Minestrone Soup

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Cold winter nights are just begging for a hearty soup packed with veggies, and this one fits the bill! I make it almost as thick as a stew, but if you want a more traditional minestrone soup, add an additional 2 cups broth to the pot.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) undrained cans diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
  • 1 russet potato, cubed
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained can cannellini beans
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1 chopped zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red onion; saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the broth, canned tomatoes, potato, celery, carrots, thyme, oregano, and basil to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the cannellini beans, corn, zucchini, parsley, and orzo. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Bread rolls are all you need to round out the meal!

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Shredded Paper Sandbox

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I was looking for a relatively clean indoor sandbox material for Veronika (meaning, easy to clean up!), and realized that a pack of shredded crinkle party paper would be lots of fun. If you don’t have some from the store on hand (available in the gift wrap section), you can also use shredded paper right out of your home’s paper shredder.

The package I had was green paper, which made me think of green grass, so I decided to add lots of little toy ponies. This had the added bonus of making it feel like springtime on a cold winter day!

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Veronika loved trotting the ponies through the “grass”…

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…or burying them and then uncovering them.

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I also added a cup on the side and she loved filling it to the brim with the green crinkles and then dumping it out.

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This particular “sandbox” was great for auditory sensory play, too, since the paper makes great crinkling sounds as you play with it.

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Eventually, she started spilling the “grass” beyond the tray I had set out, with ponies trotting to and fro, so it was nice to know that this material would be easy to clean up once she was through.

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If you do use white shredded paper, this might be fun for a sensory box with a winter or arctic theme instead!

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In sum, this was a great option for an indoor sandbox.

Bread Roll Puppets

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Today, Travis had full permission to play with his food because we turned a bread roll into a puppet!

To start, I showed Travis how to make a “smile” in a French bread roll by cutting a slit in the middle like a mouth.

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Poke two additional holes above the mouth with a butter knife to be the eyes. We filled these with chocolate chips, although raisins might have worked better.

For a silly tongue, fold up your favorite meatless deli slice (like Tofurky), and insert into the mouth.

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Let the showtime begin! Travis immediately began both eating the puppet and being silly with it, squeezing so the mouth could move. The rolls were so delicious that the puppet didn’t last long! But if you manage to slow your hungry kids down, arrange the rolls on a plate with basil or lettuce leaves as hair for a cute photo-op first.

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Milk Swirl Experiment

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Here’s a neat STEM experiment that Travis tried once before (aiming to imitate the look of the Northern Lights), but this time we were more focused on the science of surface tension and why the experiment works as it does.

I can’t vouch for every type of non-dairy milk on the market, but the activity works great with oat milk.

To start, simply pour a layer of your milk into a shallow bowl. Add drops of food coloring near the center (just one or two drops of each), close together so they are nearly touching.

Milk Swirl Experiment (1)

Now dip a q-tip swab in a bit of liquid dish soap. Touch lightly to the food coloring…

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…and watch the colors skitter away! There is definite wow factor to this one. Here’s a quick clip of our second round (because of course we needed to test it out more than once!).

Travis and I talked about what’s really happening here after all the swirly fun was done: The soap has both a hydrophilic (water-loving) end and a hydrophobic (water-fearing) end. The latter grabs onto the fat in the milk, which means all the milk molecules start to get pulled apart and the colors go skittering along with them.

All that science aside, it’s just so fun to watch! If you use a different type of non-dairy milk, please share your results in the comments!

Dance Like a Penguin

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If a cold winter day means your kids have extra energy to burn in the house, chances are you need some movement play. To wit, today we invented this arctic animal dancing game!

Veronika has a toy penguin that she currently loves, so I’ve been showing her how to “waddle” like a penguin. The silly movement is always good fun for toddlers. And heck, it’s fun and silly for moms and dads, too.

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Then it was just a matter of cranking up the music and doing our best waddle along to the tunes!

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Veronika, of course, didn’t always stick with a waddle, but that didn’t matter now that she was getting in her movement play. Soon she was marching or twirling or knee-high stepping to the beat.

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She loved making her little penguin bounce along, too!

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This gave us the idea to think of how other winter animals would move to the beat. Could we lumber along like a polar bear? Clap like a seal? Jump like an arctic hare?

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No matter what we were pretending to be, there were big smiles and lots of movement.

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