Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies the Gluten Free Way

One of the most annoying things about gluten free baking is all the ingredients needed, and the small amount of yummy treats it yields.  Things tend to dry out fast and basically not be as delicious as the "normal" baked goods.  Last night, I wanted to make gluten free chocolate chip cookies, but didn't want to fuss with multiple flours a million ingredients.  I did something bold, my friends: I used the recipe on the Toll House Dark Chocolate Chips package, only I substituted the "all purpose flour" for Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour and added a 1/2 tsp of xantham gum.  That's all I changed and boy oh boy was it was a great experiment.

**A note about these chocolate chips: They don't say "gluten free" on the package, but do not have any ingredients that have gluten.  I am very sensitive, and ate them without any problems at all (except maybe the problem of wanting to eat a million of them)**



A couple tricks I found helped make this chewy and delicious:

1. Before putting the sheet of cookies in the oven to bake (use parchment paper!), put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Under cook them a bit.  If you look at them and say to yourself, "just another minute or two" take them out.

3. Store them in a big Ziploc that is tightly sealed, so they don't dry out as quick.  The next day, mine are just as chewy as they were after cooling.  I froze half of them too, so I could take them out when ready and microwave them for about 20-30 seconds.  Delicious!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Keep Them Busy With a Simple Rainbow Craft


 


This morning, Atticus told me he wanted to do a craft.  He wanted colors, glue and cotton balls.  He also wanted a squirrel and a giraffe, but I didn't have those things handy.  It dawned on me that he hadn't done much with rainbows in the past, and what a no brainier to set him up with a good old fashioned rainbow project.  He was thrilled.

We started by talking about colors and where rainbows come from and then he just went to town on creating his own.  This is a great way to practice colors, cutting skills for preschoolers (though, he gave up on the scissors and helped me rip pieces of paper instead) and let them use their creativity with how they want the rainbow to look.  I found myself close to correcting him on the color order, but where's the fun in having someone telling you how to make your artwork?











Monday, February 24, 2014

Baby Girl Nursery-DIY & On a Budget

 


When I found out we were expecting a baby girl, I was thrilled! I am so excited for the baby bows and girl stuff after having such a boyish boy.  Mostly though, I was excited to create her room.  As with everything, I wanted to spend as little amount of money as possible without sacrificing the quality of her room.  Since this is our second, we had the furniture already, so of course that saved a bunch of money, but the rest was put together using DIY methods, repurposing what we already had, and buying minimal amounts of extras to tie it all together.




Hats: $1 each at Target
Wreath: found in a free bin!
"Love Builds a Happy Home" sign: $10 at Kohls (used Kohl's cash, so basically free!)



The PomPom mobile was a DIY project and cost about $1.50 to put together.  Basically, just tie some pompoms onto an embroidery hoop and hang with fishing line.

Bunting was another DIY project, using fabric I had in my stash.  There are some great tutorials on Pinterest for this project. 

The adorable burlap sack bunnies were a wonderful AC Moore find, at $5.99 a piece and they were 40% off, making them an even greater steal.  I found them in the Spring decorating section.


This room is very small, and I feared we wouldn't be able to fit all her furniture.  Aside from utilizing wall space in a small room, putting the dresser ($8 at a yard sale) in the closet was a great way to get storage and save the space in the room.



I have to confess: these bunny bookends were not a bargain find.  However, I had to have them.  Not that I truly broke the bank, they were $40, I searched high and low for animal ones I loved and these were my favorite.  I found them on Amazon and was excited that they are such great quality and are heavy.  Also, they aren't too babyish, so my hope is that she'll have them to grow with.  Basically, what I'm saying, is they were totally worth it and I am in love with them.



I was planning on making her curtains, but decided to see what I had in the house first.  These white ones are very long, too long for any window in my house.  All I did was hang the top of the first panel, bring the bottom up, hang that, and repeat on the second panel.  This gave them the look of being wider and not so long without having to hem.  Tie on some cute little fabric ties and boom! Your window treatment is done.


I wish I had known about teething guards when my son had this crib, because he destroyed the railing this one.  We wanted to paint, originally, but with my husband having just returned from a four month absence for training (National Guard), it was too much of an undertaking.  So, I did what I always do and searched Pinterest for ideas on how to cover the bite marks my son inflicted on the crib.  This fabric teething guard was a DIY project involving a towel on the underside and a piece of cheap fabric ($2/yard), sewn together and tied on the railing.  Perfect for catching drool and preventing more crib eating, and it can just be tossed in the laundry.  There are many ideas and projects on Pinterest that you can check out.



