July 31, 2011

Wheaton Regional Park (Wheaton, MD)

Here's another fun outing for those local to Maryland or planning a trip to the Washington, DC region...

Wheaton Regional Park, located in the suburbs of Washington DC, has a few different areas.  I already shared about the fun we had at seeing the Butterflies at Brookside Gardens, but wanted to also share the fun we had in the Shorefield area of the park.  You can either walk from one area to the other (it's a fairly long walk, but pretty) or go back out the main roads and enter through another entrance.

I'd heard other people talk about the fun miniature train and carousel, but we didn't have a chance to see them on our other visits to Brookside Gardens.  I'm so glad we ventured over to that area on our latest visit.

The kids LOVED the miniature train ride.  Tickets were just $1.75 a piece and it was a fairly long ride through the woods.  We were even lucky enough to see a few deer while on our ride.  (NOTE: the train does not operate if the tracks are wet at all, so check their Facebook page before you go if there's been any rain recently)

Waiting to leave the station

Heading through the open field

Then going through the woods

The carousel was a hit too (and also $1.75 a ticket).  It was built in 1915 and spent many years on the National Mall in DC.

There's also a stocked pond at the park.  My son declared that he definitely wants to come back and go fishing after we saw lots of little fish swimming around.

We were really lucky to see this beautiful buck just off the path we were walking along.

They are replacing the older playground at the park with a brand new Adventure Playground.  It was still under construction (slated to reopen this Fall 2011), but looks incredible so far.  We'll definitely be making a trip down in a few months to test out those huge slides!!

Between our time at Brookside Gardens and then the Train and Carousel area of the park, we spent almost 5 hours enjoying a nice, Summer day!

Butterflies at Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD)

For the past few years, the kids and I have made the short trek to Wheaton, MD (a suburb of Washington, DC) to visit Brookside Gardens.  The outdoor gardens are beautiful (and FREE!) with paths, fountains, gazebos, ponds and tons of great spots to snap a few photos.  There's a nature center, gift shop and cute children's garden with a little treehouse.  

However, the main reason we go back each year is to see the Wings of Fancy exhibit.  Hundreds (maybe even thousands) of butterflies fly freely inside an indoor conservatory.  The large room is filled with several trees and bushes and lots of colorful flowers.  There are many species of butterflies that will flutter all around you as they move from flower to flower.  Volunteers are on hand to point out facts about the butterflies and answer any questions.

I probably took 50 photos ~ there were tons of pretty butterflies!

There is a small fee ($6 for adults, $4 for kids 3 and older), but we think it's totally worth it for the neat experience.  Plus, you can reenter more than once on the same day.  We often check out the butterflies, wander around the gardens, then go back to see the butterflies again.  Strollers aren't allowed inside the exhibit, but it's not that big so it's easy to carry your little one or let them walk.  Also, when the temperatures outside are too high, the exhibit will close early ( We found that out the hard way last summer).  If you check their Facebook page, they will announce any changes.

If you're local, or planning a visit to the Washington DC area, I think it's definitely worth a visit!  If you're not local, see if there might be something similar nearby ~ it really is a cool experience.

Here are a few pictures from our recent trip:

Getting up close!

You were allowed to touch the butterflies at the volunteer's stand.

A butterfly landed on her dress!

They had some magnifying glasses for a better look.

The Children's Garden

A Gnome's Home!

In the treehouse

On a butterfly bench

A few shots of my cute kids!
(I really want to learn how to use my new camera 
so I can get the lighting and focus better) 

And, finally, some more butterflies!

The one on the bottom right was one of my favorite shots.

Brookside Gardens is part of the larger Wheaton Regional Park.  In the past, we just focused on the Butterfly Exhibit and surrounding gardens.  This year, we explored more of the Regional Park and discovered an awesome train and carousel.  Check out my post HERE for the fun we had there!

July 30, 2011

Molded Crayon Bracelet

We love taking our broken crayons and making new molded crayons in fun shapes.  Last week, we took advantage of the sweltering summer heat and made these Hot Car Crayons ~ a successful little experiment.  Now that we had a rainbow of new heart-shaped crayons, I wanted to do a little something special with them.  (Otherwise, I knew they'd end up at the bottom of our crayon container once the novelty wore off)

So, I made some super cute Crayon Heart Bracelets!

They were really easy to do, and cost next to nothing!  Here's what I did:

1.  Gather your supplies ~ molded crayons, some round cord elastic, sharp metal stick (I used a metal skewer, although an ice pick or something similar would also work).

2.  Heat the tip of your skewer over a flame for a few seconds, then poke it into your crayon to melt a hole.  If your molded crayons are pretty thick, you can make your hole sideways through the crayon like a bead.  Mine weren't quite thick enough, so I poked two holes so it would be like a button.  

Obviously, you'll want to be careful here ~ that metal skewer is sharp and hot!  I set the crayon down on the plate, then pushed the skewer down to make the holes.  Then I lifted it up to push it the rest of the way through.  I also found it helpful to wipe the melted wax off the skewer in between crayons so the color wouldn't bleed onto the next crayon.

3.  Do the same for all your crayons.

4.  Thread your crayon beads onto the elastic cord.  

5.  Tie the ends to form a bracelet and you're ready to go!  We made rainbow bracelets because that's what my rainbow-infatuated girls wanted, but you could easily make any color combination or add beads to make a necklace too!

Now you can color away!

Not only are the little bracelets super cute, but they're also a great way to bring a few crayons with you in the car or out at a restaurant, without having to worry about them rolling away.

