Thursday, 30 January 2014

THE KISS BOX: Valentines Day Activities

I run an in-home daycare and I came up with this fun project for the kids to make and take home to their parents. I'll share it with you in case you'd like to give it a try! This can be made by any age (with adult help) and is great for grandparents, parents, daycare parents, whoever you love!

This craft was inspired by this book. I read it to my daycare kids before we made our craft. You can find it at your local library. 



THE KISS BOX

Supplies Suggested:

  • Child friendly paint / paint brushes
  • Smocks for protecting surfaces. (I used a garbage bag to protect the highchair) 
  • A paintable box
  • Clothes Pins
  • Construction paper
  • Decorative heart stickers
  • Access to a printer OR write out letter by hand


How to Make Your Kiss Box:

I gave all my daycare kids a wooden box and paints from Dollarama. I just let them go at it! They creatively painted the outside (sometimes the inside...sigh) of the wooden boxes. Put them aside to dry.

Here is my youngest son painting his box!

Our boxes has a place in the front to put a picture so I cut out a heart shape of red construction paper and wrote "The Kiss Box". I also added a little 3D heart sticker for added decoration. You can be creative here depending on your box type. This box turned out a little sloppy because my kids are so young. But they had fun and that's what matters!!


Then I gave each child a few 3D heart stickers to put on clothes pins. We did 8 clothes pins per box to make it look full. You can decide numbers based on how big your box is.

I then gave the kids a pen and helped them write out XOXO on small pieces of construction paper. My kids are between 16 mos and 2.6 years. This part requires your help but it's still something they are proud to show off.

I put a handful of XOXO papers on the bottom of the box and topped it off with 8 decorated clothes pins holding XOXO papers.


The BEST part is the letter explaining what The Kiss Box is. Unfortunately my template was deleted so I cannot give you that BUT I will type below whats on the letter. You can copy and print as long as you keep the citation!


“But where will I keep your kisses so they don’t get lost?”

Mama bear smiled. “ I will give you a special jar.” She said. I will fill it with a hundred kisses. 
Every time you need a kiss, just open the jar, and a kiss will fly from me to you.”

Whenever they are apart they keep their kiss boxes close. Do you know why?

So they can send kisses back and forth, no matter where they are.

Together or apart, their love goes on and on…

                                Book: The Kiss Box by Verburg & Cole


In addition to this craft we all worked together to make Valentines cupcakes to take home. Everyone took turns pouring and stirring and of course they loved throwing sprinkles onto the cupcakes! Why celebrate Valentines Day in January you ask? Because I will be taking vacation over Valentines. Hey, it worked out lovely so I can show you our finished products! 


Mucho Amor, 
Stephanie

Friday, 17 January 2014

Time to spice up your usual recipes! : Incredible Quinoa


The picture doesn't do this dish justice! Here is a simple recipe to liven up your quinoa and with the various added flavors you can be sure the whole family will love it!

First off, I have to be honest. I am terrible at telling quantities. I just put a little of "this" and a little of "that". You will need to use your eye to appropriately measure each item. Just add what you think will be a good balance.

Directions:
1) Cook approx. 2.5 cups of quinoa according to package directions.
2) While quinoa is cooking, heat oil in a frying pan.
3) Add chopped celery and carrot matchsticks. (You can chop regular carrot too. It will just take longer to cook) Then add strips of red onion. We like a lot of onion! About half a small onion.
4) Throw in some spices! Bail, Thyme, Garlic and salt.
5) Fry everything until it's well cooked (Not hard because you want similar texture to the quinoa). I then added canned peas because it was quick and easy. You could add frozen peas to the pan in step 3 if you prefer. Combine everything!

Optional: I didn't do this for my husband and kids but I did it for myself. I added some chopped fresh tomato and cucumber on top. Mmmmm

Even my toddler LOVED this quinoa dish! He asked for seconds. You can't beat that.

For supper tonight, I am making Incredible Quinoa and Balsamic pork chops. Find recipe here.

Good luck! Let me know what you cook with it! :)

Mucho amor,
Stephanie


Time to spice up your usual recipes! : Balsamic Pork Chops

Earlier I posted a wonderful recipe called "Incredible Quinoa". If you're trying to decide what to put with the quinoa dish, here is a great suggestion.

