Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Family Fun?

"How can my urban family experience the autumn fun I remember as a child?"

Among all of the reasons I love fall, one of the biggest is my family's annual trip out to the pumpkin patch! It is such a nice way to spend time together and soak up the beautiful fall weather and colors. 

One of my favorite destinations is Sonny Acres located in West Chicago. Complete with a spooky shed, pumpkin patch, a petting zoo and even some small rides for the children to enjoy, it is definitely worth the 45-minute drive. Give your child their own memories of hayrides, leaves crunching underfoot, and a beautiful day with the family.

Find out more (including hours of operation, admission and photos) at their website here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Purple One-Eyed Monster Hat

Sometimes I forget to bring cloth bags to the grocery store, and I end up with a bunch of paper grocery bags. What to do?! Let's recycle them into a stylish purple one-eyed monster hat! Your child will certainly be the talk of the town, when sporting this new look for fall!

  • 1 paper grocery bag
  • 1 purple piece of construction paper
  • 1 white piece of construction paper
  • 1 black piece of construction paper
  • 1 red piece of construction paper
  • 1 handful of feathers
  • 1 handful of Easter grass
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Messy mat

  1. Lay the grocery bag flat with the bottom of the bag facing down.
  2. Glue purple construction paper on front of bag.
  3. Cut out:
    • 1 big white circle for eye
    • 1 big black circle for pupil
    • 1 red half circle for smile
    • 2 small white triangles for teeth
  4. Glue on monster eye, smile, and teeth.
  5. Glue on Easter grass and feathers.
  6. Let dry.
  7. Roll bottom of paper bag to form into a hat and adjust to child’s head size.
  8. Get ready to ROAR!!!

Week FOUR: Recap!

To be honest, I have always been a little intimidated by rice paper. I was never quite sure how to cook with it, so I always avoided it in the grocery store, thinking I should just by frozen wontons or spring rolls instead. Boy, was I wrong! Today in Taste Buddies we made crab rangoon and spring rolls with rice paper. We also made some frushi (fruit sushi) that was absolutely delicious!

I have never made crab rangoon before, and I could not believe how easy it is to make! We used rice paper for the wonton wrappers, and we soaked them in hot water for about 15 seconds. We then laid them out on a plate so we could easily scoop our crab mixture on top and rolled the wontons up in the wrap. Instead of frying our wontons, we baked ours today. The hot oil used for frying can sometimes be dangerous when you have little ones around in the kitchen. Plus, they taste great baked as well.

Spring rolls are so fun to make, and they require no baking! Once you have wrapped the ingredients in the rice paper, they are ready to eat. Who knew spring rolls were so easy to make!?

We had so much fun making our frushi today. In fact, most of the Taste Buddies ate their rice before we had time to roll the ingredients into sushi! I would suggest using as little coconut milk as possible because the rice mixture will be to runny to shape if there is too much milk. The Taste Buddies loved the rice, and we topped it off with raspberries and clementines! Yum!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week FOUR: Crab Rangoon, Spring Rolls, Plum Sauce and Frushi

  • 1 pound sea legs or any chunk artificial crab meat
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces seafood spread, optional
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (about 6, green part too)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package wonton skins
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Oil for deep frying
  1. Place crab meat, cream cheese, seafood spread, scallions, salt, onion powder and sugar into food processor and mix into a lumpy paste. If food processor is not available, chop crab and onions very fine and mix with softened cream cheese, salt, and sugar. 
  2. Place teaspoonful of mixture in middle of a wonton skin. 
  3. Moisten edges and draw up opposite corners to meet and form a package. Make sure all edges are sealed. 
  4. Deep fry until golden brown.

  • Spring roll wrappers
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/3 head of green cabbage, chopped
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup thin noodles, pre-cooked (use rice, Chinese or bean thread noodles)
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (use cilantro, basil or mint, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, grated or julienned
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (optional)
  1. Toss together all ingredients together except wrappers in large bowl. 
  2. Submerge spring roll wrappers in hot water until pliable, about 15 seconds. 
  3. Place about 2 tablespoons of mix on wrapper and wrap your spring rolls. 
  4. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

  • 3/4 (16-ounce) jar plum jam
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine jam, vinegar, brown sugar, dried onion, red pepper, garlic and ginger. 
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring. 
  3. Remove from heat.

