Category Archive: Kids

Chia-meatballs? Yes!

Jeannie –

A couple of days ago, D accidentally bought ground chicken breast (instead of ground turkey) and i don’t like it. This has happened before so I’ve already tried all sorts of ways to cook it and it always came out dry or rubbery or something unpalatable (to me). Interestingly, the kids have liked it every time (go figure). But the kids are at my mom’s this week while i catch up on work.

I looked for another recipe – though I briefly considered freezing it, hoping I’d come up with something someday… I knew that would basically mean I’d never do anything with it and I can’t afford to lose the freezer space since it’s half-full of ice packs for my leg.

Then i saw a recipe on epicurious.comLinguine al Limone with Grilled Chia-Chicken Meatballs – that not only listed ground chicken, but chia seeds and rolled oats, along with the other basic things i’d normally put into a meatball like onions, parsley, garlic, parmesan cheese (which D always puts into meatballs). wow! amazing! (though, i wouldn’t mind replacing the parm cheese with something else. any ideas?)

Turns out that epicurious reprinted the recipe from The Chia Cookbook – i might have to check it out!

:lizard

btw, here’s what they looked like – i don’t know if i’ll ever learn how to make round meatballs!

chia chicken meatballs

 

Beach Bunny

Our co-blogging families had a fabulous trip to the beach! Sun, fun, books, games, and for me, knitting. I love this yarn… So a square became a bunny! (And a beautiful memory – I hope G likes it!)

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Upcycled Valentine’s Crafts: Mailboxes and Crayons

My daughter has a February birthday, but despite my hints she was always uninterested in having a Valentine-themed party. (I admit, I was motivated less by a love for V-Day than laziness: so easy to find appropriate party accessories!) Apparently age 7 was the sweet spot, though, because this year she finally asked for a hearts-and-love bash. Yes!

I like to keep parties simple–snacks, a craft activity, cake, done. For the craft, my first thought was to decorate crowns (Queens of Hearts!), but R had her own idea: She wanted everyone to make Valentine mailboxes, and then they would make valentines for each other, and hide the mailboxes, and…something complicated.

Decorating mailboxes, though, I could make that happen. I could have bought a kit of precut mailboxes online, but then I looked at my recycling bin and realized I had the raw materials on hand: milk cartons. I have a toddler with a big appetite, so it only took about two weeks to accumulate 10 half-gallon milk cartons–creative reuse FTW!

Valentine's mailboxes

There are lots of tutorials and Pinterest images for milk carton mailboxes, but in the end I decided to make my own life as easy as possible. I cut off the tops of the cartons, thoroughly washed and air-dried them, then covered them with plain white construction paper (stuck on with regular clear tape) and added a washi tape border around the edge just to fancy them up a bit. No lids or fancy shapes, and the paper-and-tape part was something I could do mindlessly while sitting in front of the TV one night. At the party, I let the kids have at it with crayons and stickers. They were so absorbed in decorating the mailboxes that I totally forgot about the valentine-making component of the activity, but no one seemed to mind.

For the goody bags, we made heart-shaped crayons, using up all the sad broken loose crayons rattling around R’s bedroom. I peeled the paper off the crayons, broke them into smaller chunks, and grouped by color family to satisfy my own OCD needs, and R filled the molds (we used a silicone heart-shaped cake/candy pan I bought especially for this purpose–the crayons leave a wax film on the pan that won’t wash off, so you can’t reuse the pan for food) with different color combinations. In the oven on the lowest heat setting until everything melted–I actually left them in a little longer than necessary (forgot they were in there while we were eating dinner!), but no harm done other than our kitchen stinking of melted crayon until the next morning. So easy and they turned out great!

Heart-shaped crayons

 

Valentine’s Day – Perfect Time for ‘Making’

Christmas-time gets busy with knitting projects for the kids and somehow I never seem to get it together to make candles for Feb 2nd but we have some fun picking and making Valentines. Plus, I have to admit that this year’s constant threat of snow here in the mid-Atlantic has made stand-by snow-day crafts a must.

This year, my little one didn’t seem to like my ideas, so we googled and googled and looked at lots of projects. He saw gardenmama‘s pine cone gnomes and wanted an army of them for his classmates. (He made himself a pumpkin for Valentine’s Day.)

