Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Melissa and Doug Puzzles

Melissa and Doug make some great products including real wooden puzzles.
Ethan's very first puzzle was this one that he got for his birthday. Although he is interested in it he can't do it by himself. He knows the crab goes in the crab space, but it is hard to get the pieces exactly lined up. Also, there is no real up or down so that really doesn't help him figure out the orientation. For these reasons I was a little disappointed, not in the puzzle but in how easily aggravated Ethan would become because he couldn't do it by himself. For Christmas he got several more Melissa & Doug puzzles including this one:
He loves it! He can do all the pieces himself. The circle doesn't have a wrong way and all the other pieces have at least 2 or 3 different ways they can go in. He loves to do it and I think it is a great starter puzzle for little girls or boys. Both of these puzzles are "jumbo knob" puzzles which are good for little hands. Here is another jumbo knob puzzle that he does a little bit better with because he can tell the feet of the cat and dog go at the bottom. They have other types of puzzles as well. "Peg" puzzles such as this one:
I like this puzzle because all of the tails fit with all of the fish. Again Ethan struggles with this one now, but I know that he will get better at it and it will help him learn his colors.

Nanny Sara and Parrain Curt bought him this great "chunky" puzzle for Christmas.
He loves this puzzle! The pieces don't have to fit exactly in the holes because they are not as deep as the pieces. Also, the holes are also a little bit bigger than the pieces. He loves "driving" these pieces all over the house.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Becoming the Woman of His Dreams

This is a great book that I just finished in my Thursday morning bible study. If you are a married woman you must read this book! It has changed Philip and I's relationship and I feel like we are closer now than we have been in our 8 years of marriage. Sharon Jaynes spoke at our churches woman's conference a couple of years ago, but this is the first book of hers that I have read.

This book outlines how we can become what our husbands dream of, but not because they dream of it; but because we need to be obedient to God. Once we are married we have entered a covenant relationship with our husbands AND God. We are to be sanctified through our relationship with our husbands.

I know not all Moms out there are wives, but if you are divorced I still think that this book could be for you. In this book Sharon tells the story of one couple who were reconciled because of the changing of a wive's heart. It makes me tear up just thinking about the possibilities. God can do anything, even restore a broken marriage.

Here is the summary from Sharon's website:

Do you want to become the woman of your husband's dreams? If your answer is "yes," then Sharon's book is for you. Becoming the Woman of His Dreams offers you an inspiring look at the God-ordained role only you have in your husband's life. If you would like a little "wow!" back in your relationship with the man you married, let seven simple secrets, biblical wisdom and tender stories inspire you.

"Sharon has captured the essence of a man's core needs and offers practical steps women can take to be the woman of his dream? If you are looking for a book that will encourage you, you've fount it - Sharon delivers help and hope on every page." Dennis Rainey, president of Family life

"Sharon has written the ideal book for wives who wish to live with happy husbands. My wife and I believe Becoming the Woman of His Dreams has the potential to radically enhance the climate in husband/wife relationships." Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages for Marriage

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Free Stuff

So I'm following a new blog, and on her blog is a link to a giveaway for free Fiestaware! Go sign up!

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cards

This post is in honor of Stephanie!

So, I've already mentioned how much I love for their books and cards. This year when I sent out Christmas cards to everyone I put a sticker on the back (printed from the computer) that gave a little update for all of us and described what was in each picture. I know that I stole this idea from someone else, but I can't remember who it was! I just printed off a sheet of Avery 5163 labels and they fit right on the back of the cards. It is a neat way to personalize your cards without writing 75 personal letters. I know some folks do typed letters, but I thought this would be eaiser. Hopefully if you got a card from us you checked the back for more info!

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bear Creek Dry Soup Mix

With all three members of my family sick the week before Thanksgiving I needed a quick meal that would be nutritious and easy. I love these Bear Creeks dry soup mixes. We have had the Cheddar Potato before, but for a sick household I recommend this Cheddar Broccoli. I even added a half a bag of frozen broccoli florets, and served it with crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar. It was SO good and it definitely hit the spot on a cold and cloudy day.