My first and only quilt I've done was made (I admit) with a kit from AC Moore, for about $7.  It came with all the fabric you needed and instructions.  I loved the colors and theme, and though it isn't perfect, I was excited to add it to her room.


These guys are such a treasure, given to the baby at her mini baby shower.  They belonged to my husband's grandma June, who passed away last June.  After months and months of trying and praying for this baby, we found out she was on her way just days after June passed.  Naturally, the baby's middle name is going to be June after her!



This room was, at one point, my son's room (he has since moved into the biggest bedroom in the house since he has such an abundance of toys!).  The photos aren't great, but here's a glance at what it looked like before:



Monday, February 17, 2014

This Week's Dinner Meal Plan


This week, I've decided to give some new recipes a go.  Usually, I do my staples, and pick one new recipe a week, but this week, I searched Pinterest and found some yummy ones I'm excited to try.

Monday
Mixed greens salad with craisins, almonds, feta and grilled herbed chicken.  I usually make these with a raspberry vinaigrette or something on the sweeter side.

Tuesday:
Chicken Pot Pie with Bisquick topping.  I make this stew and follow this Betty Crocker recipe for the topping.  Serve with some white rice and cranberry sauce, and you'll have a delicious comfort meal!

Wednesday:
An easy one: spaghetti and meatballs.
 
Thursday:
White Chicken Chili, a new recipe I'm trying out found here.

Friday
Another new one, Slow Cooker Balsamic Shredded Beef with mashed potatoes.   I found this from this Pin and you can print the recipe here.

Saturday:
Leftovers
 
Sunday:
Tacos, my house's favorite.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lobster Birthday Party with Guest Blogger Angela From The Mommy Stories

 

 

Looking for some great party ideas? My sister, Angela, from the Mommy Stories just threw her son (my big guy nephew, Owen) a lobster themed one, in honor of my dad's profession: a Maine lobster man.  Thanks, Angela, for showing us how to put the party all together, while keeping to a budget.


My little guy is FOUR!


We knew early on in the year that he'd have an ocean party fit for a lobsterman's grandson. Yes, that's right, my father is a true Maine lobsterman.

My son is pretty obsessed with his lobster traps, bait, and of course those old bugs, lobsters! He's into the boat the most. We visit several times a year on Frenchboro Island in northern Maine, off the coast of Bar Harbor.

We HAD to have a party like this because of his interest, but also because my son's middle name Joseph is after his Papa (and my stepdad, grandfather and then my brother's middle name, but who's counting?!). It was super fun to honor my father's career as a lobsterman through this party. I told him he was the guest of honor. 



My handsome guy FOUR years old!


We visited the Children's Museum and Theater of Maine in Portland just before Christmas and my son didn't leave the real lobster boat the entire time. He loved it so much! It had a hauler to haul up the traps of lobsters. There is also a touch tank upstairs with star fish and snails, etc. There is a large whale hanging from the ceiling, a pirate ship out back, and another speed boat to ride on. It's a perfect place for an ocean party. He is also very into make believe lately and pretending he's a real worker, so it was an awesome location.

We always have had parties at our house, and with an immediate family of 30+ that doesn't leave room for inviting any other friends. So this year we were excited to do it at a larger place to invite a few extended cousins. We still tried to keep it to just family since it gets expensive with the party packages and paying per person at the Museum, but it was fun for my son to be able to invite a few more people to his party to play with him.


I start all birthday party brainstorming with some good old Pinterest searches.

Here is my board that I created with ideas for this party. I hope you check it out, because there were TONS more ideas that I did not implement. I chose to keep this party slightly simple since the atmosphere of having the party at the Museum was going to be enough. The kids barely were in the party room, they ran around the Museum so much playing and having fun. So check out the board for more ideas, especially if you're having the party at home.

www.pinterest.com/angelaavery78/owens-4th-lobsterman-ocean-party/

I have to say I had a difficult time finding ideas specifically for what I was looking for. I found one lobster party... one. All others were swimming, pool, sea life, pirate, etc. type parties. I had to get a little creative.

I sent an Evite email invitation with this wording:
"Owen's turning FOUR, and he would like to SEA you out on the ocean with him catching lobsters and fish.

