Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Garlic Shrimp

For my birthday, I wanted seafood. But there is only one restaurant in town that serves really good seafood and it is a little pricey. We had just been there about a month earlier and we try not to eat out too often. So, I picked up some shrimp and crossed my fingers that I could make it taste good. It was great and simple!

Pan-Seared Garlic Shrimp
This marinate was on the back of the shrimp package. The pan-searing portion is from The America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook.

2 lbs shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole lemon or lime
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter

1. Mix together the olive oil, lemon or lime juice, garlic, sea salt and black pepper with the shrimp in air tight container or ziploc bag.
2. Marinate for 2 hours in refrigerator
3. After marinated, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet on high until smoking.
4. Add half shrimp to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Shrimp should be curled and pink. Don't over cook. Repeat with second half of shrimp
5. Add butter if desired.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To learn from our past and to live for our futures

This time of year is always a chance for reflection. I always write in a journal the re-cap of the year and highlights that happened to me. I usually can sum up the year in a few words. Of course, that will be saved for my journal. For this entry, my goal is to make a promise, a wish, a hope for my family for this year and for years to come.

Our family is small, just three of us. And I have been a wife for more than 2 years and a mom for 17 months. It's important to take a look at what is important in life and how being a wife and mom affects how I live my life. I cherish all the time and experiences that we have together. I often think of years to come. I wonder what will interest my daughter at 5, 10, 15, 20 and so forth. As a parent I hope to never limit her, but challenge her. As a parent I promise to support every opportunity that comes her way. I will love her and will never judge her choices. I wish her all the love and happiness she deserves. While this ideal may be a challenge to meet at times, I will do my best.

A family is a unity that works together. I hope to spend quality time as a family with unique and fun experiences. I promise to enrich our lives every day with kind words and unconditional acts. I hope our family finds balance between work and play. I wish for memorable moments that we look back on and smile. I hope for positive and reinforcing energy in our lives.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's Baking -- Banana Muffins

I made these this morning and they are delicious. I like that I have all the ingredients on hand.

Banana Muffins
Original recipe here.
Makes 10 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.
4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

5. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins
6. B
ake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Feed Boxes

There's no secret the best toys at Christmas are the boxes. Here's an activity to use boxes in a creative way.

There are many uses of the feed box and different skills can be enhanced throughout different ages. For my 16-month-old just putting the shapes in the slot is a challenge.

Here are two that we have around our house. The snowman has round snowballs that my daughter feeds it. She loves to feed it and open the box and find the snowballs.

The squirrel has acorns that he eats and his slot is slightly smaller than the snowman creating a little more difficulty. It's great for problem solving.




FEED BOX
Materials:
Used box -- cereal boxes work great
Large pattern to fit one side of the box (Squirrel)
Smaller pattern of a shape copied many times (Acorns)

Directions:
1. Tape a pattern to an empty cereal box.
2. Cut a slit through the pattern and box so the smaller shape fits.
3. Cut out several shapes for feeding (laminate if you wish)

I first learned this idea at a Early Childhood Conference many years ago. Joni Warzala presented and I purchased a few of her pattern books. You could easily use a pattern from a coloring book or clip art and find smaller shapes to feed. Or you can draw (or have the kids) draw the patterns.

Feed Box suggestions:
  • Elmo and apples
  • Bear and fish
  • Snowman and snowballs
  • Squirrel and acorns
  • Dog and bones
  • Caterpillar and all that food from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle
  • Boy or Girl and fruits, veggies, cookies, etc
  • Ask kids what they think would be a good feed box -- they come up with great ideas.
**The list is really endless.**

Variations
  • Use it as a scrap box for cutting scraps
  • Have children cut out their own smaller shapes and feed
  • Label smaller shapes with numbers, letters, words, shapes, etc. Ask child to put in certain shape in slot -- great for a quick assessment of knowledge.

What I really like about this activity is that it is cheap with re-usable items. The box won't last forever, but at least you can let them play with it without worry about the cost before the destruction. This would be a good to take traveling, too. You could even toss it before coming back. You don't have to use cereal boxes, be creative. The ideas are really endless with this one.

Have fun with it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reading blogs and then what

I'm reading several blogs a day that are so interesting. There are so many great ideas out there. But in order for their tips and ideas to be useful to me I have to do something with them. I don't have time to make every craft or recipe. About once a month I go through some of my favorite blogs and copy down the ideas. I then file them. I have files for several categories -- one for every month, one for each subject (math, reading, sensory, etc), one for projects to make, one for art activities and several more.

Many are for future use with either my daughter or for teaching. It will be so nice to go to the file and have ideas to sift through. Thanks to many of you for sharing your great ideas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Buying meat again

I have posted in the past how we buy a quarter cow and a half a hog each year. Here's the breakdown of our quarter cow this year.

79 1 lb packages of ground beef
3 packages of stew meat
13 chuck roasts
5 arm roasts
15 Ribeye steaks
total 200 pounds of meat ($1.79 a pound = $358)
We have them package the roasts and steaks into serving sizes that are about one meal for us. I really like this because I don't have to unthaw more than I'll use. I also noticed that the grocery stores package ground beef in 1.15 pound or 1.2 pound packages. I was spending more money for meat that I really didn't need. It's so nice pulling out a 1 pound package from the freezer and its 1 pound every time.

Our half a hog was about $150 and we received several hams, roasts, pork chops, pizza sausage, pork sausage, bacon, and pork hocks. I didn't tally how much meat it was before we started eating it. But it is a lot of meat, also.

Last year, the quarter cow lasted a year and the half hog lasted about 9 months. Well worth the money!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Veggie Pizza

I've seen this one done many ways, but this is the version I prefer. You can alter the type of fresh veggies you want to use. I just use these three that are my favorite.

Veggie Pizza
This is a great dish to bring to a gathering or to eat for a snack.

2 (8oz) cans crescent rolls
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp dill weed
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 to 1 1/2 cups of fresh chopped veggies (I use carrots, broccoli and cauliflower)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Press two cans of crescent roll dough into ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan to form crust. (I use a 9 x 9 square pan and just use one can)
3. Bake for 13 to 17 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Cool completely.
5. Mix together cream cheese, dill weed and garlic powder.
6. Spread cream cheese mixture over top of cooled cooked crust.
7. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
8. Top with chopped carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.

Wrapping Paper craft


For Christmas wrapping of gifts, I had my 16-month-old daughter paint the white side of wrapping paper that we probably won't end up using. It's a great way to get rid of paper you don't want to use. Turned out really good. I taped two large sections to the table and wheeled the highchair up to each. I gave her a star sponge and she ended up using the paint brush and her hands more. Once it dries, I'll cut it up into smaller pieces for each gift.

