My Life of Travels and Adventures: December 2014

Toddler Christmas Crafts

20 December 2014

Supplies: Jumbo, Normal + Tiny Craft Sticks, Hot Glue, Tacky Glue + Christmas Buttons 

I used hot glue to assemble to tree ahead of time.  Then when Reid was ready, I put strips of tacky glue along the green craft sticks and Reid added buttons.  
Supplies: Construction Paper, White Paint + Markers (idea from Frog Snail and Puppy Dog Tails)

Once Reid's foot was dry, I went back and added the details to the snowman. 

Supplies: Craft Sticks, Hot Glue, Tacky Glue, Pony Beads + Twine 

Again, I used hot glue and assembled the tree + twine ahead of time.  Then I just put down dots of tacky glue and Reid added the beads.  

Supplies: Paper Plates, Green Paint + Paint Brush, Tacky Glue + Pompoms

I cut out the center of a paper plate, then Reid painted it green.  Reid told me where to put the tacky glue dabs and then he added the pompoms.

Supplies: Paper, Paint + Markers (idea from Crafty Morning)

This was an easy craft but required help from me all throughout.  Once the thumbprints were dried I used sharpies to add the details.  
Paper Plate Christmas Trees: (from I Heart Crafty Things)
Supplies: Paper Plates, Green Paint + Paint Brush, Tacky Glue + Pompoms
Supplies: White Paper, Green Paint + Markers

Once the green foot print was dry, I added the decorations with sharpies and hot glued a ribbon to the back.  

Supplies: Tiny Craft Sticks, Shimmery Gold Paint, + Hot Glue

This was another one where I hot glued the craft sticks to form a start before having Reid paint them.  
Supplies: Jumbo Craft Sticks, Hot Glue, White Paint + Paint Brush, Tacky Glue + Buttons

The snowflake was preassembled with hot glue before Reid painted them white.  Once the paint was dry, I put down lines of tacky glue and Reid added the buttons.

Supplies: Construction Paper, Glue Sticks, White Paint + Q-tips (idea from Crafty Morning)

I pre-cut out all the pieces for this project ahead of time.  Using a glue stick and some guidance Reid assembled the snow globe + snowman.  Then using a q-tip Reid added the snow throughout.

Supplies: Craft Sticks, Hot Glue, White Paint + Glitter

I assembled the snowflakes with hot glue then let Reid paint them white.  While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled with with glitter. 
Supplies: Ceramic Trees + Paint

I picked up these little ceramic trees for $0.50 at Hobby Lobby this fall.  Reid painted them green first and once that was dry, he evenly added glitter paint.
Supplies: Construction Paper, Tacky Glue + Q-Tips (idea from Crafty Morning)

I put down lines of tacky glue and let Reid add the Q-tips to form a snowman.  Easy Peasy. 
Supplies: Wooden Christmas Trees, Paint + Q-Tips

I have had these little wooden Christmas Trees for a few years.  I had Reid paint them green first.  After that was dry he added the red + glitter paint using q-tips.  

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Play + Education Matter

12 December 2014

Let's talk about education and where I am sitting with Reid's.  He is almost three.  These years are both challenging, fun and important.  

This is such a critical time for children's development and here I sit worrying and floundering about.  I worry that I am not preparing Reid in the correct ways or teaching him in the correct manner or teaching him too little or too much.  I am constantly questioning my teaching approach and reevaluating Reid's learning abilities and interests. 

Consider, early education as the foundation all future learning.  But it is so important to remember that play matters too.  Play is pouring that foundation down.  Play is early education too.  

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

In playing with Reid and letting him just play, I am teaching and he is learning.  

When Reid lines up his cars he is developing his fine motor skills.  The same skills that he will use to properly hold a pencil all through school.  

When Reid sorts his trains by color or gathers all the round fruit in a basket or puts two firetrucks side by side and says " look, one big and one little" he is learning.  These early math skills will eventually turn into math concepts, that I used to know and love but have since forgotten.  

When we sing silly songs together or read stories he is gaining pre-reading skills.  

And problem solving skills... These usually cause the biggest meltdown, but he eventually learned that tall towers are best built with the largest blocks on the bottom.  

