Easy Garden Fresh Bruschetta

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Easy Garden Fresh Bruschetta

This  recipe is loosely based on one my sister-in-law makes!  It is so good that it makes me want to slice the bread even thinner so I can eat a gazillion of these without getting full.  The olive oil makes you feel like you’re eating something indulgent, but it’s a wonderfully fresh and healthy treat.  It’ll also make great use of that abundant summer garden harvest.

 

 

Easy Garden Fresh Bruschetta (Nut-Free)

Ingredients

    TOPPING
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped - seed if you like
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6-8 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
  • SPREAD
  • 1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 loaf french bread (bake using your own recipe or use Pillsbury French Bread)

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine tomatoes, celery, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mustard and salt. Refrigerate.
  2. Slice bread into 1/2 inch slices and grill on low for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Turn and slather with spread. Grill an additional 2-3 minutes.
  4. Cover with refrigerated tomato mixture and serve.
  5. Makes 6ish depending on how much topping you use.
http://dontmakemenuts.com/2016/07/55629/

Easy Cucumber Salsa

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Easy-Cucumber-Salsa

 

The recipe is a new spin on an old favorite – salsa.  Plus, it takes advantage of that huge crop of cucumbers we’ll be seeing in late July.  I love Cucumber Salsa – maybe more than regular salsa.  It’s the hint of lime, I think.  It gives it a little taste of something different.  It’s cool, refreshing, and (of course) nut-free, too.

 

Garden Fresh Cucumber Salsa (Nut-Free)

Ingredients

  • 2 cucumbers, chopped, seeded, and peeled
  • 1 tomato, chopped (seed if you like)
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Lime Flavored Tortilla Chips

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except chips  in a medium size bowl.  Refrigerate one hour.  Serve with chips.
http://dontmakemenuts.com/2016/06/cucumber-salsa/

 

My Baby Girl’s First Birthday Party

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It’s hard to believe, but Pinterest wasn’t even a thing when my son and daughter were little.  If it had been, well, I’d have done a better job of planning their first birthday parties!  I’ve often thought over the years that I didn’t exploit the fact that they have no expressible opinion at that age, so I could have essentially done whatever I wanted to do for just one year. So, between her Ralphie inspired pink bunny first Halloween costume last fall and wedding-esque first birthday party,  I think I may have made up for a little of what I lost with the other two.  I may just be able to make it through the next several years of Dora, polka dots, and animal print.  Or not.  Probably not.

As you’ve probably already surmised, we celebrated our sweet, tiny girl’s first birthday this past weekend.  I took some time away from the blog to research her party, construct a tablescape, order a custom outfit and invitations from Etsy, flowers from a florist, and some other decoratives to make it a beautiful and rustic first birthday.  I want to show you all the details because I love to share these things with you along with all the other things we regularly have on tap and, also, because this is something you can easily pull off yourself.

le Petite Posh - Onesie and Tutu

The Outfit

Custom Onesie (name and number) and Tutu from le Petite Posh on Etsy $50.95

Paper 'n Peonies - Pink & Mint Floral Birthday Invitation

The Invitations

Pink and Mint Floral Birthday Invitation from Paper n’ Peonies on Etsy $15

I had them printed at Staples for $19. Right now they have an offer to save 20% off Cards and Invitations with coupon code 85067. I used the create your own 5×7 one-sided portrait cards. It only took about 10 minutes and they did a beautiful job.

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The Flowers

I bought two bouquets from a local florist, broke them down into smaller bouquets, and picked out some roses to decorate the cake. I ended up piecing the remaining flowers together for a full bouquet, too. They were lovely. So, so lovely.

Teleflora Cotton Candy Bouquet – Standard Size –  $32.95

Teleflora This Magic Moment Bouquet – $47.95

AnnasFirstBirthdayTablescape

The Table

I used a 90×132 White Economy Polyester Tablecloth I bought from LinenTablecloth for $5.18. They have lots of other sizes and their prices cannot be beat. Along with that, I used a Burlap Runner I picked up at Walmart for $8.

