Make the Most of Summer’s End

Summer's End

The Sunday paper is filled with inserts shouting “Back to School”.  Your new issues of Parenting and Parents are all about getting ready for school.  By now you have probably bought all your school supplies and loads of new clothes for your kids getting ready for the day after Labor Day.  Hopefully you have already begun implementing earlier bedtimes and morning routines.

But there is still a few weeks of summer left and there is still time to make some awesome memories before returning to the school year routine.  It is time to plan some inexpensive activities to get you and your little ones out and enjoy this precious time.

A Day at the Beach 



I have to admit, I have yet to go to the beach this year.  And I live in the Lakes Area!  So, one day this week I will be packing a cooler with some PB&J sandwiches, fresh fruit, and water bottles, grab the sand toys, and head off to the beach with my boys.  Yes, we will be sticky with sun block, smell like lake water, and get sand in our cracks, but that’s what summer is all about.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

A Picnic at the Park

Okay, we have been to the park this year, but there is still time to squeeze in a couple more trips.  Make it extra special by bringing a blanket and a simple picnic.  I have learned the trick to this one is to bring a friend or two for the boys to play with.  This way I can actually sit and read a book for a little while and keep an eye on them at the same time.  To get even more time to read, bring some Nerf guns (no darts) and let them run around the jungle gyms and pretend to be at war.

Have a Water Fight

These are the best for having a water fight.

These are the best for having a water fight.

Fill up the kiddie pool full of water for reloading.  Everyone grab a water gun or an aqua zooka and let the battle begin.  Kids love doing this by themselves, but if you really want to make some summer memories get out there with them.



The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

See a Summer Blockbuster Matinee

Going to the movies with kids can add up fast.  Tickets and snacks can cost a small fortune these days.  So hit the 10:00 am Matinee for $5 tickets.  Eat a hearty pancake breakfast before you go, then when the movie is over go home for lunch.  Even better, check out your local Second Run Movie Theaters.  As long as you see a movie you never saw before, who cares that it came out four or five months ago.  It is still new to you!


Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Visit a Farm

Take the kids to a U-Pick farm and enjoy the fruits of summer.  Raspberries are in season right now in Michigan.  Or visit a farmer’s market and let the kids pick out something new to try.  The kids get to enjoy a family activity and the local organic community gets some support.  It’s a win-win!  Fresh, local, and organic will always taste better than fruit and veggies trucked in from hundreds of miles away and picked long before ripeness and left to finish ripening in a packing crate!

One Last Family BBQ

Time to get all the cousins together to play in the yard and have one last family get together before everyone gets real busy again.  Keep it simple!  Hot dogs on the grill, maybe a few brats, and a giant watermelon sliced up along with Trip Berry Trifle for dessert.

Cheap but yummy!

Cheap but yummy!

Triple Berry Trifle

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

1 large Sara Lee Pound Cake

1 box Instant Vanilla Jello Pudding

1 tub Cool Whip

1 container strawberries

1 container raspberries

1 container blueberries

  1. Let the Sara Lee Pound Cake thaw.
  2. Wash fruit and cut strawberries in quarters.
  3. Prepare Instant Pudding according to directions.
  4. Cut pound cake into 1 inch cubes.
  5. Layer pound cake, pudding, and fruit in large bowl. (cake, pudding, fruit, cake, pudding, fruit)
  6. Top with Cool Whip and use a few berries to decorate the top.
Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

This dessert goes together super fast and super easy and I am not exaggerating when I say people go crazy for it.  The last time I served this one of our friends actually licked the bowl clean!

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The Very Best of the Mommy Cookbooks


My second child is a very picky eater.  Foods that he happily devoured while he was a baby and a young toddler he now turns his nose up to and refuses to touch.  He is especially picky about veggies.  So like many moms I turned to the assorted “Mommy Cook Books” to sneak some proper nutrition into my child.  For example, he hates tomatoes with a passion, yet loves tomato sauce.  So spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite weapons for deceptive cooking, along with using my Pampered Chef slap chopper to mince veggies so small they all but disappear into whatever I am cooking.  I learned a lot of great tips from some really amazing cooks and I want to share them with you here.

Annabel Karmel

This mom is a great cook.  I especially LOVE her Finger-Picking Chicken Balls.  They are delicious chicken meatballs packed full of granny smith apples and grated carrots, and I often even toss in a handful of fresh baby spinach into the mix.  The boys gobble these down faster than any chicken nugget and because I buy hormone free chicken I know exactly what they are eating.  The two books worth the money for me are:

Superfoods lunchbox

Her Homemade Tomato Soup is another highly recommended recipe!

Jessica SeinfeldDeceptive

I was reluctant to buy this book at first because of the lack of pictures.  As a rule I want to see a photograph of what I am about to make, but this book was highly recommended to me by several of my mommy friends who also have a picky eater or two so I gave it a try.  I am glad I did.  I found many good recipes in here.  My boys especially love her Sweet Potato Pancakes and her Mac & Cheese with hidden cauliflower.


WeeCatherine McCord

I personally am a lover of all things Mexican and Italian when it comes to food so Catherine McCord was a perfect fit for my family.  This book has traditional types of food in it that kids already love, like quesadillas, enchiladas, and many kinds of pasta, but all prepared in a healthy fashion.  Plus, her Breakfast Cupcakes are nothing short of genius.  I mean, who doesn’t want a “frosted” cupcake for the occasional breakfast?  An added bonus is lots of beautiful pictures.

Betty Crocker

This cook book probably isn’t what you are thinking about when you think of cooking for kids, however, these recipes are very easy to modifyBig Book and very simple to prepare.  I may be a mom who wants her kids to eat healthy, but I also am a working mom who does not have all day to prepare and prep for out of this world dinners.  The Big Book of Weeknight Dinners is filled with traditional and new recipes of great food that can be assembled fast.  To keep the recipes healthy stick with your organic produce and hormone free meats.  The Moment’s Notice Menu Guide is also a life saver of those nights when you walk in and say to yourself, “What the hell am I cooking tonight?”

Pampered Chef

Everyone, and I mean everyone, I have ever served these Pampered Chef recipes to have absolutely loved them.  Maybe it is because so many of them rely on Pillsbury Crescent Rolls as the base of the recipe or maybe the seasoning is just perfect, I don’t know and I don’t care.  All I know is that the food is beyond delicious and the children devour it.

I admit that you do have to take a little care with these recipes because they can get high in sodium and fats due to their use of processed foods.  I have learned to purchase the reduced fat Pillsbury products if they are required and swap out seasoning packets and can soup for the reduced sodium versions.  For example, Ortega now has an envelope of Taco Seasoning that has 40% less sodium.  In my experience there is no difference in the taste of the final product when you are done cooking.

Further, these recipes, just like the Betty Crocker ones, go together extremely fast.  The books I have pictured below are the two that I recommend spending your money on.  Pampered Chef has many other cookbooks, but none of them, in my opinion, come close to these two.

All The Best Main Dishes

All of the cookbooks in this post can be purchased from, even the Pampered Chef ones, and of course if you spend $25 or more you get that wonderful free shipping.  One further note, none of the authors I have mentioned here are sponsoring this post.  These are cookbooks I have purchased over the years and use repeatedly because they work for me and my family.


Please share in the comments any chefs or cookbooks that you have found to be invaluable as a tool for putting quick and healthy meals on your dinner table in the comments.  I love to hear from my readers.

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