The best thing is that you just boil water, stir in the mix (and the frozen veggies) and in <10 minutes lunch is served. The bacon and cheddar leftovers were already in the fridge from other recipes so even that was easy. It was even thick enough that my 17 month old son had his bowl of soup and he loved it. He even ate broccoli! Well, he tried it at least.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sippy Cups and Potty Training: A Call for Opinions

I have been searching for the perfect sippy cup and I have already posted about one of the cups that I did not like. I will write about the other two types of cup we use later, but until then please tell me about the cups you use. Is there any cup out there that won't leak? If so please let me know.

Also, a recurring theme at our MOPS meetings lately seems to be potty training. My friend Janet already has reviewed a chair and a video. What products have you tried? I hear mixed reviews of chairs on the floor or seats for the regular toilet. Which is better? I have also heard about an Elmo video and a book. If any mom out there has tips (when to start, how do you know when kiddos are ready, etc.) please send them to me!

I have some good posts planned for the near future, so stay tuned. I look forward to hearing from some of you out there!

Tomato Paste in a Tube!

So, I watch my friend Giada use this stuff for years, but until about a year ago I had never seen this product in the store. I still haven't seen it in Knoxville, but I've heard it is carried in certain stores. I found this product at the Albertson's by my mom's house and bought like 3 tubes because I was so excited! Anyway, this stuff is awesome! You can add just one or two tablespoons to a recipe without having to open an entire can of tomato paste. I just used it tonight to stretch my sloppy joe recipe to cover a little more ground beef than it called for.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Frog Laundry Hamper

We registered for this hamper before Ethan was born because it went with our nursery theme. Disappointment is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings towards this hamper. It worked for about 3 weeks before the plastic bars that hold it open ripped through the mesh. I do admit that we bring this laundry hamper up and down stairs, but that is just normal wear and tear in my house. I still use the hamper and maybe one day it will just be a stuffed animal bin, but for a kids clothes hamper I would suggest your investment not go elsewhere.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Food Scraper

The following post is from my friend Betsy:

I have another [review] for you to add [to your blog]: the big scraper from Pantry Chef (it's white and is used to scrape stuff off of cutting boards normally). I use it to scrape food off my classy vinyl tablecloth when there's been a small bout of food throwing or food escaping "somehow" from its plate boundaries. I used it tonight to scrape off all the MILLIONS of noodles that had *ahem* just walked off those little toddler plates onto the table and floor. Works wonderfully! Don't know what I'd do without it! Then, it's an easy matter to simply wipe off the residue that's left. (I usually scrape the stuff onto a kid plate that's headed for the sink)

Thanks Betsy! I have three of these in my kitchen and I use them for their intended purpose, but I can't wait to try this out after our next meal.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Last Child in the Woods

I've pretty much taken care of babies in some arena for most of my life. I was six when my sister was born and didn't really stop after that. In that time I noticed that an infant will (99% of the time) calm down when brought outside and that really fascinated me. As a kid we were forced to play outside all of the time. "Be home by the time the street light comes on.", was a rule that everyone in my house was well aware of, and my sister and I were seldom home before then. My 16 month old loves to play outside and if I let him choose outside or inside he will always choose out (he'll even bring me his shoes if it means he gets to go out).

But, a scary thing is happening in America today. Unlike most of our childhoods, children today spend most of their time indoors and it is effecting them in big ways. As a science teacher I found it sometimes hard to get kids to connect with their surroundings. I taught in South Knoxville and I'll never forget the first time I brought a group of kids to the Smokies for a field trip. Some of them had never been! It absolutely shocked me that they had a National Park as their back yard and they had never been there.

I believe this book is a must read for anyone who interacts with children. It reminds us of where we came from (the "go out and play" generations) and how are children are being raised (hours of TV, computers, video games everyday). The book makes a case for how important it is for our children to be aware of, and be taught to enjoy, nature and the outdoors. Research shows that, "thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can... be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other maladies." The author Richard Louv "directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression."

One of the reasons I absolutely love this book is because is not only does Louv do a good job at describing the problem and the symptoms of nature-deficit, he also gives parents and teachers tangible actions we can take to increase our children's appreciation of nature. The action points that he lays down in this book are part of the reason I am reccomending it as a "must have" to all parents.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Boon Bath Toy Set

This is really the only set of bath toys you'll ever need. It includes 3 balls, 2 scrubies, and 10 foam pieces that are all different shapes and colors. Ethan loves "sticking" the shapes to the wall of the bath tub. He especially loves the balls that came with this set. The set is only 14.99 and it contains 15 separate pieces. The scrubies also make a really nice lather for washing up. He does have other bath toys, but I think this set is the best bang for your buck. It also makes a great baby shower gift as a bath time starter set!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Priddy Books!

