Monday, December 8, 2014

Cheap & Easy Teacher Gifts - Holiday Scent Stew

I wanted to make something special for all of the ladies at daycare. There are at least 10 people who interact with both kiddos on a daily basis, so it needed to be something economical.

I decided to make some Holiday Scent Stew for them!

The ingredients are cheap and easy. Each bag contains:
  • 3 Cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp of Whole Cloves
  • 1 Orange (large or small)
  • 1 Cup Cranberries
  • 1 Bag

You can get as creative as you want - with cellophane bags and raffia ribbon. I went with the pre-decorated Ziploc bags on sale at Target! I would recommend putting them in something you can see the components in - it's as beautiful as it is yummy-smelling.

It took only about 10 minutes to assemble 16 bags. I took them all to daycare to share with any admin/teachers I had overlooked. I would recommend placing sticking labels on bags before filling them - they adhere better on a flat surface. 

If you use large oranges, I would suggest cutting them into 1/4 sections instead of half. 

I made a page full of labels on stickers (again - get as fancy/basic as you want). You could do printed tags and cut scalloped edges and attach them with ribbons.

I gave the gift to our teachers as a Thanksgiving/Christmas present so they could enjoy it the whole holiday season. There's definitely a scent to this time of year.  The mix can last up to two weeks once they add water, so it will fill their house with the most delicious smell for a while.  

One of my fondest holiday memories as a child was sticking whole cloves into oranges - something about cloves/oranges just triggers happy Christmas memories!

I've already heard from four of the teachers that they made and LOVED them! One of the ladies even said she made a batch for her relatives to give as gifts.

What are you doing for teacher gifts this year?

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's a Pumpkin time of Year

It seems everyone goes pumpkin crazy mid-October. I can't complain, because I love pumpkin!

If you haven't seen John Oliver's rant on Pumpkin Spice, you'll get a good laugh:

Every autumn, my first 'to do' is to create pumpkin muffins. They are one of the easiest recipes you'll ever come across and are delicious!

Ready? You don't even need a pencil!! 

1 box cake mix (any kind!)
1 can pumpkin
1 can water
bake per box directions

That's right. 1 box 1 can (emptied of pumpkin and filled with water) and that's it!! No eggs, no oil, nothing else needed.

My favorite is using carrot cake or spice cake, but you can do chocolate or yellow cake too.

The muffins are a bit more dense than normal. If you want more 'fluffy' muffins with a cake consistency, add 5-7 minutes to the cook time. 

If you want to get fancy you can make mini-pumpkin loafs and make a quick royal icing to top them with!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Adding Bling to the Beast

It arrived!! I've been waiting for my iPhone 6+ for almost a month now. With all of the pictures I keep on my phone, I ordered the 64gb version, and neither the Apple Store nor Best Buy carried them in stock.

I knew my very first priority was to get a case. Unfortunately, the options are limited. There was this super cute striped Kate Spade version, but I needed something more rugged and toddler-proof.

So, $40 later I ended up with this boring fella: 

It has giant bumpers for drop protection, and a hard exterior shell to avoid 'bend-gate'!

I had planned to just live with it until Lifeproof came out with their waterproof case… but then I got an email… 40% off entire purchase at Michaels.

As I looked at the email on my boring phone… an idea hit me: bling this beast out!!

So, off to Michaels to buy a sheet of rhinestones ($3.99 - but 40% off!):

I decided on a whole sheet for two reasons: 1) easier to apply and 2) so the individual stones wouldn't fall off (and be eaten by small children)

I lined the sheet up to the phone so I would know where to make my cuts. This is what I ended up with:

To prep the phone surface, I wiped it down with nail polish remover and let it dry for a few seconds.

I peeled the back off the rhinestones, stuck it to the phone, and voila: 

For $2.50 I can now find my phone in my purse!!! I could have gone crazy and made designs, or cut out my initial in the center, but this was just a quick fix to get me going.

It reminds me when I painted my flip phone with shiny nail polish when I was in the 9th grade… I'm SO much more grown up now ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Watermelon Jigglers - Vodka optional

This yummy recipe kept showing up online, so I decided to make it for our block party as an 'adult' treat. You can certainly make the recipe kid-friendly by leaving out the booze. 

