Monday, August 27, 2012

a haircut.

 
since we're not the type to save things like hair & teeth (yuck.), this post is dedicated to documenting this guy's first haircut. because 1. he looks really different 2. he was screaming and throwing a fit until i cut his hair, too, because he thinks he should get to do anything his big brothers do and 3. i just learned you can take pictures with your webcam and immediately upload to blogger. plus, nash liked looking at himself. what a cute boy, i have. now only if his toddler personality was sweet instead of demon-like. sheesh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

super creepy fruit baby: a tutorial


i made this beaut for my dear friend's baby shower. it was a request from my friend's friend who was hosting and i reluctantly agreed because after i saw just a picture of it, i was thinking, " seriously?" but everyone loved it, so i guess she was on to something.

i enlisted the help of my mom who made the head. she just peeled a small cantaloupe, obviously. the watermelon was pretty easy to cut - i used a sharpie to mark how i wanted the "cradle" to look and scooped that sucker out. how much fruit you have should determine how much you scoop out. i scooped less out of the back where the head rests, so it would sit up a little higher. i used some toothpicks sticking out of the back (inside) of the watermelon to secure the head. i used another cantaloupe and a melon baller for the ears and nose and secured them with toothpick and yes, blueberries for the eyes. the trickiest part of the whole thing was cutting a hole for that paci. i cut the hole too big and had to stick a piece of melon in there so the paci would even stay. it is just kind of resting there. really, next time, i would just do a deep X cut and stick the paci in. lastly, just pour all the cut-up fruit inside. i had a lot of extra fruit so instead of bagging it to replenish thefor later, i just poured it around the base of the platter.

it really was very simple. in fact, i didn't think it would work out and my back-up plan was to just bring a bowl of cut-up fruit. if anyone figures out how to make this baby less scary-looking, though, let me know!.

ps. today is the day. even though it is still august and still 85 degrees out, i'm getting all of my fall stuff out and am making zuppa toscana and pumpkin cheesecake muffins. it's time. i mean, i've been wearing deep purples and have had essie nail polish on in "carry on" for two weeks.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

chalkboard crafts


before:
an ugly picture collecting dust in my basement

after:
 a functional chalk board above our computer desk

chalkboard spray paint & white paint on the edges.

i've been writing fun messages on it for the boy and our dinner for the night. so fun.

and speaking of the boys...






i had a couple of old blank 8x10 flat canvases laying around and decided to do something fun for the first day of school. i just used the chalkboard spray paint. 



aren't they the cutest? 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

LUNCH: what are kids munching on

i was asked to review the new documentary-style film about kids and nutrition, titled LUNCH by avis richards. the film centers around the school lunch industry and what we are pumping into our kids. roughly 28 million students across the country eat at school 5 days a week, sometimes two meals a day.

the problem?

 it's no surprise that it is the nutritional content of the meal being served at school. i pay for school lunch for 2 of my kiddos, and admittedly there have been times when i have cringed just a little when looking at the day's menu. not always, as we have a pretty good menu for a school district, but i have definitely thought we could do better at times. but for us, it's just not a big deal. i strive to provide nutritional and homemade meals for breakfast and dinner and good-for-you snacks, so the fact that they might eat processed chicken or pizza at school isn't a huge issue. i mean, they are kids, after all.

with current statistics, though, there is another issue at hand. according to the film, 30% of kids in our nation are now considered obese and 38% of kids have higher than normal cholesterol levels. it can be assumed, then, that a huge percentage of the 28 million kids that eat at school are not getting proper nutrition at home, like my kids are. doctors are starting to diagnose children as young as 6 with adult on-set diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

this is definitely a problem. but who's problem is it?