From here, I dotted 10″ Wilton Paper Doilies ($2 at Walmart.com – cheaper than in store) along the runner on either side of the Wood Slice Cake Stand I bought at Sur La Table for $59.95. They have other beautiful complimentary Wood Slice Serveware, too – coasters make nice bases for the votive candle holders.

And since someone is sure to ask what I did with it, so I want to point out that you’ll see my Pioneer Woman Timeless Beauty 10″ Cake Stand in some pictures, but we didn’t end up using it. It’s a Jadeite color green and I didn’t have coordinating jadeite pieces to tie it in.  I planned to do that, but was pressed for time.  It would have been lovely with the pink/mint theme I had going.

I placed my tiny girl’s special healthy 3 ingredient cake on my 9″ White Scalloped Cake Stand from Pier 1. $14.95.

Also dotted around the table, there are 5 Silver Mercury Glass Votive Candleholders I picked up at Amazon. I liked the assorted styles vs. buying 6 of the same. $39.95. I only used 5 because I didn’t like the globe style of the 6th.  I’m no decorator, but it didn’t seem to tie in well to me.

I also bought a lot of Milk Glass Vases and Compotes on eBay. $23. I used 2 Bud Vases, one regular Vase, and 3 Compotes.

For the remaining two bouquets, I used white acrylic paint on a couple of Quilted Ball Jelly Jars I already own.  After the paint dried, I rubbed them lightly with a piece of, get this, printer paper to give them a distressed look.  It worked just fine.  In all, I had 6 bouquets of flowers.

We didn’t do anything fancy for the plates.  I used Chinet.  We only needed white, so that worked out perfectly.

For the food (standard grill fare), I used the two sets of Better Homes & Gardens 2 piece Rectangular Serving Platters I already own – $22.20 each set.  Two Compotes were filled with fruit salad, and the other with plastic cutlery.

AnnasFirstCake

The Cake

This is one of the standard cakes I make for my kids’ birthday parties – Duncan Hines Delicate White Chocolate Cake.  I only follow the cake directions.  For the filling, I always use Henry & Henry Red Raspberry Filling.  The frosting is the classic Buttercream Icing recipe (below)  I’ve used for years.  I’m a big fan of white/raspberry wedding cakes, so I always make one of these cakes for either my son or daughter each year.

I used two 10 inch round cakes and two 8 inch round cakes and stacked them.   Underneath is a Wilton 12″ Silver Cake Platter and 12 inch Doily.  It wasn’t what I intended to use, but it was what I had on hand and it coordinated with the votives.

Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 stick Crisco
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tsp clear Vanilla Extract
  • 7-8 cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted. If you don't sift, use less.
  • 4 tbl Milk

Instructions

  1. Cream butter and Crisco. Add vanilla and milk. Blend. Begin adding confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, until it is dry, but not so dry that it's crumbly. Use immediately or cover bowl with a damp cloth.
  2. *For this cake, I assemble the layers with filling and use icing only between the stacked layers because it can't be seen, so it doesn't need to have any kind of finished look. Then I freeze the cake for several hours, so that when I frost it, it doesn't crumble with the heavier icing. After it's sufficiently frozen, I frosted the cake. The icing will freeze somewhat. That's ok. After frosting it somewhat smoothly, I run the cake spatula under hot water and smooth the frosting on the cake for a satiny finish. Granted, I'm no professional, but it looks perfect for a rustic theme when I'm done.
http://dontmakemenuts.com/2016/06/baby-girls-first-birthday-party/

The entire party cost a total of around $350 + the cost of food and beverages we typically incur for any party we have. It was so worth every penny.  I’m going to dry some of the flowers and keep the flower from her skirt for her to use as her something old, maybe, when she gets married.  Tears.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, precious, and beautiful, Anna Banana.

Inspired by Kara’s Party Ideas.

