Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I (used to) Hate Carrots

**UPDATE** I've moved to
You can find this post and more here

After an unfortunate incident as a child involving me, carrots, and a late night upset stomach, I tend to steer clear of carrots. Especially raw carrots. Yuck.

However, I promised my waist line that I'd start cooking more from scratch and serving more nutritious meals for my family. Oh carrots, why do you have to be so healthy?

Amidst my research for a tolerable way to cook these orange nuggets, I found a recipe for baking sweet potato fries and I altered it for carrots. My recipe is quick (because I hated that I had to eat them, let alone focus any of my time on them) and actually.....they were delicious!!

* Wash and peel some carrots (I used 8 to feed my family of 3).
* Then chop them up into small pieces...which I haven't done by hand since I've owned a Chopper.
* Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the carrots on it.
* Drizzle some olive oil over the carrots, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix it all around with your hand to make sure the carrots are coated evenly.
* Bake at 400* for about 25 minutes.

Enjoy, because these little orange beauties tasted magnificent. Bonus: they're small and soft and perfect for babies learning to self-feed.

Looks like we'll be eating more carrots around here...and hopefully my fear of late night orange-splattered furniture will lessen. Too much? Yeah, it was...sorry.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Valentine's Day Wreath

**UPDATE** I've moved to
You can find this post and more here

We had our second Pinterest party over the weekend. This is a day free of husbands and children where we make interesting things we find on Pinterest. Our first party was just before Christmas, so we made stocking stuffers: chocolate bars wrapped up in paper, ribbon and socks to look like snowmen or reindeer.
Rumchata Cupcakes
We also made Rumchata cupcakes just because...and man, were they good!

It was time to plan another party because the first one was a hit, and we chose to make a Valentine's themed wreath that I found on Pinterest.

All we did was pop in a couple movies (because this is a simple craft, but fairly time consuming), wrap a wreath in yarn, cut out and glue on felt hearts, and wrap the yarn around again over the hearts in a criss-cross pattern.

You Will Need:
1 wreath (I used a 12-inch wreath)
1 skein of yarn (actually, more like half of one - I used gray)
2 pieces of felt (1 of each color - I used pink and white)
some glue to hold down the hearts while you wrap
a piece of ribbon to hang your wreath

I hung mine on our hallway mirror and I love it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter-Themed Activities for Toddlers

**UPDATE** I've moved to
You can find this post and more here

There are tons of adorable winter crafts all over the internet. My challenge was to adapt ideas (or create my own) for my 1 year old and not spend a lot of money. Everything we are doing this month is either free or very cheap (because Christmas was only a month ago and my bank account is still recovering from that beating). I used many items that I always have around (paint, paper, cotton balls, etc.) and checked out many books and movies from the library. I'm more of an indoor person, so most of our activities will be inside, but I did include a few outdoor activities (weather permitting). Here is what we have planned for the month of January and I'll add more pictures as we do the projects:

The Snowy Day by Anna Milbourne

Little Mo by Martin Waddell

That's Not My Polar Bear by Fiona Watt

The Mitten by Jan Brett

That's Not My Snowman by Fiona Watt

That's Not My Penguin by Fiona Watt

I See Winter by Charles Ghigna

Snow Angels by Angel Randall

Totally Polar by Marty Crisp

Footprints in the Snow by Cynthia Benjamin

Ebb & Flo and the Baby Seal by Jane Simmons

Penguins! Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle

I am Pangoo the Penguin by Satomi Ichikawa

Mouse's First Snow by Lauren Thompson

Snow Dude by Daniel Kirk

Bella Gets Her Skates On by Ian Whybrow

Under My Hat I Have a Hood by Karla Kuskin

Flannel Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan

Dinos in the Snow! by Karma Wilson

Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

Finger-Plays/Music and Movement: (many of these ideas were gathered during my Early Childhood Education I'm uncertain of their original sources...)
NOTE: I use a glove and print, laminate, and attach velcro to individual pieces to make the finger-plays more visually appealing. I also make larger pieces (like big white snowballs) and use a felt board.

