Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colored Deviled Eggs

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I wanted to bring some kind of food with us to my Aunt and Uncle's house. For Easter, we made colored deviled eggs and they were a huge hit, so I thought of Christmas Deviled Eggs as a variation of the same idea. Should the words "Christmas" and "Deviled" go together? Yes they should when you want to make a crowd-pleasing appetizer for a Christmas party.

They are easy and quick (I mean, it took us an hour from start to finish as we realized we were running short on time before the party...oops).

Step 1: Hard boil the eggs. This was the most time consuming part because we had to wait while the eggs cooked.

Step 2: Prepare two bowls with the dye. In each bowl, place 6-7 drops of food coloring, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup of cold water. Stir.

Step 3: When the eggs are done, cool them with cold water and peel them.

Step 4: Slice the eggs in half and set aside the yolks to make the filling.

Step 5: Place the egg halves in the dye bowls and let them stay in there until they are the desired color. Mine turned out a little more pastel than I wanted, but we were short on time.

Step 6: Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Use whatever favorite recipe you like for deviled eggs.

Step 7: Let the dyed eggs dry on a paper towel.

Step 8: Once dried, stuff the dyed egg halves with the filling and sprinkle with parsley.

To make Easter colored eggs, I used pastel food coloring to get the results I wanted. They turned out great!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Squish Sacks

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Low on time and funds (Black Friday shopping hurt my bank account this year - ouch!), I needed a gift that my little girl could give to her cousins for Christmas.

I made a trip to the dollar store for balloons, stopped at mom's to borrow her many different colored sharpies, and came home to make some playdough. What in the world did I make? Meet the Christmas Squish Sacks.

I used my homemade playdough recipe to whip up a quick batch of playdough. I say "quick" because the real time suck of making playdough is kneading in the food coloring. Since no one was going to actually see the playdough, much time was saved by leaving it plain.

Then I slyly asked my husband if he could help me with something in the kitchen. He had no idea what he was in for, but he helped me anyway because he's a good guy like that. I had him hold open each balloon while I shoved playdough inside them. Then he let out as much air as he could and tied them off.

These are awesome! They're little homemade stress balls and very addicting to absentmindedly play with.

Then I grabbed the markers and decorated the red and green balloons to look like ornaments and the white balloons to look like snowmen.

Then I tied ribbon so that the "ornaments" could be hung and the "snowmen" have scarves.

These make great stocking stuffers - and you can use any leftover dough as regular playdough. Just add some food coloring first to try to avoid any "this looks edible" incidents like I had with my little one.

Homemade Playdough

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One of my little Cadybug's favorite activities is Playdough. Of course I sit and play with her to make sure none of it enters any of the holes in her face, but she has been sneaky in the past and tasted it anyway. Was I at all worried? No, because I made it myself and knew exactly what was in it.

It is so simple and takes only about 20 minutes for 4 decent-sized pieces!

Here is what you will need:
* 1 pot
* 1 spoon
* wax paper
* 1 cup flour
* 1 teaspoon oil
* 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
* 1/4 cup salt
* 1 cup water
* food coloring

1. Combine the flour, oil, cream of tartar, salt, and water in the pot over medium heat.

2. Stir constantly until it becomes a ball of dough.

3. Remove from heat.

4. When the dough cools, knead it with your hands to make a big, smooth, round ball.

5. Divide it into four equal pieces (or more or less, depending on how many different colors you want to make).

6. Take an individual piece of dough and flatten it out. Place 3-4 drops of food coloring on it and knead the dough in your hands until the color starts to show. Add more food coloring until you get the desired color. Repeat with the 3 other balls of dough.

7. Put each color in its own container. You can use small, air-tight containers. I typically wrap the dough in wax paper and store in a plastic baggie. It stays soft for several weeks.

8. Play and enjoy!

PS Yes, my hands have food coloring all over them, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pepperoni Pizza Crescents

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One staple in our home at all times: string cheese. It is an easy snack to grab and go, and when I was pregnant, it cured those 1am hunger pains without making me feel like I ate too much. I mean, the baby ate too much.

Over the last few months, I have been experimenting with different uses for plain ol' string cheese.

Today's experiment was a success!

