Thursday, July 31, 2008

50 random things about me

I took this idea from a friend of mine. She did a lot more. I thought it would be fun. Enjoy!

50. I live in my hometown
49. I met my husband on E-Harmony
48. I have a BA in Print Journalism earned in 1999, minor in History
47. I have a BS in Early Childhood Education earned in 2007
46. I have lived in WI, MN and California
45. I lived in a canvas tent for two summers in a redwood forest
44. I have worked in the travel industry
43. My favorite color is purple
42. I'm 5'2"
41. I had my daughter at age 30
40. We have a Jack Russell Terrier
39. I used to dance tap, jazz and ballet
38. I still help out with the dance recital every year
37. I love to cook and bake
36. My favorite cookie to bake is Snickerdoodle
35. We honeymooned in Yosemite and San Francisco
34. I like listening to waves crash.
33. I've worked with people from all over the world
32. I like grape Kool-Aid
31. I have a Dell laptop
30. I've worn glasses since I was 3 1/2 years old.
29. Cats make me sneeze
28. So do trees, flowers, weeds, you get the idea
27. I love to be outdoors
26. I can't eat raw fruits and vegetables
25. But I could when I was pregnant
24. I love to travel
23. The farthest east I've been is Iceland
22. The farthest west I've been is Hawaii
21. My favorite Sesame Street character is Ernie
20. I eat chocolate every day
19. I'm a fairy godmother
18. I like to grow my hair long and then cut it really short
17. My cell phone does not take pictures or have text messaging
16. One of my favorite books is "The Napping House," by Audrey Wood
15. I have an older brother
14. I have two younger sisters
13. I have one niece
12. I had a roommate in college who sold Amway
11. I once interviewed the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders
10. One of the best compliments I got was from a tough 13-year-old girl who said I'd be good mom.
9. I named my daughter after a Fleetwood Mac song.
8. I once saw a private movie theater in a Chinese restaurant
7. I love seafood (real seafood, not from Sysco)
6. Most people say my name wrong when they first meet me
5. They say my daughter's name wrong, too
4. And a lot of people assume my husband's name is Jim
3. People often ask me grammar questions
2. My first job was collating paper
1. This was harder than I thought it would be

Blog Giveaways

I'm still pretty new to the blogging world. I see lots of people have giveaways. I guess if you have the time to sort through this website. You are bound to win something. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Recipes to go with meals

I am pretty good at making main courses. Sides are another story. Normally, I make a potato (baked, boiled, mashed or fried) and heat up a frozen veggie. It's getting a little boring. I'm working hard to make different side dishes or spruce up veggies. Here are a couple.

Spanish Rice (way better than out of the box)
I was looking for a recipe to go with enchiladas. This tastes really good. I found it on
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked rice (I use Jasmine rice)
2 cups chicken broth (I use 14 oz can and add water as needed)
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1. Heat oil. Add rice and cook until golden.
2. Add & sauté onion, bell pepper, and garlic.
3. Add Salt, tomato and broth in blender.
4. Add to rice, cook until tender and liquid is absorbed.
5. Cooking time is 20 minutes over low heat. I let it sit for about an hour to make sure the rice gets done.

Golden Sauce
My husband gave me this book for our anniversary. It has lots of interesting health tips. I tried this over broccoli this week. Would be good over pasta or any vegetable. Good alternative to butter.

3/4 cup cooked potato (I used 2 small)
1 medium carrot, cooked
1 1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp cashews (I used raw cashews)
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1. Boil potato and carrot until cooked.
2. Blend all ingredients in blender.
3. Heat either on stove or microwave. Since I had cooked the potato and carrot it was already hot.

*We received the Vita Mix blender as a gift. Works great!
Sweet Corn on the Cob
I have used this recipe from Betty Crocker for years and works perfect every time. Granted you get good corn.

4 ears of corn
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice (optional)
*never add sugar that toughens the corn*

1. Place ears in cold water in large pot.
2. Add sugar and lemon juice.
3. Bring to boil. Boil uncovered for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let stand uncovered for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Instead of...

The univeristy where I earned my early childhood education degree gave me a lot of insight on how to work with children in a positive way. You do what you know until you learn otherwise. Here are some techniques to use different words when talking to children.

