DIY Fruit Snacks… Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Post by Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey’s Essentials

With a toddler running around, I think about snacks a lot more than I used to. Every chance I get to sneak in a healthy snack here and there is one that I embrace. When I can offer him snacks that I feel great about, it makes it even better. I’ve really enjoyed taking some of the traditional boxed snacks and making homemade versions lately. The biggest hit has been these easy DIY Fruit Snacks. They’re just as fun to make as they are to eat – especially if your little one is helping you out in the kitchen. I’ve found that any time I involve my toddler Ollie in cooking, he’s more likely to try whatever we’ve made together. He loves these fruit snacks and eats them by the handful! While I’m sure that there are fruit gummies out there that are comparable in nutrition, you can’t beat the ease and satisfaction of making your own for an afternoon activity with your kids. It’s a great idea to keep in mind as you’re trying to keep kids busy during the last few weeks of summer before they head back to school! The ratio of ingredients is really easy to remember and the variations are endless.

DIY Fruit Snack Recipe

DIY Fruit Snacks

  • 1 cup 100% fruit or vegetable juice (I used a raspberry limeade, blackberry lemonade, and orange juice)
  • 2 tablespoons plain gelatin
  • 3 teaspoons honey

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In a small saucepan, add the fruit or vegetable juice and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow the powder to be absorbed in the liquid (it will look a little wrinkly on the surface) before whisking to fully combine.

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On the stovetop, heat the liquid slowly until it warms through over medium heat. Cook the liquid until it is thin and no longer grainy. Once it reaches this stage, turn off the heat and whisk in the honey. Depending on how sweet your juice is you can slightly increase or decrease this amount.

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Carefully pour liquid into candy molds or into an 8×8 inch glass baking dish. I had great success using a clean dropper/syringe that I use when giving medications to my little guy. It was especially helpful for the small candy molds I used. You can find them here. I love the shapes!

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Transfer molds or glass dish to the refrigerator and chill until set – about an hour.  Remove from molds or cut the flavored gelatin into squares.

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This recipe is a great jumping off point for further variations. Adding extracts or other nutritional ingredients like vitamin C powder are great ways to pack a punch in your homemade gummies.

Kelsey Nixon is the host of Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel and author of Kitchen Confidence. Kelsey’s Essentials is also currently airing Mon-Thurs at 3pm on Food Network. Kelsey, her husband Robby, and son Oliver (“Ollie”) live in New York City. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Back to School Organization

Post by Danielle, Creative Director at The Land of Nod

As adults, most of us no longer get 3 months off for summer vacation. But, as parents, we do get to enjoy a bit of the relaxation that comes with it. No permission slips to sign, no homework to check, no lunches to pack. So, it’s no surprise that the sudden jolt back into routine with the start of the school year can be just as unnerving for us parents as it is for the kids.

Perhaps some of you have this back to school organization thing down to a science, but I have to admit, when it comes to dealing with all the paperwork that comes home from school, I’m a hot mess.

So, I sat with our Nod storage gurus and room designers, to come up with a few tips on how the organizationally challenged among (ie. Me) us can get a grip on the back to school organization madness. Here are a few tips on creating a mini “nerve center” for your home with just a bit of wall space.

Back to School Organization Tip #1: Sort by Day

Back to School Organization Tip #1: Sort by Day

If your challenge is remembering what you need to do when, then sorting items by day may be your best bet. Our Take Five Wall Bin has 5 compartments; assign a day to each (Mon – Fri), and toss applicable items in each as soon as they arrive in your home. Then each morning, you can just grab the appropriate stack and be on your way. Also, include a chalkboard or calendar to add reminders. As well add in a few wall hooks to hang larger items that won’t fit in the bins. This also works well if you have multiple caretakers on various days, your babysitter/mother-in-law/spouse will always know just where to look for notes and details on the kids’ schedule.

Back to School Organization Tip #2: Sort by Kid or Activity

Back to School Organization Tip #2: Sort by Kid or Activity

If you have multiple children, or even one child involved in multiple activities, our Down to the Wire Wall Shelf would be a great solution. Assign a bin to each kid/activity, and make them responsible for putting their gear away when they walk in the door. Maybe this will help avoid them just dumping their backpack on the floor immediately inside the front door. Also, when you’re rushing out the door to soccer practice, you’ll know just where their cleats and shin guards are stashed.