My favorite part of Priddy books is that they contain mostly pictures of real objects. Ethan loves these books. The "Baby Things That Go" showed here on the far right is one of his favorites right now. When ever he sees this book he says, "rrmmmm." He will bring it to me to read and then bring it to Philip to read again. My engine noises aren't as good as Philip's but they are getting better! I mean how many times in a grown woman's life do you have make the sound of a helicoptor or a space shuttle? What sound does a space shuttle even make?

He also loves "My big animal book". We practice all the sounds of different animals when we read it. Animal sounds are great too. I never had to think about what sound a tiger, lion, or giraffe made. The big cats are easy but I'm still not sure about the giraffe.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Baby Bug Magazine

After hearing a librarian speak at one of our MOPS meetings Ethan "asked" for this magazine subscription for his birthday. We really like it. Each issue contains a story about Kim and carrots (a girl and her stuffed bunny) and many other poems and short stories. What is so cool is that some poems are old nursery rhymes (humpty dumpty) while others are new poems I've never heard before.

One of the points that the librarian made was that we should try to expose our kids to all types of written media, not just books. Baby Bug is one way to expose kids to magazines. It is appropriate for 6 months - 3 years of age. The publisher Cricket also publishes other magazines for older kids.

Wild Animal Baby is a magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation that is appropriate for ages 0-4 years. It covers a variety of animals in each issue. They also publish magazines for all ages. They also have just begun publishing an activity magazine that looks cool. We don't yet have a subscription for Wild Animal Baby but we did receive a few sample issues.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Safety Tats

This is the first product that I am reviewing that I have not yet purchased. These are temporary tattoos for kiddos that were originally designed by a mom. The originals have cute pictures with "If lost call" and you could order them with your phone number inserted on them. This way if your child ever gets separated from you authorities will know who to call. Now they make blank ones that you can write your number on (with a special pen), ones for food allergies (how cool is that?), and new ones for Halloween. They are applied and removed just like normal temporary tattoos.

I know that as soon as Ethan can walk around with out holding my hand (sooner than I think, I know) these will come in handy at big public events that we attend. Especially since he will want to run around way before he will know his own phone number. I know my mom would have loved to have these when my sister got lost at a parade during Mardi Gras. We found her unharmed after just a few minutes, but those were some stressful minutes! I also know plenty of friends whose kiddlets have food allergies and these can come in handy when the kids go away to camp or to a birthday party without you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008, 5 Stars

About a year ago I had a few friends over to scrap book. I had never scrapbooked before but I figured I would give it a try since I had made 12 pages at a stamping night with my friend Michele. It was quite frankly a nightmare. My two friends had a blast, but I was left sitting there not knowing what picture to put where, what cute embellishments to use, or how I should trim my pictures down to make them look cute. Enter!

Shutterfly is perfect for perfectionists like me who want each page to look as cute as possible but don't have the creativity or craftiness to make it so. They have online scrapbooks already built that you just drag and drop pictures into. Then you can zoom the picture in or out depending on the size of the box. You can also add captions to the pictures. There are many different page layouts for each different themed book. As you work on your project (or finish one) you can share the project with your friends and family online and they can order copies for themselves.

Since the digital era have you noticed that you have less actual pictures around your house? One of Philip's great aunts gave us wise advice when Ethan was born. Her exact quote was, "When you are old and gray, you are going to want to be able to flip through an actual album, not sit in front of a computer screen." With Shutterfly you can order individual prints in a variety of sizes, or you can get a package plan and use up the prints over time. You can even order pictures to be printed at a local Target photo studio.

