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Love in a Test Tube – Fun Valentine’s Day Ideas!

Valentine’s Day celebrates love. Or maybe it celebrates all the kids in your child’s class with the big exchange of small paper postcards. If they’re lucky, they will get a lollipop attached to the paper card. Woo hoo.

The holiday brings doilies, construction paper hearts, paper Valentines and don’t forget the candy. Come on people, Valentines can be more exciting than this.


Last year I decided I was not going to phone in the Valentines. I wanted my daughters’ classmates to get excited when they received their Valentine. I even wanted them to take home the Valentine and learn something from it. Yes, sometimes I get carried away.
How you ask?

I made Valentines filled with science of course!

I purchased Baby Soda Bottles (indestructible test tubes made from soda bottles before they are expanded to soda bottles) from SteveSpanglerScience.com. You can also find plastic test tubes and play test tubes by Googling them.

I filled the Baby Soda Bottles with a mixture of conversation hearts, red hots & M&Ms. I picked one of the many mini test tube experiments, printed out directions on small cards and tied a ribbon around the top of the test tube for extra beauty. And yes, they were a HUGE hit.

I also purchased a package of Goldenrod paper and brought it in for the kids to create unique Valentines during the classroom party. Goldenrod paper looks like regular yellow paper, but the dye in the paper turns bright red when it is exposed to ammonia (a base). If you put an acid like lemon juice or vinegar on the red, it changes back to yellow. The kids went crazy cutting out hearts and shapes and making designs and patterns with the color.

I actually use washing soda in place of ammonia. Washing soda is a cousin of baking soda and isn’t so toxic.

I gave each child a piece of paper, cotton balls and cups filled with washing soda and water and cups filled with lemon juice. Several of the kids missed recess because they were so fascinated with their super cool Valentines.

For more detailed instructions and more scientific Valentine ideas, check out our Valentine section at SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She was the social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

Top 5 Tips for the Dirty Dash (20% Off & ENTER to WIN!)

CONTEST CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO ROBERTA E.!

The Dirty Dash? This race on June 16 at the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield is intimidating, I know. Fear not…this race is great for all skill levels AND you can whoop it up for the cam an we’ll never know how many pits and obstacles you decided to tiptoe around. Family-friendly? YES! There’s even a Piglet Plunge so the little ones can be in on the action! As for team Fine S’Wine, well, let’s just say there *was* blood, oh ya.

My Personal Top 5 Tips for the Dirty Dash:

5. If you’re down with root beer, ID not necessary…review rules packet pick-up.
4. Wear clothes that can get D.I.R.T.Y. (undies and all – not kidding)
3. Potty breaks in mud pits are just not ok (so it wasn’t the Dirty Dash, but apparently this *has* happened, eek!)
2. A gleaming white shirt at the end of this race = social shaming
1. Photo Op FUN…because you know your social media friends love this stuff!

It’s good to give to the YMCA

Sing it with me now: ♫ It’s good to give to the YMCA! ♫

Arm gestures and sense of exuberance encouraged.

I’ve not been shy about everything that my family and I get from our association with the YMCA. We’ve been to two camps in two seasons — the Estes Park Center YMCA in the summer and Snow Mountain Ranch in the winter. Several times a week I enjoy classes in fitness, dance and yoga at the Y near me. I’ve made friends there; it’s a community. My children have made friends, too, as they rotate through various sports activities throughout the year.

The sky’s not the limit: New IMAX and Planetarium shows unveiled

You think the wind was bad last month? Then you don’t know about the 1000 mph winds on Jupiter. You remember that below zero cold spell we had in 2011? That would be a heatwave on Uranus. Did that Superbowl pot of chili lead to some odiferous effects in your family last week? Think about living on Titan, Saturn’s moon, which has rivers of liquid methane.

These are just a few of the factoids my children and I learned recently at a showing of The Wildest Weather in the Solar System.

Three new IMAX and Planetarium shows opened recently at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, giving you three new chances to go geek with your kids.

Decorating with Science for the Holidays

Have you decorated your home for the holidays yet? They are coming up quickly and if you haven’t finished sprucing up the home, why not try decking the halls with a little science?

