Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Easy Banana Muffins

Most days begin in my house begin with this questions, "Mom, what's for breakfast?"  It is easy to get stuck in a cereal - frozen waffle - toast - granola bar rotation, so I love new, easy recipes to get us out of our breakfast funk.  The only issue is that breakfast seems to get left off of the shopping list, so I end up scrounging around for ingredients.  This recipe is the result of such "scrounging", with some help from my favorite easy recipe site, Kraft foods.

On this particular morning, I didn't have enough bananas (I had just one banana left over from the bunch) to make the bread in the recipe online, so I adapted and made some muffins with my single, over-ripe banana and some common pantry ingredients.  The result?  Yummy!  (Even my picky preschooler ate one- success!)

Easy Banana Muffins (based on one banana- can easily multiply)
This recipe yield about 6-8 muffins per banana used.


1/3 egg (I know, but lightly beat one and separate)
1/4 cup Miracle Whip Dressing
1 mashed fully ripe banana
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
brown sugar (for topping-optional)


Heat oven to 350ºF.
Beat egg, dressing and banana(s) in large bowl with whisk until well blended. Mix remaining ingredients (except brown sugar) in separate bowl. Add to banana mixture; stir just until moistened.
Spoon nto muffin pan (greased or with liners), sprinkle with brown sugar.    
Bake 25-30 mins or until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 min.; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.


This easy recipe was adapted from this original recipe from Easy Banana Bread

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Make Personalized Easter Baskets

With Easter just over a week away, "Easter Bunnies" (in the daytime, they're called "Moms") everywhere are readying themselves in preparation for the big day.  The candy is purchased, toys are stowed away, and the plastic eggs are ready to stuff.  But alas- last year's plastic Easter bucket has bitten the dust.  What's a good "bunny" to do?  Personalize a new one, of course!

I have long adored the beautiful Easter baskets in kids' catalogs, but never seemed to find "the one" that was right for our boys.  I wanted something Spring-y, cute, "boy" appropriate, and personalized, but I didn't really want to spend more on the basket than I did on the stuffings.  Thankfully, a store-bought Easter basket with liner (on sale!) and a few simple items solved my dilemma.  Here's the simple how-to:

Materials needed:
  • Store-bought Easter basket with fabric liner (I got mine at JoAnn Fabrics)
  • Iron-on adhesive (I used Heat N' Bond Lite)
  • Fabric (lightweight woven cotton works best)
  • Computer with word processing program, and printer
  • pencil
  • *Optional* Embroidery thread and needle
  1. Measure the height of the space on your basket liner where you will put the name/letters
  2. Choose the fabric that you want to use for the letters, and iron on the Iron-on Adhesive according to the package directions.  Let this cool to the touch but do not remove the paper backing.
  3. Meanwhile, use a word processing program to type out the names in the font of your choice
  4. Print out the names in reverse/mirror image
  5. Use the pencil to color the BACK of the printed paper (non-printed side) where the words are located.  This will be used to transfer your image onto the paper backing on your fabric.
  6. Trace the name/letters onto the paper backing on your fabric.
  7. Cut out the letters, and remove the paper backing.
  8. Arrange the letters on the right side of your basket liner, and iron on according to the Adhesive directions.
  9. *Optional* Secure the letters to your basket liner permanently using a running stitch with your embroidery thread.  This step isn't necessary, but I loved the extra dimension it gave the names.
Now your basket is ready to fill with your collected goodies, and will be enjoyed for years to come!  So as we fill our baskets and nibble the ears off of our (kids') chocolate bunnies, let us remember the true reason that we celebrate this holiday- Christ is Risen!  Happy Easter!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time-Saver: T-shirt dusting

Dust.  It's the enemies of Moms everywhere (well, that and tantrums).  In my house, it seems that as soon as I clean it, it mysteriously reappears.  What are we to do? 

I recently came across a helpful solution for daily dusting- the answer?  Dirty laundry!  A simple way to clean the surfaces in and around the bedrooms of your home is to dust with your dirty laundry.  There are plenty of soft fabrics (t-shirts, etc.) that are going in the washer anyway, so what's a little more dirt among friends? 

AAAH!  Dust!  I did let this go for a little bit to get a good picture...

This has been a really easy way for me to add dusting into my daily routine by simply wiping a few surfaces as I pick up clothes to carry to the laundry room.  And although it's been said that you shouldn't air your dirty laundry, I am risking it to save my fellow Moms a few minutes in their cleaning routines!   

