Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Apple Picking at Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch

The weather here in the Bay Area is always a little odd. It's technically Fall, and there are leaves falling off trees all over the place, but the sunny days we have had lately have been some of the warmest of the year. Of course, that's nothing unusual here as our seasons are kind of weird!

Despite the warm weather, I've been keen to get into the Fall spirit, especially seeing as Halloween is just over a week away! One of my favorite Fall activities is heading to a farm to enjoy the harvest season. Whether it be pumpkins, apples, pears or even chestnuts, there's just something about the Fall harvest season that is special.

A few weekends ago we headed north toward Sebastapol to visit Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch for an afternoon of apple picking. It was a hot, sunny day - definitely nothing like a traditional Fall - but we had a great time all the same. So long as we stayed in the shade!

Here's a look at our "not-so-Fall-looking" day of apple picking fun...

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Lola's Emoji Themed Birthday Party

Last weekend we celebrated Lola's 8th birthday with an emoji themed birthday party. There were smiley face emojis, heart eye face emojis, winking face emojis, and, yes, plenty of her favorite: the poop emoji!

We had a beautiful sunny day here in Berkeley and celebrated Lola's birthday up on our roof deck as we usually do. It wasn't even windy, which is pretty rare! In fact, we were even able to light a candle on her cake without it blowing out straight away. I don't think that has ever happened at any of our parties!

The emoji theme was spread across all aspects of Lola's party and I'll have lots of fun (and simple) DIYs coming soon. I made emoji face decorations and photo props, I baked emoji cookies, cupcakes, poop emoji meringues and a rainbow poop emoji birthday cake, we had an emoji face piƱata, emoji themed gifts in the party bags and pass the parcel, and the girls wore emoji t-shirts. So many emojis!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Jigsaw Puzzle Fun for Busy Families

Sponsored Post: This post is sponsored by Jigsaw Puzzle, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

So much of our lives is digital nowadays.

Being a pretty tech savvy family it's amazing just how much technology shapes our day to day lives. Keeping in touch with friends and family, staying on top of busy schedules, shopping for groceries, ordering dinner, organizing transportation, keeping the kids entertained on long car trips, learning new skills, documenting our travels... There's an app for pretty much every aspect of our lives.

I recently discovered the Jigsaw Puzzle app and it has become a favorite with the kids and I. The kids have long enjoyed playing jigsaw puzzles, but with limited storage space in our apartment there are only so many jigsaw puzzle boxes we can possibly fit into our lives. This is where the Jigsaw Puzzle app comes in super handy. With over 20,000 puzzles available there's always something new to play and I don't have to worry about making space on the book shelf for yet another box! Hooray!

The puzzles on offer in the app cover a wide range of categories when it comes to the designs. Animals, nature, art, landscapes, travel, food, maps... So many options, but the one thing they all have in common is stunning imagery and vibrant colors.

Jigsaw Puzzle app is incredibly customizable which makes it perfect for all three of the kids to play despite their age differences - and me too. The kids can choose how many pieces they'd like their chosen puzzle to be broken into; from 16 pieces for a Mathilde friendly game, up to 400 pieces for a challenge for Ava or myself. And that's just on the phone. On the tablet we can play up to 1024 pieces! Talk about a challenge!

The puzzles can be made more complex by selecting to have the pieces rotated at random, just like they would be with a physical jigsaw puzzle, or can be kept simple with them all facing the correct way up. Timers can be set, clues can be given, and the background display and music can even be selected. No matter how simple or complex the kids choose to make their puzzles, they're keeping their minds sharp and strengthening their analytical skills while being entertained.

One of my favorite things about the Jigsaw Puzzle app is that it can be played pretty much anywhere. We're out and about so much during the day and the app comes in super handy for keeping Mathilde, in particular, entertained while we're on the bus to speech therapy or watching Ava and Lola train at swim team. It's a fun app for when we're on the road, in the air or even just chilling on our roof deck, and I don't have to worry about losing pieces, which inevitably always happens when we take physical games or puzzles out and about.

Jigsaw Puzzle works with both Apple and Android products which means we can have it on all of our devices. Ava and I like to play on our phones while Lola and Mathilde prefer the large screen format on the iPad and Lola's tablet. 

Another one of my favorite things about the Jigsaw Puzzle app is that it gives me a great way to keep my mind sharp while I take a brief break with a coffee. I usually don't have the time to sit down with a book, but with this app I can keep my game as long or as short as I have time for by switching up the complexity. It's a great escape when I need it.

Are you a fan of playing jigsaw puzzles too? They're such a classic and I love that the Jigsaw Puzzle app makes it easy to have so many quality puzzles right there in my pocket.

