Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Be back soon!

Our life has been a little crazy for the past few days! I really miss blogging and will be back to it as soon as I have a moment to sit and relax! Thanks for reading, hope to be back to writing soon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thinking of you Thursday: keeping connected across the miles

Military families "do"distance. They do deployments, and 24 hour duties, and days away in the field. But often people forget the distance military families "do" away from their families, friends, and loved ones "back home". This distance is hard. I myself am incredibly fortunate enough to come from a very close knit family and group of friends. But being so close, made it so much harder to say goodbye. Now we are separated by 1,633 miles and we are all working on showing and sharing our love from afar!

If you, like me, have a school/pre-school aged child, then you are probably inundated with drawings and stories and more creations than your file box can hold. So, I decided to create a little system to share E's creations with those we love "back home." What says " I'm thinking of you and we love you, better than a child's artwork?

As with any at-home project, I gathered a few supplies. I used things I already had at home; a couple of sentence strips, some colored duct tape, and a sharpie. I wanted this system to be simple. I decided I'd make pockets from the sentence strips, one to hold names of family and friends who had not yet received art and one pocket for those who had received something from us. This way we are evenly "spreading the love" and no one would feel left out.

I began by writing the names of our family and friends on little strips of paper I had cut from the larger sentence strip.

I then decided to reinforce the sentence strips by covering them in strips of colored duct tape. I felt this step was essential since I was planning on hanging these pockets on my fridge and could be exposed to water or sticky mess. I used the same process to cover the second half of the sentence strip, except I opted to cover the second strip in black so I could distinguish between the two pockets.

After finishing the pockets, I decided to embellish them with a few drawings. I decided to write "sending all our love to you" on the pocket of soon to be recipients and " you've got mail" on the pocket of those who have already received some love via the mail. I was pretty pleased with the results!!!

This system is going to make the miles that separate us more manageable. We miss our loved ones and think of them every day but this way they can hold a piece of our hearts a little more often. Even if you don't have family far away, this would make an excellent system to use to share those extra creations with family and friends close by!! 

I hope your Thursday was amazing and this post finds you well. Don't forget to share with someone special that they were on your mind today!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's cookin' Wednesday: Pretzel Bread!

I love soft pretzels! There's something magical about the warm chewy dough encased in crunchy rock salt. It warms your soul and pleases the tummy. After spending a small fortune  at the mall enjoying a soft, salted pretzel with my friend, I decided that there had to be a way to enjoy them from home for a fraction of the price! As always, Pinterest pulled through with a delicious recipe that is now on our family's "hit list."

A batch of warm delicious pretzel bread fresh from the oven!

This recipe begins by warming 1 cup of milk with 2 tablespoons of butter  in a sauce pot on the stove. After the milk is warm ( not hot, hot liquids kill yeast) add in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt,and one packet of rapid-rise yeast. Then you simply add in enough all-purpose flour to form a tacky dough (approximately 2-3 cups). After covering the dough and allowing it to rise for an hour, prepare a boiling water bath of 3/4 cup baking soda dissolved in 3 quarts of water. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, in the mean time form your dough into your desired shape (traditional pretzel, pretzel buns, or pretzel bites). Place your dough in boiling solution for one minute on each side. Place dough on a greased baking sheet, brush tops with an egg wash , and top with coarse salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Check out the original recipe at http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/228889/pretzel-bread .

This pretzel bread is soooo delicious! I always make a couple extra rolls so we can enjoy them hot from the oven with some butter. Yum!

This bread makes delicious hamburger buns. In fact, I haven't bought prepackaged hamburger buns since discovering this delectable treat. Pictured above is a yummy "inside out burger" stuffed with sliced bacon and cheddar cheese. These burgers are extra delicious because I use a flavorful seasoning blend that I found online at http://www.topsecretrecipes.com/fuddruckers-hamburger-seasoning-recipe.html . This seasoning truly takes your burgers to the next level, check it out and give it a try!

Who needs to go to Sonic for a pretzel dog, when you have this little gem on hand? Pictured above are some delicious pretzel dog bites that I made for dinner last night! They were especially amazing  with some homemade honey mustard sauce for dipping. These would make great little appetizers or  something easy to take for a potluck dinner. Also these freeze well and are great to have on hand for lazy days or a quick pick for school lunches!

I hope you enjoy this pretzel bread as much as we do. It's super versatile and definitely delicious! Hope your Wednesday was wonderful! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teacher Tips Tuesday

The joy of teaching runs through my veins. I absolutely loved teaching and miss it dearly. So in an attempt to let my creative teacher juices flow once more I decided that today would be a good day to share some teacher tips!!!

