Friday, December 23, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

I'm not a fan of putting crushed up candy on cookies. I think it ruins them, but this time of year I struggle not to eat all the goodies and I don't like peppermint so I thought it might be a weight management tool ; ) And they actually did turn out cute and tasty according to the kids!

First we gathered candy canes. We had enough around that we did not need to purchase any. We sorted them by flavor (fruity vs mint), then put them in freezer ziplock bags. The thicker the bag the less chance of it puncturing. Next I showed the kids now to gently hammer the pieces through the bag. Gently is the operative word.

You could give each child their own bag to hammer, but we wanted to practice turn taking so we used only one bag at a time.


The recipe was simple. You can either make your own roll out cookies or buy the pre-made dough. After rolling out the dough and before putting the cookies in the oven, sprinkle the broken candies on them. Here they are!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Free Sprouts Deals

I signed up for the e-mail newsletter at Sprouts. It's kind of neat because each month they e-mail us a coupon for a free item. Last month we got muesli breakfast breads. A few months before we got lip balm. One time we got lemonade. This month we got "pho" soup base and sour cream. The sour cream we turned into veggie dip by mixing it with ranch dressing powdered mix. I wasn't sure what to do with the "pho" soup base. I was going to use it as broth in split pea soup until I smelled it and realized the flavor wasn't going to blend well. It had more of a gypsy stew smell to it (cinnamon, clove, pepper, etc) so I concocted this simple recipe. You can use fresh ingredients, frozen, or canned, your choice. It was fairly inexpensive too. Pretty much all the ingredients are on sale this time of year. As a bonus, we cooked it in the crockpot so I put the cut ingredients in a bowl, then had the kids spoon or pour them into the crockpot. There's no risk of burns because we "cook" cold, then I put it in the warmer after.


1 box "pho" soup base
1/2 onion chopped*
1 red bell pepper chopped*
1 sweet potato or yam diced
1.5 cups or 1 can kidney beans (although I think garbanzo would be good too)
spinach (about a cup)
1 cup diced ham

Put all items in a crockpot, turn to high for about 4-5 hours and dinner is done! We made some cornbread and everyone enjoyed! Okay, one person in particular under the age of 5 only ate the sweet potatoes and cornbread ; )

*instead of cutting pepper and onion, you can sub frozen "bell pepper stir fry". I've found it at Frys, but not Walmart.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Windy Day Fun

So this past week has been the best for weather since I think May! It's finally cool enough to go out at any time of the day without frying. Plus there has been a bit of a breeze. To have fun with that, we made grocery sack kites and windsocks. Both are simple and take about 5 minutes to make. The kids enjoyed hanging the windsocks inside the house as well as outside.

Directions for the kites are here! Thanks Michelle!

It doesn't have to be a windy day, nor do you need a lot of room to fly these kites...huge plus with little impatient people ; )



To make the windsocks, cut construction paper in half to make two long pieces. You only need one long piece per child. Allow kids to glue streamers from one long side. When the glue dries, roll the construction paper then staple the two short edges together. Finally, use a pencil to push holes through 2 sides of the windsock. Thread some yarn or ribbon through and it's done!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toy Swap Tuesday

or whatever day of the week you want to do your toy swap! I do mine just between the toys my kids already have, but you could also swap out with a good neighbor or friend.

To get the kids involved, I have them pick up one basket of toys that they are ready to trade in for a "new" one. They aren't too interested until I say things like "Wow! Cool! Look at this!" or "Oh, look, Little Pet Shop!", then they get a hustling! Once they bring me the old toys, I give them a basket of new toys. I usually keep 4 blue baskets on the shelf. 2 are new toys and 2 are "old" toys, then the next swap, they can get two more "new". If I swap everything, sometimes people get mad that their Barbies are in the garage ; ) Swapping toys every couple of months keeps the kids happy and the living room cleaner!

Here's the storage in the garage:

Here are the happy kiddos playing with their "new" toys:
You can see the blue basket just behind the "new" toys. If I can get the camera to upload, I'll add a picture of how nice the shelving unit looks after!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Indoor Obstacle Course

Trying to beat the heat, we made an indoor obstacle course. We used benches, stools, couch cushions, a cooler, and some pillows. Someone was a cow jumping over the moon...listen for her mooing!