What You Will Need:
3 (4oz) packages of refrigerated crescent rolls (enough to make 12 rolls)
4 string cheese sticks, cut into thirds
1 package of pepperoni (72 pieces - I used turkey pepperoni because I like that it's leaner and not so greasy)
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Lay each triangle of crescent roll dough flat on a baking sheet.
Put 5-6 pepperoni slices and a piece of cheese on the bottom of the triangle and roll it up.
Place the seam side down on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350* for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Mine cooked for 10 minutes on the dot and were perfect.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl.
Mix in the Italian seasonings, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese.
Once the crescent rolls are done, spread the garlic butter sauce over each roll. I used a small spoon, but a brush would work, too. I just really hate washing those brushes.
Serve these warm. You could use marinara for dipping, but honestly, they tasted really good without any dipping sauce for me.

These smelled and looked so delicious that I had to taste one...and then another.
Then I took a picture and texted it to my husband to make him jealous.

I set enough aside for his lunch tomorrow and then individually wrapped the rest and put them in a large ziplock and into the freezer for another day.

This recipe was slightly modified from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Monday, December 17, 2012

3 Ingredient Apple Crumb Dessert

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Looking for some inspiration, I was on Pinterest to find dinner ideas. Instead, that led to about an hour of searching through all of the great "pins" in my Following feed, and I happened to find this recipe for fresh apple cake. Only 3 ingredients? I was sold.

5 Apples (we used 2 red and 3 green), cored and sliced
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, melted

Place sliced apples in a greased baking dish.
Shake the boxed cake mix on top of the apples.
Drizzle melted butter over the cake mix.

Bake at 350* for 35-40 minutes, checking about half way through. If the cake mix looks powdery after cooking for a while, drizzle a little bit of water to help those spots cook.

Serve warm and with vanilla ice cream. It is absolutely delicious! I didn't even have a chance to take a picture of it with the ice cream on top - it was gone that fast!

This recipe makes about 10 servings and is very affordable. It cost me $4.21 (using store brand butter and getting the cake mix and apples on sale), which is only $.42 per serving!

Now...what to make for dinner? Back to my Pinterest page...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Busy Book Activities

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I have the sweetest little girl and she does so well sitting quietly and playing with her toys by herself when I need a few minutes to get things done (i.e. the ever-growing pile of dirty dishes on the counter).

And then there are the other times when no matter how many toys she has at her fingertips, she wants whatever is in my hands. I have lost count how many times my laptop has been "accidentally" turned off by little fingers. So I created an activity for her that she can mostly do by herself, but I can sit and play with her (and still have a hand free to finish working on whatever I am doing).

This is Cady's Busy Book. I often create felt activities individually and then seal them in large ziplock bags. This time, I used ribbon to attach 6 unique activities so that it's easy to carry around and bring wherever we need it (the car, a restaurant, grandparents' houses, etc.).

1. Gumball Machine
The gumballs have velcro stuck on the backs. Cady pulls them off of the felt one by one and puts them at the bottom of the page. As she does this, I count with her 1-10. Thinking about this project now, I should've put "10 cents" on the gumball machine instead of "5 cents". Baby girl doesn't care, though, and she is happily learning how to count and developing fine motor skills.

2. Mr./Mrs. Potato Head
I glued the potato body to a piece of felt and then created a pocket on another page to hold all of the pieces. This is a picture of what it looks like "put away" and the other picture is at the top. Cady loves this activity because she can proudly show me that she knows what the "nose", "eyes", "arms", etc. are when I ask her to pick it up so we can put it on the potato head body.

3. Hen with Hidden Chicks
There's not much to actually do on this page, but she likes to lift the wing and then open the eggs to find the chicks.

4. Stop Light
We practice color recognition with this activity. I say "find the red circle", and as she picks it up (or picks up the other circles until I say "there it is!"), I tell her what they mean on the stop light (stop, slow down, or go). Then I show her where it goes on the stop light and she uses her fine motor skills to place it there. I used velcro for this activity, but it really isn't needed.

5. Ice Cream Cone
Cady loves this activity. She picks ice cream flavors and toppings and stacks them to make a tall ice cream cone and then we pretend to eat it. She's learning color recognition and hand-eye coordination. And the joy of ice cream.

6. Pizza
I cut out shapes to look like pizza crust, sauce, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni (not pictured). We like to put all of the pieces on the pizza crust in order and then pretend to eat it. She is learning sequencing and imaginary play.

I guess I did a good enough job for my busy little girl because when I had to put this away so we could eat dinner, she was so upset that she cried.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3 Christmas Crafts for Toddlers

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My little girl loves art. If it involves paint, crayons, glue, and/or paper, she is all over it.

