Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year-End Reflections: Cooking

This week I've been stopping to reflect on the year and share some tips or lessons learned.  The kitchen has been my favorite place lately.  I have become very comfortable with trying new recipes.  I even have made up some of my own, which I am so proud that they actually taste good.  One reason that I have had to be a little more bold in cooking is because of my daughter's food allergies to milk.  Talk about a big challenge.  I don't really like to buy lots of expensive ingredients to substitute, and my husband and I still eat dairy.  So the challenge became to not only make healthy and tasty meals that were dairy free, but to make her meals look like ours if our meal had dairy in it.

I also learned a lot about making recipes from scratch and saving money along the way.  My favorite, favorite new thing to make is chicken stock.  It costs pennies to make and the taste is so much cleaner than from a can.  I also like making casseroles without (yes without) cream soups.  I used to use cream soups a couple times a week.  Now I will substitute a milk-based (for us) sauce or simply use a homemade stock.  Again a much cleaner taste.  Yes, I still use a can of tomato soup here and there.  And we aren't completely free of processed foods.  But I have found that it really isn't that much more work to make from scratch (or near scratch).

Another lesson I am proud to have learned is freezing meals.  I absolutely love making a couple extra batches of food and freezing them for later.  Even browning a couple extra pounds of ground beef and freezing it makes meal prep much easier.  I feel that once I do go back to work (whenever that is) that I will have a good strategy in place for easy meals during the week that can be quickly unthawed and cooked.  I use our Foodsaver and it preserves the food really well.  I even learned how to freeze corn on the cob and other fresh fruits and vegetables.  This saves us a lot of money, as well.  I will often save the little bit of roast and use it to make a soup or fried rice.  It's amazing how just a little bit of meat can be stretched with different fillers.

It's been a tasty year for us and I really look forward to cooking up new dishes and making trusty favorites.

To check out my recipes go here!

To read my reflection on organizing go here and my reflection on lessons from a toddler go here!

Year-End Reflections: Lessons learned from a toddler

As I continue my reflections of this year, I move on to some of the lessons learned with raising a toddler.

With all our moving this year, there were pockets of time when Dora or Elmo occupied my daughter.  But in-between those moments of packing and unpacking, I made sure to set some goals with my daughter.  One goal from early spring on was to spend as much time outside as possible.  We took daily walks and played in the yard.  I loved taking her to the park.  Sometimes it was really hard to stop and just let her play outside or walk for an hour.  But it was so worth it to see the enjoyment in her eyes.  Another goal this summer was to take her to do something special each week.  By special I mean, in addition to the daily walks or trips to the park.  Some of our favorite places were the splash park, the zoo and the botanical gardens -- all which were free!  As the winter has fallen upon us, we are still trying to do some special projects and trips to the new library are really fun.  I have some other activiites lined up starting in Janurary that we will rotate.

My daughter has taught me this year that she likes to be challenged.  I realize that if I think an activity or project might be too hard for her that I know I should give it a try.  She surprises me daily of her ability to predict and comprehend.  I love reading stories and watching her reactions as she reads it for the first time.  I learned that challenges are what she strives for.

Here are some of my activities and projects listed on my blog geared toward little learners!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Year-End Reflections: Organizing

Each day this week, I'm going to take a little time to reflect on the year.  Today I'm going to reflect on some of the organizing (and reorganization) that I encountered this year.

We moved twice this year.  We moved into our rental home in January and our new home that we built in October.  These last two years have been a big transition for us as we had our daughter and have moved a grand total of four times.  In that chaos and disorganization I found myself frustrated not having a place to put my things.  I was frustrated when I would have to open six bins to find a ball of yarn.  We gained a lot of items over the years and found ourselves in a continuous purge this year.  We donated thousands of dollars of items to Goodwill and had a garage sale earlier in the year.  We made whatever space we had work, but it was a challenge.  There's something about having your own home that makes it so much easier to organize.  When we designed the kitchen we put in lots of cabinets, a pantry and lots of work space.  I love the island we put in. I lowered it because I am short, so I don't feel like I'm having to stand on my tip toes to work (slight exageration).  I also like having the lowered island so that my daughter can stand on her stool and help.  It's so important to include her in helping whether it's in the kitchen or folding washcloths.

Here are some tips that I learned this year in keeping myself and our household organized:

  • If you don't use it toss it or donate it.  Sometimes it's really easy to get emotionally attached to things.  But if it's taking up space to never be looked at again then it's not worth having.
  • Plastic bins that are the size of shoebox have been my lifesaver this year.  I organized our junk drawers into bins.  Examples of bins: crayons, tape, glue, batteries, mounting strips, glitter.  We still have one junk drawer, but it's not messy. You can usually find these for $1 each -- I've even found two packs for $1 each.
  • We are slowly transitioning everything to big bins for storage.  We label the outside of each so that it's showing when stored away.  I use packaging tape and then a permanent marker for labeling. These bins stack well.
  • My husband bought me a desk for my birthday.  It's the first time in more than two years that I have a place to go.  I have all the address information, mailing information, coupons, other money saving strategies and the bills all in one place now.  Before I had some stuff in piles in the kitchen and couldn't ever seem to be organized.  It helps to have your own space.  I think as a stay-at-home mom I was feeling like I had no where to go and was just floating wherever the messy clutter was. 
  • Go through the mail and toss what you aren't going to need right away.  I have a file for bills that need attention (on my desk).  I make sure the mail is cleaned up every night.  I just go through everything unless it's for my husband and make decisions whether it's something to keep or not.  If I get a magazine that I'll read later, I put in a basket that is in the kitchen.  That basket I use for those moments I have to quickly clean up and have no where to put it at the time.  Kind of a catch all basket.  Actually, not too much lands in there anymore.
  • This falls into what I'll talk about more on Wednesday, however it crosses into organization because cooking is a big part of my day.  I have learned that browning a couple extra pounds of hamburger or making double batches and freezing them saves lots of time.  And keeps me organized and a little less stressed.  If there is a day where we are behind, I always have something in the freezer I can make.  
  • Keep a running grocery list.  I'll put things on the list that I know I'm going to need soon, such as syrup.  That way when I make the list I'm taking to the store I can look for the sales.  Then I just update the running grocery list.
  • I also make a running list of ideas to do with my daughter.  There are so many activities and games to do that when I write them down we actually get to them.
  • Have a plan for the day.  I try to keep it the same week to week, but leave room for flexibility.  For example, I typically do laundry either Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday.  But some weeks it might be Monday and Friday.  I usually reserve mornings for errands and activities with my daughter.  Afternoons run late for us as she starts her nap between 1 and 2 p.m.  By the time she wakes up it's time to start supper.
  • In order for me to be motivated and organized, I keep learning and trying new things.  My favorite thing to do right now is making new recipes.  When my husband and I married three years ago I had about eight recipes I made regularly.  I was unexperienced in the kitchen.  Now I will tackle any recipe that comes my way and try several new ones each month.  Staying home has allowed me to experiment a little more. 
  • Just get to it.  We all have those projects that need to get done.  Just pick a day and get to it.  I really feel good when I get something that's been hanging over my head done.
  • Don't over think it.  Just do what works best for you.  I find that being organized makes life much more relaxed.
Read more of my organizng tips from my blog here, here, here and here!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

