Recommendations · Recreation · Things To Do

Schnepf Farms

One of our favorite things about Fall is the festivals! We love picking out pumpkins, getting spooked by a haunted train ride or corn maze, and riding all the rides! 

Schnepf Farms has everything you need for the perfect Fall festival. We have been going since we were kids and it gets better and better every year.

It’s located in the heart of Queen Creek and run by the Schnepf Family. It’s been operating for over 75 years and every year they add something new and more exciting.

One of the things we love is the u-pick garden. You can pick your own fresh veggies and fruits and especially pick out the perfect pumpkin, just in time to carve it for Halloween.

Spooky Train Ride

The spooky train ride is always a family favorite. During the day it gives you the opportunity to see most of the farm and all the festivities. At night time, the ghosts and goblins come out. It takes you through a dark, thick forest complete with a graveyard and several live, spooky characters. It also travels through a tunnel with a strobe light and some scary décor. Our 2, 4 and 6 year olds did just fine with all the ghosts and goblins, so we would definitely say it’s kid-friendly.

The treats are a major seller for us. We love the candy coated pecans, the cotton candy, and our personal favorite, funnel cake. They have so many yummy festival treats available so make sure to come hungry!

Photo opportunities

There are lots of photo opportunities. Instead of paying money for a Fall photo shoot to get that perfect family photo, bring your nice iPhone and snap a bunch of portraits at one of the many photo op locations including hay bails, pumpkin patches, old trucks, tractors, sunflower garden, corn maze and more!

Free rides

Once you get in, all the rides (not including the train) are free! There are all kinds of kid-friendly rides including a roller coaster, swings, flying airplanes, and my kids’ personal favorite, the giant slide! They also have an adult fair ride that my stomach couldn’t handle, but if you’re a thrill seeker, my husband definitely enjoyed it!

Plenty of entertainment

They also offer all kinds of entertainment, tons of food options and private s’mores bonfires. There is something for everyone. Bring the family, kids, make it a date night, a girl’s night out, or bring your professional photographer if you are an influencer or blogger.

Perfect family day out

Schnepf Farms is a family-friendly, family-owned farm and you will not be disappointed with your visit. There is way too much to do on this giant property. We were there for about five hours and still only did half of the activities offered at the farm.

Visitor Information

Ticket Price
$23/person* (2 years and under FREE)
*Military/Veteran, Police/Dispatcher and Firefighters pay $10/person

Season Pass $61/person

Opening Dates & Times
October 1st to November 1st

Thursdays: 1:00pm – 9:00pm
Fridays: 10:00am – 10:00pm (Mask Required from 10am-2pm)
Saturdays: 10:00am -10:00pm
Sundays: 10:00am – 9:00pm

More information can be found here.

We hope you enjoy the Fall festivities at Schnepf Farms! We posted about other Fall events happening in Arizona in our previous post HERE!

Events · Recreation · Things To Do

Things to do in Phoenix This Month

October Events & Experiences For The Whole Family

October is here, and it’s one of our favorite months of the year here in Arizona!

Whether you were born and raised here in the Valley, or this is your first October in Arizona, we want to share all our favorite local events and activities with you! Being born and raised in Mesa, we’ve seen a lot of events come and go over the years, and we’re always excited to try out new ones each year. Now, let’s jump right in!

Below is a list of events happening in the Valley throughout the month of October (listed in chronological order). We’ve listed the event website next to each event for you to find more information about your visit!

NOTE: We are continually adding to this page as we find more family friendly events happening in October. Be sure to check back often for the latest event information! 

If you have an event you’d like us to share, please email the press release to us directly at info@azmomsquad.com.

Pumpkin Patch at Mother Nature’s Farm

Price:
Admission: $10/person

Dates & Times:
September 26th – October 31st
Monday – Sunday 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Things to Do:
Hayride, adventure maze, farmyard animals, spider web crawl, pumpkin picking, arts and crafts, and more!