Amazon: Beautiful Girls Easter Dresses Under $20

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Beautiful Girls Easter Dresses Under $20

 

Looking for a girls Easter dress?  You’ve got to take a look at the Sunny Fashion Dresses on Amazon.  They’ve got some lovely dresses for Little & Big Girls for well under $20 Prime.    Plus, you’ll automatically save 5% on your $50 purchase of select items.  Additionally, you’ll receive a free Cheongsam Dress with your purchase of $100 or more.  These are extremely highly rated dresses – some with several hundred reviews.

Remember: Amazon prices can change at any time.  This deal is valid as of 12:45pm on March 10, 2016.

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas + Our 2016 Theme!

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Non Candy Easter Basket Ideas

Are you thinking about Easter baskets yet?  It’s almost here!  We’ve got just about a month to put them together, so it’s time to start taking a closer look at what we’d like to include.  If you’ve seen these lists of mine before, you know my husband and I always give some candy, but that’s never the main focus.  We include craft items, books, pocket Bible/answer books – things like that, too.   Non-candy Easter treats.  That is the challenge each year, isn’t it?  Non-candy treats.  Well, I’ve put together this year’s list of goodies we’ll be giving our kids.  I strive to pick thoughtful and useful gifts for their baskets and egg hunt, so I hope you enjoy this list as much as previous lists.  And, of course, everything here is nut free too!

As with my other lists, the first set of items includes toys. The second section is the theme we’re using this year. Scroll down if you just can’t wait for that. 😀
Play Doh Easter Eggs

Play-Doh Eggs 4ct

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Set of 3 Jumbo 6″ Easter Eggs with Plush Toys 

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Shopkins Season 4 Eggs

Minecraft Minifigures

Assorted Minecraft Mini-Figures to go inside fillable eggs (There are more combinations here)

Here are some other items that are perfect for Easter.  They include egg hunt items, basket goodies, and a baby’s first:

And what you’ve been waiting for – the theme of this year’s baskets!  The Secret Garden!  We’ll be reading the book together, coloring in the coloring book, and planting a few different gardens together.  It’ll be a literature and science lesson in one.  I’m so excited.Secret Garden Book

The Secret Garden Book  (other options here including hardcover and audible.  Audible is great if you have a younger child and the Kindle app!)

Secret Garden Coloring Book

Secret Garden Coloring Book – It has hidden garden creatures.

Sunny Side Up Gardens - Little Bunny Garden Kit

Sunny-Side Up Gardens Little Bunny Garden Kit (baby’s basket)

Grow & Glow Terrarium

Grow & Glow Terrarium (my son’s basket)

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Wildflower Garden (my daughter’s basket)

There are a couple of other garden kits I want to mention.  I was really torn about which ones to get!

Grow & Learn Indoor Garden Craft Kit for Kids 

Enchanted Fairy Garden Kit

From Seed to Plant

From Seed to Plant  (Hardcover Book) My son has already studied plant growth, so the focus for him will largely be literature.  This will serve as reinforcement for what he’s already learned and continues to build upon.

Pebble Mosaic Stepping Stone Kit

And to finish it off, they’ll be making Garden Mosaic Stepping Stones 

And for the baby…

16 Piece Finger Puppet Set

16 piece Finger Puppet Set (includes 10 animals and 6 people)

Puppettos Finger Puppet Stage Theater

Puppettos Finger Puppet Stage Theater.  The puppets and stage are mostly for the big kids to put on shows for our tiny girl.  It fosters creativity in them and entertains the baby.   And when she gets older, she’ll be able to use the set as well. Win-win!

Fuzzy Sock Slippers

Fuzzy Sock Slippers

Lilly Monogrammed Bodysuit

Monogrammed Bodysuit

Now, here is the list of other items I considered.  I may still add some of these to the baskets, but I feel that they’re already quite complete.

And if you’re looking for unique gifts, these online shops have them in abundance.