*Finger-Play: 5 Little Penguins
5 little penguins swimming to shore, 1 stopped at an iceberg and then there were 4
4 little penguins fishing in the sea, 1 swam away and then there were 3
3 little penguins didn't know what to do, 1 waddled up the shore and then there were 2
2 little penguins playing in the sun, one jumped in the water and then there was 1
1 little penguin looking for her friend, she swam out to find her and that's the end.

*Song: Polar Bear, Polar Bear (tune of "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear")
Polar Bear, Polar Bear turn around,
Polar Bear, Polar Bear touch the ground.
Polar Bear, Polar Bear growl real loud,
Polar Bear, Polar Bear sit on the ground...

*Finger-Play: 5 Little Snowmen
5 little snowmen, each with a funny hat
Out came the sun and melted one just like that (slowly put 1 snowman down)
(repeat with 4, 3, 2, 1)

*Poem: Chubby Little Snowman
A chubby little snowman had a carrot for a nose. (point to nose)
Along came a bunny and what do you suppose? (hands out like asking question)
That hungry little bunny was looking for his lunch... (hand above eyes as if looking)
And he ate that snowman's carrot nose - nibble nibble CRUNCH (use hand to pretend to eat nose)

*Felt Board Story: 10 Little Snowballs (cut out 10 white felt circles)
Snow fell last night and it fell so hard, when I looked out my window, it covered up my yard.
I made 10 little snowballs and I put them in a line. One fell off the wall, and then there were 9.
9 little snowballs, I put them on the gate. 1 fell off and then there were 8.
8 little snowballs, I hit 1 up towards heaven. It came down splat!...and then there were 7.
7 little snowballs, I hit 1 with a stick. It broke in little pieces and then there were 6.
6 little snowballs, lined up side by side. My dog stole 1 and then there were 5.
5 little snowballs, I took them to the store. 1 fell off my sled, so then there were 4.
4 little snowballs, underneath a tree. I threw 1 at a mailbox, then there were 3.
3 little snowballs, I'll share them with you. You have 1 and I have 2.
2 little snowballs, left out in the sun. 1 melted away and then there was 1.
1 little snowball left all alone. I'll put it in my pocket and take it home.

*Song: "Winter Winter Wonderland" (tune of "Ring Around the Rosie")
Winter Winter Wonderland (hold hands and walk in a circle)
Pockets Full of Mittens
Snowflakes, Snowflakes
We All Fall Down! (fall down together)

*Song: "Make a Snowball" (tune of "Frere Jacques")
Make a snowball, make a snowball. (pat hands like forming a snowball)
Throw it now, throw it now. (pretend to throw it)
Make a snowball, make a snowball. (pat hands again)
Throw it now, throw it now! (throw it again)

*Song: Winter Wear Hokey Pokey (tune of "Hokey Pokey")
You put your right mitten in,
You take your right mitten out.
You put your right mitten in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the winter pokey, [shiver]
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!
Other Verses:
left mitten...
right boot...
left boot...
winter hat...
snowsuit (whole body)...

*Melting Snowmen: For a quick stretch and movement exercise, stand up tall and then pretend to melt like snowmen

*Freeze Dance: Turn on some kid-friendly music (we like to listen to some CCR or The Band Perry) and randomly pause it and freeze. Then start it back up and keep dancing.

Arts and Crafts:
Puffy Snowman
*Puffy Snowman: Mix equal parts of shaving cream and glue. Paint it onto paper and when it dries, it will be puffy like snow! Either pre-cut a snowman shape or do it after the paint dries.

*Play Dough Snowmen: Roll white play dough into balls and make (and smash) snowmen. Try my favorite play dough recipe here.

*Finger Skate Painting: Use pointer and middle fingers as if they are "ice skates" gliding on the ice and finger paint on paper.

Hand Print Tree and Glitter Snow
*Hand Print Tree and Glitter Snow: On blue paper, glue a piece of white paper on the bottom to look like a snow-covered ground. Then put a brown hand print on the paper and paint a brown tree trunk attached to the hand print. Paint glue dots all around the paper. Shake glitter (or you can use salt like we did) over the glue and tap off over the garbage can. It will look like glittery snow and a winter tree. I added the words to one of our winter songs on the bottom of the picture.