Location:
Mother Nature’s Farm
1663 E Baseline Rd
Gilbert, AZ 85233

Website:
http://www.mothernaturesfarm.com

Contact:
(480) 892-5874
news@mothernaturesfarm.com


Schnepf Farms Pumpkin & Chili Party

Price:
Admission: $23/person online, $25/person at the gate
Ages 2 and under free
Parking: Free
Season Pass: $61/person (good for any day)
Train Tickets: $4 (day time) and $7 (spooky)

Dates & Times:
Every Thursday – Sunday, October 1st – November 1st
Thursdays: 1:00 – 9:00 PM
Fridays & Saturdays: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sundays: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Things to Do:
Mini golf, petting zoo, hay rides, pig races, bon fires, amusement park rides, zip lines, face painting, 4 acre & 10 acre corn mazes, musical review show, yard games, deer feeding, and several different places to eat throughout the farm!

Location:
Schnepf Farms
24810 S. Rittenhouse Rd
Queen Creek, AZ 85142

Website:
https://www.pumpkinandchiliparty.com

Contact:
(480) 987-3100


Tolmachoff Farms Pumpkin Days & Corn Maze

Price:
Admission: $15/person, 2 and under free
Train Ride: $2
Tomato Canon: $2

Dates:
October 1st – November 1st
Wednesday-Thursday: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Friday: 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sunday: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Things to Do:
Family & mini maze, petting zoo, play areas, jumping pillow, train ride,hay pyramid, pedal cart track, corn box, and much more!

Location:
Tolmachoff Farms
5726 N. 75th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85303

Website:
https://tolmachoff-farms.com

Contact:
(602) 999-3276
tolmachoff1farms@yahoo.com


Vertuccio Farms Fall Festival & Corn Maze

Price:
Admission: $12/person, 2 and under free

Dates & Times:
October 1st – November 1st
Closed Monday October 5th & 12th
Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Friday – Saturday: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sunday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Things to Do:
Mini golf, 5 acre corn maze, pallet maze, zip line, rides, train ride, pumpkin bowling, duck races, and more!

Location:
Vertuccio Farms
4011 S. Power Rd.
Mesa, AZ 85212

Website:
https://vertucciofarms.com/fall-festival/

Contact:
(480) 882-1482
conoandangela@vertucciofarms.com


MacDonald’s Ranch Pumpkin Patch

Price:
Weekday Admission: $10/person, 1 and under free
Weekend Admission: $12/person, 1 and under free
Pony Rides: $5
Horse-Drawn Hayride: $5
Feed the Animals: $3
Mechanical Bull: $5
Pumpkins: $4-$25 depending on size

Dates & Times:
CLOSED Tuesdays
October 3rd – November 1st
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Normal hours on Halloween)

Things to Do:
Hay-bale maze, petting zoo, panning for gold, lawn games, pedal car and track, and more!

Location:
MacDonald’s Ranch
26540 N. Scottsdale Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85255

Website:
https://macdonaldsranch.com/pumpkin-patch

Contact:
(480) 585-0239
macranch@macdonaldsranch.com


AZ Field of Screams Haunted Corn Maze

Price:
Admission: $25/person

Dates & Times:
Every Friday & Saturday in October
7:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Location:
Tolmachoff Farms
5726 N 75th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85303

Website:
https://azfieldofscreams.com/

Contact:
(602) 999-3276
tolmachoff1farms@yahoo.com


Halloween Town Pumpkin Patch

Price:
Admission: $5/person
Ride Tickets: $1 (most rides are 2-4 tickets)
All Day Ride Pass: $20/person
Family Pack: $20 (25 tickets)
Parking: Free

Dates & Times:
Weekdays: October 22-30, 4:00 – 9:00 PM
Weekends: October 24, 25 & 31, 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Things to Do:
Rides, carnival games, inflatables, face painting, pumpkin painting, arts & crafts, pumpkin picking, and so much more!

Location:
Paradise Valley Mall
4568 E Cactus Rd,
Phoenix, AZ 85032

Website:
https://halloweentownaz.com/

Contact:
(480) 435-4325
halloweentownaz@gmail.com


If you have an event you’d like us to share, please email the press release to us directly at info@azmomsquad.com.

Recommendations

Back to School – Bentgo Boxes

Girl and Boy with Bentgo Box

Now that school is back in session, let’s talk school lunches!