Teaching little ones letter sounds?
E was not a fan of sitting down to learn his letter names and sounds, and to be honest I can't think of many kids his age who enjoy sitting to learn much of anything. So when it came time to teach letter names and sounds, I had to get a little creative. Below are some ideas that helped us:
  • Play a game of I Spy! Go for a walk in your neighborhood or local park and start the game by saying, " I Spy something (an object) that starts with the __ sound." Then allow the child to make guesses, using what they already know. You can change up the game based upon your child's individual needs by "spying" things that start with a letter name or letter blend instead. After your child successfully guesses what you spied, let them have an opportunity to spy something as well.
  • Write on the wall!!! Don't worry, after this activity you won't be frantic trying to remove crayon from your walls! Grab a flashlight and each night before bed turn off the lights and enjoy this letter game! Take turns using the flashlight beam to draw letters on the wall! Allow your child to guess what letter you've drawn on the wall and when they need a hint, provide them with the letter sound or a word that begins with that letter. This game will be so much fun they won't even know they're learning before they "hit the hay."
  • Trace letters in the sand, salt, or shaving cream! Children benefit from instruction that appeals to the senses, and what child doesn't love playing in the sand! Call out a letter sound and ask your child to trace the letter that makes that sound in the sensory medium of your choice. Reward your child after a few correct letter drawings by allowing them a minute or two of free play in the sand/ medium before getting back to work !
Little ones learn best when appropriate use of language is modeled for them. Remember to take time to read to your little one daily so they acquire print concepts and learn to love text. Also remember that reading, writing, listening, and speaking are all connected processes. Engage in meaningful conversation, let them experiment with writing and different implements, allow them to sit and listen to stories, ask them what they remember from the story, and most importantly, when teaching your little one, remember to have fun! If we instill a love of learning we are setting them up for a lifetime of success!!!

Happy learning friends! Hope your Tuesday was spectacular!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Makin' Memories on Monday

Lately I've been feeling a little stuck in our every day routine. Don't get me wrong, I am a major control freak and the monotony of our daily routine is usually comforting. But lately I've wanted to slow down, take in the crisp fall air, and spend time reconnecting with my two favorite guys. So today, we decided to do just that. We packed up the fishing gear, some fun little "what-nots" for E, a picnic lunch, and headed to a local park for some quality time together!

We decided to enjoy our picnic lunch by the lake, a special spot we'd all been to once before. When picnicking I've found it helpful to keep a few essentials packed in the cooler, ready to go. In my cooler bag I always have a plastic grocery bag,to act as a picnic trash bag, a plastic tablecloth, the disposable kind from the dollar store work well, plastic plates, utensils, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. By having these items already packed and ready to go all I have to worry about is making the food for our adventure. Having these picnic essentials on hand are guaranteed to make your picnic go smoothly. 

After enjoying our lunch by the lake, G.I. Joe decided it was time  to find the perfect fishing spot while E and I decided to explore nature around us.

E really enjoyed collecting rocks, leaves, and twigs and putting them into a sandwich baggy I brought along. The key to an enjoyable day at the park is to have plenty of activities to please the smallest of your picnic guests. I brought along a book about spiders, several sandwich bags, some bubbles, and sidewalk chalk. I knew we'd all be able to enjoy the day if E was well occupied outdoors!

E really enjoyed interacting with his surroundings. It was refreshing to watch him marvel at the simple things in life.Spending time like this gave me the opportunity to reconnect and teach my boy, in the moment. We talked about the changing leaves, and why trees shed their leaves in the fall. We spied a ladybug and discussed how they're thought to be good luck. We had close encounters with a squirrel and a goose and talked about why we shouldn't touch them and why they might be so interested in us. It was beautiful.

Just before we decided to pack up and head home E decided that he was ready to be like dad, and the two bonded over the opportunity to catch "the big one."  It was precious to see G.I. Joe slow down and take the time to teach E about something that he loves.

 Making memories doesn't have to cost a thing. It's about spending time reconnecting and focusing on what's most important to you. When it's all said and done, this is how I want our son to remember us, breaking out of the norm to make memories on a Monday! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Sweet Day

We love sweets in our house! G.I. Joe has the biggest sweet tooth of us all! He won't admit it, but once I caught him eating white sugar, out of the bag with a spoon! If that's not a love for all things sweet and sugary, I don't know what is! I often make pans of brownies or other sweet treats and usually by the end of the day G.I. Joe has, waged and won the brownie battle, if you catch my drift. So when I came across mug cake recipes on Pinterest I was intrigued! These recipes yield single serving cakes, in a variety of flavors, that are ready in minutes right from your microwave. I was excited to give them a shot so we could all enjoy a sweet treat without overdoing it!