I have seen so many adorable Christmas crafts spreading all over Pinterest, but many of them are too advanced for her little, uncoordinated hands.

I was inspired, however, to dig through my Christmas lesson plans from when I used to teach at a daycare. Here's what we have done in the last week.

1. Hand Print Reindeer with a thumb print nose and thumb print Christmas lights
I added the final details after it dried.

2. Candy Cane Rolling Ball Art

I (very poorly) cut out a candy cane and a few other holiday-themed shapes and taped them inside an old baking pan. I added a few blobs of red paint and helped Cady hold onto the outside of the pan and roll the ball back and forth. This works better with marbles, but I have a 1 year old, so marbles aren't exactly lying around here. We used a medium sized plastic ball from one of her toys.

Pro tip: Have a back up activity available while you clean up the mess. Rolling a ball through paint inside a pan is fun and all, but it won't be satisfactory for a toddler who is expecting to get messy. I taped down the leftover paper scraps and let her use her hands and the ball to paint on them while I cleaned up the rest.

3. Puffy Snowman

Mix equal parts shaving cream and Elmer's glue. It dries puffy and textured. I let Cady paint and then added the finishing touches once it dried.
Here is a close up of how puffy it looks. It looks much better in person, and this is one of my favorite projects to do with little ones.

Christmas and winter are my favorite themes when it comes to creating fun activities and projects for kids. There are some great adult projects, too, but my crafting abilities peaked in middle school. So for now, I will gladly shine while doing art projects with a toddler.

Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me.....probably nothing because he's not the be-creative-and-plan-ahead type. As great of a husband that he is, he would never think of doing something like this for me. Lucky for him (hopefully), I like to be creative sometimes.

I will be giving him one gift every day starting tomorrow and lasting through Christmas Eve. Whatever day of Christmas it is will have that number of gifts. I also wrote cheesy thought-of-at-the-last-second clues on the packages for my own amusement. So if you talk to him, don't tell him what gifts are headed his way, although I'm sure he'll figure out most of them by the clues and wrapping anyway.

My intentions were to get everything inside a 12-pack Taco Bell box that I saved from the last time we ate a disgusting amount of tacos. I thought it was perfect - he loves Taco Bell and it's for a 12-pack. It was almost designed for me to do this project. Unfortunately, it didn't all fit, but it's still cute.

I gathered everything on the table and started wrapping.

Day 1 - December 13: 1 coupon for a free medium Dunkin Donuts beverage. I received this in the mail a month ago and managed to stash it away with the rest of the Christmas presents. I spent nothing on it, but it will surely brighten his day. I stuck it in an envelope and wrote "This first gift should perk you up for the many gifts to come."

Day 2 - December 14: 2 socks. I do all of the laundry. The sole of his foot really wants a taste of freedom or something because I am throwing out 1-4 holey socks with every load. I wrapped up this pair of socks and wrote on the outside "No more holey nights for you." In retrospect, that clue sounds dirty...or anti-Christian...or both. Oops. Pun fail.

Day 3 - December 15: 3 Hershey Bars. He loves chocolate and if he's smart, he'll tuck these slabs of heaven away so that I don't sneak one. The clue reads "My love for you is above the bar." Cheesy, but the chocolate will make up for what I lack.

Day 4 - December 16: 4 Snickers Bars. Yes, more chocolate (and that's not the last of it, either), but I found this neat Snickers tin that had the candy bars inside while I was Black Friday shopping with my sister. The clue says "Today's gift will make you snicker with delight."

Day 5 - December 17: 5 Chap Sticks. One thing my hubs always has in his pocket - chap stick. I stocked up at the grocery store when they went on sale and tucked these away. Now that winter is here, he'll be needing it more and I'll be digging through his pockets to use his chap stick because I can never find my own. We both win with today's gift...until I accidentally let one wash in the laundry and get all over his holey socks. Clue: "Pucker up, baby."

Day 6 - December 18: 6 coins (4 quarters and 2 nickels) to get a gas station coffee. You may be thinking "What?! Gas station coffee?!". Thornton's has any size coffee or cappuccino for $.99, and their cappuccinos have been our latest must-haves. They are so good and so inexpensive, and the 6 coins I'm giving him will be more than enough to cover the coffee, tax, and then a few pennies left over for the next trip to Thornton's. Clue: "Wake up with some energy for a change."

Day 7 - December 19: $7 worth of scratch off lottery tickets. Come on baby, win us $500 a week for life! The clue says "I was lucky in love to find a husband like you." Aww. Now seriously, win us some money.

