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Friday, December 24, 2010

Fun & Easy Rudolf Handprint Craft

Looking for a fun and easy craft to pass the time and provide an outlet for your child's creativity this antsy Christmas Eve? If you're children are like mine, they are hyped up and need some structured fun. Sweetpea is always saying "mommy, let's do a craft!" which I love to hear, and this Rudolf craft is good for a wide age range and requires few supplies. You could also modify the instructions to make this into a mask if you have a little one who likes to dress up and pretend!

Rudolf Handprint Plate Craft

1 paper plate
Construction paper for tracing/cutting out hand prints
Markers or crayons
pipe cleaners (optional)

Trace and cut out your child's hand prints.
Cut the lower portion of the plate out on either side, making a somewhat triangular shape (as shown in the picture) to represent the shape of a reindeer head.
Allow your child to decorate the plate to look like a reindeer face, and if they are old enough, to glue their hands into position as antlers.

2 optional steps - in the picture above, we used a small section of red pipe cleaner as Rudolph's nose. You can see the little crafter in this picture had drawn an extra nose as well, so her little pipe cleaner can be a tongue instead ;)

If you would like to make this a mask, cut out eye holes large enough for your child to see well through, and use a hole punch or scissors to cut small holes in the middle of the plate on either side. Use 2 more pipe cleaners and attach them to the holes, then twist them together at the appropriate length to attach the mask to your child's head.


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Monday, December 20, 2010

A true prince...

Sweetpea is taking after mama with her enthusiasm for party planning. And how much do I love this man that he enthusiastically dubbed this surprise princess party his "best birthday ever"?! We had pizza and a princess cake, a crown and kiss coupons for our prince, and a lot of fun.

What was your "best birthday ever"? Do you encourage your kids to help planning celebrations? I love the ideas they come up with!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Baby it's COLD outside...Come on in!

The weather has done more than turn cold, it's frigid! I'm grateful for memories of a much warmer time in my heart, and coats and hats to keep us warm.

I've had the opportunity to jump into a long term substitute teaching position, and things have gone from busy to crazy in an instant! I really miss spending my days with the girls, but this is a great experience for me as I finish up my teaching license program. Speaking of that program, it's finals week, and EmDee has been working second shift, so between teaching, final projects, and hubs dragging his tired self home around midnight, our Advent activities have been light this week. This weekend we are looking forward to baking cookies with grandma, some of which I'll be taking in to my students, and some will be going to our hard working fire men and women!

In a few short days, school will be out for the year, and things will slow down again. I can't wait to soak it all up! Wishing you warm moments with loved ones, and plenty of joy to share as the holiday season is upon us!! (as a side note, how did this year fly by so quickly?!?)

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alternatives to the Advent Calendar - Planning our Christmas Traditions

Each year we make a countdown chain for the month of December, a fun decoration/craft that serves several purposes. The chain is fun to make - we practice cutting, gluing, and patience! Each link gets assigned a fun activity or craft from our activity list for the month. This helps ensure we make time for the fun family activities and traditions we want to enjoy, and that they don't get lost in the busy-ness of the season.

Here is our activity list for this year - with the first activity (for today) being the making of the chain. :) I'll post our chain, hung with care next to the stockings later this week. After making the links and writing an activity on each one, I cross reference our calendar to see whether we have time for a big or a little activity - this helps order the links!

December Activity List
Create our countdown to Christmas activity chain
Hang the chain and the stockings by the fire with care
Make a tree craft
Make hot chocolate and drink it by the fire
Drive around the neighborhood in our pajamas, enjoying the lights
Make a Santa hand craft
Make dough ornaments and bake them
Decorate dough ornaments
Bake cookies
Decorate cookies
Take treats to the fire station
Make Rudolf hand craft
Make snowflake crown craft
Bath time Santa beards
Watch the Year Without A Santa Claus together in our pajamas
Make red and green swirl cake
Make a gingerbread house
Make an angel hand and foot print craft
Make snowmen crafts with cotton balls
Take a winter hike at the park
Make a tree paper plate craft
Pick out Christmas books from the library, to supplement our collection*
Visit Santa Claus
Buy toys or clothes for a Christmas charity
Buy food and donate it to our local food pantry

* When we find a holiday book that we really like, we add it to our collection. We go to the library and check out enough holiday books so that between the library books and the ones in our collection there are 25, and read a different holiday book each night at bedtime.

Do you use an advent calendar, or an alternative way to count the days until Christmas? I'd love to hear about your traditions! What are your favorite holiday activities?

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Helping Girls Succeed in Math and Science

As a mother of two bright young girls and a woman in a technical field, I have thought a lot about ways to encourage girls in math and science, and to avoid the traps that lead to the gender gap that still exists today. I strongly believe (and research suggests) that family support is a positive factor, and that making science and math fun and relevant goes a long way toward fostering interest.

I have heard some colleagues suggest that girls are simply less analytical or less interested in science than their male counterparts. Studies suggest that - at least initially - this simply isn't true. A recent study found that boys and girls were equally interested in science in the fourth grade, but by the eighth grade boys were twice as likely as girls to still be interested in science. I was shocked by the drastic shift - something (more likely many things) is definitely causing the steep decline in female interest. With the obvious barriers of entry a thing of the past, it is difficult to identify the causes. Some suggest that a lack of support at home, a lack of female role models, and a difficulty relating to common examples used in the science classroom (such as a car engine) may be at work.