What I also (most recently) love about Shutterfly is that this summer they gave away 15 4x6" prints for every one print you uploaded for up to 75 free prints a week for about 4 weeks. Philip and I racked up over 200 free prints this summer and now we are having a hard time "spending" them all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Popsicle molds: 4 Stars

My mom use to always make homemade kool-aid popsicles in the summer time. I think she had a tupperware version of these popsicle molds. Well recently I found these at Wal-mart and made some blueberry yogurt pops for Ethan. They were really easy. I just used my food processor to blend the blueberries into a slurry and added vanilla yogurt. The proof is in the picture:

He loves them! I know summer is almost over, but maybe you can find some of these molds for sale in the upcoming months. I also have a chocolate pudding pop recipe, but I haven't tried it out yet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kitchen Aid Professional 5 Mixer

7 pounds of mashed potatoes, 10 dozen cookies, and 6 loaves of white bread. What do these all have in common? They can fit in the bowl of my mixer! Granted, I've never actually made 6 loaves of white bread, but I have made plenty of cookies, mashed potatoes, cakes, icing to go on cakes, and even divinity in my mixer. I remember trying to make my family's molasses crinkles one year with a hand mixer and thinking the poor thing was going to give out at any second. I don't even think I got to finish mixing the dough with the hand held, but when I made it in this mixer the planetary motion had no problem with this firm sticky dough.

I own the 5 quart stand mixer by Kitchen Aid that has 10 speeds and an attachment port that drives my meat grinder. I also don't grind meat, but I can make a mean cranberry relish! I used to have the "salad shooter" attachment but then I got my food processor and didn't really need the attachment any more. I did see Mario Batli rave about the pasta attachment on Oprah the other day and he has peaked my interest. It would be cool to make my own pasta right before dinner.

For other products I have deducted a star for price but not for this product! Now I hear some of you out there thinking, "But it's so expensive!" I agree that this mixer is probably more expensive than most other stand mixers out there on the market, but I have some thoughts about that. The best thing to do is get this item as a wedding present, but alas, some of us are past that point. First of all, if you are thinking of purchasing this mixer I advise you to wait for a sale. Not just any sale, but a really good one. I bought mine for at least $100 off retail at Kohl's right after Christmas. Secondly, I would say that for all the other mixers you will buy in your lifetime, you could just invest in one really good mixer. I'm writing this post not because of Mario and Oprah, but because my mom just texted me that her mixer died and she wanted to know what kind I had. Kitchen Aid, baby!

I know some friends who have the tilt head version (my "good" friend Alton Brown) and I really think the only difference is that on the stand mixer you do have to take the beater off to remove the bowl. I would take the beater off anyway in most cases, so this does not bother me. I also didn't want the tilt head because I like my mixer to sit way back on the counter under the cabinets, and if I had the tilt version I would need to pull the mixer out to be able to tilt it. I do still own a hand held mixer (I wonder where it is?) but I can't remember the last time I needed it.

"Gossie" books by Olivier Dunrea, 4 Stars

I first picked up these books on a whim at the library. The illustrations were simple as was the text. I brought home about five in the series and immediately fell in love with them. Ethan now owns both of the board books shown (today we bought Gossie & Gertie) as well as the flip book, "Gossie's Busy Day". I am against kiddlets destroying books, so he has not yet got to play with the flip book.

As far as Gossie is concerned, I now know the book by heart. "This is Gossie. Gossie is gosling. Gossie is a small yellow gosling who likes to where bright red boots. Every day." Through out this book Gossie wears her bright red boots through several activities that highlight opposites. At the end of the book she meets her new friend Gertie. Throughout the series you meet new characters like Ollie who does not want to come out of his shell or Peedie who has a bright red hat.

I love Dunrea's stories because they have few words on each page and all of the stories I've read so far have a phrase that is repeated through out the book.

Do you have a book or author that your kids love? Send me your reviews and see them posted here!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

LeapFrog Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set, 4 Stars

I really believe that Ethan knows what a cow and sheep say because of this toy! It is so cute. Each of the five animals have a front and a back. If you make a match you hear a song that says, "You made a match, look what you found. You made a match hear a ____ sound. (and then that sound)". What I really like is when you don't make a match. Instead of the farm saying no or you are wrong it sings, "You put a pig in front and a cow behind. Put them together, and what do you find? A pig/cow? That's silly!" I'm not afraid of Ethan being told he is wrong, but at this age does it is neat to reward him for just getting two of the pieces in the farm!