i tend to think that everything starts in the home. parents, not government or school administrations, are the ones needed to guide their children and are ultimately responsible for what they do,what they learn, what they eat, how they behave, ect. BUT. i think we can all agree that not all parents are able to adequately supply the needs of their children. sometimes it's because they can't do it financially and sometimes they can't do it because they don't know any better. and sometimes they just don't care. whatever the reason, it will eventually become everyone's problem through a number ways.
  • for students - as adults, we know that when we are hungry or when we've binged on a really unhealthy lunch, that we can feel irritated, frustrated, and distracted: it can be hard to focus on what's at task. for children, these feeling can be multiplied making school work difficult. and kids most of time will not realize why they feel the way they do, creating behavioral problems and self-esteem issues. not to mention all the health problems that i've already mentioned. not an ideal childhood, if you ask me.
  • for teachers - teachers have a hard enough job as is, teaching students. but how effective can a teacher be when there are students who are sluggish and distracted? or how about a student that reacts negatively to processed foods and dyes? hyperness and agitation not only affect the student's success, but can affect the entire class by serving as a distraction to others, including teachers, trying to teach.
  • for parents - no parent wants their children to be affected by anything, especially something that potentially can be helped. not to mention the impact of the financial burden treating these diseases will create.
  • for tax-payers - if all else fails, things will eventually fall into the lap of tax-payers. as costs increase in schools and school lunchrooms across the nation, families will feel the pinch either directly: by paying for higher school costs and lunches, or indirectly: by their tax dollars paying for free/reduced lunches for others. unfortunately, poverty and poor nutrition go hand-in-hand and the number of those who qualify for medicaid to help treat these expensive diseases will continue to rise as well.
unfortunately, there isn't a clear solution. maybe the solution for some is to pack healthy lunches for their kids. maybe some parents will focus on healthier foods for kids while they are at home. and for others, asking the school system to provide better options is something they can do. either way, i believe education can be one of the keys that will hopefully inspire people to do more for their kids. the website for the film that i watched is here.

about avis richards, the films producer and director (as sent in an email) -

Avis is the Founder & CEO, Birds Nest Foundation™, a 501(c)3 non-profit creative group that produces high-quality documentaries, short videos and public service announcements (PSAs) for charitable organizations. To date, Richards has produced PSA's, short films and documentaries for countless Non-Profits including ones helmed by Goldie Hawn, Michael Bolton, Andre Agassi,and John Legend, to name a few. Her productions have touched upon important topics such as Education, Health, Women’s Issues, the Environment, Anti-Violence, and ore.http://www.birdsnestfoundation.org/.
Avis Richards has also recently been recognized by the media for her incredible new venture, theGround Up Campaign, dedicated to planting hundreds of indoor academic gardens in schools across the country. The Goal? Get kids to understand and appreciate healthy foods, vegetables, proper nutrition, andteach healthy eating habits from a young age. The first 100 gardens are currently underway, being planted in New York City schools and is backed by the mayor of NYC. The initiative was inspired by her documentary filmLunch, which takes on the unhealthy lunch programs in schools, and has earned the executive producer several high profile awards. The film also inspired Avis to create a weekly TV series in New York, called Lunch NYC, a lifestyle program helping New Yorkers with sustainable healthy living in the city – for which she was recently nominated for Three New York Emmy’s.
you can purchase her film LUNCH here.
now, speaking of lunch and the fact that 2 of my children eat lunch at school everyday, I had to produce some different healthy lunch options in greater quantity for over the summer. Thankfully, we live in an area that has access to lots of garden goodies, and throughout the summer and into the fall we will continue to buy local produce as long as we can. our favorite : posey county melons. DELISH. and tomato. we eat a lot of tomatoes.
but a lot of times, my kids wanted a hot lunch. one our favorite healthy meals was simple whole-wheat pancakes from weelicious.. i have made whole-wheat pancakes for a long time, but this recipe that i have been making for a few months now is our absolute fav. the pancakes are light and fluffy and just perfect. we add fresh blueberries, usually, or sometimes i will get all crazy and add chocolate chips. we prefer the taste of 100% maple syrup and i feel better serving this to my family as it's not full of all the yucky stuff that bottled syrup is made from.
ps. i just use regular 2% milk in the pancake mix unless i happen to have buttermilk on hand and i also make these for dinner with a side of bacon if i am in a time crunch. enjoy!!