I think it's special when kids can make their own wrapping paper, if time and supplies permit of course. They know it's from them when they hand it to someone. My daughter is always so proud of her creations. She walks around the house saying "wow" at her projects. It's good to build that up whenever you can, no matter what it is.

Variations:
  • For older kids, sponge painting would be lots of fun.
  • Older kids could create a pattern like some wrapping paper
  • I've also seen this done with paper grocery bags.
  • Older kids could create a scene
  • Stamps would be fun, too
  • For itty-bitty little ones a hand print or two would be special


Monday, December 15, 2008

$5 Dinner Challenge

This is part of the $5 Dinner Challenge.

This one is a little hard to break down the cost because usually these are products I have on hand except for the ham. If you use leftover ham or ham steak this easily costs around $5. And it is so yummy. Original post of this recipe.


Ham & Cheddar Cheese Casserole

2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
1 cup carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cups chicken broth to cover veggies (you can use less, dilute with water or use chicken bullion)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 small onion, minced
2 cups fully cooked ham, cubed
7 tbsp butter, divided (I use a lot less)
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese


Directions
1.In a sauce pan bring the potatoes, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 mins. Drain, place back in pot.
2. In a skillet, saute the ham in 3 tablespoons of butter until golden brown. Add to the drained potato mixture.
3. In a sauce pan, melt the remaining butter, stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat and add cheese and stir until melted.
5. Pour over potato & ham mixture.
6. Place mixture in a greased 13 x 9 pan.
7. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 25-30 mins. or until heated through. You can sprinkle the top with some of the cheese or bread crumbs.


Check out some of my other recipes!

Stop back later

Swing by later tonight for my $5 Dinners Challenge. Here's last week's in case you missed it! I'm just too busy organizing to write about organizing today!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

JCPenny

I bought a Christmas dress for my daughter today at JCPenny for $3.77 originally $40.


It was marked down 60 percent making it $16.
Then I used a $10 off $10 coupon.
Then I used a 15 percent off coupon from a survey that I got from a previous purchase that was printed on the back.


Total: $3.77

Can't believe it. I felt like that maybe I was waiting too long to get a Christmas dress, but I really couldn't see even paying $20 for a dress that is worn a couple times.


For some of my other JCPenny deals go here and here

Winner Pepsi Stuff codes

Alice, who entered via e-mail is the winner of the Pepsi Stuff codes giveaway! Alice has been sent an e-mail to claim them.

Thanks for entering! Watch for more giveaways!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Birthday Reflection

Today is my birthday. I might be at that age where I am too old to ask how old I am, but I like to let people know my age. I look a lot younger than I am and have had that issue for a long time. While it is a blessing, it's an interesting challenge at times. When I was 18 years old my 12 year-old sister got an adult menu at a restaurant while I got the kid's menu. It was for kids 12 and under. So at 18 I looked 12 to some people. At 25 I was getting searched by airport security and they asked my age. They said they had to ask because if I was 14 I would need my parents to come with me. So at 25 I looked 14 to someone. Gained 2 years of aging in 7 years and still 11 years younger than I was. I did enjoy going back to college at 27 because I could be the "non-traditional" student who didn't look non-traditional. In fact, my first day two guys in my speech class thought I was a freshman. Gained 4 years in 2 years, still looked 9 years younger. A friend I met in college the second time around had two kids and also was my age. It angered me when people would talk about her and say "how old is she?" She looked young, too.

It's not a bad thing to look younger, but I still deal with a lot of age discrimination. It's challenging being a parent. I've had a librarian lecture me about how to handle food allergies. Sometimes the doctors (and we've seen many) don't understand my knowledge behind my questions. And random people sometimes try to talk above me like I don't know what I'm doing with a little one. Sometimes I wish I could wear a badge saying "I'm older than I look, I have two degrees -- one in early childhood education. I have worked many jobs with kids and elsewhere."

When I was doing my student teaching, I made sure that the teachers I worked with knew that I was older and tried to emphasize it in a round about way to the parents by saying things such as, this is my second degree or I got my first degree in 1999. On my 30th birthday one of the teachers in the school asked me how old I was, and it turned out that I was two years old than her. I think she was a little embarrassed. It seems as though it wouldn't matter, but people treat people how they perceive them. Age is one of those things that seems to be discriminated no matter how old you are, but if you look younger it takes a little longer to catch up.

Oh, if you haven't figure it out yet -- I'm 32.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thrifty Thursday

You gotta check out this great giveaway at Pennies in My Pocket. It's for Land Ends products. Check it out and enter. I love this blog.

Pennies In My Pocket

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's Cookin' - Cheddar Sliced Baked Potatoes

I found this recipe here. We are always trying new things with potatoes. Mashed and baked potatoes gets boring night after night.

Cheddar Sliced Baked Potatoes
This was really tasty. My husband went back for seconds. It was a little salty, so I might use a little less soup next time, although I don't think I had 4 cups of potatoes.

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 med. baking potatoes (cut into 1/4 inch slices), approx. 4 c.
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

1. In bowl, combine soup, paprika and pepper.
2. Grease 2 quart baking dish and arrange potato slices in overlapping rows.
3. Sprinkle with cheese then spoon soup mixture over cheese.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees F. for 45 minutes.
5. Uncover and bake 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Sliced Baked Potatoes on Foodista

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chirstmas Tree Ornaments -- Toddler Friendly

Christmas Tree Ornaments

Materials:
Christmas Tree pattern (found here or in December Idea Book, Karen Sevaly)
Green Foam
Sequence
Glue
Hole punch
String or thread

Directions
1. Trace pattern onto green foam. Cut out.
2. Give toddler sequence and have them decide where they want to glue it.
3. Glue the sequence on the tree
4. Punch hole in top and tie string through the hole.
5. Hang on Christmas Tree.

Monday, December 8, 2008

$5 Dinner Challenge -- Mac and Cheese Casserole

As part of the $5 Dinners Challenge, I am re-posting this family favorite. Original post of this recipe here. My prices are estimated.

Mac and Cheese Casserole
1 box of Kraft Mac and Cheese ($.75)
1 lb of Ground Beef ($1.50 -- we buy a quarter cow once a year)
1-2 cups of Corn or Green Beans (any vegetable would work -- I use frozen, but canned or fresh would be fine) ($.75)
1 can of Tomato Soup ($.75)

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Ground beef. Drain.
3) Make mac and cheese as directed on box.
4) Mix ground beef, prepared mac and cheese, vegetable and tomato soup together in a casserole dish.
5) Put in oven at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

**You can dilute the tomato soup and make your own mac and cheese if you prefer)

Total cost $3.75

A couple changes

I have started a sidebar with products I recommend (or can't live without). I will be doing more product reviews on products I use all the time.