It will also tell you facts about the animals and make the animal sound every time a new piece is put in the farm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Favorite Blogs!!

My friend Betsy (who I mention often on this blog) has given me a blog award! Wow, I'm honored! I read a whole list of blogs every week but, here are my top three for moms:
  1. JonZReaTom - My friend Allison had quads two years ago. She is a christian mom who we could all learn a lot from. Her kiddlets are a year older than Ethan so it is fun to get a glimpse into my future (big kid beds, etc.).
  2. full tummies is Betsy's food blog. Every Tuesday for the last couple of weeks she has posted an entire week's menu for her three toddlers. Talk about tons of ideas! She also features great recipes for the whole family.
  3. GoodyBlog - This is Parent's magazine's blog. Although they sometimes express ideas that I do not agree with (like the entry on Palin), they do find cool websites, crafts, and products.
Thanks again Betsy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crayon Wheel, 4 Stars

This was one of Ethan's birthday gifts. I think it is so cool! No matter which way he holds it (except for horizontal) it draws a color! What is even cooler is that he has not tried to eat it, which is what he does for every other crayon. The only draw back is I'm not sure where my friend Laura got it. Maybe she will leave a comment and tell us. Here is a picture of Ethan coloring with a twistable crayola crayon (which I also love), but he did use the wheel too.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Potty Power DVD, 5 Stars

This is another from Janet (if you have a product that you would like to review just send it to me!):
There are dozens of videos out there to help your child learn to potty, but this one is wonderful because it has real children in it instead of animated characters. They sing songs to help your child learn about being a big kid, sitting on a potty, using toilet paper, and washing your hands. The kids loved it and it was much easier on the parents to listen to this versus Elmo singing about going potty.

Fisher Price Royal Potty, Two Stars

This is a post from my friend Janet:
While you might think a potty that plays a tune every time your child goes potty would be a great idea, it didn't work so well in our house. Both of my kids would sit down and start going, then get startled by the music and stop what they were doing. A little potty that sits on the floor is a great way to introduce your child to going to the bathroom, but we ended up just using the plain plastic potty from Wal-mart with no bells or whistles.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nuby Sippy Cups, 2 Stars

I have had these "No-spill cups with Soft Silicone Spout and Handle" for about five months and at first I was pretty happy with them. They made it really easy for Ethan to transition from Avent bottles (which have a silicone nipple) to drinking out of a sippy cup. A mom at Stroller Strides saw Ethan with this cup and commented that she hated them and that she had written a letter to the company complaining about how they leak all the time! I was really shocked because I thought they were really nice.

Over the last month or so my opinion has really changed! Not only do they leak like mad when placed upside down (leading me to bar them from my vehicle), but one of the nipples now has broken apart. I guess you can buy replacement nipples, but I will not be making that investment. Overall they did make the transition easier, but I will not be buying any more of these cups!

I know that Nuby makes other models and I am interested to see what other moms think of these cups and their kin. Also, if anyone is willing to buy the spout replacements I have three cups that you can have!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Envirosax, 3 Stars

It's no secret that I'm a "bag lady". I have a different bag for every activity I am involved in; one for church, one for work, one for Master's Monday, two for Pampered Chef, etc. My bag obsession has expanded now that many people have their own reusable grocery bags. I think I found these in Parent's magazine but I don't really remember. I bought a whole set back last fall and then my mom bought my sister and I a couple more for Christmas. I like them because they are much larger than your average grocery bag (at least 1.5 times bigger), they are machine washable, easily foldable, and come in a variety of colors. For Christmas we used these to transport all of our gifts to Louisiana. It was easy to remember what bag to get down at each house because of the different colors (yellow for Stelly's, blue for Boudreaux's, etc.).

I do love to use these for grocery shopping, but be warned: grocery clerks try to stuff all of your groceries into one of these bags. If they use their bags they put one or two items in, if they use these they try to shove 30 items in the same bag! I do often forget to bring these in with me so that is a drawback, but overall I really like these bags for groceries or other purposes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Moon Slings: 4 Stars

When I was pregnant I saw a mom wearing one of these slings with her 5 month old in it. He was so cute, and he looked so comfortable I just had to have one. Baby Moon Slings sells all types of slings, but mine is the Solarveil version. I have worn my little boy in it as recent as last week. He just sits on my hip like normal, but the sling slips under his bum and helps me stay hands free to browse through books (we were at McKay's). This version is unpadded which I liked because in August I stayed cool even when he was in the sling.

