Category Archives: Family fun

Making homemade butter – a great project with kids

While my kids are out of school for the summer, we’ve decided to keep learning new things with Try It Tuesdays.  Our first project today was homemade butter and buttermilk.

Homemade butter - a great project with kids -

My daughter had actually tried this at school in her third grade class while they were learning about Colonial times.  She was so excited about it and couldn’t wait to bring home the butter she had made.

Unfortunately, she forgot about the butter in her backpack the day she brought it home.  By the time I found the small baby food jar of butter in there, I decided it wasn’t safe to try it – since she didn’t remember how long it had been there.  Bummer!  To ease her sadness over throwing away the butter she had made, I promised we would try to make it again at home.

Today we followed through and made our own homemade butter.

This was a fun, quick activity that got the kids involved in the kitchen.  It takes just one ingredient, a container with a lid, and a willingness to get a good arm workout to create the butter by shaking rather than churning.

How to make homemade butter – and buttermilk

  • Pour heavy whipping cream into a container with a secure lid.  You can use whatever amount you choose.  We used a pint of heavy cream, divided into three small mason jars.

Ingredients for homemade butter -

  • Shake vigorously.  It will go from heavy cream consistency to whipped cream consistency and then separate into butter and buttermilk.

Making homemade butter with kids -

My kids had fun with this part!

Homemade butter in progress -

  • Stop shaking when the butter separates from the buttermilk.  The butter will have that familiar light yellow color.

Making homemade butter -

  • Drain the buttermilk from the butter.  I read about a couple of ways to do this.  One said to strain the buttermilk through a cheesecloth to a separate container.  Another said to just use cold hands to squeeze out the buttermilk from the butter.  Since I didn’t have cheesecloth handy, I squeezed the butter by hand.  This worked pretty well.

Homemade butter and buttermilk -

  • Store in separate containers in the refrigerator.

That’s it!  Making homemade butter is so simple!

It took about 15-25 minutes of shaking to get from the cream to the butter stage.  Our observation from this experiment was that smaller portions of heavy cream speed up the process.

We used a pint of heavy whipping cream, divided into three mason jars.  I poured the cream into the first two jars and gave them to my younger kids to start shaking.  When I poured the remainder of the pint into the last jar for my oldest son, I realized it was a larger portion.  The shaking process took longer for his container.

It would be easy to add in salt to taste or create other flavored butters, since the homemade butter is soft while separating it from the buttermilk.

Our homemade butter turned out great, and the kids had fun making it!  Now we’ll have to choose a great recipe to use up that buttermilk.

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Summer fun: free or inexpensive activities for kids

When school is out for summer, we always look forward to fun family activities.  Like all moms, I love summer activities for kids that we can do inexpensively or for free!Cheap or free summer activities for kids -

The list below is a starting point for thinking creatively about activities for kids during those fabulous summer days.  Do you have any suggestions I should add?

1.  Take that final report card and collect free doughnuts for good grades.  Although I can’t find any official information about it on the Krispy Kreme website, their stores give kids a free original, glazed doughnut for each “A” grade earned on report cards.  Check with your Krispy Kreme location.

2.  Catch a movie.  Matinees are always cheaper, and some theaters even have $1 special movies in the summer.  The Summer Movie Express at Regal Cinemas offers $1 admission to a selected list of PG movies on Tuesday and Wednesdays for nine weeks over the summer.  Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse offers 10 weeks of films rated G and PG at participating theaters, with an option for $1 admission at the door or a ten-week series punch card that’s available while supplies last at the theater box office or online at

3.  Join a summer reading program.  Many local libraries offer kids’ summer reading programs with rewards.  National booksellers – including Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Stores, and Scholastic – have their own programs with rewards.  Pottery Barn Kids also has a Summer Reading Challenge, along with a weekly story time in stores.

4.  Take advantage of the library.  While you’re there to get some books and participate in a summer reading program, check out the other children’s programs that may be available, such as reading groups and craft workshops.

5.  Go bowling.  The Kids Bowl Free website lists participating locations across the U.S. and Canada, offering kids up to two free games a day, all summer long.

6.  Build something at a kids’ DIY workshop.  Home Depot offers free workshops for children the first Saturday of the month, while Lowe’s Build & Grow program has free clinics every other Saturday.  Check the websites for the schedule, featured project, and registration.