As busy moms, we are always searching for products that make our lives easier and more convenient, and Bentgo does just that. 

Before I got my Bentgo boxes I was going through boxes upon boxes of Ziploc bags for lunch prep. It was time consuming, it didn’t keep the food very fresh, it took up a lot of space in the lunch bags and most of all, it created a TON of waste. I felt so guilty every time I packed snacks or a lunch.

A recommendation from a friend

One day, one of my girlfriends came over for a playdate with her three boys during lunchtime. She brought a small cooler full of what I thought was just a bunch of random pre-packaged snacks. When lunchtime came, she opened it up and I saw a neat stack of three small, brightly colored boxes for her boys with an ice pack separating each one.

Not only did it look perfectly organized, but there was not one ounce of waste in her bag. I was instantly intrigued but my next thought was, those have been moved around a ton. They’re probably a mess inside (thinking it was just a container of food.) She placed the boxes on the table for the boys and all three of them opened them in anticipation to reveal the most organized snack trays I had ever seen.

Bentgo Box with Food

These specific boxes come with five compartments, each one specifically sized according to the ratios of nutrients the children should be eating. There is a bigger compartment for grains, medium compartments for fruits and veggies and a protein, and a tiny compartment in the middle for sauces or sweets.

As the boys ate I noticed the lunch boxes didn’t slip or slide. There is a rubber coated edge around the entire base that keeps it from sliding. Plus the plastic was so sturdy, even if they dropped them from table height, I don’t think anything would happen to them.

Bentgo Boxes

An easy decision

The next couple of weeks went by and school was about to go back in person and I needed to make a decision on backpacks and lunch boxes. It was a no-brainer which lunch boxes I was going to purchase. 

I checked out www.bentgo.com and sure enough, I found the cutest colored lunch boxes for kids priced at only $24.99. I ordered two and have never been happier with a back-to-school purchase.

Reasons I love Bentgo Kid Boxes

The Bentgo Kid Boxes have given me peace of mind in so many ways:

  • I know exactly how much I need of each food group
  • I know that if my kids’ backpacks get shaken up, nothing is going to spill
  • I know my kids will not need any help opening bags or packages at snack time
  • I know my kids are going to eat a healthy, well-balanced lunch
  • I know that my kids won’t waste half of their lunchtime preparing their lunch (think lunchables)
  • I know that when they’re finished, all they have to do is close it up – no throwing away anything, no clean up, no mess.

They are kid friendly

This is my daughter’s third year in school and I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t purchase these lunch boxes until now. My kids are now in Pre-K and 1st grade. 

I was nervous they would have a hard time opening their lunchboxes. We did a couple of practices at home, opening and closing them so they would feel confident and comfortable with them at school. They have had no trouble whatsoever. 

The boxes are also extremely durable about very lightweight. They add hardly any weight and my kids don’t even notice them when they’re in their backpacks, making it super easy for my Pre-K boy to walk super confidently to class with no issues. When my daughter was in Pre-K, I had to hold her backpack because it was so heavy for her!

Easy to clean

Finally, when they get home from school, they know that the lunch trays go into the sink to be washed for the next day and the boxes get a good rinse in warm water. Nothing sticks, so no scrubbing. Just a super simple, quick wipe down, and they’re ready for the next day!

We now purchase all of our snacks according to the Bentgo set up. We know what will fit and what our children enjoy, so it saves a lot of money and time instead of trying to guess what they’re going to have for lunch. We pack them the evening before, so all we have to do is throw them in their backpack in the morning. 

Girl and Boy with Bentgo Box

Our life is a lot easier!

Bentgo has made our life easier without breaking the bank. They’ve also made things easier when going to the park, the pool, hiking, road trips and I can assume they’ll be our favorite thing to have when we go to theme parks when they open back up.

For all you mom’s with school-aged children, If you haven’t tried a Bentgo box, they’re worth every penny. They’ll definitely make your life easier. We absolutely recommend them!

