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3 Things 1.28.17: Rainbow Le Creuset; Family Read Alouds; Niagara Falls in the Winter

Happy Saturday, dear friends. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your lovely weekend to enter my world. In today’s post, I’m sharing pictures of my completed Rainbow Le Creuset Collection, our current family read aloud, and beautiful pictures of Niagara Falls in the Winter.

3-things-at-simplifylivelove

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3 Things 1.28.17: Rainbow Le Creuset; Family Read Alouds; Niagara Falls in the Winter

le creuset

3-things-1Rainbow Le Creuset

My rainbow Le Creuset is complete with the addition of a 3 quart Soleil Balti cast iron dish! I’m so excited to see the complete rainbow, but part of me feels a bit bummed…because Lead Safe America recently found unsafe levels of cadmium and lead in the paint of some Le Creuset products. I heard this sad information a while ago, before I got the last yellow piece. I love cooking with my Le Creuset – I use my 7 1/4 quart cassis (purple) round French oven the most, but I do use them all.

So when I heard about the heavy metals in Le Creuset, I was sadden. I did a little research and couldn’t find any information on Le Creuset’s own website (go-figure). But I am encouraged by research conducted by The Soft Landing. They claim only two cookware companies address the issue of heavy metals in their cookware at all and say that Le Creuset strictly controls cadmium which they use in the paint that adorns the outside of the pots and uses agents to prevent it from flaking off. They also claim that Le Creuset is one of very few companies to subject their products to third party testy to verify safety.

The one thing that makes me squirm a little is that Le Creuset claims not to use lead at all, yet Lead Safe America found lead in their products. Hmmmm. All I say is I am struggling right now with my love for Le Creuset.  

story of the world

3-things-2Family Read Alouds

Do you read aloud to your family? I used to read a lot to the kids when they were younger, but I have gotten away from it since they went off to school. We just started a new read aloud, though, and it’s a lot of fun. We’re reading a chapter from the Story of the World, Volume 3 after dinner every night, or as often as we can. We’re all learning a bit about history before out trip to Europe in March. The kids are fascinated, and admittedly, so am I, because I either never learned a lot of the facts they discuss in this book, or have forgotten them. I even had the kids watch the hilarious Netherlands Second Spoof because it touched on topics from the book! It is possible to find modern connections to make learning history more interesting.

beautiful niagara falls in the winter

3-things-3Niagara Falls in the Winter

It turns our that Dan and I are on an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls this weekend to pick up supplies for the Passive House we’re currently building in Wilton. I guess we’ll find any excuse to take a road trip. At 10 hours away, it’ll save us quite a lot of money to go get this stuff ourselves, as opposed to having it shipped, so we’re off.

The kids and I actually went to Niagara Falls in the winter – January of 2013 – with my amazing friend Robin and her three boys. The funniest part of the trip were the Chinese tourists who were enamored with the nine of use – two women and their seven collective kids. They took a picture of our group even and I wish we would have thought to have them take a picture with one of our cameras, but we didn’t. I laugh every time I imagine the stories they told their Chinese friends about the two crazy American women with seven kids!

Niagara Falls lookout

Niagara Falls in the winter is really beautiful, but we were not properly prepared for the brutal cold we faced there, and I swore I would NEVER go back to  in January…yet here we are. I’ve been promised 40 degree temps and a balmy beach vacation. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out for me – lol. If you’d like to visit Niagara Falls in the winter, here are some of the amazing sights you might see!

Niagara Falls Frosty Trees

Niagara Falls in winter

Frost at Niagara Falls
And that’s it you guys. Another week at the Passive-Aggressive house has come to close. I look forward to catching up with you next week. What’s been going on in your world?

Niagara Falls in the Winter pin

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

There are so many amazing things to do in New Orleans and it has long been on my bucket list of places to visit because it’s full of rich history, delicious food, and so much more. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, you must go. And take the whole family because everyone will enjoy it!! 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

*Many thanks to the New Orleans CVB for complimentary tickets and discount passes which allowed me to try many of the things in this post.* 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

From above-ground cemeteries to streetcars to museums and zoos, there are so many family-friendly and educational things to do in New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans is infamous for Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but it’s also a great place for the whole family, kids included.