This week I wanted to share these bibs from Baby Bjorn that we use at least 3 times a day. They are very durable, dishwasher safe and easy to clean by hand. As messy toddlers eat they miss their mouths, a lot. Half the food will end up on their laps without this bib. It's nice to be able to scoop out some of the food and put it back on their plate. And the bib helps to protect the clothes. I have two for these bibs for those just in case I didn't get the dishes cleaned from the last meal moments. The price may seem a little much, but we have used them since she started eating baby food at 6 months and 10 months later they are in great shape. My daughter is 10-months-old in this picture. Highly recommend!!

Also I will be participating in the $5 Dinners Challenge that begins tonight. I may be re-posting recipes, but I'm anxious for the challenge of breaking down the cost of my meals.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Giveaway -- Pepsi Stuff Codes

I have 14 points (7 codes from 12 packs) to give away for Pepsi Stuff. The codes are unused and will just be tossed out otherwise. I had been collecting codes and entering the sweepstakes, but just realized that ended 11-15-08.

I am giving all codes away to one random winner who leaves a comment and e-mail address (or a blog linked to an e-mail). You may also enter by sending an e-mail. Winner will be announced Saturday, Dec. 13. Good luck!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank Goodness

My daughter was born with a dislocatable hip and wore a harness to correct it from 5 weeks to 4 months. We just had our year check up today and all is well. Thank goodness. For the last year I've worried that I might be missing a limp or if she was playing too rough -- she loves to fall down on purpose. The doctor reassured us that she can't do anything to hurt it. We asked about her tippy toe walking and he said it's not really a problem. They like to correct it by Kindergarten, but normally it fixes itself. I told him that our pediatrician said 18 months was when she would be concerned and would probably refer us back to Children's Hospital. He said that wasn't true and that there really isn't a set age. I told him that our pediatrician likes to refer us to the Children's Hospital and usually there isn't a reason for it. He didn't like that too much and was quick to tell us that he didn't really have an answer right now about it either.

Oh well. At least her hip is in good working shape!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Layout

I'm tweaking the layout a little so it may change a little in the next few days. So far I'm really liking how it looks.

I also have a new sidebar that will feature products that I love to use.

Christmas Shopping

I shop all year round for Christmas gifts. I bought items at the end of last December for my little one for this Christmas.

I also try to make gifts for Christmas. Here are a couple easy and cheap gifts I've done in the past.

Marbelous Ornaments
These were really fun to make because no two are alike and they look really interesting. Original directions found here.


Round clear glass ornaments (any size)
Acrylic paint (any combo of colors)
Water
Vinegar




Directions
1. Take hanger and cap off ornament. Clean out with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.
2. Wait for them to be dry. You can use a hairdryer to speed this up.
3. Drop a little paint inside and swirl it around.
4. Drop another color of paint inside and swirl it around. Add another color if. you would like and swirl.
5. Place ornament on its side to dry.
6. Rotate ornament every 5 to 10 minutes or so for about an hour. Pour out excess paint.
7. Rotate every hour or so to keep the paint swirling or until you reach the look you want.
8. It takes about a couple days to dry, so make sure you have an area to let them sit.
9. Decorate with ribbon or other embellishments.

Any combination of colors works. Some combinations I used are:
gold and purple
green, silver, and blue
red and gold
gold and silver
purple and silver

**You can get clear ornaments cheap at craft stores. If you wait until after the season they are really cheap.**
Hot Chocolate
You can buy cheap jars at Walmart that are air tight that are seasonal. I put a recipe card with the jar full of hot chocolate mix. My friend said this recipe tastes like a candy bar. Recipe found here .

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water or warm milk

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.
2. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water or fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water.
3. Stir to combine.
**This makes enough to fill several jars, depending on the size.**

I've thought about doing this with my chai tea recipe, too.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

I make this when I have leftover chicken or need a quick meal (I have cooked chicken frozen). I make it in my electric skillet, but I've done it on the stove. The proportions really don't matter for this one, but here's about what I do.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice
1 cup rice (I'm back to using Minute Rice)
1 to 2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 to 1 bag of frozen broccoli (or a head of fresh broccoli)
1 can cream of mushroom (any cream soup works)
1 can water -- more if needed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour soup, water and rice in skillet. Put skillet on 300 degrees or medium heat for stove top.
2. Bring to boil and add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Cook on low for 15 minutes or until broccoli is soft.

**You can add use other vegetables, such as carrots, peas, cauliflower, either mixed together or as a substitute for broccoli**

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wreath

Here's another project we did yesterday -- Christmas Wreath.
Materials
Wreath Pattern (found in December Idea Book, Karen Sevaly)
Green Paper
Purple Paper (for bow any color will do)
Pom Poms
Glitter
Glue

I traced the wreath pattern on green paper and cut it out. I traced the bow on a separate piece of purple paper. We glued the pom poms on the wreath and then glittered the bow. Simple. Although my daughter did glitter more of herself than the bow.

Countdown to Christmas

I found a really easy way to do an Advent calendar with my 16-month-old daughter.

Materials
Tree Pattern (found in December Idea Book, Karen Sevaly)
Green paper
24 Foam stickers (I use heart shaped stickers)

I traced the pattern on green paper and laminated, of course laminating is optional. Then every day we will place a sticker on the tree. When there are no more stickers it is Christmas. I placed the tree at her level so she can look at throughout the day.
I put the stickers in a decorative bag I received for Christmas years ago that had bath products in it. I saved it for "someday." I like when "someday" arrives.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Book -- December Idea Book, Karen Sevaly

This series of books is fantastic for the teacher or mom who loves to do crafts with young children. It contains many patterns and ideas for the whole month. Karen Sevaly has a book for each month. I love looking through them and adapting her patterns and ideas to what I want to do. The book also contains writing projects, awards, bookmarks, text on holidays, bulletin board ideas, puppets, nametags, multi-cultural projects and lots more! It is a must have if you work and play with kids!

Dish Detergent

It's been a busy Monday morning here. We're trying to catch up from the four-day weekend and get our Christmas decorations up, although that's going to be a slow process I'm afraid with a toddler running around.

So a quick organizational Monday recommendation: We use Palmolive Oxy Clean dish soap and it works fantastic. I used to use Dawn, but now this is the only product we use for cleaning dishes.
In the persuit to find a photo, I found coupons for several products. Click here to see.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Snicker Salad

I just passed this along to a friend and thought it would be a perfect post for What's Cookin'.

Snicker Salad
6 apples ( I use golden delicious)
6 snicker bars (I freeze them for a half hour)
1 tub Cool Whip

Directions
1. Cut apples and snickers into bite size pieces.
2. Mix with Cool Whip.

