Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crafting with Kids: Salt Painting

Looking for a quick kid-friendly craft idea or art project? Give salt painting a try. My kids had a blast painting and then waiting to discover how the salt would transform their watercolor art.

You Will Need:
  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolors
  • Salt - I used Kosher salt, Margarita salt and rock salt also create fun effects. Unfortunately, table salt is too fine to create effects like this.

The larger the salt crystals, the larger and more dramatic the effect will be. It is fun for the kids to experiment and try the effect, but you never know exactly how it will turn out.

Paint the image with enough water to keep the design wet, but not to make the paper soggy. Sprinkle salt over areas of the painting before they dry. The salt will help to dry the painting faster so you won't have to wait long to see the finished masterpiece.

My kids had a blast painting underwater scenes and flowers. The big reveal after they dried (it took about 10 minutes for the salt to brush off easily) was very exciting and fun.

I used Tim Holtz Distress Watercolor Cardstock in 4 1/2" by 5 1/2" because I want to turn ours into thank you cards for back-to-school. I love hand written notes and to attach a unique piece of the children's art seems like a great combination.

Think of all the salt painting possibilities! 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Would You Top New Progresso Chili?

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All experiences and opinions are my own. #ProgressoChili, #PlatefullCoOp

A warm bowl of chili doesn't have to be a day away any longer. Now Progresso has introduced "homemade" quality chili in an easy to make, easy to store pouch. And now I can focus on what I will top my favorite chili with, instead of slaving away in the kitchen to make it.

With the kids heading back-to-school soon, it is time to start looking towards Fall, warm soups and comfort foods. At the top of my husband's list would be chili. During the colder months when I meal plan and ask for his input I already know what his answer will be... chili.

If you are a fan of Progresso soups, or just a chili fan in general, then stand up and take note. This delicious bowl of chili only took me 5 1/2 minutes to prepare! Yes, and it was full of slow cooked flavor and perfect for me to top with cheese, freshly diced tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream.

I tried the Southwest Style White Chicken Chili with Beans first. It is a creamy blend of all-white meat chicken, white beans, green sweet peppers, tomatillos and onions  I prefer a white bean chili, but my husband is more a fan of the tomato based, darker, chili. There was plenty in that pouch to dig my spoon into. Thick with tender beans and large chunks of chicken meat, it was a great option for a quick but hearty lunch.

The other chili option from Progresso is the Smokehouse Pork and Beef Chili with Beans. This one is unique with  Andouille sausage, beef, and a secret blend of spices, all slow-cooked with tomatoes, onions, green sweet peppers and pinto and red kidney beans. I would like to eat a bowl of this cuddled up with a good book, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, green onions and just a few sprinkles of crispy bacon. The sausage already makes this one rich and delicious, but I think it needs something crunchy to top it.

And you know they mean business when they put a clear bottom in the package so you can see exactly what is in their chili! You can find New Progresso Chili in the soup aisle.

So how would you top your Progresso Chili?

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Stick to Your Morning Workout with 5 Tips + Dial Body Wash Giveaway

This workout worthy bottle of New Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash was provided by the Dial brand in exchange for the review, but all opinions and experiences are my own. #GetNoticed

This week I have been getting up early to exercise with my son. Okay, some mornings the baby is up early, too and he comes along in the stroller, but my new commitment is to get back to 10,000+ steps a day. Despite trying to get in a workout DVD during naps, or slip away after dinner, I had to find something we could all stick to. Trying to walk mid-morning with 3 small children just wasn't happening.

If you are a busy Mom, you probably sympathize with how difficult it can be to carve out a few minutes for yourself. I mean, the bathroom is no longer a safe place and emergencies or tantrums seem to flare up when least expected.

I have to grab time where I can.

Of course a big motivator for me to work up a sweat is the steamy call of a hot shower. My newest treat has been the Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash. Not only does my skin feel smooth after my shower, but the antioxidants and electrolytes can help replenish lost hydration in my skin. Coconut water is all the rage right now, so why not treat you skin to a little, too. And the scent, it is a lovely way to start my day!

This is now my favorite way to wash off the salt and sweat of a good hard earned workout and maybe let my mind wander to a distant tropical island...

Okay, so besides finding the perfect time to slip in that daily workout, here are a few of my other tips.