So let's leave the dust "in the dust" and take some more time for "me"!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mom-Minute Devotional: Seek and Find

As parents, we spend most of our days "doing" for others. Cooking meals, doing laundry, fixing little hurts and helping our kids learn right from wrong, all while fitting in work or other responsibilities. At the end of the day, this constant “giving” can leave anyone exhausted! Even still, there are others in our midst that ask for our help, either directly or indirectly, and it can be easy to say no because we’re just “too busy”.

In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus talks about a friend who is just “too busy” to help out another friend- his door is already locked, and his kids are in bed, and getting up to share some bread with his friend would just be too much trouble! (It was his "me" time, after all!)  But Jesus teaches that God is not like this. All we need to do is seek God, and He is there… if we simply ask Him into our hearts, He will never be “too busy” to come in, and what a gift that is!

As we go through our everyday activities with our children and with others, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to help, even when we want to.  But may this story of the "too busy" friend be a reminder for us to take a moment and give of ourselves to others. 

To help you share this devotional message with your kids, take a few moments from your busy day and do the "Seek and Find Scavenger Hunt" below... the best gift you can ever give your child is YOU! 

Seek and Find Scavenger Hunt:
  1. Find a _____________ (color, size, etc.) stuffed animal
  2. Find something with numbers on it
  3. Find something that we use to eat
  4. Find something that starts with the letter "B"
  5. Find something that has wheels
  6. Find your favorite page in your favorite book
  7. Look up a Bible verse and read it together
  8. Find something that is purple
  9. Find the room with the most lights
  10. Find a "sign" of Spring

Friday, March 25, 2011

Make your own "Pop Tarts"

Pop Tarts.  Love them or hate them, they are a part of "pop" culture... pun intended.  In our house, our opinions are split; they would be eaten at every meal (if allowed) by my son and husband, but I'd rather never touch one.  All the same, after witnessing the true devotion to Pop Tarts as displayed by my son, I began concocting a plan to make his favorite treat healthier (preferably without him knowing).

Enter my plan.  Step 1: Find or create an easy, repeatable, reliable recipe for homemade Pop Tarts.  Step 2: Find healthier, fruit and/or vegetable fillings to sneak inside under the guise of the Pop Tart shell.  Though I haven't yet ventured into vegetable filling, this recipe which I sourced from multiple sites (below) gets me through at least Step 1 1/2. 

Now, before I get to the recipe, let it be stated that I am NOT a baker.  Some people like to cook, some like to bake, others are great at both.  I am not so lucky, so this recipe uses store-bought refrigerated pie crust.  If the mere thought of that makes you cringe, then, by all means, use your own recipe.  But with that in mind, you probably don't eat Pop Tarts anyway, so let me suggest the easy recipe below.

Semi-homemade Pop Tarts Recipe

  • Refrigerated pie crust
  • Jam or preserves- I used strawberry and black raspberry "spreadable fruit"
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • Egg wash (optional)
  • Sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Unroll one of the pie crusts onto a lightly floured surface, and cut into rectangles.  I also used cookie cutters on the odd pieces to make fun shaped "pop tarts".

Place jam or preserves (about 1 tbsp) in the center of one rectangle, and top with another piece of pie crust.  Crimp the edges with a fork.  Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.
Bake the "pop tarts" in the 425 degree oven, for about 7-8 minutes (check at 7, could take as long as 9 or 10 depending on your oven), or until slightly brown.  Make the glaze while they're in the oven.

Once cool, spoon the glaze (below) onto the "pop tarts" and decorate with the sprinkles.  If you would rather not add the sugar glaze, you can use an egg wash on the tops with some sugar, or simply leave them plain.
To Make the Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (or less is you're only making a few tarts)
  • milk to thin
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl, and SLOWLY add milk to thin.  You may only need to add 1 tbsp or less.  You want it to be the consistency of thick syrup when you're done.  You can add a drop or two of food coloring to add some fun to your Pop Tarts!

Now you are ready to enjoy this childhood treat, a little more "grown up".  Enjoy!

Now to give credit where credit is due, here are the sites that I pulled from for my recipe:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strange finds in Toyland: Matchbox Camping Set

Our new camping set, complete with campers and "deer"
For those of you with kids, you understand that the toy aisle at the grocery store can be both your worst nightmare, or your only saving grace to quiet (OK, bribe) a screaming child.  For me, it is usually the latter, though I am lucky enough that the $.98 cars usually do the trick.  Today, however, my oldest son found a Matchbox "Hitch 'N Haul" Camping Set that "had" to come home with us. 

What is strange about a camping set, you ask?  Well, not much at first glance.  The set comes with a truck and camping trailer, which is what caught my son's eye to begin with.  But further inspection reveals that it also comes with "2 lazy campers" and a (very large) "deer" or maybe an elk.  Really? 

