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Friday, September 28, 2012

Trick or Feet!







 
When I found this adorable project online, I knew I would have to duplicate it with my four kids' feet. After all, since it has been over two years since I've had a child in preschool, I haven't had any precious hand print or footprint projects. And even though my boys' feet are no longer adorably tiny, they are still adorable to me, and I want to remember even these years too. Before heading out to my favorite craft store, I measured my oldest son's foot. At 11, he already wears a bigger shoe than I do, so I needed to make sure his foot would fit on the canvas I bought. Thankfully, it could fit on a 10x20, which is what I was hoping for. Good thing I didn't wait until next Halloween to do this project!

Brandy, at the Moody Fashionista, provided a tutorial for
the one she made for her daughter, so you can check hers out here to see what she did differently. I couldn't find any letter stickers as cute as hers, so I decided to paint mine instead.

Here are the supplies I used:

one 10x20 canvas
black paint
white paint
orange paint
googly eyes
craft glue
sponge brushes
small artist brush
plastic letter stencils

paint bowls/cups or even plastic lids
lots of paper towels

Here's how I did it:

First, I spent one day painting the canvas black. It didn't take long to paint it, but I had to paint three coats, so I had to let it sit a couple of hours to dry between coats. 

On the second day, I had to figure out the placement of my stencil letters using a method I learned during my scrapbooking days. Actually, I think we learned it in high school typing class too, back when you had to manually center your titles, but do I have to admit that? It makes me sound incredibly old to have learned how to type on a typewriter! All you do is count up the number of letters/numbers and spaces in your title. I chose "Happy Halloween," so I had 15. Just divide that number by two to get your center letter or space. When a number is odd, you look at the numbers on either side of your answer and let them share the center. In my case, my answer to 15/2 is 7.5, so that put the "H" and "A" sharing the center. Once you know your center, you can decide how to space your letters and begin with those center letters and work your way out. I had bought a sheet of plastic stencils but decided to cut them apart to make placing them easier.

Third, let's clean up our act. I needed to do some touch up work on a few of my letters where the paint bled through the stencils, so I grabbed a small paint brush and the black paint to fix those spots.

Once the lettering was completely dry, I wrangled up my children to create the ghosts. Our original plan was to use the left foot of my oldest son since he's a lefty and the right foot of the other three. He came up with that idea, and I loved that added personal element to it. I began with his foot since it had to be placed in just the right spot due to his large shoe size. Once barefoot, he kicked his foot into my lap and let me paint it white. I simply slathered on the white paint with a medium-sized sponge brush because that's what I learned was the least messy method back when I taught preschool. When his foot was appropriately covered, I picked up the canvas and carefully lined it up to his foot and guided his foot to it while he stayed sitting. He has a high arch, so his ghost was freakishly skinny. To help fatten it up a bit, I placed one of my hands under the canvas and gently pushed it on his foot and arch. It fattened his ghost up a bit without ruining the authenticity of his footprint. Afterwards, we used a handful of damp paper towels to wipe his foot clean. Perhaps doing this outside and hosing their feet off afterward would be easier.

When his ghost was fairly dry, I called up the next kid and repeated the process for all four children. I just left the paints and supplies out on the kitchen table as this process took four short sessions during the course of a couple of hours. Oh, and as you'll see from the picture, our idea of one lefty ghost was abandoned after I accidentally painted our daughter's left foot. Oh well, now they are all swaying toward the outside of the picture, which makes sense too. My son didn't mind.

Once the kids were in bed and all four ghosts were dry, I got out the black paint, glue, and googly eyes to create the faces. I also touched up spots from the foot-printing.  An idea I came up with too late that would be cute is to let your children paint their ghosts' mouths with a fingerprint. It would be the right size and shape, and it'd create just one more personal element to the product.

The last step I still need to do is write the year and their names on the back. While it's obvious which foot is my oldest son's and which is my little daughter's, the two middle boys' feet are very close in size, so we might forget some day. 