I'll be taking a short break from blogging for the next few days.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Marble Painting with a bell


I found this idea here.  Instead of using a marble to paint with use a jingle bell.  I taped a coloring sheet in the top of a box top.  We rolled the bell in paint and then rolled it around on the paper.  We sang Jingle Bells and Jingle Bell Rock when we did this project.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Cream Cheese Sausage Dip

I know I've had this before, but my sister-in-law brought it over last weekend and it tastes so good.  WE made it again this weekend.  It's a perfect football snack. After a quick Internet search it appears there are lots of different variations of this recipe.  Here's what we did and it worked out good.


Cream Cheese Sausage Dip

1 lb hot or regular breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean or Johnsonville are best)
2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each)
1 can Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chilies (10 oz)
Tortilla chips

1. Brown sausage. Drain.
2. Add browned sausage, cream cheese and tomatoes in small crockpot (or regular size if you don't have a small one). Mix together and heat through.
3. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clay Ornaments


Be sure to check out my other blog on how to make these fun clay ornaments here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

High Value Coupon for Paper Towels

Go here for additional coupons not found on coupons.com.  There is one for .45/1 C&H sugar and $2/1 two pack of Viva paper towels.  If link doesn't work, let me know.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fun Dramatic play idea


This morning my daughter was playing with her Fisher Price Little People (a almost everyday occurrence here).  A couple years ago I bought a Little People train that had a Santa, Mrs. Claus and a reindeer.  This is the first year she really has been enjoying the Christmas characters.


I thought she should have some presents to play with and wrapped up some small blocks.  We put them in the bin with the rest of the Little People.  I used some scrap paper that I've been saving year after year and little bows.  Now Santa has some presents to deliver.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Olay Rebate Form




I received this rebate form  for Olay Lotion in my e-mail today.  I called the company to clarify and it is pretty simple.  Purchase Olay Quench Body Lotion and send the rebate form in.  You can submit 2 forms per household, but the total rebate is maximum of $12.  Sounds good to me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Nachos

Here's a really good recipe for nachos.  I took the base recipe from Stolen Moments Menu Planning  (see sidebar) and added a few changes to make it to our taste.  I got a "yum" from my husband after he took his first bite.



Nachos

1/2 ground beef
1/2 can refried black beans (about 7.5 oz)
1/4 cup taco sauce
1 cup tomatoes
1/4 cup onion
1 tsp dried cilantro (1 Tbsp fresh)
1/2 to 1 cup cheese (depends how much you want.)
12 taco shells
 2 to 4 Tbsp Veg. oil

1. Heat vegetable oil on medium in small skillet.  Add taco shells for 20 seconds each side. Set aside to cool.
2. Ground beef. Drain.
3. Break taco shells off and place on platter or casserole dish.
4. Mix together ground beef with black beans and taco sauce.
5. Mix together tomatoes, onion and cilantro.
6. Place ground beef/bean mixture on top of broken taco shells. Pile toward middle.
7.  Place tomato mixture on top of beef/bean mixture.
8. Sprinkle cheese over all.
9. Bake on 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

**To make dairy-free use vegan cheese.**

Snack idea

Be sure to check out my other blog for a great snack idea!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ornament idea -- Glitter shells




I was working on this game for my daughter a couple weeks ago and happened to watch a Martha Stewart segment on glittering sea shells.  Of course it really was just a segment on her selling a hot glue gun (which she didn't even use to make these ornaments), glitter, glue and Macy's ornaments.  I digress. But after watching the tutorial of how to glitter shells, I thought we could do that.  So, I took the concept and tweaked it a little for my toddler so she could help.

I did go and buy Martha's glue and glitter at Michaels.  There was a pack that had three different colored glitters and the glitter glue for a fairly reasonable price (and if you have a coupon it helps).  The night before I did these with my daughter I did a practice run.  I actually started by using some glitter I had.  It was craft glitter (not the kind kids usually use) that I had picked up on sale a long time ago.  I used Martha's glitter glue and glittered a small shell.  It didn't work.  For some reason that glitter just didn't glitter right.  Go figure.  I tried again using Martha's glue and glitter and sure enough it looked like it did on TV.   She showed drilling a hole in the top for the string, but I decided to hot glue string instead.

The next day I had everything ready because if you are going glitter with a two-year-old you have to be ready.  My toddler helped glue and glitter eight shells, which was more than I thought she would have patience for.  I debated about going back and re-glittering the empty spaces, but I don't think I will unless she helps.  It really is meant to be "her" project and gift.  Kid's ornaments should look like they made them.  I would have taken pictures during the project, but it was a glittery, gluey mess.