The French Quarter
The French Quarter New Orleans

Founded in 1718, the French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and the whole district has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  In addition to stunning and colorful buildings, history lessons abound here. For instance, prior to the Louisiana Purchase, all residents of New Orleans were required to be Catholic – religious freedom was not a right! Slaves were also allowed to buy their own freedom (something they were not permitted to do elsewhere) and the Creole culture is really fascinating. Ghost and voodoo stories are everywhere and so interesting!

Beautiful buildings in the French Quarter in New Orleans

The French Quarter is full of beautiful architecture, educational museums, unique shopping, and lots of delicious food. Make sure to stop in the French Quarter for a beignet and a crepe! More on them later, but no trip to New Orleans is complete without a walking tour of the French Quarter.

The Garden District

The Garden District was developed between 1832 and 1900 and is home to so much amazing architecture. We took the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue to get to the Garden District because we wanted to see the beautiful mansions and the above-ground cemeteries. The Garden District did not disappoint!

beautiful architecture in the Garden District

Also called Hollywood South, Nicolas Cage, Anne Rice, and Sandra Bullock all have homes in this beautiful neighborhood. The original cafe from the Eiffel Tower is also in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue. It was a restaurant for three years in the 1980s, but didn’t make it financially, and today it houses event space.

lafayette cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery #1 is another must visit destination in the Garden District. There aren’t very many above-ground cemeteries in the world and they are fascinating to tour. If you can, go with a tour guide to learn more about the historic significance. The tour guides work for tips and are very fun and knowledgeable.

Street Car to the Garden District in New Orleans

So Many Family-Friendly Attractions in New Orleans

In addition to exploring the French Quarter and the Garden District, your family will find many more family friendly attractions! I love visiting history-rich locations and New Orleans does not disappoint. So many museums sneak in interesting history and science lessons, and I love that when I’m touring with my kids.

Things your kids will love:

Mardi Gras World – call for a free shuttle to pick up your family so you can explore Mardi Gras floats, costumes, and masks!

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium – kid friendly museum with thousands of butterfly and interactive insect exhibits.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americans – over 15,000 different types of sea life live in this famous aquarium! Both young and old folks will find plenty of fun things to marvel at here.

Louisiana Children’s Museum – 30,000 square feet full of interactive and hands-on-learning suitable for children from birth to 11 years of age. If you’ve ever been to a Children’s Museum as an adult however, my guess is even older guests will find fun things to do.

National WWII Museum New Orleans

National Wold War II Museum – Older kids might enjoy learning more about World War II at the World War II Museum. It’s another interactive museum where visitors follow the life of a real WWII soldier and see how he or she fared during the War. I really enjoyed this museum and would love to spend more time there on our next visit.

Transportation is Easy in the Big Easy

Ride a Street Car in New Orleans

I loved pretty much everything about New Orleans, but one thing that is especially nice is how easy it is to get around the downtown area without a car. Once we got from the airport to our hotel (via Uber) we walked, took the streetcar (a steal at $3 per person per day!),  and also enjoyed the Hop On Hop Off Bus

Hop On Hop Off Bus New Orleans

The Hop On Hop Off Bus was fun because it was more than just transportation. The knowledgeable tour guides shared personal stories and insights into the city, and funny stories as well. It costs a little more than the streetcars, but it’s also a great way to see the city, and tickets are valid for three days.

You really don’t need a car for visiting downtown New Orleans. That said, a car would have made visiting the plantations easier, something we didn’t get to do on this trip. That just means I have to go back, right?!

The food is delicious in New Orleans

Food is Delicious in New Orleans

Let’s not forget about the food, because the food in New Orleans is delicious and plentiful. Everywhere we went, there was something else to try and everything we ate was better than the last. From beignets, to beans and rice, to muffulettas, to crepes, everyone in your group will find something amazing to eat. Food you must try while you’re in New Orleans:

Beignets from Cafe du Monde in the French Market – because you can’t go to New Orleans without eating beignets…

Charbroiled Oysters from Drago’s Seafood Restaurant – they were really tasty, a great way to eat oysters if you don’t really care for them!

The Works Crepe  from the Crepe Cart at the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter – this crepe was my absolute favorite lunch during our trip. I wanted to eat another one every single day. 