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked sushi rice or short grain rice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 (6-ounce) carton vanilla yogurt
  • 10 orange sections
  • 20 fresh raspberries
  • Cooking spray
  1. Bring water and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan. 
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until water is almost absorbed. 
  3. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 15 minutes. 
  4. Place rice in a large bowl then add sugar, coconut milk, and salt. 
  5. Stir gently until well combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. 
  6. Coat hands with cooking spray and divide rice mixture into 20 equal portions. 
  7. Lightly press each rice ball into an oval; place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. 
  8. Top 10 of the rice ovals with 2 raspberries each and the remaining 10 with 1 orange section each, press to adhere. 
  9. Cover and chill frushi until ready to serve. Serve with yogurt for dipping!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book of the Week: "Giraffes Can't Dance" by Giles Andreae

It's 80's week here at Bubbles Academy, and let me tell you... it is a par-tay! So this week, I picked a book all about party animals. It's called Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 

What a perfect party story! It's all about Gerald the Giraffe who is very good at reaching high and standing still, but when it comes to running, skipping, and especially dancing, he just doesn't cut it. When all the animals in Africa gather for the annual "Jungle Dance", Andreae's clever rhyming verse and Parker-Rees' simply adorable illustrations dance us through the party. We waltz with warthogs, rock'n'roll with rhinos, tango with lions, and even do a rollicking Scottish reel with eight baboons! But when it comes to be Gerald's turn to cut a rug, all the other creatures laugh him out of the party. That's when cricket (who is watching from almost every page) intervenes. He tells Gerald that "...sometimes when you're different, you just need a different song." With cricket's help, Gerald finds his rhythmn and joins the celebration with the other animals... a happy, storybook ending!

Bring your little party animal out this Thursday at 4 p.m. to hear Giraffes Can't Dance at Open Play Story Time!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Horse Puppet

Paper bags make such great puppets, I thought I'd show you one more easy-to-do variety. I bet if you use your beaver puppet from last week, alongside this new horse puppet, you can now put on a whole puppet show with your family. Another fun idea is to have your puppet read a bedtime story to your little one! So much fun!

  • 1 Brown Paper Sack
  • Sticker Eyeballs
  • Glitter Glue
  • Brown Construction Paper
  • Scissors
  • Messy Mat

  1. Cut horse head out of brown construction paper and two ears.
  2. Using the glitter glue, glue horse head to bottom of paper bag.
  3. Glue ears on bottom of bag.
  4. Stick eyeballs on horse.
  5. Decorate with glitter glue! (Stickers and sequins are also fun to add if you have them at home.)

Week THREE: Recap!

Today was breakfast day in Taste Buddies! We made oatmeal muffin ice cream cones, scrambled eggs, and fruit kabobs. What a great way to start the day!

We had every intention of making omelets... but we loaded our eggs with so many veggies it became scrambled eggs! Either way, they were delicious.

This is a great way to spice up your morning routine. You can use pre-packaged muffin mix and follow the directions on the back of the box. You just bake them in ice cream cones instead of muffin tins! These were a hit with the Taste Buddies students today!

Fruit kabobs are a great way to make fruit exciting to kids. Everyone especially enjoyed the fresh strawberries today.

Week THREE: Muffin Cones, Fruit Kabobs and Scrambled Eggs


  • Your favorite boxed muffin mix and the ingredients it requires
  • Ice cream cones
  1. Prepare muffin batter according to directions.
  2. Pour batter into cones and back according to directions.


