Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Gift: A Framed Poem

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up May 5 through May 9th, so we've been busy getting our gifts prepared for Lovebug's teachers.  I've mentioned before that I have surveyed my teacher friends for gift suggestions and the response is unanimously gift cards.   So, I usually get Lovebug's teachers either a Target or Starbuck's gift card and write a thoughtful note or card to express our appreciation for all that they do.  

In the past, I've written heartfelt letters, referenced applicable quotes about teachers and composed acrostic teacher poems to include in the gifts for Lovebug's teachers.  This year, I decided to frame a relevant poem about each of her teachers to add a little something personal to the gift cards. 

Teacher Appreciation Gift Idea

These Framed Poems couldn't be easier to pull together and were inexpensive to make.  I'm going to have Lovebug sign them so we can use them in place of a card, but they really could be given as a gift on their own.   The addition of these framed poems makes our gifts both sentimental and useful and, to me, those are the best kinds of gifts!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So Into / So Over - Episode 10

If you know me personally, you know that I am a very honest person and not at all shy about sharing what I think, whether it is good or bad.  So Into / So Over posts provide me a forum to share my thoughts on things that make me happy as well as things that make me, well, not so happy.  Here's what I've been So Into / So Over this week:

So Into: Consolidated Retirement Accounts
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I've worked at several different companies throughout my career and I've tried to take advantage of the retirement options they've offered.  The problem is that the accounts are held at different organizations which is not very efficient as I have to look several different places to see and/or make changes to my accounts.

I found the idea of rolling my previous employer accounts over intimidating.  There were so many options to consider and I found the process overwhelming.  But, I finally got organized and got my accounts consolidated last week.  All it took was about 30 minutes and a couple phone calls to get my accounts rolled over to one company.  It was soooooooooo easy and everyone I spoke to was so kind, patient and helpful!  I am so into having consolidated retirement accounts because:

  • It's so convenient to review and make changes to my accounts
  • I am no longer tied to the options offered by the companies I worked at
  • I have more flexibility with my accounts
  • It's so much easier to delegate and update beneficiaries 

So Over: Rude Comments About Kids

Why is it that some people think it is appropriate to make disparaging remarks about children when those children are present?  Number 1- It's RUDE!!!  Number 2 - It is so inappropriate!  Number 3 - Children are sensitive and so impressionable!!  Their thoughts and feelings should not be dismissed and one remark could have a drastic affect on them.  How do people not know or understand this?

Here's the story:  When we were in Colorado,  Lovebug was telling me a story on our way down to the pool one day.  As we walked down the hall,  a lady walking in front of us turns around condescendingly says to me, "She's a talker, isn't she?"  Wait, what?!  

I was a little dumbfounded.  Not only did this lady interrupt my child (manners are a huge focus in our house and interrupting is not unacceptable) but she interrupted to say something completely rude.  I didn't even know how to respond.  Actually, that's not true.  I knew how I wanted to respond, but it wouldn't be G-rated and I didn't want my response to bring more attention to the comment.  So, I just smiled at Lovebug and proudly said "Yup, she sure is!" and continued on our way.

Lovebug didn't seem to catch on to the comment but I was seething.  How dare this lady say such a thing?  My heart ached at the thought of how self conscious a comment like that could make my child.  I love that Lovebug is a communicator.  I love hearing her share stories, ask questions and converse about whatever she is thinking and hope that she never ever stops sharing what is on her mind.  

I'm so over people making rude comments about children in front of them, regardless of what the situation is.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think that children need to be praised all the time and am the first person to correct my child when she is out of line.  But, making mean remarks about a child just to shut them down or wield power is completely out of line and I'm not at all ok with it. 

I'd love to hear from you!  What are you So Into and So Over?  Products? Projects? Gadgets? Books? Anything really!  Leave a comment to share.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Twice Baked Potatoes

Today I'm continuing the healthy streak of recipes I've shared so far this year with Twice Baked Potatoes. 

HA!  Have you seen what I've shared lately?  
Pizza Sauce and Dough
Chicken and Pasta in a Light Cream Sauce (at least I lightened this one up a bit!)

And now Twice Baked Potatoes?  It's a miracle that we don't weigh a million pounds!!  

I swear we don't eat rich, decadent foods like this every day!  We really do our best to eat well balanced and healthy meals and save the calorie rich stuff for special occasions.  In fact, My Love teases that he only gets the benefit of my culinary school training when there is an event or when we have company (there is probably some truth to that).  I guess I've just found more excuses to make yummy treats lately since I've been on maternity leave.  