**To preserve the apples use a little lemon juice after cutting them. This will stop them from browning, but doesn't affect their taste.**

Snow!

Here are two activities that we did yesterday with our first snowfall. We got 4 inches!

Paint a snow scene



Materials: white paint, blue paper, sponge (I used a bath sponge)

Directions: Put sponge in paint and give to child to paint. We did a little finger painting, too.
Bring outside in (Sensory)
I brought in a bowl of snow for my daughter to feel and scoop. We only did this for a couple minutes because the snow is so cold. But it was a lot of fun to watch her explore.

'Twas the Night before Thanksgiving


I picked up this witty book many years ago and absolutely love it. It shows the journey of a children's field trip to a turkey farm. And how the children solve the fate of the turkeys. "'Twas the Night before Thanksgiving" has similar rhyme scheme as "Twas the Night before Christmas" and if very enjoyable to read.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

How I plan meals

It's been a little trickier planning our meals since our 15-month-old started eating with us a couple months ago. She has allergies to milk and egg. It's not until you start really reading labels do you realize how many items have milk in them. The egg allergy has been easier to avoid and she actually tolerates it cooked in burgers and pancakes. We also just got another half a hog and ordered a quarter cow, which we plan to receive in about a month. This helps a lot in making menus.


At the end of each month I plan the next month's meals. I leave Saturdays and Sundays open for eating out and grilling (or leftovers). I will take a look at the meals I make (many posted here) and vary them. First I vary the week's menu with beef, pork, chicken and sometimes fish. Then I vary the meals throughout the month. Finally, I rotate some meals monthly. I will take ground beef recipes that are similar and spread them throughout the month -- hamburgers, sloppy joes, pizza burgers, tacos, goulash, chili, cas mac, etc. I make a roast a week -- I alter between pork and beef. And I will use different recipes for roasts from port-glazed roast to stew to crockpot roast. I'm always trying something new with roasts (they are easy to cut up and use in many recipes). For chicken, I vary the recipes and have tried some new ones recently. I also will freeze some chicken for future meals. Then I just pepper in other meals into the monthly menu, such as lasagna, kraut and kelbasa, tuna noodle, baked ziti, spaghetti, etc. I've been doing this for about six months and it only takes me about 10 minutes to fill out a calendar of meals for a month.


Working my daughter's dietary needs in has been a challenge, but what I do is make a little extra and put it aside for her without the milk or cream soups or cheese. I also will make batches of soup and freeze them for easy meals. I also freeze extra tomato sauce for a quick meal. I freeze them in the portion size she eats so there is not much waste. It's been working really well for us. We had some brats that we didn't really like that came with our last order of beef, but she loved them. My husband grilled them up for her one day when he was grilling and froze them into individual servings for her. Works great. I also don't add butter to any of our warm vegetables any more and if we have extra of those I will save them for her for lunches.


The key to menu planning for me is to have variety and to visualize it by placing it on a calendar. I still tweak the week before I go grocery shopping (for example if I have tacos planned for Friday, I might move it to Monday if I'm doing shopping early in the week so the lettuce doesn't go bad). I also can buy ahead if items are on sale. It's nice to have a guideline to follow and it alleviates a lot of thinking in the morning, not to mention the worry that I might not have all the ingredients. I hate shopping for one or two things, especially if I just did the grocery shopping.

E-coupons to giveaway



Recently, I have posted e-coupon giveaways for pizza crust, Progresso soup, and Yoplait Yogurt. If you haven't requested a coupon yet and are interested, these are still available. Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail with your e-mail address and I'll send one or all of them off.

If you don't leave an e-mail address I have no other way to send them out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Venus Embrace coupon winners

Winners of the $4 off coupon for a Venus Embrace razor were notified via e-mail with further instructions. Stay tuned for more coupon offers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Pizza Burgers

We ate this for school lunch in grade school. A few years back I tried to replicate the taste and I came up with this. Very kid friendly!

Pizza Burgers

1 lb ground beef
Mozzarella cheese, sliced works best (use vegan or soy-based cheese for dairy-free)
3 to 6 hamburger buns, depending on size

Sauce:
(this sauce makes enough for 3 meals. I use 1/3 per 1 lb of ground beef and freeze the rest in two containers for future meals)
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Directions
1. Brown ground beef. Drain.
2. Mix ingredients for sauce in a pot for 15 minutes on low.
3. Place hamburger buns open faced on cookie sheet (so 1 bun will equal 2 pizza burgers)
4. Toast buns at 300 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes (just so they are hard, not brown)
5. Mix meat and sauce together.
6. Scoop meat on each half of bun. Top with cheese.
7. Put back in oven for 5 to 7 minutes at 300 degrees or until cheese is melted.

**You can omit step 4, but doing so may make your pizza burger soggy.
**You could use a store brand of pizza sauce instead of making your own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Critical Thinking

One of my philosophies in teaching young children is that all children should learn critical thinking skills. I know too many adults who are lacking in this area. Teaching young children to "think" can be quite easy and actually a lot of fun. Critical thinking doesn't begin when kids are teens reading complex paragraphs and trying to figure out symbolism or solving complex math problems. It occurs much earlier in life for those skills to become obtainable.

My daughter is 15 months old and here a couple things we do to encourage problem solving:

  • We play with the shape sorter.
  • We guess what character will be on the next diaper.
  • We guess what the next song will be (I put her music on shuffle).
  • We play "can you find (said toy)" almost all day long.
  • I let her get stuck and try to figure it out before helping her.
  • I'll give her the toy catalog and ask her to find a toy that she owns.
  • I often read a familiar book and say the title wrong. She looks perplexed and then I ask her what it says. Sometimes she answers. Eventually, I say "no, it's ..." and say it correctly.
  • I laminate cards with stickers and we play matching games.
  • Every book read and reread helps with critical thinking.
  • We just started working on putting things where they go. It takes way longer than doing it myself, but it is teaching her problem solve.
Here is a good article about problem solving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Organizational Monday -- It doesn't fit!

With a growing toddler, it seems that every other day I put on an outfit that doesn't fit anymore. I came up with a system to organize the clothes that don't fit any longer. I keep a gift bag (I have way too many of those) in her room. As I find something that is too small, I place it in the gift bag. When the bag is full, I transfer those clothes to the appropriate bin of clothes that is up in storage. I then only have to organize the clothes ever month or so instead of every time I find something that's too small. It's worked really successfully me.

I write today about it because the gift bag is overflowing. Guess it's time to put those clothes away!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Super Obama World!

You gotta check this out. Super Obama World -- it's a video game based on Super Mario Brothers. You can play online. It's got lipstick pigs, flag pins for coins and the bridge to no where (that actually goes no where). Pretty funny!