Materials
Sea shells (we used small ones)
Glitter
Glue
Hot glue gun
string


Directions
(to see Martha's directions go here.  She actually has a really cool technique)
1. Hot glue string to each shell. Allow to cool down before glittering.
2. Use a paint brush to brush glue on a shell.
3. Sprinkle glitter on glue. Allow to dry.  Repeat with other shells
4. Glue and glitter other side if desired.

**I actually had my daughter sprinkle the glitter from the containers and used the muffin tins to put the extra - you get a lot of extra with a 2-year-old**


Monday, December 7, 2009

Surprise Box -- Gingerbread Boy


Here's a really easy and fun surprise box.  I just love all the different choices I get when it's this time of year for making games and reading stories.  There is just so much to choose from.  And you can get really creative.


Here are contents of this week's surprise box:


  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
  • Gingerbread Boy by  (any version works -- I don't mind this one even though the fox eats the cookie at the end because it ends with that's what we do with cookies -- Eat them)
  • Stuffed gingerbread boy toy
  • Gingerbread Boy matching game -- I made 11 gingerbread boys and decorated them differently.  I made some have two matches and some have three matches and one has no match.  Then I laminated them.


Of course, we had to make dairy-free gingerbread boy cookies (and we didn't peek).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another repost -- Snicker Salad

Here's a salad that will give your guests a surprise.

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.**

Check out more side dishes and salads at here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Toddler Holiday Game



Here's a really easy game that you can make and switch out different skills.  Find a christmas tree pattern, such as this one.  Cut the trees in half.  Tape or laminate lower half to file folder.  Laminate top half -- I used scrapbook paper on the back, just to give it a little distinction between front and back. You can use velcro or magnetic tape on the back of the tops of the trees.  Then, create a matching skill, such as number recognition, upper to lower case letter, letters, adding or subtracting solutions, shapes -- the list is endless.


Here's a tip:  Write on top of the lamination with a permanent marker (yes, I said permanent).  To erase the permanent maker use hairspray and wipe with a paper towel.  You can use the pieces over and over again.  I plan to give my daughter a different challenge each week.

What's Cookin' --Avocado Feta Salsa



Here's a really tasty salsa that has a little different kick.  I adapted this recipe from here.


For more great appetizer ideas check here!




Avocado Feta Salsa
1 avocado
1 cup cherry tomatoes (I think any kind of tomato will taste good)
2 oz to 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 green onion, chopped (any type of onion will work)
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (1 Tbsp fresh)
1 to 2 Tbsp lime or lemon (fresh is best)



1. Mix all ingredients together.  Be sure to put the lime or lemon juice directly on the avocado to prevent browning.
2. Let sit in fridge for 1 to 2 hours.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Calendar Idea

Here's a simple advent calendar idea.  Simply put a cotton ball each day on Santa's beard.  By Christmas he will have a fluffy white beard.   The link will give you a santa to print.

Crafts at the Library

I am so happy we moved to a city that has an excellent children's program at the library. Yesterday the library had crafts.  There were many crafts for kids to choose from and we we made three.  The volunteers were so patient and helpful.  Here the three crafts we made with some quick directions.


Pine cone Ornament
Simply squirt glue on the pine cone.  Sprinkle with glitter.  Give it time to dry.  Use a piece of yarn to tie a loop to hang.



Holiday Visor
Follow the pattern here.  Trace on foam or cardstock.  Use holiday (or any) foam stickers and crayons (or markers) to decorate.  Punch holes on each end. Use two pieces of yarn.  Tie each end of yarn to the visor and then tie two ends together to fit child's head.





Reindeer 
I don't have any patterns for this one.  You can probably find some antlers online somewhere that will work.  The rest is pretty easy to figure out.


Repost -- Chai Tea


I've posted this recipe in the past, but I have to share it again.  It's my favorite tea to drink this time of year.  For more great holiday drink ideas, check out here.

I'm posting this to participate in the Second Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner.  Stop back all week for great recipe ideas!


Chai Tea
I originally found this recipe here.  I accidentally added less of one ingredient and too much of another last time I made this last time and it really didn't change the flavor at all.  So, if you are adventurous you could be creative with this one or make it as is.

1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea.
2. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
3. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time.  Mixture should be the consistency of fine powder.

To serve: Stir 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving

We had a nice and relaxing Thanksgiving at home -- just the three of us. There was no running to get anywhere at a certain time and it was surprising a lot less work.  I also didn't have to worry about what my daughter ate, as I made everything dairy-free.   The day was stress-free. Having my husband and daughter with me in our new home for our first holiday means so much. I am so thankful that after almost five years of knowing my husband that we continue to have strong relationship.  We are so thankful to finally have a place to call home, and it certainly was call for celebration.

Thanks to Kate at Stolen Moments Menu Planning we had great recipes for our turkey and stuffing.  It was one of the tastiest turkeys I've ever eaten. We made a large bird (12 pounds) and froze a good portion of it. And we made lots of turkey stock.  I made turkey and wild rice chowder (thanks again Kate) with leftovers.

We enjoyed our day.  Hope you enjoyed yours!

A little Diversion this month

I'm going to forgo my blog a day this month.  There are lots of sites hosting holiday recipe swaps and we will be making lots of holiday crafts, too.  I'll be posting as regular, but I'm not going to limit my posts.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Crockpot Whole Chicken

Check this link from A Year of Slow Cooking for the best tasting crockpot chicken I've made yet.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Curtains for a Little Girl's Room


In my search for curtains for our new house, I discovered something.  Kid's curtains are not usually room darkening.  And room darkening curtains aren't that interesting.  We painted our walls an off-white, so I really wanted to do something with color (and fun) on the curtains, especially in our 2-year-old's room.  Our budget for window treatments was not very big. And room darkening curtains were the only option becuase the sun sets in her room and there is a very bright street light outside her window.


