The Most Amazing Fall Potpourri

Posted 10-5-2016 at 08:10 PM by Jessica

cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise stars and slices of dried citrus

 

The taste of Fall with all of the pumpkin-flavored goodies is amazing. The feel of Fall with sweaters and the chill in the air is also essential. But one of the most important aspects of Fall are the scents. Pumpkin bread baking in the oven, caramel melting on the stove in preparation for caramel apples, homemade pecan pie…. Oh boy. I think I’m in too deep.

Those heavenly smells are part of what makes the Autumn season so spectacular. But unless you’re baking another goodie each and every day, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the Autumn Aroma all that often. Well, it’s a good thing I have the perfect solution. Potpourri!

The following ingredients can be placed in a crock pot or simmered on the stove, whichever you prefer!

A few cups of water (or enough to fill a crock pot just about an inch below the rim)

An apple, cut into quarters

An orange rind

A few cinnamon sticks

A handful of whole cloves

and a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Boil the water if it’s on the stove top, and then add the ingredients. You can always play around with the amounts as well, it’s totally up to you.

Once the water has come to a boil on the stove and you’ve added the fruits, spices and vanilla turn the heat down so it can simmer. Be very mindful that the water will evaporate quickly so more water will need to be added every half-hour or you’ll risk burning everything in the saucepan. (And no, I am definitely not speaking from experience…;) ) If you plan to keep the potpourri simmering for longer than an hour or so make sure to add a little more spice each time you replenish the water.

That’s it! In only a matter of minutes your house is going to smell amazing.

 

Diaper Swapers

3 Adorable Autumn Wreaths You Can Make Yourself!

Posted 10-3-2016 at 06:52 PM by Jessica

pumpkin-wreath-tutorial

Now that it is officially Fall it is time to give your home a little Autumn flair. One of the easiest and most noticeable ways to let your neighbors know that you are participating in the Autumn season this year is to put out a wreath! Heading into a home decor store to find a cute Fall wreath is probably not the best idea, though. They’re usually insanely expensive for something that only lasts for a couple months, so opting to DIY it is likely going to be your best option.

After perusing the internet for a bit I found 3 really adorable wreaths. You can easily customize these to designs that work with craft supplies you already have, or mix up the elements to create your own masterpiece.

 

How cute is this Burlap Pumpkin Wreath?! It’s unique and sure to earn you lots of compliments. While it is a little more time-consuming to make than the others, it’s well worth it, as you can definitely see! Simply add some black triangle cut-outs to make it into a Jack-o-Lantern once October rolls around.

 

 

 

This Sparkly Letter Leaf Wreath from Hobby World is my favorite. I love that all you need to do is make a bow, arrange the fake leaves and place your letter in the center and hot glue it all down. Super simple but very festive! All of these supplies can easily be found in your local craft store. Make sure to check out the sales before you go, I know that Hobby Lobby is great about having lots of discounts going to each store section every week. They also usually always have 40% off a single item, just google “hobby lobby coupon” and it’s almost always the first link to pull up.

favorite-wreath

 

I know that I said Wreath Number 2 was my favorite, but after looking at this adorable Burlap Fall Wreath from the Card Store I’m not so sure anymore. I just can’t get over how great an idea the chalkboard is! It would be so easy to change it from “Happy Fall” to “Happy Halloween” in October and “Happy Thanksgiving” in November! The blogger also mentioned that she used pins to secure her decorations instead of hot glue so that the Fall foliage could be swapped for Christmas come December. Brilliant.

finished_wreath1

 

I’m having a hard time deciding which of these 3 is going to end up on my front door… I may just make all 3 and switch off each month.

Which of these is your favorite? Let me know in the comments and have fun crafting!

Free Coupon Reward Ideas for Your Kiddo!

Posted 10-2-2016 at 06:52 PM by Jessica

 

 

Young father giving high five to his little son

Positive reinforcement is crucial for teaching your kids to be on their best behavior and complete the tasks that are asked of them. Most of the time that means praising them, and occassionally that means a fun treat, whether that’s a donut or a small toy. When your kids are being so great you just want to spoil them with both words of encouragement and praise and fun items but constantly buying knick-nacks and toys can get expensive and add unnecessary clutter to their rooms. Instead of those, why don’t you give some coupons a try?

Elementary teachers come up with fun little extra privileges that kids can earn in their classroom all the time, and you can use that same idea for your home! All of these ideas are completely free, but they’re things that your kids are probably going to appreciate even more than that candy bar or yo-yo. I’ve put together a few ideas that I’ve seen before or that I think kids would really like (what kid wouldn’t want to stay up a little past their bedtime?!) but these are just a very tiny amount compared to all of the fantastic ideas out there! Read through this list and let these ideas inspire you to come up with some of your own that specifically tailor to things your kids would appreciate.