The Department of Education released a practice guide for teachers in 2007, aimed at assisting educators in encouraging girls in math and science. The guide was developed by a panel of experts who were tasked with providing evidence based recommendations, and here are the five recommendations they came up with:

  1. Teach students that academic abilities are expandable and improvable
  2. Provide prescriptive, informal feedback
  3. Expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science
  4. Create a classroom environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long term interest in math and science
  5. Provide spatial skills training
In other words, we need to reinforce the idea that girls are capable and can thrive in technical pursuits AND maintain their interest while teaching math and science.

Parents can implement these recommendations as well, and today I want to focus on numbers 3 and 4. I will follow up with information on the remaining recommendations in another post.

3: Expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science

There is a significant lack of female role models in the science classroom. Why the emphasis on classroom? The book Failing at Fairness highlighted that even as recently as 1994 women were significantly underrepresented in textbooks. With a little research, I found there have been an abundance of female role models in math and science throughout history, but few of them make it into science and math textbooks. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Education both think this has an impact on girls' attitudes toward science, and that increasing exposure to female (and minority) role models can encourage everyone in the classroom: "When girls are shown images of women scientists and given a greater sense of possibility about the person they could become, the boys get the message too - I can do this!"

Some studies have shown that girls tend to be more critical of their skills, and/or more easily discouraged by a failure or perceived failure. Providing role models and examples of women who have succeeded throughout history can help reinforce self confidence and invalidate the stereotype that men are better at math and science than women.

Where can a parent go to get information on women in science throughout history? Here are a few resources that can help.

Women's Adventures in Science

Historical Women in Science

Great Science for Girls - role models

4: Create a classroom environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long term interest in math and science

This goes back to what I said earlier about keeping learning fun and relevant. Engaging activities - those that girls can easily relate to and that don't reinforce stereotypes (back to the car engine) can increase the interest of all students and help everyone succeed. By encouraging your child's natural curiosity, relating her interests to science or math, discussing current events as they relate to science and math, and encouraging your child to ask questions and seek out answers, you are fostering your child's interest in learning and building her self confidence.

Here are some links that can help you get started:

Science News for Kids

Mad Science

Resources for Families Taking Action

Exploring Science Resources

If you didn't find what you were looking for, don't be afraid to simply Google a particular subject of interest -investigating with your child reinforces the idea that research doesn't have to be a daunting task, and provides an opportunity to discuss appropriate resources.

What do you think - is there still a gender gap in technical fields? Is it inherent, or is there something else at work? I'd love to hear whether you were encouraged in math and science, and see any links that can help encourage all students in technical pursuits!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stay organized this holday season - Holiday ePlanner giveaway!

*Extended due to my computer crash*
Since I couldn't promote this giveaway like I normally would, I'm extending the deadline until midnight December 2. With the holidays right around the corner, don't miss this great planner!

It is always my goal that our holidays be relaxing and enjoyable, but without a lot of planning and careful execution, that dream will quickly turn into a nightmare! I'm a list mama by nature, but by no means am I a big picture organizational type, which is why I'm a big fan of the holiday ePlanner by ListPlanIt. You can read my full review here. I love how this planner helps me get all my lists in a functional, working order, and helps me figure out when I should be doing what...

Jen from ListPlanIt has graciously offered to give her wonderful planner to two lucky Problem Solvin Mom readers! To enter, visit ListPlanIt and let me know what planning feature you like best about the holiday ePlanner, or any of the other lists or planners available on the site.

For added entries, you may do any of the following (be sure to leave a separate comment):

Tweet about this giveaway and leave a direct link (1/day)

Visit Jen's blog 100 days to Christmas and subscribe to the feed

Subscribe here at Problem Solvin Mom

Spread the word about this giveaway on your facebook page

Like ListPlanIt on facebook

This giveaway will close at midnight on November 20. Good luck!

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Saturday, November 27, 2010


It's been a long time since I've shared my gratitude list. I know that actively capturing moments in my mind and my journal helps my entire outlook, and yet it's easy when things get hectic to fall out of the habit. As the holidays approach I'm reflecting on my goals, my core values and the habits I need to get back to in order to live intentionally. This is one of those habits...

Sweet little hands to hold

Sister hugs

Fishy faced baby kisses

A beautiful day in late November for exploring the park with GaSue, GuBob and the girls

Plate licking good food at Thanksgiving dinner

Tea time with my two little princesses

Forgiveness, extended time and again

What are you thankful for this week?

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Make your own art smock in less than 5 minutes! {my 1st vlog!}

Does your child love to do art projects and crafts? Cook in the kitchen? Get messy indoors or out? Then this super simple upcycled art smock is the perfect 5 minute project for you! I tried several different things to keep my 3 year old clean while she was crafting (or even just digging in the dirt) but nothing seemed to be quite right. Then I realized the solution was in my t shirt drawer. It's quick and easy to make your own art smock from a t shirt, and I'll show you how.

If you're like me, you have a big stack of t shirts you rarely ever wear. I love to take shirts from that stack and upcycle them into something I will actually use. One of my favorite new t shirt projects is this child's art smock - and since you're using an adult t shirt, this project can work for your littlest artist through the early teen years. This is my first vlog, so please be kind ;) And since the camera view isn't up close enough to really see where I'm making the cuts, I've included some sketches below for added clarity. If you have any questions, please ask!

