Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Fun 'Frozen' DVD Release Party

If your kids are anything like mine, or even if you don't have kids but appreciate great animated movies (I know I do - I'm super pumped the new Muppets movie opens on my birthday!) then you were probably counting down the days until Frozen came out on DVD. Occasionally, when a highly anticipated movie comes to the theater (Despicable Me 2) or like yesterday when Frozen came out on DVD, I try and do something fun for the girls to get them excited about the movie. When Despicable Me 2 came out we made Minion Cupcakes. For Frozen I decided to make it into a mini-party. Here are some of the things we did:


I purchased two foam crowns and sticker gems for the girls to use as decorations. I also bought them some sparkly necklaces and rings to use for dress-up.


Here are my beauties showing off their completed crowns. I also bought a roll of silver wrapping paper and blue glittered tissue paper to decorate the table.


Apparently everyone was in the market to purchase Frozen toys because the Elsa's Ice Palace below and the Polly-Pocket sized Anna doll we're the only two toys from the movie I could find at Walmart, and Target and Toys R Us weren't much better. I'm glad we got the movie (and the toys) first thing in the morning because by the afternoon, several of the stores were sold out of the blue-ray version. The larger, talking dolls were from Target back when the movie first came out to theaters and the marshmallow snowman is my attempt at making an edible Olaf.
(sorry for the poorly exposed cell phone picture here and below)


At our little party we also had "Frozen Punch" which was just blue Kool-Aid in a glass rimmed with white and blue sugar crystals. The girls loved it!


For dessert that night we had blue Jell-O "ice" cubes. They're really cool because it's a layer of blue Jell-O on top of a layer of clear. However, since I only used one packet of each color and used the Speed-Set method for my blue layer, mine didn't turn out nearly as cool as the inspiration ones seen below.


I found this cute Olaf printable on Spoonful's website for the girls to color while waiting for lunch.


The last thing I made for the girls are these capes. There is a scene in the movie when Elsa sings "Let It Go" while building her ice palace. This is by far .K's. favorite scene and we watch it on YouTube on average twice a day with her reenacting every moment of it. Anyway, there is a part where Elsa lets her cape fly off while singing, "The cold never bothered me anyway." Up until this party, .K. had been using a fleece blanket fastened with a hair tie as her cape but it was too long, too big, and I worried she would trip on it while twirling and dancing.


I found these two inexpensive, different shades of blue fleece baby blankets and even though I couldn't open them to see exactly how big they were, I kind of guessed that if they're for a baby, they're probably not too huge. As you can see in the picture below, it hits at a perfect spot on .K. and it's small enough to just cover her shoulders without being too big, too heavy or too bulky. Awesome!


The second part of the equation is keeping them closed. I wanted to do something a little fancier than just a hair tie but it also had to be easy enough that .K. could do it herself so she could let it fly during just the right part of the song. As you can see on .E. below, I found these super cute heart shaped toggles that I hand-stitched to two of the corners.


However, the girls don't even have to worry about doing the toggles themselves because they can just slip the capes on and off over their heads. Here you can see how long the same sized blanket is on .E. Thankfully it's just above the floor because she loves to copy Big Sis and run around the living room wearing her cape too.


Here they are dancing together while watching Frozen. My favorite part about these capes is that .E. prefers to wear hers in the front, like a giant tabard and then do somersaults and that cracks up .A.


And just like in the movie, our beautiful girls may be different, but I know they will love each other forever.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recipe: Lemon Chicken Breast

Hello Folks! About two weeks ago I wrote a post about an app I've been using called Lose It! and two cook books I've been using to make 400 or less calorie meals.

This past weekend I was out of town visiting my bestie, her husband and their beautiful new baby. While I was gone, A did some grocery shopping. One of the meals he was going to make was Lemon Thyme Chicken. He didn't have the chance to make it while I was gone so I decided I would make it last night. A quick Google search landed me on this recipe from The Food Network and I'll tell you what, it was delicious! Even K was happy to eat it. She's not the most picky eater and she will usually eat chicken but since it was something new I wasn't sure how she would like it. Thankfully she loved it! The other great thing about it is it falls under their "Healthy" category and it is under 400 calories.


Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
    (We used a moscato which is a sweet white wine which was delicious.)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each)
    (The original recipe called for the chicken breasts to have the skin on. I prefer no skin and the recipe works for skinless chicken as well.)
  • 1 lemon

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them (skin side up) over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn't browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot with the pan juices.


Nutritional InformationCalories: 393  |  Total Fat: 19.5 g  |  Saturated Fat: 3 g
Protein: 49 g   |  Total Carbohydrates: 3 g  |  Sugar: 0 g
Fiber: 0.5 g     |  Cholesterol: 145 mg  |  Sodium: 745 mg


We made this with a side of broccoli and I used that to soak up the extra pan juices - so good!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Losin' it with Lose It!