Whew, that’s a big list of items!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this years list of Easter goodies and that it inspires you, too!

Craftsy: 50% Off New Classes

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Know what I think makes a good New Year’s resolution?  Nope, not losing weight or being more kind or anything like that.  Yes, those are great resolutions and all, but THIS is one of my favorites.  I do it every year.  It may have something to do with the amount of higher education I’ve received or the fact that, once upon a time, both of my parents were teachers…I’m not sure.  I. Love. Learning.   I think there is nothing better than ending a year with a new skill I didn’t have going in.  It’s a great confidence and self esteem builder, too.  It can start you on the road to your own business, Etsy shop – whatever you want to do.

Starting today (1/15) through Sunday, January 17th, Craftsy is having a rare sale on new classes – deeply discounting them by 50%!  Prices start at $14.99. From photography to jewelry making, gardening to quilting, you can learn all the basics to get you started, hone a skill you already have or learn a new technique.  Plus, any course you buy never expires, so you can take it when you’re ready.

Know what they don’t have that I wish they did?  Wood classes – staining and furniture building, etc.  Wouldn’t that be a great addition?

14 Educational Stocking Stuffer Ideas

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educational stocking stuffer ideas
One of my favorite things about Christmas is putting together my children’s stockings. I’m always challenged to find unique goodies for them that will be as treasured as they are functional. Educational games, pencils, crayons, and books balance out gift cards, candy boxes, and other fun additions.  This is always so important to me because I like each gift to be thoughtful and have staying power.  You, too?  Then you’ll love this list.
 

14 Educational Stocking Stuffer Ideas

 
1. FREE DIY Crystal Christmas Tree Experiment – An opportunity to spend more time together as a family is one of the best gifts you can give! These directions for a DIY salt-crystal Christmas tree can get the whole family involved and teach everyone something new!

2. DIY Push Light Planets – Create these amazing lights for your kiddo’s bedroom. Each light is decorated to represent one of the planets. To encourage planet recognition, even paint the names of the planets onto each pushable light!

Push Light Planets

3. Show Me the Kwan Looking for a great, fun game for the whole family to play after all the presents have been opened? This clever and upbeat word game gets kids excited about vocabulary, word construction and more and is the perfect size for a stocking!

4. Matching Games for Little Learners These handmade wooden matching games from Mama May I are a very sweet stocking stuffer for little learners. Choose from Zoo, Trucks, Vegetables, Space and more !

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5. The Familia Craft Kit This craft kit has all the tools for your kiddos to decoupage little wooden peg dolls to create their own story or to include in a new adventure! They come in a slim tube that’s easy to fit in a stocking!

6. DIY Domino Set – This homemade domino set is one you and your family can play for years to come. To make this set special for the holidays, use green and red puff paint!

DIY Domino Set

7. DIY Pop-Up Alphabet Sponges – This simple gift is a low-cost way to make baby’s bath time fun and educational! Cut sponges into the shapes of alphabet letters and numbers.

8. DigiPuppetsThis adorable animal finger puppet acts as a touchscreen-sensitive stylus for phones and tablets. Use them on their own to keep kids engaged with digital learning tools, or head to the app store to download DigiPuppet’s educational games.

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9. Just Add Milk Science & Art Kit This kit is filled with fun science and art projects you can do along with some at home ingredients, and it’s just the size of a milk carton! If your child is lactose-intolerant, don’t worry, the experiments work with non-dairy milk as well!

10. DIY Telling Time Clock Pillow – Crafty family members can take a few hours to create this comfortable accessory for kiddos learning to tell time!DIY Telling Time Clock pillow

11. Clever Catch Math Balls These inflatable balls make math-learning fun with active games you can play with 2 or more people. Just keep it deflated, and this blow-up Clever Catch is ready for the stocking! Choose from: Numbers 0-25, Money, Multiplication, Addition, or Subtraction.