In parenting there is so much emphasis on "earlier is better" but sometimes earlier just means experiences, exploring and playing.  That is the the foundation for further education.  
Now when it comes to education and what is right for Reid and our family, there are so many options available to us. Homeschool, Private School, Public School, etc.  We have options.  We can pick what is best for our family.  Options and Opportunities.  

These options are often taken for granted by us.  But we need to remember that people all over the world do not have the same opportunities.   
The IKEA Foundation is working toward a world where children living in poverty have more opportunities to create a better future for themselves and their families.   The Soft Toys for Education Campaign is a global initiate that involves the entire range of IKEA soft toys and children's books.  

For every soft toy or children's book purchased at IKEA from November 9, 2014 until January 3, 2014, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to Save the Children and UNICEF.  

Since 2003, more than 11 million children have been impacted through 99 projects in 46 countries.  The total amount donated is $90.4 million.  Last year alone, the IKEA Foundation, the largest global corporate donor to Save the Children and UNICEF, raised $13.6 million

Remember education transforms lives. 

Education is the most impactful way to help children escape poverty.  Education has a direct impact on well-being, from better health to increased opportunities.  It gives children the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves.  

I am so grateful that I have the option to sit here worrying about if Reid is playing enough.  Or what books to read tomorrow.  Or if I should print out more worksheets for next week.  The education options and the learning opportunities that we have available to us immense and truly priceless.  And I need to remember that.  
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Shanghai Blend Stir Fry + Garlic Beef Steak

10 December 2014

Some nights dinner ideas are a real struggle for me.  Well most nights they are.  I try to have an idea of the meals I will make for the week ahead of time, but it doesn't always work out.  

Like the other night.  I had picked up steak that day at the grocery store but as dinner time rolled around I still had no idea how to make it or what to serve with it.  

And that is were the new Eat Smart Gourmet Salad and Stir Fry Kits come in super duper handy.  Each kit is packed with five to seven delicious and beneficial super foods + make a fast and flavorful way to eat your veggies every day.  
When I am perusing the grocery store aisles with a toddler in tow, I can easily grab one of the fresh and convenient Eat Smart kits to go with whatever else I  quickly snatch up for dinner.  (Link to store locator here)

And that is what I did the other night... So lets get back to that beef. 
I opted for a Garlic Beef with the Shanghai Blend Stir Fry.  I knew it was something that the adults would love and I thought the toddler would be all about the tangy hoisin sauce in the stir fry.  I was right!
Shanghai Blend Stir Fry + Garlic Beef Steak

1 Petite Beef Filet (or other beet cut of your choice)
1/4 C Garlic, minced

1. Set the oven to broil.  
2. Run the garlic all over the steak and place in the oven. 
3. Turn once while cooking.
4. ** When the steak had 5 minutes left to cook, heat a wok on high. 
5. Add the Shanghai Stir Fry Blend + accompanying sauce packet to the wok. 
6. Heat for 4-5 minutes while stirring occasionally. 
7. Serve immediately and top with garlic steak.  

  **I cooked my steak for 25 minutes and turned half way through.  Depending on the size + cut of your meat, you may need longer or shorter.  Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure it is done

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Beef Stew

08 December 2014

As the snow and cold approaches, our days are now filled with simmering soups on the stove.  There is nothing better on a cold and wet day than hot soup under a warm blanket at least in my opinion.  
This beef stew recipe has been a regular in my cookbook of years.  It is super simple to make and very tasty too.  Neil asks for it at least once a month and I am happy to oblige. It makes enough for leftovers which is a huge plus around here.  
2 lb Beef, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 C Chopped Onion
2 Tsp Seasoning Salt
2 Tsp Oil
4 Beef Bouillon Cubes
3 C Potatoes, peeled + diced
2 C Carrots, peeled + diced
1 Stalk Celery

1.  In a large pan, cook the beef, onion, seasoning salt in the oil until thoroughly cooked. 
2. Once the beef is done, add the beef bouillon cubes to the pan.  Add water until the level is about 1” above the beef. 
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. 
4. Add the potatoes, carrots and celery.  Cook for 30-45 minutes. 

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From Tot School to Preschool

02 December 2014

We have had a fairly late change happening around here.  We have transitioned from Tot School to more of a Preschool.