I asked worker at Bed Bath and Beyond if they had anything "girly" that was room darkening.  She said no, but they had sheers that were "girly".  And she suggested putting the sheers on the outside of a white room darkening curtain.  Genius, I thought.  We were already using some beige room darkening curtains that I couldn't figure out where to put in the new house with the white walls.  I purchased some sheers at JCPenny on friends and family day.   We bought a double rod from Bed Bath and Beyond (used a coupon) and put the room darkening curtains behind the sheers.  In the day we open the room darkening curtains leaving the fun girly curtains closed and at night (and nap) we close the room darkening curtains to keep the light out.  The cost was just under $50 with reusing the old curtains.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No-Bake Chocolate Crunchies

Here's a yummy toddler (and adult) snack posted on my other blog!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Simple Thanksgiving Craft



Here's a really simply sign you can make.  I just used poster board that I had and paint that we use for finger-painting.




I used foam letters that you can find pretty cheap at Walmart or the Dollar Store.  Then we simply stamped the letters with paint to say "Happy Thanksgiving."  My daughter was really patient as she helped me stamp the sign, so I let her put one finger in the paint and put leaves on the sign.  After we finished this craft, I had some extra paper ready so she could paint at will.  I always have something extra in case she's not done when I am. She also colored a turkey that we glued to the sign.


What we focused on: working together, patience, letters, letter sounds, turkeys, thanksgiving and enjoyment.

This could be easily done for other signs or other projects.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Aveeno Coupon Giveaway -- Closed winners e-mailed

I recently became a Bzzz Agent .

I was sent a sample of Aveeno's Baby Essential Moisture Shampoo and some diaper cream samples.  And some coupons to hand out.  I have 2 coupons left and 2 lucky winners will win a $1/1 any Aveeno product. First read my thoughts on Aveeno products!

Here is what I think of Aveeno in general and then my reviews of the products.  My 2-year-old daughter (who has food allergies) has sensitive skin. From about six months to just a little over a year she had really bad eczema.  It was hard to control, but I did find some simple solutions that worked for us.  The main bath product we use for her is Aveeno. It was the only product  that worked for her sensitive baby skin that didn't cost and arm and a leg.  It would have been so nice to have her smell all lavendary, but to watch her skin breakout was not nice at all.  We haven't tried anything else since she was six months olds.  We use the creamy wash for her and I was excited to try the Aveeno Baby Essential Moisture  Shampoo.  It was a little different from the creamy wash, and I worried that it had a light fragrance.  But it washed her hair really well and didn't cause any breakouts.  Which leads me to diaper rash.

I quickly learned that diaper creams have fragrence in them adding to the diaper rash problem.  If you can smell them, then there is fragrence -- no question.  Aveeno makes a really good (fragrance-free) diaper cream -- Soothing Relief Diaper Rash Cream.  When my daughter was younger, again during the six month to 18 month range, I would use vaseline on every diaper change and double up with Aveeno diaper rash cream on rashes.  Creams that swear to clear up in one use are just too good to be true.  The truth is that diaper rash is caused by a reaction, whether it's teething, diaper cream, the diaper itself, illness, food allergy/sensitivity or something else it.  So unless the reaction is under control, which may take a day or four the diaper rash will be there.  I found that Aveeno diaper cream helps soothe the rashy area, and I would never think about using anything else.

Aveeno is not that costly, and I often can find it on sale.  When it's on sale I search high and low for a coupon (or just save coupons for a sale).  Sometimes Target even has a store coupon that I can combine with a manufacturer coupon.  Aveeno also lasts a long time because we don't use a lot at one time because it is so concentrated.  Yes, it would be nice to have Dora bath bubble to make bathtime more fun, but that's what the toys are for.  Soap is for cleaning and should not cause a reaction.

Check out my advice for turning Aveeno Creamy Wash into foam soap!

Now, onto the giveaway.  All you need to do is leave a comment with an e-mail or link to your blog. Share a tip about kids and sensitive skin if you wish.  There will be two winners winners of a $1/1 any Aveeno product coupon.  Winners be drawn from random.org will be announced and e-mailed November 30.  Good luck!

What's Cookin' -- Chicken Puffs

I actually was given this recipe from Kate and her Stolen Moments Planning Service.  But I did a search to see that it's a pretty common recipe.  Here's a link to a recipe chicken puffs.  I (as I often do) changed the recipe a little.  I love that this will reheat well and be a good lunch.

Chicken Puffs

1 to 2 cups precooked chicken
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 4oz packages of crescent rolls (you can buy larger packages, of course)

1. Melt butter on medium heat.
2. Add onion and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add chicken for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
4. Blend together cream cheese and chicken.  I use my Kitchen Aid for ease.
5. Open crescent rolls into rectangles (two triangles).
6. Place large spoonful of chicken mixture in center of each rectangles.
7. Roll into ball.
8. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 325 degrees.

Check out ore great recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Easy Holiday craft

We made this craft today from Ramblings of a Crazy Woman's blog -- my favorite blog for crafts!  Lots of fun and looks really good.  I let my daughter put the pieces anywhere.  We focused on following directions and doing a craft together.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We are unpacked!

We moved on Halloween and I am happy to report that we are all unpacked.  Well, we have a basement of disorganization still, but we are planning to get that taken care of soon.  The main living floor is done.  My husband took my daughter out of the house for about three hours Saturday morning so I was able to just get it done.  Funny what not being interrupted every two minutes can do. My hope is to share some of my organizational strategies in the weeks ahead, including how I converted two junk drawers into a system that works well for us.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thrifty Thursday Tip

It's baking season.  Be sure to stock up on baking goods.  They are the best deals of the year.

And remember if they are all of out something, be sure to get a raincheck.  I was in Walgreens yesterday and was hoping to get flour and raisins.  But instead I walked out with a raincheck for each and was told they had no expiration.  Plus, I have some coupons for Gold Medal Flour coming in the mail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's Cookin' -Shell Lasagna

I made this one up to use up some feta cheese that we have.  I've seen variations of this recipe all over the place lately, so I decided to just whip up what I thought might work.  It was so good.  My husband named it Shell Lasagna.  You can add more cheese or sauce to your liking.  These ingredients are really only guidelines.  Sometimes it's nice to be creative...

