Feb 20

We had a dilemma in our new home. Since I don’t have a china hutch, I needed a place to display my nice pieces. So, a tall Wal-Mart bookcase came in handy. Since we didn’t have room for storing Tupperware or other items that can also become a mess, two short bookcases (one on either side) seemed like a great way to round out that wall and add balance. Then the second dilemma. How do we keep the two smaller sets of shelves organized all the time when my husband’s old way of putting away Tupperware was to throw it in the cabinet and slam the door shut before it fell out?!

Tupperware Cabinet

Custom curtains! I picked up two $2.50 curtain rods from Wal-Mart and attached them to the front of each of the small bookcases. Then I purchased clearance fabric from Jo-Ann’s that matches our curtains, used some Mighty Mendit (a quick and easy to make seams and a rod pocket without a sewing machine), and voila! Now now one has to know what we’re hiding behind those pretty curtains!

Disclaimer: I organized the Tupperware in the photo above. It will never look that good again!

Mar 25

Need some summer fun? I’ve collected a lot of my ideas for fun, free, crafty ideas for kids here. Your kids won’t go bored with all these quick and easy activities.

Crafts for Kids:

Toddler and Preschool Activities

Ideas:

Birthday Parties

Cooking and Fun Food:

Feb 11

daphnerecycledfoodAfter reading some terrific instructions on Like Merchant Ships on how to simplify when cooking for your family, I pretty much posted a blog in the comments.

As much as I wish I did, I don’t love cooking. Being the house cook is tough!

In our family, I have to accommodate a vegetarian (who doesn’t love all veggies equally), a pre-schooler who eats a HUGE breakfast and tiny other meals, and a toddler who has 3-1/2 teeth and must eat a good meal at regular times.

I’m of the oh-crud-it’s-4:50-and-dinner’s-in-10-minutes school of cooking. You could call me a Lazy Mom. I would be a perfect candidate for a meal plan, but I’m more of a grey-area person so schedules only work so well for me. I try to make meal plans, but I haven’t found a system that works for me!

I HAVE to have leftovers to use, or we’d all starve.

Here are some of my biggest kitchen secrets:

  • I make cream-of-whatever soup by the gallon on the weekend. I just chop up whatever veggies need to be used up for the soup (I use the recipe in my 70s BHG cookbook–we tend to mix potato, onion, broccoli, etc), and store it in a washed-out milk container so we always have soup on hand. You can eat it as is (sooo much better than Campbell’s condensed stuff), or use it as gravy, or as a binder in a casserole. It’s nice and versatile! It takes me about an hour to make the batch, from chopping to cooking, to pureeing.
  • I usually have cooked carbs on hand in the form of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (make pasta marinara, or use them for asian-inspired stir fry), and cooked rice. I am currently loving Calrose (white sushi rice). You can eat it hot or cold! I am going to switch to brown rice, though, because the Calrose isn’t as nutritious (darn!) I also like to make a big batch of oven-baked potato cubes (guess they’re home fries?) that can be reheated for breakfasty meals (or breakfast for dinner), or incorporated into breakfast burritos.
  • We eat a lot of mexicanish meals with canned refried beans as a main component. With a can of fat-free refried beans, you can make burritos (they take 5 mins to make), taco salad, or tostadas. I also personally love to heat the beans up, top ‘em with cheese, salsa, and low-fat sour cream, and just eat ‘em as dip with chips for a meal. That doesn’t fly well in our household, usually though! I used to cook a big batch of beans up, puree them and freeze them so I didn’t have to buy canned (more expensive) but there were some complaints about the taste and consistency of the homemade refried beans. I am still thinking about doing that again, and then mixing the homemade with the canned to cut the cost down of the canned beans. (We do get the cans in bulk at Costco – they cost about 87 cents each… still pretty cheap for a meal).
  • We buy eggs by the 5-1/2 dozen and eat breakfast-for-dinner regularly. It’s super quick to make eggs, toast, and reheated veggie sausage. You can also make quick egg sandwiches for a meal-on-the-go.
  • I keep breads in the freezer. We always have loaves of sourdough (for the adults), and whole wheat sandwich bread (for the kiddies’ PB&Js), and we keep whole wheat flour tortillas in the freezer in bulk as well. Bread defrosts super quickly once you take it out of the freezer, and it doesn’t get moldy and wasted if it’s kept in the freezer.
  • I keep frozen veggies and berries in the freezer. Veggies are important, and frozen ones are healthy (they freeze ‘em the same day they pick them, there aren’t any added ingredients). They’re quick to heat up, and versatile. You can use them as they are with a bit of seasoning for your veggie side dish, or add them to other dishes (like the aforementioned asian-inspired stir fry) or soups. Want to turn your cream-of-whatever into a chunky chowder? Heat up some frozen veggies and add ‘em! Quick!