1. Stay up 30 minutes past their bedtime one night.

2. Family movie night, and they choose the movie!

3. Bake a favorite dessert with mom or dad after dinner.

4. No chores for the day.

5. 30 minutes more electronic time!

6. Choose what the family eats for dinner that night.

7. Choose a board game for the whole family to play together.

8. Eat dessert for dinner!

9. Have full control of the TV remote for a period of time.

10. Help mom or dad with a fun project or craft.

 

Each child is so different that there’s sure to be something they would really love a coupon for. Perhaps you have a child who just adores going on car rides, add that to your list! Maybe your kid always wakes up too early on the weekends? Let them get up 30 minutes earlier than usually allowed on one Saturday morning and you’ll turn on some cartoons for them. These ideas can be especially rewarding if you let them brainstorm some things that they would want a coupon for. You don’t have to spend any extra money on rewards, just let them either choose from a list of ideas, or draw one randomly out of a bag!

Please let us know if you have any other fun “kid coupon” ideas, we’d love to see them in the comments!

Easy Sugary Biscuit Donut Holes

Posted 10-1-2016 at 08:43 PM by Jessica

Are you looking for a dessert that is super quick, requires only a couple ingredients, and is something that everyone will love? If so, you have come to the right place!

My grandma has always made these Biscuit Donut Holes, or as she sometimes calls them, Poor Man’s Donuts! Her mother used to make them when she was a child and she’s continued the tradition by making them for her kids and now her grandkids! And boy have we loved them!

I’m not sure if there’s really a person out there than can turn away from a sugary donut. I’m really not sure it’s possible! Especially with how delicious these guys are.

Ingredients:

Any can of Biscuit Dough

Enough Vegetable Oil to fill pan 1-1/2 inches

Cinnamon and Sugar to roll the dough in after it’s done frying (you could also use powdered sugar)

 

img_6147

First, cut the biscuit dough into quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the oil to med-high and place one bit of dough in to test if the oil is hot enough. The dough should fry up pretty quickly. Once you’d determined that the oil is hot enough, add as many dough bits as you can to the oil so that they are fully submerged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It should only take about two minutes before you need to stir them up and flip a few of them around. After that you should only have to let them fry for another minute until they turn a nice dark golden-brown.

 

 

 

 

 

After they’ve been scooped from the oil, roll them in a cinnamon-sugar mix!

 

 

 

 

 

img_6152

If your mouth isn’t watering at this point, I think there may be something wrong. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

The Dreaded Math Homework and How to Help

Posted 09-30-2016 at 01:47 AM by Jessica

Schoolboy have problem with  formulas

 

Math isn’t always fun. And trying to teach math isn’t always fun either. In fact, it can be downright frustrating for both you and your child sometimes. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be that way. I have put together a few tips and resources that can help you when it comes time to bring out the math book.

1. Skim through the lesson beforehand. I know that seems obvious, but it really is helpful. I frequently help my little sister-in-law with her homework, and I was able to find a version of her math book online after doing a Google Search. Before I set up our video chat to go over the problems she’s struggling with, I skimmed through the lesson she was on that day so that I was not caught off-guard by any problems. While sometimes it is necessary, it is usually best to go by the steps taught in the book versus Googling instructions. Sometimes there is a specific method for solving the problem that your child needs to master.

2. Use objects and cheat-sheets. For all the visual learners out there (myself included) having a cheat sheet or using blocks to work though problems is really helpful. Simply explaining how to subtract 9 from 13 with words isn’t always best with children. If you lay out 13 blocks or beads, and then have them take away 9 and count what is left over, that is much more effective.

You can use anything from paperclips to pom poms to pieces of cut up paper to visually demonstrate addition and subtraction. I bought a box of colorful wooden beads at Target, and they work great!

Here are a few helpful “cheat-sheets” I found on the web. The fraction strips are particularly helpful for explaining fractions. I plan to print one out on card stock and cut each square out so we can work through adding and subtracting them.

General Math Reference Sheet

Converts and Abbreviations 

Fraction Strips

3. Use whiteboards to practice. I bought a couple of small whiteboards for a dollar each at Target the other day. They work great because you can work through problems without taking up lots of space on their homework paper, and kids seem to think that whiteboards are tons of fun, so they’re usually more willing to work out the problems with you. You can even turn it into a game. Give them a practice problem and have them race against you or another family member to solve it. First one done holds up their whiteboard!

4. Don’t be afraid to not know. Sometimes the problem is just too confusing and no matter how much you work at it, you just don’t quite understand it. In this situation it’s best to have your child make a note to ask their teacher about that problem before class or during the lesson the next day. Don’t just guess; it’s better for them to ask about it later than potentially learn how to do it completely wrong.

