Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kid-Friendly Cookie Recipe

My daughter loves to make cookies. However, it seems like a lot of work to make cookie dough and then have her "help" me, only to find that we can't really give any of the cookies away because she coughed on the dough, licked the spoon, etc. Hey, we start with clean hands, but I can only watch her so closely! She has gotten a lot better. Today all she did was cough on the dough. Don't worry, we won't be taking these anywhere.

So when my sister sent me this recipe for Snickerdoodles using a cake mix, I thought it would be the perfect toddler helping recipe.

First, gather your ingredients.
Mix 1 cake mix (the recipe called for a yellow cake mix, I used a white cake mix because that is what I had on hand), 1/3 cup oil, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla. Let your child mix it. Have I mentioned how much I love my dough whisk? So easy for my daughter to stir with!

When she gets tired of stirring, finish mixing it yourself. It should look like this when you are done.

Mix 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a separate bowl. My daughter stirred this, too -- this is how I got the cookie mixture away from her so I could finish stirring it!

Scoop out a spoonful of dough and roll into a ball:
Let your child cover them in cinnamon and sugar.
Line them up on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes (9 minutes was perfect for our oven!)

Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes (or longer, if you can wait!)

Serve with a tall glass of milk.
We also added some food coloring because my little girl believes all things should be pink:

Really Easy Snickerdoodles

1 yellow cake mix

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 c. oil

2 eggs

Mix ingredients, roll into balls.

Roll balls in cinnamon and sugar (1/2 c. sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon)

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Leftover Ham?

We had ham for Easter. It was delicious, but there is always so much left over! I froze a lot, but we've also been eating a lot of ham this week.

Last night I made this yummy ham-and-asparagus casserole (original recipe here). It was good, my husband gave it 3 thumbs (out of 5), but I think if I hadn't shortcut a couple of fresh ingredients it would have gotten 4 thumbs.

So, if you have some leftover ham, make this casserole. Better yet, make two casseroles and take one to a friend -- someone that just had a baby (or had a baby any time in the last year), someone that is having a bad day, or just someone who has been on your mind. Be sure to call ahead, so they'll be expecting you, though.

Gather your ingredients. You will need:
1 16-oz package of egg noodles
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 cup milk (2 % or whole)
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cup water, 1 tsp granules)
1 TBSP butter
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (I used lime juice, the lime flavor is more subtle, I think I would have doubled it if I used limes again)
1 1/2 cups cubed ham
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (don't use the dried like I did!)
2 TBSP Parmesan cheese
Ritz crackers (about six)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes, add asparagus; cook 1 minute. Drain.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, thyme, salt, and pepper. Gradually add milk and broth, stirring ith a wire whisk until well blended. Melt the butter in the pan you cooked your pasta in. Saute onion in butter, add milk mixture, coook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in juice. Combine pasta mixture, milk mixture, ham, and parsley in a large bowl. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole. Crush ritz crackers over casserole (I just crumbled them in my hand one at a time directly over the casserole). Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.

The topping (made of the two ingredients below) was amazing!

The asparagus was tender crisp. It wasn't bad as leftovers for lunch today either.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: Mockingbird

Synopsis: 10-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome deals with the death of her older brother.

Verdict: 4 stars (out of 5)
This book was inspired by the shooting at Virginia Tech and is intended to make the reader think about other people, what they are going through, and how they perceive the world. The book is narrated by Caitlin, a 10-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome.

Recommended for: Anyone older than 12.
This was a quick, easy read. I saw some reviewers recommended it for age 9 to 12, but I put my recommendation a little higher, see the considerations below.

Considerations: This book is a clean read, however, I gave it a PG rating for mature themes. It is not graphic but it does deal with the following issues:

*the mom has died of cancer (before the book starts, this is only mentioned in passing)

*the brother is killed in a school shooting

*the dad gets a bit violent (not with a person, just throwing things around) as he tries to deal with his grief.

You can read my full review here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Administrative Professionals Day

Happy Administrative Professionals Day! It's a day to recognize those that make your life run more smoothly.

There are lots of theories out there about how much to spend on a gift, I think you should go with what you think is reasonable for your income, industry, and the amount of help the person provides. Admittedly, there are some industries out there where cash bonuses are expected, but I think most people appreciate that they were remembered.

So, before you read any further, decide who you will be giving a gift to and what your budget is.

Gift Ideas

Here are some ideas for gifts this administrative professionals day.

Please include a card with a personal thank you, no matter what else you do. Even better, deliver it personally and also express your thanks in person.

Cash or Gift Cards
People always appreciate cash or gift cards. If you are going to get a gift card, make sure it is a place the person likes shopping. It would be a real shame to give a gift card to a seafood restaurant if the person is allergic to seafood. If you don't know what they would like, there are plenty of generic gift card options out there like a Visa or American Express gift card that can be used for anything.

Here is an example of gift cards attached to a plant. What a fun idea for a group gift.

There are lots of cute ways to package a gift card. One place to look for ideas is to search for Teacher Appreciation ideas, like these:

*Thanks a latte.
*Popcorn with movie gift certificate.

Time Off
If you have the authority, give your secretary some extra time off. A few hours off on Friday, even a longer lunch hour would be appreciated.

Flowers can be a cheerful way to show appreciation. A cut flower arrangement is one idea. A potted plant would be a longer lasting item. If you give plants or flowers, be sensitive to possible allergies.

Take a look at this adorable corkboard flowerpot.

