Sunday, August 31, 2014

The First Day

I have been trying to write about this topic for weeks now, but every time I think about the words I want to say, I end up in tears and can’t face my thoughts. Well, it is now or never.

Tuesday marks the day for many “firsts” in my life. Not only will I have my first day in a new school, but my 6-year-old Kindergarten son will also. My nerves for him supersede the nerves I have about starting a new teaching position.

The day your baby is ready for their first day of school is a moment parents think about from the day they are born. I remember holding my little boy in the hospital and hearing the words, “Just wait, before you know it, you will be sending him to Kindergarten and then to college.” Wow, it really does go that fast.

As I reflect on the first 6 years of David’s life, I have so many things I want him to know. He really is my little miracle.  When the odds were stacked against me having a baby of my own, this little boy came along and completely changed the way I look at life. Now he is ready to face his next milestone. I couldn’t be more proud of the little man he is growing up to be. There is never a dull moment when David is around and he always has a story to tell or a game to recap. He never ceases to amaze me. His memory and love for numbers is something I am so excited to see grow throughout his education.

But, I, along with all the other new kindergarten parents, will never forget this feeling as we get ready to send our little precious bundles to school. If you are anything like me, you worry 24 hours of the day. (Ok, so maybe I worry more than most, but you get the point.) I worry about him feeling left out on the playground, I worry about him not being able to do something in his lessons and getting discouraged, I worry about him feeling lost and scared, and the list goes on.  While I will always have something to worry about, I have to keep telling myself that he will do great. This is the first step in letting him grow on his own. 

We have all been through this transition in our lives and have managed to get through it. Now that I think about it, the same worries I have for him, are just a different variation of the worries I have about starting a new job. We will all have to face “firsts” sometime. While it is scary and nerve-wracking, the first step is what leads us to the next one. Without taking that first step, we will never know where the road will lead us.

Yes, I wish I could slow time down, but I know I can’t.  I have to live in the moment and embrace every second we have together.  So, Tuesday, as David and I start our “first day of school”, we will take the step together,  hand-in-hand (because he still lets me do that). You have to have the “First Day” in order to make that second and third day easier. 

Love this little prayer...

Reusable Snack Bags

I wanted to create some reusable snack bags for my son and his friends to use during their snack time at school. (The kids can keep these in their lunch box and get them out during snack time.) 

I found a tutorial at the following website:

First, wash all of your fabric. 
Then cut the fabric pieces. The liner is thick, unbleached, 100% cotton. I cut two pieces of the liner and two pieces of the decoative fabric for each bag. They are all about 7" by 6 1/2". The decorative fabric is a little bit larger. 
Then I cut a piece of sewable velcro. Leave about 1/2" on both sides of the velcro. I sewed three lines on each piece of velcro to make sure it was secure. 

Then I turned the liner over so the velcro side was on top of the decorative fabric. 

I sewed the two pieces together (Sew just above the velcro)

Then turn the decoative fabric over like the picture below. Do the same thing to the other liner piece. 

Attach the velcro pieces so the decorative fabric is on top of one another and the liner is on top of one another. (Pictured below)

Pin the liner pieces together and the decorative fabric pieces together. 

Sew the sides of the liner and the bottom of the liner together. Make sure you sew all the way up the side of the liner without sewing the velcro. 

Then sew the sides of the decoative fabric together. For the bottom, sew a couple of inches on both sides, leaving about a 2-3" hole at the bottom. (See picture below)

Pull all of the fabric and liner through the 2" hole at the bottom. 

Open up the velcro to help you push the fabric through the hole and straighten it up. 

The last step is to sew up the hole at the bottom. I just did this with the sewing machine. It would probably look better with a hand stitch, but this was a lot faster. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Zucchini Bread

My mom makes this zucchini bread all the time in the summer while the zucchini is abundant. She shared the recipe with us and we made it last night. It is delicious! 

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
3 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
(1/2 cup chopped nuts can be added if desired) 

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. 