5. Patience and praise. Nothing helps a child more than hearing how smart they are, even if they aren’t getting each and every problem right. Kids that don’t feel confident do much more poorly than others. The elementary years are so crucial in building up their self-esteem. If they feel like they’re unintelligent and bad at math, they’re not likely to put much effort in and they’ll continue to fall behind. Be patient with them as you work through the problems, don’t get upset if you have to repeat yourself a few times, either. In the end, your patience and praise will help them more than anything else.

Those are just a few tips that I have found helpful while helping kids with their math homework. Follow a few of those and you’re sure to have a better homework-session next time!

Do you have any helpful methods for helping your kids with their math assignments? If so, please let me know in the comments! I’d love more tips. :) 

Two of the Best Autumn Soup Recipes

Posted 09-28-2016 at 01:46 AM by Jessica

Butternut Squash Soup

 

Comfort food is the best food. And it’s oh-so perfect for the Fall. We have to build up some body fat to keep us warm through the winter, right?! So that means we need to eat lots of pot pie, mashed potatoes with gravy, stroganoff, and hot soup. I’m a little obsessed with soup due to the fact that it’s usually super easy to put together, and it’s almost always inexpensive, too! And if you have a crock pot, you just throw everything inside and and you’re all done!

Here is the recipe for Cuban Black Bean Potato Soup. While anything with potatoes in it screams comfort food, it’s actually pretty healthy for you. There is so much protein from the beans, and the flavor is fantastic. This is actually the first soup I ever made on my own. In my middle-school years I found this recipe online, tried it out, and loved it! If a 14 year old with zero cooking experience can do it, I assure you that you can do it, too!

The second soup I just have to share with you is a Butternut Squash Soup. Since we’re already talking about my middle-school self, I have to mention that I used to hate Butternut Squash Soup. My taste buds changed over the years for sure, but I’d honestly have to say that I probably wasn’t exposed to the best Butternut Squash soup, and if I had tasted this one, I’m sure that I never would’ve thought I disliked it. So even if you’re not so sure you love butternut squash, give this recipe a try. It’s so creamy and delicious!

There you go, delicious soup recipes perfect for these upcoming chilly months that you’re sure to love!

Helping Your Child With Homework

Posted 09-26-2016 at 01:45 AM by Jessica

stressful homework

 

Oh, homework. How parents often dread the course-work that gets sent home almost as much as their kids do. With school back in full-swing, it’s likely that your kiddo is bringing home math and English assignments almost daily. Some kids are great about sitting down once they get home and completing their work before heading out to play, while others really need an extra push to make sure they get what they need to done. Here are a few tips for how to make “homework-time” more effective.

Set Up A Homework/Study Zone

A quiet room free from distractions is best, meaning no cell-phones, no iPad, and no surfing the web if they’re using a computer. If they’re self-motivated enough, a desk in their bedroom would work great. But if they often get distracted by the toys in their room, maybe setting up a space in an office or even the kitchen table would work best. Make sure that the space you choose is well-lit, and stocked with any school supplies they need.

Establish A Routine

If you require homework to be done before they can go outside and play or watch a TV show make sure you stick with that consistently. Getting homework done right as they get home is great because the material should still be fresh in their mind, and then once they’re finished they can relax and spend the rest of their night having fun.

Provide A Snack

A long day at school often makes for a hungry kid. In order for them to be able to focus on their homework, having a healthy snack is important. Check out our other blog post that includes a few of our favorite nutritious after-school snacks. Spreading some peanut butter on apple slices is better than letting them grab a bag of chips in their ravenous state.

Be Available If They Need Help

Don’t be ashamed if you look at your 3rd Graders’ math book and feel completely perplexed. Trying to remember math that you haven’t used for years is not an easy task! Do your best to help them walk through the problems they don’t understand, and if you’re sure that you don’t know how to help them, encourage them to ask the teacher for help. Also, never rule out getting a tutor if you feel that your child is slipping too far behind.

 

You don’t have to have an office dedicated to homework, or know how to do everything their homework asks for. You simply need to make sure that you stick with a consistent homework schedule and help them with what you can. Homework is a time for kids to learn how to be more autonomous and take ownership of their own work. It can be great to help them learn how to manage their time, and practice concepts that they learned during school. As long as they have a distraction-free environment and the resources they need to succeed, they’ll do great!

 

 

My Favorite Fresh Peach Dump Cake

Posted 09-24-2016 at 01:44 AM by Jessica

peachy

Peaches are my favorite fruit, so you can imagine my excitement when Summer rolls around and peaches come in season. There’s a peach orchard not far from my house, and they harvest peaches there that are to die for. Once they’re ripe, we head over and buy a huge box full. You’d think that we’d be rolling in peaches for months with the amount we buy, but we usually end up eating them all within the first week or so (we freeze a bunch of them so that we can use them in smoothies once we run out of fresh).

