Lose the Kitchen Fear

Lose the kitchen fear! Take baby steps, and you will be making sensible meals in no time. SAHM Lifehack #16.

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I once was a recipe-follower. I had time to shop for fun spices and to run to different stores for hard-to-find ingredients. I don’t have time for that anymore because, kids.

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Chop apples: add to banana bread or oatmeal.

What motherhood has taught me is improvisation, oftentimes in the kitchen. Since I don’t want food to go bad and I want to use odds and ends, combining and figuring cooking out is now the norm.

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Have leftover buns or bread? Oven dry, butter, season, and cut them, and dry them some more. Instant dressing or croutons.

I start by trying out new recipes- and substituting a few things. Cream of chicken? Add cream of mushroom. Once I had some confidence, I branched out by making my own recipe starters. I learned a few tricks, like that flour or corn starch will thicken, and went from there.

In my quest to end my kitchen fear, I have failed. Every once in awhile, we have a blah meal. The kids pick and my husband shrugs, commenting that, “it just won’t be a favorite.” That’s ok. Because as I still consider myself a kitchen beginner, I don’t try complete experiments with expensive ingredients.

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My worst failure was a new cake recipe for Ty’s birthday. It tasted good, but was a bit crumbly. And slanted.

My grandma would start dinners by putting a pot of water on the stove and commenting that she would “figure it out.” I’m not brave enough to confront that kitchen fear, but I imagine some day I may master that.

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Za’s fifth birthday cake – a success.

Until then, I will keep trying, searching for ways to make healthy foods without wasting much.

Easter Grammar Exercises

My kids had fun with my last impromptu grammar game, so I decided to try out some Easter grammar exercises. 

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I’m still working on this grammar activity layout. Should I worry about colors? Should I use manipulatives, like blocks or puzzle pieces? For now, I’m writing verbs on green and nouns on blue. I’m thinking yellow for articles since that is a neutral color. I want to laminate and create ones that are wipeable for advanced kids to changes tenses and number. (“I played” instead of “I play”).

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This was the list of nouns and verbs that I used for practicing nouns and verbs:

Nouns: bunny, mom, candy, hat, tree, basket, grandma, picnic, dress, bird, grass, eggs, treat, grandpa, cross, Jesus, dad, lunch.

Verbs: hides, died, smiles, grills, talks, saves, cries, laughs, hops, runs, sits, made, plays, smells, kept, eats, bakes.

Very easily you can add words that are specific to the ways you and your family celebrate Easter.

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Of course, Ty manipulated the Easter grammar exercises to be goofy. Mom was always “hopping” and the bunny “grilled” lunch.

I like this grammar activity because you can practice the parts of speech for any holiday so the words will always vary. For those who keep track of the common core standards, this activity helps meet kindergarten, first, and second standards in language.

Who has advice? Laminate puzzle pieces? Write on blocks? Any suggestions are welcome!

Join the fun here:

Softest Play Dough Ever

I realized last night that indeed Easter was coming and because, well because I’m me, I also realized that I lacked about 90% of an Easter basket’s contents.

I did shop today, but last night I made the softest play dough ever for the baskets. I’ve seen this recipe go around on Pinterest and decided that I had nothing to lose.

Tonight, this is Za’s basket, and she has the green dough. I think it turned out pretty cute:

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The recipe I used was from Kids Activities. It was simple and took about ten minutes to make. The recipe is two parts corn starch, one part hair conditioner.

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I used a hodge-podge of hair conditioners. I figured that since I was using hair condition, I would get rid of the little bottles I don’t really like from hotels.

The mix turned out white, even though I had different colors of conditioner. Then I divided the dough, added a few drops of food coloring, and mixed.

I pressed the dough together in the bags for good measure, cut the top off, and tied a ribbon! The softest play dough ever to the rescue! And my hands felt great.

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This was a simple and cheap play dough. I did not make the baby any because it is not edible and I’m afraid she’ll try it. I had these ingredients on hand, but if not, it should run you only about two dollars!

Clean Your Pantry

Clean your pantry. It will accomplish two goals: cleaning, and finding forgotten food. SAHM Lifehack #15.

I clean my cupboards, lazy susan, pantry, whatever you may call them, about every two months.

By that time, pasta and rice have spilled. The shelves need a wipe-down. I take out the cans, boxes, and bags. I clean, but more importantly, I don’t rebuy food or allow food to expire.

If you clean your pantry, you will find forgotten foods. Those goodies that hide in the back. The can of spicy sauce you bought, intending to try a new recipe.

You will pile all the types and shapes of noodles – and make a fun soup for the kids.

You will discover different muffin mixes and leftover pancake mix – and make a unique dessert bread.

You will find an odd container of prepared vegetables – and find a recipe online for a new family favorite.

If you clean your pantry, you will find new goodies, and in the process, save money.

