Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resolution 2013: Spend More Time with the Kids PLAYING!

A common resolution this time of year is to spend more time with your kids, to turn off the TV, prepare them for school, make more fun at home, etc. A blog reader recommended a resolution post on this and I had so much fun researching fun activities for families! Here are a few of my favorites- you can see more on my Pinterest page. 

We love doing things with our hands and this blogger collected recipes to make all of our favorites- sidewalk chalk, play-dough  baby wipes, crayons, bath paint, finger paint, dyed rice and noodles, bubbles, glue, spray paint. I love this collection of goodies!

I can imagine BOYS would love learning their sight words with cars! This blog doesn't have a printable, but this could easily be created with just a marker and copy paper. You could do this with just letters for younger cards or more complex words for older kids. I think it would be fun to incorporate dice to see where you get to park...

Wouldn't it be fun in early Spring to make bird food with your kids, hang it on the trees and then check everyday to see if birds came? I know we will be doing this activity soon! I think this simple bird food recipe using cookie cutters would also make great gifts for teachers, maybe at Easter? 

My science project in school when I was a kid used fruits and vegetables to dye fabrics determining that blueberries and tea are the best. I'll never forget how much fun that was. This lettuce dye project is such a great visual- it can be used to show how water runs through plants to give them food. Pretty cool concept when you think about a simple piece of lettuce can sit in water, soak it up and move it all through it's "body".

Photo courtesy of Flickr via Pinterest

My daughter is 4 and obsessed with math! She loves to count, add up numbers, and ask lots of math questions. She also loves bowling on the Wii, scoring a record high in our family last week. Subtraction isn't a concept she gets yet, but I think with this game she would learn it quickly. 

As the weather gets colder, it opens up conversations about animals (and people!) who don't sleep inside a warm house. This Mom had fun with the lesson and showed her kids how shortening (like fat) can keep animals warm. This lesson is so interactive, I bet they'll never forget it!

I think Abby would LOVE this next one! Using pom poms, you can teach your child colors and have them make art over and over again! Simply glue small magnets on the back of pom poms and place the free printables on a cookie sheet allowing them to make art over and over. The gumball machine printable is my favorite!

Make your own sidewalk paint with simple household ingredients and let your kids paint it with a fly swatter. I can only imagine how messy and fun this would be on the driveway or back patio. Directions here along with a list of over 200 fun art activities for kids under age 5. On a cold day, her idea using window markers is super fun!

Unless noted, all photos are borrowed from other blogs with links to those blogs provided.

Happy Playing!

To see all of our 2013 Resolutions, click here

Monday, January 28, 2013

Paulina's Sweet Potato Hash

I came home from Paulina's Cooking School last month most excited to share this dish with my husband. I loved it. I want to make it more often. It is sweet and flavorful. It would be the perfect way to add sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving. It works well any time of year, if you ask me!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Peel and cube up your sweet potatoes. Place them on a cookie sheet with foil and add a little olive oil and sea salt. Make sure they are evenly spread out so that they cook evenly. You will cook them for about 25 minutes- you want to poke them easily with a fork.

While they are cooking, chop up your bacon into pieces about 2" long and cook them on the stove top. They make their own grease and work best in a cast iron skillet. Pull them when done and place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the grease.

In the same cast iron skillet, caramelize your onions. You'll chop one onion in thin strips and slow cook them in your skillet with the bacon grease on medium heat until the are this beautiful caramel color and really flimsy. 

The onions will cook off most of the bacon grease and you can add the sweet potatoes and the bacon back into the onion skillet and stir it all up. This is my new favorite side dish!

Cooking with my friend Paulina has been eye opening as I learn about new vegetables and seasonings and the world of preservatives and fake food we live in! If you resolve to eat more vegetables or eat healthier in general in 2013, check out more from Paulina's Cooking School or more resolutions here

Friday, January 25, 2013

Resolutions 2013: Creating a Cohesive Collage

When we reworked our living room to bring more calm to the space, I decided to make some changes in my foyer. I have two gallery arches in the space that had been painted a darker khaki, but I never liked it. 

You can see it is too yellow and too close in color to the wall color.

While painting behind the TV, I went ahead and added brown the the gallery arches in the foyer.

The arches are so much more prominent now and the colors of the crosses really showcase better on my new brown- Joshua's Tree by Behr.