Instead of "noise," I use "sounds"
When I child is banging on something that sounds like noise, I think its better to say "I hear you making lots of sounds." The word "noise" just sounds negative. Try it.

Instead of "okay," I use "Do you understand or can you repeat what we are doing now?"
This was a hard habit to break. I think it's just part of how our society talks. Example, "We are going to eat supper now, okay?" Well, is it really okay to ask the child what we are doing now? That leaves it open for them to say "no." Instead it is better to say, "We are going to eat supper now, do you understand?" I think we say "okay" because we want to know if they understand what's going on next or what we want them to do. This way you are asking about understanding instead of about eating.

Instead of "no", I use "stop"
I always try to tell children what I want them to do, instead of what they can't do. But there are times they need to stop what they are doing. I use "stop" and often the sign for it, so I can do it from across the room without using the words. "No" just doesn't really produce too many results.

Instead of "stinky," I use "dirty or smelly"
This goes for little ones with diapers, normally. I use "dirty" or "smelly" because stinky just seems too negative. Oh, and never get mad for a child for having a dirty diaper. It's not their fault.

Instead of "look at me," I use "show me your eyes"
I learned this one from my dance teacher when I was 16 years old. I loved how she would get the attention of the little 3-year-olds by saying "Show me your eyes." They would look right at her, and they didn't realize she was trying to get them to pay attention. "Look at me" can be a little demanding. Also, on that note, some children don't need to look at you all the time. Just because they aren't looking at you doesn't mean they don't hear you. Good example is when you are disciplining a child. They are already feeling shame or should be, so whether they look at you doesn't make any difference. Remember every child is different, too.

Give it a chance. You will notice a difference in how you approach them and how they react.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Water update

The well water tested fine, but the well guys came out and say we need a new well. There's too much build up in the well that's causing some of the garbage to come up into the pipes. So in the mean time I'm only cooking and making bottles with filtered/bottled water. We're not sure at this point when the new well will be drilled.

Paying bills and balancing that checkbook

When my husband and first were together, he paid the bills and I balanced the checkbook. But since I became a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) I now pay all the bills and balance it all out.

I use Microsoft Money for my checkbook. It is so easy to use and it automatically gives me my new balance without any calculating. I rarely make any errors using it. Of course, I use the online checking from my bank. But I think it is really important to know exactly how much money I have as I'm waiting for bills to clear.

When we first moved, I wrote down all our bills on a pad of paper. I wrote the estimated due date and whether we pay automatically or not. As bills come in I keep them in a stack. I then write down on a post-it note how much is due and the due date. I put the post-it over the previous month on that pad of paper. At a glance I can see how much we paid for the last few months. For a while we had a lot of medical bills to keep track of so it was really helpful to do it this way.

I normally pay the bills the last week of the month. Everything is due toward the beginning of the month except our credit card. We only use one credit card. I pay some of the bills with that, and its billing cycle ends around the 25th. I used to pay bills as they came, but it's easier now to pay them all at once. Then I know exactly how much money we have and how much to put into savings. And using Microsoft Money is just a great cross reference.

I can usually get them all taken care of in about 15 minutes. And then I don't think about them again until the end of the month.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Six degrees

We watched the movie Bobby last night. Whenever I watch movies with lots of well known actors I think about the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" that radio stations used to challenge listeners to. I never could do it. I don't even know any stations that play anymore. My husband had never heard of it. This movie would be a good anchor for someone playing.

List of some of the cast:
William H. Macy
Emillo Estevez
Martin Sheen
Lindsey Lohan
Elijah Wood
Sharon Stone
Helen Hunt
Christian Slater
Anthony Hopkins
Demi Moore
Ashton Kutcher
Nick Cannon
Harry Belafonte
Laurence Fishburne
Heather Graham
Joshua Jackson

Friday, July 25, 2008


In early June there was flooding here. All that icky water from the cities was poured into the lake that we live next to, not to mention all the sewer systems that drained into the lake. So the recommendation is to have our well water tested. With our neighbors, we tested the water and it came back contaminated. We stocked up on bottled and distilled water. We retested it and should find out the results today -- we are hopeful because they didn't call us yesterday. But then yesterday our water was all dirty. Sigh. We think the neighbors filter is clogged and have to get that fixed today. I boiled a gallon of distilled water to wash bottles. I have a dishwasher full of dishes and tons of laundry to do. Oh, and the baby could use a bath. Amazing how you realize how much you rely on something when you don't have it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thrift Books

This website has used books very cheap -- some as cheap as 1 cent.