Hello everyone. I hope you're having a glorious day. The clouds have parted and we've had a few days in a row of above freezing temperatures. Woo hoo!

Today I'd like to review a health app I've been using with pretty great success. My Mom told me about it a while ago and it wasn't until the beginning of the year that I started using it. It's called Lose It! and it's available for Android, iOS, Nook, Kindle, and the Web. With Lose It! you don't have to keep track of points or exclude certain foods from your diet. And here's the best part... Lose It! is totally FREE!

To get started you enter your current weight, height, age, gender, your goal weight, and how many pounds you'd like to lose per week. Lose It! sets a daily calorie budget for you and then you just track your food and exercise. But here's the great part. Tracking your food is so easy with the ability to scan barcodes. Even if you try to eat a lot of whole foods, you can often find a bar code on a box of strawberries or a bag of romaine lettuce. And if it's a single apple, you can look it up in Lose It!'s expansive database. It's so easy! I love easy and that's the only way I've been able to stick with this for six weeks. The app also includes thousands of restaurants, grocery stores, and brand-name foods that are easy to look up. If you can't find a particular restaurant, I've found that most places have their nutritional information online and you're able to add new foods to your log. Lastly, you can duplicate or search from previous meals so if for instance you eat the same thing for breakfast once a week, you can do a look up of previous meals and select the foods you ate again to be added to the new day.

I had always thought of myself as a fairly healthy eater but becoming aware of my caloric intake was pretty eye opening. My goal is to lose 28 pounds at one pound a week. I figured that would be an attainable goal without having to take drastic measures. Because I'm doing this for health reasons, I don't have any time restraint on myself so I don't care if it takes me until the summer to reach my goal. As of today's weigh in, I've lost 13 pounds since starting on January 9th and that's all just from using this app and becoming more aware of how many calories I eat in a day. I can still have my Starbucks or deep dish pizza but then I might have to skip a few snacks during the day. The other thing that I've learned, and this is a big one, is what an actual serving size is. Now I read labels and if the box says that a serving size is one cup, I break out a measuring cup and I make sure I'm only eating one cup. I have to admit, the first few days I was feeling pretty hungry but it really didn't take long before I was feeling satisfied eating the amount I should. I still have a nasty sweet tooth and that's something I have to keep in check, but at least I'm no longer finishing the little nibble here or little nibble there off my kids plates when they don't finish something. Now I either wrap it up for later or when possible, I put it back in the container. It's really just about becoming more aware of what I'm putting in my body.

I weigh myself once a week, on the same day each week, around the same time of the day, and wearing the same amount of clothing. I'm able to input my weight and see a graph of my gains or losses. If I've lost a certain number of pounds (I'm not sure what the exact amount is) Lose It! will automatically adjust my daily calorie budget. So, to sum it up, the app tells you how many calories you should be eating per day in order to lose the amount of weight you've set and you can track the calories you intake by just scanning the foods barcodes, looking up food from their extensive database, finding meals from popular restaurants, or inputting the nutritional values from recipes you create yourself. Speaking of recipes, a cookbook that has really helped me make great tasting food while still keeping track of calories is this one from Good Housekeeping. I also just got this one from a bargain bin and I'm hoping it's as good as the Good Housekeeping one.


Lose It! also allows you to share your weight loss success and give/receive motivation through different social media channels as well as participating in various challenges. I don't use these features so I can't really comment on them.

The last piece of the puzzle is exercise. I have been very fortunate to receive some amazing advice from a dear friend of ours who calls herself The Running Rhino and has managed to lose quite a bit of weight and keep it off. She mentioned that she does boxing/kickboxing with a free-standing heavy bag in her house using video tutorials from YouTube and how that has really made a huge impact in her weight loss success. Taking her advice, I looked into boxing gyms and found one that was fairly close to us, a Title Boxing Club. See, unlike my friend, I *need* to go to a class for that group comradery and accountability. I like loud techno music to motivate me and an instructor who walks around and says, "Keep it up!" Thankfully, before I signed up for a membership, I found a Groupon for a one month trial membership for a discounted rate. After our first class though, we were hooked and signed up for a full membership. The instructors are great, the people in the classes seem really cool, and the classes kick our butts (in a good way). One of the great perks of our membership is that we can go to any Title Boxing Club in the U.S. and anyone in our household is able to come with us (including K - they have a Kids Power Hour). Unfortunately, due to some extreme weather and the fact that there isn't an option for child care, A and I have to go on separate nights after he gets home from work. That being said, I think we've only been to three classes each. That's definitely a spot where we can both improve.