This was a fun project though you really can't wing it in a short period of time, and you'll need a place in your house where you can have a mess for the better part of two days. Overall, I had to buy the canvas, which I used a 40% coupon on, so it only cost $5.40, the brushes for a whopping $1.39, and the stencil letters, which were $2.99. Of course, I'll find another purpose for those in the future. I already owned the paint, glue, and wiggly eyes. I liked the idea of the ribbon seen in Brandy's finished product, but with such a wide canvas, I didn't think I'd really use it. I plan to prop it up either on our mantel or one of the shelves in our family room. For about $10 it makes a precious Halloween decoration in my opinion.

I love the idea that every year we can bring it out for Halloween and get to compare shoe sizes. As children progress to elementary school, they stop making projects with their hand prints and feet prints, but they keep growing for at least another 12 years, so why not enjoy their not-so-tiny-anymore-but-not-fully-grown hands and feet? Plus, the boys got a kick out of doing a footprint project since they haven't done one in years. They didn't think it was too babyish and loved having their feet painted. In fact, my eight-year-old son asked if we could do a Christmas version of this. We've been brainstorming ideas of trees or reindeer heads made out of foot prints. I think it sounds like a great gift for grandparents!  What about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to make a footprint or hand print project for other holidays?  

      

I'll be sharing this post at some of these parties here or here.     





Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Little Garden: Green Onions & Garlic

 This past winter, I decided it was time to revamp my planter, mainly because I was tired of being out of green onion and garlic. Years ago, I grew these two items in pots, not really with the intentions of having a lot of them on hand, but merely as a way to store them. Green onions are so easy to plant, even if your only purpose in planting them is to store them. I used to buy a cluster of green onions, chop up the three or four my recipe called for and end up throwing the rest out because they went bad. Then I read a post on facebook.com about an easy way to save and reuse green onion.


Basically, you keep it in a cup with fresh water and cut off the green portion only. Use that part for your recipe. Then allow the onion to stay in a fresh cup of water and watch it grow back. You should be able to do this several times before the onion won’t grow back. When that happens, you can simply use the whole thing. While that won’t save you a ton of money (green onions are rather cheap), it will allow you to avoid wasting food, and I love that idea.

After doing this once, I realized I could do it much easier in my backyard planter. To allow our sandbox to work as a real planter, we had to drill holes in the bottom. My sweet hubby drilled about five of them like the dots on the five side of dice to get it ready for our second attempt at gardening. Since I planted my batch of onions I bought from the grocery store, we've been cooking with it for about eight months now, and the green onions are thriving. If you are like me and don't have the time, patience, space, or skill to grow a real garden, you can still make a small onion and garlic garden. To grow your own green onions, follow these easy steps:


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Co-Hosting Follow Me Wednesday Blog Hop

Hello lovely readers! Instead of a new recipe, tutorial, or parenting post today, I'm so excited to be co-hosting this fabulous blog hop this week. If you aren't familiar with a blog hop, it's where you check out the host's and co-hosts' blogs along with as many other blogs as you are interested. Follow them in some fashion and then add your blog to the list! Of course, Trisha explains the rules in detail below, so I'll just leave you alone to read her post! Have fun!

And for those of you visiting my blog for the first time thanks to this lovely blog hop, welcome! I hope you'll check out some of my popular posts at the bottom of the page and come back later this week. I will be sharing some tutorials about super easy fall gardening on Thursday and an adorable tutorial for Halloween on Friday. Then on Monday, I'll be back to sharing recipes with a super delicious yet crazy easy slow-cooker pulled-pork recipe.  


 










Welcome to Follow Me Wednesday Blog Hop!
3 Four and Under
is proud to bring you {Follow Me Wednesday}

Please welcome this weeks co-hosts!
 The Domesticated Princess    Let Them Eat Cake
All My Love for All My Days

Thank you for linking up each week, we really appreciate it!  
This is a wonderful way to meet new people and follow some awesome blogs!
Please remember to tell your friends! 
The more the merrier!

