Tuesday, June 29, 2010

4th of July place mats

I seem to be doing okay on the fly with our "America" week crafts. Today we wove place mats out of construction paper. Easy and festive.  But, to keep things real, I took a picture of my table once I set it for dinner. Can you guess which is my three year old's spot?

It's not that she is not capable of doing the craft.  It is that she loves to destroy almost anything, all while smiling the most angelic smile. I'm already saving my money to bail her out of jail. You think I'm kidding. 

Simple Dining - A.K.A Kid's Eat Free

I've been wanting to post an extensive list of places that kid's eat free in my laundry room for some time. We rarely eat out, but when we do, it seems to cost a whole lot for not very much. So, I've finally put together a pretty extensive list. I'm hoping you all will be able to help me add to the list.  I will say, restaurants can change their programs at any time, so you might want to call ahead to be sure they're still offering "Kids eat free."


1.  Trece:  Kids 15 and under eat free all day.
2.  Blue Mesa Grill: Sunday brunch is free for kids 6 and under from 10:00 am to 3:00 PM; Kids 7-11 pay $6.95
3.  Tin Star: Preston Center (Kids eat free on Sunday nights)
4.  Dickey’s BBQ: Kids eat free all day on Sunday.


1.   Souper Salad: Kids 4 and under are always free, Kids over 4 eat for $2.49 on Sunday.
2.   Central Market-Dallas:  Kids under 18 receive a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée Mondays after 4pm


1.   McCallister’s Deli: Kids eat 12 and under eat for free Tuesdays from 5pm-9pm.  Any other time, a kids meal is only .99 cents. 
Pluckers Wing Bar:  Kids eat free all day on Tuesdays
3.   Chick-fil-a:  Kids get a free 4-piece meal with the purchase of an adult combo meal from 6pm-8pm.
4.   Scotty P’s:  Kid's eat free with each purchase of an adult entree. (1 entree = 1 free kids meals) 


1.   Luby's:  Kids 10 and under eat free after 4:30 pm.
  Rainforest Café:  Kids eat for .99 cents with the purchase of an adult meal.
3.   Colter’s BBQ: Kids eat free on Wed. nights.
4.   Sweet Tomatoes:  Kids 12 and under eat for .99 cents
Penne Pomodoro:  Wednesdays kids eat free from 4pm-10pm

Thursday and Friday: 

Any one know of any restaurants that kids eat free on Thursday or Friday?


1.   Luby's:  Kids 10 and under eat free all day.


1.    Texas de Brazil:  Everyday kids 6 and under eat for free; kids 7-12 eat for half-price.
2.    Texadelphia:  Kids eat free every day after 5pm.
3.    Deep Sushi:  Kids 10 and under eat free every day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Simply Sweet

I forgot to include one of our Fourth of July activities in my earlier list. We conquered this today and it was fun, easy, yummy and tad bit messy. If you're up for all of those things, this one is for you. I'll keep the description simple :

 x 12 =

Recap: Melted candy wafers + candy mold (and sprinkles if you please) = very cute little Fourth of July lollipops. We're going to deliver them to neighbors and friends.  

Festive (and sweet) 4th

Although I haven't found as many fun (and simple) craft ideas as I would like, there are a ton of yummy dessert ideas for the 4th. Here are a few that are pretty simple. 
4th of July decorations
Berries are an easy way to give sweets a patriotic feel! Case in point – festive treats from Martha Stewart’s Red, White, & Blue Desserts gallery…
• Red, White, & Blue Parfaits 
• Red, White, & Blueberry Trifle (This dessert looks so pretty – and store-bought pound cake cuts down your prep time!)
• Flag Cupcakes (Try substituting small blueberries for the piped "stars" to make the flag decoration even easier.)
• Summer Shortcake 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Theme 6: America

In honor of the upcoming Independence Day, this week's theme is "America."  I must be honest, I'm lacking in creativity this week. Thankfully we have a birthday party and some lunch dates to keep the week interesting and I'm sure we'll do lots of swimming. Here are the activities I have so far.
 - 4th of July cupcakes
 - Construction paper lanterns
 - Red and blue construction paper place mats
 - Q-tip fire works
 - A flag march to patriotic music
 - Noise makers and "fire -works"
 - We're going to eat our lunch on flag paper plates (can you tell I'm really stretching)

If you have any creative ideas that I can add to my bag of tricks, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday Love