Here is a sketch of the template. Make your cuts along the red lines, starting with the vertical red line. The pink areas will be cut away, leaving four straps that are sized specifically for your little artist.
And here is a rough sketch of the finished product!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beautiful & Sustainable - Holiday Photo Cards from Cardstore.com

Our Christmas cards and gift tags this year - could they be any cuter?

Are you looking for beautiful holiday photo cards (or thank you cards, stationary, announcements and business cards!) from a company that is focused on sustainability and great customer service? Look no further than cardstore.com!

Cardstore.com is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and partners with Carbonfund.org to offset its carbon footprint. With more than 7,000 designs featuring many well known artists, you're bound to find something you love.

I received a $25 credit to cardstore.com to review their products. I had in mind a picture from our vacation that I wanted to use, and thought it would be a quick and easy process. The actual process of uploading my photo and personalizing my card was very quick and easy - the time consuming part was deciding which card to choose!

Here are a few of my favorite things about cardstore.com:

The huge variety of designs available

The unique products that are available in addition to photo cards - have you seen the personalized gift tags? You can see the ones I ordered in the lower right of the picture at the top of this post - I can't wait to start attaching these to gifts this Christmas!

The ease of personalization - If you choose a photo postcard, you can add a personal message on the back of the card and even upload your address book to include the addresses!

No minimum order - while increasing your order quantity can reduce your price per item, there is no need to order 20 cards of each style. With the option to order just one card, it's possible to create a truly personal card for any occasion!

In addition to all that, the site is quick and easy to use, and my cards were delivered quickly. The quality of the cards exceeded my expectations. I will definitely be using cardstore.com again and again!

New customers can save 20% on their first order by using the code CSHOLIDAY20 at checkout.

*disclaimer* I received a $25 credit to review the products of my choice at cardstore.com. This review was otherwise not compensated, and all opinions are my own. For more information on my review policy, see my disclosure statement.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Flavored Brussel Sprouts

Do you love brussel sprouts? I do! If you don't, chances are you haven't had them made correctly...just like greens, they can be rich and delicious in the right recipe. I first fell in love after trying this recipe from Rachel Ray. While I still love that recipe, I like to mix things up a bit and try new flavors. Last night I wanted something with a bit of fall flavor to it, and this fit the bill just perfectly! If you are looking for a fast, frugal and healthy side dish, this is it!

The key is to start with fresh brussel sprouts. I've never been able to get the texture right with the frozen variety, and texture is so key in a dish like this. I like small to medium sprouts, so that when cut in half they are roughly bite sized. Cut off the bottom "stem" area if necessary and rinse the sprouts well. Cut them in half unless they are particularly small.

1lb brussel sprouts, small to medium in size
2 cups broth of your choice (I usually use chicken broth, but beef or vegetable is tasty too)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
salt (I prefer course) to taste
pinch of dried mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tablespoons apple butter

Heat a pan on medium high with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place the sprouts in the pan so that they are in roughly a single layer. Allow them to cook a minute or two to caramelize before stirring. While you're waiting, add the salt and pepper. Stir the sprouts and add the mustard, nutmeg, apple butter and broth. Cover, reducing heat to low. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste one to make sure they are cooked to your preferred texture, and serve!

This amount of brussel sprouts will likely serve eight to ten people - great for holidays, parties, or leftovers!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Have Breastpump, Will Travel

When Sweetpea was born, I was a gold elite member with Northwest Airlines. I somewhat naively thought that when I returned to work after maternity leave I would be able to ease back into travel mode, and con some of my less maternal coworkers into taking some trips for me. I might as well have slipped that gold elite identification tag right on my pump, because we were going to be spending a lot of time together.

Overall, pumping has gone pretty well for me. I've always been able to collect enough milk to keep up with demand and then some, donating the extra to a milk bank the first time and a private donor this time around. The difficult part turned out to be finding a place to pump and making the time for it during my many trips. Before baby, I could tell you which airports had the best restaurants and window shopping. After baby I could tell you which ones had private bathrooms with a lock and a plug!

Here are a few of the more (or less) exciting places I've had the chance to pump:

various parking lots
many a restaurant bathroom
airport bathrooms
in the passenger seat of a car on the highway
in the medical department of a manufacturing plant in Mexico
in the office of one of the managers at a Mexican supplier's facility (they had to hang posters up over the windows so I could have some privacy...hi everyone, don't mind me...)
Walt Disney World

And what I think is the strangest place of all: while drivingl (stuck in traffic) in the line to cross the border back into Mexico between Matamoros and Brownsville - thank goodness for my battery backup! (and yes, this was at the urging of my friend/coworker Tom, who really wanted to go straight to eat dinner when we finally got back into Texas, thanks again, Tom!)

After pumping in so many public-ish places, I've gotten pretty good at being discreet - or at least staying covered. (there is something about that pump noise that invites people to stare, trying to figure out what you're doing) I find with a nursing tank and a long shirt I can get situated to where I feel comfortable. In areas where there isn't a table, I've hung my pump bag over my shoulder. Disinfecting wipes and the microwave steam bags are great for when you're not in a place where washing is easy, like when I was in Mexico.

As challenging and stressful as it was at times to plan my travel around making time to pump, it was comforting to me, reminding me of my little one and helping me to feel close to her even when I was very far away!

Where are the strangest places you've pumped? Come join the conversation at the Motherlove Facebook page!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Tradition - Punkin' Lovin

Each year we head over to the pumpkin patch and explore, take pictures and pick out a few things to take home with us. My favorites are the gourds, with their unique shapes, bright varied colors and interesting textures. This year Sweetpea liked the pie pumpkins best, as they were perfectly round and just her size. Sugar Plum was a big fan of the corn stalks!