Purple Bentgo Box
Recommendations

Gabb Wireless – A Safe Phone For Kids

The perfect first phone to help keep kids safe online

With the world becoming increasingly reliant on technology, it can be easy to get discouraged when raising our kids. Rather than worry about the choices other people are making, we can only worry about the things WE can control, and do everything we can to keep our children safe from the harmful effects that can come from too much technology.

53% of 10-year-olds have a smartphone with unlimited access to the internet, adult apps, and social media. (Common Sense Media)

DID YOU KNOW?

“When children are exposed to too much technology at a young age, they can suffer from serious risks like anxiety and depression, an inability to connect with others, addiction to sexually explicit content, and sexual predators.” (Gabb Wireless)

By giving young children smartphones, parents are literally handing over complete access to the worldwide web filled with YouTube, Tik Tok, and so much more.

In an effort to protect children from the dangers that surround them on their smartphones, Gabb Wireless has created a device that can give you complete peace of mind, while still allowing you to communicate with your children while you’re away. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Gabb phone?

The Gabb phone is a touchscreen phone with a similar appearance to an average smartphone. However, it is only capable of performing necessary functions such as making phone calls, sending SMS text messages, taking photos, and a few other basic features.

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, “1 in 5 youth between the ages of 9 and 17 view unwanted sexual material online”. (Journal of Adolescent Health)

How does the phone help protect children?

  • Prevents exposure to inappropriate content
  • Avoids distractions and screen addiction
  • Reduces the likelihood of cyber-bullying
  • Reduces stress and anxiety caused by over-consumption of social media
  • Encourages life “outside the screen”

What apps are included on the Gabb phone?

The Gabb phone comes with only 14 essential apps that allow kids to socialize with their friends, while staying protected from potential dangers online. The apps included on the phone include:

  • Music
  • Phone
  • Messaging
  • Contacts
  • Camera
  • Video
  • Voice Recorder
  • FM Radio
  • Gallery
  • Calendar
  • Calculator
  • Clock
  • File Manager
  • Settings

How much does a Gabb phone cost?

Gabb wireless has made their devices and plans incredibly affordable, making it possible for everyone to get their kids a safe phone! Their latest device, the Gabb Z2, runs only $99.99 with the unlimited talk & text plan only $19.99/month. The Gabb Z2 Bundle comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee, no contract, and beginning October 2020, it now has GPS!

To make it even more affordable, if you use our coupon code AZMOMSQUAD when purchasing your Gabb device, you’ll get an extra $10 off, bringing the price down to only $89.99!

Click here to order a Gabb phone for your child, and don’t forget to use coupon code AZMOMSQUAD for an extra $10 off.

Or view all FAQ’s on Gabb’s website.

Gabb Wireless is on a mission to protect our youth from these and other dangers that come from having an all-access smartphone. We hope you’ll join us in spreading the word so that more and more parents can provide their children with safe phones!

Recreation · Things To Do

Paddle Boarding In Arizona – With Desert Paddle Boards

One of the things we love about Arizona is the endless activities the desert offers. We have the ability to be outside 365 days of the year in certain areas (and if you have the right clothing and equipment). Between hiking, biking, camping, tubing, there is endless fun in the AZ desert and the views are priceless.

One of the things we love doing is floating down the Salt River. The Salt River has a natural current for miles and it can be a relaxing trip with friends or a vigorous exercise, depending on your equipment. We love connecting inner tubes together and chatting with friends or kayaking up the river for a great workout, and just recently, we discovered paddle boarding.

The Paddle Boarding Discovery

We might be way behind the times here, but paddle boarding is one of our new favorite hobbies. We discovered Desert Paddle Boards through a friend. We went with some mom friends early one Saturday and went against the current for a good workout. We didn’t make it very far, but we did get the exercise we were looking for. I was sore in places I didn’t know could be sore!

I was a little nervous my first time because I didn’t think I could keep my balance, but I soon realized that paddle boarding is for all levels. I was able to stand or sit on my board just fine, and at one point, I started doing headstands! It was thrilling and such a fun way to bond with girlfriends. We ended up “parking” our boards together halfway upstream and chatting for another hour. It was a much needed girls’ morning out.