Sunday, August 12, 2012

goulash. say whhhattt?!


i made goulash. despite the disgusting sound of its name, it was delicious. i think i am a little late to the goulash party, though, as nearly everyone i talked to about it was like, "yeah. goulash rocks."  but hello. the only goulash i ever remember was what was served at elementary school and i always packed on that day because the smell alone was yuck.

so anyway, i made it and everyone loved it and i will make it again. but what the heck is up with the name. goulash?! we've got to come up with something different because i hate the sound of it and i hate saying it and i even hated writing it on my new crafty super-cool chalkboard  that i made just to write the daily menu on. a little silly? maybe. but us stay-at-home moms have to have something to get worked up about.

anyway, here's the deets. i adapted it from paula deen's recipe. she is such a hoot.

goulash

1 T. soy sauce
2 T. italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
2  8oz. cans tomato sauce
1.5 c. water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
l lb. lean ground beef
1 T. seasoned salt
1 c. elbow macaroni, uncooked

in large pot, cook ground beef. while beef is cooking, add garlic, salt and pepper, italian seasoning, and seasoned salt. (i have found that if you cook meat with the seasonings, instead of adding them later, you will enjoy a much more flavorful dish. this goes for stir-fry, chili, soups, stews, ect.) once the beef is browned, drain grease and put back into pot. add onion, saute until tender. add water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and soy sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes. add the macaroni and simmer another 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. stir frequently through-out cook time.

i served with a kick-ass salad. did you know olive garden bottles their dressing and you can buy it at sam's?! i might be late to that party as well. it was awesome, and next time i think i will take paula deen's advice and add some garlic bread to the side. who doesn't freaking LOVE garlic bread?!

**completely unrelated: my kids will be back in school in less than 48 hours...i am going to miss them and their cute little mugs, but i am definitely not going to miss the giant mess all around my house all the time and the constant "i'm bored" attitudes. and i can't wait for some fall sports. fall crafts. fall food, fall clothes, ect. YES!




Sunday, August 5, 2012

white buttermilk cupcakes with butter caramel frosting



the best things happen, to me and often, when there is no plan. there was no formal plan for these cupcakes, i just happened to be flipping through the pages of an old cookbook. i was searching for a frosting. butter caramel is what jumped out at me and i remembered that it was our babysitter's 15th birthday. and i just happened to have all the ingredient, which never happens. perfect!

i also remembered reading somewhere only days before that a really good white cake goes well with caramel frosting. i flipped through the cake section of the same cookbook and and found a basic white cake recipe.

i am going to give you the recipe. but before i do i have to put out a warning because not only did our babysitter and her family say they were the best cupcakes ever, i also heard that from the couple of neighbors who i shared with. these cupcakes are the best cupcakes ever. if, you know, you are looking for a flavor like this. they seem like adult cupcakes, too, if that even matters or makes sense, although my kids did eat them right up.

your welcome.

ps. they were even better the next day. yessss.

White Cake with Caramel Butter Frosting by
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 15th Ed.

cake:
4 egg whites
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/3 c. buttermilk

allow eggs and butter to stand at room temp for at least 30 minutes and preheat your oven at 350. in a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

in a larger mixing bowl, beat butter at high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. alternately add buttermilk and flour mixture and beat at low speed until all is combined.

line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and pour enough batter to fill the cup at the half-way mark. you want the top of these cupcakes to be evenly flat.

bake for about 20-25 minutes until cupcakes are done. batter makes about 36 cupcakes.

frosting:

1 c. butter
2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
6 c. powdered sugar

melt butter in large saucepan. stir in brown sugar and bring to boiling over medium heat; stirring constantly. cook and stir for 1 minute; remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. whisk in 1/2 c. milk until smooth. whisk in 6 c. of powdered sugar until smooth. use immediately, frosting stiffens as it cools.

tip: i halved the frosting recipe and there was plenty for my 36 cupcakes. i carefully poured the frosting, just a little bit at a time, or each cupcake and because it was still warm it expanded? out over the cupcake and then stiffened as it cooled.


enjoy!











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