5 Tips For Successfully Tackling Morning Workouts

1. Find a Buddy - Accountability is a huge motivator to me. In this case I enlisted my oldest son. He really needed another way to expel energy and stay out of trouble in the morning. He can walk/run most of our 3.3 mile loop on his own. If you have a baby, put them in the stroller and you are set!

2. Set Multiple Alarms - If you have a hard time waking up, don't let yourself hit snooze by setting multiple reminders to get up and get going.

3. Set Out Your Gear - I am much less likely to roll back into bed if my outfit is sitting and waiting for me to go. I also set out clothes for my son and we can be out the door in record time.

4. Hydrate - Don't forget to have a water bottle, or two, ready to go! I have one stashed in the fridge so I can stay hydrated for the entire workout.

5. Have a reward like Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash waiting for you to return. I give myself a few minutes to enjoy the hot water and get a fresh smelling start to the day. I love the coconut and mango scent to really pamper myself.

Giveaway Time!!!

Would you like to try this new body wash for yourself? I have 2 coupons so you can try it for yourself and treat a friend, too. This is one great experience you will want to share!

Easy entry! Leave me a comment on this post to tell me how you slip in workouts or why you need this hydrating coconut water body wash. I will draw a lucky winner on 9/1. Winner must be 18 years old or older and have a US mailing address. Good luck!
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Silhouette Gift Basket Giveaway! (Aug. 20 - 25th)

Image Map

You might have noticed that I have had a lot of Silhouette project on my blog over the past few months. My Silhouette Cameo has helped me make a wide variety of items from gifts and art to cards and even tattoos! I would say it is the single most used (and loved!) craft item in the house. Even my husband has used it for vinyl and card making.

I know if you have a machine you can always use more supplies! Or, enter to win and gift these goodies to the crafter in your life for the holidays. Either way, someone is going to win one amazing prize package.

Would you like to see what you could win?

There are some items in this gift basket that I still have on my wish list! $200+ value and think of all the great things you could make with this craft stash.

Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Fabulous Messes and Stretching with Viva® Vantage

Thanks to Viva Vantage and Walmart for sponsoring today's discussion about toddlers, messes and stretching the paper towel farther. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Don't point that spoon at me Mama. I can do it!

There is a shift around here. My little eager eater has taken lunch into his own hands. He is bound and determine to tackle every juice dripping mess with a gusto. Who am I to stand in the way of this new milestone. Instead of fighting nature, I outfitted him with a bib and sat back to eat my own lunch. It was definitely something to witness

He eager slurped up his watermelon, fruit pouch, cheese and juice... with more than half ending up on his highchair tray or in the seat.

Of course I knew it was going to need some serious clean-up help. His highchair tray was starting to resemble a little mini water table.

Don't worry though...

Just one small sheet of Viva Vantage, with its great scrubbing power for everyday messes such as this one, cleaned this mess up quickly. One sheet is all it took.

Have you tried Viva Vantage? With sponge-like absorbency and revolutionary V-Flex Weave there is scrubbing power enough for any of my kids' spills and messes. And let's be honest, kids create a lot of messes.

I grabbed our pack of Viva® Vantage Paper Towels at my local Walmart while picking up the rest of our groceries. Easy right?

Paper towels get heavy use by all the members of my family. From the usual daily spills, they are also grabbed for sticky fingers, to cover food in the microwave and even to line my crisper drawers in the refrigerator. Right now my daughter is using them to help her practice her alphabet before Kindergarten starts.

The kids aren't going to stop making messes anytime soon. I know that. I am just glad that I have a paper towel that works well for my family. Really, it has it's job cut out for it.

What would your family like to start Scrubbing with Viva® Vantage?
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Protecting my Back to School Investment and Avoiding the Lost and Found

I was provided an Ultimate Back-to-School Combo from Mabel's Labels to facilitate my review. This is a product I already use regularly and am excited to share for Back to School. All experiences and opinions are mine alone.

In the first school newsletter my son brought home from elementary school, I was shocked to learn that every year an entire room of stuff goes unclaimed. From shirts to coats and all student items in between I started to panic about my own forgetful Kindergarten student and the large investment we had just made into his Back to School clothes, backpack, lunchbox, etc.

How much would I need to re-buy over the course of a year?

Fast forward a year and though we had some close calls, a misplaced jacket and a friend of his lost a lunch box, we didn't end up too badly. I credit using Mabel's Labels to clearly mark all his possessions that he took to school regularly.