Put your fresh (thawed) pork chops in a pan on the stove. Throw on some Worcestershire sauce (as much as you would for marinating) and either a tad bit of soya sauce or salt. Then the main flavor: balsamic vinegar. Again add as much as you would for marinating.

Add all of this to the pan and start cook on fairly low. You want the meat to cook through the center without burning the outside.

This is another family favorite. The kids and husband LOVE it.

I usually dip my meat in Bold bbq sauces.

Enjoy!

Mucho amor,
Stephanie

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Did You Know? : Hydro Ottawa



No one likes to receive a bill. Especially when that bill is higher than you expect. Hydro Ottawa has a Time-of-Use (TOU) pricing system where they charge you differently for peak and off hours throughout the day. You should receive this information in the mail. If not, you can find that info here :
http://www.hydroone.com/TOU/Pages/Default.aspx

Now, I thought I was doing my part by running my major appliances (dishwasher, dryer, etc) after 7pm and on weekends. I was excited to get a bill that was going to be so low it would be a joke! Ha! Much to my surprise...our Hydro bills were going UP instead of down!! Ahh!

I came to learn this little piece of helpful information which will also help you bring down your own bill.

Hydro does in fact keep track of your usage during off periods but it is recorded in such a way where your electricity consumption is totaled at any given moment. You will be billed for your peak amount.

Remember math class?! Here's where that will finally come in handy! Picture a line chart. When you start your dishwasher there is a spike in electricity use (kWh). Later in the evening your dishwasher has finished and you start your clothes washer. There is another peak on the chart. Similar to the one when you started your dishwasher. But if you're like me, 7:05pm hits and you run around the house starting all your appliances at once. One load of laundry in the washer, another in the dryer and the dishwasher is on a timer to start at the same time. Here's the problem. All these appliances starting at the same time create a MAJOR peak in your electricity use. You will then be billed at this peak usage (kWh) for the remainder of the time your appliances are running. 

The key is to start start a second appliance while the previous appliance is slowing down (near the end of its cycle). Or spread out your chores across various days. There are further tips on how to lower your energy consumption here :  http://www.hydroone.com/TOU/Pages/Default.aspx

Good luck!

Mucho amor,
Stephanie





Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Organize Your Eating: Part 2

All you need are vegetables, fruits and ice cube trays!




Every couple of months I pick up a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here’s what I do with them!

 Ø  Cook the vegetables and puree them in a blender. Sometimes I add a bit of butter and or water if needed so the vegetables are nice and smooth.
Ø  Next, I scoop the pureed veggies into ice cube trays and freeze.
Ø  Once frozen put all the little cubes in a big baggie and label it. This works really well with vegetables that you would normally mash like sweet potato or turnip. On a day when I want to cook vegetables for a side dish but I don’t have time to run to the store, I go to my freezer and pull out the appropriate number of vegetable cubes. If my toddler decides one day he’s going to be a picky eater, I whip out some vegetables and defrost on the stove (or microwave).


You can also do this with fresh fruits which are great to have on hand for smoothies or for fruit on the bottom yogurt.
Ø  Puree the fruits and put them in ice cube trays like above.
Ø  You can do individual fruits or if you’re feeling brave, mix them up for a new combination!
Ø  Avoid using bananas as they will turn brown. I find melon also goes a bit squishy in the freezer.


Dollarama has ice cube trays with lids. The cubes are smaller but if you think the veggie or fruits will sit in the freezer for a few days before you can baggie/label them, an ice cube tray with a lid is a better option.



Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Practical Ways To Organize Your Eating


Meals have always been a frustration for me. My daycare is open later than most and I sincerely dislike cooking.I do cook but we also spend a lot of money on eating out. I've been trying new ways to eat healthy and yet still practical. Here are some things that have worked for us. Let me know if you have other suggestions!

1) Resealable Soda Can Cover: If you like having a taste of pop or you need a little sugar high. Go ahead and take a swig! Instead of drinking the whole can, you can use these FANTASTIC inventions to reseal a pop can!! It will keep your pop fizzy for a couple days. We bought a pack at XS Cargo. 


