DIY Pompom Magnets

Jan 26, 2012

What do you get when you glue pompoms to magnets? Pompom magnets, of course!

But what do you do with them, you ask? Well, they are an excellent sensory manipulative for little ones. Toddlers and preschoolers love to match colors, count them, cover do-a-dot pages with them, make patterns on the fridge or a cookie sheet, and use them as game pieces (bingo, tic-tac-toe, etc.). And if your toddler is like mine, they will enjoy knocking them off of the fridge and throwing them too.

I had seen these before over at Mama Jenn's (she calls them puff balls), but didn't get the urge to make them until last week. Boy, am I glad I did! M2 and LJ love them!

They are super simple to make, especially if you use a hot glue gun. I purchased a large bag of multi-colored pompoms in a variety of sizes at Hobby Lobby for less than $4 (with 40% off coupon) and a package of 52 3/4" round magnets from WalMart for $5.97. So, for about $10, we got 52 pompom magnets and a LOT of extra pompoms for crafts and toddler activities, like transferring, matching, sorting, counting, and patterning.

To make your own pompom magnets, you will need:
  • pompoms that are slightly bigger than your magnets (about 1")
  • 3/4" round magnets
  • hot glue gun or other strong, non-toxic glue
Hold a magnet in one hand and cover it with a zigzag of glue, then very quickly...
squish the magnet onto a pompom and hold for a couple of seconds.
 That's it!

If you use a different kind of glue, you'll have to wait for them to dry, so keep them out of sight of your kids. They will want to play with them!

Of course, they are good for keeping artwork on the fridge, too! :)

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jan 19, 2012

Many years ago, I received this chocolate chip cookie recipe in some kind of recipe club mailing. I didn't join the club, but I held onto the recipe because it's the best one I've tried so far. It's fairly standard as far as chocolate chip cookie recipes go, except for a couple of tweaks that make all the difference. The oats and lemon juice are the special ingredients, so do not omit them unless you want plain ole' chocolate chip cookies.

Be advised that these are not healthy cookies. But when you just have to have chocolate chip cookies, they are a much better choice than store-bought or refrigerated rolls. My boys love them but I don't double the recipe because one or two of these big cookies is definitely enough for each of us. Be sure you have your favorite white beverage on hand before making these. You're going to need it!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18-20 large cookies

1/2 cup regular rolled oats, plus 1/4 cup
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry or unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 cup lt. brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice (do not omit)
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini give the best texture, IMHO)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1/2 cup rolled oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Combine oat flour, extra 1/4 cup oats, pastry flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in medium bowl. In mixer bowl, cream together butter, sugars, vanilla, and lemon juice. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, blending well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts to the dough and mix well by hand.

You may use a cookie scoop for regular-size cookies or an ice-cream scoop for large cookies. I use an ice-cream scoop, filling it about 3/4 full and placing the rounded mounds of dough about 2 1/2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. This way, you'll get about six on the sheet at a time. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until lightly browned around bottom edge and just set on top. Remove and let sit for a minute before transferring cookies to wire rack to finish cooling. Store in sealed container.

Personally, I like them better after they have cooled completely or sat overnight, but feel free to consume while warm. :)

Linked to Homemaking Link-Up and Tasty Tuesday.

To Love and Protect Giveaway Winner

Jan 16, 2012

Congratulations to Stacey L.! 

She was randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and will receive her choice of gifts: a Blueberry Tag*a*long. You may purchase your own Tag*a*long, along with several other child identification and safety products, at To Love and Protect. Tag*a*longs, Parking Pals, and The Safe Side DVDs are on sale for a limited time.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!


Parking Pal, Tag*a*long, & The Safe Side ~ Reviews & Giveaway ENDED

Jan 12, 2012

If you have a preschool age child, you know how impulsive and unpredictable they can be at times. While you (mostly) have control over making your home environment as safe as possible, going out in public can present countless dangers for little ones.
While there isn't anything safer than holding your child's hand, here are two Mom-invented products to help train your preschool-age child to stay close by while out and about. 

The first one is the Tag*a*long. In just seconds, it easily attaches to the side of your stroller or shopping cart to give your little one his own special place to hold on. I use one with Levi {blue is his favorite} and it really does help to keep him focused on where he is to be when we are in a store. Any time he wanders too far from me, I direct him back to his handle. 

The Tag*a*long comes in an array of bright, fruity colors and the handle part looks like a cute smiley face with a single tooth. The regular retail price is $9.99, but is on sale for $7.99

Another attention-grabbing helper is the Parking Pal. This nifty magnet attaches to the side of your vehicle, giving your child a place to "park" himself while he waits for you to load or unload siblings or groceries. All it takes is a trip to the mall to see that parking lots are dangerous places for small children.
However, the Parking Pal is not magic! It's simply a training aid, so use common sense. Keep your eye on your child as best you can and talk to him while you are unloading the baby or whatever. 
You could leave it attached to the side of your van {What? Not every mom drives a van?}, but I worry about someone taking it or it falling off while I'm driving, so I store it in the pocket behind the passenger seat. Parking Pals come in a variety of popular patterns to suit boys and girls. The regular retail price is $8.99, but they are on sale for $7.50.

Of course, child safety training isn't complete without tackling stranger safety. The concept of strangers can be confusing to little kids. They may believe that all strangers are bad or that if a person doesn't look like what they think a "bad guy" looks like, then they must be okay.