So this year I am sending 2 off to school, gulp, and am doing all I can to keep my kids from loosing the new items we have been purchasing. As a parent of school aged children, you know how expensive this time of year can be, so why not protect your investment with simple name labels?

For my son I just purchased a simple pack, but this year I got the Ultimate Back-to-School Combo for my daughter. It was a perfect way for me to lable everything easily for the upcoming school year.

Ultimate Back-to-School Combo contains:

  • 2 Teeny Tags
  • 16 Shoe Labels
  • 50 Tag Mates
  • 40 Skinny-Minis

The 2 Teeny Tags I am reserving for my daughter's backpack and lunch bag. I still need to get these items before school starts but I used one on my son's items last year and they were perfect!

My daughter's shoes have all been labeled and this will come in very handy for trips to Jungle Jump, a bouncy castle activity center, as well as when we take off and stash our shoes during Skate Nights at the community roller skating rink.

As I put all the labels in I started to realize that almost everything my daughter owns is either purple or pink. The labels match perfectly!

The Tag Mates were perfect for on the back of her bike helmet, as well as in her coats. None of these are items I want her to lose and at 5 years old, she misplaces things frequently.

The Mabel's Labels are so much cuter than just writing on the kids' items in sharpie. I know my Mom put my name on everything for school, but she didn't have an option like this.

Then I used the Skinny-Minis to go to town on school supplies. This is a lot faster than writing her name out 40 times.

 Now is a great time to order your own Ultimate Back-to-School Combo. There are so many great labeling options at Mabel's Labels for all your Back to School needs, and even around the home as well!

Creating your own custom labels is easy! Just design your labels with your child's name, design options and colors. There are options and icons for both girls and boys as well as various ages. Check out the full Mabel's Labels site to see options for everyone in your life.

What would you label in your life?
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Miso Glazed Eggplant

In the market while picking up fresh vegetables for the weekend a woman stopped me to ask, "What do you do with eggplant?"

She must have noticed the small pile I had in my basket.

"Well, lots of things. We enjoy them roasted, broiled, sauteed and fried." The truth is there are so many possibilities that go beyond the typical eggplant parmigiana. Depending on the type of eggplant, there is a while world of possibilities. But, this woman had no clue they were so versatile.

There are actually many types of eggplant. My absolute favorite are the long, slender Japanese eggplant. I have a variety called Dairyu that I like to plant each Spring. My second favorite are the tiny and tender Indian eggplant. Those are my favorites for curries and stir fry. Then of course, I do still have some love left over, and a place in my kitchen, for the larger Italian style eggplant that is more fiberous and holds up well to baking in sauces.

This week I was really hungry for the flavors of Japan, so I decided to whip up some quick and delicious Miso Glazed Eggplant.

Eggplant themselves are pretty neutral in flavor, but with a delicious miso/ginger glaze they are outstanding.

Just roast about a pound of Japanese style eggplant wrapped in foil. Mine were tender about about 50 minutes in the oven.

Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and then brush on the miso glaze. A quick broil and they are ready to go.

Fabulous just by themselves... or go the extra mile and pair with a little miso soup, sticky rice and salad for a light meal.

So, what do you think? Have you had eggplant this way before?

Miso Glazed Eggplant

You Will Need:

  • 1 lb. small Japanese eggplant
  • 3 Tbsp. yellow miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 Tbsp. ponzu sauce
  • 1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. honey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and poke holes in the eggplant. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The eggplant should be knife tender. Open the foil and cool until they are safe to handle.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together. Spoon over the sliced eggplant, cut side up. Broil on a baking sheet for 3-5 minutes on high. Serve immediately.


Weekly challenge to push the creativity of food bloggers. Create an original recipe each week to accomodate the weeks ingredient. If you are a blogger that is interested in linking up your themed recipe, please join the Facebook group to learn how.
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Churros Anytime! With Churro Cheesecake Squares

I  made churros in the past, but that isn't a treat I have time to make often. All that oil, all that prep... for just one or two perfect churro treats. Yeah, a batch makes more than just a few, but who would I have to take those off my hands? Only making churros once in a blue moon is probably a good thing. There is something magical about the eggy and light fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar that is a real treat.

For me, churros also remind me of Disneyland.

Don't judge. This Oregon girl hasn't had a churro outside of a Disney theme park. Truth be told, I gained most of my churro experience in Japan - Tokyo Disneyland. But, that story can wait for another day.