Back to School Organization Tip #3: Keep Surfaces to a Minimum

Back to School Organization Tip #3: Keep Surfaces to a Minimum

If you tend to make stacks and piles, remove the temptation. Create a wall system with our Straight & Narrow Collection that allows for just small reminders to be tacked up, and sort paper as soon as it comes in the house. Be sure the recycling bin is nearby so unnecessary clutter can go straight to the recycling pile instead of a stack on your dining room table.

Back to School Organization Tip #4: Don’t be too hard on yourself

This tip didn’t come from one of our storage experts, but from me, a fellow mom who’s just trying to keep it together on a daily basis. It’s hard to juggle all that comes with modern-day parenting. So if a perfectly organized mudroom isn’t on your list of priorities, then don’t give it a second thought. Did you laugh with your kids today? Then, you’re good. No, actually, you’re awesome!

Danielle is the Creative Director at Nod and an over-protective mother of two. She’s also completely obsessed with Instagram, Twitter and her Kindle, but not necessarily in that order. Danielle loves to craft, sew and crochet, but all her supplies have a layer of dust on them about 7-years-thick, wonder if it’s just a coincidence that her oldest kiddo is 7 years old? – Click here to see more of Danielle’s Honest to Nod posts.

Milk & Cookies Birthday Party

Hi there! I’m Kelsey Nixon. I host a cooking show on Cooking Channel called Kelsey’s Essentials and I recently wrote my first cookbook, Kitchen ConfidenceMost importantly, I’m a mom to 2 year old Ollie! I recently threw a birthday bash for him celebrating with two of his favorite things – milk & cookies! He’s also a big fan of Elmo and Cookie Monster, so this was an attempt to do something that he really loved, but that didn’t have an overly pronounced character theme. After throwing a big party for his 1st birthday where I made all of the food (and ran myself ragged during the process), I decided to just focus on a fun cake this year and not worry about feeding all of our guests an entire meal. By scheduling the casual party later in the afternoon at the park, this worked really well. No one showed up super hungry, yet they were all happy to have a little something fun to eat.

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Once I decided to focus on the cake, I knew immediately that I wanted to do a chocolate chip cookie layer cake. I’d never made a “cookie cake” before, but felt like it seemed simple enough to tackle. I altered my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe slightly to make it more of a bar cookie – meaning that it was a bit thicker and more soft on the inside with crispy edges.

I used a springform pan to make the layers the exact same shape, but you could do the same thing with a standard cake pan as well. For the layers of frosting I used a cream cheese based recipe that wasn’t too sweet. I was worried that the weight of the cookies would be too much for the frosting, but it ended up working out just fine and the tart flavor of the cream cheese layers was a great compliment to the sweet cookies. I assembled the cake the day before since I had to work the morning of the party and ended up storing the cake loosely covered in the refrigerator. I didn’t want the frosting to become too soft causing the layers to shift, but I also didn’t want the refrigerator to dry out the cookie. It ended up working out perfectly, and if I were to make the cake again, I’d follow the same method of completing it the day before and storing it in the refrigerator until party time. I sliced the cake with a serrated knife to make sure that I could easily get through the layers.

The cake looked as good as it tasted and ended up being a great conversation piece for the adults throughout the party – I think everyone went home with a verbal tutorial! You can find the full recipe and detailed directions here.

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When it came to the decorating details, I used many of the same decorations that we had used at his 1st birthday party. We kept the same color scheme and reused a darling garland (similar here) that felt fun and festive with blues and greens. I’m a big fan of Shop Sweet Lulu and think that they do a great job of curating party decorations. I was able to find some additional details like this number 2 balloon  these mini milk jugs  and these paper goods that helped bring our simple theme to life and made the get together feel celebratory. I used Cookie Crisp cereal to fill the mini milk jugs for favors and also used the crispy cereal pieces to decorate the straws that everyone enjoyed with their milk. I also had some fresh fruit as an option to balance out all the sweets. We used this small picnic table to set up a few details and it was awesome. One of my favorite family purchases for summer!

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Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Cookie Birthday Cake

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Stacked Cookie Birthday Cake

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Cookie Cake

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We held the party at a playground in Central Park that had a small grassy area where we could all congregate. It was perfect for toddlers because the playground kept them contained, yet the adults were still able to mingle a bit on the grass without having to chase their toddlers everywhere. This parachute was fun for both the parents and kids to play with on and off throughout the afternoon.

Overall, I put in a little bit of effort and felt like we all had a great experience – most importantly Ollie had a blast! Since I wasn’t so concerned about preparing an entire menu, I was able to focus on Ollie and our guests more. It was a much more enjoyable experience this year! Just like any mom out there, I love the idea of throwing birthday parties for my kids that look like they fell from the pages of Pinterest, but I also know that it’s important to be realistic and not overwhelm yourself. This little party felt like a good balance where I focused on a few details (cake, small favors, cookie straws) and let everything else just fall into place.