  • Melon, strawberries, grapes or fruits of your choice
  • Soft cheeses
  1. Ball or slice fruit as necessary.
  2. Cube cheese.
  3. Make a pattern with fruit and cheese on skewers.
  4. Serve immediately.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Veggies for topping, washed and chopped
  1. Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper in bowl until blended.
  2. Heat  butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.
  3. Pour in egg mixture. As eggs begin to set, gently pull the eggs across the pan with an inverted turner, forming large soft curds.
  4. Continue cooking - pulling, lifting and folding eggs - until thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly.
  5. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book of the Week: "Who's Making That Smell" by Philip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler

This week's book is just plain silly. It's a "lift the flap" book called Who's Making That Smell?, written by Philip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright. 

I love this book! It follows big brother Ben and baby sister Annabel on a scented journey around their house. While it may sound like a "scratch and sniff" book, you'll be so glad it isn't! Ben and Annabel encounter a monkey painting the closet pink, a hippo arranging roses, a mud-covered dog, a panda using furniture polish, and a polar bear baking bread. What a crazy house! The story closes in a way that all big brothers and sisters will appreciate... the familiar smell of Annabel in need of a diaper change.

Hawthorn and Tyler's rhyming riddles pair nicely with Cartwright's illustrations. The characters are absolutely charming with their rosy cheeks and clever speech bubbles. Ben is forever claiming his innocence, while Annabel's are filled with appropriate "goo-goos" and "ga-gas". Little ones get a kick out of opening the doors and lifting the curtains to discover which animal is making the smell on each page. It's definitely a little-fingers-friendly book. Older readers will enjoy searching for the tiny mouse and rubber duck hidden on each page. It's a really fun read!

See if you can figure out Who's Making That Smell? this week at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Miss Becca's Open Play Story Time!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sophie La Giraffe Turns 50!

Although this is not quite a question - I thought all of the Bubbles Academy Sophie lovers would be interested to know that Sophie is turning 50!

For the die hards out there, I share news of a photo-based Sophie Giraffe contest. Submit a photo of your Sophie in a "place of interest that represents your city (e.g beach, harbor, mountains, ranch, etc...)" for a chance to win one of 50 Sophie La Giraffe gift sets and have your photo featured on the Sophie Giraffe USA Website.

Read more about the contest here, and see the full official rules here.

Beaver Puppet

This beaver puppet makes for a great rainy-day craft. You can even make a whole zoo of friends for Mr. Beaver using paper bags and construction paper.

  • 1 brown paper bag
  • 1 sheet of white construction paper
  • 1 sheet of brown construction paper
  • 1 sheet of pink construction paper
  • 2 eyes
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Messy mat

  1. Cut out beaver head and two squirrel arms.
  2. Cut out white teeth and pink nose.
  3. Glue eyes, nose, and teeth onto beaver head.
  4. Glue beaver head and arms onto paper bag.
  5. Add some creative color with markers.
  6. Practice your best beaver voice and put on a puppet show!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week TWO: Recap!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for banana ice cream! Well, there's no need to yell, because that's exactly what we made in Taste Buddies today! We also made an easy shepherd's pie and a simple salad. To make our simple salad we simply grabbed some fresh veggies (peppers, carrots, tomatoes and arugula), chopped them up and mixed them together. You can do this anytime with whatever vegetables you have in your fridge.

We used pre-cooked meat for the base of our shepherd's pie. We then topped it with some frozen veggies, a little gravy, and mashed potatoes. We baked ours in small ramekins, but you can always use a casserole dish if you are serving the whole family.

If you are wondering what to do with those brown bananas in your house, stick them in the freezer and turn them into banana ice cream! Bananas get sweeter as they brown, so you don't even need to add sugar. We added crushed Oreos to our banana ice cream for a cookies-and-cream treat!

Week TWO: Shepherd's Pie & Banana Ice Cream

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cups hot mashed potatoes
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 1 cup beef gravy
  1. Heat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Brown meat in large skillet; drain.
  3. Mix potatoes, cream cheese, 1/2 cup Cheddar and garlic until well blended.
  4. Combine meat, vegetables and gravy; spoon into 9-inch square baking dish.
  5. Cover with potato mixture and remaining Cheddar. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.