12. DIY Hopscotch Mat – Here’s a fun game you can make yourself, roll up into a Christmas stocking, and then play on Christmas Day and many, MANY days after that!

13. DIY Bongo Rice Shakers – Use some household materials to make shakable, musical instruments for little ones to use while Christmas caroling on Christmas Day!

DIY Stocking Stuffer Instrument

Looking for more ways to make your Christmas stockings and holiday gifts extra special this year? Check out Educents’ Give the Gift of Education page for more ideas, tips, steals and deals!

Walmart: 6.5′ Pre-Lit Christmas Tree + 41 pc Ornament Set Under $50!

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I’m an absolute maniac when it comes to Christmas trees.  I’ve got one in nearly every room in my house.  Each has a different color theme.  Crazy, I know.  And you’d think it’s expensive to do, too.  It’s not.  Walmart, friends, and this is how.

Walmart has brought back the Holiday Shatterproof Ornament Sets with 41 pieces for $8.98  + free in store pickup.  These always sell out fast each year.  I expect most (if not all) will be gone by Thanksgiving.

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Also, they’ve got 6.5′ Pre-Lit Artificial Trees for $39 + free in store pickup, too!  You can decorate an entire tree for under $50 by pairing these deals.

Teal Pumpkin Project: Decorations, Treats & Tips

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If you know a child with food allergies, the Teal Pumpkin Project may already be familiar to you. If not, let me give you the run-down.  It is quickly growing as a way for children who have food allergies to easily identify a house that offers allergy safe treats on Halloween night.  As the mother of a child with food allergies (and years of exclusion under my belt), I can tell you that it’s a wonderful way to help include these children who often feel excluded from ‘regular’ activities.

Sound good?  And what do you have to do?  It’s so easy. You’ll need a teal pumpkin to light the way!  I found these lovely Blue LED Pumpkins (above) at Pier 1 that are just perfect. They’re beautiful and made of glass, so you can use them year after year.

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Another idea I like well is to use Blue Battery Powered Tealights inside Lanterns, regular or white pumpkins or ceramic pumpkin tealight holders. You’ll need a teal pumpkin of some sort, but they can be hard to see when it’s dark. Using blue illumination in a regular pumpkin is a great way for kids to see that your house has something just for them.

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Wondering what color paint works on an actual pumpkin that you can use for this project?  I love Krylon’s Chalky Finish in Tidal Blue.  Michael’s has it for $10.99 and they also currently have a coupon to save 50% on a regular priced item.  That makes it $5.49 a can and the best price around.  Use the code TRICKORTREAT if you’re shopping online.

Tip:  Make it extra special with a sparkly finish coat of Krylon Glitter Spray in Shimmering Silver.  So pretty.

You can also use craft pumpkins, too.  Oriental Trading has ceramic pumpkins you can paint. <— Too late to ship now. If you live in a weather stable area (I don’t!), pick up some styrofoam pumpkins at Michael’s or Dollar Tree and spray paint them.  They’re very inexpensive.

I love this particular paint anyway because teal is one of the most popular colors around right now.  So is Annie Sloan chalk paint.  Krylon married the two and simplified the process in an easy-to-use spray can.  I’m all about making things easier because I’m ridiculously craft challenged.  You can’t screw up Krylon and it’s super quick.  Trust me.  So, in addition to making teal pumpkins, you can use this to make all sorts of nifty accent pieces around your house.

For inspiration:  Use the remaining paint on lamp bases, wicker chairs, mason jars, dining chairs or accent tables.

Because teal pumpkins can be hard to see, print and hang a free Teal Pumpkin Project sign from F.A.R.E. indicating that you have non-food treats available at your house. There are also signs on Etsy along with tees, bracelets, and other items dedicated to the project.