*Bubble Wrap Painting: Brush white paint on bubble wrap and make imprints on blue paper. It looks like a snow scene.

*Plow the Roads: Put a few blobs of white paint on blue or black paper. Then use a small plastic car to "drive through and plow the snow".

*Cotton Ball Igloos: Glue cotton balls or pieces onto pre-cut igloos.
Shape Snowman

*Shape Snowman: With a glue stick, place 3 white circles, an orange triangle (nose), a square and a rectangle (for the hat) onto a piece of paper to make a shape snowman. Develop shape and color recognition and fine motor skills!

*Pasta Snowflakes: First, paint pasta wheels white (add glitter if desired). Then either stick them directly onto paper or let them dry and glue them onto paper. Do this on blue or black paper or on a pre-cut snowman.

Pasta Snowflakes
*Sock Snowman: Fill a sock with polyfil. Tie it in 1 or 2 places with ribbon to make a snowman. Then use puffy paint or felt to decorate the face. I folded the top over and tied it down to make a little hat, but you could glue on a felt hat or be creative! This simple snowman is Cady's current favorite stuffed toy. She brings it all over the house with her...if only she knew how attached she is to her dad's sock.
Sock Snowman

*Ice Cube Painting: Mix a packet of Kool Aid with water and let set in ice cube trays overnight. Once they start hardening a little, stick popsicle sticks in the centers to allow for easier (and less messy) painting. Paint on white paper. Once it dries, it's like a "scratch and sniff" painting...and it smells delicious! You could also do this with food coloring, but I like the sensory development that goes along with using a fruity smelling Kool Aid.

Snowflake Painting
*Snowflake Painting: Cut up and attach pipe cleaner pieces together to look like snowflake. Make sure to add a loop handle for easy holding. Dip it in paint and make snowflake imprints.

Snowman Feet
*Snowman Feet: Press white-painted feet onto paper so that the toes are facing down. Draw on snowman features. We did this last January and saved it to be a part of our footprint calendar.

Penguin Finger Painting
*Penguin Feet: Press black-painted feet onto paper with the toes facing down. Cut out a white belly and eyes and an orange beak to glue on. Draw on any additional features (maybe ear muffs, scarf, hat...).

*Penguin Finger Painting: Finger paint with black and/or white paint on a cut out penguin. I glued on some penguin features to make it look more like a penguin.

*Cotton Ball Polar Bears: Glue white cotton balls or pieces onto cut out polar bear shapes.

Paper Plate Penguin
*Paper Plate Penguin: Cut out white circles (eyes) and an orange triangle (beak) and glue onto a small black plate. Develop shape recognition and fine motor skills (picking up pieces/using a glue stick).

*Baby Seal Sock: Fill a small white sock with polyfil and close off with a rubber band or ribbon. Draw on eyes, nose, and whiskers to make it look like a baby seal. Use a short sock because it has just the right amount of stretchy elastic part to look like the seal's flipper.
Colored Snowflakes

*Colored Snowflakes: Color on plain computer paper and then when done, fold up and snip pieces off to make a paper snowflake. 

Science/Imaginary Play/Other:
*Winter Sensory Bucket: Fill a bucket with cotton balls, jingle bells, paper snowflakes, etc.

*Mitten Matching: Cut out felt in the shape of a mitten. Use as many colors as you like but make sure there are 2 of each color. This can be a matching or counting activity.

*Inside Snow Fort: Build a snow fort with folding tables or other furniture and blankets

*Shoveling: Shovel snow with a sand shovel

*Felt Snowman: Cut out felt pieces (large white circles, smaller black circles, orange triangle, etc.) to build your own snowman and store in a large ziploc bag.

*Sledding: Go sled outside

*Snow Drawing: Use sticks to draw in the snow

*Snowman Bowling: Cover recycled pop bottles (or something similar) with white paper and decorate to look like snowmen. Roll a ball into them to go "bowling".