Add the eggs, vanilla, oil, and zucchini

Stir until combined. 

Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. 

Place on a wire rack to cool. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School Activity Wall

With just over a week left of summer vacation, we decided to create a Back to School Activity Wall. Intead of using the tree I created from paper, I found a large bulletin board tree at Joann Fabrics. It worked great, and I will be able to use it for different seasons as well. (I will use the different colored leaves and acorns for the activity pieces in the future.)  
For the back to school wall, I used apples as the activity pieces.  I found these at Joann Fabrics as well. I wrote the crafts on the apples and added them to the tree. Each day the kids will pick a different apple and that will be the activity for the day. 
Our apples say: 
*Spaghetti Sensory play
*All about me rainbow
*Make a marshmallow bridge
*Make snack bags for school
*Back to school scavenger hunt
*Back to school photo booth
*Compass painting
*Make bouncy balls
*Camp-out in the living room for drive-in movie

Spaghetti Sensory Play

The kids had a blast with the first activity on our Back to School wall ( . I cooked up a box of spaghetti and divided it up for the three trays. Each kid got a pair of scissors, a paint brush, and a plate containing their choice of paints. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kindergarten Treats

After talking with a few of the "Kindergarten moms", we found a lot of our kids were still pretty nervous about the big day. So, we decided to meet up at the school playground for a picnic. Hopefully seeing some familiar faces on the first day will help them. 

This was our contribution to the picnic. 

Apple cupcakes: I dipped the frosted cupcakes in red decorating sugar. Then we stuck in a pretzel stick for the stem, added some green frosting for the leaf, and finished it off with a gummy worm. 

We made up some treat bags for kids too. The first item was actually a pretend treat. I wrapped a pink eraser in wax paper to resemble a piece of taffy. 

The ruler says, "Kindergarten Rules!". The bag of Smartie candy says, "Hey there, Smartie! Good luck in Kindergarten!" The bag of goldfish says, "You're O-Fish-ally a Kindergartner!" The Pop Rocks say, "This year is going to ROCK!" 

Elephant Ears

After going to the fair yesterday, I really got a craving for elephant ears. Because I didn't want to spend $6 for one elephant ear, I decided to make my own.  (This recipe came from Allrecipe's magazine.) They turned out really well and were much cheaper than the fair elephant ears! 

3/4 cups milk
3 Tablespoons Crisco shortening
1/4 cup sugar (divided) 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons yeast
2 cups flour
oil for frying
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Combine the milk, shortening, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat until the shortening is melted and the sugar is dissolved. 

Let it cool until it is luke warm.

Stir in the yeast and let it sit for a couple of minutes, or until it becomes foamy.
Stir in 2 cups of flour. I used my mixer to knead the dough until it became smooth, but you could do it by hand if you don't have a mixer. 

Put the dough in a bowl that has been greased with oil. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about 30 minutes in a warm place. 

After the dough is doubled, break it into 12-15 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a circle . (about 1/8 inch thin)

Heat your oil in a deep saucepan. Drop one of the sheets of dough into the hot oil and let it cook for about 15-20 seconds on each side. (It will bubble up, but don't break the bubbles.) As soon as it bubbles and starts to get brown, turn it over and repeat on the other side. 

Combine the remaining sugar (3 Tablespoons) and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle the cooked dough with the cinnamon/sugar mixture as soon as it comes out of the oil. 

Serve warm. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kids' Homemade Soap

A friend shared this idea with me yesterday on Facebook ( I tracked down all the supplies at Hobby Lobby today for under $15. (And there is stuff left to make more than twice as many bars of soap. (Under $1.50 per bar of soap)

I bought a block of clear glycerin soap. (I used the 40% off coupon that can be found online for Hobby Lobby)
I found a soap mold for just over $2. I decided to use an oval mold. They had many others to choose from. 
Then I picked up some little animal figures. I was going to use my daughter's little Frozen princesses, but she didn't want to give them up for the soap. You could use anything that fits inside the mold to decorate the soap. 
The final ingredient was a few drops of DoTerra Essential oils for the scent. (We used lemon, lavender, and orange--in separate batches.)