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Now for the goodies!  Things like small toys and games you can purchase in multi-packs at Dollar Tree or Oriental Trading are perfect. It’s best to stick with non-food items as one child may have a milk allergy while another may be allergic to peanuts. It’s too difficult to find a treat that’s safe for everyone.  How cute are these Candy Corn Bubbles?  Oh, get out.  There are more themed bubbles, too, like Halloween character bottles (witch, ghost, etc.) and some Witch’s Potion.   They even have teal.  Glow sticks, stickers, pencils, erasers, and spider rings are some other ideas.

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And if you’re planning to pass out candy in addition to non-food treats, keep your eye out for the Teal Pumpkin Mike and Ike Halloween Variety Pack at Target that includes candy AND pencils and erasers.  These aren’t safe for everyone, but they will be for many.  Personally, I love the effort being made by a corporation to reach out to allergic kids.

Now, a very serious message from someone who understands this very well:  Me.

I’d also like to ask that if you’ll be handing out other candy items, please fill a bowl with the non-food items separately.  (If you use Mike & Ike, you may as well dump the included non-candy items into your candy bowl.  They’re contaminated, from my perspective.)  Do not mix food and non-food treats in one bowl.  You’ll cross-contaminate the non-food treats.  Also, if you’re handing out candy, do not hand the non-food treats to the allergic children.  Allow them to reach into the bowl to pick up their treat.  If you do it, you likely have residue on your hand from the candy that will transfer to the non-food item and cross-contaminate it.  Only touch the bowl exterior and do not touch the contents at all once you start handing out candy unless you wash your hands thoroughly immediately prior to touching the non-food candy.   Go an extra step and don’t even set them on a table next to each other or near other food items.

Yes, this is very, very serious.  My motto has always been:  Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Invisible residue is the most insidious and dangerous part of having a child with food allergies.  It is THE source of the greatest amount of anxiety for these families.  Fear of the unknown had previously been thought of a a somewhat abstract origin of anxiety.  Food allergies have legitimized it.  And it’s paralyzing.  Halloween can be terrifying.  And even the best intentions can present a risk.  Please provide safe treats for these children and do it in the safest way possible.  Last year, an ambulance came down the street while we were out with our kids.  I stood in horror as I watched it creep down the road because there were kids lining the street.  Meanwhile, precious minutes ticked by.  I have no idea what happened, of course, but my first thought was, “Someone has had a reaction to candy.”  Let’s do our best, together, to help prevent as many of these incidents as possible.  Paint a teal pumpkin.  Print a sign. Buy non-food treats.  Keep them separate from e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, including you, if you’re passing out candy.  All you have to do now is prepare to be a part of making great memories for ALL kids!

Did I miss something?  Have something to add?  Let me know!  I love hearing from you!  dontmakemenuts@gmail.com

Michigan Renaissance Festival: Our Day Trip

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Disclosure: I am a USFamilyGuide.com Blogger. While I received no financial compensation for this review, I received 4 free tickets to the Michigan Renaissance Festival to assist me in the construction of this post.  The thoughts and opinions here are completely my own.

mirenfest

 

Nestled deep in the woods of Holly, Michigan, you’ll find fairies, knights, kings, queens, Celtic music, and pickles. Pickles? Oh yes, pickles. Big ones, too.  You may have to endure some yelling to get one, but we all agree it’s worth it…except my daughter.  Not only did the sun give her a run for her money this year, she did not like being yelled at…and for pickles, for that matter.  She can scarcely understand why anyone would put up with that to get one.  “Gross.”, she said, but my son?  Yes, you can see by the look on his face that this is going to be his first win of the day courtesy of the pickle cart near the entrance of the Michigan Renaissance Festival.  It’s our annual Labor Day event that welcomes the coming fall season.  The weather usually cooperates with our intent.  It’s sunny, but cool and breezy.  The leaves rustle on the trees warning us that they’re aging and starting to dry and turn.  We stroll along, listening to their song until we hear others on our path…

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Silent Lion.  They’re arguably one of my son’s favorite things about the Renaissance Festival.  Mine, too.  Their haunting melodies pluck the strings of my son’s Mitchell heart.  He could stay here all day.  He has purchased a couple of their CD’s over the years and listens to them all year long.