Here is what you do!
1. Please add your blog address to the blog hop list.
2. Please follow the host and co-host blogs!
3. We would love you to tweet about the blog hop.

4.  Please place the Follow Me Wednesday button somewhere on your blog
5.  If you are new to this hop, Welcome, and please leave us a comment and we will be sure to follow you back!  And make sure to visit this weeks co-hosts and show them some love.
 6. Then, visit the other blogs on the list. 
Follow them and I'm sure they will follow you back!
Please leave them a comment telling them you are visiting them from {Follow Me Wednesday}!
We all love comments!

Please link up family appropriate blogs only, any blogs that are not family appropriate will be deleted



3FourAndUnder

 






 

Introducing My Newest Tab: Saving Money

Like most SAHMs, I try to save as much money as possible. Whether it's through using coupons, spending time online to comparison shop, or only buying items on sale, my husband and I are firm believers in not paying full price. While my blog focuses on the projects and experiences associated with being a mom, I can't ignore one area of being a domesticated princess: learning how to save money. I will leave much of this topic to the blogs who are devoted to couponing and thrifty living because there are a lot of awesome ones out there who spend hours a day finding and then sharing wonderful deals. However, from time to time, I will share my shopping success stories or frugal finds with some tips and tutorials, which is one of the reasons I've added this new tab: Saving Money. The other reason is to guide my awesome readers to some fabulous deals provided by Escalate Network, where I'm an affiliate. If you are interested in learning how to become an affiliate as well, just click on the button below. To visit my newest tab, click here! 

 

 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I Enjoy Doing Laundry




As stay-at-home moms, we all have certain chores we love and those we hate. For instance, I absolutely hate mopping our wood floors and simply refuse to iron. Thankfully, my hubby knew ironing was not in my job description fairly early on in our relationship, probably because he noticed I never wore clothes that required it or when I did, they were never neatly pressed. Recently, he announced that as long as I would make the children eat and drink at the kitchen table, he would mop the wood floors every Monday. I grabbed some rope to tie the children to the chairs and did a happy dance. Okay, maybe I didn't do one of those things, but I was thrilled in his offer to help with this dreaded chore. Has he held up to his promise? Well... But I'm still hopeful.

Now I do have some favorite chores. Crazily, I enjoy mopping our bathroom floors because mopping tile is totally different. I also enjoy cleaning bathrooms. The toilets, not so much, but those four rooms are so noticeably sparkly when I finish that I felt like I really accomplished something people will notice and appreciate. I doubt my boys notice, but at least going into their bathroom isn't so scary for a day or two. If you keep up with my blog, you will remember my cleaning chart. I really work hard to keep up with it and obviously tend to quick wipe-downs in between the deep and dirty.

Another one of the chores I actually like is laundry. Many people think I'm nuts, especially when they consider the amount of laundry a family of six goes through when three of those members are constantly needing sports uniforms washed for practices and games. Do you want to know the secret behind why this is a favorite chore? I have two reasons.

First, I absolutely love, love, love my LG HE front loading washing machine and dryer my sweet hubby bought us this past year. It's silver and pretty, but most importantly, it cleans so well! When I like a product, I get really excited, and I've had plenty of friends and neighbors who have asked for recommendations to replace theirs, so I thought I'd just let you know what I recommend.

The main reason I enjoy this endless task is it means I have total control over the television. Yup, that's huge in a house with four guys! They know that when I sit down with baskets of clothes to fold, it's MY turn for the remote control! I take over the sofa and ottoman and search for all my favorite recorded shows. Now if that doesn't get guys to evacuate a room, not much will.  