July 27, 2011

Five Fun Ideas for Colorful Projects

As we reach the midway point of the summer, our Summer Fun Party has grown to well over 100 links, with more being added all the time.  Check out all of the great activities, projects and recipes that have been shared ~ you're sure to find something that's perfect for you and your family.

Here are Five Fun Ideas for some Bright and Colorful projects that I can't wait to try!

{ Mom's Crafty Space }

I love the look of tie-dye, but I'm always leery about making a huge mess.
This cool technique with Sharpies helps give you a similar look, 
without the spilled bucket of dye!

{ Naptime = Craft Time! }

How awesomely colorful is this rainbow canvas?
It would be such a cool piece of artwork for a playroom 
or a really neat teacher's gift.

{ Meijo's Joy }

Continuing with the colorful theme, aren't these bracelets pretty?
You'll never guess how they're made (but it doesn't look too hard).

{ Jellyfish Jelly }

So pretty, and what a fantastic way to use up your fabric scraps.
My girls would love doing this and *I* would love doing this too.

{ Sun Scholars }

We wear our flip flops constantly here during the summer.
These cute, colorful and girly flower flip flops 
would make a great addition to our summer shoe collection!

Thanks, ladies, for sharing your great colorful projects!
Feel free to grab a featured button from my sidebar.

Don't forget to check our Summer Fun party for other great ideas.
New projects are being added all the time.

Come Together Kids

July 26, 2011

Change of Plans

Today our horrendous heat wave finally broke a little bit.  Instead of temps in the 100's,  it was only in the low 90's.  (seemed so cool, by comparison!)  Even though we had fun making the Hot Car Crayons the other day, we were definitely getting tired of having to stay indoors for most of our days because outside was so unbearable.

With the *slightly* more mild forecast today, I loaded the kids' bikes into the van for some bike riding fun.  My older two just mastered riding without training wheels this summer and my youngest just got a "new to her" bike last week.  They had fun riding the paths at our local regional park.  (For all my local Maryland readers, Meadowood Regional Park is awesome for beginning bike riders)

Riding on the one-mile paved path.

Her first "real" time bike-riding

They rode around the path several times, then we planned to go home, 
change into our swimsuits and go for a swim in the pool.  
However, as we crossed the little bridge back to the parking lot, 
we thought the little stream looked really inviting.


So,  we changed our plans! 

We thought we'd just walk down next to the stream, but before we knew it, we were all wading in the shallow water.   No water shoes, no bathing suits, just their sneakers and regular clothes!

As the photographer, I was standing 
in the middle of the stream too!
(at least I had on flip flops!)

Moments after this next photo was taken, 
they started screaming about seeing a "river lobster"! 
It was their first time seeing a crayfish 
and they loved looking for more of them.

Watch out for the "river lobsters"!

They even found a large hanging vine 
and took turns swinging on it!

Big sister!

Middle brother!

Little sister!

They ended up soaked, but it was 
such a fun change of plans and we loved it.

July 22, 2011

Magic Message Bananas

Thanks again, Pinterest, for helping me find another cool idea, this time from Cute Food for Kids.

I think these fun little magic messages might replace paper lunchbox notes in the kids' lunches when school starts.  They definitely got a kick out of them for a summer snack.

Best thing is, they were SUPER easy!

Here's what you do:

1.  Using a toothpick, draw a picture or write a message on your banana peel.

2.  At first, it will be rather tough to see.

3.  But after several minutes, your magic message will begin to darken.

4.  After about an hour (or by lunchtime if you pack it in a lunch box), you'll have an easy-to-read special message that your child will love to read.

** NOTE **  I've found that the message tends to show up more quickly when the banana is more ripe. 

Cake & Ice Cream Sandwiches

When we made our yummy Cake Mix Waffles, I knew they'd be perfect for ice cream sandwiches.  We got the great taste combination of cake and ice cream, but because we made our "cake" in the waffle iron, we didn't have add any more heat to our summer day by turning on the oven.

They were so easy, I really don't even need to give directions, but here they are:

1.  Allow your cake mix waffles to cool on a baking rack, then put them on a cookie sheet in a single layers with waxed paper in between. Put them in the freezer to get a bit colder and a little more firm.

2.  Take out your ice cream and allow it to soften slightly so it's easily scoopable and spreadable.

3.  Scoop out some ice cream and spread it on your waffle, then add another waffle to make your sandwich.

Oops, forgot the picture of putting the top waffle on, but I know you can do it! ;)

4. Put your waffle sandwiches back in the freezer until ready to eat.

Cake Mix Waffles

We're in the middle of a heat wave here this summer.  We wanted a little baked treat, but because it feels like an oven outside, there's no way I'm turning on my oven inside!  Then I remembered seeing the great idea of making cupcakes using a waffle iron at Random Thoughts of a Supermom ~ what a perfect solution.  We could have a little treat without sweating any more than we had to. 

It was so easy (and yummy).  Here's what we did:

1.  Gather your supplies ~ a waffle iron, cake mix and the ingredients to make the cake. ( I think I might add some chocolate chips to our next batch.)

2.  Heat up your waffle iron and mix the cake mix according the directions.

3.  Pour the cake mix batter onto the waffle iron.  Check your manual for amounts and times.  Mine used about 1/4 cup of batter per waffle and cooked for about 3 minutes.

4.  Put the finished waffles onto a cooling rack to cool, then enjoy.  We ate a couple just plain since we didn't have any frosting on hand, and then made the rest into some yummy Cake and Ice Cream Sandwiches.

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