  • 3-4 bananas
  • 1-3 teaspoons milk or soy milk (optional)
  1. Peel bananas and cut into small (1-2 inch) pieces.
  2. Freeze for just 2-3 hours on a plate.
  3. Using a food processor, blend the bananas, scraping down the bowl when they stick.
  4. If blending the bananas is difficult, add milk or soy milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the bananas loosen up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book of the Week: "Miles to Go" by Jamie Harper

School has started, and we're already into week two of classes here at Bubbles Academy! This fall we've got lots of new friend in our preschool alternative class, Bubble Bees. Those Bees have such an exciting love for learning. They remind me of the main character in this week's book: Miles to Go by Jamie Harper.

Miles is a preschooler and a huge car buff. Readers follow along as Miles journeys to school in his little yellow kiddie car (of course under the watchful eye of Mom). I love this book!

The illustrations are truly enchanting, combining block prints with cut paper and playful sketches (like the neighbor's adorable bulldog). The front endpapers even feature a map of Miles and his Mom's route to school. Miles must navigate past puddles, his neighbor's bulldog, brother's truck and sister's tricycle.

There are also some amazing learning opportunities in this book: map reading, traffic safety, problem solving, friendship! I even use it as a tool in the gentle separation class we offer here at Bubbles Academy. It is helpful because it shows how Miles' mother always returns to get Miles after she leaves him at school for his adventure. It's never to early to learn that school is a fun place to be, and that our grownups always come back for us!

We'd love to see you driving your yellow kiddie cars to Bubbles Academy (or your grownup cars) to hear Miss Becca read Miles to Go by Jamie Harper this Thursday at 4:00 p.m.! Beep Beep!

Friday, September 9, 2011

How to begin post-pregancy weight loss?

Not only do I teach children's classes at Bubbles Academy, but I am also the instructor of the Stroller Fitness program for moms! I've been teaching athletic programs since 1992 - and one question that I get a lot from new moms is:

"Where do I begin, to get my pre-baby stomach back?"

Let's face it, your tummy has really been put through the ringer. For this reason it is so important to take your time and be realistic when it comes to shedding pregnancy pounds. A realistic weight-loss goal is one pound per week, or even less if you are breastfeeding. Unfortunately, having a baby is not very conducive to a three meal plan, so mini-meals with protein, a little bit of nutritious fat and carbohydrates is the way to go. Be sure to drink plenty of water as well!

When it comes to exercising, crunches will help, but simply taking care of your core throughout the day by sitting and standing up straight and strong, and tightening up your tummy muscles will do wonders. Most importantly, no one will see those toned stomach muscles unless you burn the fat over them, so be sure to get in some cardiovascular exercises like walking with your baby in their stroller.

Remember... give yourself and your body a break! Focus on being healthy and the weight will come off when it is ready.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lady Bug Fun

Do you have a few paper plates left over from those summer cookouts? Why not transform them into a lady bug that will look great on the fridge! This is an easy, cute, and fairly quick project that you can do with your little ones. If you are feeling very ambitious, you can cut down additional plates to circles of different sizes and create an entire lady bug family.

  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black construction paper
  • Red paint
  • Paint brush
  • Paper plate
  • Sticker eyeballs
  • Messy mat

  1. Place your paper plate on top of your messy mat. 
  2. Cut out one long strip of black paper and four black circles. 
  3. Paint your paper plate red. 
  4. Glue spots and strip on paper plate.
  5. Place eyeballs on plate.
  6. Let dry and hang on fridge!

Week ONE: Recap!

Welcome to our First Fall Session of Taste Buddies Kids Cooking class! Each week we'll post our in-class recipes, plus a recap with helpful tips, here on the Bub Hub Blog.

Macaroni and cheese... cupcakes? You betcha! We started out the session with a bang with a macaroni and cheese casserole, baked in a mini-cupcake pan. We then went on to make sauteed snap green beans, blue yogurt parfaits, and cinnamon oranges. What a feast!

This is a great way to spice up mac and cheese for your kids. You can use any baked mac and cheese recipe that you have, and serve from a mini-cupcake pan!

Snap green beans are a great way to get kids involved with dinner. You can have them snap the ends off of the beans before sauteing them in the pan. Plus, they taste great by themselves if you don't feel like cooking!

