Archive for November, 2009

11/29/09
Amy
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(Money Saving Tips) Re-purposing Produce


produce

Many fruits and vegetables lose their fresh appeal after sitting on the counter for several days. Then they enter that awkward, slightly-over-ripe stage. If you are like me, you find yourself ignoring its presence until it reaches a point when you can justify throwing it away.

Look for ways to re-purpose the produce during that in-between stage. While it may no longer be optimal for eating fresh, it may be at a prime time to be made into another yummy treat.

Fruits can be used in smoothies, cobblers, muffins, breads, or in a simple fruit salad. Many fruits can even be frozen with a minimal amount of effort. Strawberries, blueberries (and other berries), peaches, mangos, and even bananas (for later use in baked goods) freeze really well.

Vegetables also have many ways that they can be re-purposed. They can be cooked and eaten as a side dish, added to a stir-fry or soup, used as green salad toppings, or frozen. Fresh green beans, broccoli, onions, and peppers are examples of some vegetables that freeze well for later use and cooking.

So the next time you recognize that the produce on your counters is teetering on over-ripeness, capitalize on the qualities that they still have to offer. It will save you money and maybe even provide you with fresh flavors that you wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.

11/27/09
Amy
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(Family Activities) Alphabet Game


Car games are a great way to pass the miles, but they also provide an opportunity for fun family interactions and lasting memories. What was your favorite road trip activity as a child?

The Alphabet Game is a fun and classic road trip game. To play, each player silently works through the alphabet (in order) by finding each letter outside somewhere (possibly on a sign, store front, or license plate). The player to finish first, wins!

Variation #1: For younger children, you can work through the alphabet together and out loud. This is a great activity for practicing letter recognition!

Variation #2: Work your way through the alphabet by finding an object that starts with each letter.

11/25/09
Amy
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Happy Thanksgiving


This is a great glimpse into history and an awesome call to thankfulness. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
Washington, DC—October 3, 1863

By Abraham Lincoln

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

“In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”

Done at the city of Washington, this 3rd day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


Amy

(Living Love) Towel Hand-off


towelLiving love is all about finding little opportunities in your day to serve your spouse. Small gestures aren’t always so small to the recipient.

The next time your spouse is taking a shower, meet them stepping out of the shower with their towel. It is a small act of service, but is a physical way of showing them that you love living the every day with them.

11/24/09
Amy

(Cooking) Cooking Potatoes


Mashed Potatoes are a holiday staple. Who can imagine a Thanksgiving table without a bowl overflowing with the fluffy goodness??

Making mashed potatoes, though, is an involved and messy process. Scrubbing, peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing….and then all of the dirty dishes that follow! By adopting a slightly different cooking technique, you can efficiently remove the messiest and most time consuming steps.

Bake your potatoes (either in the microwave or oven) instead of chopping and boiling. After they have cooled slightly, scoop out the potato flesh with a spoon or gently pull back the peel with a knife. Mash the potatoes like normal, just add slightly more milk (This is because the potatoes do not absorb water during the baking process like they do when boiled). You will actually find the potatoes to be smoother and creamier than when made through boiling!

*Note – Making mashed potatoes this way also affords you some extra flexibility in timing! While you normally have to mash the potatoes immediately after boiling, it is much easier to keep baked potatoes warm until you are ready to mash and serve them.

11/21/09
Amy
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(Just for Mom) The Mommy Survival Kit


My husband jokes that our minivan is my over-sized purse. In all honestly, that’s not too far from the truth. Between the french fries under the seats and the stash of toys that constantly take over the space, we could probably effectively live out of the van for a week. Okay, well maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I have intentionally set up the van to be our home-base away from home. Life happens, especially with kids around, and I want to be prepared.

Enter the “Mommy Survival Kit”. Purchase a soft-sided cooler and filled it with all sorts of items necessary for survival away from home. Most of the items are not things that you will need all the time, but when you do need them, there is no replacement. You can purchase most of your kit contents from the travel-sized product section of Target or Wal-Mart or the dollar store.

mommysurvivalkit

Here are a few ideas for items that you could add to your kit:

Scissors, tape, first aid kit, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, nail clippers, umbrella, makeup, calculator, pens, pad of paper, gum/mints, brush, comb, deodorant, mirror, travel toothbrush, sewing kit, tissues, Q-tips, sunscreen, hairspray, lotion, chapstick, stain remover pens, small tools, tape measure, granola bars or other packaged snacks, ziploc bags (various sizes), trash bags, travel games or other small toys, hair clips, etc.