As if these additions weren't weird enough, the "lazy campers" also appear to be dressed like Paul Bunyan with mullets, and are drinking "something" and one is holding what appears to be a hot dog.  When we were asked by our son, "What are they drinking?"  Our response was "Coke".  We'll see how long that lasts... 

So, Dear Matchbox, might you reconsider the drinking habits of your toys aimed at 3 year olds, please?!  Not only are the campers totally unneccessary, but the fact that they are drinking (even if my son believes it is soda) is just plain irresponsible.  The camping trailer and truck will remain a part of our son's car collection, but we will do our best to remove the beer-drinking lazy lumberjacks and the supersized deer, and make a mental note to pay more attention in the toy aisle next time (though we did get a good laugh)!

So to my fellow parents and toy shoppers, be careful out there!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Pinch-proof T-shirts

St. Patrick's Day is almost here, and what better way to celebrate than by crafting a new t-shirt for you or your little ones to wear, using their hands to craft the shamrock!  This craft is simple, cheap, and has (almost) instant gratification, and will save the wearer from the dreaded St. Patrick's Day pinch.

Materials needed:
t-shirt (white, pre-washed)
fabric paint (white or green- see instructions)
large piece of cardboard/thick paper
paintbrush and plate/paint tray
two hands (yours or your child's)
*optional* extra fabric (green- I used another t-shirt so that it wouldn't fray), thread, sewing machine


There are two ways to do this t-shirt.  We chose to paint on green fabric with white paint, then sew it to a white t-shirt.  The other, slightly easier option is to use green paint and paint directly on the white t-shirt.  Either way, it turns out great!

The shamrock is made using the little finger side of a balled up fist, repeated 3 times with each hand to make the 3 leaves of the shamrock.  You could easily choose to do a four leaf clover by adding a leaf in step 2.

1. Lay the fabric to be painted over the large piece of cardboard, as the fabric paint may bleed through the fabric slightly.

2. Paint the side of a balled up fist (little finger side) on the right hand, using the paintbrush and fabric paint.  If you are helping a child, help them place the painted hand on the fabric.  Repeat this step with the right hand until you have 3 "half-leaves" on your fabric.  Then, do repeat the entire step multiple times with the left hand, matching up the hand imprint to make the leaf shape.  *I found that the hand prints needed a little "filling in" with extra paint, especially the white paint on the green fabric.

3. Use the paintbrush to paint a stem on your clover, and your painting is done!  If you painted directly onto your t-shirt, you're done- let the t-shirt dry and enjoy!  If not, continue to step 4.

4. If you have chosen to sew this fabric onto a t-shirt, let the paint dry, then cut out your shamrock and sew it onto your t-shirt using a simple straight or zig-zag stitch.  Trim the extra threads, and enjoy!

*Be sure to follow all washing instructions for your fabric paint- most say to wait 72 hours before washing.  I suggest washing all fabrics before you start the craft!

I hope you had a great time making this craft for yourself or with your kids, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Money for "Me": Amazon Mom discounts

For those of us with infants and toddlers, there is one thing that gobbles up extra cash like my preschooler gobbles up goldfish crackers: DIAPERS.  Unless you use cloth (and good for you if you do!), you will go through countless disposable diapers in the first three (or so) years.  With our first son, I diligently used my coupons at the grocery store, and bought diapers in the biggest boxes that I could find.  But still, they weren't cheap. 

But like a blessing from the shopping fairy, (my very favorite place to shop) introduced the Amazon Mom program just before our second son was born.  This incredibly awesome program is for parents and caregivers, and is free to join.  The perks are simple- sign up for Subscribe & Save for diapers or other commonly used baby and household products.  This already gives a 15% discount, but being an Amazon Mom member gives you an extra 15% on diapers, totaling a 30% discount!!!  This seemed amazing enough until I found out I also got free Amazon Prime benefits (free 2 day shipping) for joining.
I love a good bargain, and I can't help myself from sharing this one!  I have stopped more than a few other Moms in the diaper aisle at the grocery store to tell them about this program.  Not only does it save you (a lot) of money, it also takes the hassle out of lugging diapers home from the store (now if I could just get it to change diapers at 3 am!)  Click on the Amazon Mom link below or at the left to learn more about the program and start saving!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lent Prayer Chains

The Lenten season is upon us (it begins on Ash Wednesday, and continues through Easter), and it seems that every year I have some "thing" I choose to give up for the 40 days that ends up lasting about as long as my New Year's resolutions.

But this year, the Children's Minister at our church had a wonderful idea to help us all observe one of the spiritual disciplines of Lent: prayer.  And she managed to do it in a way that my 3 year old understands, it doubles as a craft, and is something that we can do as a family through the whole season (and is so much more meaningful than giving up soda).  How cool is that?