Read the next post in this series, SAHM Lifehack #16.

Show Off Your Shoes!

Ross Dress for Less is running a Show Off Your Shoes! contest! Yours truly is participating.

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My personal shoppers and I (pictured below) went to our local Ross store where I purchased two pairs of spring shoes for under thirty dollars!

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I always feel guilty when I shop for myself. I typically have two sets of clothes – one for hot weather, the other for cold. I never have a cute “spring” wardrobe or “fall” type accessories. I layer and wear lots of mom-type uniforms. Cheap flip-flops or sneakers adorn my feet.

But. You know.

I once dressed myself up and would like to again. I would also not like to spend half my grocery bill on a pair of shoes. Ross is advertising a huge spring shoe sale, and the store did not disappoint.

The shoes pictured below were $12.99 and I love them. Jewels cutsie them and they don’t hurt my feet. I plan to wear them to picnics, parades, and baseball games – a little splurge for this mom.

photo 2 (8) Since coordinating is a quirk of mine, I bought a second pair for $15.99. They are brown, and are comfy and stylish too.

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I restrained myself and only purchased two pairs, but other shoes tempted me too. Some name-brand flip-flops were $5.00, and others were $8.00 I might return to buy more.

I understand the thriftiness of a SAHM. I also realize the real desire to not always dress in yoga pants and dollar store shoes! The styles at Ross are adorable, versatile, and as always – very reasonably priced.

The top picture of my new shoes is in the Ross Dress for Less Show Off Your Shoes! Contest. Top votes win huge prizes! My entry is here, and you can enter to win too. Take a quick picture of your Ross shoes like I did, upload the picture, and tell your friends to vote. Simple as that!

Disclaimer: I received compensation in the form of a gift card to Ross Dress for Less. My statements in this post and all other forms of media are my own opinion.

Make Meals Ahead of Time

Prep now, and have reserves in the freezer – make your meals ahead of time. SAHM Lifehack #14.

I’m currently covering tricks I’ve learned to survive in the kitchen as a SAHM in my year-long SAHM Lifehack series.

A chef I’m not, but making meals is simpler for me now. Still, having a meal in the freezer really saves me some days.

I am not a huge freezer meal person – I like fresh vegetables and such. When I return to work in a few years, I do plan to stock the freezer more. Right now, I make a few meals ahead of time for days with sick kids, migraines, a lack of desire to cook, etc.

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Today was make-lasagna-day. Lasagna freezes well and since it is a pain to make – lots of ingredients, lots of layering – it is my go-to freezer meal. I can pull it out of the freezer in the morning, stick in in the oven at four, and serve it at five.

The most important part of making meals ahead of time is prep, prep, prep. Be sure that you have all the ingredients and have enough dishes that you won’t miss while they sit in the freezer. I also suggest using a tried-and-true recipe, and not making a huge batch of a meal you are testing for the first time. (I may have made some of these mistakes).

I have made lasagna so many times that I don’t follow a recipe. I use fresh spinach in mine, which always shocks people. I throw it in after the meat is done, just to sauté it a bit. The kids never complain about it.

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When all the ingredients are prepped, I assemble.

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The kids are interested in this process, and sometimes they help. They didn’t help today, but it did make me think of the idea of kids learning about a process, and realizing the work to have a final product.

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My taste-tester.

Today, I made four lasagnas. We ate one tonight, and will use the next three over the next few weeks.

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I did spend a few hours prepping, preparing, and cleaning but I like the trade-off. Making a few meals ahead of time helps me on long days and other blah days.

Read the next post in the SAHM Lifehack series, #15.

UBP 14 Party Post

Hello UBP 14 Partiers!

For those of you reading my blog with no clue what I’m doing, read this.

This is my third time participating in the UBP. My name is Lauralee and live in Central Illinois with my perfect mate, Brandon. I stay home with my three kids, write, and man the store The Language Arts Classroom on Teachers Pay Teachers. Every SAHM has a story, and this is mine:

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This is me and my little girl from a few years ago.

I taught high school English for seven years, quit to stay home with the kids, and went back to work when the kids were old enough for preschool. I taught junior high and high school for a year, and had my third child two months after the school year ended. Here is the crew:

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C.J., Ty, and Za.

My biggest goal as a mom is to purposefully raise my kids. This goal is shared by so many other moms in blog-land and even though we all have different purposes and methods, I love knowing and talking to other parents. It really makes my days as a SAHM easier, knowing that other people are in the trenches with me – even if we’re all across blog-land.

Because I’m a teacher, I parent like a teacher. We do lots of educational activities even though I do not homeschool my kids. Many of my writings focus on educational themes. For instance in January, I devoted the month to finding math ideas and in February, I looked for science ideas. For March and April, I’m writing about grammar.

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I also live with an eight-year old beagle my husband and I got from the pound. He howls. A lot.