A picture of our newly expanded family back in July.
Their website has great instructions including different ways to wear the sling.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

g Diapers, 4 stars

Being a mom I know that we all struggle with the fact that the average disposable diaper takes 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Yikes! The solutions are not simple (or cheap) but in this case I can say that they are doable. I do know friends who use cloth diapers but I have found a fusion of disposable and cloth diapers that are really neat.

I first tried g diapers after reading about them in a Parent's magazine. These diapers are made up of three parts: a cotton outer covering, a plastic liner, and a disposable pad. At first I was a little disappointed. The pads did not seem to stay in place and #2's often got on the liners and made a really big mess. After giving them a break for four months I decided to try them again. They work great. I think four months ago the liners and covers were just a little too big and that led to more leaks, etc. Now they fit really well and I have not had a problem in the last two weeks of using them. I have not even thought twice about wearing them out in public, which I would have never done four months ago. It does help that my little boy does have more firm #2's now, but I think even if he didn't the fit is the key to keeping things un-messy. He weighs 20 pounds now and is in a medium cover and using the medium/large pads. He does still wear a disposable at night, but the website suggests doubling up on pads to help cope with the extra fluids during sleeping.

One of the neatest things about these pads is the options you have with disposal. They can be thrown away in the trash, flushed down the toilet, or the wet ones can be composted!! On their website there is a really neat video that shows the break down of the pads vs. a disposable diaper.

I did give these 4 stars instead of 5 because of the cost involved. An average disposable diaper will run you 10-25 cents a diaper and these are about 40 cents per pad plus the start up cost of buying the liners and covers. You can purchase these online, or I get mine at Earth Fare in Turkey Creek.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Insulated Food Container, i.e. a Thermos, 5 Stars

I recently went shopping for my son's new year at preschool. This year he has to bring a packed lunch everyday (what a big boy!). Not only does he have to have a packed lunch, but it needs to contain all finger foods! When I shopped for lunch boxes at Target and Walmart I was shocked to find that the lunch boxes of old are gone! There are no more plastic boxes with matching thermoses. I was shocked, and a little sad. Instead they did have food sized thermoses, but they were all over $12.00. Well, my friend suggested that I check out Land's End online for lunch boxes and thermoses. They sell a set of two of the above "insulated food containers" for only $15.00. How cool is that? Not only do I think I got a deal, but I have two thermoses so I don't have to wash his thermos everynight.

So, what will I put in this thermos for my son to eat? In September of 2007, Parents magazine published a list of suggested foods to go in a thermos that would remain hot until lunch time. Of course, I suggest priming your thermos with boiling water before placing your food in it. I'll let you know how these suggestions work out as I use them, and if you have a suggestion of thermos stuffers, please leave it as a comment here! Some of these are more finger food friendly than others, but I'm sure I'll try them all before we get to grade school.
  • Mexican rice and beans
  • Pizza bread (cut to fit)
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Bacon and eggs
  • Leftover Chinese food
  • Chili (with chips on the side)
  • Mini ravioli with butter and grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta rings with peas and corn
  • Grilled cheese (cut to fit)
  • Red beans and rice
  • Pasta salad (cold)
  • Macaroni and cheese
I'll be posting more lunch ideas on my family blog so look there if you are looking for some alternates to PB&J. I hope everyone had a great start to the school year and I hope these lunch ideas spawn some creativity in all of us!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Emergency Bag: 5 Stars