Day 8 - December 20: $8 for Taco Bell lunch. I know that this is the amount he spends on his typical favorite Taco Bell adventures (because I am also the one who balances the checkbook). The clue says "Today's gift will make you run for the border." I guess that could maybe be taken the wrong way, but I think he'll get it immediately. Or he'll be scared.

Day 9 - December 21: 9 Arnold Palmer 1/2 iced tea 1/2 lemonade cans. I know he loves these and I almost never buy them at the store, but there was a good deal on them and I needed 9 of something that wouldn't break the bank. I didn't know how to wrap these so I used the rest of the socks he was going to get anyways, stuck each can inside a sock and tied them off with some yarn. Clue: "Take half and half of a minute for a break today."

Day 10 - December 22: $10 gift card to iTunes. We use these for everything - apps, music, rent movies. $10 isn't going to last long, but this is a win for me, too, because I will likely benefit from whatever he decides to purchase with it. Clue: "Sometimes I may tune you out, but you're still the music in my heart."

Day 11 - December 23: 11 Hershey Kisses. We had these leftover after making peanut butter cookies with hershey kisses in the center. I hid 11 of them in a baggie before we devoured the rest and the clue says "I save all of my kisses for you."

Day 12 - December 24: 12 snack portioned packages of Oreos, his favorite cookie ever. I splurged a little on these because it's cheaper to buy the bigger package and separate them myself, but he'll like grabbing these for his lunches. Clue: "We go together like milk and cookies."

So I'm excited to start playing Santa tomorrow, except Santa's pants are too big for me...unless I break into all of that chocolate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ribbon Dancer

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You may have seen my post about purse organization with shower curtain rings. I have a lot of purses, but I still had leftover rings.

I had two choices: buy more purses (but my bank account says, "nooooooo") or find another use for the leftover rings.

I took one look at my pretty little girl while she was dancing along with Ellen Degeneres, and knew that it was time for a music day/dance party in our living room.

A few years ago, I made a ribbon dancer in an early childhood class, but the ribbons on it are thin and have seen better days, so it was time to make a new one.

It takes 5 minutes and all you need is:
1 shower curtain ring
a few pieces of ribbon, cut approximately 20 inches

Tie a piece of ribbon onto the shower curtain ring with a double knot.

Repeat with the rest of the ribbon.

Turn up the music.
Since this only takes about 5 minutes, you have plenty of time left to play! The ring is easy to grip for little hands and kids love to watch the ribbons wave in the air.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nintendo Controller Netbook Sleeve

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When I originally found a similar Nintendo controller laptop case, I immediately thought of my sister. When I pinned it back in February, I had great intentions of making it for her birthday (in September).

Next thing I knew, it was November and I was realizing that I should actually sit down and make this. I had all of the materials squeezed into a plastic Michael's bag that hung from my dining room chair. I needed to complete this I can make room on my dining room chair for the next unfinished project. What was I waiting for?

Well, the only chances I ever have to work on crafty projects are during the precious last seconds of afternoon nap time (Cady's, not mine unfortunately) or when I put her down for the night (yawn, how about I just sit on my butt and watch Teen Mom 2 and eat a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead).

2 days ago, I finally bit the bullet and said "I need to do this. Or else I have to actually go buy her a gift to replace this unmade pile of felt."

It was simple...sort of. I basically just found a picture of an old Nintendo controller, and cut out matching felt pieces. I used 2 full pieces of gray, most of a piece of black, and then gray, black, white, and red scraps of felt. I hot glued the large black piece onto one gray piece first, then added the embellishments. Then I did a thin layer of hot glue to attach the two full size pieces of gray felt. I don't know how this would work with a full size laptop, but I was making it for a netbook so it turned out to be the perfect size.

After the glue dried (and I peeled the burned flesh off of my fingers), I sat down and sewed (by hand!) around the edges to make it sturdier. Let me tell you, it's not easy to sew through 3 pieces of felt and a layer of hot glue. I stabbed myself with the needle enough times that my husband stopped asking if I was okay and instead suggested I put thimbles on every finger.

I'm not the best sewer and my finished product doesn't look as flawless as the original, but I'm happy with it and excited to see her face when she opens it Christmas morning.

But don't talk to her about this until December 26th. I was just so excited that I finally finished this project that I had to share.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Toddler Food - Broccoli Cheese Nuggets

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Today, I totally earned the title of "best mom ever" at lunch time.

