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Monday, December 24, 2012

Glittery Christmas Salt Dough

Looking for a quick and kid friendly activity this Christmas eve? I modified this simple recipe from Mom on Timeout to add a little sparkle to our salt dough creations.  We are making ornaments and will try our hand at coasters as well - I'll get back to you on how the coasters turn out after they cool and we test them. 

Glittery Salt Dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon glitter
food coloring, if desired (make your water measurement a bit scant if you're using liquid color)
1 tablespoon cinnamon, if desired
knead for about 10 minutes

The girls loved kneading the dough, and the smell of the cinnamon.  Let the dough rest for 40 minutes and then roll out to ~ 1/4 inch thick, cut as desired.  Cook at 200 degrees for 4-6 hours, or until dry.  If you're going to use these as ornaments, be sure to poke a hole in them for hanging!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fast and Festive Rice Salad

As we've officially reached the "holy cow it's crazy busy" season, I'm happy to share this quick and healthy side dish from Mizkan using Nakano natural rice vinegar!  Aren't we all looking for fast and easy side dishes this time of year, something a little different than mashed potatoes and green bean casserole?  This salad is done in the time it takes the rice to cook, and is even better if you make it a day or two ahead, which is great when there are always other things you could be doing, right?

I should also add that this dressing is a favorite with my girls - so we make it for "everyday" salads as well, the kind with lettuce as the main ingredient rather than rice...and as a dipping sauce for vegetables and chicken tenders, etc.

Check out the Mizkan recipe site for the original recipe. My variation is included below.

Fast and Festive Rice Salad

4 cups brown rice
(make according to package instructions, and while it is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients)
1/4 cup Nakano natural rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons dijon or honey mustard
1 large fiji apple, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of nuts of your choice, I prefer pine nuts or chopped almonds
1/4 cup of diced onion (green onion would be great as well)

Mix the vinegar, oil and mustard. Add apple to keep from browning. Toss the dressing, vegetables and rice once the rice has cooled.  Chill and serve, or prepare a day or two in advance and refrigerate. Yum!

I was supplied with vinegar and compensated for my time, but as always, ideas and opinions are my own.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Conscious Christmas Gift Guide

This year we are continuing the pattern of less is more with our gift giving.  The girls will each get a few things they really want, and we will focus on giving to others - friends, family and those less fortunate than ourselves. For those gifts we're buying, I'm trying to stay local when possible, and from there find companies I can trust to make safe quality products in the USA. Anything made outside the country I want to see has been made in a way that supports the local community. In case you're looking for ideas, I thought I would share my list of favorites with you!

Ceader Hill Heirlooms is an etsy shop that provides handmade wooden toys in Minnesota. These Waldorf inspired wooden animals and nature scenes are incredibly detailed and beautiful. I get just as excited as my girls when we make a purchase from this shop, and the owner is very sweet and responsive.

Looking for more wooden toys or a beautiful doll for your little ones?  I discovered TreeHouse Kids on the recommendation of a friend, and just purchased some lovely toys there as well.  All toys are made with eco friendly or recycled materials, and the shop owner plants a tree for every purchase! You'll find colorful blocks, peg people, bean bags and adorable rag dolls and doll clothing. If I wasn't already finishing a set of Waldorf inspired dolls for the girls, I would have purchased these in a heartbeat.

If you have a little artist in the house, Kiddie Closet by GrammasShop has adorable art totes at a very reasonable price. With a huge amount of fabrics to choose from, you're sure to find a tote that suits your child's interests. My girls love to play with their art totes anywhere - they are great for entertaining around the house, in the car or airplane, or while out running errands. We've had ours for nearly a year now, and they are holding up really well. This is another etsy shop, located in Utah.

I adored Amy long before I realized she and her husband were the creators of Little Alouette. If you have younger ones in the house, these wooden teethers are just the thing.  In addition to the beautiful bird teether that Amy gave Sugar Plum when they first met, the girls also have a darling dinosaur set that Santa sent for Christmas last year. I love how these beautiful toys grow with my girls, and they are so beautiful that they will be treasured for years to come.

Want a cute shirt or tutu set for the holidays, or all year round?  I discovered Sticheroos when I wanted a personalized diaper cover for Sweetpea's first birthday party.  I have since bought the girls 2 sets of shirts.  The shop owner is willing to make custom designs to suit your needs or your child's interests, and the shirts we have purchased lasted well past the time the girls outgrew them. 

Does your little one love lovies? These darling elephant sensory lovies are just the thing, from Icing on the Cupcake.  I purchased one similar to this and a minky blanket to match.  Now that Sugar Plum is a bit old for her lovies she shares them with her dolls.  Unique, well made and adorable, they make a great gift.

In addition to the gifts mentioned above, I love giving experience gifts - memories that don't take up space in our small home!  What child wouldn't love a Membership to Zoo or Children's Museum, or an Art, Dance or Sports Class?  This kind of gift is so easy to personalize to your child's needs, and helps to support the local community as well.  Is a membership or class more than you were looking to spend?  Maybe a show or musical performance would be more your taste.  We have a fabulous children's theater that has regular child themed performances (as well as acting classes available!) that Sweetpea loves.  In our case, grandma takes her and they make an afternoon of it - she loves the special time and chance to feel like such a big kid!

One last idea, and something we do each year as part of helping the girls understand the importance of giving.  For those especially hard to buy for relatives, I have the girls help me pick out a gift from Heifer International.  There are a wonderful variety of gifts, and you can buy a relatively inexpensive "share" of an animal, up to a large gift meant to help an entire community.  I love that Heifer gifts keep on giving, because by being in the program, families agree to "pass on the gift" by giving the offspring of their gifts to others in need.  Gifts such as honeybees, rabbits, goats and more provide families with income and food to become self sufficient.  The girls love to hear about the types of gifts, how they will help a family, and make their own choice (given a fairly specific price target) as to what they want to purchase.  Then we create a card to share with the person who we are buying the gift in honor of, explaining the program, the gift, and how the girls came to choose their specific gift.

What are you buying this year?  I'd love to hear what you love to buy for your family and for others!

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