Monday, July 30, 2012

Look Who's Finally Here!

I would like to introduce you to the newest member of our family, Teeny. 

She arrived only 1 day behind schedule, on July 20th. 

She's a very zen little squirt, and her big brother and sisters are so excited she's here.

We are, too. :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quick Afternoon Project: BAGS Dispenser Can

Guess what? Today's my due date! Still no baby. *sigh* Anyway, thought I'd at least commemorate the day with a post for y'all.

Earlier this week my son had a friend over to play, my littlest was down for a nap, and I knew Starlet would be bored and I wanted to find something to do with her to keep her out of the boys' hair. I have discovered recently that she's a big fan of paper crafting, and I've had this project on my to-do list for awhile, so I thought we could have some fun with it together.

This handy-dandy bag dispenser was created from an empty #10 can which we Mod-Podged with scrapbooking paper. Starlet helped me choose the colors, apply the Mod-Podge, and she was in charge of using the Quickutz to  punch the die-cut flowers and letters. I assembled the flowers and we figured out the placement together.

As you can probably tell from some of the flowers, I also let Starlet cut them out with scissors. They aren't perfect, but they're beautiful because we did it together. :-) And now we have a pretty, colorful bag dispenser! Perfect for all those dirty diapers that are sure to be coming our way soon...I hope...

For more great project ideas for your old cans, check out this post by Under the Table and Dreaming.

Hope you're having a fun summer. Have you done anything crafty with your kids recently?

Linking up to...

shabby creek cottage

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Restaurant-Good Fajitas!

I've been thinking of posting this on here for awhile, but whenever I make this recipe I get so excited I forget about all else- including taking photos of the process! But this time I made sure to document it all so I could share it with you, dear readers.

I LOOOOVE fajitas, especially the kind you get at Mexican restaurants where they serve it to you on a cast iron skillet with fresh tortillas. YUM. Unfortunately, every time I got a "fajita" spice mix or frozen "fajitas" meal from the store, they never even remotely resembled the restaurant fajitas I love. 

After some searching I came across a fajita marinade recipe from that hit the nail on the head! 

Restaurant-Good Fajitas

1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use red pepper flakes instead)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Step 1. Mix together ingredients for marinade; cut your chicken (I usually use 2 large breasts) into thin strips and marinate for 30 minutes-2 hours. 

Step 2. Scoop chicken out of marinade and cook in large skillet on HIGH heat until outsides turn white. Don't cook for too long or chicken will become tough. Remove chicken and set aside, keeping it warm.

Step 3. You'll need onions and multicolored peppers- I just keep it simple and use 2 packages of frozen. Less chopping that way! But fresh works too.

Step 4. Using the same pan you cooked the chicken in, cook your onions and peppers (this gives them some of that fajita flavor too). Personally, I think that to make this dish more authentic you kind of have to cook them to oblivion- in the photo above, there's lots of liquid still...

 ...but in this photo you'll see how the liquid has evaporated and the onions have kind of caramelized- this gives the dish that amazing tangy sweetness. You have to wait until you actually have to kind of scrape the onions & peppers off the pan. Ohhhh so good.

Step 5. Add your chicken back into the mix- stir well and you'll see the chicken kind of get this golden coating from the veggies. YUM.

Step 6. What do you want with your yummy fajita mix? I personally love to eat mine over a bed of Chipotle rice- yeah, the same kind you get at Chipotle restaurant! You can find the recipe here or do like I do- just use basmati rice, use a little less than twice as much water as rice except replace some of the water (a few tablespoons) with lime juice and then add extra salt. Once the rice is done cooking, mix in a few tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro. 

Another great option is to serve this on freshly-made warm tortillas. Yes, you can make these at home! I pinned it and I did it! Find the recipe here.

Step 7. Devour. And think about opening your own Mexican restaurant with your mad fajita-cooking skills.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Last Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need

Today I have a real treat for you! There have been a lot of "microwave mug cake" recipes floating around on the internet, and I have tried quite a few. Often, they get tricky because of the amount of egg required- the results either turn out too dense or too spongy. 

Lightbulb moment!

My very favorite chocolate cake recipe is vegan- it has no egg in it at all (it utilizes the leavening magic of baking soda and vinegar instead). I thought, Why not scale down that recipe and turn it into a microwave mug cake recipe?

Well, I scaled it down, messed with it a bit, and discovered the perfect recipe for a moist, light, fluffy cake recipe that just hits the chocolate spot. Here ya go:

The Last Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need

4 1/2 T flour
3 T sugar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
scant* 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 pinches salt
3 tsp vegetable oil
scant 1/4 tsp vanilla
scant 1/2 tsp vinegar
3 T cold water

*"scant" means just a little bit less- because this recipe has been adapted from a much larger quantity, some of the measurements were weird fractions, so just doing a tad less than a full 1/4 tsp, for example, will give you just the right amount.

1. Mix the dry ingredients (1st 5) in your mug with a fork or mini whisk.

2. Make a well (hole) in the center of your dry mixture and add wet ingredients.

3. Stir well with your fork or mini whisk. You may want to use a spoon to make sure you get all the dry ingredients out of the bottom corners. 

4. Lick the spoon/fork/whisk. No raw eggs. You're totally allowed.

5. Microwave for 1 minute, 20 seconds. I have a 1000-watt microwave- if your microwave is more or less powerful you may need to adjust this time. Start low and work your way up.

