Easy Water Game You Can Make for Your Kids

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Year’s ago I made these sponge balls for the kids and they have been a family favorite ever since! We’ve had hours of fun throwing soaked sponge balls at each other on a hot summer’s day. We think it’s really fun to pelt each other with “water bombs”. We have played dodgeball with them, war, and then just see who you can get the wettest!

We are in the middle of planning a “messy birthday party” for one of the kids and it was no surprise that this game was on the list. While getting ready for this party I dug up some of our old ones and quickly declared them unusable. They were nasty-gross from years of play. Time for new ones!

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You will need: small sponges, ties, buckets, scissors

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What you do: Cut each sponge into 4 strips.

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Put 8 strips together to make a cube of sorts.

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Take a tie and cinch it very tightly around the cube’s middle and then twist some of the “arms” to create the sponge-ball.

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When you are ready to play, put them in buckets of water and let the kids have fun with soaking wet sponges.

Always lots of fun.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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Our CSA has been sending zucchini after zucchini after zucchini to us. Unfortunately, my kids don’t like it – not even sautéed. So, I needed to find ways to use this up and get it in them. I found that adding chocolate and sugar to it worked!

So, here is a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread that we are using every week right now. I even took some down to the new neighbors. I hope they liked it!

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mix well. In separate bowl, combine sugar and eggs, beat until well blended. Add oil and vanilla; beat until combined. Stir in zucchini. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon evenly into loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool.

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This is the kind of treat you want to sit down and share with a friend on the porch.
Let’s all give it a try this week.

Garden Update

This is the first summer I have attempted a vegetable garden. I have envied many, many gardens over the years and thought I didn’t have the space for one. Then I heard about square foot gardening and realized I could have a garden in as little as 4 square feet. I may not be able to feed my family on it, but we could learn a little and eat a little.

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You may remember this picture taken right after I planted the cucumbers and green peppers in May.

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And this is what it looks like today.

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We are harvesting cucumbers everyday now and I think we will get about 15-20 out of it by the end of the season. They are crisp, juicy and sweet!

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The green peppers are on their way. We have 3 that should be ready soon and it’s hard to tell how many more we will end up with since their season is just starting.

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For years I have been growing basil in a little pot. This year it isn’t doing as well as it has in the past. I just moved it to a sunnier spot to see if that will help. But there is plenty for my tomato basil mozzarella sandwiches. And the other day I made basic boxed tortellini, drizzled it with olive oil and threw chopped tomatoes and fresh basil strips on top. Oh, yummy!

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Finally, the mint is doing nicely. Again, not as well as in past years, so I moved it as well, but plenty for us. I love mint on green beans (oddly enough it is a very tasty combo). I throw some salt and lime juice with minced mint onto blanched green beans for a quick snack or dinner side.

But the one thing that is new this year is mint tea. I actually had to look up a recipe for this because I just wasn’t sure. But yes, it is just this easy: pick 7-10 leaves, put them with 2 cups of water in the microwave for 5-7 minutes. Then stir for 3 minutes and strain the leaves out. I add a touch of raw sugar and love it. Honestly, it isn’t any better than the tea bags you buy in the store, but the fact that I grew it and just plucked it from my garden puts it over the edge.

I hope you are enjoying your garden this summer! Share some of your favorite quick recipes with us!

Why it’s a big deal we went to camp the second time

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I LOVED camp when I was a kid. It was the highlight of my year – every year. From the time I was 9-years-old I paid my own way to Sandy Creek Bible Camp. And as soon as I was old enough I went to work there. My camp years ended only after I graduated from college.

So, let me say it again, I LOVE CAMP. And when I say that, I mean: I have a deep, deep feeling of affection for this place called camp not just a “yeah, camp is a lot of fun, woo hoo!” kind of thing. It’s much deeper than that.

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When I think back to where this deep feeling for camp came from, it is two fold. First, I loved the quiet time in nature with God. I really enjoyed the beautiful surroundings while I read my Bible and prayed. Years later when I was going through the hardest years of my life emotionally I would go to parks near where I lived and sit and journal. It mimicked the place I felt the most secure and peaceful as a child – camp. It was beautiful, serene and it felt safe.