Paddle Board Yoga

Later that month, Ash and I decided to go try paddle board yoga. Again, we were a little nervous and not sure what to expect, but we ended up having an amazing time, and again, an incredible workout. Paddle board yoga is offered at various public pool locations. Check online to book. This particular one was at Hamilton Aquatic Center and was taught by yoga teacher, Vanessa Siren with @siren.yoga, who just so happens to be our aunt.

She was so much fun, and because she was our aunt, she made sure we were right up front and pushed us the hardest. I have done yoga several times in my life, but paddle board yoga is next level! That will go down as a top ten workout in my life. We definitely struggled with the poses and both of us fell in at one point, but we had so much fun!
The boards are slightly different for the yoga class than the ones that we went down the river with. The yoga boards are rectangular and are hooked onto the pool ropes so you don’t float away during the session. The boards to float down the river were long and skinnier, and come with a paddle.

Paddle Boarding With The Kids

Last weekend we decided to do a family trip with our children, who are 2, 4 and 6. We packed their life vests and went back to the Salt River. One of the ways to do it is to have one truck parked at the drop off location and one parked at the end location so you don’t have to hike all that way back to your vehicle after floating downstream.

The kids all had life vests on, which Desert Paddle Boards provided for free. They sat at the front of our boards and had the best time! As they got more and more comfortable, they started jumping from board to board, or held on to the side of the board and floating along in the water. Along the way we saw ducks, frogs and even wild horses! The view is breathtaking and the whole trip (even with kids) was very therapeutic.

Paddle Board Features

Another nice thing about these boards are the elastic straps at the front. These allow for you to strap down sunscreen, water bottles, shoes, etc. so you don’t have to leave it all at the car.

Desert Paddle Boards is super inexpensive, and a great way to experience the AZ outdoors without being in the heat. Sarah (the owner) offers the boards at only $20 per half day and paddles and life jackets are included. She is located at Higley and McKellips, so she’s super close to the river, only a 20 minute drive from there. She suggests to get to the river early on weekends or holidays because it gets very crowded. She also takes Venmo for an easy, contactless payment.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • Remember a strap to tie down the boards and paddles
  • Make sure you have a truck
  • Make sure you have a Tonto parking pass
  • Bring lots of sunscreen as you are out in open sunlight the entire time
  • Wear a fanny pack and pack snacks
  • Strap water bottles onto the elastic bands of the boards
  • You can fit two small children and an adult comfortably on a board
  • If you plan to have your phone with you, put it in a ziploc bag

If you’re looking for another way to enjoy the desert scenery, this is definitely on our recommendation list and Desert Paddle Boards is our favorite to work with. Go check her out at @desertpaddleboards on Instagram or on her website at www.desertpaddleboards.com for more info.

Tell her AZ Mom Squad sent you!

Enjoy your new favorite way to float down the river!

DIY Projects

DIY Paint On Chalkboard Wall

Our step-by-step guide for building a DIY chalkboard wall in our kids playroom, including tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to make it even easier!

Our tips, tricks, and steps to make an easy chalkboard wall

My husband and I LOVE doing DIY projects around the house whenever we have the time and budget. When we moved into our new house recently, I knew I wanted to do a chalkboard wall in the playroom. When things finally settled down, I was excited to get started!

The chalkboard wall was a very simple and budget-friendly project. It didn’t require a lot of supplies and it only took about 6 hours to complete (split up over two days). I spent a lot of time on Pinterest prior to starting the chalkboard wall, and gathered as much information as I could from people who have previously done them.

Below I will walk you through step by step instructions of how we did our chalkboard wall, including the supplies we used. Make note at the end of the instructions, I also list a couple of tips for what we would have done differently looking back at the project now.

I always love seeing other people’s house projects, so if you find this helpful, please post a picture of your chalkboard wall at the end of this post so we can see how it turned out!

Paint on chalkboard wall step by step instructions

Disclaimer: Please note that many of the supplies listed below are linked to an Amazon page where you can find the product we used for our chalkboard wall. We do receive a small affiliate commission if you purchase the products through the links below.