2) Make Ahead: Lately when I go grocery shopping I pick up side dish type foods like potatoes. I then cook up a bunch of mashed potato or steam some bell peppers (My fav!) to keep in the fridge. Over the next couple days I can easily pair a meal with these already-made side dishes. Don't forget to choose items that easily pair with many dishes. Some examples: 

  • Plain rice
  • Baked Potato or Sweet Potato
  • Salad
  • Stir Fried peppers
  • Roasted Zucchini and potato cubes
  • Corn
Things that don't keep well as leftovers are steamed broccoli and pasta. 


So, if I forget to thaw out chicken, I can pick up a pre-cooked chicken and the side dishes are already in my fridge at home! There are also meals that are great to make lots of such as chilli. Chili can be a meal one day and a left over side dish the next day!  


3) Super Cook: If you're stumped as to what to cook tonight for supper, check out supercook.com On the left hand side you will see an area to type in the ingredients you have in your cupboard or those you wish to eat. The website will search recipes for those specific ingredients. It will also tell you if the recipe requires other ingredients, asking you if you have those things on hand. 


4) Are your kids picky eaters?  Do you have days where you slave away in the kitchen cooking  gourmet meal that you're sure would win an award?! Ok maybe not, but you're sure your husband will love it! As soon as your kids take a bite ...PLEW! Right on the floor. Always keep a back-up plan so when this occurs you can keep your cool. I keep cans of soup and Costco individual apple sauces in the cupboard. If my kids refuse to eat something i've cooked (which is not often for me thank goodness) then I whip out an easy Plan B: Canned soup packed with veggies and protein! 

5) Finally, a sure-fire way to loose weight: Eat when your kids are around. Its as simple as that! It does not matter how full your kids are, as soon as they see you sit down to lunch you will find little fingers and mouths on top of you. Suddenly you're left with a half-portion meal. We're told that North Americans fill their plate too high. Not a problem for me! People ask me how I stay skinny after having two kids?!?! My secret is out!

Healthy is obviously relative. I work hard to balance healthy and practical for my family and for my daycare kids. There are many ways to de-stress mealtime. Let me know if you find other unique ways.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Laughter is good for the soul




We know laughing is the best medicine! Let's do more of it. When you're having a bad day, take a few minutes to find something that makes you laugh. :)

What about this one?



Here's another great idea: These are the gloves I got from Dollarama ($2). They make me smile every time I start to wash dishes. What better way to start household chores than with a smile?! I have a different pair of gloves for bathroom cleaning. What a great reminder as I'm doing mundane chores!





ALSO! With winter coming, you may find there are gloomy, dark days where you're stuck inside. Depending on your house/apmt, you might find it dark and gloomy inside too! A helpful tip for us and for the kids (so they are energetic too) is to turn on a bunch of lights. You might be thinking "duh" or you might be thinking "That's a waste of energy". Try thinking "Such a teeny tiny difference in my bill keeping the lights on all over my house is worth every penny when it comes to keeping my sanity"!! Seriously turn on lights you don't think you need. It takes away that blah feeling of walking into a dark room. It's just for a day or two until the sun comes back out again!

Here's a great organizational idea :



This has worked fabulously for me both as a mom and also for running 1-2-3 Childcare. I bought this pack of small sticky labels at Walmart for about $2. There are 525...so enough to last awhile! I use them to label everything. It keeps my life so much more organized! Mostly I use them to label sippy cups!! One of my babies can't drink milk and another doesn't like this and one is sick and can't share their cup, etc, etc, etc. I quickly print the first letter of each kid name on a bunch of stickers. Then they are ready to be used throughout the week. When I give each kid their sippy cup, there's a label. When they're finished with the cup it goes in the fridge for later (depending). A few hours later when they want to finish their drinks, I know exactly who owns what without having to think! ;) I also use it to indicate my husband's lunches or anything with Strawberry's (another baby is allergic). If a child doesn't finish their lunch, use a sticky to label it. It's super easy, already prepared and they come off easily too.

Maybe these tips will give you a new perspective this coming week?!?! I hope so!

Mucho amor,

Stephanie