Thursday, October 30, 2014

White Chicken Chili

As a mom who loves to cook, but doesn't always have a lot of time, I am always on the hunt for some yummy, creative recipes that my kids will enjoy.
I wanted to share recipes that are not too time-consuming, yet taste great and are kid-approved.

The following recipe always receives great reviews from adults and kids. I have had friends tell me that their children often ask for this soup. Great for fall days and relatively simple. Just add some muffins or garlic toast and you've got a meal.

7 servings
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsps. garlic powder
1 tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cans (14 1/2 ozs. each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ozs.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ozs. each) green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup (8 ozs.) sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink.
2. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings; bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and whipping cream; serve immediately.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Free Resources From Crayola

The Crayola website has a wide array of free activity, coloring and educator resources. Most of the coloring pages have the option to print and color or color online. Some of the categories include: science, social studies, Disney, holidays, seasons, sports and words and letters. My kids really like the online coloring option and I have found some helpful resources to supplement their lessons.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

5 FREE Things To Do In St. Louis

St. Louis is such an awesome city for a family vacation. Fun activities, historical places to see and all kinds of unique attractions make it a top destination for families. While you could easily fill a week with everything there is to do in this heartland city, I have highlighted a few possibilities that are free.

1) St. Louis Zoo- I have always
enjoyed visiting this zoo. It is a large zoo and houses over 19,000 animals. My kids love the penguin and orangutan exhibits. While the zoo admission itself is free, you can pay for additional perks such as the train,stingray petting, carousel, movie and 4D simulator. If you wish to park in the zoo lot, there is a parking fee; however, we have found parking right outside of the zoo gates with success.

2) Grant's Farm- This wonderful family experience has been a St. Louis tradition for many years. The park is named after Ulysses S. Grant and is home to 900 animals. Among the attractions are: a guided tram ride through the Deer Park, animal shows, a visit to the Budweiser Clydesdales, and tour of Grant's Cabin on the grounds. There is a parking fee per vehicle, but admission to the park is free to everyone.

3) The Gateway Arch- what visit to St. Louis would be complete without a stop at the famed Gateway Arch. Visiting the outside grounds of the Arch and going inside to check out the Museum of Westward Expansion are free of charge. Plus, it is located next to the Mississippi River so you can add a stroll along the riverbanks to your excursion. If you would like to take the trip up to the top of the Arch, there is a fee.

4) St. Louis Science Center- my kids really loved out visit to this highly hands-on museum. General admission is free and there is more than enough to occupy with a myriad of exhibits focusing on all kinds of science topics. There is a charge for tickets to the Omnimax theater.

5) Anheuser Busch Brewery Tours- The breweries in St. Louis are a big part of the city's history and seeing the manufacturing and technology utilized to run and make a worldwide brand is actually very interesting. Whether or not you even like beer, it is a well-run tour and one of the better factory tours that I have been on. Plus, being free is an added bonus. It also includes a visit with the Clydesdale horses in site, which is a big draw for the kids.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Brickle Dip

If you are looking for new ways to serve apples, try this super-easy crowd pleaser. This will literally only take 5 minutes to prepare and is a nice alternative to typical fruit dips.  

Makes 2 cups
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package almond brickle chips or English toffee bits

3-4 medium apples, cut into slices or chunks

1. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugars and vanilla.
2. Fold in brickle chips.
3. Serve with apples and refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

FREE Kids' Workshops and Classes

There are quite a few retail stores that offer FREE or very economically-priced workshops for children. These classes foster do-it-yourself skills, promote creativity and teach safety lessons. The workshops are largely aimed at the 5-12 yr. old age group.

Lowes and Home Depot both have free workshops. The kids make fun projects or crafts. I have a few that I've been using for several years: think Thanksgiving turkey napkin holder!
Lowes Build and Grow
Home Depot

There is a small charge for the Michaels craft store Kids Club. The craft opportunities are really cute and do not seem to take a high level of parental expertise.
Michaels Kids Club

The Disney Store also offers kids' events with music, stories and crafts. Check out the store locator and events page to see if anything is coming up.
Disney Store

The Pottery Barn also offers storytimes and
kid-related activiites. Other than the events listed at the top of the page, there are usually book club announcements farther down the page.
Pottery Barn Kids