You can make this recipe with blue jello or vanilla yogurt. Today we chose to use yogurt in our parfait because it is so much fun to use food coloring in the kitchen with kids! We watched our yogurt turn into an ocean today as we swirled in our blue food coloring. We then topped it off with some whipped cream for the ocean foam and added some swedish fish. Time for swimming!

This is a great treat that especially tastes good in the winter, when oranges are in peak season. We had our Taste Buddies use pastry brushes to paint our orange slices with lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, and cinnamon. The cinnamon really brings out the flavor of the orange. This is also a great treat to pack in a lunch!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Week ONE: Mac & Cheese Cupcakes, Green Beans, Jello Parfait and Cinnamon Oranges

  • 8 ounces small elbow macaroni (2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups half and half
  • 8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese (2 cups, packed)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon butter for baking dish
  • 2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli or peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter an 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. 
  2. Cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally; drain well.
  3. Bring half and half to simmer in same saucepan over medium heat. Toss cheddar cheese and flour in medium bowl to coat; add to half and half.
  4. Whisk until sauce is smooth and just returns to simmer, about 2 minutes. Mix in pasta, Gruyere, and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread pasta mixture in prepared dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.

  • Fresh string beans   
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  1. Snap string beans.
  2. Sauté in oil and garlic.
  3. Salt to taste.


  • 1 small box of blue Jello 
  •  Swedish fish
  • 1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip
Make Jello, add in fish and layer with Cool Whip. 

  • 1 orange (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pour the juices over the orange slices and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book of the Week: "Once Upon a Cloud" by Rob D. Walker

As soon as I stepped outside this morning, I knew it... fall is here for sure! As much as I love working up a sweat, peddling my blue bike about in the summer, I am looking forward to the cool weather of fall. Riding to Bubbles Academy this morning, I was struck by all the gorgeous clouds in the sky!! So how could I resist picking one of my favorite cloud books to recommend for all of our Bubble Bookworms?

The book is Once Upon a Cloud written by Rob D. Walker and beautifully illustrated by Matt Mahurin. Whimsical is the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of this book. Mahurin's joyful and mellow illustrations pair seamlessly with Walker's charming rhyming riddles. Readers travel on a fantastical adventure as they seek to find what those white puffy things in the sky truly are and where they are made.
"Are clouds mashed potatoes? That sure would be great! They'd drop from the sky and land on my plate." 
I know your little one will have a ball deciding "Yes!" or "No..." after each creative suggestion and older bookworms will have a blast coming up with their own creative stories! So put on your hoodies, grab a blanket, lay back in the park and let those imaginations soar while you read this dreamy cloud tale.

Or... beat the chilly fall weather and join Miss Becca as she reads Once Upon a Cloud at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 3:00 PM.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Increase nursing comfort?

This is a common topic of discussion among mothers:

"How can I reduce the pain I experience while nursing?"

Many mothers experience intense shoulder pain as they nurse their baby, and while there are many pillows manufactured to help your baby nurse, there are few that also concentrate on mom's well-being.
This pillow from Pollywog is designed to easily allow you to adjust your baby's position to ease shoulder and neck strain. In addition, because of its wedge shape, it grows with your baby and will also help to relieve colic and gas!

Read more about this nursing pillow and online purchasing options at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Egg-Carton Truck

If your little one is interested in fire trucks, then this is the perfect rainy-day art project for you. Plus... it's free with the purchase of any eggs!

  • Empty egg carton
  • Scissors
  • Red paint
  • Yellow paint
  • Black paint or black marker
  • Newspaper or a messy mat

  1. Take an old egg carton and cut out the four center egg crates (hang on to these because we will use them in a little while).
  2. Paint/marker wheels on the remaining eight egg crates to look like tires.
  3. Paint egg carton with red paint and add detailing as you please.
  4. Take the four leftover egg crates and place two on top of the front of the fire truck.
  5. Paint two egg crates on top to look like fire men by painting half of the egg crate yellow for a helmet and drawing a face on the other half.
  6. Let dry.
  7. Start your engines! Time to ride!