Oh and that reminds me, I can record my exercise in Lose It! too. The app has a ton of different exercises already in the database and all I have to do is pick Boxing and the amount of time I was working and it calculates how many calories I've burned.

This was on Facebook from one of our instructors at Title Boxing


(By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Lose It! or Title Boxing. I have just found this app and gym to be extremely useful in my healthy weight loss goals and I hope it can work for you too.)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Daddy Daughter Date Nights

Recently on Facebook I posted a link to an article from the HuffingtonPost.com entitled "What Little Girls Wish Daddies Knew". It's a good reminder of how important our dads are to us girls, and if you have a few minutes take a look at it. This past December and again last night, A & K went to a Daddy Daughter Dance through two different venues. I still remember to this day when my Dad and I went to a Daddy Daughter Sock-Hop at my elementary school (we won the dance competition!) I think most girls are secretly (or hopefully not too secretly) a Daddy's Girl. My dad has taught me how to change the oil in my car as well as tutored me late into the night on the phone before a big math exam. I have never questioned how much my dad loves me. He isn't afraid to show it and watching him (and A's dad) with our two girls is simply magical. Don't get me wrong, my mom and I are best friends and when I need to vent or need reassurance, I'm calling her. But there are few things more beautiful to me, as a mom, to see my girls with their daddy.

Anyway, back to the Daddy Daughter Dances. The first one was in December and that was through a local children's museum. It was a Cinderella Princess Ball theme and they had a really great time.




The second Daddy Daughter Date was last night through our park district. The theme for that one was Little Mermaid Under the Sea. I was a little surprised when they came home an hour before the dance was supposed to end but K was so excited for the fun she and Daddy had planned for that night that she wanted to get to that as soon as possible.




There's nothing like ending a fun evening with a camp-in. Even Little Sis got in on it before heading off to bed. I hope everyone's Friday night was fun and that you're enjoying your weekend. We're spending the day in our jammies, playing in the tent and eating pizza. Pretty much heaven on earth :)

Take care,
~ J :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Who-Who's Turning 2? An Owl-Themed Birthday Party - Food

Hi there! How awesome is it that today's Friday?!? I know I'm excited! Not only is it the the beginning of the weekend but it's also the Daddy Daughter Date Night at our park district. A & K went to it last year as well and if it's similar to that one, I know they will have a blast again.

On Tuesday I showed you the decorations I made and purchased for E's owl-themed second birthday party. Today I'm going to show you the cupcakes I made as well as her hilarious reaction to them.

I found this super easy decorating idea on Babble.com using Oreos and Reese's Pieces. All you do is make whatever kind of cupcake you want... A side note here - I made this angel food confetti cake mix as cupcakes and while I love angel food, it definitely doesn't translate to a cupcake. One bite in the cupcake, and because of the airy quality of this kind of cake, the whole thing squashed flat. Not the best for a cupcake.

Ok, back to decorating... frost your cupcake with chocolate frosting and sweep up two ear tufts with your icing spatula. Then, unscrew two Oreos and using the sides with the filling, place two of them side by side below the ear tufts. Next, place two brown Reese's Pieces on the Oreos for pupils and last, stick an orange Reese's Pieces in sideways between the Oreos as a beak.
The ear tufts on the Babble cupcake are more pronounced and cuter but these worked as well.

For the remaining cupcakes I did a few more like owls, some decorated with Reese's Pieces, and the remaining ones were decorated with Cool Whip and ball sprinkles.

The pink and blue owl cupcake toppers are a free download from RepeatCrafterMe.com.

If you recall from E's first birthday (and from our Minion cupcakes), she LOVED the frosting. Not so much this year... Actually, she never even made it to the frosting on the owl cupcakes. Unfortunately, E has developed an aversion to Reese's Pieces and I should have thought to take them off her cupcake before giving it to her. So then I tried one of the Cool Whip frosted cupcakes... no dice. She ended up having ice cream but she loved it so I was happy :)
She was happy to blow out the candles but the look on her face in the last photo
tells you what she really thought of the cupcake.

Second attempt was definitely no better. In the last photo I'm reaching in to take
the offending cupcake out of her sight ;)

This is my favorite picture from the whole cupcake debacle. To me she looks like a mobster saying, "These cupcakes - Forget about 'em!" It seriously cracks me up.

A lot of people say to me, "Why do you do so much work on these parties?" and the answer is three parts. One, there is nothing like seeing the girls wake up on the day of the party and just loving all of the decorations and getting so excited to celebrate their birthdays.

Two, we are blessed with an amazing family and even though we are all busy, so many of them come and that really means so much to us.

