Just Piddlin'

http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/

Just Piddlin' is all about motherhood and fitting in what's important. With our daily coffee, we cook, get the kids from place to place, make something with yarn, and try to stay organized.

What's your favorite family tradition?

What's the most challenging thing about being both a blogger and a mom?

What's the most rewarding thing about being a mom?

How do you balance your daily routine with kids and exercise?

Frances Frost

To fit in my workouts, i use the waiting around time. My gym has childcare - this was more important when the kids (4) were smaller, but even now, it's still useful. I schedule some of their activities - swimming lessons, for example, there, then the others can swim, too or go to the childcare room, and I can work out. When I have to tag along to their activities, I take my sneakers and other workout stuff, whether some hand weights or a tennis racket, and workout or run while they're doing their thing. Also, I joined a tennis team with most matches at night, so by the time for me to go, usually around 8 pm, everyone's settled and Dad just needs to put them all to bed.
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How do you make shopping for your family's clothes affordable?

Frances Frost

I always shop the sales racks, even at Target. For coats and seasonal items like that - I buy a size bigger to last 2 seasons, and I buy gender neutral colors - blue, red, orange, yellow. Since I have 3 girls and a boy, I found that my son would end up with a pink coat, I'd always have to buy him a new coat, or my youngest daughter wouldn't have a hand-me-down coat. So now, I get a plain (no print), acceptable to everyone color and they can get whichever coat fits, by the time it gets to my youngest, we might sew a patch or ribbon or something on it if she thinks it looks too boy-ish.
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How Do You Make Time For Exercise?

Frances Frost

I try to get in my exercise before the kids are up or while they are in school, but sometimes that doesn't work and then I go to my "mommy workout" plan - exercising while I'm waiting for them at their activities - running on the track while they are at swim practice, hitting tennis balls during their basketball practice, running around the neighborhood during play rehearsal. I wrote up a few of my tips, with some help from a personal trainer on my blog - Just Piddlin' - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/07/workout-on-playground.html
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What's one of your favorite one-pot recipes? (Soup, casseroles, etc.)

Frances Frost

I regularly make ribs, pulled pork, chicken in the crock pot. I recently tried spaghetti - it turned out great and *ding ding ding* the best part - the kids loved it. Its real simple - spaghetti and all the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, go off to do whatever you do and come back to a delicious pot of spaghetti & sauce. my blog post for more details is here - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/06/easy-cooking-crockpot-spaghetti.html
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What's a great item to include in a birthday goodie bag? Please include a link to a photo if you have one.

Frances Frost

I've got 3 girls & 1 boy, so we're all over the place with goodie bags. You'd think the oldest (13 & 11) would be over it by now but, no, they & they friends still love 'em. And they love getting...... socks! Crazy, wild patterned socks are always a hit. You can always find some fun options somewhere like Target, doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. Lipgloss or small nailpolishes are good, too. Costumer jewelry for the little ones. And rubber balls or small building kits for the boy.
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What's a great school lunch box meal your kids love? Include a link to a photo if you have one!

Frances Frost

I make the kids' sandwiches into tortilla roll-ups or stuff into pita bread instead of on sliced bread. Maybe it's the change from regular bread, but they like them better. I fill them with expected sandwich fillings, like ham and cheese; leftovers from dinner like baked or fried fish, chicken fingers; or something they usually would claim they don't like,such as chicken salad. I can also sneak in some spinach or shredded carrots for a veggie. Spread with a little bit of their favorite dressing (ranch, in my house) and they've got a tasty sandwich!
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What's your best budget tip for shopping for back-to-school necessities like school supplies, backpacks, uniforms, labels and lunchboxes? Include a link to a photo if you have one!

Frances Frost

I'm shopping for four kids - 2 elementary and 2 middle-school - that adds up to a lot of pencils and paper. I always take the kids, not just so that they can pick out what color notebook to buy, but also - give them their own pile of stuff and money to pay for it to get in the check-out line. Often, the sales items are a limited quantity per person - let each kid buy their own allowed quantity. Labels - I buy them cheap online, print them myself using Avery labels on the printer, or print them from my label maker. Sharpies are also great for those hard to label items. http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/pack-your-bags-back-to-school.html
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What are signs that a child isn't being challenged enough in school?

