Friday, May 29, 2015

Petting Zoo Fun

We were at the local petting zoo a week ago or so, and the boy-o still talks about petting the goats and deer almost every day! Apparently our little outing made a lasting impression on him. We have a cat at home, so the boy-o is already very familiar with the concept of "gentle petting" and it's so wonderful to see him apply that to other animals as well.


We bought a few cones of feed so he could try feeding the animals. He was pretty hesitant about it at first, but each time we've gone he's gotten better at it! He's getting pretty good at feeding the carrots and cones because the animals don't actually touch his hand that way, but he's still pretty nervous about letting them lick up seed from his palm. 


It makes me smile to see my little so excited about animals and behaving so well with them--maybe one day he'll be a veterinarian or something.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Menu Board D.I.Y Success!

I've been working on a little project for a while now in the hopes of making our lives a little easier when it comes to meal times especially with baby #2 on the way! There is nothing I hate more than staring into the fridge every night trying to think of what to make for dinner!! It drives me CRAZY. It's also not much better when we sit down and try to make up a menu for the week because it ends up with a lot of "what do you want to eat this week?" "I don't know, what do you want to eat?" and I still end up going crazy.

Then I saw this awesome menu board idea on Pinterest and decided I need to make my own to see if this actually works or not. It's a pretty simple premise and I can't wait to start trying it out to see if it makes life a little easier for us.


Basically you write out all the meals that you like to eat (this part took forever trying to think of all the food we like to make) and each meal gets written on a separate little slip of paper. I colour coded mine based on kind of meat, so all the chicken recipes are on one colour of paper, and all the ground meat dishes are on one colour of paper etc. so that when I'm choosing meals for the week it's easier to vary the meats that we're eating. Pasta dishes got a separate colour and so did sandwiches regardless of the meat used. This divide make sense to me, but you can split up yours however you want!

Once you've got all your meals written out you put them all into a little cup/holder. Each week you select 7 new slips from the cup and stick them on the clothes pegs that correspond to the days you want to eat those meals. Once you have used the little cards you take them off the clothes pegs and move them over to the other cup. Once the first cup is empty and you've gone through your entire meal rotation you simply move all the slips back over to the first cup and start again!


The best part about this system is that you can easily re-arrange meals mid-week if you need to in case something pops up you forgot about, or you need to make an appointment etc. Just pop the necessary meal slips out of the clothes pegs and re-arrange as necessary. I also made up some plain white slips, and these are for "Dinner Out/Ordering In" and "Scrounge Night" because lets face it... who wants to cook something new every single night?!


At the bottom of the menu board is the recipe index. Most of the meals that we have in our regular rotation we don't need a recipe for, but there are a few that we still check, and of course as we add new meals to our rotation we need the recipe for those until they become old favourites as well. The recipes are printed on colour coordinated paper to the meal slips to make them easier to find and they are glued onto a large index card and then laminated. (because kitchen's are a messy place!) Having the recipes right here on the board rather than having to dig through cookbooks to find them was totally worth the extra time it took to type them up.


The recipe index as mentioned is totally expandable, so as we try new dishes we like that we want to include in our menu rotation it will be super easy to open up the rings and add in new index cards as necessary.


I'm super happy with how well the board turned out and I can't wait to hang it up and start using it! I'll update again in a few weeks with how we're making out using it. Having our meals planned out for the week will also make it so much easier to organize our grocery list and help to cut down on the amount of food that gets forgotten about in the fridge and has to get tossed out.

D.I.Y for the win!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Crock Pot Butter Chicken

Since I'm trying to cook with more spices which I talked about when I posted the Basil Curry Chicken recipe before, I decided to try making my own Butter Chicken--and even better, it's a crockpot recipe, so no need to heat up the whole house slaving over the stove top!

Crockpot Butter Chicken--Ready to Eat!

The recipe was super simple, and basically amounts to simply throwing everything in the crockpot and letting it cook! I served mine over some white rice with a piece of naan. It was delicious and made an even better lunch the next day!

Crockpot Butter Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size chunks
  • 1/2 onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if you are not a spicy person)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk, regular or lite
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream

Instructions

1. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl mix together the coconut milk, greek yogurt and cream. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, ginger and all the spices. Mix well.
2. Sprinkle the onion over the bottom of the crockpot. Add the chicken and then pour the coconut milk mixture over the chicken so the chicken is completely covered. 
3. Add the butter and place the lid on the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. 