I love this tradition not only because I love fall, but because it's such a fun way to get outside and soak up the last remaining fall weather, and to document how much the girls are growing. I'll be the first to admit, I'm pretty terrible at keeping up with regular photo sessions. I do take a lot of pictures, but I have to depend on the date stamp to try and figure out how old the girls are sometimes when I finally have a chance to organize and print pictures. {hangs head in shame}

This is one of the last pictures of Sweetpea with her vacation braids! (and an actual smile, while looking at the camera!)

Sugar Plum was a bit too interested in the gourds to look at the camera. So most of her pictures are like this one...love those eyelashes!

And the pictures where she isn't looking down? She's practicing her exit strategy! Since learning to walk, she loves to be on the move!

Here is a picture from last year...wow!

And one more from this year - happy fall, everyone!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

8 Frisch's Kids Meals for $1 - a great treat for the kids in your life!

Looking for an affordable and fun treat for the little goblins in your life? Frisch’s Halloween Kid’s Coupons are now on sale at all area Frisch’s Big Boy locations! While they might be a bit pricey to hand out to trick or treaters, I think it's a great treat to give at a Halloween party or to some special friends.

I plan to purchase some for my own kids family - knowing the holiday season is upon us, these will help remind me to take a break from the busy-ness of the coming days, to slow down, relax and enjoy.

The coupons are good for one FREE Kid’s Meal and include a mini soft drink or small milk.

A pack of eight Frisch’s Halloween Kid’s Coupons are just $1 – no other purchase necessary.

Available for a limited time only (until October 31)

Coupons are valid for redemption in the dining room only, November 1 - December 14.

Kids must be accompanied by an adult, but an adult meal purchase is not required.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghostly Cupcakes!

I saw these simple and darling cupcakes at Hoosier Homemade the other day (okay a few weeks ago, so I'm just getting around to all things Halloween!) and I knew I wanted to let Sweetpea try her hand at them. Our icing was a bit soft to stand up like I wanted them too, but they are still cute, don't you think? We had to use yellow for the eyes, because "yellowismyfavoritecolor!" and she thought this ghost just had to have a nose too! :)

These "cupcakes" are actually sweet potato muffins, which I shared at Amy's Finer Things a while back. They are a great healthy muffin, and with a little frosting they taste sweet enough that my husband eats them (that is saying a lot, trust me!).

Now Sweetpea likes these muffins without icing, but just in case you wondered if she liked these little ghosts -after she finished eating this one tonight she said, "mommy, I look silly! Take my picture..." And so I did!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

5 ways to stay committed to your workout routine {and a healthy lifestyle in general}

Do you find yourself dreading workouts, cheating on your diet, or feeling like the healthy changes you've made aren't something you can live with long term? It's often much easier to get excited at the start of a healthy lifestyle change, but there are tricks to motivating yourself when your motivation starts to fizzle. Here are my top five ways to stay motivated:

1. Commit to it! So often, getting started is the hardest part. When starting a program, set a minimum time frame to stick with it before giving up or moving on to something else. This goes for individual workouts as well - when I really don't feel like working out, I make a deal with myself that I will work out for ten minutes, and then I can stop if I want to. Most times I keep going, but sometimes I do stop, and that's okay!

2. Reflect on your reasons for starting this journey when you're feeling down or discouraged. Is there someone in particular you want to be healthy for? Is there something you really want to do? Keep these inspiring thoughts close at hand - the fridge is a good place for them, actually, or the front door...a vision board or inspirational quotes posted in several locations can't hurt!

3. Remember your workouts are built in "me time" to care for yourself, decompress and/or get out some aggression. I find my workout time to be a great brainstorming opportunity, and I often text myself ideas I don't want to forget!

4. Treat yourself to little indulgences that are especially for during or post workout. (or at the end of a day when you've eaten particularly healthily!) I have special body wash and lotion that are reserved exclusively for my gym bag, and I hold back my favorite magazine to read while I'm on the elliptical machine.

5. Measure your success - if you find numbers or progress especially motivating, then be sure to track your success. This can be with the scale, a measuring tape, or the way your clothes feel. Don't get too tied to the numbers, however, remember to keep track of your energy level, sleep habits, and general mood, which should all improve as well!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Easily clean tomato stains!

The other day, I posted about cleaning up after stuck on food messes...but what if you're tray still has that yucky orange tomato glow after it's clean? Our girls love spaghetti, so this is a regular occurrence. If you're like me, you have some food storage containers that look like this too.

I did some investigating, and came up with a solution that is very effective and nearly free! Spray or wipe down the surface with lemon juice, and then lay it out in the sun for several hours. I laid our tray out before running some errands, and when we came back, after a quick wipe down, it was as good as new!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Sweetpea is on cloud 9, giving a big hug to one of her favorite Sesame Street characters, Zoe!

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Hi everyone, I'm Buffee, from The Truth According to Buffee. Today I'm guest posting for Steph while she's on vacation celebrating her anniversary! At least I think that's why I'm here? Anyway, Steph was looking for guest posters and I volunteered! I made her give me suggestions on what she wanted me to post about. She requested something fall related, maybe a craft or recipe of some sort.

I decided to go with the easy (obvious) choice and post a recipe! I typically post one recipe a week on my blog. Every Thursday I link up with my sissy, Brandee, over at Think Tank Momma for her Share A Spoon.