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Making Human Cookies

We call this activity "making cookies". Basically we go through all the steps of making cookies on a big scale. The ball is the rolling pin. We "chop" the cookies with light karate chops. "Sprinkles" are tickles, and "eating" refers to pretending to nibble on the cookie. The activity is good for both tactile perception and sequencing because they have to remember the order of events.

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This Place is a Zoo!

My 4 year old has great ideas. She found a rope in the backyard and started linking it between different things in the yard to create a "zoo". The zoo has created a few hours of entertainment because we take turns being different animals in the cage, a zookeeper, or a visitor to the zoo. Plus it can be reconfigured at any time. This is the set-up yesterday. Today we moved the ropes around and made it have more "cages".


Here are my baby pony and my baby zebra. You can tell which is which because the zebras like popsicles...well, at least they do at our zoo!

Friday, September 2, 2011

I call it French Toast Sticks....and they eat it.

Maybe I'm a frugal mama, but I don't like to throw out the crusts from the bread. So when I make cookie cutter shaped sandwiches, I save the crust and either use them in meatloaf or I make "french toast sticks".


My kids don't notice and have fun dipping their french toast sticks in syrup. What kid doesn't love syrup?!



Friday, August 26, 2011

Owls

Looking through Oriental Trading magazine can be inspiration for kid crafts. Most of the crafts are simple and use basic supplies. Many can be replicated at the same or less cost. This craft was listed as 42 cents per item. I think we did it in less than 5 cents, but I'm just estimating so don't quote me on that!

First, we opened up a plain brown lunch sack. We filled it with about 2 pages of old newspaper, then folded the top into a triangle and folded it down. I tried gluing it, but didn't want to wait so I just taped it. Then I cut out the eyes, wings, beak, and feet for the kids to glue on. Older kids could cut these out themselves. We put two google eyes on as well.
I thought they were done, but one child wanted feathers on hers. So we got the glue back out (after the other things had dried), put glue on it, and let her glue the feathers on. She was so proud she took it for "show and share" at school the next day!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ocean in a Bag

My 4 year old found a book with ocean crafts in it. She turned to one page and said "Can we make this today?" I looked at what we needed: ziplock bag, blue hair gel, Styrofoam, beads or shells. Oooh, cool, yea, we can make that and we'll use up that hair gel that's been sitting the the medicine cabinet for 4 year now! It was simple and she loves it!

First you take the hair gel and pour it into the bag. The bag needs to be full enough that when you lay it flat, a layer about 1/2 an inch thick of gel is in all parts of the bag. (We were a little short on gel, but she didn't seem to mind.) To make it easier I put the bag in a mug. While she poured the gel, I cut fish shapes out of Styrofoam. I didn't have any meat trays, but she was happy with egg crate lids so we have white fish with red and blue patterns on them.


When the bag is full of gel, you place the "fish" and the "bubbles" (beads) inside, release the extra air, and seal the bag. As a safety precaution, I also duct taped the top of the bag and made a rule that they can only play with it in the kitchen. Happy girl and her ocean in a bag!
A variation I thought of is to use homemade fingerpaints instead of hair gel. I think it'd be much cheaper considering it'd only use water, food coloring, and a few tablespoons of cornstarch. I might try that next time, but for now this worked and it cleaned out the medicine cabinet.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Watermelon Popsicles

So I'm not even sure where I remember hearing this idea. If it's your idea, I apologize and please take credit for it! Anyways, it's very simple and healthy. Even my kiddo who does not like watermelon was willing to at least try it, because let's face it, every food is better when it's on a stick, right?

This is so simple. Simply cut the watermelon into slices or wedges (removing the rind), then put it on a popsicle stick. Put the watermelon pops in the freezer for about an hour.
Finished product!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dress Shirt Doll Stroller Cover

Doesn't she look happy with her "new" stroller?
It's actually a stroller she got for her birthday (or Christmas?) a couple years ago, but the cover had torn. We tried duct tape, but it was met with disapproval and eventually torn off.