Make sure to check out the Jigsaw Puzzle app on the Apple Store here or Google Play here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

3 Ingredient Creamy Fruit Dip

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Now that the kids are back at school, after school snacks have become a big thing in our home again. It can be so tempting to grab a pack of chips or a cookie, but I like to make sure that my kids eat something healthy after school. Of course, healthy doesn't have to mean boring!

My kids already eat a lot of fruit after school and they don't need much tempting to choose an apple or strawberries as their snack option, but sometimes it's nice to make it a little more fun for them, while still keeping it healthy. Fun, tasty and healthy!

Today on the blog I'm sharing a simple recipe for a sweet creamy dip to make snacking on fruit just a little more tasty. It's also a great source of protein which gives kids the energy they need. It's great for after school snacks at home but can easily be taken to after school activities or even in a lunch box for a lunch time treat. It would even make a great party dish!

Best of all? It's super easy to make and only require three ingredients! The kids can even help.

Sounds great, right? Let's take a look at how to make it...

What you'll need:
8oz light cream cheese
8oz light vanilla yogurt
1 Tablespoon agave syrup
Plus fruit for dipping eg. strawberries, blueberries, apple slices, mandarin, banana and grapes

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and mix until smooth.

Add the yogurt and mix together until smooth.

Add the agave syrup and mix together. Give it a taste and if it's not quite sweet enough for your liking add a little more agave syrup.

Place the dip in the fridge to chill while you prepare the fruit.

Cut the fruit to your liking and place on a large platter with a small bowl in the center.

Add the creamy dip to the bowl and voila, it's ready to eat!

My kids like to use their fingers to hold apple slices, mandarin pieces and strawberries, but for smaller fruit like grapes and blueberries (or squishy fruit like banana) they like to use a toothpick.

For on the go snacks, I like to place the fruit into a bento box with a small dip container, but any container will do. This recipe makes such a great snack to take along to after school activities or picnics and is great for sharing with friends. Mathilde took this along to karate class in the park this week and the sweet creamy dip was a hit with all her friends - although she was pretty keen to eat it all herself!

I love that this simple recipe combines two of my kids' favorite (and my favorite!) food groups - dairy and fruit. We eat a lot of both in our home, not only because they taste good, but because they're great for fueling active bodies. My kids are so busy with school followed by swim team or karate class every day that they need the vitamins, minerals and protein that dairy provides. Of course, it doesn't hurt when it tastes this good!

When it comes to dairy products, I like to make sure I'm buying products that are produced with local Californian milk. I love knowing that not only am I helping to support local dairy farmers, but my purchase is helping local communities. To make sure I'm buying products made with local milk I keep an eye out for the Real California Milk seal.

To find out more about Real California Milk and to find your local stockist click here.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Fun Facts & Adventures with National Geographic Kids

Sponsored post: I received these National Geographic Kids products for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Hands up if you're a fan of National Geographic magazine? I've got my hand up!

It's such a classic, isn't it? 

As a kid I used to love looking through stacks of magazines at our neighbor's house, and every time I came across that instantly recognizable yellow border I knew I'd found something worth reading - even before I knew how to read! The photos always captivated me and I loved learning about people, places, animals and plants that I knew I'd probably never get to see with my own eyes. The magazine sparked a sense of adventure in me and a keenness to learn about the world around me. No matter how old the issue was (and they were often quite old!) the articles always filled me with wonder.  

Fast forward a few decades or so, and that yellow border still draws me in when I see it. When I saw the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2019 I just knew I had to get it for the kids. Just like National Geographic magazine, the Kids Almanac is full of stunning photography and amazing facts about our world, but, here's the best bit, it's broken down into kid sized chunks of information. There's a little bit of everything: animals, plants, geography, history, cultures, weather, science, food, technology... Everything! 

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival 2018

This past weekend saw one of our favorite local festivals here in Berkeley, the annual Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival.

Now, you would think that the chocolate part of the festival would be what excites my kids every year, but the chalk art part of the day is actually the big draw card for them. It's not every day you get to get creative on the sidewalk, after all. Plus, it's a competition with prizes up for offer.

This year's festival happened to fall the day after we arrived home from our East Coast trip. I'll be sharing our East Coast trip here soon, but make sure to check out Instagram in the mean time as I've been sharing sneak peeks there. Anyway, we were all a little tired from our early flight home from Boston so we had a quiet morning and headed to the festival in the afternoon. This didn't give us an awful lot of time to try out the chocolate on offer but we still had plenty of time for the girls to get creative with chalk.

Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival 2018

We found ourselves a few clean-ish squares of sidewalk along Shattuck Avenue in the Gourmet Ghetto and the girls got to work.

Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival 2018
Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival 2018

Friday, 31 August 2018

Our Summer tradition at Brushstrokes

Summer break is over and the kids are back at school, but today I wanted to share one of our Summer traditions. It's a fun indoor activity for any time of year and a great tradition to start.