Lent prayer chain instructions:

This chain will be made up of 40 purple links and 7 white links, for the 40 days (not including Sundays) and 7 Sundays in Lent.  Each day will have a "label" with a date and a space to write who you would like to pray for that day.

You have two options for making the chain.  The first is to assemble one link per day as you go along, and the second is to assemble the chain all at once and tear off a link each day.  Our family chose the first option because we want to have a "craft" each day, and will end with a great decoration on Easter morning.

Materials needed:
purple paper (about 5-7 sheets)
white paper (1-2 sheets)
scissors or paper cutter
glue stick or tape
address labels (or masking tape will do in a pinch!)

1. Cut 40 1" wide strips of purple paper, and 7 1" wide strips of white paper.

2. Print 47 labels, one for each day.  Include the date and the day of Lent; for example, the first day's label would read "Day 1: March 9".  For the Sundays, you can just put "Sunday, (date)".   Make sure to leave some space to write each day's prayer focus.  If you don't have labels, you can write them each day on masking tape or something similar, or directly on the chain itself.

2. To make the chain, roll one strip onto itself to form a circle, and attach with glue or tape.  Write that day's prayer focus (your choice- can repeat if you want to!) on the corresponding label, and place the label onto the link.  To add additional links, first put the paper through the existing link that you want to connect it to, then repeat this step.

3. You now have a super-easy craft that will help your whole family focus on prayer throughout the Lenten season.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Make a Fabric-covered Magnetic Board

Finished Fabric-covered Magnetic Board
We recently updated our kitchen, and before my new appliances arrived I was preparing for the impending loss of our fridge art gallery, assuming that my new stainless steel refrigerator would not be magnetic.  As it turns out, the stainless steel was magnetic, but I couldn't bring myself to put magnets all over my shiny new fridge (or imagine the preschooler fingerprints all over it).  So, I needed a solution.  Enter magnetic boards!

The issue was that the plain white ones with a plastic frame that are so ever-present at office supply stores just weren't adding anything to my new kitchen.  So after a lot (really, days worth) of searching for the perfect board, I decided as usual that making it myself would be the solution.  The best part?  It's a super-easy, almost instant-gratification craft project that is totally functional and looks great.  Have fun!

Supplies needed:

-magnetic sheet metal (I used metal from the duct work department at the hardware store.  Take a magnet to check it's magnetic qualities before you buy!)
-sheet metal snips
-work gloves
-yard stick/t-square and/or measuring tape
-permanent marker
-spray adhesive (I used Elmer's)
-newspaper (or other material to cover your spraying surface)
-thin fabric (Cotton, quilting weight works best- too thick and your magnets won't stick.  Iron first!)
-electrical tape (or similar sticky tape)
-duct tape
-adhesive mounting tape (3M makes some great stuff)


Step 1:
Measure the area that you want to put your magnetic board.  I put mine on the ends of cabinets, but they can go anywhere and fit to any size.  Also, gather up your supplies and find a large, flat surface to work on.
Getting started

Step 2:
Put on your gloves (the metal is sharp!)  and lay the sheet metal out on the large, flat surface.  Use the ruler and permanent marker to layout the design of your board on the sheet metal.  Lay the metal over your fabric, and cut out the same design in your fabric allowing 2-3 inches of overlap on every side.

Step 3:
Use the metal snips (while wearing gloves) to cut out your board design in the sheet metal.

Step 4:
Lay out the newspaper on a surface in a well-ventilated area, and lay the sheet metal (front side up) on the surface.  Be sure to have your fabric ready to go.  Spray the front side of the magnetic board (one side only) with the spray-adhesive.  Quickly move to Step 5.

Step 5:
Place the fabric (right side up) onto the sprayed side of the magnetic board, and stretch to the sides to remove most of the wrinkles and bubbles.  Carefully flip over the board.

Step 6:
Use the electrical tape to tape down the edges of the fabric to the back of the board.  Though the picture below does not illustrate this, tape as close to the edge of the board as possible, as taping to close to the center will make hanging difficult.  Stretch the fabric tight as you move along and trim if necessary.  I like using electrical tape for this step because it can be easily repositioned to tighten the fabric as you go; this might take a few times to get the front of the board smooth.

Step 7:
Flip over the board to the front side and make sure that the fabric is pulled tightly across the front.  Smooth out any remaining wrinkles or bubbles and flip the board back over.  Use duct tape (patterned is so much more fun) over the electrical tape to secure the edges.

Step 8:
Cut and place the adhesive mounting tape along the edges of the board, and stick in place.  Presto!  A new place for messages and masterpieces, customized for your space and home decor!