Venus Embrace coupon giveaway

As a member of Vocalpoint, I was given 5 coupons to give away.

Each coupon is $4 off a Venus Embrace razor.
Vocalpoint gave me a razor to try and it is great. The Venus products have been my choice for years, and I always love trying the new ones. I wonder how they can keep improving them. My legs feel so smooth after using the Embrace razor. I particularly like the design of this five-blade razor. It takes little effort to use. Sometimes I have to press to get the razor to my leg to get a closer shave, but not with this one. I highly recommend it.

If interested in winning one of these razor coupons, please leave a comment with your e-mail or send me an e-mail. If you don't leave an e-mail address you will not qualify. The five winners will randomly drawn and announced November 21, 2008.

Shopping for Toys

Here are some deals going on with two websites I've purchased toys from before.

All Aboard Toys
Shipping: $5.95 on all orders (some exceptions apply, such as furniture)
Deals:
5% off under $25 order (code: Holidaysave5)
10% off $25 to $75 order (code: Holidaysave10)
15% off $75 to $125 order (code:Holidaysave15)
20% off $125 or more order (code:Holidaysave20)

Baby Center Store
Free shipping on $49 order or more (code: Freeship49)
They have lots of deals going on right now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Crockpot Lasagna

Here's a really easy crockpot recipe. I make my own sauce and use these types of lasagna noodles. My garlic bread recipe goes great with this.

Crockpot Lasagna

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 box uncooked lasagna noodles
24 oz cottage cheese (I use low fat)
2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Brown beef, onion, garlic with salt and pepper. Drain
2. Add sauce to the beef and place small amount on bottom of crockpot
3. Layer in crockpot in this order: noodles, cottage cheese, cheeses, beef. Layer several times and end with shredded cheeses.

**You really can't do this one wrong. Even if you accidentally end with sauce or cottage cheese, it will still turn out.**

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A turkey craft and an Octopus craft

Here are a couple of toddler activities. Feel free to adapt them to older kids!

Turkey with feathers

Materials: Feathers, turkey pattern
Directions
1. Cut out pattern and trace on brown paper (or feed brown paper in printer)
2. Let child pick out 10 feathers.
3. Have child show you where to glue the feathers.

**Glue tip: I put some elmers glue on a paper plate. I use a small paint brush to brush the glue onto the paper.**

Octopus
Sometimes it can be overkill on the holiday crafts. The other day we were talking about an "octopus" in a book and I remembered this craft I saw once at a Early Childhood Conference a few years ago.

Materials: Octopus pattern, hole reinforcement stickers
Directions
1. Trace pattern onto purple paper (or feed purple paper in printer). I had to enlarge it a little for the size I wanted.
2. Give child hole sticker and allow them to stick it on the octopus.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cleaning the Microwave

I had read this tip a long time ago and finally tried it a few months ago. It is a really simple way to clean the microwave.

** Put a wet rag in the microwave and heat it up for 30 seconds. Then wipe out the microwave. The steam from the rag spreads throughout the whole microwave making it easy to wipe out. Do be careful, though, the rag will be very hot with steam**

Busy Morning

For some reason Mondays are my most productive day. I woke up at 6:50 a.m. and showered before the baby got up (something that's very hard for me to do). Here's a list of everything I got done before 10 a.m. today.

  • Made dairy-free french toast (recipe here)
  • Gave the baby a bath
  • Made a pot of beef vegetable soup to freeze
  • Vacuumed
  • Did my Monday morning purge
  • Got three loads of laundry started (one folded and put away)
  • Did an octopus craft with my daughter
  • Read a couple of stories
  • Danced and sang songs
  • Not to mention all the little odds and ends such as changing diapers, etc.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Snow!

Yep, back to our old winters (before winter even begins). It's 31 degrees and there have been small flurries on and off all morning. Nothing sticking to the ground, but I did see cars covered in snow yesterday when I was driving to town. Wonder where they came from. I'm not a big fan of cold and winter. But I do like the first couple months of the snow. By the end of January I'm ready for short sleeves and walks outside.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Progresso Soup Coupons Giveaway

As a member of Pssst, I have several offers given to me and to pass along. This one is for Progresso Soup.
Download $3 worth of coupons here!

If you would like another coupon for Progresso soup, leave a comment with your e-mail and I can send an e-coupon your way!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Target markdowns

I recently read some information about sales at Target after a holiday. It was really helpful for me this week when I bought two plush Sesame Street Halloween buckets for $4 (originally $8 each).

Target's Holiday Clearance Schedule
- 50% off day after holiday for three days
- 75% off fourth day after holiday for three days
- 90% off seventh day after holiday for 1-2 days.
Also here are some toy coupons for Target!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Garlic Bread

We have tried countless different ways to make garlic bread. All have been good, but this one has been great. My husband had garlic bread at Buca di Peppo and wanted to replicate it at home. This is what we came up with and really enjoy it.



Garlic Bread
1 french loaf (the actual recipe calls for focaccia bread cut into two halves)
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano

1. Slice bread into 1 inch pieces
2. Butter bread and place face up on baking sheet.
3. Sprinkle Parmesan on each piece.
4. Put three garlic slices on each piece.
5. Sprinkle mozzarella on each piece.
6. Sprinkle oregano on each piece.
6. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes

Fish Sensory Project

I tried taking a picture of this, but it didn't turn out too well. I'll do my best to describe it.

Materials
Foodsaver (or ziploc bags and packaging tape)
Blue hair gel (cheap as you can find)
Plastic fish (small party favor size)

Directions
1. Place fish and gel in Foodsaver bag. Make bag any size you want. Mine is 6 x 10.
2. Seal up with a little air still inside.
**If you don't have a Foodsaver, you can use a ziploc bag and lots of packaging tape to seal it securely.**

It will look like the fish are in water. Toddlers love to squish the bag and find the fish. Very easy and not too expensive. Other items that could be used are bugs. Be creative.

I'll get caught up soon

We've been sick around here, so I've been pretty slow. I will get caught up on my blog either today or tomorrow. Here's what's planned!

Tues: Fish Sensory project
Wed: Garlic Bread recipe
Thurs: Target deals after holidays

Check back soon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

608

I was the 608th person to vote in our tiny township of 3,666 (pop. as of 2000). I voted at 9:20 a.m. And the flow of traffic was heavy. I barely found a parking spot. Should be an interesting day for election results!

Monday, November 3, 2008

GO VOTE ON TUESDAY !!

How long does it take?

When I started using formula for my daughter, I was curious how long it would take us to get through a can. It was expensive and we had to order it through insurance. So when I opened a can I dated the day I opened it. This helped me know how long it took me to go through it and how much to order. Since then I have been doing that with other items, too. I like to stock up and buy when I see it on sale, but we don't have a lot of extra storage. It really helps me with shopping, especially with newer items we use. Once I know the average, I don't date them any further.

