chocolate for full coverage dipping, it seizes up.

Mostly, my chocolate “seizes” and goes from looking like it’s melting and then suddenly becoming “gritty” and unworkable. I always thought I was burning the chocolate, but it doesn’t make sense based on using low heat. There is something about the chocolate refining process and moisture/water getting in that makes the chocolate seize. I try to be careful to not let a drip of water in.

What I learned this last time, is that oil can help, it wasn’t great/smooth dipping chocolate like the video, but allowed us to revive a bowl of seized chocolate and dip some patties this time! I added a couple teaspoons of canola oil to the seized chocolate and heated a little, and it definitely smoothed out some.

The peppermint patties, by the way, definitely don’t taste like store bought patties, and if not comparing them to the store bough patties are okay. They aren’t as delicious as the reviewers tout, but we may have to play with the amount of extract. I’ll post a recipe if we refine it!

I’d love any chocolate melting tips!!! We really want to make buckeyes again (peanut butter balls), but don’t want to struggle with the chocolate part!

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December 10, 2016
by sarah

The Opposite of Tie Dye


I have just discovered the opposite of Tie Dye! Today I used bleach on a t-shirt to make an image. I took away color instead of adding it – never would have thought!

Here are my steps…

T-shirt Bleach Design


  • 1 shirt – it doesn’t matter the materials. I used shirts with a rayon/spandex combo. Cotton is fine too.
  • bleach
  • water
  • bucket
  • paint brush
  • large plastic cutting board
  • old towel (we call them dog towels)
  • optional paper and water colors


  1. I started by painting my designs on paper. It was useful to practice before starting the shirts.
  2. When I perfected my design on paper I collected all my supplies and put on my yuckiest clothing and headed to the laundry room with a utility sink.
  3. I lay the towel out on the small table (it really is the extra freezer).
  4. Mixed 1:1 water to bleach in a small plastic container.
  5. Placed the plastic cutting board inside the t-shirt. This prevents the bleach from bleeding on to the back.
  6. I placed the shirt with the cutting board inside onto the towel. I made sure the cutting board was center inside the shirt.
  7. I filled the bucket about 1/4 of the way with cold water and placed it near by.
  8. Then I started painting on the shirt with the bleach solution.
  9. I left the bleach on for about 5 minutes after I finished. The bleaching happens almost immediately so you can see when you get to your desired color.
  10. Then I dunked the shirt into the bucket of water and rinsed it thoroughly.
  11. After that I put it into the dryer.

Helpful Hints – After one shirt dried I went back and reinforced some lines with another application of bleach then repeated steps 10 and 11. On another shirt I went back to early when the shirt was still a little damp and the bleach bleed a little too much (see Yoda’s left eye).bleach-shirt-1 bleach-shirt-2


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