Anyhow, like I said, today I'm sharing my recipe for Twice Baked Potatoes.  We typically reserve this recipe for holidays because these potatoes are a tad heavy in calories and everyone knows that calories don't count on holidays. ;o)  Seriously though, these Twice Baked Potatoes are incredibly tasty, super filling and full of yummy ingredients.  They are a favorite in our house and while we'd like to eat them on a weekly basis, we exercise restraint since they aren't the healthiest side dish option.  But, they are so good that they are worth the calories every once in a while.  Everything in moderation, right?
Baked Potato Recipe

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What's for Dinner?

Happy Easter!!  We had beautiful weather here in Arizona so it was the perfect weekend to be outside!  I had hoped that we would have a productive weekend of getting a couple rooms organized but the lovely weather just drew us out.  It's ok.  We need to take advantage of this nice weather.  It will be 100+ degrees before we know it!

So, what's for dinner?

Monday:  Chicken Cannelloni (pushed out from last week and the recipe is still coming soon)

Tuesday:  Leftovers

Wednesday: Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops, Zucchini and applesauce (New Recipe)

Friday: Eat Out

Saturday: Greek Salad (recipe coming soon)

What's on your menu this week?

'What's for dinner?' That question used to haunt me until I started Menu Planning a couple years ago. Now, menu planning is a scheduled part of our weekend routine. See how we do it here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

HOW TO: Bring Butter to Room Temperature Quickly

It's no secret that I love to bake.  And baking is a science.  You have to have exact measurements and temperatures to achieve the results you are looking for.  

I was never great at science.  I got by, but I wouldn't say that I ever excelled at it, especially at chemistry. I was terrible at chemistry no matter how much I studied.   But, for some reason I'm pretty good at baking.  I think it may have something to do with the fact that I get to devour a yummy treat when I'm done baking, if I do it right.  I never got to do that in chemistry. 

Anyhow, one of the most important steps for baking cookies, cakes and other treats is to start with room temperature eggs and butter, when it is called for.  Room temperature means somewhere around 70 degrees F (68-74* F is acceptable).   Most refrigerators are set to 40 degrees or below F, so using eggs or butter straight out of the refrigerator can really alter the end result of what you are making.  

But, if you are like me, you rarely have the foresight to pull out the eggs or butter when you want to bake.  I shared my method for bringing eggs to room temperature quickly here.  But, how do you get butter to room temperature quickly?  

Well, I simply cut the butter into small pieces and let them sit while I gather my other ingredients.  Usually by the time I have everything I need (about 5 minutes, depending on how warm the kitchen is), the butter is softened.  I typically cut my butter into about tablespoon sized pieces, but will cut it smaller if I am in a real hurry.  

And that's it!  Smaller pieces have big surface area compared to their size so they will react to temperature faster than larger pieces that have less surface area compared to their size.  So, the smaller you cut the butter, the quicker it will come to room temperature.  

Check me out!!  I guess I picked up more in chemistry than I thought. Ha!
How to bring butter to room temperature quickly

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Side Dish Roundup: Chickpea Recipes

Do you ever feel like you prepare the same recipes over and over? That is how I feel about side dishes. I have the same 5 or 6 side dish recipes that I rotate between our meals. So, I've decided to expand my repertoire and incorporate new side dishes into our menu. Since I'm already doing the research, I thought I'd share the recipes I find with you. My Side Dish Roundups will include recipes that I plan on testing and adding to our menu staples. They look so delicious! I can't wait to try them!

Chickpeas are buttery in texture but have a mild nutty taste.  They lend themselves really well in salads, stews and dips.  They are really high in protein so they are a great option for vegetarians.  Lots of salads in the roundup this week.  Perfect for the warmer weather here in AZ! 
Chick Pea Side Dish Recipes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cork Board Makeover

A while ago I shared with you how I added some color and function in our office / craft room with my DIY Craft Paper Storage Basket.  Well, I finally added some more color (and more function) to the room!  Hooray!!  

I've had all the materials for this project for months, literally.  But, I just never got around to doing it.  For some reason every time I went to start I'd get overwhelmed and would set it aside and work on something else.  Maybe it was the size of the HUGE cork board that did it?  I don't know.  

But, about a month ago I finally sat down and got it done.  I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to do it.  It was so simple to pull together.  The hardest part was pushing in the thumb tacks and that wasn't even hard, just time consuming! 

This huge orange board is the perfect addition to our office / craft room. It adds just the right pop of color and is functional too!  I'm so happy I finally got this project done!!  Well, done for now anyway.  I'm debating painting the thumb tacks.  I'll let you know what I decide to do there.  But for now, its hanging  in all its orange glory!  Yay!
Fabric Covered Cork Board

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