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Happy Birthday Ollie! 2 years old has never looked so good!

Kelsey Nixon (www.kelseynixon.com) is the host of Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel and author of Kitchen Confidence. Kelsey’s Essentials is also currently airing Mon-Thurs at 3pm on Food Network. Kelsey, her husband Robby, and son Oliver (“Ollie”) live in New York City. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Kids Science Club

Post by Rebecca and Suzanne of A Feteful Life

Summer Activity: Kids Science Club

Hello friends! We had so, so much fun with our recent book club that when The Land of Nod asked us what else we had in store for our kiddos this summer, we knew instantly that we had to expand our group to include science. All of our kids have an interest in the subject and we knew once we put together a little party for the club, they’d be all over it. And they were — despite the sweltering afternoon summer heat (btw, how cute is our motley crew!?!).

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Fortunately for us, The Land of Nod carries the most stylish party goods perfectly suited for our club: The Meri Meri Fundamental Party Collection. The bright colors and graphic prints are right up our alley and the incorporation of real scientific principles, concepts and theory make them much more than just pretty partyware. Good looking and smart — a combo we can get behind.

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In addition to the party collection, we decorated the entrance to our gathering with a fabulous customizable Pennant Garland spelling out the name of our club. We hung Land of Nod’s gorgeous periodic table of elements Science Banner front and center over our lab for the day. Suzanne’s son Brady is a bit chemistry-obsessed and was over the moon to see the periodic table! We were equally impressed with the quality of canvas and beautiful colors of the artwork. We also draped a graph paper bunting, which we made using our free pennant bunting template, along the top of the elements banner. And even though a table full of sweets was sitting nearby, our kids wasted no time in getting right to the experiments.

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We set up three relatively straightforward experiments: making slime; mixing colors; and creating “snow” (you can download free printable blank experiment labels over at A Feteful Life).

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I was surprised that the color mixing seemed to be everyone’s favorite. The kids used their custom periodic element initialed lab notebooks (we had to make them after the book club notebooks were such a big hit!) to hypothesize which two colors they needed to mix to achieve their desired result. They took it very seriously and even experimented mixing different ratios of two primary colors to get what they wanted. The “snow” was another messy hit and Suzanne and I were grateful we held the meeting outdoors!

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While we waited for the slime to finish congealing, we turned to snack time. I set up a drink as an experiment itself by prepping one of my favorite party drinks: cotton candy + lemonade (a little trick I learned from Sweet Paul awhile ago). When you add lemonade to colored cotton candy … it changes color! Well, the party decided to take it a step further for us. It was so HOT outside that the cotton candy had lost all its moisture and completely solidified. The kids thought it was a hysterical “experiment.” No worries, the lemonade still changed color when we poured it over the petrified candy and earned oohs and aahs from our crowd.

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I added periodic element flags to the awesome graph paper straws, which we slipped into the beaker cups. The kids all loved finding their own initialed straw. We served puffed corn snacks and berries in clear cups, which we decorated with leftover stickers from the party collection. For some more sweet, we served up a plate of “whoopie pi,” which sat on a cake stand decorated with a handmade graph paper mini bunting.

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We obviously can’t resist DIY accessorizing, so we put together cute labels to wrap around chocolate milk boxes and custom confetti, too. You can find all of the items, including the periodic element flags, in our printable party pack.

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To keep the science going after the club adjourned, each kiddo took home an edible experiment: DIY Rock Candy (you can download the free printable favor tag at A Feteful Life). The favor kit included all non-grocery items needed to grow your own rock candy. And I used the bright cupcake wrappers from the Meri Meri kit to top a mason jar containing it all.My kids can’t wait to try it!

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It must be obvious from the photos, but we so loved our Science Club. And we think you should have one too! To get you started, we designed an invitation to go with the party pack. Hope your own little scientists are staying busy this summer. Fete on!

Rebecca and Suzanne are bloggers, graphic designers, and event stylists living in Washington, DC.  Rebecca is a mom to two young kiddos and, in her spare time (ha!), likes to pretend she’s a back-up dancer, craft cocktails, and run long distances. Suzanne is a big fan of good design, good wine, and her two rambunctious little boys. They share DIY lifestyle and event styling projects at A Feteful Life. Rebecca also blogs kid-friendly projects at Not-So-SAHM.