7.  Build something at home.  Inexpensive models and craft kids are available, or just use what you already have:  pull out the Legos for a new creation, make a fort from blankets, etc.

8.  Build something at a LEGO Store.  On the first Tuesday evening of each month, LEGO Stores host a Monthly Mini Model Build, allowing children ages 6 to 14 to learn how to build a special, free mini model that isn’t available for purchase. The LEGO Stores website has more information about the schedule and each month’s model.

9.  Learn about the great outdoors.  At its retail stores, Bass Pro Shops offers Family Summer Camp with free workshops, crafts, and activities for kids and families.  In 2014, the events are held every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from June 7 to July 13.  Check the Bass Pro Shops website or news release for the scheduled activities.  The company also has a Bass Pro Shop kids’ web site with online games, craft project ideas, printable coloring pages and puzzles, and a collection of online animal fact cards.

10.  Go on a nature walk.  Whether it’s through the backyard, at the park, or through the woods, take time to observe the natural world and discuss it with the kids.  Consider giving them a small notebook to record their observations, an old or disposable camera for pictures, a checklist of things to look for, or a container to collect specimens such as leaves, flowers, or small bugs.  Link here to an eHow article with more ideas and safety tips.

11.  Try geocaching.  Ready to step it up from a nature walk to a treasure hunt?  Go on a geocaching adventure.  Visit Geocaching 101 from to learn more.  If you have a smartphone with GPS, you can get started with free apps that are available to guide the hunt.

12.  Have a picnic.  Whether it’s in conjunction with another activity, like a nature walk or geocaching, or just a simple event in itself, summer picnics are a fun way to spend some time outdoors.

13.  Fly a kite.  Get an inexpensive kite and head out to an open space.  Amazon has a simple rainbow diamond kite with good reviews for less than $12.

14.  Plan a water game day.  Pull out the hose and a sprinkler, fill up some water balloons or water guns, and make up your own games to get wet and have fun.

15.  Pull out some board games.  Pick your favorite board games for some friendly competition.  Invite some friends over for a game day – and ask them to bring some of theirs to discover new favorites.

16.  Put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Find a puzzle geared toward your kids’ age, but don’t be afraid to challenge them!

17.  Conduct your own science experiments.  Pinterest is filled with kid-friendly experiments that can be conducted right in your kitchen or backyard.   Check out my Pinterest board of kids’ experiments!

18.  Star gaze.  Research stars and constellations, and find a clear summer night to search the sky for those heavenly bodies.  A trip to a planetarium would make a grand finale.

19.  Find free or reduced-price museum admission.  Many museums have special admission days that allow visitors for free or reduced entrance fees.

20.  Get crafting.  At Michaels Stores, the Passport to Imagination program offers kids the opportunity to complete crafts related to 7 different museums – one each week – through 2-hour in-store events that are just $2.  Related projects are also suggested on the website for crafting at home.

21.  Learn about a different culture.  Research another country to learn about their culture, and plan crafts and food to gain a better understanding of life in that country.

22.  Cook up fun.  Spend time cooking or baking special dishes together, or let kids try some cooking lessons.  Williams-Sonoma offers free junior chef classes for kids in its stores on select Saturdays.  Visit for dates, times, and registration information for your local store.

23.  Grow your own food.  Plant some fruit, veggies, or herbs and work together to cultivate them.  It just takes a pot or two to learn about caring for plants and reaping the harvest.  Take it an extra step and visit a self-pick farm and let the kids help harvest their own food on a larger scale.

24.  Learn origami.  Pick some simple patterns to make lovely paper crafts. has instructions for a variety of origami folding designs, including simple options for kids.  Pick a paper airplane design and have a contest to see which one flies best!

25.  Go roller skating. lists participating skating centers that provide free skating passes for children.  The program is not yet nationwide, but is a nice resource for those living near a participating location.

26.  Do good in your community.  Summer is a great time to find volunteer opportunities.  Check out for local volunteer needs, using the filter to search for those that are appropriate for kids or teens.  Or, just clean out those closets and donate unneeded items to a local charity.

27.  Keep learning with online resources.  Learning can be fun!  Check out some free online learning tools to keep kids sharp over the summer.  The U.S. government’s web portal for kids at is one resource, offering a variety of activities for kids from kindergarten to eighth grade.  It includes online access to games, videos, books, and other educational resources in categories including art, music, science, math, money, social studies, and more.  It’s a nice collection to keep kids learning over the summer.