Once the curry is done cooking, serve it hot over rice and with some naan for scooping and dipping (my favourite part!) This meal was Toddler Approved which is always a nice bonus! For the boy-o I mixed some of the butter chicken up with some of the rice, and put into a tortilla shell with some cheese and gave it a quick grill to make it into a burrito of sorts. He gobbled it right up and I was super happy to have leftovers for lunch the next day because it was delicious!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Garden Adventures, Bubbles, and Sidewalk Chalk

Where we're currently living we don't have any access to a yard, but we do have a balcony. The boy-o really loves to be outside digging in my parent's garden and I wanted to create something here for him to have some space to play as well. So I created him a little garden center out on the balcony with things purchased from the local dollar store. Today was our first real chance to get outside to test it out, and we also blew some bubbles and played with the sidewalk chalk.


The little garden center is made up of a rubbermaid box, some potting soil, two fake plants in little plastic pots, a pewter bird, some marbles to search and find, a little bucket borrowed from the play kitchen, and a little shovel, rake and roller. We also got him a rainbow foam mat that he can sit/kneel on when he's working away. 


He had a wonderful time digging away and dumping the soil over the plants. He got completely covered in dirt and he loved every second of it! Clean-up was a breeze since we were outside on the balcony and I just swept up the spilled dirt and dumped it back into the container!


One of the boy-o's other favourite things to do when outside on the balcony is to blow bubbles. He's getting really good at it now, although it took him a while to get the hang of it. He loves watching them float away, and trying to catch the close ones. Sometimes he even lets mommy blow some too!


Sidewalk chalk is another big hit. Although we have a pretty confined area for him to play in, it's a concrete balcony, so the sidewalk chalk works great. Every time we get out drawing materials the boy-o demands I draw him a train almost immediately. Then he scribbles all over it adding the "hook-ups."


We get lots of nice shade on the balcony too because we have a great big leafy tree right next to us, so I foresee many more enjoyable hours spent on the balcony playing in our new little garden and blowing bubbles and destroying trains.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bingo Dabber Letters

Now that I'm done with school and back at home with the boy-o I've been looking for some new sensory or educational activities that we can do together, especially when the weather isn't co-operating and we're stuck inside for the afternoon. This is a super simple activity (although a little messy since bingo dabber ink stays on the hands for days...) that we both really enjoyed working on.


It's a great activity to help your toddler get a bit more familiar with the letters of the alphabet and you could use it for numbers as well. Essentially all you need is some blank paper, some bingo dabbers, and a pen or marker to draw some circles on the paper. (We also used our "craft cardboard" to protect the table, and a smock) The circles don't need to be perfect by any means, but they do need to be big enough that a bingo dabber dot could comfortably fit inside it.


We tried a few letters and the boy-o caught on really quickly. I showed him how to do the first one by making a "dot" inside the circle, and that's all the instruction he needed--as off he went filling in the rest of the dots. He did a fantastic job at it, and was really focusing to make sure his "dots" were right inside the circles. After doing a few letters I just gave him a totally blank page to let him have at it and let his creative ideas flow.


We'll definitely be doing more of this in the future! It's also a really great activity for working on hand-eye coordination with your toddler, and when they finish it's such a feeling of accomplishment for them to see their hard work!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pasta Bake with Turkey Sausage, Spinach and Tomatoes

Following along the casserole trend, we tested out a delicious pasta bake for supper the other night. It combines penne noodles with some sausage, and host of veggies including spinach, coloured peppers, and cherry tomatoes. It's a really nice blend of healthier creaminess and traditional marinara pasta sauce.

We made a huge casserole dish of it, so we had several leftovers some of which we froze--and I'm happy to say that that it freezes really well too! This recipe was also Toddler Approved which is always a bonus!

Pasta Bake with Sausage, Spinach & Tomatoes

Ingredients
-10 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
-1 lb spicy Italian chicken or turkey sausage
-1 5-6 oz. bag baby spinach
-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small red pepper cut into strips
- 1/2 small orange pepper cut into strips
- 1/2 small yellow pepper cut into strips
-1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
-1 cup pasta sauce
-3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
-1/4 cup milk
-1 and 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or mixed blend
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (less or none if you don't like spicy)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
2. Cook sausage in 1 tbsp butter over medium heat for 12-14 minutes, or until browned. When almost done, add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Turn off heat and remove sausage with tongs, placing on cutting board. Slice into bite-sized pieces. Pour remaining butter and garlic into a very large bowl.
3. Place the spinach in the bottom of your pasta strainer. When pasta is done, pour pasta and pasta water over the spinach into the strainer, allowing the spinach to wilt slightly.
4. Chop cherry tomatoes into halves, for a total of 1 cup.
5. Pour pasta, sausage, spinach, peppers, and tomatoes into bowl with garlic.
6. Add tomato sauce, yogurt, milk, 1 cup of the cheese, and spices to bowl. Mix very well. Pour into casserole dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover dish with foil.
7. Cook for 20 minutes covered. Remove foil, cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Dig in!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Homemade Slime: AKA Gak to Some