I love the fall. It's my favorite time of year. I love the changing of the leaves, the colors of fall, football, the smell of spice in the air, the cool temperatures, the festivals, anything and everything to do with the fall! Especially pumpkins! I really enjoy going to the pumpkin patch and carving jack-o-lanterns. I love making and eating pumpkin recipes. There's just so much I love about the fall.

Today's recipe is a simple one. Most all of my recipes are. My mom taught me how to make these. I believe she learned the recipe while attending Weight Watchers. So yes, it's easy, delicious, and healthy! What more could a girl ask for? Chocolate? You got it! I added mini chocolate chips to give it a little something more! (Yes, I'm cool like that, uh huh uh huh)!
Mini chocolate chip pumpkin muffins 1 box Spice Cake mix 1 15 oz can of pumpkin 1 6 oz container of vanilla yogurt about 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine cake mix, pumpkin, and yogurt. Stir until completely combined. Fold in chocolate chips ( I never measure them, I just pour some in until it looks like enough). If you don't like chocolate and pumpkin together, just omit them. They're great without them too! Spoon mixture into lined mini muffin tins. (I use a nifty cookie scoop to do this. It makes this job so EASY). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. That's it! It's that easy! I bake these every fall and take them to work. Everyone always loves them! I hope you'll try them out and enjoy them too! Thanks for having me Steph!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Simple Recipes – Eggplant Turkish Meze

This is a guest post by TwinToddlersDad who blogs about child nutrition on Littlestomaks.

A meze is a small dish, served as a collection of appetizers before the main course in a Mediterranean meal. In Turkey, for example, they keep on bringing plates after plates of these mezes and you get to taste small portions of each with fresh bread. Mezes are an important part of the culinary experience as you sit down with family and friends, enjoy the conversation and of course the delicious food! It’s not that you overeat – even though you are tempted to – because the quantities are small and each meze is shared by everyone on the table. Different types of cheese, olives, pickles and meats are presented in a huge variety of mezes. Eggplant based dishes are quite popular as mezes, they can be made easily and they taste delicious!

Recently, we started a small vegetable garden in our backyard. We planted three Japanese eggplants, and now that they are bearing fruit, we have been making some of our favorite eggplant dishes including mezes. It is amazing to see these eggplants grow starting out from the beautiful purple flowers. Here are a few pictures of these eggplants and the twins having fun with them!

Anyway, here is an eggplant meze recipe one of our friends recently made for a party:


  1. 2-3 eggplants, peeled and cut into cubes
  2. 2 tomatoes, crushed in a food processor
  3. 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  5. Salt, black pepper, red pepper to taste
  6. 1 cup heavy cream
  7. 3-4 olives


Add eggplant cubes to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add warm water if needed, until eggplant cubes are soft and cooked well. Remove from the pot and rinse off excess water in a colander. Mash the cooked eggplant in a plate until it turns into a mushy mix.

Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add garlic and crushed tomatoes and mix well. Cook on low-medium heat until soft, stirring occasionally. Add eggplant, salt, pepper and fold in with a spatula to mix well. Add in the heavy cream and allow it to cook a little more until absorbed. Remove from the pan, garnish with olives.

Serve warm or cold.

By the way, did you know that eggplant is actually a fruit, although it is cooked like a vegetable. Check out a few interesting facts about eggplant and another one of our favorite recipe for a grilled eggplant and yogurt salad.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winners, Coupons & Discount codes!

Congratulations to my winners, listed below! Thanks to everyone for entering and helping us celebrate. Don't miss the coupon codes and links below to some goodies for those of you who didn't win.

Helen is the winner of the Bamboobies giveaway! If you didn't win, I still have a great deal for you - enter coupon code PSM20 for 20% off your Bamboobies order!

Pamela is the winner of the Angel Baby prize pack from Earth Mama Angel Baby!

Brooke is the winner of the Breastfeeding Support Kit from Earth Mama Angel Baby!

For those of you who didn't win the Earth Mama giveaway, be sure to check out the free Herbs & Breastfeeding eBook being offered and the coupons page! (to get to the coupons page, I'm sure you would want to click through my affiliate link {wink wink} then hit the sitemap link and choose free printable coupons...there is one right now for $1 off bottom balm!

Ashley is the winner of the Motherlove giveaway!

Shannon is the winner of the Sleepy Wrap giveaway!

JC is the winner of the Nakano prize pack!

Rachel is the winner of the Zizzies and Izzies Fleece Soaker 3 pack!

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A Decade Ago...

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to clean and freshen your garbage disposal

This week was one of those weeks when we were reminded how nice it is to have a functional kitchen sink...it's the little things in life, isn't it? Our sink drain got clogged sometime late Friday night. I can't tell you how much of a relief it was to run water {and even clean dishes} on Monday afternoon when it was finally clear!

Before they left, the very nice plumbers shared this tip with me, and I thought it was so easy and helpful I wanted to pass it along. If your garbage disposal needs cleaned, the blades need sharpened, or you're just getting a funky smell from the drain, try this trick!

Take a full tray of ice cubes and pack your disposal with ice. Run water in your second sink and get it piping hot. Turn on the garbage disposal and let it run, without water, for 30 seconds to a minute. Once your ice has been pulverized, switch that piping hot water over and run it through your garbage disposal for a few minutes.

The ice will sharpen your blades and help remove any food that might be stuck on the blades. The hot water will melt the ice chips and help rinse everything down the drain and away from your kitchen! If you think there might also be a bit of greasy buildup, add a few drops of grease cutting dish soap to the ice cubes.

