Junior Ranger Badges & a list of ones you can earn at HOME!

Summer is in full swing around here. Swimming lessons, playing outside, morning walks to the park, camps, and general laziness and enjoying not having a set schedule.

If you are looking for a fun and educational project to do with your kids that also earns you a FREE prize, read on! No traveling necessary! (just a printer and some paper!)

One thing we are doing this summer is working on a BUNCH of Junior Ranger Badges. We are going to Washington DC again (this is a common trip for us) and decided that we should do the Junior Ranger badges this time. We started doing the Junior Ranger program last summer when we visited all the National Parks in the State of Washington. The kids LOVED it. Plus a fantastic FREE souvenir! We also bought the passport books and started collecting the cancellation stamps. Another FREE souvenir and way to remember all our adventures! Also, there are badges you can earn without leaving your house! So even if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can still take part!!

So For this trip, I have tried to print out as many of the junior ranger books as I can. Most of them are available on their website! For us, it is MUCH easier to work on all 5 kids books at home or in the car, instead of trying to help all of them there at the park. We’d rather be adventuring out in the parks, than trying to get all of them filled out – which is very time-consuming with 5!! Most even allow you to mail in your books and have your Ranger Badges mailed to you! Many have the address in their books, or simply check their website for their mailing address. This is great if you don’t get it all filled out while they are open or just don’t make it back to their ranger station in time for some reason. I actually am mailing in some of our Ranger books for this trip beforehand, so I don’t have to deal with keeping track of 500 badges/patches/books while on vacation! Plus it is fun to get something in the mail! Some we will get while we are there, and some mailed home to us! Since we have been to all (or most) of the sites several times before but never bothered to do the Junior Ranger before, they aren’t too hard to fill out. We are planning on doing about 18 badges for this trip – Wow! To top it all off, we are learning fun things about all the places we are going to vist!

Some sites have badges, some have patches. My 2 middle boys have special Junior Ranger Vests for their collection (see picture – they will get many more soon! Some of their current ones are on the back as well. One vest is from North Cascades NP, from last summer. The other vest is from Crater Lake, which we went to just a couple of weeks ago). My daughter uses a lanyard for hers. We keep the youngest’s in a drawer until he decides what he wants to do with it! I’m sure he’ll want a vest like his brothers.  If you use something like the vest, or something they will wear around, I encourage you to buy locking pin backs for the pin type badges, and to hot glue the pin into the safety-pin type badges, because they will fall out. We have had them come off many times, but luckily noticed before they got lost! Phew! Now we always hot glue or put the locking backs on the pins before we let them wear them around on their vests/lanyard.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, there are SEVERAL that you can earn at home!! SWEET!!! We are going to start on these once we get the ones for our trip all filled out! (some we are actually working on FOR our trip too!) These are a fun way to do something educational with your kids and get a fun, FREE reward. We LOVE the Junior Ranger Program!!

Junior Ranger Badges you can earn at home:

Clara Barton (did this for our trip, since we will see her place in DC, but this is to be mailed in! Anyone can do it from their website!)

Underground Railroad (did this for our trip, since we will be going to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad museum/park, but this too is meant to be mailed in!! Address is in the book)

Historic Preservation

Junior Archeologist

Junior Underwater

Junior Cave Scientist

All About Bats

Junior Paleontologist

Junior Night Explorer

Junior Wilderness

Star Spangled Banner Trail (another we are doing for our trip that gets mailed in!! Is meant to be done from their website!)

Chesapeake Bay (Another for our trip that is also meant to be mailed in!! It can even be emailed in!)

George Washington Parkway (another for our trip that is meant to be mailed in)

Lewis and Clark Trail (I noticed this one, when looking up sites in our state! It can be emailed too!)

Appalachian Trail (another one for our trip. We are doing the Harper’s Ferry one, since we will be going to Harper’s Ferry, but there are 3 different ones to choose from)

 

I’ll update the list if I find more than can be mailed in! Also, leave a comment if you know of one that I missed!

 

I’m sure there are more National Historic Trails that you can mail in. You can always search for the National parks/sites in your state and see if they offer a Junior Ranger. I was surprised at how many of the National Trails offer Junior Ranger, and most of those are meant to be mailed in! Find the ones near you or ones that your kids/family are interested in learning about. It is a fun and easy way to learn some history and get a little prize too!

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Parenting Win

 

I’ve mentioned how much I LOVE these Ziploc Divided Containers. (back in stock on Amazon – SQUEE!!!) They are reusable, wash super easy, and are cheap! Even though they are inexpensive, they last a LONG time. I did finally recycle 2 that were about 3-4 years old because they finally broke a little bit being tossed around in their lunch boxes – they were still usable, if not using liquids though! But that many years of almost every day use, is pretty good considering the price!

The part I love the most, is that they always remind me to pack them a healthy lunch with fresh fruits and veggies. The big container is for their main portion – a sandwich, cheese and crackers, a bagel – and the two others are for fruits and veggies (in our house at least!). They usually get one fruit – watermelon, cantaloupe, sliced apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, homemade yogurt, etc. – and one veggie – snap peas, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, etc. Somedays, they’ll get 2 fruits or 2 veggies, but usually one of each. This is how I make their lunches every day. Well, once or twice a week they get leftovers or chicken nuggets in their Thermos. (Super handy for a HOT lunch!). They both help streamline making lunches and choosing what to make.