Examples of dated items
Large jar of applesauce
Disposable diaper bags
Baggies
Paper Towel
Half gallon of soy milk

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another product testing website

I recently had a correspondence with Procter and Gamble. At the bottom of their e-mail they advertising a website Vocalpoint.

I received a free product yesterday to test. I'll let you know what it is after I try it and I have $4 off coupons for it. I didn't have to do anything to get it other than sign up.


If your interested, give it a try!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's Cookin' -- 3 Envelope Crockpot Chicken

I've seen this one all over the place lately. It's really easy and good, however I only use half of each of the envelopes because it seems too salty otherwise.

3 Envelope Crockpot Chicken
1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix
1 envelope dry Italian dressing mix
1 envelope dry chicken gravy mix
1 cup water
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions:
1. Put the chicken in the crockpot.
2. Add dry ingredients and water.
3. Cook on low 7 to 8 hours, or high 4 to 5 hours.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall Activities for Toddlers (Part 3)

This is the final part of a series. (Part 1 and Part 2).

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances. Often we do things, but don’t think about the reason why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might not. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it.

Felt, Felt and more Felt

Felt is cheap and easy to use. Kids love to play with it. It is easy to use for enhancing stories or songs. I used separate pieces for the Jack-O-Lantern to give my daughter a chance to make a face on the pumpkin. This however is a situation where you need to know your toddler. My pieces for the face are small, but my daughter hasn't even tried to put them in her mouth. If she had I would have made it much larger or not used it at all.

Materials: Orange, red, white, black, green, yellow felt. Patterns for leaves, bat, ghosts, pumpkins, apples.

Directions: Trace pattern on felt and cut out. Make as many of each as you want. The Jack-o-Lantern face I did free hand. Use a felt board, or make your own wrapping felt around a cookie sheet or cardboard. I taped felt to the wall. You can sing songs or tell stories with the felt.

Language used: pumpkin, bat, face, ghost, apple leaves, red, orange, green, white, black
Fine Motor: Place felt on felt board and putting it in various locations. Puzzles are hard for toddlers, but this gives a similar challenge..
Creative: Put in any spot
Sensory: Felt is soft.
Cognitive: Learning that felt can stick to the board. Trying to make a face is a challenge.
Enjoyment: It is fun to use different textures of familiar items.
Social: We work together to make the face or put the felt pieces up.

Fall Tree
Materials
: Paper, orange paint, washcloth

Directions: Make a tree trunk on the paper. Let the child paint with brush or finger. Cut out to look like a tree.
Language used: paint, art, tree, orange
Fine Motor: Using hands and fingers to paint refines fine motor
Creative: Tree can be any size and colors can go anywhere
Sensory: Feeling the paint and watching where it goes when spread
Cognitive: Memory from painting before.
Enjoyment: Painting is fun.
Social: We worked together to create the tree
.

Painted Leaves
Materials: Paint, paper, pattern, washcloth
Directions: Paint paper with brush or fingers. When paper is dry cut out into leaves.

Language used: paint, yellow, leaves
Fine Motor: Using hands and fingers to paint.
Creative: Paint can go anywhere
Sensory: Feeling paint
Cognitive: Reinforces leaves in other projects we have done.
Enjoyment: Painting is fun
Social: We worked together to create the leaves.


Ghosts and Bats
Materials: Black paper, chalk, Kleenex or tissue paper, marker, string, rubber band, paper clips.
Directions for Bat
Trace bat pattern,
Have child use sidewalk chalk to decorate
Cut out.
Put paper clip on top
Tie string to paper clip
Hang from doorway or ceiling

Directions for Ghosts (I did this while my daughter watched)
Wrap Kleenex or tissue paper inside another one to form a head
Use rubber band to secure
Make face with marker
Put paper clip around rubber band
Tie string to paper clip
Hang from doorway or ceiling

Language used: ghosts, bats, chalk, black, white
Gross Motor: I let her touch and swing the bats and ghosts.
Fine Motor: Using chalk to decorate refines fine motor.
Creative: When I made the ghost she watched me create something. Chalk can go anywhere on bat.
Sensory: Feeling the finished products and the chalk.
Cognitive: Everyday the bats and ghosts are the first thing my daughter looks for.
Enjoyment: She enjoys looking at them
Social: We did them together
**Remember these are just ideas. I hope you can build on them and use them for more than just Halloween**

Monday, October 27, 2008

Unity Candle

I'm breaking away from my normal "Organizational Monday" to write about a memory from our wedding.

This weekend we went to a wedding and they had the unity candle lighting portion. I am always reminded of how the lighting of our unity candle went with a slight problem during our wedding ceremony.

The conditions of our wedding day: 1. It had been a heat wave the week before -- in the upper 90s and lower 100s. The day of our wedding was had cooled down to 89 degrees in August. 2. The church had no air conditioning. 3. Large fans were strategically placed to blow on the wedding party. 4. Our unity candle was placed in front the pew my parents were sitting on. The candle was behind us

So before the wedding, my sister-in-law (to be) came and asked if the candles for the unity candle should be lite before the wedding. I said yes. The wedding ceremony was about 30 minutes into it before we turned around to light the unity candle. Except all I saw was my mom laughing. The side candles had burned down to about an inch because of the heat and the fans. The embellishments we decorated on the candle slightly burned the side of the candle. There was no way we could pick up the candles and do the lighting. The pastor went and got the what they use to light the candelabra on the alter. It was large and awkward. But it did the trick. One at a time we light our unity candle. It made us smile.

But the real symbolism for is this: You can't plan everything. Parts of life will go wrong and how you deal with it is the key to succeeding in marriage or life. We didn't stress over it. I wasn't sure what to do, but it didn't upset us or anger us. And that really makes me realize this was just the beginning of situations we will have to overcome in our lives together. Our themes in the wedding were love, kindness, patience, compassion, and "real" love. We made sure to enjoy the day and really didn't put that much pressure to make it perfect. I couldn't find a good picture of the burnt candle -- maybe the photographer thought we would want to remember that. But I think it is one of the best parts of the wedding. I have saved the candle and will always remember that no matter how hard you try, life never gives you what you expect. You just gotta go with it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lucky Winner

Congrats to Lori for winning the Diaper coupons. Thanks to all for participating!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pssst Yogurt Coupons Giveaway

A while ago, I joined Pssst. It has savings and products to try for General Mills products.