For all these reasons the idea of making a churro-style bar cookies really got me excited. But, it got my husband even more excited. Did I mention he also loves churros?

Okay, this recipe is a total cheat, but it is very fast and easy to whip up for a weekend treat or after school celebration. Perfect score on a spelling test? How about a churro?

This recipe creates a cream cheese layer between cinnamon and sugar drenched crescent roll dough. See how easy that is?

And the result is a bar cookie that holds it's shape nicely and is rich and sweet, just like the original.

Churro Cheesecake Squares

You Will Need:
2 -8oz. cans of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
2 pkgs. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if you prefer)
1 egg
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
4 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg *optional
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Prehead the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Set aside.

Unroll 1 can of crescent dough onto your work surface. With a rolling pin, gently roll to fit your dish and to seal the perforated seams. Place this in the baking dish with the ends of the dough coming up each side. Sprinkle a handful of the cinnamon mixture over the bottom crust.

In a stand mixer start by beating the softened cream cheese till light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the egg, vanilla bean paste and 1/2 cup sugar till fluffy again. Spread this evenly over the crust.

Roll out the remaining can of crescent dough, rolling together the seams as previously done. Then lay over the filling, brush with melted butter and top with the remaining cinnmaon and sugar mixture.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top crust turns golden brown. Let the bars cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.


And there you have it. Easier and faster than making homemade churros... but just as delicious!

I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine did.
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Suddenly Grain Salads - Making Dinner Fast and Delicious!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions and experiences are my own. #SuddenlyGrainSalad

I try to add whole grains to my family meals daily. One of my biggest pet peeves is having time to create a new and delicious whole grain dish that will be well received. Brown rice gets kinda old after a while, right? Not to mention that I have to plan enough ahead of time to get everything rinsed and cooking.

So I was intrigued when I heard Betty Crocker had created Suddenly Grain Salad Mixes. There are 3 different flavors, but all are a wholesome grain blend from the Suddlenly Pasta Salad mixes line you may have already tried.

I was sent all 3 flavors; Tuscan Grains, Harvest Grains and Southwest Grains and enjoyed both the ease of preparation and the flavors used.

The mixes contained 2 or 3 pouches. One contained the grain mix and was in a special perforated bag that was placed straight into the boiling water. This eliminates the need for a strainer! Brilliant. Yes, this mix would be a great addition to a vacation house meal or even for camping!

Another pouch held the seasoning mix. Once whisked with a little water or oil, it was ready to be tossed with the cooked and rinsed grain blend.

The Tuscan Grains even came with an additional pouch of nuts and driend fruit to garnish the top!

Prep was easy and the flavors are great! They are tasty but not too salty or overpowering. Even my toddler ate fist-fulls of the grain blends.

One thing I appreciated was these are not overly processed boxed grains. They still held some of the bite and texture that I expect when eating whole grains.

These Suddenly Grain Salad Mixes can be found with the rice, grains or pasta at all major grocery stores.

What would you serve with your Suddenly Grains Salads?

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New Betty Crocker Bars at Target - Bake up Some Fun!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions and experiences are my own. #NewFromBetty 

Ready to have even more sweet fun in the kitchen? This is so easy, you are going to flip.

I know, I might be just a little chocolate crazy, but I think everyone is going to be excited to hear that Betty Crocker and HERSHEY'S have teamed up for 3 new products sure to sweeten up your day. There is the HERSHEY'S S'mores Dessert Bars, REESE'S Dessert Bars (which I was sent), and HEATH Dessert Bars.

My husband and I both love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter so I made the REESE'S Dessert Bar Mix first.

3 steps led to 3 layers of delicious goodness in bar form!  The Mini REESE'S PIECES were not included in the mix, but I had them on hand and wanted to dress up the top. I love how simple it was to have a little added fun with these bars.

I was a huge fan of dessert mixes when I invited friends over for sleepovers. My daughter is getting closer and closer to that age, so I know bar mixes like this will come in handy for the friends she has over. There is something really exciting about creating a simple dessert all on your own. My favorites were boxed brownies with an occaisional no-bake cheesecake mix made with really special friends.

The REESE'S Dessert Bars were fabulous! Rich and creamy chocolate and peanut butter over a peanut butter flavored crust. I shared a bar with my husband over a tall glass of cold milk and it was the perfect afternoon treat!

These dessert bars are currently available in Target and I bet they will be a huge hit.

Which Dessert Bar do you want to try first?

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