With my new Crate & Barrel Olin Brown runner, I love my new entry.

Now it was time to tackle the long wall in my foyer. It is 11' long and 10' high. You can imagine how daunting that can be! This wall has held a number of things, most recently a large cross, mirror and three black shelves to hold photos. It hasn't been cohesive enough for me. I decided to build one LARGE collage using the artwork I had taken down in my dining room, living room, and bedroom as I simplified those spaces. I had over 20 pieces of art- all different shapes and sizes to use on my wall. The cohesiveness comes from the colors in the art- all of it is black framed with elements of white, red and khaki. 

I stacked the art by size- large, medium, and small in my formal dining room. Once I had cleared the foyer wall and prepped it with caulk and touch up paint, I began bringing the large pieces into the foyer and laying them on the ground where they would correlate with the wall. I then added in medium and small pieces. I added in the odd shaped pieces last- like the A, M, cross and circle on the top left.

I then hung them in "columns" starting on the right side of the wall and working my way left. The goal was the literally lift them as they were on the tile onto the wall. I used a black Sharpie, level, and my hammer and nails. The whole project took about 2 hours.

I love the way in turned out- it is full and cohesive!

If you are taking on a big collage, here are a few extra tips I found online:

Use scrap paper to place your "art" on the wall first

Lots of options for the layout of your collage

Using tape to mark art with two holes

Happy Hanging!

See more 2013 resolutions here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resolution 2013: Creating a Calm Space

One of my resolutions this year was a last minute addition.... we visited the home of a friend over the holiday season and there was a great sense of calm in their home. It was in the way they hosted, the strength of their marriage, but also in the decor. There were intentional empty spaces on the wall, a soft candle, unity in color, and warmth all around. I just loved it. Then, I cam home and saw pictures all over the walls, bright colors everywhere, and felt such a difference. I love our home- we have a 4 year old, so it will be busy. But, I decided that I would spend some time and a little money creating a calmer living space.

Looking back, here is my living room before and with a few updates last year and here is my new calmer living room. 

We bought new couches last year from IKEA and bought them in charcoal grey. The slipcover began peeling almost immediately and IKEA happily exchanged them. I went with a light khaki color in hopes that they wouldn't peel. So far, so good! 

The green chairs were a garage sale find- in perfect condition! I hope to slipcover them in the next year to something neutral, but with a little print. I don't love the green, but loved the price and the extra seating. I have always wanted two matching chairs with a small table in the living room!

We moved the rug that was in the living room into the guest bedroom and sold our big red ottoman on Craigslist. I bought the brown and white runner on super clearance at Crate & Barrel and the wicker ottoman from Target that it opens up to hold blankets. I ordered this rug in a larger size, so I can't wait to add that to the space. It'll fill the floor perfectly! 

The black bookcase was cleared of extra knick knacks and now holds Abby's favorite games and my big ivy. I removed all of the art work that filled this wall- just wait until you see where it is now! I placed our newest family photo on the wall and left the space around it blank.

I am loving the new line of peach, lime/yellow, green and teal at Target. I bought this lampshade to replace the large red ticking stripe one on the bar in my kitchen. I removed all of the heavy black picture frames and kept a light ivory frame on the bar. My overall goal is that your eye just moves around the room as opposed to having competing places to look.

The biggest change in this room has to be the wall behind the TV. I had it painted red to match my formal dining room two years ago. I love red, but as I was moving to a more neutral space, the red just wasn't working for me. I took my new Olin rug from Crate & Barrel to Home Depot with me and bought a great brown, Joshua's Tree by Behr. It was the perfect calm brown I needed for behind the TV.

At the same time, I decided that the candlesticks were too heavy in black, so I painted them with Annie Sloan chalk paint in Cream and then applied dark wax to them. I love how they turned out- exactly as I had envisioned!

The only real red I kept in the space is my large American flag. It had been in the dining room, but I wanted to change things up, so I moved it above the mantel. I like the rustic-ness it gives my space. My husband said that in looking around our house, we love America and Jesus. I can live with that!

My chaise lounge is my favorite place to be! I added a khaki and blue plaid blanket and my favorite ivory sweater blanket to the chair. You can just curl up in this space by the fireplace and watch TV, read, snuggle with a little girl! 

I just love spending time in here!

Is calm a buzz word for you in 2013? I'd love ideas on how you are creating calm in your own space?