The latest product is Yoplait Yogurt. Classic cake-inspired flavors available in Yoplait Light yogurt -- Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Cheesecake, Pineapple Upside-down Cake. Each serving contains 20% daily value of calcium and vitamin D, 110 fat-free calories



If you would like to receive a coupon via e-mail for this yogurt, leave a comment or send an e-mail.


PS I still have Pillsbury pizza crust coupons, too.

What's Cookin' -- Cream Cheese Chicken

This was so good, I thought it was restaurant quality. Okay, well we don't have a great restaurant selection where I live so maybe that's a stretch. But this is really easy and one of the best chicken recipes I've tried in a long time. I found it on www.cooks.com.

Cream Cheese Chicken
4 chicken breasts
8 oz cream cheese (I didn't end up using that much)
chives (I didn't use these)

Coating Mix
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used crushed saltines)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Flatten chicken breasts.
2. Place a tablespoon or desired amount of cream cheese in center of each piece.
3. Roll chicken breast up so cream cheese is in center.
4. Mix breadcrumbs, garlic powder, basil and oregano together.
5. Roll each chicken breast in coating.
6. Place in baking dish.
7. Drizzle with melted butter.
8. Shake Parmesan on each.
9. Bake 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cheap Field Trip

I had to pick up dog food at Pet Smart today. Turned out to be a really fun trip for my 1-year-old. There were fish, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs and birds for her see. It was a cheap way to entertain her for a little while.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Activites for Toddlers (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a series. For Part 1 see here.

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances. Often we do things, but don’t think about the reason why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might not. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it. The key points that I will discuss include:

Language Development: Language skills develop by talking, singing, and reading together.
Gross Motor Development: This refers to large movements, such as walking, jumping, crawling, climbing, etc.
Fine Motor Development: These skills are those small tasks that require a lot of hand-eye coordination, such as painting, using a spoon, coloring, picking up items, transferring from one hand to another.
Creative Development: Creativity may be taught, but only if it is supported.
Sensory Development: Sensory skills refer to hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, exploring, and looking.
Cognitive Development: This is our knowledge base, we learn from our experiences and grow from there.
Enjoyment Development: Having fun is so important for children to engage in as often as they can.
Social Development: Learning to work together and “be” with other people creates a well-balanced child.

Halloween Magnets
Materials: patterns found (here , here and here), orange, black, and white construction paper, permanent marker, laminator or contact paper, magnet tape or magnets
Directions:
1. Print patterns to size you want. I reduced the ghost 50 percent and used the smallest pumpkins.
2. Mark face on ghost and pumpkin.
3. Laminate or use contact paper to protect it.
4. Use magnet tape or glue magnet to back.

** I put the face on the pumpkin after laminating so my daughter saw it blank for a few days and then as a Jack-O-Lantern.**

Language used: pumpkin, ghosts, whoooooo (the ghost sounds), bats, Jack-O-Lantern, face. I often ask my daughter to go find me … a ghost or pumpkin or bat. And she does.
Gross Motor: My daughter likes to walk around hugging the magnets. Yep, you just gotta go with it sometimes.
Fine Motor: Putting the magnets onto the refrigerator takes a little skill.
Creative: I made them, but she did watch me put faces on the pumpkins. And she often talks to the magnets, too.
Sensory: Touch and sound used
Cognitive: My daughter tries to stick the magnets on other things. This is a great cause and effect exercise. Nope, I didn’t even plan that
Enjoyment: My daughter loves all the Halloween items all around the house.
Social: We play games like find the ghost or find the pumpkin. She loves to find it and I usually praise her by saying “ That’s right, you found the ghost. What does that ghost say?”

Bingo Dauber Apples
Materials: Apple Pattern (found here), bingo dauber (I bought mine at the $1 store), red construction paper, washcloth
Directions:
1. Trace pattern on red paper or feed paper through printer
2. Cut out apple
3. Let child use bingo dauber to paint.

**FYI: This paint isn’t usually very washable**

Language used: apples, paint, fun
Fine Motor: Making marks with the bingo dauber helps refine fine motor skills
Creative: They can put the paint anywhere
Sensory: Feeling the paint and paper
Cognitive: We put picture up for recognition and discussing it again later.
Enjoyment: Art is fun
Social: We work together painting.

Paper Jack-O-Lanterns
Materials
: Pattern (found here), black and orange construction paper, triangles and mouth (I did these free hand), glue, washcloth
Directions:
1. Trace pattern or feed paper through printer
2. Cut out pumpkin, triangles and mouth
3. I used Elmer's glue. I put a little on a paper plate and use a small paint brush to brush the glue on the triangles and mouth (prep as much as you can ahead of time)
4. Give child triangles one at a time and let them place it where they want.
5. Do the same with the mouth

Language: pumpkin, face, glue, orange, mouth, eyes, nose. I also asked “Where do you want to put it?”
Fine Motor: Practicing putting the shapes on the pumpkin.
Creative: Any face is acceptable.
Sensory: Touching the paper and unfortunately the sticky glue.
Cognitive: Reinforces ideas we have with other pumpkins in the house.
Enjoyment: It is fun to make a face on a pumpkin
Social: We worked together to create it.

** I had put a face on the magnet earlier the day we did this activity. I gave her the magnet to look at and hold while she was creating this project so she knew the idea. But I didn’t force her to make it the same as mine. Obviously!**
One more segment coming up next Tuesday. Be sure to check it out!

Food Storage Containers

I have tried everything over the years for storing leftovers. From expensive Tupperware to cheap dollar store containers to disposable containers. Nothing really seemed to meet my satisfaction until a couple years ago when I had heard about Rubbermaid's new line -- Premier.

I bought the first one looking for a good leftover container my husband could take to work. The one he had been using was so stained and who knows how old. What drew me to this brand was that it claimed it would heat without staining.
I like that they are clear, easy to stack and there is absolutely no staining. Oh and they are guaranteed for life. As for cost, it's not too bad. And they usually go on sale frequently. I even used a coupon when I first purchased a set.
We have two sets of these of the various sizes. I use the 1 cup size for storing and freezing individual sauces. We store cheese in one almost all the time. Sometimes I go to reach for one and there are all in use.
If you haven't tried these containers and are searching for some good ones, these are worth trying!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Diaper Coupons Giveaway

I have three Huggies Diaper Coupons to give away. I hate to just throw them away.

  • 1 Target Huggies Diaper coupon: $2 off Jumbo pack or larger (exp: 11/26/08)
  • 2 Manufacturer Huggies Diaper coupons: $1.50 off any size (exp: 1/4/09)

The Target and one of the manufacturer coupons would give you a total savings of $3.50 in one trip.

To enter please leave a comment or e-mail with your e-mail. I will select a winner at random on October 23, 2008.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Did you know?

