Our Kids’ New Favorite Toy

These colorful stacking dolls from Maryshoka Madness have taken over our house.  My daughter has always been fascinated by stacking dolls, but a few fragile sets have broken.  When I spotted the plastic, red Cutie set at UrbanOutfitters.com, I scooped it up for her birthday (it’s on sale there now for $9.99).

A pamphlet in the box showed pictures of puppies, kittens and ninjas.  My 5-year-old son was green with envy.  But one generous grandmother’s visit later, and the kids own those now, too.

Amazon has a big selection – each set is $12-$14 and qualifies for free super saver shipping.

I Love Fast Food

When I’m trying to cram in a week’s worth of exercise and errands in the 2 hours and 50 minutes that my son’s in preschool.  When I reach towards the backseat and wonder whether goldfish or gummies are more effective against a hunger headache.  When I wish I could stomach anything at McDonalds other than a large Diet Coke.

$3.99 Summer Roll or $4.99 Avocado Salad Roll at Publix

If the grocery store is on my to-do list, I pick up one of these rolls in the Publix sushi department.  Sugar is more a concern for me, personally, than salt, so I skip the sweet, gooey sauce and use low-sodium soy sauce.

Starbucks Artisan Snack Plates, $4.95 each

Also convenient is Starbucks’ Protein plate, especially if there’s a drive-thru nearby.  A hard-boiled egg so perfect it looks fake, apples, grapes, white cheddar cheese slices and a bready-raisiny thing with peanut butter.  The Fruit, Nut & Cheese plate is good, too, but seems less like a meal, despite the higher calorie count.When I’m on top of things, I duplicate the Protein plate at home, substituting a Thomas’ whole wheat mini bagel for the meusli bread, and pack it all in a cooler for the car.  If I eat the apples and cheese slices together, I can almost imagine I’m in Napa overlooking a vineyard.

And then a Target shopping cart rolls into my minivan.

Costco: Harry Potter & Lego

Lego Harry Potter Book at Costco for $11.99.
And Mom’s feeling generous because it’s the beginning of summer break.

Oh, happy day, for my 5-year-old son.

Coloring the Yard

If you like color and can live with plastic, these adirondack chairs are fabulous!

Comfortable, stackable, easy-to-clean.  And, as my recent football player-sized party guest can attest to, surprisingly sturdy.

Adams Manufacturing makes them.  Last summer, after they sold out at Home Depot ($8 each on clearance), I found them at DoItBest.com, a hardware store co-op.  Several candy colors are available for $18.99, and they ship site-to-store for free, if there’s a store in the co-op near you.  They popped up on Craigslist, too.

The chairs are back at Home Depot now for about $16, but in more muted colors.  I prefer the brighter, candy colors at DoItBest.com, but if they’re too saccharine for you, there’s yet another option at Target for $17.

Free Kids’ Outdoor Journal

My children love little notebooks and journals.

During our recent trip to Colorado, both kids enjoyed the Junior Ranger activity books they received for free at Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Parks.  They worked on the books, pledged to safeguard the U.S. National Parks and became official Junior Rangers.

We also paid about $8 each for Passport to Your National Parks books, so they could collect passport stamps and stickers to record each of their national park visits.

This little activity book from REI is similar.  Available for free at REI stores or for download here, it’s a perfect excuse to explore a local park or hiking trail, and a lot more accessible if you don’t happen to live near a national park.  Click here to find a local trail and REI will lead you to hiking and biking trails near your home or next vacation spot.

New books come out in June, but my local REI still had plenty of last year’s version.  They gave me 20 of them for the children at our upcoming family reunion in Central Oregon (another great part of the country to revel in the great outdoors).