Whether it is bandaging a wound, wrapping a present, touching up your makeup, or applying an emergency coat of deodorant, your Mommy Survival Kit will become your trusty side-kick when you are away from home.

*Tip – They also make great gifts!

11/19/09
Amy
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Bookworms


I love to see my kids reading books.

bookworm

bookworms

I can’t quite decide if the reason why my kids are in their pajamas in both of these pictures is an indication that they do a lot of their reading early in the morning and before bed or if they actually wear their pajamas more often than not.

Hmmm…maybe I already know the answer to that question.


Amy
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(Home Management) Date Labels


Don’t you hate the Expiration Date Debate? You know, the one where you stand in front of the fridge and look at the deli meat or leftover chili, knowing it is on the brink of not being fresh, but you are unable to make a commitment one way or the other. So you choose to eat something else and repeat the same debate the next day. This continues until you are absolutely sure that the food is past its prime or it has become a science experiment in the making and you can confidently throw it away.

labelsRemove the guesswork from your leftovers in one simple step. Purchase a package of small white labels, kind of like the ones you would use at a garage sale. When you first open an item or put away the food from dinner, predetermine the expiration date that you are comfortable with, write it on the sticker and stick it on the package or container. Then when you open your refrigerator, you will immediately know what is edible, what needs to be eaten today or never, and what is destined for the trash.

11/18/09
Amy
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(Organization) Car Organization #1


cartoysMost of us spend quite a bit of time in our cars. And inevitably, time spent there often ends up being much longer than anticipated. We hit traffic, errands take longer than planned, or you find yourself waiting for somebody. Whatever the circumstances, it is miserable for everybody when the kids are bored and tired of being in the car.

Be prepared for those unexpected travel time extensions by keeping a small to moderately sized basket of toys in your car or van. You can include coloring books, travel games, small toys, and hand-held activities. The basket gives the toys a contained home when they are not being used and the toys will hold added interest because they are outside of the kids’ normal toy rotation. That thoughtful selection of toys will be your saving grace when your trip takes an unexpected turn.

*Tip#1 – If you have a smaller car or more passengers, making space an issue, keep your small basket of toys in the trunk. Usually when there are long delays, you usually have an opportunity to get out of the car to access the trunk. This keeps the toys handy but out from underfoot. Another solution is to purchase a bag that attaches to the back of a car seat, leaving you with the needed foot room.

*Tip #2 – There are frequently places we go that do not have ready entertainment for kids. Instead of packing a bag of toys every time or when you come to one of these situations unexpectedly, the toy basket is mobile and ever-ready to entertain!


Amy

(Parenting) Counting to 3


We have all witnessed or experienced first hand the classic parental warning of counting to three. While I have sometimes seen it to be effective, I have more frequently seen the child try to push their limits as far as possible (i.e. waiting until “3” to do what has been requested) or the parents displaying increasing emotion as the count goes up. The rapid “1, 2, 3″ warning gives the child only enough time to feel either panic or rebellion, but not enough time to truly reconsider their actions. Ultimately, these behaviors usually do not produce the desired or effective response and the cycle continues.

Adding a simple twist to your count can introduce clearer communication and a calmer, more effective response.

If your child is not responding to something you have asked of them, simply state, “That’s a one.” Give them a moment to respond. If they still do not respond appropriately, give them a second warning with a calm, “That’s a two.” Give them a moment to respond. If they still do not respond appropriately, calmly state, “That’s a three”, immediately followed by the parental action you judge to be fitting in correcting the behavior.

This approach keeps the spirit of the interaction calm, yet clearly defined. The clear plan keeps the parent’s emotions low and the effectiveness up. For the child, it gives them defined and predictable guidelines as well as a brief opportunity to reflect on their action and change course.

*Tip – Give you and your child an adjustment period as the new count and expectations are established. Changes can take a little bit of time before becoming truly effective. Before long, you will find your child changing their behavior at the count of 2, and often even at the count of 1.