First, you’ll need to head out to your local craft store, garden store or science supply store, like SteveSpanglerScience.com and purchase a few supplies. You’ll need some basic things like vases, candles, scented oils, holly branches and ornaments. To add spheres-marblesin the science, you’ll need some fake or Insta-Snow, Jelly Marbles, Water Jelly Crystals and fizzy tub tints or color mixing tablets. You can also use food coloring. I prefer the tub tints, because they do not stain like food coloring.

Hydrate the marbles or crystals for about 24 hours in water. The marbles and crystals are polymers and will grow 200 times their size in water. Watch them as they grow in the water for a little science lesson in water conservation and absorption.

I love leaving the Jelly Marbles clear and not colored for use with candles, but you can also color them by adding tub tints to the water before you hydrate them. To scent them, add liquid potpourri or oil to the water before hydrating, and they will smell fantastic.

Next, hydrate your Insta-Snow with a little water. Insta-Snow is a dry powder that fluffs up and looks and fcandles-instasnow-windoweels like real snow when water is added. My girls love to ‘make snow’ so make sure you involve the kids. One word of caution, the more the snow is handled, the more dirt and bacteria from hands will get into it, eventually turning the snow brown and yucky.

You can also turn the snow colors by adding the tub tints to the water before you mix it with the snow. I’ve made red and green snow for flare around white candles.

With all of your different polymers hydrated, add them to the vases, then add the candle.

For more ideas to decorate with science, head over to SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls, ages 4 and 8. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She works as a blogger and social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

A Warm Weather Guide to Fun in Denver

Warmer weather is here! As the sun lingers in the sky longer before settling behind the mountains, how should we fill the time? What activities are sure to be a hit?

Well, with the help of our readers (yes, that’s you!) Mile High Mamas has compiled a list of fun warm weather activities in the Denver area.  All of these places and activities in one handy list!?  Awesome!

Need an idea for an inside activity? It’s here!
Need a new outside activity to try? It’s here!

See something that isn’t on the list? Let us know, and we’ll add it! Be sure to bookmark this page and check back often! It’s your Warm Weather Guide to Fun in Denver!

So, get out there! Try something new! Explore your own backyard and beyond.

Indoor Activities:

Get in out of the sun (or rain) and have an indoor adventure!

  • American Paintball Coliseum – The coliseum is comprised of indoor and outdoor paintball fields. The indoor fields are split into two arenas, one with giant inflatable obstacles, the other with heaps of corrugated plastic tubing. The paint is water-soluble, and remnants of matches make floors sticky.
  • The Apex Center Treehouse Play Area – The kids love crawling through the tubes and sliding down the slides. This indoor play area is free and provides hours of fun, rain or shine!
  • Baby Boogie at the D-Note – Baby Boogie at the D-Note in Olde Town Arvada runs every Sunday from 3-6 pm. They clear their stage and put up kids’ instruments. The kids rule the restaurant and mom and dad can relax while the kiddos boogie.
  • Boondocks Fun Center – Boondocks Fun Center in Northglenn is an 8-acre indoor-outdoor fun facility. Indoors you’ll find a futuristic laser-tag arena, a dual-seat Max Flight Simulator and a broad sweep of arcade games that run from Dance Dance Revolution (hilarious to watch) to a Panzer tank simulator. From tiny tots to older teens, there’s a game appropriate for every player.

$10 Dinners: The Denver Post’s third annual economical recipe list

Save money at home. Looking for specials, clipping coupons, buying veggies in season (think asparagus) and being flexible are just a few ways to put your grocery bill on a diet.

The top tips for saving money are the things you already know but might not follow: Buy what’s on special. Clip coupons (really). Shop for food at drugstores, discount grocery stores and big-box stores, where you may find a smaller selection, but cheaper goods (although we found all of our ingredients for these recipes at a Denver-area Safeway). Hit the bulk aisle; you can save half or more on staples like rice, beans and spices. Buy what’s in season — asparagus is cheap and beautiful right now for a reason; tomatoes are not.