waxhands

And while music may not seem the most child friendly activity for very active children (ahem, or my baby), making wax hand keepsakes most definitely is.  Each year, the kids get to pick a keepsake to remind them of our trip.  I won’t go through all the things they’ve bought in years past, but  my son got a wooden axe last year.  My daughter got a beautiful headband.  This year, they both wanted wax hands.  I’m not particularly thrilled with the choice as they lack a great deal of durability, but we’ll do our best to keep them intact.   I have to tell you something about this picture of my son, too.  When we were looking at these, my daughter said, “Thomas looks scared.”  I said, “Really?  I thought he looked mad.”  I told her to go ask him what he was thinking.  He said he was scared because the wax was under his fingernails.  He was also worried about tree nuts.  So much for being Mom.  His little sister is much more perceptive than I.   Their closeness astounds me sometimes.

MIRenFest8

 

He IS happy here, though.  (Good call, Mom.)  There is so much for kids to do here and so much of it is free.  I’ll give you a short list of our favorite freebies in a minute.    My kids had a blast racing turtles.  You can’t see the turtles, but my daughter lost this race.  I love this picture because you can see that the people who work here are top notch.  They’re always willing to help and they deal with loads of people each and every day.

MIRenfest12

My little gymnast wants me to share this with you because she made it to the top without falling off.  She tipped, but righted herself and kept going…and with flip flops even!  She’s 100% my husband because this is totally NOT me.  I am 0% athletic, coordinated or anything else along those lines.

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My tiny princess came home with a stash of magical coins that she’s keeping in the top drawer of her dresser.  She’s so proud of them.

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And among the numerous activities is an educational one!  Aaah yes, this is gold to a homeschooling Mom.  My kids loved the Glass Blowing demonstration and it’s completely free!  And here the short list of some of our favorite freebies.  50 kid friendly freebies are listed in the weekly schedule, too:

    • Puppet Show in the Children’s Realm
    • Make a Magic Wand in the Children’s Realm
    • Dance with the Maypole Dancers
    • Pet a Jousting Horse at the Stables in the Valley of Aberdare
    • Make bubbles with the Bubble Fairy
    • Watch the Joust
    • Find a Gem in the Gem Mine
    • Meet a Mermaid
    • Sprinkled with Fairy Dust by a Fairy

The fairy dust sprinkling brings me to another story. Each year, for as long as my daughter can remember, she looks for the “Green Fairy.” Maybe you’ve seen her. She has long blond hair and we often see her sitting near the entrance. My daughter hugs her and talks with her for a few minutes. When she leaves, the fairy gives her a sprinkle of fairy gems for her tiny hand. She puts them in her pocket, and then transfers them to a small, sparkly change purse she keeps under her pillow. The gems keep her from having bad dreams. They must work quite well because she rarely has a bad night.

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There is so much more to do here than the few things I’ve mentioned.  The days are action packed with themed events that change each weekend.  You could spend the entire weekend here and still not see every show, take in every event, or eat in every location either!  There is so much to see and do.  Keep in mind, however, not every event is child friendly – particularly after 5pm.  These are noted in the schedule, so be mindful of that if you have small children.  We’ve never had any difficulty avoiding anything we feel is questionable.

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And now, it is with great melancholy that I bid another summer farewell. They come and go so quickly nowadays. If you haven’t attended yet this year, you have one more very sweet weekend in which to do so. The Sweet Endings themed weekend is October 3 & October 4th. They’re also open on Friday, October 2nd. Renew your vows for free and/or score some free samples of chocolate in the Valley of Aberdare. You can also take in the Cupcake Crusades or the Cake Dive for brides-to-be. A ticket purchase will also net you a free beverage this weekend. Check out my previous post to save $3 on an adult admission ticket or a free child ticket with adult ticket purchase, too.

Note: If you have nut allergies, be aware that there are roasted nut carts at this event.