Do you have other great ideas for inexpensive summer activities for kids?  Let me know your suggestions to add to the list.

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Top 10 favorite games -

Top 10 favorite games for family game night

With game apps and gaming systems vying for our kids’ individual attention, it’s nice to unplug sometimes for a good, old-fashioned family game night.Top 10 favorite games for family game night -

We try to sit down and enjoy some friendly family competition regularly.  Not only is it quality time together, but it also helps prepare kids for the ups and downs of life.  Playing games with family is a great way to learn that you win some and you lose some – and how to do them both with grace and good sportsmanship.

Over the years, we’ve acquired quite a collection of games.  By that, I mean that they’ve taken over their own storage cabinet!  With many game options available, we get plenty of variety.  But there are a few that are family favorites.

Top 10 favorite disclosuremes

The order varies by person, but these are the top 10 favorite games for our family with players ages 8 and older.

1.  UNO.  This game is high on everyone’s list.  We enjoy the original UNO Card Game as well as several of the variations – including UNO Attack, UNO Spin, and UNO Tippo.  They’re all fun, but  the simple deck of UNO cards is the most convenient and handy.  It’s a classic, and great to take along on vacations, as well.

2.  Scrabble.  When our kids were younger, we started them out with Scrabble Junior, which is for ages 5 and up.  Now that they’re all older, we play the original Scrabble Crossword Game.  My husband and I sometimes help our kids come up with words and find the best places to place them, but they can do well on their own, too.

3.  Scattergories.  This is a fun game that says it’s geared for ages 13+, but all of our kids love it.  There’s nothing offensive about Scattergories for younger players, it just requires a good vocabulary to come up with creative answers to score points.  Our 8-year-old is young for it, but she regularly suggests this game because she likes that we let her roll the letter and control the timer – that makes up for her difficulty thinking of answers.  Creativity helps, so that’s where the kids excel with this game.  Working as teams makes this fun for kids.

4.  Apples to Apples.  This game leads to a lot of silliness.  We enjoy playing Apples to Apples for the fun of the comparisons.  It’s another game that is geared for kids 12+, but our 8-year-old has no trouble with it, other than needed an occasional explanation of what her card means due to her more limited vocabulary.  The kids all love their turn as judge to pick the winner of the hand.

5.  Risk.  OK, the guys all insisted that Risk goes on this list of favorite games.  It’s in the top two games for all three of them.  My daughter and I don’t like this one as well, so I put it at number five.  It’s a game of world domination, so that sounds like a game made for males, right?

6. Guesstures.  We find charades more fun when it’s fast paced like Guesstures.  The kids enjoy acting out the cards and winning points. What’s not to love about that?

7.  Othello.  This is an older game that I don’t see as often anymore, but my kids love it.  We have Othello playoffs, since it’s a two-person game.   The drawback with the older boards was that you would bump the pieces on the board when flipping the chips.  Newer boards give each square a raised border to make it easier to keep the pieces in place.

8. Trivial Pursuit Family Edition.  It’s always fun to realize how much information you don’t know, right?  Well, not so much.  Where the original Trivial Pursuit is rather difficult, we find that this Trivial Pursuit Family Edition is more fun.  It’s great for ages 8+, with separate question cards for kids and adults.  The kids like to see how much they do know – and multiple choices for some of the answers help them guess right sometimes, too!

9. Connect 4.  This is a simple, fun game to play, but it has the benefit of teaching basic game strategy for younger players.  When they started playing Connect 4, my kids just dumped in the checkers anywhere.  I could use the game to teach them about thinking strategically about the best move and how to plan ahead to set up another move.  It’s nice to see them progress to more advanced thinking as they learn the game.

10.  Chess.  My husband is in the process of teaching our two oldest kids how to play chess.  This is another game that they like more than I do, but I love watching them learn the strategy involved and master the moves.  When it’s my turn to play, I prefer using the board for checkers. 

Honorable mentions:  We had a hard time narrowing down this list of favorite games.  My daughter, in particular, had some favorites that didn’t make the list.  Since she’s the youngest, she still enjoys some of the early childhood games, like Candy Land, Clue Junior, and The Ladybug Game.  My boys also like a good game of Stratego.

What are your favorite games for family game night?

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