Thursday, May 31, 2012

Toddler Activities

My daughter is turning 19 months old in a few days, and her attention span ranges from 30 seconds to 30 minutes depending on the activity.  I find that having a list of go to activities helps in many ways.  First, lining up a bunch of things to do lessens the amount of times she is bored, which in turn keeps her from getting into trouble.  Also, keeping her active ensures that she is tired for naps and night-time.  My daughter acquires and practices different skills, and I learn more about her abilities, likes, and dislikes.  Of course, we gain invaluable bonding time and have a ton of fun!

The following list helps with many developmental skills and abilities including; developing imagination, gross and fine motor skills, language, memory, problem solving, and sensory development.

Arts and Crafts
-Non-toxic crayons and paper
-Homemade playdough (recipe to follow) and cookie cutters
-Toddler stamps
-A cup of water, a paintbrush, and colored paper (it introduces your child to using paintbrushes without the mess!)

Quiet Time
-Read a book to your toddler
-Have your toddler read a book to her dolls
-Sing songs
-Finger plays

Time to move!
-Pretend to be different animals together (Dog-walk on all fours and bark, Cat-arch and round your back     saying "meow," Snake-slither on your belly and "ssssss," Bird-walk around the room with your arms extended out to your sides pretending to fly, Frog-squat down and jump up while saying "ribbit," Duck-waddle and quack etc)
-Do the "hokey pokey"
-Dance to your favorite music
-Teach basic yoga poses (mountain-stand really straight with hands at your sides, tree-bend one knee and place the sole of that foot on your inner thigh, or wherever you can on your standing leg, staff-sit with legs straight out in front of you and together, bound angle (I re-named this one "butterfly" for my daughter)-sit with knees bent, and soles of feet touching)

Pretend Play
-Take care of a "baby" doll together (feed, rock, put to sleep, change diaper)
-"Talk on the phone"
-Use pots as drums and teach "loud" and "soft" by banging
-Build a tall tower and knock it down

Outdoor Time
-Plant something together
-Blow bubbles

-Go on a nature walk and talk about things as you see them
-Water play (kiddie pool, buckets, watering can, squeeze toys etc.)

Play-dough recipe
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of salt
1/2 cup of water
1/8 cup of cooking oil
1 Tbls vinegar

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Knead until soft.  If you need to make the dough more pliable, just add more water.  Store in a zip-lock bag.

If you want more details on any of these activities, please do not hesitate to comment, I promise to respond.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Healthy Snacks

So, for those of you who do not already know, I am a self declared health nut.  I love produce, eat whole grains, and choose lean proteins.  People laugh because I can tell you the nutritional content of most foods; I read almost every label.  I have compiled a list of healthy and nutritional snacks that I enjoy.  Most of my snacks include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good source of proteins, and/or healthy fats.  I hope you find something you like!

-Celery with natural peanut butter

-Apples dipped in honey with 28 almonds

-Rice cake topped with natural peanut butter and sliced banana

-Plain 1% yogurt mixed with 1 Tbls honey and fruit of your choice

-Cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, and grape tomatoes with 2 Tbls hummus

-Two graham crackers, cheese stick, and one fruit of your choice

-Whole wheat pita with tomato slices and reduced fat cheese

-Apple with 2 Tbls natural peanut butter and whole grain crackers

-Cereal with skim or 1% milk (nutritious cereals like cheerios, kashi, corn flakes, chex)

-Trail mix (I fill 3/4 of a sandwich zip-lock bag with any combination of the following: 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/8 cup of dark chocolate chips, 1/2 cup whole grain cereal, 1/4 cup of nuts, serving size of pretzels)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ways We Save

Today's post is simple in that I do not have much of an introduction.  This is a list of ways my husband and I work together to save money and stick to our budget:

  • Cut and use coupons for groceries, clothes, and car maintenance
  • Make your own baby food
  • Use free entertainment such as hiking, renting movies from the library, or playing games
  • Bring your lunch to work
  • Make your own coffee in the morning
  • Cook your own dinners/meals
  • In recipes, cut meat and fish with mashed beans
  • Make breakfast for dinner
  • Use cold water to wash clothes
  • Be aware of electricity use by turning off lights and electronic equipment 
  • Buy generic brands 

Feel free to add ways you and your family save!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Salmon Cakes w/ Creamy Sauce

I make this dinner often, since salmon has so many health benefits.  Being on a tight budget, fresh fish is usually too expensive, so I use canned salmon.  They taste delicious, and are actually slightly more nutritious than using fresh fish.  Since you can eat the skin and bones, you get more of the essential fatty acids (omega-3's).

I get very creative with this recipe, and change it often so that my family does not get bored.  I also serve it with  different sides.  Sometimes, we eat them like burgers, using either whole wheat english muffins, or rolls.  Other times I serve it with rice or pasta.  This is versatile, and leaves tons of room to the imagination!