*Sled Blanket: Sit on a blanket and have an adult pull the blanket around the house to go "sledding"

*Snowman in a Bag: Cut black and orange foam pieces (circles and a triangle) and put inside bag with shaving cream and glitter. Mush the bag to try to move the pieces so they look like a snowman.

*Indoor Skating: Go "ice skating" with wax paper attached to feet. Use a rubber band to keep it on.

*Snow!: Go play in the snow

*Indoor Snowball Fight: Throw cotton balls to have a snowball fight

*Ice Melting Experiment: Fill a balloon with water and freeze it – watch it shrink and melt as the day goes on.

*Blubber Bags: While learning about arctic animals, discuss how blubber keeps them warm. Put some crisco in a baggie and squish it around to get an idea of what blubber is like.

*Penguin Walk: Waddle around the room and walk like a penguin

*Penguin Movie: Watch "March of the Penguins"

*Daddy Penguin Walk: I read somewhere that male emperor penguins carry their eggs on their feet. Put a beanbag on top of your feet and try walking around the room without it falling off.

*Arctic Animal Movie: Watch "Ice Age"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Easy Spinach Lasagna

**UPDATE** I've moved to
You can find this post and more here

Before I started making this dish, my husband rarely ate spinach...and I loved it, so this was a problem.

Lasagna is so delicious, but the word "lasagna" alone sends a feeling of oh-man-I'm-going-to-be-cooking-all-afternoon dread through my body. But wait, this recipe takes a fraction of the normal lasagna-making time! Mix up a few ingredients for the filling, spread the layers in a baking dish, and bake. That's it. The best part? You don't need to cook the noodles first! Seriously.

What You Need:
-10 oz fresh or frozen chopped spinach (if frozen, thaw first)
-15oz ricotta cheese
-2 cups shredded cheese, divided (I like to use mozzarella or a 4 cheese blend)
-3 cups spaghetti sauce
-6-7 uncooked lasagna noodles
-1/4-1/3 cup water

* In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, and 1 cup shredded cheese

* Grease a 2-qt baking dish.

* Spread 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the dish. 

* Then lay 3 uncooked noodles on top. You may have to break some of the noodles to cover as much of the bottom of the dish as possible.

* Next, spread half of the spinach-cheese mixture on top of the noodles.

* Repeat the layers: sauce, noodles, mixture.

* Spread the rest of the sauce on top. 

* Then pour the water around the edges of the dish. This water + the water from the spinach will allow the noodles to soften while baking.

* Bake, covered, at 400* for about 40 minutes.

* Uncover, sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top and bake for another 10 minutes.

My husband and daughter love to devour this recipe and if I'm lucky enough to have leftovers, it's great reheated (or freeze individual servings for quick and easy lunches for another day). 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snowman Winter Wreath

**UPDATE** I've moved to
You can find this post and more here

Often, I like to be crafty. And sometimes, I actually complete my projects. This is one that I completed...probably because I was giving it as a gift instead of making it for myself. I love it because it can be hung up for Christmas time and then kept up for the next few months.

What You Will Need:
1 wreath
1 ball of yarn
1 styrofoam ball
1 piece of white fleece
1 rubber band
1 piece of material (enough to make a hat and scarf)
1 small piece of felt
small amount of polyfil
2 googly eyes
black and orange pipe cleaner pieces
1 piece of white felt
hot glue

I purchased a sturdy wreath from Michael's and some soft baby blue yarn...

and a styrofoam ball and a piece of white fleece. I wrapped the wreath with yarn and wrapped the fleece around the ball.

I took a spare (decent-sized) piece of material, glued some gray felt onto it to make the brim of the hat, and wrapped it around the fleece ball to make a snowman head with a hat. I also added a little bit of polyfil to keep it looking fluffy and full. Using the scraps from the hat, I made a quick scarf to match.

I folded over the end of the "hat" and tied it off with a ribbon. Then I hot glued a face on the snowman using googly eyes and pipe cleaner pieces. Then I hot glued the snowman to the wreath.

It was missing something, though. I whipped up some felt flowers and hot glued them onto the wreath, as well.

I attached a ribbon to hang the wreath...and done (only 2 mild hot glue burns and several hours later)!