Frances Frost

Although I don't want my children to struggle in school, I don't expect it to be a cakewalk either. If they are coming home without any homework, or so little homework that they got it done in school or on the bus home, that tells me its too easy. *Yes, I'm a homework advocate, I think kids should get homework every day to reinforce what they learned in school. In this situation, I have met with the teacher and let them know my child needed more challenging assignments, whether it was graded or not. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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What's your best household management tip for organizing the family's school year schedules? Include a link to a photo if you have one!

Frances Frost

We have a color-coded spreadsheet that shows all of our regularly scheduled activities. Everyone's practices, rehearsals, carpools are listed. I also include specials at school that require some kind of prep (bring library books, wear sneakers for gym, etc.) and - very important for busy moms - my own activities, both administrative (PTA meetings) and personal (pilates class, book club) so that I don't forget myself in all the running around. A happy, relaxed mom = a happy family. An example of our spreadsheet and the folder I carry all of our info in is here on my blogpost - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/keeping-track-of-family.html
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How did you feel dropping off your child on the first day of school? Please share a link to a picture if you have one!

Frances Frost

My oldest is going into the 8th grade this year, so her first "first day of school" was many years ago. But each year, as my 4 kids head out to the bus stop (long ago, they stopped letting me drive them to school and walk them to their classrooms) - they are so excited and I'm excited for all the year has in store for them, but I'm also a little sad that the sleeping in mornings and long days of hanging out are over. And that each year of school means another year closer to them leaving me. A few years back, I started hosting my mommy friends for breakfast on the first day of school. We can tear up, coax each other not to cry, laugh, rejoice, all over a cup of coffee and pastries - and doesn't that always make everything better? http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/tick-tock-mommy-clock.html
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What's a healthy lunchbox menu your child loves?

Frances Frost

I'll make them sandwich rolls on tortillas or pita bread - and I can get in some spinach or shredded carrots, with a little bit of ranch dressing. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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What are your best tips for birthday party invitations? (What to include, where to make them online, etc?)

Frances Frost

I am usually behind schedule as far as sending out birthday invites, so getting them printed somewhere is definitely not an option. I always let the kids make their own - they can create them on the computer and print them or use some of the billion scrapbooking products I have around the house. I make sure that they include their name & age, our address (or party location), my name and phone number. They enjoy making their own and adds to their excitement about their upcoming party. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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At what age did you (or would you) give your child a cell phone? (Please include any contracts or conditions you gave your child with this use)

Frances Frost

We got our middle school girls phones this year. But not for all those "in case they need to contact their parents" reasons - but b/c I understood the peer pressure to have one. I know - bad parenting. Put it on the list of the mistakes I have/will make with the kids. More on my decision making here on my blog -- http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/01/blame-it-on-jeans.html But there are a few conditions - it stays on the kitchen counter at night, no phones go to the bedrooms after bedtime - we (mom & dad) can check the messages, texts, emails when and if we choose - not to be used at the dinner table at home or in a restaurant, not at church - they can be taken away at anytime - not doing well in school, not keeping up with other must-do activities (piano practice, reading, chores) - oh and please please don't get it taken away at school - they will never see them again. www.slackermomof4,blogspot,com
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Cabbage Patch Kids, the Bionic Woman, Lite-Brite...what toy from your childhood are you most nostalgic about? Please include a link if you can find one.

Frances Frost

I loved my Barbies and my board games, but in the "nostalgic" category - has to be an over-sized teddy bear my uncle gave me when my family left our home country to move to the U.S. It still in my house and has made its rounds in my kids rooms, has been refurbshed, and had its arm and leg sewn on countless times. No one's allowed to play with it b/c its so delicate now. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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What are your best tips for Black Friday shopping? (Please include a link if it's relevant.)

Frances Frost

I don't really do Black Friday, mainly because I don't like getting up so early in the morning - still sleeping off all that dessert from dinner. BUT now that some stores are opening at midnight on Thursday, I did go out last year - b/c I'm always up at midnight. If anything, I will do that again. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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What's your family's favorite Thanksgiving treat? Please link to your recipe.

Frances Frost

Thanksgiving is one of my big baking days - especially when, like this year, my SIL is hosting and I get dessert duty. Sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, brownies, some other sweet I want to try out. And then no family get together is complete without my FIL's banana pudding.
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What's your favorite recipe for feeding lunch to a holiday crowd? Please include a link to an image and recipe!