Now, I make the 3 kids that go to school’s lunches each morning – or the night before usually (yay for extra fridge = extra fridge space!), even though the 2 older ones are old enough to make their own. Honestly, if you are making one, you might as well make 3. It doesn’t take any longer and less mess.

Well, its summer now, so mom is on break. I NEED a break from that school routine. Last week, the older 2 had band camp. They needed to take lunches each day of camp. I told them they were responsible for themselves and I didn’t care what they packed.

Seriously, they could have packed a lunch box full of candy, cookies, and caramel popcorn and I would not have cared. That is how fried mom’s are at the end of the school year.

So I spent my mornings cuddling my baby and they made their own lunches before I drove them to camp each day. I didn’t even ask them what they packed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Simply asked that they had their lunches.

At the end of each camp day, I would give in and ask them what they packed. Parenting win of the year: They packed the same healthy lunches that I packed them each day, thanks to their training on using the Ziploc Divided Containers every day! I was shocked. Maybe it didn’t occur to them that they could take a lunchbox full of candy, but hey! I’ll take what I can get. When left on their own, they made good, healthy choices! YAY! Each day they either pack healthy fruits and veggies in their Ziploc Divided Containers or packed leftovers in their Thermos with fruits and veggies as their sides! Sometimes, It’s these little things that make me think we’re doing SOMETHING right at least! (I write this as I hear them fighting downstairs… Ya win some, you lose some -ha!), Having chopped and prepped fresh fruits and veggies at all times helps a lot with this too! (we bought one of those fridges with the refrigerated external drawer – LOVE IT!!! Such a good decision to buy it! It’s always full of fresh fruits and veggies – ready to eat – string cheese, yogurt, etc.)

(FYI – I am not paid to endorse either product. Simply love them that much!)

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Instant Pot Homemade Yogurt and Fresh Strawberry flavoring


Another item I made this week and didn’t take a picture of. Next Time! Since I plan to make this at least every month now, I should have pictures soon (I hope!). I mainly wanted to write down my process, so I could make sure that I do it right next time too!

The first time I made Homemade Yogurt (ever!) in my instant pot only turned out ok. It wasn’t thick enough. I figured out my problem. The Instant Pot “boil” feature doesn’t heat the milk hot enough. It needed to be hotter. This last time (second time!) I made it, I made sure it got to the right temperature and boom! Perfect Yogurt!

I added fresh strawberries blended up this time and a little powdered sugar and OH.MY!!! It tastes like DESSERT! The kids and I are eating it up – it is soooo good! This is coming from someone that is not a big fan of yogurt (my kids love yogurt though)… This is so good, we will be making it at least once a month here! Right now, Strawberries are only $.99lb, so I will be making the blended strawberry mix and freezing it for future yogurt batches. YUM!!

Seriously, this GIANT batch of yogurt only cost me about $3 and has soooo much less sugar that the stuff you get in the store!

Ingredients

Yogurt:

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/4 cup yogurt starter (or plain yogurt from the store)

Strawberry Flavoring

  • 4 cups of fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 2 tbsp (or 2 packets) plain gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Powdered Sugar

 

Directions:

Pour the gallon of milk into your Instant Pot. Press the “Yogurt” Button and then the “Adjust” button so it says boil. Allow to boil until done. This only gets my milk to about 165. I then use the saute button to reach the desired temperature of 185. It will not take long on saute to reach that temperature. Once you reach that temperature, remove the pot and allow to cool to 110 degrees. To speed this up, I place it in my sink surrounded by ice. I whisk occasionally, and it doesn’t take too long to cool down. Once cooled to 110, add in the 1/4 plain yogurt – either from the store or from another batch you made. Then place in the Instant pot and use the Yogurt setting for 8-10 hours. The longer you allow to sit, the tarter and thicker it will become. Once done, I like to skim off all the whey/liquid on the top. Not necessary, but I like my yogurt a bit thicker. Then allow the yogurt to cool and place in the refrigerator before stirring.

While Yogurt is sitting in the instant pot, make the strawberry flavoring. I blend up the 4 cups of fresh (or frozen) strawberries. I add the plain gelatin to 1/2 cup cold water. After the gelatin has set for about 5 or so minutes, I add it to the blended strawberries. Allow to sit in the fridge while your yogurt cools.

Once the yogurt has cooled, Stir the strawberries in. Add in Powdered Sugar to get the sweetness to your liking. I used less than a cup for the entire gallon, and it worked great! You might like more or less. Sooooo good!

Eat and enjoy. We all think it tastes like dessert around here – like an unfrozen strawberry milkshake! Mmmmm… Delicious!