I was trying to figure out how to fix it (with minimal work!) so I went digging through our box of stuff to donate to Goodwill and found an old dress shirt of my husbands. I cut the back out (all the way along the side up to the neck, but not including the arms), then I turned it upside down. I took the double layered upper back and folded it over to make an edge to hold the bottom on. Then I hemmed up the sides to fit the width of the stroller. To make the "ties", I made long tubes of fabric, sewed up the sides, and turned them right side out (anyone else remember sewing your own "scrunchies" in the 90s?). Finally, I turned the top part down, and sewed the loops on the inside of the fold. I did not trim the length so it actually just falls behind the stroller. The bottom (of the shirt) was already hemmed, so why make more work, right? Because the shirt had a pleat in the back, I didn't have to do any pleating on the edges to make a "seat". The pleat makes a natural "seat" because it hugs around the baby doll like a hammock.


So here's the new stroller cover, complete with baby. Green Baby (yes, that's her name) seems to seem content. Wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Onions, Oh My!

Okay, I went a little overboard buying veggies last week. We had enough leftovers to get us through Thursday, then we were basically gone all weekend (busy working Easter weekend at the church) SO this week I have very little shopping to do this week...hurray! It's because we filled up on wholesome goodness at the church carnival-you know cookies, donuts, and pancake covered sausages on a stick : P

So here's what I had "not so leftover" this week:
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 jicama
2 cucumbers
1/2 head of lettuce
bag of green beans
bunch of broccoli
4 zucchini
5 lbs of carrots
2 containers of mushrooms
onions (staple food)
sweet potatoes
regular potatoes

Here's what I'm going to make with it:
*Chicken Cacciatore
*Beef, mushroom, and barley soup
Mushroom, onion, and cheddar quesadillas
*Chicken and vegetable curry over rice
Chicken meatloaf with potatoes and green beans
Salads and sandwiches for lunches
Something with the leftover beef...or I'll just freeze it to use later

* indicates something cooked in the crockpot...my favorite type of cooking : )

Friday, April 15, 2011

A drop in the bucket

In my day to day routine, this is a "drop in the bucket", literally and figuratively. It's a little thing I do that makes me feel a little more organized, like I'm taking a bite out of all the things I have to get done. It's one of those tasks that can be done quickly, but gives a sense of accomplishment.

Once upon a time, I had a car that was just that, a car. It drove from place to place. Cleaning it out was something I did say, um, once per year. Add kids to the formula and this is what happens...weekly!


And yes, I'm "the car seat lady" and yes, I will tell you that each of those items has a force of their weight times speed which means that 1 lb toy going 60 mph will be a 60 lb force in a crash...which I think is why this starts to drive me nuts! Particularly the boat, but why they were permitted to bring the boat in the car is beyond me! Okay, well, it went like this. T asked if she could bring the boat. I said no because it was too big. So she asked if she could bring half of the boat. Being she's only 4, I was impressed she knew what half was so I said yes. Then as we were leaving A found the other half and wanted to bring it. So they discretely had ganged up on me, getting the whole boat into the car! I guess that's another story though.

So, I think it was Fly Lady that suggested having a day per week to clean the car. I'm not that organized. I have a "this is driving me nuts" day when I clean the car. I try to make it fast and easy...a drop in the bucket...and that's what I use, a bucket. I take it out to the car with me. All the "salvageable" stuff (toys, sippy cups, hair clips, etc) go into the bucket. Trash goes in the trash can in the garage. So when I'm done, I have this (which to me looks much more manageable to me)...


well, and this.
Looks good huh? That cheese cracker is almost as fresh as the day it was dropped there, right? Ha ha! So this gets vacuumed. Funny story about vacuuming... about a year ago my husband bought us a shop vac. I thought it was a waste of money, but guess who uses it the most now? Okay, I admit I was wrong...the shop vac rocks! I use it every couple of weeks on the car.

Anyways, so once that is vacuumed, all I have to do it sort the bucket. Usually I start at the kitchen sink, dig out the sippy cups, then most everything else goes on the toy shelf. It takes less than five minutes.

PS Lest you think I take the car seats out every time, refer to the picture before this and it will be pretty obvious I don't ; ) So next time I check your car seat, don't get all embarrassed about the cheerios/fruit loops/goldfish crackers on the seat!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yes, there is a method to my madness!

So to answer the question, yes, there is a method to my madness! It's not rocket science. People have been doing this for ages...just making the most out of what we already have and buying what is less expensive. Each week, I have a scavenger hunt through the fridge and take "inventory". My goal is to figure out what has expired, what soon will, and what is still perfectly fine.