These events, workshops and activities provide terrific opportunities to spend some time with your child without breaking the bank. My kids look forward to the ones that they attend and they almost always get something to take home with them and a certificate. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Make A Thankful Plate

I saw this idea last year on Pinterest in a baby shower theme and thought it could be worked into a fantastic way to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Buy some $1 ceramic plates at a dollar store. They can really be any color as long as the color you chose for the marker will coordinate. At a craft store, find a Porcelaine 150 pen or other marker that is for writing on ceramics. Have the kids name off things they are thankful for, adding them to the plate as you go along. Once you are done, bake the plate according to the marker directions for the ink to completely set and dry.
Voila, you will have a wonderful reminder and keepsake of a year’s worth of blessings! Once a few years have gone by, there should be a nice little family stockpile of thankful plates to use for Thanksgiving dinner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Super Homemade Sloppy Joes

My family loves homemade sloppy joes. They are pretty simple to make and just simmer for 40 minutes without much preparation. We are so used to having sloppy joes this way that no one likes store-bought cans anymore.

Super Homemade Sloppy Joes
Serves 8-10
2 pounds ground beef
1 2/3 cups canned, crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 tablespoon steak sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Hamburger buns

1. Cook meat in
a skillet until no longer pink; drain.
2. Add the remainder of the ingredients; mix well.
3. Simmer, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Spoon onto hamburger buns. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Progressive Phonics: Helping Your Child To Read

Progressive Phonics is a reading program for beginning readers as well as readers with a bit more experience. The best part is that it's absolutely FREE! From learning the alphabet to advanced phonics, the program also includes worksheet and activity sheets to complement the lessons. I have used this and my kids  really enjoy the cute and silly stories. I actually print them out and paste them into a blank journaling book for them to look at and read.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Awesome Packing Lists for Family Travel

If you are like most moms, taking the actual family trip is fun, but the leg work involved to get ready for the trip: not so much fun! Laundry has to be done, clothes and toiletries packed, toys and activities for the car ride sorted out. It never fails that something will be inevitably left behind, especially if you have young children.

I recently found a wonderful packing list, courtesy of the website. The list heading is for babies and toddlers, but it is really a comprehensive list for the whole family. It is already in PDF format, so it just needs saved to the computer and printed out for the next trip. I guarantee following this list will save A LOT of time in your next packing adventure.

The other two lists are from Smarter Travel and Minitime. They are also terrific resources to make planning and packing for your next trip so much easier. The Minitime list has many subcategories whether you are taking a car trip, airplane, cruise, resort, etc. so it is really helpful.

 Packing Lists

More Packing Lists

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Tips for Better Bathroom Organization

The bathroom drawers and cupboards can definitely become a dumping ground of "stuff". It is easy to think that you'll get back to it another day and clean it out, but usually that day never comes around. Plus, you are in a hurry getting ready in the morning and if things don't have a definite place they all get piled up underneath the sink.
I have found that by instituting a few simple organization tips in the bathroom, the clutter will slowly become minimal.

1) Use an over-the-door show organizer to store make-up, nail polished, etc. If you get the organizer with clear pockets, they are easier to clean and obviously easier to see what is in each compartment. It will also save you time to have everything handy for use and easy to see rather than rooting around in your cramped make-up bag.

2) Plastic silverware container for toothbrushes, dental floss, toothpaste. Instead of organizing your spoons, knifes, and forks, take a $1 dollar store silverware container and put toothbrushes in separate compartments, toothpaste in the larger section and dental floss on the ends. Plus, it is easy to drop it in the dishwasher and clean.

3) Get a tiered cupcake/sandwich stand and use it to have lotions. sprays and perfume on one tier. Use additional tiers for Q-tips, cotton balls and other odds and ends. It looks nice and just takes up a corner of the sink to display.

4) Take a small, three drawer, plastic mini-organizer to get pills and medications in order. One drawer can hold OTC pain relievers, allergy/cold meds. The next drawer could hold digestive aids, vitamins. The last drawer might be used for prescription medication. It is so helpful to have them readily organized rather than rummaging around in a bottomless pit of medicines.

5) We have a bunch of mugs that have accumulated over the years that almost never get used. I have taken a few and re-purposed them for holding my hair accessories. I place the mugs on a cheap tray and leave it under the sink. One mug holds barrettes, one for hair ties, one for my brush/combs, and I prop my curling iron in one. I used to just drop all of my hair stuff in a drawer and it always got tangled up. This way I am not having to do much more work, just dropping them in their mugs.