Most of all, be flexible: If you’re planning on grilled rib-eyes, but you see that London broil is on sale, forgo the more expensive meat. You can make do: London broil, like many other cheap cuts, is flavorful and easy to handle, and, if you slice and season correctly, just as tender and irresistible.

Go heavy on the vegetables, light on the meat. And buy local, organic, sustainable foods whenever possible. It’s better for the environment, better for the future, better for you. (But if your budget simply doesn’t allow it, don’t beat yourself up over conventional ingredients.)

We assume you have a few of the basics on hand already, such as olive oil, salt and pepper, perhaps a few dried herbs and spices. Beyond that, all you’ll need for dinner is about $10 and a little bit of time. (Bonus: Some of the recipes make enough for leftovers — hello, free lunch.) Tucker Shaw

10 RECIPES GUARANTEED TO SATISFY YOUR FAMILY, ALL FOR AROUND 10 DOLLARS:

Baked Orzo With Shrimp, Lemon and Feta

The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme. If you have some in your herb garden, go for it. But if all you have is dried thyme in the cupboard, decrease the amount to 1 teaspoon. For added savings, substitute about 3/4 cup frozen, thawed spinach for the 5 ounces of fresh spinach called for in the original recipe. It works nicely (and can save you a couple of bucks at least). If you can afford it, spring for the 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs that the original recipe calls for. Or, make your own bread crumbs by blitzing three slices of bread (you’ll find this in your pantry) in the food processor until crumbly, then baking on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 4 minutes. Adapted from “Big Buy Cooking,” by the editors of Fine Cooking. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients
5      tablespoons olive oil (pantry)
1      pound medium shrimp
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (pantry)
1      large clove garlic
3/4   cup frozen organic leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1      pound orzo
6      ounces crumbled feta cheese
2      teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried (pantry)
Finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
3/4   cup bread crumbs (pantry)

An Adventure in Every Bucket – Win a Bucket of Treasure Dough!

My 4-year old daughter loves playing with play-dough (homemade versions and the official store-bought brand of similar spelling). She loves making doughy objects, serving me food items, and creating her own creatures. She even loves mixing the colors together. Try as I might, this still makes me twitch…but that’s not what this review is about.

(Photo credit: Treasure Dough)

Recently, we had the opportunity to check out a new product called “Treasure Dough.” It’s made here in Colorado, and I love supporting our local businesses. Plus, I was intrigued by the concept and was excited to see what it was like.

We went on to their website, and I let Claire choose the one she wanted to try. (This is not a paid review.  We were offered a free bucket of Treasure Dough in exchange for an honest review.  Treasure Dough retails for $16.)

Would she reminisce about our days traveling to the beach and choose Under the Sea? Would she foster her love of the Zoo and choose to find the animals in the Zany Zoo bucket? Would she explore her newfound love of Dinosaurs and choose the Dino Diggers?

One look at the website, and the answer was clear. “Look at the princess one, Momma! I want to try the pink one!”

The Princess Loot it is!  Big shocker.

When the bucket arrived, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t full. There are two pounds of treasure dough in every bucket, but I was used to those other brands that fill their little tubs to the brim. But, when my daughter took one look at it, I knew why they’d done that.

“I see jewels peeking out!” she said. And, it was true! You could see some of the treasures just waiting to be found.

I cracked open the lid, plopped the Treasure Dough out onto her little table, and she dug in. Literally. She loved it. For the next two hours, she found every single jewel and treasure. Then, she’d hide them again and start over. Sometimes she’d have me hide them for her, which is a small price to pay for two hours of peace and quiet.

Every time she gets out the bucket of Treasure Dough, I know that she’ll be occupied for good chunk of time, and that’s awesome.

A few days later, one of Claire’s friends came over to play with us. He’s a 6-year old boy and not at all into the pink princess things of life. “Wanna play with my treasures!?” she asked him. In true Claire-style, it was more of a demand, rather than a request.

He took one look at the pink dough and started to formulate an escape plan. “You know…” I said, trying to alleviate an altercation. “If you ignore the fact that it’s pink, there are some really cool pirate treasures hidden in there.”

