DIY powedered sugar dispenser

A better way to powder your pancakes: Easy DIY sugar dispenser

My favorite hack of the week: the DIY powdered sugar dispenser.

Every Sunday is pancake or french toast day in the our house, and every Sunday ZJ and I have a little powdered sugar with our meal. I bring the whole bag of sugar to the table and I carefully spoon out the sugary goodness.

Many genius moms and cooks have created better ways to dispense powdered sugar. You can, of course, buy a sugar dispenser. You can also modify a mason jar.

I decided to try a spice jar.

This weekend I took an old Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute spice jar that we were no longer using. I cleaned it out and removed the label. Then I poured the confectioner’s sugar inside.

It worked perfectly. It left the right amount of sugar on the french toast, with no clean up.

Right now, ZJ is not old enough to powder his own pancakes but I know he will want to soon. This will be a great hack to keep the amount of sugar he uses under control!

pancake photo credit: ralph and jenny via photopin cc
I am grateful for the simple moments in life!

Gratitude for the simple moments in life

Many times, a short walk around the block with my family is the high point of a long day, filled with rush-hour driving, work, cooking, cleaning, dirty diapers and baths.

I know our after-dinner jaunts are numbered as we approach fall and we lose the sunlight earlier and earlier each day.

My shortcut for today is to be grateful for the simple and beautiful moments in life.   As Ferris Bueller puts it: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ridiculously easy vegetables: Foil packet grilling

Ridiculously easy vegetables: Foil packet grilling

Lately, I’ve been struggling to make veggies taste great in the little time we have to make dinner.

We had some green beans in the fridge that were almost at the end of their lifespan, and I was uninspired by my previous attempts at quick green bean preparation. I figured it was time to try something different.

This is not a new concept but it’s new to us: Grilling vegetables in a foil packet.

It’s simple:

1. Throw some veggies on foil.
2. Add a little olive oil and salt/pepper/spices.
3. Seal the packet and throw on the grill next to the chicken or burgers.

We are hooked. The veggies we have tried so far have been delicious, and it is easy. The clean-up is even easier: just throw away the foil.

I am looking forward to trying different vegetable and spice combinations!

Three incredibly fantastic gifts for a new mom

Three incredibly fantastic gifts for a new mom

When I was a new mom, I found that taking care of a newborn was pretty darn tough.

Then you add in daily activities, like cleaning and cooking. Making my bed? Forget about it! I never knew when I would be able to sleep next. My bed had to be ready to go.

During this time, some good friends and family thoughtfully provided some basic but significant gifts that made the transition easier. I am ever so grateful and I hope to pass on their generosity in the near future.

Here are three gifts that meant a lot to us: Continue reading

Microwave hacks, part 1: sponges and oatmeal cookies

Microwave hacks, part 1: sponges and oatmeal cookies

Until recently, I had no idea what power my microwave truly had. I am quickly learning that heating up leftovers is just the tip of the iceberg.

A microwave can clean, soften or re-energize many things. It can also cook entire meals. Apparently I am not letting my microwave reach its full potential!

I am familiar with the anti-microwave movement, which I understand and respect. Frankly, I would love to go microwave free. As a working mom, or anyone with an overscheduled life, it’s just to hard to let go.

Since I am holding on, it’s time to experiment.  I’ve started with two basic hacks:

Microwave Hacks part 1, cleaning a sponge

1. The dirty (and smelly and overused) sponge.

My husband has a favorite brand of sponge, and it’s often difficult to find in stores. This sponge is at the end of it’s life. It’s dirty, smelly, and I had already stopped using it.

While reading a post on Kids Activities Blog, I ran across advice on how to clean a sponge in the microwave. Just nuke the sponge for 2 minutes. Before placing it in the microwave. I soaked it in water and vineagar.

Microwave Hacks part 1, cleaning a sponge

 

The verdict: After two minutes in the microwave,  not surprisingly, the sponge smelled like vinegar. However, it was clean and sanitized, and I feel comfortable using it again. Score one for the microwave!

 

Microwave hacks, part 1: Dirty sponges and oatmeal cookies

 

2. Bake a cookie in a coffee mug.

This growing trend of making baked goods in a microwave fascinates me, and I wanted to try an oatmeal cookie. I found a relatively easy one on Greatist:  “31 Healthy and Portable High-Protein Snacks.”