1 Melon
4 3oz boxes of flavored jello
2 1oz boxes of plain gelatin 
4 cups boiling water
1 cup fresh juice
4.5 cups booze

Here's my take on things:

I cut a gorgeous watermelon in half with the flattest side down (where it grew on the ground) and then melon-balled out layers to have useable melon for a side dish.

 I used a spoon to scrape out most of the inside (be sure to get all seeds). You want to be sure to leave some of the flesh and be sure not to poke through the rind. 

Unfortunately, it seems everyone was in the mood for watermelon jello… 3 stores I visited were out of watermelon jello. So, I kept it red and mixed up some options so there wasn't the mental confusion of biting into a cherry watermelon! The only melon flavoring was some water infusion, so I gave a few squirts of that in hopes for a melon essence. 

I boiled my water and mixed in all of the jello powders and whisked until everything was dissolved. Then, I added 1 cup of juice from my melon castoffs and 4.5 cups of vodka (mix up the ratio to make weaker/stronger slices, but you'll want at least 3 cups of water for them to harden).

Here is the mixture pored back into the melons (note: if there isn't a really good flat side, you'll want to prop them into bowls to set).

I left the melons in the fridge overnight - it should take about 4 or 5 hours to set up. Then, I sliced those puppies!

Each slice was then cut into 3 smaller slices (and I trimmed off the edges).

On the second half I found it easier to cut from the bottom.

The jello sticks to the remaining red flesh left - another reason you don't scrape too much out of the inside.

This made a TON of slices. In hindsight, I would have made 1/2 kid friendly by just leaving out the vodka (substituting more juice or water). The kiddos were certainly intrigued by them. I made little label cards that said 'Adults only - 21+' so even if I wasn't watching the dish, parents would know.

I've seen it made with oranges/lemons - but that's a lot of work for each small fruit. I like how quickly and easily a giant melon came together. 

The guys over at QITC made a variation they posted to Facebook using cantaloupe, lime jello and tequila to make 'margarita wedges'! There are endless possibilities!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Getting Honest: Ditching Cloth Diapers

We had big plans to use cloth diapers until bean was potty trained, but now that he is in full-time daycare (and they don't allow cloth), we're mostly a disposable diaper house. With the never-ending mess of a toddler, and the constant laundry of a baby, I just haven't found the time (or energy) to keep up with cloth. 

Even though we fell off the cloth wagon, I still wanted/needed something that would work with the bean's sensitive skin. We've been using Pamper's Swaddlers Sensitive, but they only make up to a size 4, and he's over 32 lbs now, so we needed a bigger alternative. He's showing no signs of wanting to potty train, so we're in diapers for a while longer.

I used Honest Company diapers for both babies as newborns until they were big enough for their first cloth diapers, so I was familiar with the brand. I really like their products - we also use their cleaners, hand soap and sunscreen. We bit the bullet and ordered a bundle of diapers/wipes to be delivered monthly.  The cost of the bundle (auto-ship) is reasonable, and can you stand how cute these prints are?!

Our first shipment came and the bean was excited to bring in the box… turns out he was just interested in the box itself (isn't that always the case?). So, without further ado, here is a tutorial from the bean about how to play with a box: 

Step 1: open the box

 Step 2: empty the box

Step 3: crawl in

Step 4: go all the way to the back

Step 5: turn around for a better position

Step 6: close up the box

Step 7: PEEK-A-BOO!!

Step 8: hop out and do it again!!

He's lightning fast these days, and the iPhone camera just isn't fast enough to capture him without blur. 

What are your favorite diaper brands? Have you used Honest Co before?

UPDATE: Check out our new fall prints!! How cute are these?!?!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting Organized

I've been starting to sound like a broken record - "Honey, is tonight a late night? Are you taking the kids today?". So, I decided to make a calendar for us both to look at and reference without bugging the other person. I know there are calendar apps available, but as much as I use my phone, I often like something I can walk by and look at. 

So, I ran to Hobby Lobby and got a 14x11 frame (50% off). I also got a set of sparkle letters. I already had some white poster board and a sharpie.