The catch is that you need to pay shipping for each individual book. First book is $3.95 and each additional (of the same order) is $3.49. But that's still a deal if you are looking for a certain book and can't find it anywhere else for a good price. Used is as good as new when it comes to books, unless they are written on or stained.

What's Cookin' -- Tomato Sauce

I really don't like the flavor of most jarred tomato sauces. My husband makes a good sauce with spaghetti (maybe some day he'll let me post that here). But it takes a long time and lots of ingredients. I found two simple sauces that I make -- one for pasta and one for lasagna. I found both these from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Simple Tomato Sauce
3 Tbs Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1 (28 oz ) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
3 Tbs fresh basil (3 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

1. Cook oil and garlic on medium heat until fragrant, not brown. About 2 minutes.
2. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes with juice.
3. Bring to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Add basil and sugar. Add salt to taste.
Lasagna Tomato Sauce (good with any pasta)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion minced (I chop mine)
Salt to taste
6 garlic cloves
1 (28 oz ) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 dried oregano
1/8 red pepper flakes
Pepper to taste

1. Heat oil on medium heat until shimmering.
2. Add onion and 1 tsp salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
5. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Canned tomato recommendation: Muir Glen. I also read this in America's Test Kitchen cookbook and love these tomatoes. They are a little pricier, but worth the taste.

**Yesterday, I added about 1 tsp of cocoa to the simple sauce and it took the edge off the tomato taste.**

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Favorite Kid's Books

Most of my favorite books right now are pre-school/kindergarten books. Here are some:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The Napping House

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you See?

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Blueberries for Sal

Millie's Secret

Of course, I have lots more to share. This is what I have time to add today. Hope you find one or two you enjoy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Time ago

I am conveniently staying at my parent's home that is storing all my old high school and college stuff, not to mention some childhood items. I am purging like crazy. Today, I went through four boxes of old school papers, notebooks, folders and everything else in between. I tossed all but a few journals, some interesting papers, and a couple of other important items worth saving. I actually found a folder from my high school typing class (yes, I'm old enough to have been taught typing on a typewriter). Now why would I ever need that? Let's see what else... I found some free bowling cards for having good attendance in high school -- expired in 1993. I can't believe all the math homework I saved -- I mostly got C's and D's in math. Yeah, save that to look at later. I guess for some reason I needed to hang onto those things. I hadn't look at most of it for 10 or more years. I'm betting that I wouldn't look at it again for another 10 if I saved it. It feels good to purge and let go of a time from long ago.

Schedule Change

With my baby turning into a toddler several parts of our day is changing. I put her on the toddler eating schedule about four months ago.

Breakfast at 7:30 a.m.
Snack at 10 a.m.
Lunch at 11:30 a.m.
Snack at 2 p.m. (this one varies based on napping schedule)
Dinner at 4:30 p.m.
Snack at 5:30 p.m. (when we eat dinner)

That has flowed into her day really well. It has created predictability even if she barely eats anything for snack. Napping on the other hand has always been a challenge. She used to take 3 to 4 naps a day when she was nursing. We are finally down to two naps. I bet that sounds great. It would be if they were predictable in time and length. Every day is different. So in my attempt to find some time to actually get something done, I am pushing for just one long nap in the afternoon.

I have a couple of strategies to do this. First, I am waking up before her to shower and get mostly ready for the day. I am finally getting real sleep again, so instead of waking up when she does and trying to find time to shower, I decided to get up a little earlier. This is working good for me. Second, I then have a new option for our day. I found that doing the grocery shopping or other errands right away in the morning is great. Few people are out, I still feel energized, it gives my daughter a new place to be and keeps her awake. Last week we were out a couple of days in the morning. She still took a little cat nap on the way home, but it wasn't too long. One day it worked, she napped for 2 1/2 hours. The next day, it didn't. She only napped an hour. Guess we still need to work on it. I have a feeling this napping business is always going to challenge us. But I really can't complain. She goes to bed around 7 p.m. and normally doesn't wake up until 7 a.m.