My inventory this week was this:
-leftover vegetable soup
-leftover enchiladas
-leftover meatloaf (complete in meals with green beans)
-cauliflower (starting to turn)
-tad of sour cream
-a few stalks of celery
-broccoli
-half container of (not so) fresh mushrooms
-a handful or so of carrots
-already chopped onion
-2 zucchini
(and whole onions...which are a staple in our house. If there are less than 2, I buy more.)

Note: I don't include fruit in my inventory except to figure out what to buy for snacks.

Once I do that, then I start looking at the produce sales to figure out what to make for dinner. I don't search meat sales because I buy that ahead of time when it is on sale and freeze it. I keep staples in the house (spices, sauces, etc) From what I had I knew I could make:

1. leftover meatloaf (this was SUPER easy...see above list! Ha ha!)
2. leftover enchiladas with cauliflower poppers (cauliflower was on the verge of use or toss!)
3. leftover vegetable soup paired with grilled cheese (another SUPER easy recipe)
4. beef-barley soup (which uses carrots, onion, and celery up)
5. beef-broccoli with rice (which uses the rest of the 2 lb container of beef and the broccoli, plus I threw the mushrooms in for good measure thinking maybe T would think it's chicken and mushrooms...I can dream right?)
6. chicken cacciatore (uses 2 zucchini, then I bought 2 more at Safeway on sale)
7. sweet and sour chicken (used onion and carrots. I bought the peppers even though they weren't on sale. Once A took a bite out of one at Sprouts I felt a little obligated to buy it ; P)
8. Cucumber sandwiches for MOPS tea party (uses leftover sour cream, cucumbers were 49 cents each at Sprouts)

About once per week, I spend some time pretending I work at Panda Express. I chop up the items needed for the recipes I will make and put them in square containers (because they fit the fridge better). My kids usually crowd me because they try to sneak the bell peppers! So once it's all chopped it looks like this.



The bag on the left is the beef-barley soup in a "to go" bag (for the friend that just had a baby). The top middle is sweet and sour chicken. The bottom middle is cacciatore chicken. The right is beef broccoli (with added mushrooms). Behind those are washed and ready lettuce, jicama, and snap peas. If they are washed and ready I am more likely to actually eat them! I didn't shop until after the meatloaf, soup, and enchiladas were already eaten so they aren't pictured.

So now when it's time to cook, I only have "3" ingredients instead of say "10" to put in the crockpot. So making chicken cacciatore involves putting some frozen chicken breasts, the vegetable bin, and spaghetti sauce in the crockpot. Then later in the day, I just boil some noodles to go with it. Sweet and sour chicken is chicken, vegetable bin, canned pineapple and 2 jars of sauce, then I can also make some rice. Isn't that fun? The best part to me is how it frees up that hour before dinner!

Friday, April 8, 2011

All aboard!

Super easy box choo-choo train!

You need:
4 diaper boxes (or two warehouse size ones cut in half)
knife
pipe cleaners (or rope or yarn, etc)

Cut the top flaps off diaper boxes. If you have two warehouse size boxes, close (and secure with tape/glue) the open end, then cut the box down the middle lengthwise. Poke holes in the ends of the boxes. Thread the pipe cleaners through the holes, then twist them to secure. All aboard!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bunny Sandwich

So in November of 2009, I started this blog because I was going to post the recipes I made with the produce from my co-op basket. As you can see, it was a blazing success ; ) So now, I'm going to use it for our "crazy showcase"...the fun things we do at our home to keep life interesting.

Tuesday we made "bunny sandwiches". It's super simple. Previously, we've made Valentine sandwiches, gingerbread man sandwiches, and daisy sandwiches with cute kiwi or strawberry centers. I just take the sandwich, then cut it with a cookie cutter. No crust, happy kids, beautiful! So when we made our "bunny sandwiches" on Tuesday, my almost 4 year old was distressed her bunny did not have a body! I took the leftover crust, cut it in half, placed it below the head, and ta-da! The bunny had a body, everyone was happy, and the meal went on : )

By the way the "placemat" is my 4 year old's idea. She used a princess tic-tac-toe board and she now has a Disney princess placemat. It's giving me ideas of how we could make more. I'm thinking old playing cards, some card stock, and clear shelving paper to "laminate" them, but that's another post, right?

Looking for some more fun? Check out my friend's blog below!

Fun On A Dime