I made peanut butter and banana sandwiches, homemade applesauce (see my recipe here), and homemade broccoli cheese nuggets. We enjoyed our lunches on the living room floor while watching Cady's favorite Mickey Mouse show. She is currently very happily napping, and I am happily sitting on my butt enjoying the peace and quiet.

I love these broccoli cheese nuggets. They are soft, delicious, and nutritious and my baby girl loves them. Plus, they are great to make a big batch and freeze in individual servings. They're ideal for toddlers learning to self-feed, but I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy complimenting my own meals with these veggie nuggets.

1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups shredded cheese (I prefer cheddar)
2 1/2 tbsp water
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Cook and chop the broccoli. I use my Chopper to save me time and energy here.
2. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, water, olive oil, and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
3. Stir the chopped broccoli in with the breadcrumb mixture.

4. Take small handfuls of the mixture and form into nugget shapes. Place them on a greased or foil-lined baking sheet. (I use foil out of pure laziness, but the cheese sometimes sticks when I take the nuggets off.)

5. Bake for about 10 minutes at 375*.
6. Flip the nuggets over and bake for another 10 minutes (watch so that they don't burn).
7. Serve warm.

This recipe is for a smaller batch, but I typically double the recipe and wrap 2 pieces together in seran wrap and then put all of my individual servings in a freezer bag. They are so simple to quickly microwave if you need a vegetable filler with your child's lunch or dinner!

After eating a few, we still ended up with 21 2-piece servings in the freezer.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Decorating the Baby...I mean tree

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We were pulling out the Christmas lights over the weekend, and I couldn't help myself but to snap this adorable photo of my little girl.

She's all decked out in her red polka dot fleece pajamas, pigtails in her hair, and entangled in Christmas lights.

There's nothing sweeter at Christmastime than witnessing the wonder through a child's eyes.

I love this girl.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Handprint Art

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I was feeling bold today. We did 3 painting projects. If you have (or had) a toddler, you might be thinking, "Is she crazy?".

Yeah, sometimes.

We missed a few days of art projects last week, and I had so many ideas that I wanted to do before Thanksgiving, which is only 2 days away.

First, I painted her hand brown and made a print on blue paper. This is to resemble the Mayflower. I cut out little white paper sails and used a glue stick to place them on the hand print. 1 done, 2 to go.

I cleaned off her little hand with a wet wipe and started painting the palm brown and the fingers different colors. I pressed it on orange paper and made a sad-looking turkey. Tried it again - still sad. Cady wiggles her fingers too much when I try to make hand prints with her. Oh well. I cut out the turkeys and glued them onto a plain piece of white paper along with the ship. 2 done, 1 to go.

The third project was only semi-planned. I knew that she was not going to be happy with me if I only made 3 hand prints with her and then put everything away when there were clearly several containers of finger paint sitting right there on the table. Avoiding the impending screams of toddler-hood, I gave her some scraps of white paper and let her paint with the brush or her fingers. She's only 15 months, so she doesn't know what she's painting; she just sees that she's manipulating the colors around on the paper. That's cool. I'll be creative.

I took her "scrap paper" paintings and cut them to look like leaves. Well, they kind of look like leaves.

I'm really creative in my head; it's the execution that's the problem.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken and Rice

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I don't hate much (well, that's a lie, and I hate lies), but I really despise touching raw meat. Raw chicken is the worst. Ideally, the hubby cuts all of the fat and bloody parts off while I prepare everything else. Unfortunately, it was just me and the baby and although I'm sure she would love to play with the raw floppy chicken breasts, it was up to me to touch it. By. My. Self. Ew. But I sucked it up and did it and I'm glad I did because I made a delicious dinner with my handy dandy crock pot.

Need an easy slow cooker meal that will taste great? We love this dish.

5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed and fat trimmed off
1 (14.4 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
14 oz chicken broth
8 oz corn
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 scallion onions, chopped
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. pepper
rice or pasta

1. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker except chicken.

2. Lay the chicken on top.

3. Cook on low for 10 hours (or high for 6 hours).

4. Shortly before serving, cook rice or pasta. We like this meal with rice best, but we also like to change it up with some pasta every now and then.

5. Scoop the chicken mixture on top of your rice (or pasta).

I like to make a batch of this for dinner and then shred up the rest of the chicken and separate leftovers into toddler-size portioned containers to freeze. They make quick, delicious, and nutritious lunches for my little girl. Just make a small batch of rice or pasta to go with it and serve. Simple!