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The second reason I have a deep affection for camp is the people. There, I was surrounded with kids that were following Jesus in the same way I was. For me it was refreshing having Jesus be a word that, when spoken, didn’t make people cringe, walk away, or ignore you for days. It was a place where I could be me and not be “persecuted” for it. I didn’t have to hide my relationship with God there. It was not only OK to believe in Jesus but it was cool. Imagine that! Having come from a home where we were not able to freely and openly discuss our belief in God, camp was a haven, a second family for me. It was a warm, welcoming, comfortable and embracing space with people who loved me for all that I was.

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I know camp isn’t that for most people. Take my husband, he respects my love for camp, but he doesn’t share the same affection for it I do. When I approached him for the first time with going to camp two years ago he agreed to go. I knew he was doing it for me and I appreciated it very much. He even got into some of the pre-camp activities like building the family boat for the wacky boat race. He was fully on board and I was really excited to share this experience with my family.

Our week at camp was very, very hot and uncomfortable, but went well for the most part until the last night.

That’s when the good times ended.

During the canoe races my husband volunteered to be in the “man of war” canoe race. All the brave men were doing it. And we don’t run from friendly competition in this family – we run TO it. It’s how we were made. There weren’t many rules for this race, just get your boat out and back with all your oars and men first. There were 4 men per team and 3 or 4 teams, I can’t remember. It was a real manly-mans race. And it got crazy.

I can’t remember if they won or not, it was all a bit of a blur. As the teams wrestled to get their boat to shore the top of my husband’s pinky finger was pinched off between an oar and a rung on their boat. It was a mad rush to find the piece of finger and get him to the hospital. A lot of blood, a lot of running.

I was scared, and I was crushed. After I got over the fear that he was never going to have the tip of his finger again I resolved myself to a life without camp. Right there in the emergency room I was devastated that I was never going to go to family camp again. How selfish of me.

I just assumed he was NEVER going to go back there. And who could blame him.

After the two surgeries that it took to re-build his finger we were finely able to joke about it between ourselves and good friends. But every time we joked there was a part of me that was so very sad that we weren’t going to go back.

I waited a year and a half and then mustered the nerve to just ask if he would be willing to go to camp again by chance.

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He said yes! Without much reservation he said YES.

Before he had the chance to really think about what he had just agreed to I ran to the computer and registered us.

I know he did it for me. And I love him for it. What a gift. My husband is very thoughtful in general. He buys little things for me that he knows I like. He brings chocolate chip cookies home for me when there are some left over from a meeting he attended, he runs across airports to get my favorite Chicago popcorn on his layover, he reminds me to take my vitamins, he brings desert home for me when he has a work dinner at a nice restaurant and I sat home eating mac and cheese with the kids, he turns my shower on for me so it can heat up, he puts the toothpaste on my side when he is done with it and I haven’t used it yet, he starts the teapot for me to make tea. He is always doing thoughtful things.

Me, I sit in hospital sulking that I won’t be going back to camp while he lays there with his finger ripped off wondering if he will ever have a fingertip again.

And only a year and a half later he quickly agrees to go back again, for me.

Thank you, dear, I love you! Thank you for doing this for me because you know I love it. You are very good to me.

So we went again this summer. It was a blast, and thankfully, we returned with all our fingers and toes intact!

We went to camp and we…

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dressed up in costume, dug for treasure,

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made crafts, played, sang, danced,

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swam, built a boat, lost the boat, enjoyed treats at the snack shack,

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worshiped, learned, tried new things, saw old friends, made new friends,

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played games, rock climbed, paddle boated, swung,

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competed, won, lost, laughed, ate s’mores,

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went on a treasure hunt, watched a magic show,

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got dirty, canoed, zip lined, played tag on the beach, smiled,

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went on a hay ride, HAD A BLAST.

Craft Closet Clean-Up

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One of the first projects I did in our new house was the craft closet. It started out as a bare closet with wooden shelves on the right side. I purchased a shelving system from Lowes and installed it in a few hours. I did this entire thing myself ladies, it was that easy! Then I labeled some tubs that I already had and organized away.

Once every few months I have to go through and re-organize, throw away, and straighten up but now that I have a system that is all labeled – it is much easier. This weekend I tackled the clean up in here and as part of my house purge, I got a rid of a lot of junk that had accumulated. Here is what it looked like when I was done:

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My favorite part of the closet is this over-the-door shoe hanger that I turned into a wrapping station. Now I can always find the tape, scissors, wrap and ribbon! Ahhh. If you like this you can find a million great ideas on Pinterest.

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Now for a few before-the-clean-up pictures…

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