If I was in the practice of giving more than 5 stars to an item this would be it! My friend Betsy prepared this Emergency Bag for me for my son's first birthday. She recently left instructions on how to build the item on her blog, but I will reprint them here. This bag is meant to stay in your car so that you can use its supplies during an emergency (replenish as necessary). The bag can be any large bag and here is a list of suggested items:
  • Travel pack of wipes
  • Extra diapers
  • Extra onesie or t-shirt
  • Extra plastic bag or two (Betsy found a neat Glad dispenser of plastic bags that is really small.)
  • Old handtowel or something similar (I use a cloth diaper or small receiving blanket.)
  • Travel size sunscreen
  • Travel size bandaids
  • Travel size neosporin
  • Travel size hand sanitizer (be careful to keep this out of the hands of your little ones)
  • Snacks (packs of crackers, pretzels, etc.)
  • Small juice boxes
  • Bibs
  • a Travel pack of toddler ware (spoons and forks)
  • Bottle of water (to use in clean up)
  • Index cards and pen (in case you have to call the doctor and need to write something down)
  • A few small toys or a deck of flashcards (I found a set for less than $3.00 at ToysRUs)
I plan on using this birthday idea for many of my friends out there and being a mom of a one year old I have already used this bag many times!

Thanks Betsy for the great idea!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meat Tenderizer: 5 Stars

This picture is a little misleading because I use the flat side of this meat tenderizer.

When Philip and I first got married we never ate white meat. We mostly cooked with skinless boneless chicken thighs. I knew that chicken breasts were probably better for us but by the time they were cooked it would taste so dry. Now, eight years later, we eat boneless, skinlless chicken breasts all the time. This would not be possible if it were not for my meat tenderizer.

For the juciest chicken breast you have ever had follow the following steps:
  1. Place your chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. The wrap prevents nasty chicken juice from being splattered all over your kitchen.
  2. Pound the chicken out until all the thickness of the breast is uniform throughout. Part of the reason for dry chicken breasts is that by the time the thick part of the breast is done the rest is very over cooked.
  3. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and place into a skillet set on med-high heat.
  4. Cook chicken for 3-4 minutes on both sides.
  5. Remove chicken from pan.
  6. Let the chicken rest! This might be the most important step. Do not cut the chicken for at least 5 minutes after removing from the pan.
Occasionally I have had one of the thicker breasts be a little pink even after 8 minutes in the pan. Of course I don't discover that until I cut the breast after it has rested for 5 minutes. In this case I save the breast for another dish that will be cooked in the oven, or I finish the breast in the microwave.

You don't have to have a PC meat tenderizer to execute this method. Just use a big cast iron skillet or foil wrapped brick to flatten the chicken.

Ideas for using the cooked chicken are: chicken quesadillas, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches, chicken salad, etc.

Here is the PC recipe where I got the original method. This is a great recipe:

Quick Chicken Primavera Risotto
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
olive oil
1 lemon, cut in half crosswise
1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2 packages (8.8 ounces each) buttery or roasted chicken flavor pre-cooked rice
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 medium zucchini
2 plum tomatoes
2 - 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
2 ounces mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

1. Flatten chicken to 1/2-inch thickness using flat side of Meat Tenderizer. Season both sides with salt and black pepper. Lightly spray (12-in.) skillet with oil; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until hot. Arrange chicken and lemon halves, cut sides down, in skillet; cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until center of chicken is no longer pink (do not turn lemon halves). Remove chicken and lemon from skillet. Cool slightly; slice chicken into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. Chop onion. Lightly spray same skillet with additional oil. Cook onion and pressed garlic over medium heat 4-6 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Add rice; juice caramelized lemon halves into skillet. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until juice is completely absorbed into rice. Cut carrot into julienne strips and slice zucchini. Seed and dice tomatoes. Add vegetables and 2 cups of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 4-5 minutes or until broth is slightly thickened. Stir in chicken; cook until heated through.

4. Remove risotto from heat. Add Asiago cheese and basil; stir until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened (adjust sauce consistency with additional broth, if necessary). Stir in mascarpone or cream cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrients per serving: Light: Calories 250, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 45 mg, Carbohydrate 31 g, Protein 20 g, Sodium 940 mg, Fiber 3 g

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 5 Stars

So I'm sure everyone knows about this great book seller, their cheap prices and even cheaper shipping! But, did you know you can make a wish list for your little one(s)? Or add any product to this list, even if it is not sold by amazon? You can! After a librarian came to talk to our MOPS group I made Ethan a book wishlist.
My Wish List

Now it contains everything from toys to diapers. It is perfect for Christmas and Birthday time because people can see what toys or books he does not have. To set it up all you need is an amazon account and the instructions are under "Your Lists".