Take your secretary out to lunch, give her chocolates or a cookie bouquet. Be sensitive to anyone who is on a diet, though. These fruit bouquets could be a fun, edible treat for someone who is on a diet (or even someone who isn't!).

Homemade or Personalized Gift
If you know the person well enough to know something they would appreciate, then you may be able to think of other ideas. One thing I've been excited about lately is glass etching. How about a personalized candy dish filled with fun treats or a monogrammed glass pitcher with matching glasses.

Here are some other gift giving ideas:
Top 10 Inexpensive Gifts for Your Secretary
Great Gifts for Your Secretary
10 Best Christmas Gifts for a Secretary

Gift Giving the Rest of the Year
Finally, here are some tips on gift-giving to secretaries the rest of the year. I got these tips here. Normally, I would just include the link, but the main gist of the article is on giving secretaries cash for the holidays and they seem to be using some rule of thumb for calculating the amount that I think is exclusive to law firms in New York. However, the general rules on gift-giving the rest of the year I thought were well said:
  • For birthdays, give flowers — this alerts the rest of the office that it’s the secretary’s birthday (and gee, doesn’t s/he have a great boss for getting her/him such swell flowers?)

  • For unfortunate events, give food baskets — for example, if your secretary breaks her leg or her grandmother dies, it would be rude not to send something to the hospital or to her home — and food is better than flowers because it recognizes that your secretary is probably too overwhelmed to be cooking right now

  • For service above and beyond secretarial duties (anything from watering your plants while you honeymoon to covering for you while you interview elsewhere), give gift cards, plants, take him or her out to lunch, or give him or her a more personal gift

Easter Wrap Up

Easter is over, but here are a few highlights of things we did or saw online. Some things I'm going to do with our leftover plastic eggs -- last year we played with plastic Easter eggs until August -- and some things I want to remember for next year.

Look at these amazing Easter Eggs from Our Best Bites. All you need is an old silk tie.

Adorable handmade cards from Magenta.

You've Been Egged
Egg a friend or neighbor's house next year before Easter. Our house was egged this year. I particularly like the pinwheels, the playdough (just randomly scattered on the lawn with the plastic eggs), and that the eggs were mostly filled with things other than candy. You can get this free printable "You've Been Egged" sign from from eighteen25.

Check out these educational games from Playing House.
While you are there, check out her thumbprint Easter kids crafts.

Plastic Egg Tea Cups
Recycle your leftover plastic eggs into these adorable teacups from The Moody Fashionista.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Mail

My daughters love getting mail! They have grandmas that send them holiday cards and we put them up on the door so we can enjoy them. Here is our door for Easter. I had to go collect some of the cards for this picture, my 2-year-old likes to "read" them to her baby sister.

Occasionally we send pictures my 2-year-old has drawn to her grandparents. Or we'll send mini photo albums. My favorite, though, is to send photo holiday cards. Here is the one we sent for Valentine's Day. When I go visit my grandpa, he has a bulletin board with all of the photo cards we have ever sent him on it.

I came across Givers Log online and was intrigued by her Happy Mail. She mails things like frisbees, water bottles, and plastic easter eggs by putting a stamp/address labels directly on them and dropping them in the mail. How fun would it be to open your mailbox and find a plastic shovel or a box of candy?

I'm going to have to have fun mailing things! Too bad I came across the plastic Easter egg idea too late for Easter this year. That would have been fun to send to my nieces/nephews, the ladies I visit teach, and my brother-in-law whose birthday was actually on Easter this year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Visit a New Mom

I've had two babies in the last 3 years. A wonderful experience, but also an exhausting one! I loved this blog about how to visit a new mom. Read the blog, but also read the comments because there are some really good insights in the comments and you'll see that what might be appreciated by one new mom might not be appreciated by another.

The highlights:

*Take a meal: have it ready to eat, packed in disposal dishes they don't have to return, include paper plates/napkins/silverware so they don't have to do dishes.

*Include healthy snacks: if you are taking a meal, also include some snacks like cut up fruits and veggies, trail mix, etc. Or just take a snack. I had a friend bring me a container of roasted vegetable orzo. It's served at room temperature so you don't even have to heat it up. It made a great snack for this hungry nursing mom!

*Offer to help -- take out the garbage, clean a bathroom, load the dishwasher and start it.

*Don't overstay your welcome. The original blog said to limit visits to 15 minutes -- and I personally think that is a good rule of thumb, but there were a lot of comments from blog readers that felt differently. I would say, though, that you are better off with a visit that is too short than a visit that is too long!

*Wash your hands before you touch their baby.

*You can do this for a new mom any time in the first year! Most visitors come in the first month, but a hot meal or a little bit of help would be appreciated by most moms any time!

*Finally, when my second daughter was born I had a 2-year-old and the thing I appreciated more than anything else was when someone would take my 2-year-old. She needed and wanted to get out and it was so hard for me to do that with a newborn. I have a couple of friends that would come and take her for a walk or to the park for an hour. It was wonderful!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wedding Card

I love weddings! My cousin got married this week and I wanted to make a special card for her. Conveniently, my card club is also doing a wedding theme this month so I'm going to make more of these for our card exchange.

I found this idea here. Lynn Pratt designed this beautiful card and generously provides a free printable template to make your own.

I got a Silhouette for Christmas (it's a cutting machine, like a Cricut). So, I decided to create my own templates (copying Lynn's idea) for the Silhouette. If anyone is interested in the Silhouette files, I'd be happy to share. Just leave me a comment with your email address.