I've been wanting to try out a slime recipe for a while now, but this was proving to be much more difficult than I thought. There are ALL KINDS of recipes floating around on the web about how to make Borax-Free slime, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were disasters.

We tried making it with liquid starch, we tried making it with laundry detergent, and it was all epic fail. EPIC. So I gave in and tried making it with Borax and we all lived to tell the tale. The boy-o didn't even attempt to put it near his mouth, and since I was the one making it, he was never near the original Borax powder, and the amount that goes into the slime is so minimal that I'm not going to worry about it.


I used regular white glue when I made it and didn't have any food colouring on hand the first time I tried making it, but I did add some blue sparkles to it. This gave it a fun sheen, but the sparkles definitely come out, and I've been picking them off him for days--consider yourself warned!


At first he really wasn't too sure about the slime since it was cold and a really different texture than anything else he's used to. He soon got over his hesitation though and started pulling and pushing it around the table. It was a great sensory experience for him. Our slime was quite thick and rubbery, and not particularly "slimy" so the next time I try it I'll add less Borax. (And some food colouring!)

So after a quick trip to the store to pick up some food colouring after the boy-o went to bed tonight, I decided to try making some more slime now that I've got some food-colouring. I made a pink and green one. All of the slimes are simply stored in their own Ziploc Baggies until we want to take them out and play again!

Here's the recipe that we used to make our slime:

Slime:

Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup Elmer's Glue
- 1 TSP Borax
-  1 and 1/2 cup Water
- Food Colouring (optional)


Directions:

1. In one bowl mix 1/2 cup (4 oz) glue and 1/2 cup water. Add food coloring if you want colored slime.

2. In the other bowl, mix 1 teaspoon borax with 1 cup water until the borax is dissolved.
3. Add the borax mixture to the glue solution, stirring slowly. You may not need to add it all!
4. The slime will begin to form immediately; stir as much as you can, then dig in and knead it with your hands until it gets less sticky. (No one makes slime without getting a little messy!) Don't worry about any leftover water in the bowl; just pour it out.

Pink and Green Slime
The pink one is a pretty similar consistency to the original white one with the blue sparkles, but the green one is suuuuper slimy, which is fitting I supposed since it's green and all! 


The new colours have been stored away in some baggies too and I can't wait to see how the boy-o reacts to the new slimes and the texture of the green one.

Slime with Borax

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Simple Toddler Activity- Q Tip Drop

Having a toddler can be tough sometimes--they don't seem to have an "off" switch, unless they're asleep. This has made it more important than ever to have some "quiet time" activities the boy-o can work on while I'm trying to get jobs done around the house, like making dinner in particular.


This is a bit of a throwback to the Ice Cream Bucket and Popsicle Stick idea, except it's much more compact which is great for travelling and even simpler to make. Basically all you need is an empty Parmesan Cheese container and some Q-Tips. I purposely bought a small clear container of Parm Cheese to make it suit the purpose more, but any of them will do just fine!

The concept is pretty simple.... give them the container with the flap open that has the small holes for shaking (not the large spoon one) and a pile of Q-Tips. Show them how to drop the Q-Tips in the holes and then let them have at it! This is a fantastic activity for working on fine motor control, not only for picking up and holding the Q-Tips, but also getting them into the little holes.


To take it up a notch, we also practiced our counting each time we put one in which is a great way to reinforce numbers while playing. The boy-o had a great time putting all the Q-tips in, and then unscrewed the lid himself to dump them out and started over again!


Because we used the small container size, it'll be really easy to toss in a carry-on or diaper bag for travelling purposes, and when not actively in use, you can just store the Q-Tips right inside the container. Since the Q-Tips aren't actually being used for their intended purpose, I'd definitely just recommend buying them from a dollar store making this simple little activity incredibly inexpensive as well.