STEP 1: MEASURE

Measure and mark the wall space where the chalkboard paint will go. Make pencil marks on the four corners and connect the four marks with a level to outline your chalkboard. Keep in mind that you will be painting over these marks, and adding wood trim on top of them, so this is just a rough outline of the finished chalkboard.

STEP 2: SUPPLIES

Time to purchase your supplies! One of my favorite things about the DIY chalkboard wall is that it required very little supplies to be purchased. Most of the supplies we already had on hand, and you may as well! You can purchase everything you need from The Home Depot or other hardware stores. However, I’ve linked most of the supplies below to where you can find them on Amazon to save some money. 

Here’s a list of what you’ll need, as well as a few things you may want to make things easier, though they aren’t necessary.

STEP 3: PAINT

One thing to note about chalkboard paint is that you will definitely need to do several coats of paint to make your chalkboard look nice. We did 3 coats of paint on ours and I love the way it turned out, but it would have been even darker and smoother if we had a few more coats. We ended up having enough paint for exactly 3 coats, though. 

STEP 4: DRY COAT & RINSE BRUSH

Wait for the first coat to dry and rinse the brush.

STEP 5: REPEAT STEPS 3 to 4

Paint your second and third coats the same as the first. I waited a couple of hours in between each coat, but it seemed to be dry before that. You just need to make sure it´s completely dry before adding the next coat.

STEP 6: CUT THE TRIM 

You need to wait 48 hours before writing anything on the chalkboard, so in the meantime, finish your trim! Using the measurements you took at the beginning, cut the boards appropriately. We made it simple and just made the top and bottom boards longer than the two side boards so they would line up evenly. But if you want to get fancy, you could cut the corners at a 45 degree angle to have them meet at a point.

STEP 7: SPRAY PAINT THE TRIM

Time to give the trim some color! We only needed one can of spray paint for our boards, and we were able to coat them really well. We only painted the top and sides to save paint. Let the boards dry completely before bringing them inside.

STEP 8: GLUE ON BOARDS

Using the Gorilla Construction Adhesive glue, squirt glue all down the back of the BOTTOM board in a wavy line. Carefully place the board onto the wall at the bottom of the chalkboard and hold it there for a couple of minutes. It may be easier to have a second person help you with this to be able to put pressure on more of the board. Be careful not to move the board as the glue will still be wet. After a couple of minutes, make sure there isn’t any glue scoring out of the sides, and let it dry.

STEP 9: WAIT

In between coats you need to make sure your chalkboard is completely dry in order to make the coats go on evenly. I waited about 2-3 hours in between coats. During this time you can wash out your paint rollers, and work on the trim boards to save time.

STEP 10: REPEAT

Continue repeating steps 3-4 until you run out of paint.

STEP 11: CUT

You need to wait 48 hours before writing on the chalkboard, so use this time to complete the trim. Using your measurements from the beginning, cut the 4 pieces of wood accordingly. To make it simple, we made straight cuts on all the sides. If you wanted to get fancy with your corners, you could cut at a 45 degree angle to have your corners meet at a point.

STEP 12: PAINT

We only needed one can of spray paint to cover all four of our trim boards evenly. We only sprayed the top and sides to save on paint. Let the boards dry COMPLETELY prior to bringing them in to put on the chalkboard.

STEP 13: GLUE

Starting with the bottom board, squeeze the glue out in a curved line all the way down the back of the board. Gently place the board at the bottom of the chalkboard and hold it. It may be easier to have another person to help you hold the board in place for a couple of minutes. Be careful not to move the board as the glue dries. After a couple of minutes, check to make sure no glue has come out the sides of the board.

STEP 14: REPEAT

Repeat step 8 for all the boards. It’s easiest if you do the two side boards and leave the top board as the last piece. After 30 minutes or so, the boards should be completely glued to the wall. But wait a good 24 hours to make sure the glue dries completely. 

STEP 15: PRIME

After letting the chalkboard sit for 48 hours, you need to “prime” it before writing on it. To do this, take a piece of chalk, lay it on its side, and rub it liberally across the entire chalkboard. This step is VERY important to do before you start writing on your chalkboard! Priming the chalkboard gives it a nice coat of chalk so that when you write, it actually erases. After covering the entire board liberally, use a dry rag to begin erasing the marks. You may need to use several different dry rags as they will fill up with chalk quickly. I went over the chalkboard at least 2-3 times with rags to get as much of the chalk off as possible. You can also go over it with a rag and then follow it with a chalkboard eraser to get rid of the marks.