I normally work on cleaning the kitchen when she snacks, during a nap and once I start supper. That is usually the messiest place in the house. I do laundry in between things and try to stick to this. I get the rest done when I can. I believe taking care of my daughter is the first priority and then everything else. I am slowly realizing that no matter how hard I try, I am never going to feel caught up.

The Dark Knight -- Commentary/Review

The Dark Knight

We jumped on the band wagon and saw this movie yesterday afternoon. We have seen many superhero movies and many I probably wouldn't have seen without my husband's encouragement. They tend to be really good and interesting. The Dark Knight was a good sequel to the previous Batman movie. The Rachel character was a different actress, but I'm sure other cast had changed that I didn't notice. The movie dragged in the beginning, but kept me thinking where the twist was going to come. Christian Bale plays a good Bruce Wayne/Batman and stood consistent with his last performance. (We actually watched 3:10 to Yuma on Friday and he's turning into one of those actors I want to watch more). The Joker was overall well- played and decietful, but I found some of the humor to be placed at the wrong time -- maybe that was the point. I just couldn't laugh when he was blowing up a building. It's been hard to watch the last two Batman movies with all the killing. It seems that there used to be more killing or "hurting" of bad guys and little to no killing of good guys. Now there has been a shift, maybe it's the twist. But I didn't like the excessive killing and damage in the movie. Overall, I liked the movie and it's plot. There were some surprises. It was a little long, but a fairly well-played movie. Definitely not for kids!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thrifty Websites

Here are some of the websites I read for deals and free samples. Some are blogs and others aren't. I really don't like the ones you have to sign up for to see the deals. These are really easy to navigate. (This one has more articles and ways to save money)

Not to overload the post, I'll stop here. I have others, too. But these have seemed to be pretty useful.

Happy Saving!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Crunchy Onion Chicken

Crunchy Onion Chicken
I took this one from the back of the French Fried Onion's container. Really easy and tasty!

1 1/3 cup French's Original or Cheddar French Fried Onions
4 chicken breasts
1 egg beaten

1. Crush French Fried Onions in plastic bag with rolling pin.
2. Dip chicken in egg.
3. Coat with crumbs -- press on to make stick
4, Place chicken on baking sheet or casserole dish.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min. or until no longer pink.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A little behind

I haven't posted for a couple days because my husband kindly put anti-software on my computer. Every time I let him touch the laptop for maintenance, it doesn't seem to work better at all. I struggled for the last three days to try to use it. It wouldn't even connect to the Internet. I think there is so much garbage on the computer that we have to completely start over. I deleted the software and am up and running again. Until the next time we try to fix it.

Yesterday we went to the Children's Hospital (another reason for no post yesterday) for my daughter. We had her big toenails looked at. They are coming in crooked and our pediatrician wanted to make sure all was okay. Personally, I think they just have to make a quota of referrals and ours was one of those. It turned out to be a worthwhile visit. We saw a dermatologist for her toes, and she helped us problem solve my daughter eczema problem. She prescribe Cetaphil cream with hydrocortisone in it. I used it tonight, and wow it felt really nice on her skin. It is probably good to have someone else check in on that and have it on record.

One important piece of information they told us was that Dreft (the baby laundry detergent) has fragrance in it and can actually trigger eczema. Thankfully, in January when the rash started I bought the cheap Free and Clear Purex instead of the expensive Dreft. I did, however, use the Dreft stain remover for time to time. Not anymore. Wanted to pass that along because we were originally told that Dreft was suppose to be good for baby's sensitive skin.

Oh, and her toes are fine. She just has chubby toes and the toenails on her big toes are coming in crooked. It could take several years to even out, but not anything to worry about. Kind of what I thought -- I didn't even Google it before the doctor's appointment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Why blogging is good for me

I am really enjoying posting on my blog. It tends to give me another purpose other than cleaning and taking care of my daughter. I never quite understood how stay-at-home-moms had difficulty being home all day, but now I get it. It's not that I don't enjoy the time I get with my daughter. I am grateful I can take care of her rather than a stranger. But being cooped up all day with no adult interaction and no adult thoughts can be a little challenging to get used to. This blog has given me something to look forward to each day. I can think of interesting things to share with my few readers. I like knowing that I might impact someone else's day just a little bit with what I write. It feels good to share my thoughts and feelings. I hope to continue with blog for a long time. I know that it helps me and gives me another purpose. And it's a great way to keep track of life.