My most important tool:

  • My toaster oven. It’s a mini oven. I rarely use the big oven anymore! The toaster oven cooks small batches of things (cookie dough for instance), and reheats things to crispy perfection. Leftover pizza tastes as good as it did the first time when reheated in a toaster oven. It’s as indispensible to me now as a microwave is. I can’t believe I lived this long without one.

Those are my cooking secrets! The main secret is, I’m really lazy and not apt to plan ahead. By using staple leftovers, I can make a “new” meal every day.

*Image by Daphne for CROQ Zine

Feb 10

vday-candy1

After all the crafting I did for the holidays, I have been strangely un-inspired by Valentine’s day, even though it seems like it should be so inspiring! I have had a couple little projects in mind, but the day has almost come and gone, and no projects yet.

I did alter some Valentine’s day candy to make these cuties! They would be adorable as cupcake toppers! I love the extra pop the candy discs (Neccos) give to the conversation hearts.

To make:

Attach conversation hearts to Neccos with marshmallow creme! Use to adorn cupcakes or cookies!

Hope that sweetens up your day!

Jan 21

Kids love to play Memory, the matching card game. My toddler plays
the official version at Grandma’s house, but we don’t have that game at
home. No problem! We decided to make our own with readymade stickers
and cardstock. Nothing could be simpler!

The stickers that come with many stickers to a sheet, with repeating
images are ideal, like the ones sold in the education/teacher aisle at
your local dollar store. Or, buy two packages of identical stickers.
Any kind of unmarked cardstock will work. The heavier, the better!

Project Materials:

  • Stickers (you must have 2 of each image), $1
  • 1-2 sheets of cardstock or heavy paper, $.50 or less
  • Paper cutter or scissors, on hand

Total cost: $1.50


To Make:

You will need one card per sticker. Determine how many cards you will need.

Cut cards from cardstock. To cut 16 cards from one
sheet of paper, cut paper in half from both directions. Cut resulting
rectangles in half again in both directions. This is easiest if you
have a paper cutter, but you can also do it with scissors.

Stick stickers to cards. Your child can help with
this (my two year-old did a pretty good job! The images weren’t
perfectly lined up on the card, but he didn’t care, and he had a ball
sticking the stickers on the cards).

Note: it is best if stickers are different-looking
enough to not be confusing to little ones. In other words, two
different shots of the same doggie might be a little too similar! We
used these stickers that all have a different baby animal on them!

Play the game!

To Play (ages 3 and up):

  1. Mix cards up.
  2. Lay all cards face-down on table (in a grid pattern).
  3. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of her choosing
    over. If cards match, she takes the cards and has another turn. If
    cards don’t match, move to the next player.
  4. When all cards are matched, the player with the most sets of matching cards wins.

To Play Simplified Version (ages 2 and under):

  1. Limit total number of cards to 8, or four sets (you adjust for your child’s skill and interest level).
  2. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of his choosing
    over. If cards match, she takes them, but does not have another turn.
  3. Next player takes a turn.
  4. When a match is made, everyone cheers.
  5. When all cards are matched, start over again.

The Not-Ready-For-Organized-Games version (younger 2s and under):

  1. Turn 4 sets of cards face up.
  2. Take turns looking at each card and trying to find its partner.
  3. Cheer when child finds a match.

Other tips:

  • You can also use these cards to play other games like Go Fish!
  • If you don’t have stickers that match, how about making your own?
    Print photos of your family (faces are good) on labels and stick onto
    cards. Avery has free label-making software that makes it super easy to print straight to labels! This would also be a fun handmade gift for a birthday boy or girl.
Jan 10

panda-bday

E’s first birthday party was fun! The theme was panda in honor of this stuffed panda E got for Christmas and instantly fell in love with. The dress code was black and white, and party goers received stripey black and white scarves and panda badges to wear.

vic-panda

I wanted to make most of the decorations and try to use what I had on hand, although there was a bit of dollar store component too (the stripey scarves were from the dollar store).

pandas

My sister and I made the panda badges out of felt. We hot glued the features on, and used fabric paint for the white panda eyes.

pandaflags2

I made some black and white birthday pennant-style flags to hang up as decorations. All the fabric for these was already on hand (the gingham was from a reycled shirt, the white fabric was from old curtains). I sewed the pennants onto a candy garland I crocheted for holiday decorations.

pandanose

Since my two boys were the only kids attending the party, we made a simple game appropriate for a 2-1/2 and 1 year old to play: Pin the nose on the panda. I used recycled diaper tabs on the back of the noses to make them stick to the felt. Both boys enjoyed the game, but E played it multiple times. We didn’t bother with blindfolds since the boys are so young!

panda-cakes

I made panda cupcakes (actually not cake – no bake Oreo dessert).

ecake4

And panda rice balls. We also made homemade panda-shaped pizza, but I didn’t get a photo of that.

panda-rice2

There are some more non-crafty photos in the gallery:

Jan 8

I love hoodies with ears. Adding ears to this baby hoodie took about two minutes, including cutting the ears out of felt. (Note: if you want these hoodies to really hold up, use wool felt instead.) Now that I know how easy it is, all the hoodies in the house might suddenly sprout ears!