Just like that - good as new!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

5 ways to make homemade convenience foods more convenient

Convenience foods are particularly tempting during a hectic day, but many of them aren't very nutritious. The ones that are nutritious are generally pretty expensive. If you want to provide nutritious food to your family, the natural answer is to control what goes into that food by cooking it yourself, but that can be time consuming and at times overwhelming. Here are five tips to help streamline your "convenience" foods, which I generally think of as snack foods, but which could also be a previously prepared meal.

1. Bulk/Batch cooking - is it nearly as easy to double or triple the recipe, rather than make a single batch? If so, make extra for the freezer or pantry and save yourself some time down the road. There is nothing like laying out a frozen meal on a particularly busy day or reaching into the pantry for a stored snack before running out the door to an appointment.

2. Piggy Back - by planning to make snacks or meals that share common ingredients, preparation methods or cooking temperatures, you can save time and effort. I've written in the past about choosing a few main ingredients to include in my menu plan - by keeping some ingredients common I can reduce my cooking time as well as reuse leftovers in new dishes.

3. Process & Prepackage - take some time to clean and chop or assemble your snacks that don't require cooking so that they are ready to go when you need them. Packaging them in the size and container that you will want them in will allow you to grab and go.

4. Presentation - speaking of packaging, are you suspicious that certain family members like certain snacks as much for their presentation as their taste? Does your son or daughter always ask for the Dora pasta or Spongebob fruit snacks? In this case, try and use branding in your favor by providing a cute reusable snack bag or placing fun stickers on your containers.

5. Share - whether it's tips, recipes or an actual food swap, sharing resources makes things easier for everyone. If you have friends with similar tastes, try coordinating a play date where the kids entertain each other (or play with one parent) while the others make meals for everyone to take home!

Do you eat convenience food on a regular basis, occasionally or almost never? What tricks do you use to maximize the amount of homemade food in your diet?

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

chasing the remains of summer

As much as I know I'm going to miss the warmth of summer when the snow hits, I'm loving the cool nights and the chance to pull out long folded jeans. That said, we weren't above taking advantage of a near 90 degree day this week to catch one more tiptoe through the sprinklers at our favorite park.

At the beginning of the summer, Sugar Plum would cling to my side at the sight of sprinklers!

It didn't take long for both of them to get completely soaked - and the while it was HOT out, the water was FREEZING!

Didn't she just start walking a few weeks ago? And now she's running? Someone must have forgotten to tell her she's supposed to be my baby {hold me}

This post is part of Wordful and Wordless Wednesdays

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Quick Tip - cleaning stuck on food messes

If you have kids in the house, chances are you have your share of big messes! The best advice I've read about how to clean up a big mess was from simple mom - clean it right away. That makes sense, right? With most messes, I find cleaning as we go to be very effective. But what about when your baby is just as messy as the highchair you just fed her in? I find that my biggest messes usually involve me carrying someone covered in goo straight to the bathtub...leaving a trail behind me. For these occasions, I have another quick and easy trick.

Wet a towel and place it (still fairly wet) on top of your mess. Let the towel sit for just a few minutes, and then wipe clean. You will be surprised how effectively the towel loosens a stuck on mess. Clean up any remaining mess or disinfect if necessary and move on about your day!

Do you have any quick and easy cleaning tips? What do you do when the mess maker is just as messy as the area around her (or him!)?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Berry Nutty Oatmeal & Our menu plan

I struggle more with my menu now that I'm home and we are eating here so often. I think that's kind of silly, since I always packed my lunches...anyway, I'm trying to be more thoughtful about breakfast and lunch. This week I'm going to list a few things that we'll have on hand, and if that works I'll try and stick to it!

Breakfasts: berry nutty oatmeal (recipe below), tomato bread pudding, yogurt
Lunches: hearty turkey rice soup, turkey salad wraps, celery w/ dips (peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese)

Monday: Chicken and Noodles, biscuits
Tuesday: Hamburgers, sweet potato fries and green salad
Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Chicken and rice with roasted vegetables
Thursday: Leftover buffet
Friday: Tuna Salad wraps and caprese salad

Berry Nutty Oatmeal
One handful of almonds (or your favorite nuts)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or pure pumpkin)
1 tsp vanilla
1 dash cinnamon
1 small squirt honey (optional)
Cook oatmeal as directed, and enjoy!

We use old fashioned oatmeal, and one of these days I want to try soaking my oatmeal, but so far I haven't taken the time. I will do it this week and report the results next Monday! :)

What's on your menu this week? What are your favorite lunch choices? (I could use some inspiration...)

For more menu fun, visit OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zizzies and Izzies Fleece Soaker Giveaway

Hi, I'm Sugar Plum. I'm here today to introduce you to a fun etsy shop you may or may not have seen yet - Zizzies and Izzies, where you can find cute Eco Clothes for kids! My purpose here today is purely decorative, mom asked me to be the model for the fleece soaker she is giving away today. So what do you think?

You want to see the rest of it, you say? Okay, here you go.

What do you think, does this make my butt look big?

I didn't think so. That's one thing mom likes so much, the trim fit. I'm a fan of all the cute designs. Would you like to win a 3 pack of fleece soakers? To enter, visit Zizzies and Izzies and let me know which item is your favorite. Tell your friends to enter too, won't you? This is my first gig as a spokes model, and I want to show mom I can do a good job!