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Foam Soap

When I started staying home, I realized I went through a lot of soap. I also decided I wanted good smelling soap if I'm going to home all day. But soap can be pretty expensive. I really like Bath and Body Works Moonlight Path foam soap. But a 8 oz container of that is around $3 to $5 and it goes pretty quickly.

I found a recipe for foam soap that has my soap stretching much longer. I tested it first with some bubble bath my husband had given me. I put a couple of tablespoons in the foam soap the used foam soap container and add water to the rest. It worked really well. I went to the outlet Bath and Body Works store and purchased some body washes (two 8 oz bottles for about $5 and one 8 oz Vanilla for $1). This was in February. I still haven't gone through a whole bottle yet. I use two dispensers -- one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. Just squirt in some body wash and add water. Shake and there you have it.

I like the good smelling soap and of course the cost has been minimal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Pork Chops

This is the best pork chop recipe I have. The directions seem lengthy and complicated, but once you make it a couple times it's not too tough. I found it on America's Test Kitchen's website. All their recipes are tested hundreds of times. Whenever I want a foolproof recipe, I go there.

Glazed Pork Chops

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pinch cayenne pepper

4 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops , 5 to 7 ounces each, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Combine all glaze ingredients in medium bowl; mix thoroughly and set aside.

2. Trim chops and slash through fat and silver skin with sharp knife, making 2 cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop (do not cut into meat of chops). Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork to skillet and cook until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1 minute longer; transfer chops to plate and pour off any oil in skillet. (Check internal temperature of thinner chops; see note above.)

3. Return chops to skillet, browned side up, and add glaze mixture; cook over medium heat until center of chops registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; transfer chops to clean platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

4. When chops have rested, add any accumulated juices to skillet and set over medium heat. Simmer, whisking constantly, until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel (heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 2 to 6 minutes.

5. Return chops to skillet; turn to coat both sides with glaze. Transfer chops back to platter, browned side up, and spread remaining glaze over chops.

**I use pork chops with the bone in them and it works just as good.**

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sesame Street

I also recently read that TV for kids under 2 has no benefit for them. They can't interact until 18 months. Well, I disagree completely.

When my daughter was around 9 1/2 months old I started putting Sesame Street to see what she would do. I'm not a big believer in putting the TV on all day for kids to watch, and I was a little worried I might end up using TV as a crutch so I could get things done. I have played a Sesame Street CD for my daughter since she was a couple months old, and she loves almost every song. She knew the songs before she started watching the show.

When we are home we watch Sesame Street for the hour it's on. It does several things that make our day better. First, my daughter enjoys the characters. She has her favorites. Second, she does interact. When she sees Cookie Monster she roars, when she sees Ernie she does his laugh, and when she sees Elmo she says "hi." She smiles when she recognizes songs or muppets. She talks back to the TV. She will crawl or walk toward the spot where she can see the TV when she hears certain transitional songs or tones. She is finding enjoyment, using recognitions skills, enhancing language skills, and I bet a lot more I don't realize. I also know many of the songs and sing along. It also helps with our routine. We normally take a walk after snack and then watch Sesame Street until lunch (and often during lunch). I truly believe she knows what time of day it is because of it.

Would I keep it on all day? No. Will we watch when we can? Yes, because I see a benefit.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shopping Tips

When I go shopping (whether is grocery or Walmart) I try to stick to a few rules for myself to make it easier.