One way to help them understand who is safe and who isn't is to watch The Safe Side DVDs with them. All of my kids, including my 17yo, got a kick out of watching Stranger Safety. The zany main character, Safe Side Super Chick, teaches kids about "Don't Knows", "Kinda Knows", and "Safe Side Adults". While some adults and exceptionally mature children may not appreciate the wacky-ness, most children will enjoy watching Safe Side Super Chick as she teaches them what to do in certain situations in a non-threatening manner. {For those who need to know, there is a chihuahua, a man in a gorilla suit, and a clown. You've been warned.}

There are two Safe Side DVDs available: Stranger Safety and Internet Safety. Stranger Safety is also popular with child care providers and teachers. The DVDs are regularly priced at $12.99 each, but on sale for $10.99 for a limited time.
Purchase Yours Today

  • If you don't want to wait to see if you'll win the giveaway, go to To Love and Protect to place your order. Get free shipping with orders over $49.
    Enter to Win Your Choice in a Giveaway!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    Natural and Organic Coupons

    Jan 8, 2012

    Let someone else do the work of finding deals on natural products for you! Sign up to receive updates from Saving Naturally, a frugal blog that focuses on natural and organic products. And you'll receive quarterly monthly coupon booklets when you sign up with Mambo Sprouts.

    Recyclebank is another way to save on natural and organic products. Collect codes from Kashi cereal boxes, watch videos, complete quizzes, and perform a variety of ecofriendly tasks to earn points that you can use to get discounts and coupons. Here are some examples:
    For coupons on products you use regularly, you can go directly to the manufacturer's website or "like" their Facebook pages. Here is a list to get you started:

    Alexia Foods

    Tips: If you click the back button after printing, you may be able to print a second coupon. Check back each month to see if they have reloaded the coupons.

    Linked to Homemaking Link-Up.

    Stretch Your Chickens: A Four-Act Play

    Jan 7, 2012

    You've heard of Rubber Chicken, haven't you? Where you roast a chicken and then use it to make one or two other meals later in the week? Well, it's a great idea, but one chicken doesn't go far in this household of seven. I roast two chickens at a time. Even if you're family isn't as big as ours, roasting two at a time is a good way to get a leg up on your meal preparation. Just pick the extra meat off the bones, chop, and freeze for future soups and casseroles. You can also freeze the bones to make bone broth.

    I highly recommend buying organic or free-range chicken if it's available to you. Yes, it costs a bit more, but if you stretch your chicken, you'll definitely be getting your money's worth and be investing in your family's health. By making your own chicken stock instead of buying cans/cartons from the store, you'll save as much as or more than you paid for the chicken!

    Like I said, I'm no Martha, but this bird was tasty! 
    Chicken, Act 1: Roast Chicken
    This is how I do it, but I'm definitely no Martha.
    • Rinse both chickens, making sure to remove giblets from cavity, and place each one in 9x13 casserole dish. You can pat them dry with paper towels, if you want, but I don't think it's necessary.
    • Drizzle each chicken with extra virgin olive oil; sprinkle with coarse/kosher sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. I usually add a few peeled garlic cloves to the cavity also.
    • Bake at 400° for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depending on the size of your birds), until the skin is golden and a meat thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 180°. Honestly, I don't use a meat thermometer. I just cook it until the  skin is really golden and crispy and then cut into the breast to make sure it's cooked all the way through. But, I'm not a food expert, so be safe and take its temperature.
    • Serve part or all of one chicken to your family for dinner. Pick the remaining meat from the bones of both chickens, reserving the bones/carcass. Chop the meat into bite-size pieces and refrigerate or freeze in recipe-size portions. Refrigerate or freeze the bones to make stock for soup. Reserve drippings for gravy.
    I'm no photographer, either!
    Chicken, Act 2: Chicken Gravy
    You may choose to make and serve this immediately with mashed potatoes or save for lunch the next day. Makes about 2 cups.
    • Spoon pan drippings into a small saucepan. Add enough water or chicken broth to make about 1 1/2 cups. Heat on medium.
    • In a cup, whisk 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour together until smooth. Add to saucepan, whisking until smooth. Heat until thick and bubbly. Season, to taste, if necessary. But it probably won't be if you were as liberal with the seasonings as I am. :)

    Chicken, Act 3: Chicken Stock or Bone Broth
    If you've ever wondered what the difference is between broth and stock, read THIS to find out. Nourished Kitchen also has instructions for making bone broth in a slow cooker. I make chicken bone broth very much like I make whole chicken broth, only I use the chicken carcass. 
    • Add the chicken bones, a few carrots and celery stalks, cut in chunks, an onion, cut in wedges, a few smashed garlic cloves, some peppercorns, a teaspoon or so of sea salt, a couple of bay leaves to a stock pot, and a tablespoon of white vinegar; cover with filtered water. Some people use vegetable trimmings that they've saved, but I don't usually have those available.
    • Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for several hours. 
    • Using a slotted spoon, remove the bones and veggies, then strain stock through sieve into quart or half-gallon canning jars, if you won't be using it right away.
    Chicken, Act 4: More Meals
    Now, your chicken can be a star in the production of your choosing. Here are a few ways that I use the leftover chicken and/or stock:
    • Chicken noodle or rice soup
    • Chicken tortilla soup
    • Chicken pot pie
    • Chicken burritos or enchiladas
    • White chicken chili
    • Chicken salad
    • Chicken pesto pizza (a favorite from a local pizza place; pesto instead of red sauce, broccoli florets, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, chicken, cheese)
    Do you stretch your chickens?

    Linked to Homemaking Link-Up.
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