Here is a basic recipe:

One can of salmon ( I like Bumble Bee pink) drained well
1/4 cup of bread crumbs ( I like whole wheat or panko)
one egg
2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 onion finely chopped
1/2 Tbls Dijon mustard
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 tsp old bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
about 2 Tbls of oil for cooking

2 Tbls reduced fat mayo
1 Tbls Dijon mustard
1 Tbls honey
pepper to taste
1/4 cup of chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large saute pan on med heat.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Shape into patties, squeezing out as much moisture as possible with your hands.  I usually get about 5 patties with this recipe.

Place patties in hot pan with about an inch of space between them.  DO NOT TOUCH THEM! Saute for about 4 minutes, flip and let cook an additional 4 minutes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cheap Tricks That Work

So, I took the weekend off from blogging; and came back with a great topic! I made a list of tricks, that is, little strategies I use around the house that help get things done easily and cheaply.

1.  This "trick" was passed down by my husband's grandma, and it is one of my favorites.  If you have ants, put a dryer sheet where you see the little critters.  The ants take the substance and bring it to their nest.  I want to add here that we recently had an ant issue in our bathroom, and this trick worked within two days of the dryer sheet placement.

2.  If you have glass shower doors, keep used dryer sheets near the shower.  When you are done showering, use the sheets to quickly wipe the glass to prevent soap scum.

3.  Add two dry wash clothes to your dryer right before starting a cycle.  Some of the moisture gets absorbed, and it cuts about 20 minutes from the drying time.

4.  Kitchen sponges are notorious for collecting bacteria, and the main cause is leaving them wet.  After using your sponge, put it in the microwave for two minutes.  It quickly dries the sponge, and you prevent the smelly mold and bacteria from forming.  You will not need to replace your sponge as often, and it is also much more sanitary.

5.  Use baking soda to clean your garbage disposal.  Just run cold water from the faucet, and turn on your disposal. Pour about a tablespoon of baking soda down the drain while the water  and disposal are on, and you have a clean, odor free garbage disposal.

7.  Use empty tissue boxes to store plastic grocery bags in your closet.  I also have an empty box in my bathroom to store used dryer sheets  for the shower door (trick #2).

If you have tips and tricks, leave them in a comment!  The more the merrier :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Money Saving Family Friendly Meal List

In order to stay home with my daughter, my husband and I stick to a very tight budget.  I have become very creative with our food menu in order to keep our food costs as low as possible.  I created a list of meals that I keep on the refrigerator: each one is relatively cheap, easy, healthy, and most importantly, yummy!

Here is a list of meals I make on a regular basis:

Salmon cakes (using canned salmon)
Pancakes with fruit salad
Bean burger
Rice and beans
Veggie Pasta
Baked Ziti
Pasta w/spinach and beans
Vegetarian Chili
Turkey burgers cut with beans
"Pizza" (using multigrain Italian bread)
Eggs and Potato

I will be posting the recipes for many of these dishes, however, if there is something you want to make before then, leave a comment and I will give you the reipe :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Burgers

I am dedicating this post to a very good friend of mine.  I made these burgers when my girlfriends came over to visit, and play with the new baby.  Since then, this dear friend has requested this recipe several times, and now, she will always have it :)

1 1b ground chicken
one egg
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1 tbls dijon mustard
1 tbls reduced fat mayo
seasoning (I used montreal chicken)
12 slices or about 1/4 lb thinly sliced virginia ham from the deli counter
6 slices of cheese (swiss, provolone, muenster, and gouda all work well)

Heat outdoor grill.

Combine the egg, breadcrumbs, mustard, mayo, and seasoning and mix well.  Add the ground chicken and combine, but do not over mix.

Divide the mixture into six equal portions.  Divide each portion into two.  Shape each piece into a burger patty.

Fold the ham in half, then in half again.  Place two folded slices on top of half the patties.  Place one slice of cheese on top of the ham.  Cover these with the other chicken patties.

Pinch the sides of the patties together.  Use your fingers, and work around the whole burger until it is completely sealed.

Grill on medium high for about 7 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How I Got My Daughter to Sleep Through the Night

Let me start off this post by telling you that I am a softy when it comes to my daughter.  I was not very good at letting her cry for long periods of time, and hearing her cry always made me cringe.  My baby is 18 months old now, a toddler really, and she has been sleeping through the night for about a year.
Before I share my strategy, I want to tell you that there are, and will always be stages in my daughter's childhood when she reverts.  Life is not predictable, and children go through many changes during their development.  Let me also share a few circumstances when my baby had a hard time sleeping, regardless of strategy; teething, being sick, night terrors, and a change in routine like sleeping out of the house.
I also want to admit that my strategy took consistency, patience, and time; like most child rearing advice, this idea will work as a general rule.