Shell Lasagna

15 jumbo shells
Tomato sauce with or without meat (use jar or homemade)
2 oz feta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese (for topping)

1. Cook jumbo shells in boiling water according to package. Drain. Let cool.
2.  In bowl, mix feta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese together.
3. Stuff cheese mixture in each cooked jumbo shell.
4. Place in each stuffed shell in casserole dish.
5. Pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

**You can substitute ricotta cheese for feta cheese**

For more great recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Spin Art

I recently was in thrift store and found a salad spinner for $2.  I've been looking for one for a while now, but they are hard to find.  I think I saw one in a retail store for $30.

I followed these instruction to create some fun art.  My daughter really enjoyed spinning and squirting paint.  It's really fun and easy to do.  And I didn't find it that messy (at least compared to a toddler who will paint with her fingers for 20 minutes or longer).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dairy-Free Recipes

I just went back and labeled those of my recipes that are free of milk, dairy-free.  If you struggle with meals for those with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, I hope you might find one or two that will work for you!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bed Bath and Beyond Coupons

I learned something new this weekend when I was trying to find accessories for curtains.  I had a $5 off $15 purchase coupon and a 20 percent off one item each for Bed Bath and Beyond.  Yes, that store can be a little overpriced, but sometimes they have a little better selection to choose from.  Plus I always scan the reduced rack (we purchased our sliverware from there and paid a fraction of the cost just because the wooden container that holds the silverware was cracked).

I learned this weekend that you can use multiple coupons per item you have at Bed Bath and Beyond. So if you have four 20 percent off coupons, you can use each one for four separate items.  They let me use both my $5 off and two 20 percent off coupons in the same purchase (I had an extra in my purse).  Wow!  I saved nearly $20 total.

So, get on their mailing list.  Their coupons never expire.  You can stock up and make a pretty successful shopping trip at Bed Bath and Beyond!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'll be back soon!

We moved this weekend and I have been up to my eyeballs in cleaning and unpacking.  I feel like I've barely gotten a start.  I will post something for Thrifty Thursday tonight or tomorrow and will be back next week for a blog a day!!  Thanks for being patient!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's Cookin' -Chicken Avocado Feta Salsa Wraps

These were intended to be chicken tacos, but tasted a lot more like a chicken wrap. The idea was inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe, but turned out nothing like the original recipe.  The idea for the salsa came from here (with a couple changes).  I originally made the salsa because I've been searching for ways to use up the feta cheese that we have.  I also made this for my daughter and since she didn't eat the whole avocado I had some leftover  We still had some cherry tomatoes from the garden.  This is what came of the idea for chicken tacos and the salsa.

Chicken Avocado Feta Salsa Wraps
1 avocado
1 cup cherry tomatoes (I think any kind of tomato will taste good)
2 oz to 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 green onion, chopped (any type of onion will work)
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (1 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (1 Tbsp fresh)
1 to 2 Tbsp lime or lemon (fresh is best)
1 cup leftover chicken (or roast chicken -- follow Martha's directions here)
6 tortilla shells

1. Mix all ingredients except for chicken (and tortilla shells) together.  Be sure to put the lime or lemon juice directly on the avocado to prevent browning.
2. Let sit in fridge for 1 to 2 hours.
3. Steam tortilla shells and fill with chicken and salsa.  Yummy!!

Check out more great recipes at the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Surprise Box -- Sesame Street


Sesame Street was the theme for the last surprise box that we did.  Inside we had two stuffed animals, two matching games (directions for one here) and two books.  This was a super easy box to create -- we have tons of Sesame Street items.  Remember learning should be fun, so why not do activites that peak their interest.


Skills we worked on were listening, ABCs song, following directions,reading comprehension, memory recall, matching, enjoyment, working together.

To see more surprise box ideas, go here!

Waiting for it to ripen...

I had bought some avocados last week on Monday and wanted to make a really tasty salsa (to be posted Wednesday), but they were rock hard.  I had recently read that putting them in a brown paper bag helps to ripen them.  By Thursday they were good to eat.  My husband said that that works for tomatoes, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

JC Penny Deal

I thought I would share my latest JCPenny deal.  If you've been a reader for a while, you know I love to get great deals at JC Penny.  Last Sunday was the Friends and Family event that gave a 20 percent off coupon off entire purchase.  I also had a 15 percent off entire purchase coupon from taking a survey.  Guess what?  I was able to use both!  First the cashier run up the 20 percent coupon; then took the total from that and ran the 15 percent coupon through.

I bought curtains for my daughter's new room and some shirts for my husband for Christmas.

Here's what I bought:
  • 2 Sheer purple curtain panels: regular price $30 each, after discounts $13.59 each ($27.18)
  • 2 Sheer purple valances: regular price $20 each, these were buy one get one for 88 cents,  after discounts $7.10 ($14.20)
  • Graphic T-Shirt, regular price $26, after discounts $4.06
  • Dress Shirt, regular price $50, this was on the sales rack, after discounts $2.70 (and he has one just like already in different color that I snagged at another sale and he loves it)
  • 2 Dress shirts, regular price $30 each, again on the sales rack, after discounts $2.70 each ($5.40)

If I had paid regular price for everything it would have been $236.  Instead I only paid $56.47.  I can't even believe those prices.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Shrimp and Tomato Pasta

I adapted this from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine.  I changed it quite a bit, even the title.  We have come into a plethora of feta cheese given to my husband from one his customers.  So, I've been trying to find recipes that use feta.  If you have one, please pass it along.  I still have more than 60 oz of feta cheese in brine!