Here's what I fixed for my youngest this morning.  Simple eggs and toast, but with a fun little twist.  All you do is cut out the center of bread with a heart (or any shape) cookie cutter. Put in in your skillet that is sprayed with pam and crack and egg is the center. Let it cook until the egg is set and then flip it over.  It's nothing huge, but it did make breakfast a little more fun!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Garden Week Finale

Well, today is the last day of our gardening week. We were going to head to the arboretum, but it is just too hot out there. Instead, we're making flower shaped sugar cookies and we just wrapped up tissue paper flowers. This was a big hit, so I thought I'd pass it along immediately.  Here's a link to a tutorial on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT_SLFFt3Z4). They do a much better job of describing the steps than I could. You'll need three items for the craft: scissors, tissue paper and pipe-cleaners.  Above is a bouquet the girls and I made with our flowers. Below is a single stem.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simply nutritious chicken pesto pizza

Time for another secret: nutritious pizza.  This is one of the staples at our house and I don't at all feel bad about it.  Before I share the recipe, I need to tell you another secret. This is one that you cannot tell my kids (although I think they're probably on to me by now).  I hide spinach in a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of our meals. Some are more complicated that others; this one is really quite easy. You'll see what I mean when I give you the recipe.  But really, this pizza is good, good for you, and easy to make.

Here's what you need:

1.  Pizza dough (you can buy pre-cooked dough, go to Whole foods or Central Market and get their fresh dough or even use dough in a can).
2.  Pre-made pesto (I use Buitoni).
3.  Shredded chicken (you can use grilled, rotisserie, baked - you can see, anything goes).
4. Spinach

Here's what you do:

1. If you're dough is pre-cooked, skip this step. If you're using raw dough, I like to pre-cook mine at 400 for 6-7 minutes, so it will come out crispy in the end.
2. Combine several hand-fulls of spinach and the pesto in a food processor and puree. It comes out looking just like the pesto, just greener.
3. Spread the spinach/pesto puree on top of your pre-cooked dough.
4. Dice up your chicken and spread a generous amount over the pesto.
5. Top with shredded cheese (sometimes I add thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions to half of it for me and hubby).
6. Bake for 15 minutes (still at 400) or until the edges are brown and the cheese is gooey.

Enjoy!  And, enjoy knowing that your kids are getting a very balanced meal that they think is just "pizza."


Yesterday was full of flowers. We did a fun (and easy) flower craft with things I had around the house. We also went to a florist and I let the girls pick out their favorite stem from the flower refrigerator. They are holding their choices in the above picture.

Here's what you need for the craft:

1. Paper - scrap-booking, construction or wrapping paper.
2. Scissors, glue and a stapler.
3. Buttons

Here's what you get when you put it all together:
1. Cut the paper in strips (my 5 year old could do this, but the 3 year old needed help).
2. Fold the strips into loops and stack them. 
3. Staple them together in the middle. 
4. Glue on a button. 

I think they'd be so cute on gift packages. I've since stuck a wooden skewer to the back of mine, so we can put them in a vase. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Simple Savings

I'm always happy to save a buck when I can. Especially in today's economy. I didn't realize until recently how easy it is to save money without even trying. I am not a coupon clipper - takes too much time. But, I do check my email and there are some great sites that will send you significant discounts everyday on things from restaurants to dentists to massages.  Signing up is free and although there are lots of "deals" I won't use, I've already gotten my no-monies worth. Here they are:

1.  Seize the Deal
2.  Living Social
3.  aDealio
4. Groupon (thanks to Christy for this additional website!!)

Happy Saving!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let's talk Curtains

"Hmmmm.....how do we go from hand print lilies to curtains?" you ask.  Well, they have a lot in common. They are both cheap and easy.  Now that we're friends, I'm going to start telling you some of my secrets. Not my really juicy, exciting secrets (sorry), just my "do it yourself" and "save a buck" secrets. So, my first secret is my curtains. The above picture is my dining room. It's still kind of a work in progress, but it's getting there.  You see that nice big window? It's great. I love that window.  The only problem is that window needed some nice big window treatments which would cost a nice big penny and I didn't have it. What's a girl to do?  Easy. Go to Walmart.  That's right, Walmart. Now, my curtains are not from the window treatment isle at Walmart, but the rod is. I think it was $13.  Jump over a few isles to the paint isle and you'll find my curtains. They are painters drop cloths and they were $8.88 each.  Ta Da!  My "window treatments" cost me roughly $30.  Now that's what I'm talking about!

Question? Do you think I should hem them or keep them poofy?

Hand Print Lilies

One of today's garden activities was hand print lilies.  Easy and fun.