Frances Frost

My family itself is a "crowd" so these school vacation days require me to start thinking about the big lunches, then I'm ready for friends & family to drop by through the holidays. I like to make food that's simple, can stay easily heated (like in a crockpot) or served room temperature. Chili and chicken wings works well, especially for a football Sunday. I also like to make a big pot of turkey gumbo (perfect use of that turkey carcass). If I plan ahead, I like to make Korean dumplings - I make them early in the day and then just fry them up as kids and family wander thru the house asking "what's there to eat?"
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What makes a great family holiday card? Please share a link to a helpful image or resource.

Frances Frost

I like the family photos and the newsletters are entertaining, but the special touch? An actual, in ink holidays note and signature from the family (or family representative, usually, mom). With all the electronic messages and mass printed cards, its nice to see real, actual handwriting from your friends & family.
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Aside from a birth certificate, what legal documents should a parent file after having a child?

Frances Frost

I agree with the other post-ers of social security number. I'll add - updating your health insurance.
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Can you recommend a great hot lunchbox meal for kids for the cold weather months? Please include a link to your recipe.

Frances Frost

I send leftover anything from dinner that fits into a thermos - spaghetti, chili, macaroni, rice and sliced beef. My kids also like quesadillas - I make them up real quick in the morning - a couple of tortillas, shredded cheese; I will add meat sometimes - leftover chicken, pepperoni slices, ham slices. Wrapped in foil, they stay warm enough until lunch time. For the mornings - I will put hot chocolate in a thermos for my daughter, something to keep her warm on the bus stop.
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What's your family's favorite nostalgic, silly, or practical holiday tradition? (If there's an image that goes along with your tradition, please share a link.)

Frances Frost

For the kids' Christmas stockings, I give each 3 gifts - to represent that gifts brought to baby Jesus, gold, frankincense, and myrhh. I give them something of value (could be cash, gift card, etc.), something for their body (lotion, lipgloss) and a religious item. This year - I thought we would start having an Advent calendar, but then realized that we are in a debate on whether to count from 1-24 or 24-1. Either way - they are ensured 24 pieces of chocolate.
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You know you're a mom when... (please fill in the blank!) and link to a picture if it's relevant.

Frances Frost

People don't recognize you when you don't have 4 children following behind you.
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What's a delicious meal you can serve to your family when you're trying to lose weight?

Frances Frost

Being on a different meal plan than your family can present some challenges. As a vegetarian, I face a similar situation (I've listed my post about vegetarian meal options). One of the easiest ways to meet everyone's meal needs is to fix a full healthy meal, with something for everybody, rather than cooking two wholly different meals. Its hard to suggest a particular meal, b/c people are all on different diets (South Beach, low carb, vegan, no cook, hi protein, etc.) but here's a few ideas. - Cook your families full meal - you fill your plate with the veggies and a salad, ignoring the carbs and meat - Whatever you've selected for your own "diet" meal - cook for the whole family - grilled chicken, baked fish, salad - Eat what the family is eating, but just smaller proportions Whatever you do - don't skip meals, its unhealthy for you and an unhealthy message for your kids.
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Does your child's school do lockdown drills, and if so, how does your child feel about them?

Frances Frost

My kids' schools (elementary and middle) have them on a regular basis for years. They don't seem to bother the kids, they're part of their regular routine. We had fire drills, tornado drills, and some kind of bombing drill (i dont know what those desks were going to protect us from) when I was in school. Now the kid's have "red" and "blue" - the colors are a signal to the teachers of the situation, the color coding makes it not seem so scary.
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From Twister to "sardines in a can," we're always looking for indoor games that get our kids moving and burning off energy! Can you share a physical game your kids love that can be played inside?

Frances Frost

Indoor activity is hard, considering the obvious household obstacles (coffee table, TV, etc.) but on rainy, cold, snowy days, the kids do need to move. Most times the kids play some of the active games on Wii like tennis, bowling, etc. and they love to DANCE, either the dance games on Wii, or the old-fashioned, turn on some music and move.
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What helps you stay organized? Whether it's a special coupon binder, calendar app or color-coded closet, we want to know all the little tricks and products that help keep your life organized. Please share a photo if you have one.