So with baskets brimming with freshly washed clothes, a sofa to help me sort as I fold, and a show on the TV, I'm good to go for a solid hour of me time. I don't know how other people do it, but as I fold, I lay clothes by person and category. Each person gets his/her own section of the sofa, and I then stack clothes according to drawer. Socks get thrown into one big basket to be paired up last. I then put all three boys' socks into one large sock drawer in my room. They used to have their own sock drawers, but whenever they'd be dressed for the day and need to go back upstairs to grab a pair of socks, they'd fuss.

Then once I've sorted and folded, I put away hubby's, our daughter's, and mine. The boys are responsible for taking up their own piles and putting them into drawers. Anything that needs hanging, I will go up and do later. I recently bought some cute fabric baskets from Wal-Mart to help them carry up their piles. They have been working out great so far since large laundry baskets are too hard for them to manage going up the stairs and through the safety gates. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention one of the best parts: getting the dirty clothes together to sort and wash them. If you read my post about the make-your-own parachute soldiers, you'll remember the upstairs landing we have overlooking our family room. Well, I set a couple empty laundry baskets on the floor and let the boys drop their dirty clothes down over the railing to try to make it into the baskets. A friend suggested it shortly after we moved into this house, and I thought it was ingenious! So much easier than lugging heavy baskets down those stairs! Plus, the boys do it for me. They hate sorting clothes, so unless I can get one to do it from the chore box, I end up with that task.

So, while most of my friends have a major disdain for this chore, I found it to be quite rewarding. I have the boys toss down the dirty clothes, thus reducing some of the work. I use my super awesome washing machine and dryer with so many neat options I feel like I'm playing with a toy at times. I get to enjoy some TV time while folding. I get help in putting away clean clothes, which they've been able to do since they were six, probably as young as five if I helped get them into the drawers once they set them on their beds.  And since I don't iron, I really make out like a princess, well, better than Cinderella at least!   

What are your least favorite and most favorite chores? I'd love to hear how you tackle some of yours and perhaps learn ways to make some less daunting. Please share!



 



Friday, September 21, 2012

Making a Necklace out of a Ring

When my mom's lung cancer returned early this summer, I was obviously devistated. I knew this next year I would have to rely heavily on my friends, family, and faith. I am one of those fortunate women who not only has an amazing mother but an amazing mother-in-law as well. Yes, you heard me correctly, I love my mother-in-law. Since her son and I got married, she has respected me as a wife, and since I gave her grandchildren, whom she lovingly spoils, she has respected me as a mother. I hope I can be as supportive toward my future daughter-in-laws.

Recently, my in-laws spent a weekend with us to attend my sister's sons' baptisms. See, she's such a great mother-in-law that my sister even considers her family. (My father-in-law is equally wonderful, but this post isn't about him.) Before they headed back home, they treated us to lunch. On our short drive back to our house, I received a text from her saying that she had left me a little something on my daughter's glider. Once we returned, I had to put my daugther down for her nap, so I eagerly opened the gift bag to find a loving note and two small gifts inside. One was a silver bracelet with the words of Joshua 1:9 engraved all around it. If you recall, that was the passage I gave my oldest son with his graduation bracelet. I had chosen it because it was my confirmation passage years before and had been one of my favorites to hold on to during diffiucult times. It was perfect! The second gift was a ring, similar to the bracelet, but it had the words of Proverbs 3:5 on it. I had just posted that onto my Facebook page a few weeks ago, just after learning the news about my mom's cancer. Wow! If you aren't familiar with these verses, here they are:

Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid,  neither be though dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Now, you may begin to wonder what this all has to do with a necklace since she didn't give me one of those. As much as I loved the ring, it was too big. I wear sizes 5 and 7, but this was a 9. It wouldn't even stay on my thumb, and I didn't want it to be loose; I couldn't lose it. It couldn't be resized, so I decided to make it into a necklace. I first thought I'd simply put it on one of my silver chains, but then I remembered seeing some cool bracelets on Pinterest.com that I had pinned. I also had a spool of heavy duty black thread that I bought on accident. I had tried sewing with it, but it was too thick, so I had saved it for future projects.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Momma Mar's Activity Corner Linky Party