Step one: have your child (or you) trace their hand onto construction paper.
Step two: cut the hand out and curl back the fingers by rolling them with a pencil.
Step three: cut one pipe cleaner in thirds, fold it in half and twist it onto another one (the green one) - this makes the stem and the stamen.
Step four: roll the hand print like an ice cream cone and tape it closed. There will be a hole in the bottom.
Step five: run the green pipe-cleaner through the hole.
Step six: your done and I sure hope these directions make some kind of sense.

I'd intended for us to make a lot of these and form a colorful bouquet for the girl's room, but they wanted to hit the pool instead.

I hope you're week is off to a great start. We're headed to the arboretum tomorrow for a picnic (a hot one I'm sure).  I hope to see you there!

Theme 5: Gardening

This week's theme is gardening.  Yesterday we just did some flower painting and foam sticker crafts (above). Here are the activities for the rest of the week:
 - Go to the Arboretum
 - Paint flower pots
 - Plant flower seeds
 - Hand print lily bouquets (I'll post the specifics of this after we do it)
 - Tissue paper flowers and decorate windows with flower gel stickers
 - construction paper flowers
 - Go to a florist and let the girls pick out their favorite flower stem.
 - make and decorate cookies with flower cookie cutters
 - cut out flowers from a magazine and make a collage.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I've lost my marbles....

This is a true statement. Some days I really feel like I've lost 'em.  For instance, several weeks ago I went to the grocery store for spaghetti sauce and a few other things. I get home and what did I forget? The spaghetti sauce. So, I go again the next day. Again, I forget the spaghetti sauce. How does this happen to a 34 year old. I am slightly frightened.  But, the good news is that I have some real marbles and I know where they are. And, my kids now get so excited when the marbles come out.  Here's why......

Marble Painting:  Here's what you need.

1. An empty box (preferable with a white inside)

2. Craft Paint

3. Marbles

Let the fun begin!!!

Step One:  Let your kiddos squeeze blobs of paint into the empty box (or box lid).

Step Two: Have the kiddos toss in five or six marbles and start swirling them around.

Step Three:  Watch in amazement while your little ones produce some very cool art. I'm seriously framing a group of these that my girls did (they look even better in person) and hanging them in my formal living room.

Even if your not ready to hang these on your walls, they are a cheap, easy and non-messy (love it!) activity.  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Simple Dinner

Do you all ever have those nights where you run out of time to cook dinner, it's too late to go out, and everyone in you family is hungry now?  Well, when I say "simple dinner", I mean reeeealy simple. Three ingredients simple.  Five minutes simple. I don't think you can get simpler than that. And, it's really pretty good. So, here's what you need: 2 large cans of black beans; 1 can of sweet corn (drained); 1 small jar of mild salsa (or spice it up as much as you want).  Mix it all together in a sauce pan and cook it until it's warm.  Ta da!  You're done. Really, you're done. Not only have you just fixed a good, filling and nutritious dinner, but you have done it in 5 minutes flat. Impressive, huh? Let's call it black bean soup or chili or "thank you Lord for the easiest dinner ever." If you're really over zealous, you can top it off with sour cream, cilantro or green onions. Throw some corn bread or ginger bread alongside it and your suddenly gourmet.  (Side note - did you know you can buy half loaves of bread at Whole foods? They sit on top of the fresh bread counter and although the selection isn't huge, they are all very cheap....fyi.)  So, next time you run out of time, are low on groceries or just don't have the energy to whip up something fancy, give it a try!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Theme Four: VBS and Swimming

We took a week off from our themes this week because of VBS and swimming.  The girl's swim teacher wears a swim cap sometimes, so of course, they wanted one too. I could barely keep my camera still from laughing. They were so serious about their caps (sorry for the poor quality; I had to use my phone)!!!  Our theme for next week is Gardening.  I'm excited because we have lots of fun stuff to do.  I'm also going to post on marble painting this weekend. If you need some cheap, but precious art for your home, this is the way to get it! I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Theme 3: Sports

Our third week's theme was sports. I chose this theme because we had swim lessons every day.  To go alongside that, I introduced the girls to different sport everyday. Some were new and some weren't, but it was great to have something to focus on.  I also found a sports drink at Walmart (close to the check out lines) that was in bottles shaped like soccer and base balls. Two for a dollar. I didn't like the drink at all, so I emptied it out and filled it with lemonade. It's amazing how a cool (and thematic) drink makes every sport more fun.  I also found "Care Bare" mitts with balls at TJMaxx. We used those on the days we practiced catch. Here are the other sports we covered each day.
 - Soccer
 - Catch
 - Tball
 - Hoola Hooping (I know, it's a stretch).
 - Golf (we went and played mini golf at Top Golf)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Theme 2: Art