Happy Wishing!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Google (part 2): 5 Stars

SNL coined the phrase: "Google Maps is the best!" And I have to say, I agree with them. Google maps is so much better than your average map search engine. I find it to be the most accurate of all the map search engines including estimated travel time. Now you can even get travel time if you plan on walking! You can also get directions to several different locations at once. I work for the school system and it is very helpful to know the most direct route to travel from my house, to Karns Elementary, then to Powell High, and finally to the Sarah Simpson Teacher Center. There are now thousands of street view pictures which are very helpful if you are traveling to a location for the first time.

Google Maps also offers several features that I don't use very often such as live traffic feeds, terrain views, uploaded picture links, wikipedia links, and satellite views.

What is there left to say other than, "Google Maps is the best!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bullfrog Mosquito Coast: 4 Stars

This is not the first bug spray I have purchased for my little one, but so far it is my favorite. My friend Betsy first mentioned it on her blog and I had looked for it at several different stores. This weekend I finally found it at Food City. It works great! Ethan came in tonight with no new bites. As an added plus it also contains SPF 30 so that's one less thing to put on the little one!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Big Picture Story Bible: 5 Stars

I know that there are a lot of children's bibles out there but this one is a must have! This book does just what the title says, it explains the "Big Picture". You will not find Jonah in this book, but what you will find is the overarching story of God's relationship with his people. It took me about 30 minutes to read it from cover to cover (the illustrations are great) and when I was finished I just thought, "Wow, this is what it is all about." It does cover new and old testament promises of God and ultimately how they will all be fulfilled. I was even saying to my mother in law that it would be a great book to share with new believers (or unbelievers) because it does a wonderful job of conveying who God is. A missionary friend was even telling me he has all the babysitters that come to his house read a portion of this book to his kids. "That way you know even the babysitter in your house is exposed to the word of God."

The book starts out like this: "The Bible is God's story, and it begins with these big words: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Do you know how God created everything? Simply by speaking words. Imagine, making the Earth with words!"

I just love how over and over again this book points out that God told someone to do something, and out of obedience (or disobedience) they did the following thing. The focus of the story is always God's strength not man's.

You can get this book from Amazon for $15.63 and it would make a great gift this Christmas for anyone who has kids.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

MOPS: 5 Stars

I just got back from the MOPS leadership retreat yesterday and I thought, "I just have to write a post about MOPS on my new blog!" I first heard about MOPS from my friend Amy when I told her that I was pregnant. "You have to find a MOPS group as soon as you have that little one!" Well, my friend at school invited me last year and because of Amy's advice, I joined. Well I loved all of our meetings last year and now this year I am going to be a small group leader.

According to their website, "MOPS is an international support network of women who share the common bond of preschool age children." It was started by just eight Christian women who met to share the needs and joys of mothering. Now there are groups around the world that function to support and mentor mothers of little ones.

I attended the Central Bearden group last year and we met once a month during the evenings. This year we are expanding our schedule to accommodate more moms and we are meeting twice a month. During meetings childcare is provided at Central Bearden. We usually eat first, have announcements, and then a speaker, craft, or game. After that we break up into our small groups where we can have discussion and take prayer requests. The neat thing about the way it is set up is that you get to network with other moms, but you also have mentor moms available for questions that might need a little more experience behind them. Last year we had a librarian come to speak to us, as well as many speakers that were mentor moms. We also had a great time playing Bunco one night.

Who can join? MOPS is designed for moms from the time they are pregnant until their youngest child completes kindergarten. The yearly membership for our group is $35, but there are scholarships available for moms who can't afford the fee. With membership you will receive the MOPS magazine and access to the online MOPS resources. If you have any questions, or if you want to join, please email me. I hope all the moms out there will consider joining us on September 11th at 6pm for this year's "Adventures in Mothering".

Cordless Electric Water Kettle: 5 Stars

With as much tea as Philip drinks this kettle gets 5 stars in our house. It is an entirely stainless steel kettle (except for the lid) that stay cool to the touch even when the water inside is boiling. It is probably the fastest boiling kettle that I have ever used. The coolest feature is probably that it is cordless and works by just setting the kettle on the base. When Ethan was just born and we were warming up bottles upstairs at 2 in the morning, it was essential to our life. Now Philip uses it mostly for drinking tea, but any other time I need boiling water I will use it instead of the microwave.


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