I just found out that Target gives a lot of their clearance items to Goodwill. Unused and unopened. I bought $10 poster paints (it still had the Target clearance tag on it) at Goodwill for $2 -- brand new. I tried asking the cashier how often Target drops stuff off and when. She only said they come earlier in the week and not every week. Just think shopping for Target items at Goodwill prices!

Thrifty Thursday -- weekly savings

I save 43 percent of my grocery bill this week (a $35 total). Our store had some great stock up deals.

Yesterday I got two 24 month bodysuits from JC Penny for free! Original price was $9.99 each, sale was buy one get one for 88 cents. I used a $10 off $10 coupon and a 15 percent off survey coupon. That's a $20 savings if I had bought them at the original cost.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To my loyal readers

To those of you who are dedicated readers, I thank you very much for reading. I know some of you and others of you I'm guessing we've never met. I appreciate having an audience to tell my thoughts. If you wish, comment or e-mail and let me know what you like about my blog. Another great big THANKS!

Question: If you are regular reader, I am interested to know if you have tried any of my recipes. If so, which ones? And did you or your family like them?

Followers: I just added a followers gadget to my sidebar. Interested in following my reflections, feel free to follow.

You gotta sign up for this

Have you signed up on Kraft's website for recipes and other product information? I think I read about this an some blogs a while ago. I received an e-mail today and am really impressed. They even have a place where you can type in three ingredients and they will recommend recipes. Good recipes, too. A good resource.

What's Cookin' -- German Pizza

I made this a long time ago and made it again last night. It is really good and kid friendly. I can't remember where I got it (Taste of Home I think).

German Pizza
This is a stove top casserole.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
6 medium potatoes, peeled and finely shredded
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheese

1. In 12-inch stove top or electric skillet, brown meat with onion, green pepper, 1/2 salt and pepper. Drain.
2. Reduce heat to low and melt butter.
3. Place potatoes over butter and spread evenly to cover pan.
4. Sprinkle with remaining salt.
5. Top with beef mixture.
6. Combine eggs and milk. Pour over all.
7. Cook covered for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are done.
8. Top with cheese and heat until cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes.
9. Cut in wedges or squares to serve.

Fall Activities for Toddlers (Part 1)

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances (but by all means not all). Often we do things, but don’t think about why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might gain something different. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it. The key points that I will discuss include:

Language Development: Language skills develop by talking, singing, and reading together.
Gross Motor Development: This refers to large movements, such as walking, jumping, crawling, climbing, etc.
Fine Motor Development: These skills are those small tasks that require a lot of hand-eye coordination, such as painting, using a spoon, coloring, picking up items, transferring from one hand to another.
Creative Development: Creativity may be taught, but only if it is supported.
Sensory Development: Sensory skills refer to hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, exploring, and looking.
Cognitive Development: This is our knowledge base; we learn from our experiences and grow from there.
Enjoyment Development: Having fun is so important for children to engage in as often as they can.
Social Development: Learning to work together and “be” with other people creates a well-balanced child.







** All of the following ideas can be easily varied for older kids**

Painting pumpkins
This took us about 3 minutes.
Materials: pumpkins, paint, brush, washcloth
Directions: I bought these small pumpkins as the grocery store. I let my daughter choose between two paint colors. I put paint on the brush and helped her paint the pumpkin. It’s okay to help at this age because they need to learn what to do. I suggest not doing it for them, though.

Language used: pumpkins, paint, red, brush, orange.
Fine motor skills: painting with brush
Creative skills: she could paint anywhere on the pumpkin (and the highchair as it turned out)
Sensory: touched the pumpkin and paint. And my daughter tasted it, too.

Cognitive: remembered other pumpkins she has seen around the house.
Enjoyment: it was fun.
Social skills: we worked together to paint the pumpkins.

Fall Sensory Table
Items include silk leaves (from Target’s dollar spot), gourds, soft pumpkin that plays music, trick-or-treat pumpkin bucket. You can come up with your own ideas. Try not to do too much.




Language used: leaves, pumpkins, gourd, trick or treat, bumpy
Fine motor skills: picking up leaves, pushing soft pumpkin’s button, putting items in bucket and taking them out.
Creative: not sure what she does, but she plays with them a lot.
Gross motor: Stands while playing.
Sensory: different textures – soft, bumpy. Listens to music on pumpkin, loud sound when she puts something in the bucket.
Cognitive: can find the pumpkins or leaves when I ask her. Connects to other items in the house.
Enjoyment: She plays there often for fun.
Social: we play together to figure out what the items are and repeat the words often.
Brown Leaf, Brown Leaf, what do you see?
Teacher-made book that I created while I was student teaching. I took the idea from a friend.
Materials: square paper, cut out leaves, scrapbook paper (grass), printer, eliminator, double sided tape, binder rings, hole punch.


Directions: There are lots of ways you could make a book like this. This is my version. 1.

  1. Decide what the text will be. Mine was Brown leaf, brown leaf what do you see? I see a red leaf looking at me? And so forth for three more colors. The last page is “I see a big tree looking at me.”
  2. Type or write text on paper.
  3. Cut out leaves and tape under text.
  4. Tape scrapbook paper with grass under leaf.
  5. Laminate, be sure to round the corners otherwise the corners are too sharp.
  6. Trim to size you want. I use 8 x 8.
  7. Punch two holes on the side.
  8. Use rings to clasp it together.
Language: The repetitive text makes it interesting to listen to. Older children (3 or 4 years old) will be able to “read” the story even though they don’t know how to read because the colors prompt them. Words used: brown, red, yellow, green, leaf, leaves, tree, see.
Gross motor: Taking the book off the shelf and carrying it to the spot she wants to read it or to one of us.
Fine motor: Flipping through the pages
Creative: Books always encourage imagination
Sensory: Touching the book, listening to the story, looking at the pages and colors
Cognitive: Kids learn the text and anticipate the pages. When read over and over again memory skills are enhanced.
Enjoyment: Reading is fun. Able to look at it on her own.
Social: Learning to read together


Foam Sticker Picture
I previously did this with a fish scene.
Materials: Paper, foam stickers, laminator
Directions
1. Laminate paper
2. Help child place stickers on paper
3. Put creation on child’s level

Language used: bats, ghosts, cat, house, stick, moon, pumpkins, jack-o-lantern, orange, black
Fine Motor: Placing or helping place stickers on paper
Creative: Stickers can be placed anywhere
Sensory: Stickers are sticky and soft. By placing it at their level they can go back to it and touch it.
Cognitive: Reinforces other words and ideas used for Halloween. Memory to go back to it wherever it is in the room. I asked questions like where to stick the sticker.
Enjoyment: Creating a new picture is fun and seeing again is enjoyable.
Social: Working together is a great skill to practice.
Be sure to check back next Tuesday for Part 2!

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