A Muffuletta at Central Grocery – followed closely by the muffuletta. I could have eaten this every day too.

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters - one of the many fun things to do in New Orleans

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters – such a fun experience. The food, service, and ambiance were all really neat.

And there you have it – five reasons you must put New Orleans on your family bucket list. I took this trip without my kids, but I know they would love the city as much as I did. And since I didn’t get to visit any of the plantations or many of the museums, I am excited to return, hopefully sometime soon, and with my family!

 If you haven’t yet made it to New Orleans, put it on your list! If you have been, I’d love to hear what you most enjoyed!

Find out all of the many things to do in New Orleans and add the city to your family bucket list.

5 Tips for Making Amazing Stop Motion Animation at Home

 Stop motion animation is a fun way to engage your children in creativity and learning.  My kids really enjoy making stop motion animation at home and are sharing their five best tips for creating fun videos with you today!

5 Tips for Making Amazing Stop Motion Animation at Home

The struggle to limit time on electronics is real. But sometimes, we can find great ways to incorporate electronics into learning and family fun. One way to do that is to create stop motion animation with your children. I don’t mind my kids using electronics as much if they are engaged in learning and so we’ve had a lot of fun this last week working on stop motion animation videos. Here are a few tips to help you make your own amazing stop motion animation videos at home too!

5 Tips for Amazing Stop Motion Animation

stop motion animation - simple backdrop

Gather props and make a backdrop

Stop motion animation usually uses small items. Little animals, figurines, doll house accessories, and other small props you may have around your house make great props. We made several different backdrops using string, construction paper, tissue paper, sticks, and yarn. Gather what works for you and make something pretty!

Stop Motion Animation made on iphone

Come up with a story line

This is where your imagination comes into play. We came up with a lot of different angles – Goldfish crackers making a snowman. Goldfish crackers being eating by a dinosaur. Goldfish crackers racing in toy cars. We finally settled on Goldfish crackers racing themselves around a track made out of yarn. Get creative and have fun!

Download helpful apps

There are many helpful apps that make the stop motion animation process pretty easy.  Goldfish Smiles lists several apps you can choose from as well as sources for free sound clips. We used Stop Motion Studio which is a free download. We did pay $4.99 to unlock the bonus features like sound clips, though. The kids had a great time playing with the sound and adding it to the video (I did too!).

One problem we had with the app was that we couldn’t tell what part of the video would be cut off in the final version. As we were making the videos and reviewing them on the app, everything looked fine. But when we created the final video and shared it, we realized that part of the video was cut off – the left side. We made our videos using an iphone and I think perhaps we would have seen more detail had we used a bigger screen, like an ipad.  This is just a practical tip we learned that may help you.

stop motion animation - stabilize the camera

Find a way to stabilize your camera and take lots of pictures

Stabilizing the camera is tricky but oh so important as the camera needs to stay in the same spot or the video ends up distorted. We used a bendy tripod to attach my iphone to the large tripod. But honestly, my big iphone is too heavy for the bendy tripod and we had a lot of trouble keeping it still. We took almost 200 pictures to make our video, so this part requires some persistence and patience…   {I’m in the market for a new table top tripod for my plus sized iphone if anyone has any recommendations. }

Another thing Anna did as she created this video was to make it in reverse. She wrote out the words GO! with Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and started the video at the end. Then, we filmed the Goldfish crackers racing around the track backwards. After that she made the words disappear by removing one row of crackers at a time. And finally, we reversed the order of the pictures so it looks like we filmed the words appearing first. For tips about how to make your props move fast or slow, head over to the Goldfish Smiles website. They have so many helpful videos with useful tips and tricks.

Have fun! 

This is where you need to step back, mom, and let the kids work together. AHHH – I struggle so much with this because I want to take control. In my experience, my kids do better and fight less when I step back and let them take charge. They always have fun making stop motion animation videos but they really enjoyed making these because they also got a little snack in the process. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are baked without artificial flavors or preservatives, using colors sourced from plants.

Goldfish Tales Stop Motion Animation Contest

Enter your video to win $5000!

Once you have created your video, head over to Goldfish Tales Animation Experience and enter it to win! Twelve films will be nominated across four categories and the best in each category will win a $5000 grand prize. Judging begins on February 28 and the winners will be announced on April 21.