This was a fairly quickly and easy change for both Reid + I to make.  I actually thought he would protest more to a more structured school time but he is loving it.  

We started Mommy + Tot School back in January as I became a full time stay at home mom and had no idea what to do all day.   I was pretty consistent the first few months of coming up with new Tot Trays and Themes.   But as the summer crept closer, we played outside more and prepared for yet another move Tot School took a backseat to life.  After the move, we had a few Tot School themes but it was hard getting Reid to even consider some of the trays at times. 

And thats the thing, with Tot School I followed his lead.  If he wanted to try a tray, okay.  If not, then that was okay too.  It was more about playing and at his pace.  Now after a few months here I finally feel like we are settled and ready for more.    

More structured time.  More structured learning.  More.  And that's my plan for Preschool.   There will be with a lot more printables.  I lot more books.  I lot more crafts.  And a lot more structure.  

Now thats not to say that our entire day will be structured and school.  But most mornings we will spend around an hour of structured time together.  Most.  Not all.  

We are only a little over a week in to home Preschool so I am sure things will change but for now the transition from Tot School to Preschool is going well.  I am still making a few changes to our Preschool area but will be sharing all the details of the set-up and of our Preschool day in another post or two.

Just for reference Reid was 2 when we started Tot School and 2y10mo when we changed to Preschool.

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Shrimp Poppers

01 December 2014

We are in full holiday mode around here.  And holiday mode means food mode.  I have been trying out a couple new holiday party recipes this year.  Like this Shrimp Popper recipe.  These make delicious party food all year long too!

And as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I thought I would share a little of our Thanksgiving with you.  I just hosted my first ever Thanksgiving and it all went off without a snafu but with leftovers.  

I cooked for 14 people, all the food was done and at the same time, we ran out of nothing although we came close with the rolls + gravy, everything was tasty at least that is what I am told and my house is still clean afterwards!  And being the awesome blogger and mother that I am, I took zero pictures.  Not a single picture of Reid, of the dinner, of our family, of anything... except one appetizer.  

Last Monday 3 days before Thanksgiving, I had to run out to Wegman's and buy our turkey.  My dad gets a turkey from his work that we were going to use, but because of the feet upon feet of snow that Buffalo got, the turkeys never made it to them.  Anyways, while I was wandering the aisles pushing the ridiculously long cart completed with little tykes car in the front, trying to keep Reid in the car and the food that he kept grabbing out, an idea for an appetizer hit me.  Shrimp Poppers!

So back around we went to seafood counter for shrimp, the dairy case for cream cheese and the condiment aisle for Tabasco Original Red Sauce... and so on cause twice around the grocery store with a toddler just days before Thanksgiving is my kind of fun.  

This Shrimp Popper recipe is... well... pretty much perfect.  The cream cheese filling has some kick to it but it also has a lot of flavor thanks to the Tabasco Original Red Sauce.  The breading is super easy and just as good.  When you add in shrimp and combine the three... its... just... pretty much perfect. 

Shrimp Poppers

2 lb Shrimp, large uncooked + deveined. 
12oz Cream Cheese
2oz Tabasco Original Red Sauce
4 Serrano Peppers, diced
2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
4 C Corn Flakes, crushed
4 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
4 Eggs
1/2 C Flour

1. Cut the shrimp lengthwise (i.e. butterfly them) and lay them on a cookie sheet. 

2. Combine the cream cheese, Tabasco Sauce, peppers and garlic together and mix well.  
3. Place the cream cheese mixture into a quart ziplock bag + cut off around 1/2" of the corner to create a piping bag.  
4. Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the butterflied shrimp and close the shrimp around the cream cheese. 

5. Place the shrimp in the freezer.  This step can be skipped and you can start breading + cooking the shrimp immediately.  I find it much easier to bread them when they are frozen so I will make + stuff the shrimp the day before, then bread them the next day.  
1. Combine the crushed corn flakes, paprika and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.  
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together. 
3. In another bowl, add the flour. 
4. Coat the shrimp in the flour. 
5. Dip the shrimp in the egg and then coat in the cereal mixture. 
6. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat steps 4-6 for the remaining shrimp.  At this point you can also place these back in the freezer and then just pop them in the oven when your guests arrive. 
7. Bake for 17 minutes in a preheated 400F oven. 
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