This article by another busy Mom caught my eye and gave me some great ideas. She is well organized and keeps a calm home with 4 kids. Check it out!

For more 2013 resolutions, click here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Resolutions 2013: Lose Weight with Your Little Birdie Recipes

 If you are like me, you resolve to eat better and lose weight this time each year! And then, it is dinner time and you don't know what to make and you go back to your favorites that are not always healthy. I love casseroles and those often involve more pasta and cheese than vegetables.

But, I have made a lot of low fat healthy foods throughout the past few years and collected them on the blog.  Here are my top five- hopefully some of these will help you in your quest, too!

If you are looking for more ideas, here are collections of helpful recipes:

For more resolutions, click on the button on the left. Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Resolution 2013: Get Organized with Apps

My iPhone is slowly becoming a bigger part of my life. It is always with me, so the more I have on it that manages my life, the better! If you are hoping 2013 is the year you become more organized, have you thought about how your phone can help? I recently found two great apps for organizing my family!

While at a MOPS meeting recently, another Mom mentioned the free Cozi app and with her simple explanation I was sold. Your family (spouse, grandparents, older kids) all have the apps on their phones and share the same information. The Cozi app includes a family calendar, to do list, shopping list and more! Each person in your family is given a color to keep it all organized within the app. 

So many times I have had to remind my husband of family activities- don't forget we are going here tonight... remember, I won't be home tomorrow because of this, etc. With Cozi, I entered activities so that he can see our schedules when making work commitments or wondering what we are doing this weekend.

With the shopping list feature, I can continuously jot down things we need as I think of them and if he happens to stop at Target to get me flowers, he can grab more gallon size baggies and vitamins :) It works both ways because I am always at Target and it would be great to see he is out of contact solution and AA batteries! 

My daughter is 4 and she comes home with art every day! I display it for a few weeks on the large shutter in our kitchen and then when it gets full I often throw it away. She has been known to pull art out of the trash because it is "special". I love her art work and keep everything with special meaning or hand and foot prints, but I can't keep it all. Enter Artkive!

With this app, you take a picture of your child's artwork on your phone and following their directions tag it with their name, age and the date of the artwork. When you are ready, you can use the app's software to turn their art into a book, coffee mug for Grandpa or mousepad for Dad. How smart is that!

The app costs $2.99 is an only on iOS (iPhone/iPad) for now. Their website says an Android version is coming this year.

I know iPhones today can be such a distraction, but they can also enhance family life! I recommend both of these apps from my own use to help you get more organized in 2013! For more resolutions, click on the Resolutions 2013 button on the left.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Paulina's Asian Butternut Squash Soup

I love soup in the fall and winter months, but I can honestly only eat so much chicken tortilla, taco soup or chili. I was excited when Paulina recommended a Butternut Squash Soup. 

Start with a large butternut squash, peel it, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Without Paulina, I would have had no clue what part of this vegetable you eat!

Give it a rough chop, cubing it and boil it in water until soft like a potato. In the meantime, with a little butter and olive oil, saute 1 onion with equal parts celery and carrots. You want the celery and carrots to be an even amount to the onion. Saute for about 5 minutes and add to soft squash.

Next, add some garlic and fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb. You can easily peel ginger with a spoon- I had no idea! Add some salt, a spicy pepper (like a habanero) and lemongrass! To open up the flavoring of the lemongrass, beat it with the back of a spoon or a knife. You want the flavoring of the lemongrass, but eating it can be too much. Pull it out of the soup before you blend it all up!

Doesn't it look so pretty! Next, you'll want to add a little coconut milk to the soup. We bought canned coconut milk in the Asian, not the cold milk found in the dairy section. Add about 1/3 the can. You can always add more to taste.

Your soup is now ready to be blended up. We used an emulsification blender which can be placed right inside the soup. Without it, you have to ladle all the soup into your food processor! 

We garnished our warm soup with more coconut milk, cilantro (my favorite) and bacon. Paulina recommends it with crab meat also. Delish- this soup is beautiful, impressive, and tastes great!

I love all the real ingredients in this soup- it is full of vitamins and that helps with my 2013 resolutions! For more resolutions, click on the button on the left.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Resolutions 2013: Buying Healthier at the Grocery Store

I have heard that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is healthier than the inside. The inside is where the processed junk lies. Around the edge, you'll find fresh fruits and veggies, meats and dairy. The good stuff is on the outside. While I know that apples are good for me and Trix are not, I'd love to know what exactly apples do for me. (reduce artery and cell damage is the answer!)