STEP 16: ENJOY!

You did it! Now you can start using your chalkboard to your heart’s content.

What we would’ve done differently

  • Remove drywall texture and have a smooth surface
  • Use a miter chop saw instead of a table saw

I would love to see photos of your DIY chalkboard walls!

Drop them in the comments below and let me know how yours turned out.

Links for the supplies

Here’s a handy list of supplies you can get on Amazon:

Guest Post

Meet Lynn from Rhyme to Read


Lynn Klaiman has over 25 years of experience as a classroom teacher and a reading/learning specialist at both private and public schools. Her passion for helping young readers was the inspiration behind the Rhyme to Read program. At present, Lynn is a lower school learning specialist at an independent school in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree in Reading Education.


Learn-to-read books

Early in my teaching career, I could not find the tools readily needed to help kids learn to read in an easy step-by-step way that was interactive, progressive, and fun. When I started looking for such a tool, I had no idea that I would end up partnering with a colleague to author learn-to-read books, see the impact of those books on my students and their wonderful families, and learn so much from this journey.

I am not only an educator, but a proud mother of two. One of the things I enjoy the most is watching those “ah-ha” moments when kids start to make the connections needed to learn to read. I guess you could say it is my “why”… why we built these tools, why I am a teacher, an author, a learning mentor, and now a blogger. If I can help one person unlock understandings for how to read, then I have set them on a path to unlock imagination, innovation, and all the possibilities in their life’s journey

The next step

I am excited about this next step in my journey. For years I have shared this tool in collaboration with other educators, on my Facebook page, and the families that reside in the students of their classrooms; now we are taking that next step and sharing this with everyone.

While I am all the things I said above (and like all moms, a little more for all the hats we wear!),  I am also on a journey that has me humbled by all of the wonderful families that I get to learn from every day, putting myself and books out there in hopes to help more children learn to read, and sharing the tools and tips that I collect along the way.

Anyone can learn to read

With the right tools, a little help, and consistency, anyone can learn to read. Seeing as you’re here, I know we have a common goal: share the love of reading with children who can grow up and make the world a better place. I am here to help you because I know you can do this with the children you love

Children are ready for our Rhyme to Read program when they know all of the letter sounds, and are ready to move on to blending the sounds together to make words. Rhyme to Read was designed to make children feel confident and excited as they start their own reading journeys.

Here are some tips for fostering a strong foundation for your own children at home.

Supporting literacy development at home

  1. Read to your child every day. This will expose them to vocabulary words rarely used in conversation, introduce them to new cultures, time periods, raise interesting topics for conversation, and build skills for reading comprehension later on. Plus, it’s great snuggle time.

  2. Talk about print concepts. These are the conventions of book reading. Parents can point out the title and author’s name to their child when reading together, point to words as they read aloud, talk about where reading begins on the page, and show how the words flow from left to right.

  3. Support the development of phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is “the ability to recognize and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words, such as syllables, initial sounds, rhyming parts, and phonemes.” Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. This is done through listening activities such as playing rhyming games and reading rhyming books, listening for the first or last sound of words and making up silly sentences in which all the words start with the same sound – for example: “Mom made me many meatballs”.

  4. Encourage book exploration. When your child sits alone and pretends to read aloud, they are practicing reading behaviors and enjoying literacy.

  5. Create reading opportunities in natural settings. Using a recipe to cook together, reading street signs and reading menus are all good examples of reading outside of books.

  6. Encourage your child to explore toys and games that build literacy skills such as alphabet puzzles, bathtub letters, memory, and board games.

  7. Reading and writing are intertwined. Create fun opportunities for writing such as notes to one another, grocery lists, thank you cards and playing school. Show them what an exciting and useful form of communication writing can be.

  8. Foster good comprehension skills when reading books together. Good readers ask themselves questions before, during, and after reading. Ask your child to predict what might happen next in a story. Ask why a character made the choice they did. Connect the story to your own experiences. With non-fiction, ask what they already know about this subject and what they hope to learn from the book.