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've begun participating in linky parties. Some focus on recipes, others on crafts, and some are free-for-alls. However, one of my favorites is the one I get to co-host this week because it focuses on anything related to your child(ren). Who doesn't love that? As a busy momma of four, I know I can always benefit from the lovely ladies who share their kid-friendly games, crafts, recipes, and projects, so I can't wait to see what everyone is posting this week.
 











host

Mar @ Raising Bean



co-host

Bonny @ The Domesticated Princess



Rules:

1. I would love for you to follow your host and co-host! So we can keep in touch, but it's not mandatory.

2. Link up any post that talks about something you've done with, or for, your child. It can be recipes, DIY, arts&crafts, sensory activities, if you did it (or attempted it), you can link it! *Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post* Feel free to link more than one post.

3. Check out some other ideas. Don't be a stranger, go see what other families have been up to, and leave them some love in the form of a comment.

4. Head over to Two In Diapers and visit the Sister Link Up, "Thursday's Mommy-Brain Mixer"! She wants your mommy stories, thoughts, and funny moments.

5.Tweet about it! Let people know how cool you are by linking up here :)



Please grab a button and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. So others can find it and share, and steal, some great activities!





Raising Bean
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.raisingbean.com" title="Raising Bean" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1063.photobucket.com/albums/t505/Raisingbeanblog/mini.jpg" alt="Raising Bean" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
If you're interested in co-hosting please email me at margaret@raisingbean.com, I'd love to have you!






Monday, September 17, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Growing up, there were a handful of special recipes my mom made that I loved. She still makes them for the entire family on Sunday evenings, but once we were adults, she shared with us a few of her recipes so we could make these meals for our own families. One of those recipes is beef stroganoff. Now I don't know where this particular recipe originated. I know that it wasn't something passed down from her mother, a Southern farmer's wife who would never have cooked something with such an odd name. While I don't know the origin of this recipe, I know I love it, so I'm happy to share it with you! 

I do remember the first time I made the recipe. I was a junior in college and was going on a date with my boyfriend (who is my hubby now). Before we went out, we were going to eat at my apartment, and I wanted to impress him with my culinary skills. After all, don't all good Southern moms teach their daughters that the best way to a man's heart is his stomach? After making it, I was a bit unimpressed by my mom. I don't mean that harshly, but the recipe just wasn't that hard. After all, a key ingredient is a can of soup. I'm sure there are some delicious from-scratch stroganoff recipes out there, but this ain't it!

As I was preparing this meal for dinner tonight, my husband announced that he had watched on TV recently how to make a healthy version. It involved turkey, but I didn't bother to learn the rest. I figure it may be fattening, but it's too good to ruin by substituting ingredients. It's not like we eat this on a weekly basis, and if I serve it with some healthy sides as I did tonight (fresh peaches and mango along with a salad), it's okay to splurge. This is also one of the recipes from my weekly menu planning board, so if you want to check out others, visit this post.






 
Ingredients:
1 lb. top sirloin or top roast
1 cup flour
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef bouillon
1 large can of Cream of Mushroom
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 bag of egg noodles (serves 8)


1. First, boil the water for the noodles. (Just follow those instructions on the package.) Next, chop your onion and let it cook with a little of the oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, slice up your meat and season it with salt and pepper. (Am I weird for liking the looks of raw beef? It's not like I want to eat it raw, but it just looks good!)

2. Add the minced garlic to the pan and stir in with the onions. (Yum! I feel like I'm really cooking when I can smell up my kitchen with the aroma of chopped onions and garlic sauteing.) Put the flour in a pie plate and be sure to coat the meat thoroughly with it. Add a bit more oil in the skillet if necessary. Then add the coated meat to the skillet and sprinkle on the Worcestershire sauce.