To make:

Cut 2 ears out of felt. Make them wider than you want them to be when they are finished. Fold over in the center, as shown.

Pin to hood. I pinned them so that the seam on the hoodie would act as a guide for where I would sew on the hoodie.

Sew across the ears, as shown. Use the same color of thread as the ears if you have it. (I actually couldn’t find white thread, so I used the oh-so-cheery red).

Flip the ears up. Put the hoodie on your kiddie. Take pictures because they’re 10% cuter now. Bribe them with candy when they won’t pose for you.

Post about it on your blog even though the candy bribe didn’t work.

Nov 4

Shiver me timbers!! Thar be a sandwich!

You need:

  • Sandwich (2 pieces of bread)
  • Cream Cheese
  • Wheat Thins
  • Pretzel Stick
  • Chocolate Chip

Cut out a skull shape in the bottom right of a piece of bread. I used a small lid to make a circle, and then using a knife, I cut a small rectangle coming off the bottom of the circle.

Spread a Wheat Thin or other flat cracker with cream cheese and stick to the back of the bread, with the cream cheese showing through the front side of the bread. (I had to use 2 wheat thins to cover the area – it made it look like the skull had a jaw – perfect!).

Wrong side of bread shown.

Make whatever sandwich you would like, placing the prepared piece of bread on top of the sandwich.

Cut diagonally. Place chocolate chip eyes on skull. Place pretzel sticks inside skull piece of sandwich, sticking out about half an inch at the bottom.

For the flag: Attach a pretzel stick to a triangular broken piece of cracker with cream cheese. You could also use a cut piece of fruit roll up for a flag.  Stick pretzel inside sandwich, sticking out at the top of the sail.

You might need to prop the sail up even more, depending on your bread. If so, use pretzel sticks to prop it up.

Arrgh! Even Davey Jones would enjoy this sandwich!

More fun food at Little Nummies!

Oct 9
apple spider

apple spider

I actually dreamed all night of making fun food, and in my dream I came up with this idea: the apple spider. This is a quick fun snack if you don’t have a lot of time to make an intricate design.

To make the body: cut across the top of a small apple, about 3/4″ from the top.

To make the legs: cut the remaining part of apple with apple corer, and use the resulting eight pieces for legs.

Eyes and Web: Eyes are craisins and web is yogurt piped through a baggie (make sure your baggie isn’t fluted at the corners like mine and you’ll get a neater line). Highlights on eyes are also yogurt.

To assemble: put the body and three legs on each side. Pipe yogurt web onto plate and place front legs.

Here’s the first version I tried – with eight eyes and some Dracula gummy teeth.

Oct 3

Decorate the inside of a clear glass with a jack o’lantern face, and then enjoy this yummy autumn smoothie! Use sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree for a holiday treat and some extra antioxidants and vitamin A & C!

I used a banana to help sweeten and add good texture, greek yogurt for some richness, and brown sugar for yummy fall flavor. Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice make this smoothie a perfect treat!
10 Minutes to Prepare and Cook

Ingredients

Sweet Potato, baked (or canned), 1 cup (or substitute cooked pumpkin)
Greek Yogurt, Plain, 1/4 cup
Brown Sugar, 2 Tbsp unpacked
Banana, fresh, 1 small
Milk, 1%, 2 cup
Vanilla Extract, .5 tsp
Cinnamon to taste
Ice cubes, 5 or as desired to increase volume

Chocolate chips 1 Tbsp, melted

Directions

Melt chocolate chips for 15 second increments in the microwave, stirring between each increment.

Use a paintbrush (food safe) to paint jack o’lantern or halloween (or fall, or your kid’s name, etc.) on inside of chilled glass. Put glass in freezer while you make the smoothie.

Add food coloring if a stronger orange color is desired.

Add all ingredients (except chocolate chips) and blend until frothy.

Serves about FOUR 8-oz glasses.

  • Servings Per Recipe: 4
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 147.6
  • Total Fat: 1.4 g
  • Total Carbs: 27.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Protein: 6.8 g

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