Monday, November 29, 2010

Recycled Nativity for the kids

Yesterday, our church had a display of more than 50 Nativity scenes for show. It only took a few minutes before I realized that Baby Jesus could be in jeopardy if He came out in our house this season.

Rather than risk my "good" pieces to the whims of a toddler and his 5-year-old partner in crime, we opted to make our own set this year. It took time, and leftover materials around our house.

With empty toilet paper and wrapping paper rolls, a shoe box for a manger, and the backsides of work paper, we created a Nativity scene worthy of any child's imagination. And the best part, the pieces are easily replaceable!

(You can find directions and printables here.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sending gifts of Christmas past

The 4 a.m. hits were large HDTVs yesterday, from what my weary eyes could see...but what are you doing with your old TVs come January? In today's Green Phone Booth, I'm sharing resources on where you can recycle or donate reusable TVs, printers and other electronics.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trio of turkeys

This adorable trio of turkeys was made in minutes by my kindergartener and I. Simple and cute - and her secret pal loved them!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankful eyes of a 5 year old

The Green Eyed Monster shares a moment of gratitude...

I am thankful for my cousin and my brother and dad and mom.

Thanksgiving is when you get to eat turkey. It's going to be a great Thanksgiving because you get to have people come over. I like Thanksgiving. It's my favorite time of year because children's grandparents and their uncles and their aunt get to come. Kids like to play with their grandparents and uncles and aunts.

God loves me and all of us! I'm thankful for all of those stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Entertaining your turkeys at Thanksgiving

Keeping my kids away from the pantry and stove at mealtime is tough under the best of circumstances, but at a holiday, the excitement just amplifies. Today at the Green Phone Booth, I'm sharing a few recycled Thanksgiving craft ideas I found.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Gift Ideas

Looking for some homemade gift ideas? Even if you're not handy in the kitchen, or overly crafty, there are some great ideas to consider, if you just have time. Visit the Green Phone Booth to check out Jenn's ideas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Counting my blessings

It is one thing to see families lined up against a wall, waiting for food, in Depression-era photos in your history book.

It's another thing to see them on a weekday morning on your way to work.

It's tough to see a mom, in not the warmest of jackets and jeans, huddling to keep her little girl warm as they wait. Especially when she's not much bigger than your baby.

It's tough to give people dignity that they have every right to be there, while respecting your privacy.

And it's tough to not walk away crying.

Yes, yesterday morning rocked my day. I'd found a place that collected clothing for families in need, and wanted to make the most of any outgrown kids clothing and coats we had collected. And as I dropped the bags off that morning, I couldn't help but pray for them. And count my blessings.

For every frustration I have about stretching my funds to pay my bills, my heat is on this chilly morning.

For every frustration I have about my kids not wearing their hoods, they have hoods to wear on their coats.

For every frustration I have over lost mittens, my kids have mittens to lose - and I can, in a moment of desperation, buy another cheap pair at the Dollar Spot.

For every frustration I have over my kids refusing to eat, at least they have something to refuse.

For every frustration I have about my job (and Lord knows, I have my share), I've got one.

For every frustration I have about my messy house, at least I have a roof on my head.

For every frustration I have with friends or family, I know they're behind me.

And for that, I'm grateful.

Offering holiday support to unemployed loved ones

The holiday season can be a happy time, but for friends and family who are unemployed, it can be a time of anxiety and stress. Today, I'm guest-posting at Life as Mom on how you can help your loved ones during this Christmas season.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turkey marshmallows and other curious creations

Turkey and sweet potatoes. Sure it's on our mind these days. But in marshmallow glory?

That's right. At the Indy Winter Farmers Market opening this Saturday, I tried just that. Nestled among the raw foods, the fall veggies and the tea and meat vendors, was 240sweet, a local producer of gourmet marshmallow makers. We'd seen them at markets past and have been amazed by the varieties they'd come up with (and how spot on the flavors were). But turkey?

My husband and I tried a bite, just browned from a portal burner. Yes, the flavors were true to life, and a combination of packets of turkey and sweet potato marshmallows was the hot seller for hostess gifts that morning. Me, I think I'd have stuck with the salted caramel variety.

Owner Alexa Lemley gave me a window into her world earlier this year.

Why, of all things, did you decide to specialize in homemade marshmallows?

While searching the internet for recipes, I came across one for homemade marshmallows. Since I had never made them before, I decided to experiment. I started off with with Martha Stewart's vanilla flavor. Soon, I was creating my own recipes with ingredients that I found appealing. It was really just a way for me to play with flavors for fun.

How do you come up with the flavor combinations? What's the most unusual flavor you've made or had suggested to you?

I am inspired by the flavors of some of my favorite dishes. For example, Saffron and Pistachio is like kulfi. Avocado and Lime is from my favorite Vietnamese treat, avocado milkshakes. After making some Fleur de Sel caramels, I wondered what a salty caramel marshmallow would taste like. I'm not sure which would be most unusual. In my catering business, I use a variety of ingredients and flavors in my dishes to create foods that my clients request.

How do you get people past the idea of marshmallows being used for cocoa, smores or Rice Krispy treats? What other ideas do you have for them to enjoy these?