Frances Frost

Between the 6 of us, we're always going somewhere and need to take something with us. I wouldn't say we're super-organized, but we're getting there. Calendar - I use cozi.com for an online calendar - everyone can access it, it sends reminders to the appropriate person's phone or email, its color-coded. And its easy to use. I also use a regular, old-school datebook that you actually write in, too. Schedule - I make a spreadsheet of our standard activities and post that for general reference. Misc. - I've started using my cell-phone to maintain some order in my head. The camera function is great for shopping, organizing, being inspired. Oh - and taking pictures of the kids! More on my scheduling efforts - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/keeping-track-of-family.html
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What's the most unique or fun way to announce a pregnancy that you've seen? Please share a link with a picture if it's relevant.

Frances Frost

I personally didn't do anything that exciting. But a friend called me, chit-chatted, asked my how old my daughter was (odd question since I knew she knew the answer) and asked if that was old enough to babysit. And just today - a friend posted a pic of a sonogram with the baby "holding" a football :-)
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Do you make a treat that's inspired by a Girl Scout cookie flavor? Please share a link to your delcious recipe with a picture.

Frances Frost

We love baking our favorite Girl Scout cookies into a batch of brownies - yumm!
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How did you track milestones and special moments during your baby's first year? Please share a link to an image if it's relevant.

Frances Frost

For my son - I took a picture of him every week on his birth "day" which was Thursday. I used disposable cameras that were only for this weekly photo so they wouldn't get lost. I took pictures at home, on special occassions, on vacation - whatever was going on. Just 1, always on Thursday. At the end of the year, I developed them and put all the photos in his baby scrapbook. How fun to see his growth over the year.
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Quilts made from outgrown onesies, benches from cribs, spice jars from baby food containers... how have you re-purposed your old baby and kid items? Please share a photo if you have one.

Frances Frost

Like most active kids, my daughter had a collection of tee-shirts from school, camp, church, even birthday parties. As she outgrew them, I had put them aside. When she left elementary school, I made them into a quilt. I cut out a panel from each tee, about 12"x12", interfaced the blocks so they wouldn't stretch, then sewed them all together. I added quilt batting and a back. Some of the trim pattern was left over material from her nursery set. (Photo is not on my blog, but I posted on flckr)
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What are your favorite kid-friendly picnic eats? Please share a link to your recipe and picture if you have one.

Frances Frost

I like food that can be grabbed up easily, no utensils and not a whole lot of mess, whether at the beach, poolside, at the zoo - or on a busy day, in the car. Some of my favorites: quesadillas; seaweed rolls (sushi style); sandwiches; and fruit. I have tips on how to prepare these foods and how to pack it all on my blog post from my "Pack Your Bags" series.
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What's your favorite kid-friendly sandwich that serves well in a lunchbox, too? Please provide a link to a recipe with a picture if you have one.

Frances Frost

Aside from the traditional PB & J and turkey & cheese sandwiches? I make the kids tortilla rolls (kinda like a sandwich, right?) - turkey & cheese with spinach and a dab of dressing, chicken salad, leftover roast from dinner - you can put almost anything in there and it's a little bit different. Pita bread is a good option, too - same fillings, but it seems different with another "bread".
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What's your kids' favorite recipe or meal to make themselves? Please include a link to a recipe with a picture.

Frances Frost

My kids have 2 stand-bys that they can make by themselves, once I turn on the stove for them: spaghetti with meat sauce and tacos with all the fixin's. I've taught them how to boil and drain the spaghetti noodles, cook and season the ground beef, use either canned tomatoes or jarred spaghetti sauce, and toss together a salad. For tacos, they (again) cook and season the ground beef, and arrange all the toppings - cheese, lettuce, salsa, and whatever else they think would taste good.
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What's your go-to potluck recipe? Please share a link to the recipe and photo if you have one.

Frances Frost

I'm terrible at potlucks b/c I'm always thinking, "if I make this what else will there be to go with it?" or "what if someone already made this?" so instead of a dish, I will go with dessert if that's an option. Cookies, brownies, but usually red velvet cake.
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Can you suggest a fun summer activity like berry picking that helps kids learn where food comes from? Please link to a picture we can use if you have one.

Frances Frost

My kids and I do enjoy berry picking, and we can hardly pass a "pick your own" orchard without pulling in for a basket of apples or peaches. We also make trips to the local farmers market - not as direct as the orchard visits, but still a different experience than the grocery store. They also go fishing with their father, then enjoy delicious fresh fish for dinner - from the ocean to the table.
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What's your family's favorite, healthy homemade summer treat that's NOT a popsicle? Please share a link to a recipe and picture if you have one.