1. I usually park a few rows from the exit door for an easy escape from the busy parking lot.
2. I park as close to a cart return as possible, if I have the baby or not.
3. I always make a list. I stick to it, unless there are items on sale.
4. I use these post-it notes for my list sometimes. They are great because you can stick the post-it to the cart and you don't have to fumble with the list. I got a pack free in the mail.
4. I organize my coupons ahead of time according to my list. I also watch for items on sale at certain stores to make the most for my coupon savings.
5. As I shop I take the coupon out or move it to the front of the pile in my purse.
6. I always take all my coupons just in case.
7. I normally buy the larger package if it is more cost effective. Especially if it's something we use a lot of, such as diapers.
8. I try to get in and out in about 30 minutes. Extra time means extra buying for me.
9. I price items and only buy certain things at certain stores. For example, baby food is cheapest at Walmart unless the grocery store or Target has it on sale. I have a list of a lot of items like that. Well, in my head at least.
10. I buy non-brand when it's a good product.
11. I try to stock up, so we don't have find time to run to a store. Also I can make sure to catch the sales and use coupons if I can. Some items we stock up on are toothpaste, soap, canned goods, paper goods, personal hygenine products, etc.

Those are just a few things I do to make shopping a little easier, more cost effective and almost enjoyable.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Dollar Store

I never used to like going to The Dollar Store because it was messy and everything looked cheap. But these days the store has changed some, or maybe I've become a little less picky. There are items that I always buy at The Dollar Store, and I search for different ones in the area. Some items aren't a good deal, but if you're a shopper who checks around for prices you know what those items are. I normally don't buy health and beauty products there because they are on average higher priced.

Here's a list of some items I buy at The Dollar Store:
Scrapbooking paper
Pencils (great for kid gifts)
Disposable diaper bags (100 in a box)
Plastic containers/bins
Decorations (depending what I can turn them into)
Seasonal items
Sandwich baggies (look for the pack with extra)
Removable wall stickers
Wooden pieces for crafts
Some craft supplies
Teacher posters, die cuts, borders, reward certificates
Books (even the poorly made ones can be cut apart and laminated for a felt board)
Kitchen tools
Anything that can be modified into to a teaching tool

This week I found this and this at The Dollar Store. I figure I can laminate some of the pages and use them for a learning center.

I love walking out of the store with 8 items and paying less than $10 for all of it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mac and Cheese Recipes

We don't eat a lot of pre-packaged meals. We do still eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I have two really easy and good recipes to enhance mac and cheese. One I've made for many years and got out of a local church cookbook. The other I just made last week and created the recipe based on several I found. Feel free to substitute with other mac and cheese boxes or your own homemade mac and cheese. Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese Casserole
** We ate this so often that we only eat it once every couple of months now, if that. My husband loved it so much he even renamed is "Cas Mac."

1 box of Kraft Mac and Cheese
1 lb of Ground Beef
1-2 cups of Corn or Green Beans (any vegetable would work -- I use frozen, but canned would be fine)
1 can of Tomato Soup

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) Bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour.
Tuna Mac and Cheese

1 box of Kraft Mac and Cheese
2 tbsp butter
½ cup onion
¼ cup green pepper
¾ cup milk
1 can cream of celery
1 6 oz can of tuna
1 cup carrots sliced (you could use any veggie -- I had baby carrots on hand)
½ cup French fried onions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Set aside the cheese sauce packet.
3) In a saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.
4) In the same pan, saute onion and green pepper in butter.
5) Return macaroni to the pan.
6) Add milk and contents of cheese sauce packet; stir until smooth.
7) Stir in the soup, tuna, and carrots.
8) Pour into a casserole dish.
9) Cover and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.
10) Sprinkle with French fried onions before serving.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Music and Learning

Music and songs are important in a child's development. We sing every day and just recently my little one started singing along to "Bingo" on one of her toys that just plays instrumental. I mean what could be more fun to watch. She loves to dance with the music and before she could dance she would bop her head. We also have shaker toys and a four key piano. She plays with those every day.

Music helps develop language, social, large motor, and cognitive skills. And it way more fun that just sitting and talking. I also play music for her during the day -- some are kid's songs, some are songs my husband and I enjoy. She gets the biggest smile when she recognizes a song she like. Music is an integral part of learning and life. Just think about songs and how they remind of a certain time. And how many songs we haven't heard for years but know all the words when we hear it. There something special about music that makes it a part of our daily lives.

Best part -- singing songs is free. Always good to have those free options with kids!

What's the name of that song?

I found this website

It has tons of songs and even has music to go with the lyrics for many. I always love signing new songs to my daughter. And there are some I never seem to remember all the words. It is also helpful because it breaks it down into themes. With teaching it is always fun to sing a song with a story or craft to make it a little more interesting.

Happy singing!!


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