I selected a classic yellow cake recipe from http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/tips-recipes-microwave-mug-cakes and planned to top it with some ready made chocolate frosting I had in the fridge, one of my favorite combinations.

First, I assembled my ingredients. I planned to make 3 mug cakes, so I doubled the recipe. A doubled recipe requires 4 tablespoons of milk, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 12 tablespoons of flour, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.

In a mixing bowl I melted the butter in the microwave, then added in the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt and stirred until all ingredients were blended together.

After  mixing together the wet ingredients I added in 12 tablespoons of flour, and stirred until a smooth batter formed.

I then divided the batter evenly amongst 3 mugs that I had previously sprayed with cooking spray.

I then microwaved each mug individually for a minute and a half until the cakes had risen and were firm to the touch.

We allowed each cake to cool and then topped them off with some pre-made frosting and sprinkles.

Final verdict? We enjoyed the flavor of the mug cake, especially topped with the leftover frosting. The consistency was springy and more the texture of a sponge cake than a traditional yellow cake. It was easy to whip up and took very little time or effort. I'm looking forward to trying different mug cake varieties, or mug recipes in general, in the future.

If you, like me, are eager to test out what other types of foods can be created in a mug, check out these 18 recipes at http://www.buzzfeed.com/arielknutson/delicious-snacks-in-a-mug !

Happy Sunday friends! I hope today is a sweet start to the rest of your week!!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sick on Saturday: Home Remedies that Help

It's that time of year again! As the weather gets cooler ( or here in Colorado, downright cold) we all cross our fingers that our families will be safe from the common cold. I wish crossed fingers had kept us safe, but here it is, a SATURDAY, and we are all battling round two of "the kindergarten crud!" Well friends, it's time to wage war on the common cold! Grab your tissues and cough drops and be prepared for the 5 best home remedies for treating the common cold!
E, the source of our germs, smiling proudly since he's feeling a bit better!
1)Drink plenty of fluids.
If you've ever been sick I'm sure you've had at least one person tell you along your path to recovery to "make sure you're drinking lots of fluids." I'm sure in the moment, if you're anything like me, you may have found that statement slightly annoying. But according to Dr. Roxanne Sukol, guest author at youbeauty.com and Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Enterprise, water is a key step in the road to recovery! She explains that water is the essential "fuel" to every body system, including the immune system. If your losing water by sweating from a fever or even losing water straight from your mouth due to coughing and sneezing then it stands to reason that you should be "topping off your tank," so to speak. Dr. Sukol recommends to stay well hydrated when you're sick. Don't wait until you're thirsty to top off the tank!

2)Gargle with warm salt water.
My grandmother, whom we lovingly refer to as "Troubles", and whom my father lovingly referred to as "Granny Clampett," swears by this remedy. Anything from a mouth ulcer to a itchy sore throat she always suggested gargling with salt water. I detested gargling but in the instances that I would cave and gargle the salty solution I found almost instant relief! So why does it work? According to one journal article, gargling helps flush out the area of the throat, the salt draws out moisture in bacteria and your own swollen tissue to reduce inflammation, destroys and prevents the regrowth of bacteria, and keeps you healthier overall during cold and flu season. The lesson in this... Never question the wisdom of your granny!
** A persistent sore throat can lead to more serious medical conditions! If your sore throat persists, 
worsens over time, or seems to be from more than just a cold, consult a doctor right away.**

3)Enjoy a mixture of honey and lemon.
One of my many memories of childhood was drinking a warm mixture of honey and lemon when I didn't feel well. Turns out that mama really did know best! When suffering with an annoying cough or painful sore throat add 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of hot water. The honey acts as a cough suppressant while the lemon helps break down mucus and the hot water relaxes sore muscles. This is a simple, effective, and tasty remedy!
** This remedy is not suitable for children under the age of 1, nor is any remedy containing honey.**

4)Plug in the good 'ol humidifier.
Oh the humidifier,  Again, mama is always right! Turns out that cold viruses thrive in dry conditions. Dry air also dries out membranes that can cause a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. Adding a humidifier to your home can help keep colds at bay and help ease those annoying symptoms. Make sure to change the water daily to recent the growth of mold and bacteria!

5)Chicken soup IS good for the soul.
That warm bowl of soup you crave when you're sick might actually be doing you some good. It seems that the warm soup of your choice might help reduce inflammation and temporarily slow the movement of mucus. Check out my boards on Pinterest for some really delicious soup recipes!

Remember, there is no cure for the common cold and these remedies are meant to ease the unpleasant symptoms. Don't hesitate to visit your doctor if symptoms persist! Check out these remedies and more at  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-remedies/ID00036 

Hope you have a spectacular Saturday!