Frances Frost

We have an ice cream maker and get creative with the ingredients to make different flavors .a coffee, banana split, strawberry. And we've also figured out making sorbet with fresh fruit. It takes about 30 minutes for a fresh batch.
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Do you have a hobby you share with your child? If so, let us know what it is and at what age kids can start participating, and links to a picture we can use if you have one!

Frances Frost

As a child, my mother taught me to crochet and cook (among other things). I'm working on passing down these same skills to my daughters. They are picking up cooking faster than crocheting. I think 5 or 6 years old is about the youngest age to start with either, though it would have to be simple things - crocheted chain stitches and rolling cookie dough. Here's a blog post about our three generations cooking dinner together.
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From juicy grilled peaches to zesty chicken, we're searching for family-favorite BBQ recipes. Please share a link to your recipe along with a large picture we can use.

Frances Frost

On our Girl Scout camping trip, we made peach cobbler and banana s'mores - easy and delicious.
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What are the most essential swimming skills for kids to learn?

Frances Frost

My kid's are excellent swimmers - 2 of them are on the swim team. However, I still warn/remind/require that they never go swimming alone. At the beach, they like to go on walks, and again, I remind them not to go anywhere near the water (there's a pond and small, shallow inlet where they walk) by themselves.
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Please share a favorite recipes for a yummy smoothie your kids love and may not realize is good for them.

Frances Frost

Smoothies are a great way to get kids - and ourselves - to get their dairy and fruit. The basic recipe: ice, yogurt/milk (whatever kind you like), fruit. After hearing a lot about it, I've also tried adding spinach - that can work, but you've got to add a bit more fruit and agave nectar or it tastes a little odd. Recently, I had one from a local restaurant that had cooked sweet potatoes and it was yummy.
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What do you do with all your digital photos? Please share your best tip for rediscovering memories and de-cluttering your hard drive.

Frances Frost

I eventually print my pictures for family scrapbooks. From a recent vacation to Europe, I had A LOT of photos from art museums and historic churches - I used Kodak Gallery to make a coffee-table art book; it turned out really nice. www.slackermomof4.blogspot.com
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What's a simple meal your kids like to make for a family dinner? Please include a link to a picture and recipe if you have one.

Frances Frost

As another blogger said, pizza is definitely a favorite. The kids also like making tacos! The key was teaching them how to cook the ground beef. Now that they can do that - they enjoy picking out all the fixin's - lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream, shredded carrots - and laying out a taco bar.
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What's a great kid snack that would travel well on a car or plane trip? Please include a link to a picture if you have one.

Frances Frost

We usually pack some kind of trail mix - store bought or a mix of pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins; granola bars; and easy fruit like grapes. I've also made these no-bake oatmeal bites that travel well. And we always carry our own water bottles so that we don't have to buy water when we're out.
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If you've re-entered the workforce after being a SAHM, what's your best tip for other moms who are beginning this process?

Frances Frost

I've just self-published my first novel - and all that goes with it is a full-time job. I may technically not be in the "work-force" again, but am working at home. Moms who are doing other work-at-home jobs, may be in the same situation as I am. My biggest challenge - and something I have to remind myself of - is to set boundaries, set "office hours". When you work at home, it's easy to slip back to work and leave the family to themselves. (perhaps the same with those who have work that they bring home.) I try to take a break from "work" and shift my hours when kid's aren't home or also similarly occupied (homework, reading, etc,)
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Do you use your slow cooker/crock pot even in summer? If you have a great warm-weather crock pot recipe, please share a link to it with other moms!

Frances Frost

Just tried this the other day - hashbrown casserole in the crockpot. I put all of this in the crockpot:1 bag shredded hash brown potatoes, 6 eggs, 1 cup cheese, butter. Mixed it together, turned on the crockpot, and went to bed. Next morning - hot, fluffy hashbrowns. It was great for a busy morning when everyone had somewhere to go and noone had time to cook. (You could add cooked sausage, too, but I don't eat meat.) I have a couple others on my blog, Just Piddlin' - Asian Chicken, Crockpot Spaghetti
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What are the best art museums in the country to take kids to and why? If you've visited one with your kids that they loved and you have a picture we can use, please also share a link to the photo.

Frances Frost

I took my kids recently to the Newseum - and although its not considered an "art" museum, there's an awesome, emotionally moving display of Pulitzer Prize winning photos. It's educational and interesting for older kids, but I wouldn't recommend for younger kids; apparently most award-winning photos are not happy ones.
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