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

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.

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)

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.**

  • 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.

  • 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

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


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

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

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)

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)

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

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


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

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.

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.


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