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My oldest wanted to do something a little different and these caught his eye from jen at paint cut paste:

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These were great projects because the kids could do so much. My almost 5-yr old could find the pine cones with his brother and sew and stuff the gnome hats and hearts. (We didn’t make the hearts into pins). My almost 9-yr old found the sticks (in my parents kindling stack) and cut out the arrows and made the labels.

Thanks to gardenmama and jen for inspiring our Valentines!

Channeling my inner Estée Lauder? Or maybe my inner Mrs. Homegrown.

It’s become obvious to me that as part of my natural crafty progression, it’s time to learn how to make creams and lotions. I already have so many ingredients I can use – I looked at a few websites for recipes &  inspiration and found myself utterly overwhelmed. There’s so much advice: use water, use only distilled water, use rose water, don’t use water, use a stick blender, just whisk, use an emulsifier, beeswax isn’t a good emulsifier if you want it to last, beeswax is good enough, if you don’t use water it’ll feel greasy, don’t worry if it feels greasy because your skin is soaking up the goodness. And then there are the options: almond oil, grapeseed oil. coconut oil. jojoba oil. shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, essential oils, herb-infused oil. hydrosol, food-grade borax (omg, really?), aloe vera gel, vitamin E oil, and some other oils and extracts i can’t remember how to spell, let alone pronounce.

<deep breath>

The reality is that there is some chemistry here – like everything else I seem to make, I should know the ratio of one thing to another so it works. I’m guessing this is where Estee Lauder’s uncle, the chemist, would step in for her, but in my overwhelmed state, I decided to wing it.  So I channeled my inner  Mrs. Homegrown at Root Simple , only I didn’t know it at first.

I looked around my kitchen to see what i could find.

Ingredients for cream on my kitchen counter

Coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, lavender essential oil, sweet almond oil

I decided on a recipe and got started. I put a 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. But I noticed that this recipe didn’t ask for water and since I have distilled water, maybe I should do something else. But the coconut oil was already on the stove… I added a tablespoon or so of shea butter and maybe that much cocoa butter (well, cocoa butter’s really hard and comes in a jar, so i basically chipped at it until I didn’t feel like doing that anymore).

That’s when I frantically searched for some new advice – happening upon Mrs. Homegrown, I warmed some distilled water. I probably should have measured it and done the little bit of math to figure out how much water it needed, but things were melting and i was in the thick of it.

I added about a handful of grated beeswax. Again <another deep breath>, I should have been more precise in figuring out how much of this I would need. And since i had forgotten the almond oil, i added some at the last minute (1 – 2 tablespoons?). My scientific process was non-existent by this point. i secretly hoped it wouldn’t be awesome because i’d never be able to reproduce it.

Once everything was melted, I took it off the stove and added a few drops of lavender essential oil. i wanted it to have a light scent, nothing heavy.

Now I had a problem – I had no idea how much water to add. no recipe i saw had the ratio of ingredients I’d used so i was on my own. I started whisking and  adding the warm water. It turned out that i added a little too much.  I finally had to switch to my stick blender, next time i’ll just start with that.  And guess what? It was still pretty nice. No, not the perfect cream – but usable and though a little greasy, I like it. I used great ingredients so I’ll gladly use it up and try to make something else, especially since it took longer to write this blog post than it did to make the cream and the cost makes it worth it.

I plan on using this pretty quickly (no preservatives) but if I don’t, I can put it in the fridge to extend it’s shelf life.

I have to admit that i found it really surprising that I could make a face cream off-the-cuff. Yes, I had to know a bunch of things to get that far, but a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined this so I’m grateful to have found a new way to create something natural for my family and to save a few pennies too.

Whipped Cream Finished Cream

(yes, that’s a recycled baby food jar. the lid is painted with chalkboard paint.)

 

Earth Day Yogurt

Though not officially planned for Earth Day, I’ve learned how to make yogurt with some good timing. Not only will it stop me from buying more plastic, the taste speaks for itself.

There are many methods for making yogurt:

The electric blanket.. The crock pot… The oven… Or some variation.