The other topics on my blog cover the truthful struggles of parents. I believe sharing information and empowering parents creates a domino effect. Many times, I have read a blog post from a mom or dad and felt reassured that I “wasn’t the only one.” I write to clarify my thoughts and hope I help other parents in the same situation.

What else? I love tacos, chocolate, and blueberry pancakes. I wish I had more time to watch movies. I wonder if I will ever not be tired again. I love my life and I know I have a good one.

Thanks for coming over to my blog. I plan to return to everyone’s blog for visitors who came over here. I won’t bombard you with all my socials, but I am on Bloglovin if you want to follow my journey. I’m excited to learn all about you!

Simple Grammar Games

We’ve stumbled upon simple grammar games that are easily adaptable for any age.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about our playing cards board games. We continue to invent games and practice different math skills – but I had this entire other side of the board! A big blank board, and since my goal for March and April is to find easy ways of practicing grammar, I wanted to put the board to use.

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I practiced one grammar game that my kids are not old enough for (seven and five) – I took words from magazines. Ty made sentences, but he wasn’t grasping the eight parts of speech beyond nouns and verbs. I still like using this concept, and may use it again when my kids are older.

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I adapted the concept for younger ages though into a new game.

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I wrote nouns and verbs, but color-coded them. Nouns, yellow. Verbs, green.

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For simplicity, I used singular verbs and nouns.  It was also simple to make short sentences: Mom sits. This soon changed.

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See the new colors? We added articles (an, a, the) on pink paper.

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Since we were expanding the sentences, blue conjunctions joined the group.

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Even the baby “manipulated” the parts of speech.

Of course the kids’ favorite sentences involved mom snuggling a turtle or mom making brownies.

Next time for our grammar games, I plan to add adjectives and adverbs, making pronouns and interjections last.

Do you play grammar games at home? Feel free to share ideas!

Cook Like Your Grandma

Cook like your grandma – SAHM lifehack #13.

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Staying home (and often losing an income) normally makes two truths: you have a bit more time for food prep, and you are concerned with saving money.

Standing in the grocery store years ago, I realized that I spent too much money there. I didn’t know how to cut back though – I already used coupons and watched for sales. I decided to lessen my bill by $10. That seemed like a reasonable goal.

I had to think about where to cut it though. Vegetables and fruits were on a budget already and I didn’t want to cut there anyway. We get meat from a local butcher, so it is cheaper too.

I realized my “prep materials” were expensive. I stocked cream of mushroom/ chicken soups, chicken broth, and beef stock. All those cans probably added up to $10. I didn’t know how to make soups and other dishes without them, though. They were fast and easy, but this was probably the place to lose that $10.

I found a recipe at Pinch of Yum for cream of chicken soup. It worked! I loved it, and it was inexpensive. It still called for cans of chicken broth, but the next time I made chicken, an idea struck me.

We will buy whole chickens if they are on sale. My kids love them – and they taste better. All the research about people needing fat and abandoning low fat diets resonated with me since my kids gobbled these whole chickens. After we ate them though, we had a pretty hefty carcass to pitch. Then I remembered my grandma boiling them.

I had heard the expression for moms “to cook like your grandma,” but that was in reference to lard. (Still haven’t done that yet). We tried it though – I stuck that bird in a huge pot of water, boiled it for almost an hour, and pulled it out. I strained it, and divided the homemade chicken stock into glass jars. Simple – and I had the base for about three meals.

Making my own base soups and chicken stock is another way I save money in the kitchen. Cook like your grandma – you may save money too.

Playing Cards Board Games

This spring break, our playing cards board games has been our go-to activity. The possibilities are endless from this simple activity. 

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The kids and I have played math games with playing cards before. We now have an official board, and we use it tons.

We are fortunate enough to send our kids to a school that hosts Common Core Nights (and other such nights) to give parents practical ways to incorporate what kids learn at school into home life. Practicing math with playing cards board games was the recent suggestion. I had these supplies around the house but if you do not, they shouldn’t be expensive.

I used a reinforced poster board, a deck of cards, and two-sided puff tape.

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At first, I only put the red cards because I was going to practice number identification with Za, and I wanted to minimize confusion.

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She liked the change from workbooks and our usual math games. Counting the diamonds and hearts to find the correct number I gave her (like 18 – a ten card and an 8 card) really helped.

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Ty likes to practice addition and subtraction for his games. At first I would give him a number like 14, and he would pull a ten card and a four card.

To switch it up, I gave him a number of cards to gather- like four cards to add up to 17. He would pick a ten card, a five card, and two aces. Later, I added more tape and the black cards to give more diversity.

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Playing cards board games seem endless with possibilities. The link I provided above is the original source my son’s school provided the parents, and the site has other ideas too. This was a simple and fun way to incorporate math into our everyday life.

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