  9. Relax and enjoy being a part of this exciting milestone in your child’s development. It’s truly miraculous!

Happy reading!! 

Lynn

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Recipes

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch

For as long as I can remember, my grandma made her mouth-watering red velvet cake every single Christmas, and 1-2 other special occasions throughout the year. It was something the entire family looked forward to because every bite was quite literally a taste of heaven. As the extended family continued to grow, more and more people were blessed with this amazing dessert during the holidays.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end I guess. Several years ago, grandma stopped baking the cake. With our rapidly growing family, it would take at least two cakes for everyone to be able to enjoy a slice. We all knew the amount of effort she put in to bake only one red velvet cake, and it was not feasible for her to do two. It was time for grandma to spend more time enjoying the family and the holidays, rather than worry about bringing this heavenly dessert on top of everything else she contributed to Christmas dinners. The iconic red velvet cake was set to be retired with my grandma unless someone else wanted to take the mantle.

A couple of years ago, I reached out to my grandma to ask her if she would teach me how to make it. Since I was a child, I’ve often gone over to her house to cook with her and learn new recipes. To this day, my recipe books are filled with recipes my grandmother taught me in her kitchen.

Lo and behold, it was finally time to add the red velvet cake into my arsenal! My grandma was thrilled for another opportunity to teach me one of her recipes, and I was thrilled to be learning how to make the greatest dessert I had ever tasted. This mouth-watering red velvet cake is one that I hope to continue to pass down for many generations to come!

Before I jump into the recipe, I must warn you: this cake is a labor of love. If you are a baker at heart, then you know exactly what I mean. This isn’t one of those “quick and easy” cake recipes. While it IS simple, it is also time consuming. But the reactions on people’s faces while they eat this red velvet cake makes every second worth it.

Now, enough of the chit chat! With my grandma’s permission, let’s jump right into the recipe!

Thank you so much for reading, and please let me know in the comments how your cake turned out!! My grandma will be thrilled to see her red velvet cake recipe bringing joy to tables all over!

Ashlyn xx

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Cake, Dessert
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Hand mixer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • 2 x 9" cake pans

Ingredients
  

Cake ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups oil
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk** (see substitute option below)
  • 1.25 cup red food coloring (2 oz)

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cube margarine or butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (approx.)

Instructions
 

Preheat and prepare:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour two 9” cake pans

Mix the cake batter:

  • Blend 2 eggs and 2 cups oil with a hand mixer
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • In a separate bowl, mix the following ingredients:
    – 2 ½ cups flour
    – 1 ½ cups sugar
    – 2 tsp cocoa
    – 1 tsp each of soda and salt
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Add the dry mixture to the eggs and oil, then mix with the hand mixer. The mixture will look slightly lumpy.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Once ingredients are fully mixed, add the following ingredients and mix again until combined:
    – 1 tsp vinegar
    – 1 tsp vanilla
    – 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Add half the red food coloring and mix SLOWLY to avoid splattering the food coloring. Once that’s combined, add the rest of the food coloring and mix slowly until well blended.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Pour half the batter into each pan. (Try to make them as even as possible – I use a measuring cup to make it even.)

Bake and cool:

  • Bake for 30 minutes – do not overcook! Cakes are finished when a toothpick is inserted into the middle and comes out almost clean.
  • Put cake pans directly on a cooling rack. Go around the edges with a knife.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Let them sit in the pans for about 5-10 mins, then carefully remove the cakes by flipping the pans over onto the cooking racks and gently lifting the pan up

While cakes are cooling, make the frosting:

  • Using a spoon or rubber spatula, mix all frosting ingredients together (except for pecans). DO NOT use the hand mixer to mix the frosting. It will take a little while to get all the ingredients mixed together and for the consistency to be right, but just keep folding it over onto itself using a spoon.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Once the frosting ingredients are fully combined, add in the chopped pecans. Mix together until well combined.
  • Spread onto the cooled cake.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad

Video

Keyword Red Velvet Cake Recipe