Recipes that include peaches are abundant, and we try out a large amount of them each Summer. There are a few recipes that have become family favorites and one of them is this super easy 4-Ingredient Fresh Peach Dump Cake. I love this recipe so much because it can be thrown together in no time, and as long as you have the fresh peaches, it’s pretty likely you already have the other ingredients in your kitchen.

This recipe is a combination of a few recipes I found online. When I first searched for a Peach Dump Cake, I was met with recipe after recipe asking for canned peaches in heavy syrup. Gag. (Okay, not really “gag,” I like canned peaches, too. And using the canned type works great during the winter when peaches go out of season. But I definitely prefer using freshly picked peaches when I have them on hand.) In addition to that, I’ve always loved oats in my cobbler, but I had no luck finding a recipe that included them. Because of that, I decided to experiment a little and come up with my own version. Let me know what you think!

 

4-Ingredient Fresh Peach Dump Cake

Ingredients

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix

1 Stick Butter, Melted

1 Cup Rolled Oats

About 5 Fresh Peaches, Sliced

(Optional: Cinnamon)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan, then add all of the sliced peaches.

In a medium bowl, mix together dry cake mix, oats, and melted butter.

Dump the crumbly cake mix and oat mixture over the top of the peaches, and sprinkle on a little cinnamon.

Place in the oven and let bake for 25 minutes.

I don’t think that it can get any easier or yummier than this recipe. You basically just “dump” all of the ingredients in a pan and bake it. Talk about my kind of recipe! This is perfect for putting all of those peaches to use, and is a great last-minute dessert if you want to whip something up but are short on time and ingredients. Also, you can always use canned peaches or substitute the peaches out for a different fruit entirely!

Let me know how you like this recipe in the comments!

Back-To-School Sleeping Habits

Posted 09-22-2016 at 01:42 AM by Jessica

The boy is afraid of ghosts at night

How much sleep is enough?

The beginning of school means that establishing good sleep-habits with your elementary-age child is even more important. Summer usually means sleeping in and staying up later than normal, but school requires waking up early and getting into bed early enough to get enough sleep. But how much sleep does your kid really need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 9 to 11 hours of sleep for children between the ages of 6-13. That means that a wake up time of 7 am should require a bedtime of at least 10 pm (though 8 pm would be more ideal). Getting your little boy or girl to head to bed when you want them to is a whole other issue. I’ve done some research and included a few tips for getting your kiddo to stick with their bedtime and get enough sleep at night.

Set the bedtime and stick with it

Consistency is key with kids. Pick an appropriate bedtime and enforce it each night, even on the weekends. This will get their internal clock into rhythm.

No electronics before bed

Some kids may insist that playing on the iPad helps them wind down, but in reality studies have shown that screen-time right before bed actually disrupts the ability to fall asleep and have a restful night. Make sure that screen-time is ended at least an hour before bed, and that other unwinding techniques are included instead.

Make bedtime relaxing

Warm showers, bedtime stories, and chatting with your child about their day before tucking them in are all great ways to make bedtime special and relaxing, increasing the likelihood that they will fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.

Address their night-time fears

Lots of kids have fears of the dark or that there may be a monster in their closet. Instead of shrugging off their fears, hear them out and do what you can to help them feel more comfortable. This doesn’t necessarily mean letting them sleep with you in bed, but buying a fun night light or investigating their closet isn’t hard to do, and can make all the difference to them.

 

It’s usually the little things that make the biggest improvement for kids getting enough sleep. Simply staying consistent on bedtime and buying a night light may be all you need to help your child get the sleep that he or she needs to do their best at school the next day.

 

Let us know in the comments what you find is most helpful with getting your kids to bed on time, and helping them get the best sleep throughout the night!

 

The Very Best Backwards Cookies

Posted 09-20-2016 at 01:41 AM by Jessica

white chocolate chips

I had a time in my young, middle-school-aged life when I was obsessed with baking. It became a past time of mine that I was very fond of, and my family sure appreciated all of the goodies I’d make throughout the week. Mind you, this was in an age before Pinterest *GASP*, so my recipes all came from my moms old recipe books that she got from her wedding, and the occasional Google search. The real fun recipes that I tried came from food packages though. (Who would’ve thought that Triscuit crackers could be made into so many different appetizers?) This “Backwards Cookie” recipe came from the back of a Nestle White Chocolate Chips bag, and it soon became my signature cookie. I’d make these babies bi-weekly, and they were gobbled up so quickly! Give this recipe a try, and it will be sure to become a family favorite.

(Recipe courtesy of Very Best Baking by Nestle)

WHITE CHIP CHOCOLATE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by well-rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.