Shrimp and Tomato Pasta
Sauce (this makes double what is needed -- easily double the shrimp and pasta and you'll use the sauce up)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes

2 cups pasta (used shells, but any pasta will work)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 to 3 cups shrimp (depending on size you use)
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1. Heat oil in pan.  Add onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat or until soft.
2. Add tomato paste and oregano.  Cook for 1 minute longer.
3. Add diced and crushed tomatoes. Cook to thicken for about 10 minutes
4. Heat water in separate pot and make pasta. Drain.
5. When sauce is thicken set 1/2 aside and use for future meal or freeze.
6. Add pasta to tomato sauce.
7. Heat oil in pan on medium heat.  Cook shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes until pink.
8. Mix shrimp with pasta and sauce.
9. Put crumbled feta cheese on top.

Check out more recipes at the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Book Recommendation


My daughter loves the moon and recently she saw hot air balloon flying by a pink moon.  Well, needless to say, she is obsessed with seeing more.  We live in Wisconsin and the average highs have been in the high 40s lately, so no more for quite a few months.  I did a library search for hot air balloon and then limited it to children's books.  I found many and put them on hold for her.  Yesterday, I picked up "The Man in the Moon and the Hot Air Balloon," by David Delamare.  I knew the title alone would be enough.  We read it last night (actually I read it to her first and then my husband read it to her before bedtime-- she's slightly obsessed with stories, too).  It is a beautifully written poetic story.  The pictures are interesting.  Overall, I was quite impressed with the story.  We might just have to purchase that one.

Tip:  If your child loves something (even if it's for the moment), go with it.  The library makes it so easy to search for books and put them on hold from the comfort of your home.  You might really be surprised what is out there once you start looking.  We read another hot air balloon story with Curious George and it talked about Mt. Rushmore.  That opened up a very simple discussion about presidents.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Antsy

We are moving the end of the month.  We are at that phase where majority of things are boxed up.  Every day I pack a little more and I toss out a little more.  But I am so antsy to move.  It is our first home together and we designed a kitchen that I just can't wait to cook and bake in.  We get the appliances today.  Can't wait to see how they look in my new kitchen.  With the move we are rearranging a couple things in our life.  We are going to get rid of our cable and are joining this really great health club.  It has drop-in daycare (where there is no food, so this mommy doesn't need to worry about our daughter's food allergies as much), three pools, lots of open gym time, classes for my daughter and exercise classes for me.  Plus there's tons of equipment and my husband is looking forward to using the track in the morning.  Seems like a good way to a fresh start in a new city, and in a new house.  I'm excited about us having somewhere to go during these cold winter months ahead.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And the Winner is...

Kerrie is the winner of the $5/1 Luvs coupon.  I've sent her an e-mail and am waiting for her response.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  Stay tuned for more giveaways.  


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Pork Shoulder Roast

I made this last week to use up the last pork roast we had (from last year's meat buying).  It was a shoulder cut, which is pretty tough.  I didn't have any port wine for my favorite roast recipe, so I tried this recipe.  It was really good, and the leftovers worked great for Pork Fried Rice!!

Pork Shoulder Roast -- Crockpot
(I found this recipe from a couple different sources and adjusted as noted)

1 roast (4 to 5 pounds)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 medium onions (I used just one and it was fine)
2 bay leaves
1 whole clove (I used 1/8 tsp ground cloves)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce


1. Rub roast with salt and pepper.
2. Make small slits in roast and put garlic inside.
3. Brown roast on medium on stovetop for 7 to 10 minutes.  (One recipe roasted in the oven for 20 minutes).
4. Put half onion on bottom of crockpot.
5. Add roast and remaining ingredients over the roast.
6. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours.  Or low for 10 to 12 hours.

For more great recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quiet time

I'm all for incorporating music into our day.  And my daughter will watch a little TV spaced out throughout the day.  But I've decided in this stimulated (and often over stimulated) world that sometimes we need a quiet house.  No music, no TV, nothing to distract for an hour or more.  I sometimes have to force it, but other times it just happens.  The result is that my daughter will find herself playing and imagining all sorts of new ideas (I know because she never stops talking -- never).  I find that it is valuable time and necessary.

Sticky Surface - use this!

We had a keyboard that somehow got all sticky on the bottom.  It almost seemed like the rubber melted and felt like tar.  I used my favorite sticky remover Goo Gone on it, but it didn't work.  My husband got this crazy idea to use WD 40 and it cleaned the surface no problem.  His testimony "WD 40 works better than Goo Gone." He even used it to get some old duct tape residue off the freezer from the last move.  Be sure to test the surface before using, as with any product.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Love and Logic

Love and Logic is a parenting/teaching technique that I've seen be very successful. There are many articles on the site that are short and easy to comprehend. Love and Logic basically is all about giving kids choices and teaching them to be responsible for their actions.

From the Love and Logic website:

"Our quality Love and Logic products provide parents and teachers with easy-to-use, practical techniques that help adults achieve respectful and healthy relationships with children. Our products teach the unique Love and Logic approach to raising children that puts teachers and parents in control, teaches children to be responsible and prepares them for the real world. We will help you raise children who are honest, caring, and ethical. Children who are prepared to make positive contributions."


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Giveaway -- $5 Diaper Coupon "CLOSED"

I haven't had a giveaway for a while. I received a $5/1 coupon for Luvs in the mail and we don't use Luvs. But it's too good to just throw away. It expires on 12/31/09.


To enter leave a comment that you want to win (please include e-mail or link back to your blog). Get a bonus entry for blogging on your blog about it (just leave an extra comment to let me know).

I will select a winner next Thursday, Oct. 15 using random.org. Good luck!


THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED!  

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Pumpkin pancakes

Okay, I confess. I use Aunt Jemima pancake mix. Here's my reasoning. When I first tried pancakes on my daughter (who has a milk allergy), it was what I had in the pantry. She was able to tolerate them. When you have a child with a food allergy, you tend to only use products you know won't cause a reaction. Also, with coupons, I've found that it really is cheaper than making from scratch. At least for us, because my daughter is the only one who eats pancakes. I make a batch and freeze the rest. Works great, too.