For extra entries, you can do each of the following, and be sure to leave an extra comment!

Share this giveaway on your website or facebook page.

Like Zizzies Britches on facebook

Follow my mom on twitter (@psmom)

Tweet about this giveaway (1x/day) and leave a direct link

Subscribe to the RSS feed for this site

This giveaway will close on September 28, 2010 at midnight, and a winner will be chosen at random. The winner can specify size and gender. US residents only, please. Good luck!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nakano Rice Vinegar {Giveaway}

One of my very first blogging buddies asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in trying some Nakano Rice Vinegar. I love cooking with good vinegar, for the bold taste it imparts when I'm cooking light healthy meals, so I was excited to try it.

Nakano makes natural and seasoned rice vinegars, all of which are fat, gluten, and preservative free. Their rice vinegar is also low in calories and lower in sodium than other rice vinegars - by 50%! The available flavors are Original, Roasted Garlic, Basil & Oregano, Red Pepper,
Pesto, Balsamic Blend and Italian Herb.

I received a bottle of roasted garlic vinegar, and at first I was a little bit nervous about the garlic flavor - I could smell a hint of it even before I opened the seal - would it over power my food? Would my mother get within six feet of me after having cooked with it?

I put my fear aside and began looking through the recipe booklet that was included. While all the recipes looked tasty, the tropical chicken looked and sounded amazing, and I had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I made a few modifications to the original recipe, mainly because we were grilling the next day and with the oppressive heat of summer still clinging on (I know those of you who live where it really gets hot are laughing at me, go ahead, I know I'm a wimp!) I didn't feel like roasting chicken inside. I combined all the ingredients and let everything marinate overnight.

Not only was this dish easy, it was delicious! The flavor was rich, tangy and slightly sweet, definitely something I could imagine eating on vacation. I will definitely be making tropical chicken again and again. In case you would like to try it, here is the recipe:

Tropical Roast (or grilled) Chicken

1/4 cup Nakano Seasoned Rice Vinegar (Roasted Garlic flavor)
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1.5 Tbsp minced ginger (I keep my ginger frozen, and use a microplane as a quick and easy way to "mince" ginger!)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (since the microplane is out, may as well grate that garlic clove too!)
1 Tbsp dark toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp each salt & paprika
4 chicken legs (or boneless skinless breasts)

If you're going to grill the chicken, I would suggest pouring everything together in a gallon sized storage bag and letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight. If you would prefer to roast the chicken, preheat your oven to 375. Brush both sides of your chicken liberally with the glaze and arrange on a roasting rack. Bake 20 minutes in the upper portion of your oven. Brush again with remaining glaze and continue baking 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Now that I had tried one recipe, I was intrigued. I went to the recipe section of the Mizkan website and looked around, and now I have several more recipes bookmarked to try. I can especially see myself using these vinegars in dressings and glazes with vegetables and salads.

Would you like to win a Nakano prize pack, including a $25 Gift Card, 1 bottle of seasoned
vinegar and a coupon/recipe booklet? If so, visit the NAKANO website and tell me what Splash tip is your favorite.

For extra entries, you can do any of the following, and leave me a separate comment letting me know:

Sign up for the NAKANO SPLASH Recipe Club to receive a free monthly e-newsletter
featuring great recipes and tips.

Leave a link to your favorite NAKANO recipe in the comment section, and include the title or description

Post about this giveaway on your website or facebook page

Follow me on Twitter

Subscribe to my RSS feed

This giveaway will close at midnight on September 27, and a winner will be randomly selected. I was provided with compensation and a bottle of Nakano Rice Vinegar for this review, but the opinions provided are strictly my own. For more information, please visit my disclosure policy.

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She Loves the Camera

And I do believe it loves her back...

I was playing around with my new camera and trying to get a profile shot for some gifts I'm working on. She just kept coming toward me, reaching out for the lens! Who knew that the most challenging part of this project (for both girls, no less!) would be capturing them from the side? It sure has been fun trying, though...

This post is part of Wordful Wednesday, and since I wasn't too wordy today, Wordless Wednesday as well!

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sleepy Wrap Giveaway

If there was a way to go back and add one thing to my collection of baby paraphernalia with Sweetpea, it would be a wrap. So many of the things I 'had to have' turned out to be unnecessary, but oh did I love having a wrap with Sugar Plum right from the get go. I am a huge fan and advocate of babywearing, as my friends with babies will tell you, but I was nervous about wearing my newborn. My sweet friend Megan pointed me in the right direction, and it wasn't long until the wrap was part of our daily routine.

One of my favorite aspects of the wrap design is that it supports baby's head while sleeping. Another is that nursing is discreet and was relatively easy for us to master. Once you put your wrap on, there is no need to take it off, unlike some other carrier designs that don't stay in place without baby. The fabric of the sleepy wrap is comfortable and strong enough to support the weight of your growing baby. (while I do not own a sleepy wrap, I did get the chance to try one at Blissdom last year)

So now the only question is, how can you win a Sleepy Wrap, right? To enter, visit their website, and tell me what wrap is your favorite.

For extra entries, leave me another comment telling me you've done any of the following:

Become a fan of Sleepy Wrap on Facebook

Post about this giveaway on your website or link to it on your facebook page

Tweet about this giveaway and leave a direct link (1x/day)

Follow Sleepy Wrap on twitter (@sleepywrap)

Follow me on twitter (@psmom)

Good luck! This giveaway closes at midnight on September 27, 2010.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Motherlove Giveaway

Motherlove has been providing quality herbal products to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers now for 20 years! Made with organic ingredients and without artificial fragrances or petroleum based additives, you can feel confident using Motherlove products for yourself and your babies.