Join us at the Portland Children's Museum for some make believe fun, with lobsterman Owen. Check out the live turtles and fish tanks, steer the real lobster boat and haul some traps, even touch a live starfish or sea urchin. Our lobster boy will show you the ropes!

We'll have fishy snacks, lobster cookies, and ocean water to drink. Come have fun - and of course prepare to work a little with Captain Owen!"



I was given by my wonderful friend Jessie Legere some fish and ocean bowls, signs, a table cloth and banner (that I didn't use because the Museum had already put this blue one down and written on the chalkboard), etc. So I went with her colors of blue and greens as ocean colors.

I found those fun polka dot napkins at Wal-Mart. My son decided the day before the party he HAD to have party cone hats, so Jake and the Neverland Pirates hats it was (Wal-Mart, $2.50 for pack of 8).


We did minimal food, just snack type things, because we knew the kids would be so busy in the Museum. The focus was not on the food, but on the activities. So we had the following food:

Tortilla chips and Goldfish crackers = fish and chips
Salsa = seaweed
sea cucumbers = cucumber slices
buoys = cantoloupe balls and grapes 
Pirates Booty
Shamu Whales cheese crackers

However, check out the Pinterest board I made, TONS of cute ideas for food if you were doing this at lunch time or not at a busy Museum like we did (Goldfish cracker shaped bread for sandwiches!)


Ocean water and grape juice



For treats we had confetti vanilla-based cupcakes with aqua blue frosting (that came with little fishies, which I didn't know until I got home from the store! Score!), topped with a Sweedish fish.


The birthday boy requested a chocolate cake, so we used the same aqua blue frosting, along with some gummy lobsters from Yummees candy store in Kittery, Maine.  (Don't worry, they ship, if you are having a Maine-themed party outside of southern Maine!).



For gift bags for our little guests my husband helped me make these lobster bags. Yes, they took about an hour with both of us cutting out those claws, but they were too cute not to make so we did it! I got the red bags, pipe cleaners and googley eyes for $3 at the Dollar Tree, then we found lobster pictures online and my husband copied these and cut them out.

Inside the treat bags we put a small bag of Pirates Booty, bag of whale and sea cheese crackers, a gummy candy stick of sea life creatures that my husband randomly found at BJs (so excited!).  I printed some coloring pages off of the computer (boats, sea creatures, lobsters, lighthouse, etc.). I always like to include things like that so if kids wanted to color at the party they could, for some quiet down time, but also as a fun way to really send home the theme of the party.


Then, my favorite part of the party, was the Sea Fish Bar (not sure what else to call this!). I found this idea on Pinterest, of putting out the various types of Goldfish crackers and letting kids fill up a bag of them. I then added in other treats to go with the lobsterman theme. Loved how this turned out!

Although, I'll admit, at a big busy Museum party it wasn't a great idea, only a handful of people actually filled up treat bags, they were too busy running around and playing. I ended up making up little treat bags for the kids to take home.


I got all the little red containers at the Dollar Tree for $2 total. 



I was so excited at Christmas time when I found these Goldfish cracker small plastic bags in New York, totally randomly. They were perfect! 




Herring = Sweedish fish 






We had such a great time! My little lobsterman loved his party, cake, singing happy birthday to himself, and of course all of the make believe at the Museum.

We had the kids go play while we set the party room up (you only get 2 hours in the room, setting up and cleaning up included). They played about 45 minutes, then came to the party room where we had snacks ready for them. We sang happy birthday, blew out birthday candles, served up cake and cupcakes, then moved right into the presents so we could get them back out to play more for the last hour or so of the party. It worked pretty well.


We asked people to sign the L is for Lobster book. It's fun to have books filled with notes from loved ones on our book shelf. I threw that in as a last minute idea, and so glad I did.



The birthday boy with his lobsterman grandfather! 


My husband found these adorable T-shirts at the last minute when he was picking up the lobster gummy treats. It's winter in Maine, not many tourists wanting summer lobster T-shirts, so they let him get one get one free, so 4 shirts for $20! So excited.


(exhausted at the end of the party. Not to self: take family picture BEFORE the festivities next year!)

My husband's says "Got lobstah?" Mine says "Crustacean Nation" and the kids had MAINE lobsters on theirs. 

A very (busy, hard working!) HAPPY birthday boy!