Our second week's theme was Art. Here's what we did:

- Went to the Dallas Museum of Art
- Went to the Nasher
- Marble painting. I'll explain this in my next post. It's my new favorite thing.
- Food painting (simply add food coloring to sweetened condensed milk. Let your kids paint bread, large marshmallows or anything that might absorb the color. It's a fun activity and sweet snack)

- Painting letters (I bought large block letters at Joanns and let the girls have at them with craft paint.)
- We didn't get to do this, but I'd intended to go to Purple Glaze and paint pottery.

Theme 1: Animals

Week one was Animals. Here's what we did:

 - we went to two zoos (Dallas and Ft. Worth)
 -  watched some clips from "Planet Earth"
 - made collages from pictures of animals we cut from magazines
 - read our books that are about animals
 - ate animal crackers
 - made banana bread (because monkeys love bananas)
 - made necklaces out of animal beads
 - made a frog out of a toilet paper roll (google toilet paper roll frog)
 - played Animal Scramble (a really fun game you can get on Amazon)
 - played animal charades 

At the start of the week I planned what we would do each day, so we'd have a sense of structure. Inevitably, we moved things around because life happens. That's the beauty of this - it's a completely flexible type of structure. So go, have a great animal week!

A Simply Simple Summer

Summer. I love Summer. Kind of. I love long days, warm weather, swimming pools and snow-cones. But with that comes long days, sweaty kids, constant sun screen application and stained shirts. That's why I kind of love Summer. Let's admit it, days are long when you have small kids, no school and lots of time. But, I don't want to waste that time. At the end of last Summer, I looked back with regret. What did I do that my kids would really value and remember as they get older? I know we filled our time and had fun, but even I can't remember what we did. This Summer is going to be different. We can't take a vacation like we did last year, so I'm going to have to create memories at home. Here's my plan: Themes.

In the Spring I came up with 14 themes for each week of Summer (minus the week we have Vacation Bible School). Each theme helps me guide our play, our outings, our crafts and even our snacks. It narrows down the 5,000,000+ craft ideas that are out there, our over 200 books we could choose from and all the places we could potentially visit in our city. We're already a couple of weeks into it and I tell you, its' fun. Here are the themes....

1. Animals (May 23 - 29)
2. Art (May 30 - June 5)
3. Sports (June 6 - 12)
- we have VBS and Swim Lessons this week, so no theme-
4. Garden (June 20 - 26)
5. America (June 27 - July 3)
6. Transportation (July 4 - 10)
7. Dance (July 11 - 17)
8. Ocean (July 18 - 24
9. Royalty (July 25 - 31)
10. Farming (Aug. 1 - 7)
11. Bugs and Butterflies (Aug. 8 - 14)
12. Birds (Aug. 15-21)
13. Camping (Aug. 22-28)
14. Cooking (Aug. 29 - Sept. 4)

With each theme, I've compiled a list of crafts, snacks, activities, games and/or outings for us to do throughout the week. Don't get me wrong, I haven't filled our week up. We still have lots of time for free play, rest, play dates, errands and life (remember, I'm trying to keep things simple). But now, each week is memorable. Each day holds something new and gives me a chance to teach something different about our world. I don't have to scramble to come up with things to do and each week my girls can look forward to learning about something new.

I know we're already into Summer, but I'll try to catch you up. For the next few days, I'm going to fill you in on what the past couple of weeks and then I'll move on to what is to come.


Hello. I'm Shannon. I'm on a quest to save Simple. You see, Simple is lost. Maybe complicated took it. Maybe it was complex. Either way, it's convoluted and finding simple won't be easy. Won't you join me?

The purpose of this blog is to get back to the simple things in life. You see, I live in a big city. There are lots of activities, social obligations, pressures, intensities and luxuries all around me. It's so easy for me to let myself be pulled/guided/deceived/defined by what I do and have, by what my kids do and have, by my house, my car, my friends, my activities, my vacation spot and on and on and on. Don't get me wrong, I love nice things. I love to do nice things. I love people, excitement and adventure. But, I don't want to get lost in those things like Simple did. As my husband and I raise our children, we want them to look around and see the simple things: creation, not concrete and steel; pretend, not pretense; creativity, not conventional. But, I need accountability. That's what I hope this blog will do for me. Hold me accountable to keeping things simple as I share some of those simple things with you. So don't worry Simple, here we come...