And it worked.

The two little pirates spent an incredibly large (and joyously quiet) amount of time finding buried treasure. When all the jewels had been found, they’d take turns hiding their loot. Every treasure they found was an exciting discovery. What they say is true! There really is an adventure in every bucket.

WIN your own bucket of Treasure Dough! Treasure Dough and Mile High Mamas is giving away a bucket of Treasure Dough to one lucky winner! Click here to enter!

Children’s Museum All About Animals Month – Win 4 Tickets!

The Children’s Museum struts, waddles, flaps, and soars into the month of March with new theme—All About Animals.

It’s nearly impossible to find a toddler or preschooler who doesn’t appreciate furry and feathery friends. I took my two youngest children to explore some of the animal-themed activities knowing none of us would leave disappointed. One of the first activities we joined was ARTS a la Carte’s Birds of a Feather. My 3-year-old, Beatrix, would get to hear a story and then make her very own bird with all sorts of cool, colorful art supplies.

We were warmly welcomed into the art room. Beatrix was given a large piece of paper and a pencil. The room quickly filled with kids and parents, eager to get crafty. Dana, the activity leader, read Sylvie, by Jennifer Sattler. It’s a book about a flamingo who tries being different colors but decides pink is pretty in the end.

The story served as creative inspiration for the kids, who were turned loose to make their own simple flamingos. It was easy for Beatrix’s little hands to glue and paste the paper parts together. She had a blast decorating her flamingo with crayon, feathers, and puffy balls.

Admit it. You want to make one too. Who can resist puffy balls and feathers?

I was a little worried the program would be too long to hold her attention, but it was perfectly timed and well-paced. If flamingos aren’t your child’s favorite bird, Birds of a Feather will be featuring other beaked friends to learn about, including peacocks and hummingbirds. When you attend, you should be aware you will have a new treasure to conspicuously hang in your home. Perhaps over your sofa? Your child will be seriously impressed with herself.

She may even want to sleep with her picture next to her in bed.

All About Animals will be the theme for the whole month of March. Fur, feathers and scales will be in style as we feature the world’s animal kingdom. Learn what we have in common with these amazing creatures and what makes us different.

Here is the schedule:

Small Resort, Big Fun! Win a 4-pack of tickets to ski Powderhorn!

Guest blogger Sara’s writing can be found at Lunacy.  Here she is sledding with her son outside the condo at Powderhorn.  Check out her review and don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a 4-pack of tickets!  (**See details below.)

I was so excited for our weekend trip to Powderhorn, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  We live in Evergreen, so we’re used to skiing Summit County resorts – miles of back bowls at Vail, crammed in the free shuttle bus at Breckenridge so that we don’t have pay to park, you get the idea. Big! Big mountains, big resorts, big crowds – big everything!

Let me preface all of this by saying that my husband loves to ski.  He’s made it his goal to ski in every month of the calendar year.  He tacks two extra hours onto a business trip so that he can take one run at Alyeska just so he can check Alaska off of his skiing bucket list.

When I told him that we were going to Powderhorn, I wasn’t sure how he would react.  In all of his hours spent dreaming about skiing, I didn’t think that this little resort atop a mesa just outside of Grand Junction had ever floated through his mind. But as the weekend got closer, we both knew how exciting it would be to share another set of ski experiences with our burgeoning skiers, Alex (4 1/2) and Ben (2 1/2).

We drove from Evergreen to Palisade on Friday afternoon. The drive was easy – a total of four hours with potty stops for the kiddos. We’ve always loved the wineries in Palisade, and knew we’d be cutting it close to get in a couple of tastings, but we arrived ahead of schedule. St. Kathryn Cellars is just off the highway as you drive into town.  I’m not usually one for fruit wines – I’ll take my wine made with grapes only please – but I have to admit that I’m kicking myself for not buying a bottle of their Confre Cellars Pomegranate Wine.  It sure would make a great Pome-tini if it was mixed right. They also had a great selection of good ‘ole grape wines, too.  And plenty of pretzels to keep the car-weary kiddos happy while we sipped.