6. Let cool for as long as you can stand it (about 10 minutes is good- I usually dig in early and blow on each bite.)

7. Devour the chocolatey deliciousness. 

Aww yeah. Next time you're craving some moist chocolatey goodness, I've got you covered. You're welcome.

I would love it if you tried this out yourself and left a comment to tell me how you liked it. :-)

Linking up to:

shabby creek cottage

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Getting Ready for Baby!

Isn't this photo my photographer friend Jenn took amazing? I just love all my little munchkins' hands on my belly! We had an incredible maternity photo shoot- check out her website or her blog to see more of her gorgeous photos.

We're two weeks away from my due date, and I am up to my ears in burp cloths and baby blankets! The bouncy seat, swing, and car seat have all been extracted from the attic, their covers laundered and replaced, and now I'm working on the layette. It's a lot of work!

One thing I realized this morning as Little Boo (2 1/2 now) bounded into our room was that I could go into labor and have to leave for the hospital in the middle of the night. If I did, it might be a bit disconcerting for her to come into Mom & Dad's room and find us missing! Even more disconcerting if she went to look for us downstairs and found a strange person (well, it would be someone she knew but still strange) sleeping on the couch in the living room...

So I came up with this idea:

I made this little sign and showed it to her, explaining that if she wakes up and comes to our bedroom door and she sees this sign, it will mean that Mommy and Daddy went to the hospital so Mommy could have the baby. It would also mean that Uncle Erik, or Miss Shari (or some other friend or family member) will probably be downstairs. 

She got very excited about this sign and when she said our family prayer tonight she prayed that Daddy would take me to the hospital and that Uncle Erik would be here. :-) Maybe I gave her the wrong message...

Another gorgeous shot from our photo shoot. LOVE!

Oh, well! At least she has some idea of what's going on. I'll keep reminding her of how the sign will work until the time comes. In the meantime, I'll be hanging in there, staying in the AC and nesting my little heart out...

Monday, July 2, 2012

As Promised: Summer Goals, Discipline, and Allowances!

image from

Let's start with goals: I'm a big fan of Shawni Pothier over at her blog, 71 Toes. She has posted about doing Summer Goals with her kids, and I thought it was a great idea, so I copied her!

I sat down with my kids and helped them to set 4 reasonable goals for themselves in the following categories: Physical, Mental/Educational, Spiritual, and Personal. Here are my kids' goals for the summer:

Monkey's Summer Goals

1. Physical: Hit 10 balls in a row (prepping for baseball next year!)
2. Mental/Educational: Read 5 chapter books (I'm pretty sure he'll read a lot more than this, but he wasn't convinced so I let him go with 5)
3. Spiritual: Remember to say personal prayers every day.
4. Personal: Save up $20 to buy Lego set.

Starlet's Summer Goals

1. Physical: Learn to hula hoop.
2. Mental/Educational: Learn 15 1st grade sight words (she just finished kindergarten)
3. Spiritual: Memorize 6 scriptures.
4. Personal: Save up $7 to buy a stuffed kitty.

I will admit, so far I'm not doing a great job reminding and encouraging the kids with their goals- we may need to implement a chart for this. What I'd really like to do is sit down with each of them and help them to make their own charts to track their progress. Part of the point of setting these goals is teaching them how to set goals and how to make a plan to achieve them. Working on it!

As for discipline, I recently read a great book entitled, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire" by 5th-grade teacher Rafe Esquith. In the book, he talks about how he has helped his students understand the 6 Levels of Moral Development. Here's a short video where he explains these levels:

I really loved the concept, and I decided it was something I wanted my own kids to understand- never too early to start, right? So I sat down with them and drew a picture of a mountain. I made each level of moral development a tick mark on the mountain, starting with Level 1 at the bottom and going up to Level 6 at the top- from which point you can see the great view from atop the mountain. I had the kids watch the video and we talked about each level as I drew them on the mountain. Even at ages 8 and 6, they understood- my 8-year-old more than my 6-year-old, but it was a good start.

My ultimate goal is to do entirely away with discipline systems and rewards so we can achieve Level 6 thinking: being good because you know it's the right thing to do, but I know that will take time. For now, my son is doing well with gentle reminders and we still have to use the "color change" system (from last summer) with my daughter. We were having too many tantrum issues, and so I sat her down and explained that I could see that she still needed a system to help her remember how to behave.  It's a good thing because not only does it help nip the bad behavior in the bud, but when she gets a color change it also reminds her that she's aiming for a higher level, and she doesn't want to be using the color change system.

Little Boo is still on basic 1-2-3 time outs. She's only 2 and it works. Someday she'll get the levels. :-)

image from

As for allowances, it's very simple: the kids earn $0.25/day for completing all their chores. We don't use a chart, I just make sure they get everything done every day. They can earn an additional $0.25 for extra chores, with a limit of 1 extra chore per day using the chore sticks (otherwise I'd go broke and run out of things for them to do). We do chores Monday through Saturday, so that's a "base pay" of $1.50/week, and up to $3 a week. Little Boo earns $1 a week for helping her brother and sister (she alternates being their helper and mine throughout the week) and doing the things I ask.

I've heard that kids should get $1/week per year of age, but I'm sorry- what is a 6-year-old going to do with 6 bucks a week? That just seems like a lot to me, especially when my kids are tickled pink when they get to buy 1 thing from the Dollar Store. I like that they have enough money to save up for the things they want and to learn budgeting, but I'm not emptying my wallet into their little hands each week.

So that's our plan for the summer! So far it's working for us. :-)

How about you? Goals? Discipline? Allowances? Thoughts?
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