So this week's recipe uses pre-made pancake mix, but you could simply add the extras into your own homemade recipe. We had a couple cooking pumpkins from the garden. We followed these directions and we had one cup left over. I made some whole-wheat pumpkin rolls from Stolen Moment's Menu Planning service and the following pumpkin pancakes.

Pumpkin Pancakes
1 cup pancake mix
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1. Make mix as usual with milk and egg or water depending on directions.
2. Add applesauce, cinnamon and pumpkin.
3. Make pancakes on griddle.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lucky Ducks


I recently picked up Lucky Ducks at a thrift store for $2. It's an easy game to clean and sanitize. I'm so happy I got, too. My 2-year-old loves to play with us. The age recommended on the box is 3 years old. But I couldn't find any small pieces, and we play with her to monitor her using the on/off button. I don't see anything dangerous for a 2-year-old.

Skills the game enhances:
  • Turn taking
  • Shape recognition
  • Memory
  • Color recognition
  • Enjoyment
  • Clean-up
  • Following directions
  • Patience
  • Understanding that it gets put away when done playing
  • Being gentle
  • Sharing
  • Pretending
  • Language: on, off, your turn, ducks, quack, blue, diamond, red, circle, orange, triangle, purple, square, wait, push, button, show, water

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Splash Award


Candice over at
Wolf's on Safari gave me a Splash award. Thanks Candice! This is the first award I've ever gotten.

The Splash Award is given to alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive and inspiring blogs.

When you get this award you must:
  • Put the logo on your blog
  • Nominate & link up to 9 blogs that allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
  • Let them know they have been splashed by commenting on their blog
  • Remember to link to the person from whom you received your Splash Award.
The following blogs impress and inspire me every day:



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Tuna Noodle Casserole

This is a tuna noodle casserole recipe that I saw in Everyday Food (a Martha Stewart magazine). It's really easy to make and the substitutions I used do not compromise the taste.

Tuna Noodle casserole
I halved the recipe and it made two large servings.

salt and pepper
10 oz green beans
1 cup macaroni (or other pasta)
Bechemel sauce
2 cans tuna
4 slices of bread, cut off crusts (or use pre-made bread crumbs, I often used crushed saltines)
2 Tbsp melted butter

1. Boil green beans for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve water.
2. Boil pasta in green bean water for 6 minutes. Drain.
3. Preheat oven to 35o degrees.
4. In bowl combine pasta, green beans and bechamel sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in tuna.
5. Put bread in food processor or blender until crumbs form. (skip this part if using pre-made bread crumbs or crushed saltines). Mix with butter.
6. Pour tuna mixture in casserole dish and top with bread crumbs.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Bechamel sauce (white sauce)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups whole milk (I used skim milk)

1. Melt butter with onions for 6 minutes in saucepan on medium-low.
2. Add flour and salt. Stir for about 5 minutes.
3. Whisk and pour in milk. Bring to boil.
4. Whisk constantly for 7 minutes
5. Reduce heat to low stirring until sauce is thickened for about 10 minutes.

**Can be stored for 5 days. **

Check out my other tuna recipes here and here!

For more great recipes check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!
Here are many fall activities that I posted last year!



Calm before the storm

I've been taking a small break from blogging this week. Not that I don't have anything it to post -- I'll get a recipe up later.

We are moving again this month and it will be the fourth time in two years. We are purging again and have already sent two fully loaded cars to Goodwill. My daughter has been sleeping much better. She's going down pretty easily (a couple reminders, but no screaming or crying), and she is sleeping through the night. The only real change to the way it was before the transitions is that she is waking up really early around 6:30 a.m. Well, that's really early for me and my sleep deprived body (not to mention this allergy season has been a doosey making me extra worn out).

So, I'm taking the opportunity for a little down time between packing and all the day-to-day stuff. I know the intense packing and unpacking will be very tiring with a 2-year-old. But knowing that I will be in my own home soon is such a great feeling.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whatever Martha

If you haven't seen this show, you have to check it out. It has Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, and her friend Jennifer commenting on Martha Stewart segments. I try to watch Martha Stewart every now and then, but I often get bored watching. I mean if it's going to take me a week to make my own journal, I'll go buy one at the store for a couple bucks. I do subscribe to her Everyday Food magazine and make many of the recipes -- I just substitute her fancy pasta for macaroni and call it white sauce if it's white. Whatever Martha! if absolutely hilarious and they say what were all are thinking. My favorite episode so far was watching Conan O'brien vacuuming a horse. Here's link to an episode where Martha makes sticks for roasting marshmallows. So funny!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Great savings

Sometimes it can be really hard to get the products we like for a reasonable cost. We are a pretty brand-specific family. We'll compromise with some things that we bake or cook with, but for the most part we like what we like and don't change much after we find something we like. I'm not really one to rush out to the store to get 6 boxes of pop tarts beccause they are cheap or free because we won't eat them. So I usually watch for sales for food we eat. This week our grocery store had a great sale on Quaker products, so I matched the sale up with some coupons on double coupon day.

My husband loves the Oatmeal Squares cereal and eats it every morning. A 24 oz box at Walmart costs $2.98 (13 cents an ounce). I eat Chewy bars every day -- they somehow became my go-to snack. And peanut butter chocolate chip are my preferred choice. They normally go for $2.25 on average (about 23 cents a bar). My daughter eat the Quaker oatmeal packets and loves apple cinnamon as well as maple and brown sugar. On average a box of goes for $2.50 (average 25 cents a packet).

Now, I can usually get a $1/2 coupon for chewy bars every once in a while. I also can find a $1/2 for the oatmeal, too. Matched up with double coupon day and a sale I can get a pretty good deal. Oatmeal Squares cereal hardly ever goes on sale or has coupons.