I placed some of the glycerin blocks in a microwave-safe bowl. I heated it for 40 seconds, then stirred it. I put it in for 10 second intervals until it was fully melted, stirring after every 10 seconds.
After melted, drop 6 drops of oils for every two bars of soap. Stir in the oils. 

Then pour the melted glycerin over the animals you place in the mold. 

Just make sure the animals are completely covered with the glycerin. (Place them upside down so they are face up when the soap comes out of the mold.)

Let the soap sit for about 40 minutes. I ran a butter knife around the edge of the mold and it popped right out. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Firework Cupcakes

The Michigan Library Summer Reading Program theme this summer was "Spark a Reaction". Our library decided to use this theme and incorporate fireworks into all of the decorations. For the end-of-the-program party, we decided to make these firework cupcakes for all of the kids.

To start, I melted colored chocolate discs in the microwave. I filled one of my frosting decorating tools with the melted chocolate and topped it with a large line tip. 

I covered a cookie sheet with wax paper. Then I placed lollipop sticks on the wax paper. (I bought these at a bulk food store that sells candy molds.) 
I made a circle at the top of the lollipop mold with the chocolate. Then I drew lines coming out of the center. I covered most of the stick with the chocolate as well.  Then, I put sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Make sure you put the sprinkles on immediately after making each individual firework because the chocolate sets fast. 
I placed the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes. When they were fully set, I moved them to a piece of wax paper on my countertop and repeated the process on the cookie sheet with other colors. 

I frosted cupcakes and placed sprinkles on them. Then I stuck in the firework stick to give it a 3D look. 


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Toy Story Birthday Cake

Rachel wanted a Toy Story party for her 3rd birthday. So, I did my best to create a cake that resembled her favorite character, Jessie. 

I started by making two 9-in round cakes. After they were cool I leveled them off and placed one on top of the other. Then I baked two 8-in round cakes. After those were cool, I leveled both of them with a serrated knife and placed those two on top of the 9-inch cakes. 

I covered the cakes with a thin layer of white frosting. Then I added red frosting to the top of the cake. (If I had to do this again, I would have done the red last. It was difficult to keep the red from mixing with the yellow.)

Then I added yellow and white frosting to resemble Jessie's shirt. The bottom 9-inch cakes are frosted with blue frosting. I piped on brown frosting to resemble her belt. I also added white lines to the top to resemble Jessie's hat. 

I added some decorative lines to the shirt component using red frosting. 
I used cow print felt pieces to cover the cake board. Then I added Rachel's Toy Story figures. 

The last steps were to braid licorice rope pieces and place them around the bottom of the cake and write the message on the top. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Crock Pot Quinoa Hash

I have been trying to find some healthier crock pot casserole recipes. I stumbled upon this recipe while I was searching for recipes that use quinoa:

I altered the recipe to fit what I had in my cupboard. 

1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well with warm water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can corn, drained
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 chipotle pepper (comes in a can--chipotle peppers in adobe sauce), diced 
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1 lb hamburger
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
3 cups chicken broth (water could be substituted)
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
mozzarella cheese (optional) 

Add the quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, corn, green pepper, chipotle pepper, chili powder, cumin, and chicken broth to the crock pot. 

Meanwhile, brown your hamburger with the onion and garlic. Add the browned hamburger to the crock pot. 

Stir and let cook on high for 4-5 hours. 

The water will be absorbed when it is done. Add the 2 Tablespoons of taco seasoning and 1 Tablespoon of lime juice. 
The hash can be eaten as is. We also ate it with mozzarella cheese on top. 

To add another texture, I tried some on a tortilla and rolled it like a burrito. We also ate leftovers with Tostitos Scoops.