I recently had the chance to try the Green Salve and what a blessing it was this summer when the mosquitoes came to visit. I kept it handy to spread over bug bites, scrapes, and the occasional rash, it did a good job of comforting the itches and ouches. It has definitely earned a place in this mama's medicine cabinet.
After enjoying the green salve, I went back and looked at what other products Motherlove had to offer. I am definitely going to pick up some birth & baby oil with my next purchase - lavender scented and gentle enough for mama and baby's dry skin, it is also recommended for cradle cap, which is something we occasionally need to deal with.
One lucky reader will win some green salve and some birth & baby oil of their own!

To enter this giveaway, visit the Motherlove site and let me know what product is your very favorite.

For extra entries, any of the following will provide you an extra entry. (be sure to leave a separate link for each!)

Post about this giveaway on your website or facebook page

Tweet about this giveaway, or any of the other giveaways going on this week, and leave a direct link.

Follow Motherlove on twitter

Good luck! This giveaway will close on September 25, and is open to US residents only, please.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Earth Mama Angel Baby {Giveaway}

You may have noticed the adorable link on my left sidebar and at the bottom of the page for Earth Mama Angel Baby products? Those are affiliate links, because I absolutely believe in and use these products every day. Organic and toxin free, you can feel comfortable using them for yourself and your little angels. I'm excited to get a chance to share some of my very favorite products with you - there will be two winners with this giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive all the products from the little something for baby gift set shown below, only in full size instead of trial size! I swear by angel baby bottom butter - I've often said it is the best ever, and the only diaper cream we use anymore. I also adore the angel baby shampoo & body wash and lotion, and use it for both of my "babies". I love that they are completely toxin free, and have a light heavenly scent.
And another lucky winner will win a breastfeeding support kit, which includes milk maid tea, booby tubes, nipple butter, and bosom buddies. Each provides a natural solution for problems that breastfeeding mamas might encounter at one time or another. My booby tubes were on standby at all times during the early weeks with Sugar Plum, and I still pull them out every once in awhile.

To enter this giveaway, visit the Earth Mama Angel Baby website, and let us know what product is your favorite. Then, let me know what prize you would prefer to win - I will try my best to accommodate both winners with their preference.

For extra entries, leave a separate comment after any of the following:

Post about this giveaway on your website or facebook page

Tweet about this giveaway (1x/day - make sure to leave a direct link)

Follow me on twitter (@psmom)

Follow EMAB on twitter (@EMAB_HQ)

Tweet about any of the other giveaways going on this week (1x/day - leave a direct link)

Subscribe to my RSS feed

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Bamboobies Giveaway

Are you a breastfeeding mama? If so, you should definitely enter today's giveaway!

Regardless of our eventual supply, most mamas leak the first few weeks as our milk comes in and baby and mama try and get things figured out. And if you're like me, you just might be a leaker.

When Sweetpea was born, I had no idea what to look for in a breastpad. I liked the idea of reusable products, but the ones I found in the store were big, bulky and ineffective. Even many of the disposable ones were big. I managed through the first year without finding anything I loved, and as the number of feedings reduced, so did my need for "protection".

With Sugar Plum, I had this wealth of experience in my twitter friends that I could draw from, and that is where I met Kerry from Bamboobies. As cute as the name implies, and infinitely comfortable, Bamboobies are discreet and ultra absorbent as well - the reusable breast pads I dreamed of from the start of my breastfeeding experience.

To enter this giveaway, visit the Bamboobies website and tell me what product feature is your favorite. (or list more than one if you can't decide!) Then tell me which product you would prefer to win, the original or overnight design.

For extra entries, leave a separate comment after any of the following:

Post about this giveaway on your website or facebook page

Tweet about this giveaway (1x/day - make sure to leave a direct link)

Follow me on twitter (@psmom)

Follow Kerry on twitter (@bamboobies)

Tweet about any of the other giveaways going on this week (1x/day - leave a direct link)

Subscribe to my RSS feed

Entries close on this giveaway on September 23 at midnight. Good luck!

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It's Party Time - Let's Celebrate!

There is so much to celebrate at the Problem Solvin Mom household lately! Here is what we have been (or are getting ready to) celebrate: My 2 year bloggyversary passed by while I was on "vacation" in late July. My famous grandparents had their 67th wedding anniversary - doesn't that just blow your mind? Sugar Plum turned 1 and her great grandma turned 90 a little over a week ago. Sweetpea celebrates her half birthday tomorrow. (okay, that one is a stretch, but I couldn't leave her out, right?) And our 10 year wedding anniversary is coming up at the end o f this month!

I thought it would be fun to share all the love with my readers by hosting a week of giveaways - what do you think? :) And since family is the main focus of our celebrations, the giveaways this week will be focused on family as well! There will be exciting products from Bamboobies, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Motherlove, Shutterfly, Sleepy Wrap, and Zizzies and Izzies so stop by daily and enter to win! I will be updating the links to each giveaway at this post as well.

Bamboobies Giveaway

Earth Mama Angel Baby Giveaway
Motherlove Giveaway
Sleepy Wrap Giveaway
Nakano Rice Vinegar Prize Pack Giveaway
Zizzies and Izzies fleece soaker 3 pack Giveaway
What are you celebrating?

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