Actually, my marshmallows are great in cocoa, s'mores and Rice Krispy treats. However, they stand on their own as a treat. My puffs are also great as a dipper for fondues.

What ingredients are used, particularly for flavoring? Are they all-natural? Organic?

Whenever possible, we use local and organic. We use both granulated and powdered beet sugar from Michigan and Indiana corn starch. I make my own vanilla extract from organic vanilla beans. This summer, I made some delicious puffs using peaches from Double Oak Farms. We don't add any colors or artificial ingredients.

The marshmallows are admittedly a sweet splurge - three packets for $10 - but are a great idea for a stocking stuffer for your favorite foodie!

FTC Note: I received no compensation from 240Sweet for this article. I simply found it to be a fun idea!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giving the gift of experience

A few weeks ago, upon the request of their auntie, I asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas.

My daughter wanted one thing. The other items? Experiences. Classes at the parks and rec (gymnastics and ballet topped the list). Spring soccer (which now she wants to do again). And, lately, she's asked to go ice skating.

My son, was easier. If you must know, he asked for jelly beans. (For my family: Santa has that covered!) Of course, after hearing his sister, he asked for gymnastics class as well, and we're hoping both can enjoy that come January.

I admit I've dealt with minor guilt when looking at the kids' presents this year. They're largely practical (books and clothes) and each of them got one toy outside of the trinkets and art supplies in their stockings. After all, isn't Christmas supposed to be about swarming children with toys?

And then I think. Perhaps the kids only asked for minimal stuff because they need...minimal stuff. (Of course, that's changing, as my daughter sees commercials at extended care, flips through mom's magazines or talks with friends.)

So if you're like many of the people out there collapsing under the clutter or wondering what to do for the kid who seems to have everything, consider giving the gift of experience this holiday season.

We asked for ballet classes for my daughter last year at the parks department. She still talks about it - and wants to know when she can go again. And the photos and little videos allow other family members to share in her joy - something we might not have replicated with a Barbie outfit.

Here are some other ideas for experiential gifts for young families:
  • Zoo or Children's Museum passes. Some even have reciprocal agreements with other cities - which makes it a blessing if you're traveling! Check out savings sites like or groupon - we were able to get an amazing deal to our local Children's Museum for our children to enjoy all year!
  • Passes to seasonal activities, such as ice skating, miniature golf or the minor league ball team.
  • Classes at the art center or parks department. (Or for those in more remote areas, an art or science kit of some kind!)
  • Movie passes. For a family, a night out to the movies is hardly cheap - and a welcome treat!
  • Support a Scout troop or other activity that perhaps a kid couldn't do otherwise. (For example, our council does a lot of add-on activities, such as getting to go to plays, games, etc., and costs for child and adult start to add up.)
  • Finally, consider the gift of time. A good friend of mine at work has a special weekend with her nieces and nephew to mark their birthday. Whether it's a whole weekend or an afternoon of one-on-one, memories like that can last longer than you can imagine - for both of you.
And just as good, no clean-up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

In every snowflake, a miracle

In every snowflake, a miracle. And those miracles showered from the sky.

It's what happens when your toddler utters those words in a simple prayer. No sooner had he asked that fireworks not scare him (it's Diwali) and that we please get snow, than he got his wish.
The booming stopped, and snow showers poured from the sky.

I opened the door for the kids to watch the season's first snowfall. Mesmerized, they stood there, watching the flakes, then crouching down by the floor to watch more intently. An amazing moment of silence, as their father was trying to sleep, then:

"Snow coming down. On the ground," my youngest said breathlessly.

"God listened! He knows how kids like to play in the snow!" my oldest cried out. "God listened!"

"To me? To you?"

And the pair turned toward me. "Please sit down and watch," my oldest said. It was an offer I couldn't turn down.

We watched the tiny balls of snow pile up on the windshields, until the shower slowed to light flakes. Then the two tottered back to their sleeping bags.

And as the snores began, the fireworks once again broke through the night sky.

In every flake, a miracle.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daisy Girl Scout Memories

Every child's activity comes with memorabilia, and scouting is no exception.

So when my daughter joined Daisy Scouts this fall, I knew this scrapbooker was in trouble. After all, I'm behind on my photos, can't justify buying large album after album and can't always spring for supplies.
And then I found my answer lying on my ledge. There, in my stack of things that should have been put away, was a small 6-inch green polka-dot photo album that I have no idea how it made its way into my home.
It was pretty drab, to be honest:

But add in a few Daisy Girl Scout stickers from a package my mom had bought and drab turned into fab:

After each Girl Scout activity, my daughter can complete a page and include pictures, drawings or other memorabilia from an event. Her first page included a cut-out trefoil that had the Girl Scout promise on it, which they made at the first official meeting, as well as a humorous drawing of her and a friend - where she's twice the poor girl's height. (I'd post, but my computer keeps crashing as I'm trying to photoshop out names.)

Is it the kind of scrapbooking I would do? No. But then, I'm also not 5.

The best part? We would have never used the items if doing traditional scrapbooking, where I'd likely cram a year's worth of things into one page.