But that’s just too much for me. I couldn’t do it. I decided to go with the gadget. I will beg Alton Brown‘s forgiveness later (he, btw, goes the electric blanket route).

With the yogurt maker, you follow the manufacturer’s instructions – though it seems that most instructions are quite similar. For mine, I had to heat up the specified amount of milk to 180 degrees in a pot. Translated for the busy mom: a kid started screaming once I put it on the stove and I forgot about it briefly and caught the milk as it started boiling. Since I couldn’t find my thermometer to be sure what the temp was and it was bedtime, I took it off the stove to cool to the suggested 110 degrees, but by the time I got back to the milk, it was room temp or something like it. I kept moving forward thinking If this is that precise of a science, it will never work for me anyway.

There is a yogurt:milk ratio that you have to follow, so I did the math ahead of time. (when no one was screaming and it wasn’t bedtime. What was I thinking?) You add some of the milk to the room temp yogurt and then add it back to the pot and mix it all up. Pour into the adorable little jars – I opted for glass:

Then I put the dome on it, set the timer for 8 hours and went to sleep.

I overslept. And had to get the kids fed and out the door to school, so I have no idea how long it actually was by the time I made it back to my yogurt, but I do know that it was more than 8 hours and it was creamy and tasty and for the sake of experimenting I made yogurt cheese for lunch:

yum!

What are you doing for Earth Day?

 

Non-toxic silverware and dishes for kids

When my daughter started solid foods, of course I wanted to find dishes and spoons (and later, forks) that would be safe and non-toxic, ideally non-plastic. My main objection to plastic stuff for kids was not just about chemicals/safety, but aesthetics and durability. Plastic utensils, especially, seem to get chewed up pretty quickly, and dishes get scratched and just plain don’t last. This stainless steel bowl and spoon, on the other hand, was MY first bowl and spoon, back in the dark ages of the early 1970s; it has held up well enough to be used not only by my younger brother, but now my own daughter, and hopefully more children for years to come.

We started out, of course, with the silicone-tipped Gerber baby spoons everyone uses. When R progressed to more self-feeding, we tried this Safety Fork and Spoon set, but I hated them—the spoon was too flat to actually scoop anything up, and the “safety” tines on the fork made them useless for spearing anything. We also have the Take and Toss set, which I kept in the diaper bag for meals out and travel, but since they’re all plastic, I didn’t want to use them for every day.

Then one day I wandered into Fishs Eddy, one of my favorite stores. They always have a big display of open stock flatware in the front of the store for $0.99 per piece. Demitasse spoons are the perfect size for a toddler or preschooler, and dessert or cocktail forks (or maybe fish forks? no idea what all those different forks are for) work great too. I even picked up a little butter knife for when R is ready to practice using one. Here are the little pieces I picked up, with a full-size dinner fork and knife next to them for comparison:

Browsing around the clearance section at Fishs Eddy, I found some other items that work great repurposed as kid dishes: latte bowls and espresso cups:

You can order from Fishs Eddy online, but a greener option would be to scope out garage and estate sales or flea markets, or even restaurant supply stores, in your area to find odd little flatware items or mini dishes to use. Ceramic ramekins are also great for serving and microwaving baby food.

One last resource I love: Asian markets. Japanese-made kidware is adorable, and I tend to trust its safety (more so than, say, made-in-China stuff) because they just have higher standards than we do—they were way ahead of us on BPA, for example. I got this super cute owl dish at Pearl River Mart here in NYC, where they have so many other great kids’ dishes—don’t you just love these bowls? (I didn’t get them myself because I knew R would constantly be picking them up to look at the animals on the outside!)

Photo: pearlriver.com

Oh, and I have to mention what we do for drinks. Out and about, we love our Kleen Kanteens; around the house (when R is sipping juice on the couch, for example) we use Take and Toss Straw Cups with disposable straws (I know, SO not eco-friendly, but the reusable straws get gross and moldy so easily and I don’t have the patience to clean them properly). But at the table, Rose gets a real glass—the Ikea REKO glasses are stackable, kid-sized, and so cheap ($1.99 for 6!) that I don’t mind if she breaks one every now and then.

What kids’ dishes and utensils do you love? Have you found other “grownup” items that work well for kids?