3. By this point, you may be ready to add in your noodles to the boiling water. Once the meat is cooked, add in the cup of bouillon. (I use the dry kind with a cup of water.) Stir in the can of cream of mushroom soup and allow everything to simmer for 10 minutes. Be sure to remove and rinse the noodles when they are ready.

4. Add in the sour cream about five minutes before serving. Stir together.








My family has always served our plates with the noodles and then add the sauce/meat mixture on top instead of creating a huge pot of both, but it's up to you. This should serve four to six people, but for our family of six, there is still enough for leftovers for hubby and me to eat the next day. Our kids aren't big fans of the sauce, but that's the best part to me.

Doesn't it look delish?! If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think, or if you have your own version of beef stroganoff, I hope you'll share it!


I'll be sharing this recipe at some of these parties here or here.     


Sunday, September 16, 2012

You've Been Booed!

In the past two neighborhoods where we have lived, we've participated in a fun tradition that seems to be spreading: being booed! While the name of the game sounds mean, it's actually very kind. Basically, when you are booed, you receive a surprise goodie bag on your front porch filled with little treats like candy, Halloween decor, and/or little Halloween-themed toys. Along with your stash of goodies, you also find a letter that explains the game and a sign to post on your front door or window, letting everyone know your house has been booed. Then you follow the directions in the letter that tell you to make one or two copies of the letter and sign and go and boo one or two other neighbors who have yet to have a boo sign on their door. This typically starts four to six weeks before Halloween, so by the time October 31st rolls around, you'll see lots of Booed signs on front doors and windows throughout your neighborhood. It's a lot of fun not just being surprised by a bag of treats but in making more goody bags and deciding who you want to boo!


Stephanie, over at Sweet Boutique, blogged about her experience with being booed last week, and that's where the idea of an online version began. In her post, she shared an adorable sample flyer and boo sign, so if you'd like to start up the tradition in your neighborhood, visit Stephanie to use the documents she has made. 

 

When I saw her post, we started chatting about how we could create a version to play with fellow bloggers, and this is what we've come up with.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Surprise!

Yes, you are still at the right place. Instead of going to sleep like a sane mom would, I have been playing with my blog's design. While I thought my original template was cute, I was getting tired of it already. I loved the streamlined look of many of the blogs I've been visiting lately, so I decided to follow suit. I'm still getting used to it even though I didn't touch my heading. I hope you'll let me know what you think. I'm open to feedback and am willing to tweak it if I can figure it out. I'm certainly no expert in html. Well, that's it for tonight. We have two football games and a play date to focus on in about seven hours, so I better get some sleep. Good night all! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Princess Sleeps Here





As I was playing with my daughter in her nursery this evening, I began thinking about our past nurseries. When we had our first two sons, we were living in a house that had the master and another bedroom downstairs with three more up. That downstairs bedroom was the ideal nursery. It had its own full bath and was close to everything. When I was pregnant, my husband dutifully painted the walls, built custom shelves over the windows, and even helped me pick out the furniture and bedding. We knew we would keep this particular room as the official nursery and move the oldest child upstairs once we had our second (and, according to my husband, final) baby. Since we had decided never to find out the gender of our babies during the ultrasounds and had wanted to decorate one nursery, we knew it had to be gender neutral and classic. We selected antique teddy bears with the colors of sage green, country blue, pale yellow, and rose. The bedding looked like a patchwork quilt, and it was perfect!

We used it for our first two children before having to relocate to another city. With our second child only six months old, we tried to duplicate the nursery in our new house, which had all the children's bedrooms upstairs. We selected the smallest bedroom that was just at the top of the stairs for the nursery and began painting the walls and rebuilding the shelves. We avoided painting stripes because the walls sloped up on two sides, and we didn't want to draw attention to that architectural detail. This nursery served babies #2 and #3. When our third (and, according to my husband, final) baby was almost three, we were relocated once again. This current house also had all three children's bedrooms upstairs, but we didn't need a nursery. With the youngest two happily sharing a bedroom, we decorated a guest bedroom instead. 