Hopefully, one of these tips will help lead you to a more organized bathroom!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Orange Creamsicle Fudge

This is a favorite treat for fall and holiday parties. People always think it is a big hunk of cheese and  are pleasantly surprised to find a piece of candy that tastes just like an orange creamsicle. I believe I found this recipe in an old magazine, but it has been so many years that I do not remember. I do not that it is a yummy treat that is always a big hit.

Makes 2 1/2 pounds                                                                     

1 1/2 tsps. plus 3/4 cup butter (no substitutes), divided
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 pkg. (10-12 ozs.) vanilla or white chips
1 jar (7 ozs.) marshmallow creme
3 tsps. orange extract
12 drops yellow food coloring
5 drops red food coloring

1. Grease 13X9X2 inch pan with 1 1/2 tsps. butter
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cream and remaining butter.
3. Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 4 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat; stir in chips and marshmallow creme until smooth.
6. Remove 1 cup and set aside; add orange extract and food colorings to remaining mixture, stir until blended.
7. Pour into prepared pan.
8. Drop the reserved marshmallow mixture by tblsp. over top; cut through mixture with a knife to swirl.
9. Cover and refrigerate until set; cut into squares.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

3 Favorite Books For Parenting Insight

Being a parent is such a rewarding experience, but it is also fraught with worries, doubts and insecurities about whether you are following the right path in your parenting. Like most moms, I've read lots of child rearing books and some are full of practical application while others leave a lot to be desired. I have highlighted three books (series of books) that I have found to not tell me "what to do", but give me some insight into what makes kids tick or people in general for that matter.

The first book is "The Birth Order Book" by Dr. Kevin Leman.  I personally find this subject matter fascinating. It not only gives you an idea of the positives and negatives of each birth order, but it really helps you to see how responses to a similar situation could be different given where someone falls in the family birth line. Not only for applying the information to parenting, but I also found it helpful in regards to  friendships, work relationships and my own reactions. It was interesting to note that the birth order of the parents can affect their parenting style and expectations of children.
The Birth Order Book

"The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman is the next book from which I have gleaned a lot of parenting direction. The book gives advice on how to understand and make practical applications on how your child gives, receives and interprets love. Based on the five love languages: receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and acts of service, there are illustrations of how your own love language and your child's might affect one another.
The Five Love Languages of Children

The third book is actually a series of books Dr. Louise Bates Ames based on studies from The Gesell Institute of Human Development. Even though the books were primarily written from a late 1970s perspective and some scenarios reflect that time, I have found a lot of useful knowledge and peace of mind. Each book focuses on a certain age and tells parents what to expect both good and bad for that age. Backed by data from studying thousands of children, the author sets up the scenario for the normal developmental strides and bumps you will more than likely encounter. I believe that in today's society we are quick to try and classify any little perceived abnormal behavior, but these books really put the "norm" in proper perspective. It is not so much
telling you what to do, but describing what to expect with each age. It also details what happens as the child rides into their half birthdays as well. The following link is a good synopsis for each age and the books are listed at the top.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Teriyaki Chicken Breasts

Teriyaki chicken breasts are a favorite dish in our house. This recipe calls for baking the chicken, but it could easily be grilled after marinading.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vinegar

1. Combine the water and soy sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the garlic powder and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. After simmering, add the sugar, pineapple juice and vinegar to the pan.
4. Continue to simmer, stirring often.
5. Pour half of the sauce over chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
6. Keep the leftover sauce to further marinade as the chicken cooks.
7.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, spooning leftover marinade over the chicken every 15-20 minutes.
8. If you do not wish to bake, grill the chicken until it tests done, brushing with leftover marinade sauce.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Webrangers: Free National Park Service Site For Kids

Webrangers is a fun interactive website, which is actually the National Park Service's online Junior Ranger program for kids of all ages. You will find lots of games and activities plus the opportunity to earn rewards. There are activities concerning nature, history, science, animals, famous people, and the national parks. The skill levels are easy, medium and hard so all ages can find things that are the right level for them. Kids can customize their own online ranger stations as well.
 The best part is that it is FREE to join and play! It truly is a great resource.