And three, I actually really enjoy making crafts and decorating and coming up with themes (or working with the ones K chooses). So yeah, I guess it is a lot of work, but celebrating the birth of our incredible girls is worth every part of it.

Until next time,
~ J :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Who-Who's Turning 2? An Owl-Themed Birthday Party - Decorations

Good morning! I hope your week is going well so far.

The other day I shared the toilet paper roll owl craft with you. Today I have pictures from E's 2nd birthday party that will show another paper craft I made. I hope you enjoy them!

For invitations this year I used pre-made blank owl cards that I had purchased years ago in the dollar section at Target, not really having a plan for them but thinking they were too cute to pass up. Each set came with 8 cards and stickers.

Back in June of last year I posted pictures from K's second birthday party and how I hung streamers in a doorway as decorations. It was such a hit back then that I decided to do it again for E's party.

And just like last time, they were a ton of fun! Here is E at 2 (above) and K at 2 (below).

And they're still fun, even at 5! It's such a cheap and easy decoration and it brings so much joy.

I also made these paper lantern owls to hang in the kitchen. (I saw the idea on Cupcakes and Homeschool.) They were super simple to make. I traced a small bowl for the whites of the eyes and a shot glass for the black. An orange triangle served as the beak and I folded a whole sheet of construction paper in half and drew a long, skinny "D" for wings. I used masking tape to attach everything so I could easily remove it all and use the lanterns again. Easy peasy!

I felt very lucky to find these great paper plates at Party City. They are from the "Hippie Chick" collection and I bought the plates, napkins, streamers, balloons, and a few things for the goody bag from the collection.

Speaking of the goody bags, I found these great felt owl bags in the dollar section at Target last year around Valentine's Day and I think I've seen them there again this year so if you like 'em, check out Target soon before they're all gone.

Inside the goody bags were owl stickers, flower barrettes from the Hippie Chick collection, owls filled with lip gloss, owl magnetic book markers, an owl pencil and bookmark (it was a free download from MyDelightfulDesigns.com but it doesn't seem like the website is available any longer.) Lastly there was a felt owl ornament and a rubber bracelet, also from the Hippie Chick collection.

Back in October, right after Halloween, we made a trip out to OH to visit A's dad and sister's family and while we were at a local grocery store there, we found these great owl platters on 50% off clearance. They were perfect for holding candies, nuts, and cupcakes. I love being in the right place at the right time!

My next post will show you how I made the owl cupcakes as well as E's reaction to the cupcakes and opening presents. Have a great day!

~J :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Recycled Craft: Toilet Paper Roll Owls

Howdy folks! This past weekend we celebrated E's 2nd birthday with an owl-themed party ("Who-who is turning 2?") and for the table centerpieces I crafted these cute owls out of toilet paper rolls. I combined ideas from two different blog sites, sassydealz.com (which seems to be down at the moment) and a free eye/beak printable from u-createcrafts.com.Here is how I made them:


Supplies: Two sheets of colored construction paper and one sheet of orange, one page of printed eye/beak combos, one inch hole punch, one inch heart punch, empty toilet paper roll, scissors, glue, pencil.


Step 1. Bend down a small section from the front and the back of the toilet paper roll to form the ear tufts.


Step 2. Punch 18-20 circles from one color of the construction paper. These will serve as the feathers on your owl. Glue two rows of circles to the middle of your toilet paper roll. I overlapped each circle as well as the two rows. (Conversely, I got to thinking after I made 12 of these (with some help from my mom) that using circular labels like these would have made this step go much faster. The only thing I like about using glued on circles is that the edges didn't stay flat and that gave the circles more of a feather-y look as opposed to using the circles which I assume would all stay down flat. I guess it just depends on the look you are going for and the amount of time you want to invest.)


Step 3. Cut out the eyes/beak combo and glue that onto the front of your toilet paper roll, overlapping the top row of circles just a bit. I only applied glue to the center of the eyes and the whole beak so that the sides of the eyes would stick out past the sides of the toilet paper roll.


Step 4. Free-hand draw four elongated hearts out of your other colored sheet of construction paper. These will serve as the wings. Glue two hearts together per wing.


Step 5. Glue the wings on the sides of your owl.


Step 6. Punch out one small heart from the orange construction paper for the feet. Fold the point side up and apply glue to that part and stick it to the bottom of the front of your owl.


And there you have it, a cute owl all made from recycled and recyclable materials!

The fun thing about these is that they can be made with any type or color paper so if you have small amounts of scrap book paper that you need to use up, these are perfect for that. Also, they would be cute for fall / Halloween decorations or I've even seen them without the feet and the bottom end pinched closed like the top and used as a small treat or gift card holder.

Take care,
J :)