Then, we got an exciting surprise... we needed a nursery again! This time, I simply couldn't wait until delivery to find out if we were having another boy, so I convinced hubby to find out. When we learned we were having a girl, I was tempted to start fresh with the nursery instead of pulling out that quilt and all those teddy bears from the attic. My husband insisted we keep the "family nursery" decor even after a friend offered me her daughter's adorably pink bedding. I finally agreed but decided it needing a little "girling up." 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Says There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Maybe our lunches weren't free, but our post-lunch fun was! Several years ago, we lived close to our town's fire station. Just next to it was a tiny park, no bigger than a subdivision lot really, but it had some wooden picnic tables shaded by a dozen georgeous pin oaks. While my oldest son was in first grade, we had put our house on the market, so there were times when we'd have to leave our house so a potential home buyer could tour it. Meanwhile, hubby was already living in the new city, so I was left to deal with working, taking care of three young boys, and keeping the house spotless. When we finally moved, I don't think I made a bed for six months, but that's another story entirely. This story is about some surprisingly fun and free activities we've stumbled upon by accident.

Z was too shy to be in the picture.
One early fall morning, I decided to pack up our lunches, put my then three- and two-year-old sons in their double stroller and have a picnic by the firestation while my oldest son was in school. I'm thinking we needed to leave so a realtor could show our house. The weather was lovely, and boys were happy, and all was right in the world! As we finished up are meal and collected more than several pockets full of acorns, we heard the firetruck return to the station. How neat! I grabbed my camera, and before I had a chance to snap a shot, a fireman came up to us and asked if my boys would enjoy a tour. YES! All preschool boys love firetrucks, right? Mine always had. They gave us a tour, let me snap a few pictures, and handed the boys their very own plastic firefighter hats.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Japanese Noodles

One of the perks of marrying a man of Japanese decent is the food. Before I met my husband, my only exposure to Japanese food was Benihana's. On one of our first dates, he took me to a mom-and-pop Japanese restaurant that introduced me to the less Americanized items. This was in 1993; now, Japanese restaurants are very popular, but back then, I was amazed to learn that sushi didn't mean raw fish. Some of my new favorite Japanese items were katsu, nodi maki (California rolls), and tempura shrimp.

Over the years, my husband has taught me how to cook some of these dishes. We rarely make tempura because it's very messy and needs to be eaten right away, so despite its popularity among our friends who insist we cook Japanese food when it's our turn to host dinner clubs, we rarely mess with it. They are forgiving as long as they get to eat homemade katsu and California rolls, thankfully. 

One of the more recent items I learned how to make is a lovely meal, especially for the summer because it's so light. It's a fun lunch dish as well, and it has become a huge hit not only among our family but whenever we serve it to guests. In fact, it's what we served for our daughter's second birthday party this summer.

It's called Yashi Soba, but we just refer to it as Japanese noodles.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bucket List Activity #17: Sidewalk Paint




I can't remember when I found the pin for Domestic Charm's liquid sidewalk chalk, but as we created our summer bucket list, I knew I'd have to include this neat activity. After all, I love artsy kid projects and anything that encourages creativity. Even though summer ended before we had time to finish our bucket list, I have kept it in hopes to eventually get through it before Christmas at least.   