One evening, I mixed the ingredients together:

1/4 cup of oats
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp flour of choice
1 egg white
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp raisins

I poured the mixture into a ceramic coffee mug and put it the microwave for 45 seconds.
Microwave hacks, part 1: disenfecting sponges and oatmeal cookies

The verdict: It looked good, and the rise was nice. However, the taste was lacking.  It’s healthy but rather bland. It could be the recipe itself and it may be worth trying again with different ingredients. However, the cookie rates “high” on the fun-to-make scale. I will probably stick to the oven for cookies.

I’ll continue to be on the look-out for good microwave hacks and will report back. In the meantime, check out the following links:

Stay tuned for more hacks!

 

Ridiculously Easy Recipe: Pasta with Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Capers

Ridiculously Easy Recipe: Pasta with Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Capers

Welcome to the first installment of Ridiculously Easy Recipes!

The idea behind this series is to try (and hopefully love) some extremely easy recipes.

No brainer, right?  There are millions of “easy” recipes out there.  But I am going to redefine what the word “easy” means.

To be considered ridiculously easy, a recipe must meet the following criteria.

1. Only a few ingredients, yet taste delightful. It’s easy to find 4-ingredient recipes but many taste ho-hum.

2. The preparation should also be simple, with only a few steps. There are too many recipes out there claiming they are easy. No, these recipes aren’t difficult, but they could be easier.

3. Preferably family friendly. But this is not a hard and fast rule. Many meals can be made to be family friendly.

And the first recipe is: Pasta with Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Capers.

 

Pasta with Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Capers Recipe

I found this recipe on Cup of Jo (originally created by Katie Morris of Katie at the Kitchen Door).  I HIGHLY recommend going to these sites for more on this recipe. The visuals are amazing.

This recipe looked fantastic and met the criteria for ridiculously easy.

Ridiculously Easy Recipes: Pasta with Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Capers Recipe

Here are the ingredients:

½ lb rotini pasta
½ cup crème fraîche
1 tbsp capers
6 oz smoked salmon
sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

It’s simple:

  1. Boil the pasta, drain and return to pan.
  2. After the pasta cools for a moment, add the crème fraîche and capers.
  3. Flake off the smoked salmon with a fork and place on top!

NOTE:  If your kid doesn’t like salmon, why not include chicken too? Because the protein goes on top, this allows for different variations for particular tastes!

The Verdict: We loved it! It had nice flavors and it was incredibly easy to make. I am adding it into our dinner rotation!

Babyproof a fireplace buy adding a gigantic magnetic board!

Babyproofing a fireplace: Where fun meets functional

Time to tackle a babyproofing challenge!

The Problem: Our fireplace. It is at ground level and can be easily reached by any curious baby or toddler. At that age, what’s not to love about an open fireplace!

We started out with just the fireplace screen, which was a temporary deterrent for a determined child.

We then put our pack and play in front of the fireplace, which worked for ZJ. However, it took up a lot of room in our moderately sized living room, and it didn’t work for me. I wanted to reclaim part of my house!

Baby proofing fireplace with gigantic magnetic board

 

The Solution: A gigantic magnetic board!

I first found this solution in this post on Fun at Home with Kids. (The magnetic board was only one of many great ideas in this post. I am definitely going to revisit it!)

Asia Citro, the author, had a custom magnetic board built. I’ve also seen hacks that use giant oil drip pans, which seems brilliant if that size fits your space.

We did it a little different. We went to Home Depot and got a custom piece of plywood wood to fit our fireplace, a can of magnetic paint, and some sand paper. We had Velcro tape at home.

Babyproofing a fireplace using a giant magnetic board!

It was a simple process:

1. Sand the wood.
2. Paint the wood.
3. Affix to the fireplace with Velcro.

I’ve seen some examples where the board is painted with chalkboard paint: Not only is it magnetic, you can also draw on it.  I was hesitant to do this because I don’t want chalk everywhere, and I was also afraid that it would encourage my son to write on other walls!

Who knows, I may change my mind in the future. Chalkboard paint can easily be added to this board.

We added some Melissa and Doug animal magnets, which he loves. I will be buying some more magnets soon!

Mom hack: use a rubber band to keep a child from closing a door

No more slams: A hack to stop spirited children from shutting (or locking) doors

One of ZJ’s favorite pastimes is running into a room, or the bathroom, and slamming the door. He is not tall enough to open the door and he is stuck.

Usually we don’t let him stay trapped for long. Of course, we wouldn’t do that …

I stumbled upon this hack in a few places, most recently at Kids Activities Blog. All you need is a relatively strong rubber band.

A hack to keep your child from shutting (or locking) doors in your home

 

It’s simple to install.

 

Use a rubber band to prevent your young one from locking the door.

 

It works. After trying a few times to shut and latch the door,  ZJ realized his efforts were futile.

Mom hack approved!