I knew that I wanted this to hang on the fridge, but I also didn't want to commit to ripping off the 'leg' of the frame. So, I secured it with a bit of duct tape and we were off to the races.

I started with four magnets, but that proved to be not nearly strong enough (the frame did a SLOW slide to the ground). I ended up with 8 total square magnets so it would be sturdy enough to take a hit from a rouge ball from the kiddo. They were thick enough to come beyond the taped down leg, so it sits perfectly even on the side of the refrigerator. 

For space reasons (and because we're together most weekends), I only did the 6 sections with a split Saturday/Sunday. There is also an 'upcoming' section at the bottom of things on the horizon. The standard/consistent events were written on the back of the glass so I don't have to worry about erasing/rewriting them.

I decided to put the letters behind the glass (directly onto the poster board) so they wouldn't get in the way when cleaning/erasing the board. The only downside to this is the writing casts a bit of a shadow onto the board. Luckily we have light coming from multiple directions, so it isn't a big problem.

I lucked out and had some mini dry erase markers that already had magnets on the back (and an eraser on the tip) - awesome!!

Looking back at this picture, I wish our life was this open - the frame has almost double the entries now...

How do you stay organized?! Do you have favorite apps?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Blueberry Muffin Remix

I almost titled this post 'Vegan Blueberry Muffins' but I think some people shy away from things labeled vegan because they think it means less tasty. These muffins were just as good as the regular (without the guilt or the hives)!

My intention wasn't to create vegan muffins; I just wanted some goodies for a morning party that our son could eat (dairy free). Also, I was looking for one without egg, as I have a friend who's child has an egg allergy. I know what a relief it can be to have 'safe' food for your kids.

I came across a few different recipes and tweaked them. We already eat TONS of soy - so I really didn't want a recipe with lots of soy (plus I feel like you can always taste the hint of soy in something). We use organic soy milk, but even then, soy crops are one of the most 'engineered' in our food supply (right up there with corn). I'm not diligent with non-GMO foods, but I always want to choose a more natural alternative when possible. 

My recipe ended up as follows:
Preheat oven to 350ยบ
Combine ingredients in a bowl the order listed
1/4 cup non-dairy margarine (can sub 'real' butter/margarine)
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup rice milk (can sub almond, soy, real, etc)
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour (any kind)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
fold in 2.5 cups blueberries
Bake 35 minutes

I used Costco brand organic rice milk and this spread from Trader Joes:


Mine made 2 dozen smaller muffins (not mini-muffins, just no muffin-tops). I find giant muffins harder to get out of the liner for little ones. If you want to make larger muffins you'll probably get closer to 18.

I'm happy to report I came back with an empty platter - so the other kiddos and moms enjoyed them too!

Get creative with the mix - use flavored applesauce, add raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, etc!

**Side note: I know there are many blogs that post the most amazing, glorious, beautiful pictures of food. I'm the mother of 2 small ones with an iPhone trying to find and share goodies with anyone who stops by :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lemonade Lust

The hubs and I are big fans of Chic-Fil-A lemonade. Their diet lemonade has a sticker on it that said something along the lines of, "only lemons, water and Splenda." Instead of driving the 30 minutes to our closets CFA (and since they're closed Sundays) I decided to give it a go!

Enter lemons:

It makes me think of summer, even though it's not even double-digits outside. I got a bag of 18 smaller lemons from Costco. I cut them each in half and juiced them:

Side note: the hubs was the one really craving lemonade, and he's been hounding me for years to donate the juicer we 'never use' to goodwill. I think the juicer gets a reprieve… for now.

I ended up with almost 2.5 cups of lemonade. I split that between two pitchers and added a heaping 1/2 cup of splenda to each. I did a quick whisk to get the Splenda really dissolved.

I added 6 cups of water to each. The mix is still pretty bitter, so if you like a sweet lemonade, I would add more. I would play it safe though, and error on the side of less water. Then, based on your tastes you can water it down more.

It was definitely refreshing, and will be a staple in the summer when we're grilling on the patio!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post

I'm over on A Zesty Bite with a guest post on how to make some really cute Valentine's pillows.

Come back next week for a tutorial on the chair!