Since it was just my two-year-old daughter helping me with this activity, I decided to reduce the ingredients by half.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • food coloring (liquid or gel)
  • 4 disposable cups
  • stirring sticks/spoons
  • 4 paint brushes


After mixing the water with the cornstarch, you have to stir for a long time. It's not easy to stir either as the corn starch creates more of a gooey paste that settles at the bottom, but once you get everything mixed up well, pour it into four cups. Then add in your food coloring. Just to experiment, we used 15 drops of blue and 15 drops of yellow. For the red and green, we used the gel food coloring. As you can see in the picture, both work well, so I wouldn't go out and buy anything special. Just use what you keep on hand, and keep stirring! My daughter wanted to help stir, so I let her. Oops! Just be sure to hold onto the cup if your child helps stir. This is a sticky mess to wipe up. It was the consistency of school glue at this point, but it wiped up without staining the table. The wash cloth may be another story, so you may want to have a few old rags on hand.






Once we had our paints ready, my daughter and I headed outside to the driveway.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chicken & Rice Dinner with Flat Bread

I like cooking chicken once a week, but I’ve noticed my children aren’t the biggest fans of this bird, well, unless it comes fried and packaged in a red and white box marked “Chic Fil A.” However, I still buy it in bulk from http://www.zayconfoods.com/ because I enjoy chicken and hope my children will start liking it better too.

In an effort to find new recipes that will persuade them to eat the serving I give them or at least not moan when I hand them their plates, I searched pinterest.com for easy recipes. I figure if half my family doesn’t want it, why spend an hour in the kitchen preparing it? I came across a link to this blog: joyful-mommas-kitchen.blogspot.ca and decided to try her wild rice and chicken recipe for dinner. Since the purpose of these recipes is to create them to freeze for a busy night later on, I decided to double the recipe and freeze half.

I had to make a few adjustments. First, since I buy my chicken in bulk and had 40 pounds of chicken breasts in my freezer, I wasn’t going to buy thighs for this recipe. I figured since it called for six thighs, I could use three chicken breasts for each pan. I first cut them in half since these breasts are so thick and then cut those halves in half so I wouldn’t need to alter the cooking time. However, I did end up having to cook mine 20 minutes longer, probably because these quartered chicken breasts were still rather big, and though they were defrosted, they were still very cold. When I prepare this meal again, I’ll most likely just cut up the chicken into even smaller pieces to keep the cooking time at an hour.

Next, when I decided to double the recipe, I used one large (26 oz) cream of mushroom can and a regular (10.5 oz) cream of chicken can, partly because I have several of the large cans I need to use up. This meant I would not fully double the amount of soup in my recipe since doubling it requires 42 ounces, and I only used 36.5 ounces. It worked out just fine. In fact, as I was filling my two square pans (one glass for this night and one aluminum to freeze) and adding the chicken, my pans started to overflow. Maybe my 8x8 aluminum pan wasn’t as deep as hers or my chicken conversion was wrong.

I discovered the last altercation as we ate our meal. I figured since it called for so much soup, it would have enough sodium to satisfy our need for salt. The recipe did not say to season the chicken, but I recommend salting and peppering it to taste.

What I liked about this recipe was how easy it was to make and to double, so I could prepare two meals at once. It doesn’t dirty up the kitchen much either. Now, how did my kids like it? They picked out the mushrooms and avoided the sauce, but that didn’t surprise me since they are typically boring eaters. They did eat it without complaint, which I'll call a success. I will make it again because I liked cooking it and eating it. I cooked corn as a side dish, and when I got bites of the corn mixed in with the sauce, it was yummy, so I’m thinking of adding some frozen corn into it next time.
I also made some flat bread as an additional side and will share that recipe because it’s very simple, and any time I serve it to guests, they love it!
Flat Bread Recipe
Ingredients:
1 can of frozen biscuits (I prefer the Grands size.)
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Basil and/or Oregano
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread a light coating of olive oil over each biscuit and flatten with your hands.
3. Lay them on a large baking sheet, pressing them flat again as they tend to shrink back up.
4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for approximately 16 minutes or until they turn a light brown.
6. Use a pizza cutter to slice each biscuit into four strips.

I'm also going to try the Joyful Momma's Kitchen's potato soup recipe because I love potato soup, and this one looks very easy. I think my flat bread will go well with that recipe too!

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