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Pulled Pork and Au Gratin Potatoes

 

I didn’t take a picture of this because it was leftovers and a recipe I made on a whim, so I had no idea how it would taste. Oh.MY. This was one of the BEST leftover creations EVER! There is a BBQ place here in town that serves a Tater Pig and it is soooo good! A baked potato topped with butter, pulled pork, and BBQ sauce. Well, we had Pulled pork leftovers and I thought it would be nice to make our own Tater Pig here at home. However, we didn’t have any potatoes to bake. I could have gone to the grocery store, but I was lazy. So I looked in the pantry and I saw a couple of boxes of Au Gratin Potatoes. I don’t use them often, mainly because I forget about them! So I thought I would use up some of the boxes in the pantry.

It was seriously soooooo good! We were shocked at how delicious it was. I am not kidding, the entire pan got eaten up. I had to stop myself from eating it. This is my new favorite way to not only eat pulled pork, but a great way to use up leftovers. Next Time, I will take a picture, but I wanted to get it written down so I wouldn’t forget this magical leftover creation!

 

Ingredients:

  • Leftover Pulled pork
  • 1-2 boxes of Au Gratin Potatoes
  • Items needed to cook the potatoes from the box

 

Directions

Bake potatoes according to box directions. Make as many boxes as you’d like, according to how many people you are going to serve or how much pork you have leftover! I used 2 and it fed the 6 of us, but we probably will do 3 next time because it was soooo good and I want some leftovers! Once the potatoes are baked, top with your leftover pulled pork. Put back in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the pork is heated through.

Eat and enjoy. Try not to eat the entire pan yourself! Mmmmmm… I am wishing we had some leftovers right now!

 

 

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Crockpot Sweet Chili Chicken

Another delicious crockpot meal! I love chicken cooked in the delicious juices. Juicy and delicious! YUM! This is another fun dish. A little twist on our usual meals. Everyone really enjoyed it. Serve it with some rice or over mashed potatoes and you have a wonderful meal!

My Husband loves Asian chili sauce. It is one of his favorite condiments. This is the first time I’ve tried to cook with it and found it to be a big success! Mmmm!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1-2lbs of chicken breast
  • 2-4 tbsp Asian sweet chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder or freshly grated ginger

 

Directions

Mix everything into your slow cooker. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours. Serve over rice. YUM!

 

Crockpot Sweet Chili Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1-2lbs of chicken breast
  • 2-4 tbsp Asian sweet chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder or freshly grated ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix everything into your slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours.
  3. Serve over rice
http://mismashedmom.com/2017/05/crockpot-sweet-chili-chicken.html

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Ham & Cheese Hasbrown Casserole 

 

YUM! This is not the first time we’ve made this, but I forgot to blog it last time. We had leftover ham from Easter and I wanted to make this dish again because it was so good the first time. The first time we had it, my son actually made the dinner. YAY for kids making dinner! Obviously, if my son was able to make this meal, it is pretty easy to pull off!

Not only is it easy, it is really tasty. Like it is hard to stop yourself from eating it and exploding. YUM! I used a mixture of cheeses this time and it was sooo good! Cheese just makes the world so much better! I’ll probably be making this dish anytime we have leftover ham…

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (32 oz) frozen hash browns
  • 1lb cubed ham
  • 2 cans condensed soup (cream of chicken or cheddar, or potato)
  • 1 16 oz container sour cream
  • 2 cups cheese – I used a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar
  • Parmesan Cheese

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 and grease 9×13 pan

Mix together the hash browns, ham, condensed cream of whatever you chose soup, and cheese. Pour into pan. Top with Parmesan Cheese and more cheese if you want. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until bubbly and light brown.

 

Ham & Cheese Hasbrown Casserole 

Ingredients

  • 1 package (32 oz) frozen hash browns
  • 1lb cubed ham
  • 2 cans condensed soup (cream of chicken or cheddar, or potato)
  • 1 16 oz container sour cream
  • 2 cups cheese - I used a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar
  • Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375 and grease 9x13 pan
  2. Mix together the hash browns, ham, condensed cream of whatever you chose soup, and cheese.
  3. Pour into pan.
  4. Top with Parmesan Cheese and more cheese if you want.
  5. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until bubbly and light brown.
http://mismashedmom.com/2017/05/ham-cheese-hasbrown-casserole.html

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Instant Pot Sweet Korean Lentils

 

Another winning lentil dish! Oh how I love lentils. They are really underrated in American cuisine! YUM! Healthy and delicious. They simply do not photograph well though… My kids gobble them up too, so that always makes for a winning dish around here!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1″ ginger, minced (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 onion, chopped or grated
  • 1 cup lentils

 

Directions:

Place all the ingredients in your Instant Pot.

Use the beans setting for 20 minutes:

I allowed it to naturally release because I wasn’t home when it finished! Looked like this when I opened it:

Give it a stir and it should look like this:

Yum! Serve over some rice

Instant Pot Sweet Korean Lentils

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1" ginger, minced (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 onion, chopped or grated
  • 1 cup lentils

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in your Instant Pot.
  2. Use the beans setting for 20 minutes
  3. Allow to Naturally Release
  4. Serve over Rice
http://mismashedmom.com/2017/05/instant-pot-sweet-korean-lentils.html

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