I went to the expert of our times, Dr. Oz and found his article on the 99 healthiest foods you can buy at the grocery store. It includes fruits, veggies, grains, meats, dairy and more and tells you what they can do for you, how to save money when buying them, and even gives recipes with those staples included.

If you are resolving to eat better so that you'll be healthier and eliminate the processed foods, join me in 2013 and this article will help! For more 2013 Resolutions, click on the button on the left. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Paulina's Sweet Slaw

Remember my foodie friend Paulina and the cooking school she created for me in July? At that time we talked about getting together in the fall to do some fall veggies. At the beginning of December, Paulina's Cooking School 2.0 was in session!

Paulina is a fabulous cook, uses natural ingredients, and would love to open a cooking school one day. She has been so kind to help me on two different occasions to learn to cook with some ingredients outside the box for me. I resolve to eat better in 2013 and Paulina can help us all do that!

Let's start with hearts of palm.... I had no idea what this even was! Due to limitations, either seasonal or geographic, we ended up buying this in a can. My face says it all- it was gummy and tasted like the vinegar it was canned with. Gross!

We also had this FUNKY cauliflower from the farmer's market. I had no interest in eating it, so we skipped right over it. It came in green or orange. Funky!

 But, lucky for us, we came away from the day with three recipes that I really liked and would make again, starting with Paulina's Sweet Slaw. This is made with brussel sprouts! I had no idea a brussel sprout can be eaten raw and is essentially a small cabbage. So, a salad made from brussel sprouts is a slaw.

For the slaw, we simply cut the brown stalk part of the spout off, then sliced them up to edible size pieces. Paulina wanted a sweet dressing, so she mixed up lemon juice, honey, olive oil and some whole grain Dijon mustard, pictured below. The mustard serves as a binding agent in salads and gave us the tangy taste to counter the sweet of the honey.

We also added crumbled bacon and it was a great option when you are tired of a standard lettuce salad. 

Paulina took the remaining brussel sprouts and cooked them according to 101 Cookbooks blog. I wasn't a huge fan of them cooked (they were soggy to me after just loving them as a slaw), but if you like sprouts, this recipes gives them good flavor and the cheese is delish on them.

More cooking school coming soon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Resolution 2013: Get Organized Around the House

I like to think of myself as pretty organized, but there are definitely areas of my life that have a hidden junk drawer! Remember that episode of Friends where they discover Monica's junk closet and she is mortified? ha! I can relate! 

Here are a couple of favorite organizing tips I found online and a few from the annals of Your Little Birdie.

Batteries are all over my kitchen junk drawer! I love using these inexpensive thread or tackle boxes for batteries. Just see what fits best in each compartment, label them and restock as needed.

I own lots of jewelry! I have it in my closet hanging on 3M Command hooks, in a dresser drawer and in my own jewelry armoire. I wish I had seen this sweet display when I was organizing my earrings. Draw pulls and knobs work great to hang earrings. Watch for them 50% off at Hobby Lobby and stock up! 

I hate when my scoop necked tops fall off the hangers and I end up with hangers that look empty, but have shirts hanging half on and half off. Those shirts end up falling off and getting wrinkled. It is a sick cycle! I own about 20 of the felted hangers, but they are too expensive to redo my whole closet. Look at this clever idea! Genius! 

Show hangers are perfect for organizing craft supplies! Mine holds tulle, tape, wooden blocks, glue sticks, loose twine, magnets, sequin and rhinestones. If you are a crafter, I highly recommend a shoe holder!

I keep my recipes well organized in two cute and inexpensive photo boxes from Hobby Lobby. I have recently added a large three ring binder with dividers for all of the recipes I am printing off of Pinterest! I bought the binder and dividers at Target and keep a three hole punch handy by my printer. My dividers include Beef, Chicken, Pork, Apps/Snacks, Drinks, Desserts, Crockpot and Other. It works great!

This time last year I was going crazy trying to decide how to best store Christmas cards from years past. I decided on a blessing ring approach and it has worked well for 2011 and 2012! See more details here

Hopefully these tips will help you in an area of your home where you want to get organized! For more 2013 resolution posts, click on the button on the left. Happy New Year!