With the long Summer break here in the US I'm always looking for fun things to do to keep the kids occupied. There are certain activities that are a Summer tradition - going to camp, heading to the beach, spending time at the pool, playing in the park... And then there are the activities that have become our very own Summer traditions. 

One such thing is our annual visit to Brushstrokes Studio here in Berkeley. Every Summer break the kids and I spend an afternoon at Brushstrokes painting a ceramic plate each. It started off as a one off, but when I realized how wonderful it would be for the kids to each have a collection of their own hand painted plates when they're older I decided that we'd make it an annual tradition. We've done it five Summers in a row so far, and even just in that short amount of time it's amazing looking back at how the kids' artistic skills have developed. It's also fun way to keep track of their interests at the time. 

Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA

This Summer break the girls couldn't wait to head to Brushstrokes and paint their plates. They had been coming up with ideas for quite some time and were eager to set paintbrush to plate. Here's a look at what they created this year.

Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA
Brushstrokes Studio, Berkeley CA

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Stomper in the Town

If you're following Little Hiccups on Instagram you would've seen our adventures this Summer finding Stomper statues around Oakland. I figured it was time I shared them all here on the blog as well. We've found quite a few of the Stomper statues so far, so prepare for a lot of fun photos. But first, a little background...

If you're not familiar with the Oakland A's then you're probably wondering just who Stomper is and why there are statues of him around town. Stomper the elephant is the mascot of the Oakland Athletics (or simply the A's) baseball team. This year the A's are celebrating fifty years in Oakland and as part of the celebration they have teamed up with local artists to bring the Stomper in the Town exhibition to the streets. Fifty Stomper statues decorated by fifty artists can be found dotted around Oakland. From the port to the hills, from the northern border with Berkeley all the way down to the Oakland Zoo, Stompers can be found all over. Intrepid Stomper hunters, like us, can download the Stomper in the Town map and checklist (or pick one up from Visit Oakland in Jack London Square) and head off on a city wide treasure hunt. 

We've spread out our treasure hunting over the Summer, and so far of the fifty Stomper statues on display we've made it to thirty four. The statues will be on display until the end of the current baseball season, so we still have time to make it to the rest - fingers crossed.

Here's a look at the Stompers we've found so far. I've put them in the same order here that they appear on the numbered Stomper in the Town map and list.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland

If you're following along on Instagram you would've seen that the kids and I have been on the hunt for Stomper the elephant statues around Oakland. I have a post coming up next with all the Stomper statues we've found so far (about 35 or so), but today I wanted to share a park that we came across during out hunt for a particular Stomper.

Over the weekend we decided to go for a drive to find a few of the Stomper statues that the girls and I haven't been able to get to on foot. We visited a few, snapped some photos and headed off to the next one. However, when we made it to the Captain Stomp statue right on the waterfront we knew that we had to stop a little longer and spend some time exploring the surrounding park. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Big Break Regional Shoreline

Recently we've been getting out and about exploring "new to us" Bay Area parks on weekends.

We're really lucky to have so many amazing and varied parks within such a short distance of our home. Beaches, rivers, mountains, cliffs, redwood forests... there's a little bit of everything. With so much shoreline along the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries, there is no shortage of picturesque water front parks to visit. What could be better than visiting a waterfront park on a Summer's day?

This past weekend we visited Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Big Break is located in the California Delta, a 1,150 square mile area where fresh water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meets saltwater from the ocean. The Delta is the largest estuary on the west coast and is home to a large variety of fish, birds and mammals including beavers, river otters, muskrats and mink. It's also home to cool Delta breezes which were much appreciated on this hot day!

Despite the size of the Delta, the shoreline park is relatively small and makes for a great afternoon destination. There is an informative visitor center filled with interactive displays, picnic areas, an amphitheater, a kayak launch, a shaded sand play area, a small hiking trail and an observation pier perfect for fishing or taking in the views. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

3 Ingredient Chocolate Ice Cream

It's National Ice Cream Day today!

To celebrate I'm sharing a super simple, yet super scrumptious ice cream recipe that Ava made a while back. It only takes three ingredients and you don't even need an ice cream maker. It really doesn't get any easier!

Most of these photos Ava actually took herself with my camera set up on a tripod as she planned to make a video to share on her YouTube channel. She hasn't gotten around to making the video yet so I'm hijacking them for my blog for now. I'll make sure to share her video when she gets around to finishing it.

As I mentioned, this recipe if super simple and only needs three ingredients - which you may have in your kitchen right now. This recipe is for chocolate ice cream, but you could always switch out the chocolate for any other flavor you might like to add. I'm not normally a fan of chocolate ice cream, but this is so good. It's seriously one of the best chocolate ice creams I've ever eaten!

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