The sale was buy 5 Quaker products for $10. This makes each box worth $2 before
coupons. Here's what I purchased today:
  • 2 boxes oatmeal (each had 2 extra packets -- making that 24 packets of oatmeal)
  • 4 boxes of chewy bars
  • 4 boxes of Oatmeal Squares cereal (16 oz)
  • 1 box of Life cereal

Total before coupons = $22 (with the sale)

Coupons used:
1 $1/2 for oatmeal (doubled to $2)
2 $1/2 for chewy bars (doubled to $4)
1 $3/1 for purchasing 5 Quaker products (not doubled, but used for the cereal)

With the coupons I saved another $9, making the total $13 for 11 boxes of Quaker products. That is $1.18 a box. That just slashes the average prices that I normally find. We should be stocked up for a little, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whatever Martha

If you haven't seen this show, you have to check it out. It has Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexix, and her friend Jennifer commenting on Martha Stewart segments. I try to watch Martha Stewart every now and then, but I often get bored watching. I mean if it's going to take me a week to make my own journal, I'll go buy one at the store for a couple bucks. I do subscribe to her Everyday Food magazine and make many of the recipes -- I just substitute her fancy pasta for macaroni and call it white sauce if it's white. Whatever Martha! if absolutely hilarious and they say what were all are thinking. My favorite episode so far was watching Conan O'brien vacuuming a horse. Here's link to an episode where Martha makes sticks for roasting marshmallows. So funny!



What's Cookin' -- Oven Fries

I have been trying to perfect this one for a long time. Either the fries burn or take forever to bake. Either way they just never really taste that great. Here's what I did that made them taste good and actually like french fries. Recipe is adapted from here. I also took the idea from my baked potatoes to microwave the potatoes first in order to cut down on time and burning. And it seemed to work pretty well!


Oven Fries
3 Baking potatoes
1/2 TbspVegetable oil
Salt
Pepper
Onion powder
Garlic Powder
Spices are to taste, I probably used about 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp of each.


1. Don't peel potatoes. Cut in 1/2 inch length-wise pieces. Try to cut them all around the same size.
2. Place fries on microwave safe plate and lay flat on plate. Microwave for 5 - 6 minutes.
3. Mix oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder together in baking dish (I use a white Corelle casserole dish).
4. After fries are softened in microwave, mix with oil and spices.
5. Put in 425 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They will be soft fries, not very crispy.


For more great recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

I remember last year looking The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman's blog and couldn't wait to do some of her crafts with my little one. She has such great ideas!

Here's a link to a very simple apple craft that my daughter and I did this morning.

Parenting techniques

Every parent has their own way to parent. However, there are some techniques out there that can benefit from understanding. My background is in Early Childhood Education (fancy name for teacher from ages birth to 3rd grade). I thought I would share some real life experiences and how I deal with my toddler.

A few things you should know:

  • My daughter is 2 years old.
  • My daughter's temperament is Easy. I will add she is highly active and curious about everything.
  • I do not believe in spanking. It is a fear tactic and causes confusion.
  • I believe in choices.
  • Every situation and every child is different.

Scenarios
1. Not going to sleep at night. We had a big transition at the end of July -- the pacifiers were taken away. I had Elmo leave a note saying he took them for the babies. Two weeks were tough, but the third week was the hardest. We had to start all over again. She wouldn't let us leave the room and it would take up to two hours to put her sleep. Then she would wake up in the middle of the night and it took hours to get her back to sleep. During that third week we had to transition to the toddler bed for safety reasons. I used the Supper Nanny sleep technique along with what I knew would work for my daughter. It took about three weeks before we got back to almost normal (or at least normal for us). The key is consistency and patience.

2. Meltdown in the store. If she is walking with one of us and a meltdown is starting to appear (we try to catch before it starts), we will give her a choice. You can either walk and hold hand or sit in the cart. If she chooses holding hand and walking, we remind her if she can't do that she'll have to go in the cart.

The key when giving a child choices is that both choices need to be favorable for you and the child and never should be a threat. Example, saying you can walk or we are leaving is not a favorable choice because you need to finish your shopping. Often I've heard teachers use the the finish your work or you stay in for recess -- that's actually not favorable for either the teacher or the child and is a threat. Better choice would you can finish your work now or you can choose what free time activity you want to miss today. Now, if you start this technique of giving choices early on it will be easy to carry on as the child gets older. If you start when the child is 5 years old, you will need to be very consistent with it and be patient for it to work. It will be a rewire of behavior and that takes some time. You can start simple by giving two choices for breakfast -- cereal or oatmeal. This is an easy way for you to practice giving choices, too.

Oh, and if we get a full-blown meltdown I can usually calm her down with a song or asking her to show me her emotions -- happy, sad, silly, angry. I've done that since we started shopping together so she knows that it helps her.

3. Pushing away from the table and causing a dangerous situation. Our daughter sits in a booster chair and ever since she started she will push the table with her feet when she's done. She would make us so angry when she did this because her chair would tip back and she could really get hurt. I knew she was just doing it to get attention -- I could see that on her face. In the last week, it was getting worse. It took us a while to figure out how to resolve this one. We told her that when she finishes she needs to use her words all done. And then we remind her that if Mommy or Daddy are still eating she needs to wait. Didn't work. A few months ago, when she started sitting at the table I had bought some placemats ($1 at Walmart). I used those as a transition to give her something to look at and to get adjusted to sitting at the big table. So, I tried the placemats. I put one in her spot last week and after she kicked the table we told her to use her words and say all done. Then we showed her how to move her plate (or she can ask Daddy to help) and to look at the placemat after she finishes. This week I let her pick a new placemat. It's been about 4 or 5 days since she's kicked the table. This was a correcting behavior technique. Again it takes patience and time, but I believe showing a child what they can do is better than just telling them what they can't do.

4. Touching things that shouldn't be touched. If it's something breakable, we simply say that's for your eyes to look at only. We've said that since she was itty-bitty. And that works great. Tells her that her eyes can do something and she know her hands shouldn't touch. If it's something dangerous, we simply say that's dangerous and ask her to find something that is safe or that her hands can touch.

I realize these scenarios are simplified and don't give the whole picture, but I hope it can give you an idea or suggestion in helping teach your child proper behavior.

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