At or about six months old, I started a bedtime routine with my daughter.  I made up the routine, which I will explain later in the post.  No matter the time, or where we were, I did the same exact set of actions in the same order right before putting her to sleep.  Of course, there are times when certain aspects of the routine did not work, like not being in our own home.  However, doing as much of the routine as possible is still important on those nights.

During this time, my little one has changed her bed time, and the items she sleeps with.  We have added things like brushing her teeth and letting her pick her own pajamas.  None of these are of importance.  The significant aspect is having a set of familiar motions.

  The following is the routine I created with my baby:

1.  Go upstairs to her bedroom
2.  Change her diaper, and put on pajamas
3.  Go to my bedroom and get a book from a basket of books in the corner
4.  Sit on rocking chair and read book to my daughter
5.  After finishing the book, close it and put it down
6.  Get up, turn the light off, and then return to rocker
7.  Say the following, "Good night mommy, good night daddy, good night (my dog's name), and good night (my child's name).  Sweet dreams everybody."
8.  Give her a hug and kiss.
9.  Say, "Time to go to your crib."
10.  Put my daughter in her crib
11.  Close her curtains
12.  Say, "I love you.  I will see you in the morning."

A few things.  First, you can use my routine, or create one that is comfortable to you.  The only important features of a bedtime ritual are that the motions are of a calming and soothing nature.  Also, the routine should be simple enough so that you can learn it quickly.  Last, it needs to be taken seriously.  The point of a bedtime ritual is to let your child know it is time to end the day.

At this time, I feel it is necessary to mention that there were nights, especially in the beginning, when I would repeat steps 7-11 more than one time in a night.  At times, my daughter and I would go through these motions, and she would still cry in her crib.  As I mentioned earlier, I was not good at letting her cry through it.  I used to pick her up, bring her back to my room, and go through some of the routine again.  It was my way of letting her know that it was time to go to sleep.

In addition, I will give some examples of calming and soothing activities that can be used as part of a bedtime routine, so that you can create one enjoyable to you and your child:

  • listening to a lullaby together
  • massage
  • stroking hair, back, or forehead
  • humming
  • rocking
  • singing a relaxing song
  • reading a book

Good luck :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


This is one of my favorite easy cleaning tips.  It requires little active time, is super easy, and inexpensive.

1.  Plug the tub drain so that the water can fill up.

2.  Pour about two cups of bleach into the tub.

3.  Fill the rest of the tub with water.

4.  Let the bleach and water soak the tub for a couple of hours.  I usually do about two hours.

5.  Drain the tub.

6.  Rinse well with water.

7.  Any soap scum, grime, or dirt should wipe away easily with a towel.

8.  Rinse well again. 

I use my shower head to rinse the tub.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had some typical six year old girl answers: ballerina, gymnast, and world savior.  I am grown up now, 32 to be exact, and if you ask that same question I will tell you that all I ever really want to be is a good mom.  That is hard to believe, especially today with the open opportunities for women, and wide variety of powerful jobs to pursue.  In fact, most of my friends are after those wonderful positions, and I occasionally get jealous that I do not want that.  What I want is to raise children with my whole heart, cook healthy meals, and believe it or not, keep a nice neat home.  I want to watch my family grow together from young and spirited to older and experienced.  I want to say that we worked hard in the beginning, so that we can sit back and relax later.
These ideas all sound like every ending to a Brady Bunch re-run, and I admit that I do not usually share my dreams with others because I know how it sounds.  It is an awkward generation to say your dreams are the same as those that lived before you.  Although I might sometimes share some aspirations of a woman from years ago, I do not intend to iron my bed-sheets.   I truly enjoy the work I do, and feel fortunate to be able to say that.
Now that you have wasted at least a minute of your life reading my rant, I guess you are wondering what this blog is about, so I will spend the next minute telling you.
Being a homemaker is work, and I am here to share my ideas, creations, thoughts, and inventions.  From quick and easy recipes, to cleaning tips, ways to budget, parenting tips that work for me and how to's.  I will start with one of my favorite weeknight recipes:

The Frittata

8 eggs
2 tbls of milk/cream/half & half/or sour cream
half an onion
veggies of your choice (ex: spinach, peas, brocoli, zucchini)
meat (optional)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of cheese
2 tbls healthy oil (olive, canola etc)

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Chop onion and add to hot pan.  Saute about two minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk or other dairy product, salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Add the veggies and meat if using.  If the veggies are raw, cook until tender.  If they are frozen or leftovers, cook until warm.  Add the egg mixture.  Cover and cook on medium low heat until the bottom of the eggs are set, about ten minutes.

Turn on the broiler to high.

Uncover the pan, and top eggs with cheese.  Place pan in oven for about three minutes, until the top of the eggs are cooked, and the cheese is melted.