What are you waiting for? Head over to GoldfishSmiles and learn how to create your own stop motion animation movie with your kids!

Stop motion animation is a fun way to engage children in creativity and learning. Check out these 5 best tips for creating awesome videos with your kids!

 

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe

The Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe is made in about 5 minutes and makes a perfect last minute practical gift! Make this recipe today and give something useful to neighbors, friends, and teachers {or keep it for yourself}!

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe

*I received compensation for this post as part of the Barlean’s Blogger Program. Rest assured that I only recommend products I’ve used and love in sponsored posts and affiliate links. Thanks so much for supporting my blog. #abarleansholiday *

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe made with Barleans Coconut oil, essential oils, sugar, manuka honey

I’ve been using this scrub for a while now and love how my skin feels and smells afterward. While it’s a great year round scrub, it’s especially wonderful in the winter for a lot of reasons. First, sugar is very hydrating in dry winters. It’s a natural humectant (it provides moisture to your skin) and is also a natural source of glycolic acid,  or exfoliant, for rejuvenating skin.

Sugar Scrub Ingredients

Benefits of Sugar for your Skin

I use organic raw sugar for this recipe, a coarser sugar that’s great for the body but not so great for the face. If you want a scrub for your face, I recommend using a finer organic sugar.

Benefits of Coconut Oil for your Skin

Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal and it’s also an excellent moisturizer, makeup remover, and hair conditioner. It’s affordable and smells great too! Since the skin is our biggest organ, I really recommend using organic products for this sugar scrub to reduce exposure to pesticides. Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil comes from certified-organic plantations in the Philippines where coconut palms grow naturally without pesticides.

Benefits of Manuka Honey for your Skin

Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush or tea tree. Manuka honey is highly regarded for many medical purposes in the natural medicine world (but please, I’m not a doctor so you do your own research.) It’s supposed to absorb moisture to help your skin stay soft and lovely, can help with rosacea and eczema, and is also thought to have antibacterial properties. You can eat Manuka honey (but it’s pretty gross according to my kids) and you can also use it for natural wound and skin care.

Benefits of Essential Oil for your Skin

We first starting using Thieves Oil {purported to boost immunity and ward of sickness} when our youngest daughter was going through surgeries for her hip dysplasia. I mixed it with a carrier cream {you should very rarely put essential oils directly on your skin} and put it on her feet for weeks before her surgeries to help keep her healthy. We called it tickle cream and all the kids loved having us put it on their feet. They all stayed very healthy when we used the thieves oil, but we also limited exposure to germs and ate as healthy as we could. I don’t honestly know if thieves oil works as advertised, but I love the way it smells and I figure it can’t hurt to use it in my arsenal to ward off winter illness.

I know a lot of people have a favorite essential oil brand, I’m not really hard over on any one brand, in all honesty. Right now I use the  Nature’s Shield NOW Protective Blend which is very similar to the Young Living Thieves blend. I’m really happy with NOW essential oils, but please choose whichever brand you’re most comfortable with. You can also use any scent you like, lavender or citrus scents would also be lovely, but I chose the Protective Blend for an immune boost, particularly during the dreary winter months.

The combination of all of these ingredients makes a really delightful and potentially therapeutic sugar scrub. I hope you like it as much as my family does.

Now that you know why to make this scrub, here’s the recipe!

Last Minute Immune Boosting Sugar Scrub recipe #abarleansholiday

Yield: 16 ounces

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe

Immune Boosting Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub Recipe

Easy sugar scrub recipe great for winter use.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a non-reactive pan. Add sugar, essential oils, and honey. Mix until combined then put in a jar.

To use: simply wet hands and apply scrub to wet body. Rinse with water. Pat dry. Use twice per week.

Nutrition Information:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 32 Carbohydrates: 9g

If you make this for a last minute gift, make sure to make enough for yourself! This recipe makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars, so you may want to double to quadruple. Print out these free printable labels for sugar scrub, put it on the jar and tie with a pretty ribbon. Voila! Wonderful and practical gift in minutes!

 

Here's an immune boosting sugar scrub recipe that smells great & leaves skin soft & lovely. Made in 5 minutes, it's a great last minute, practical gift too.