Friday, October 31, 2008

Kids, costumes and craziness

I'm off to another crazy day of filling in at Mom's Day Out today.

So, while I'm busy doing things like keeping kids who are super hyped up on pre-Halloween candy from whacking each other with plastic swords and other costume accessories, check out these adorable, funny baby costumes.

Also, early next week I'm thinking of having a day when everyone can stop by and post links to their cute kids-in-costume photos. What do you think?


Photo by me. Didn't realize she blinked until too late! :)


Edited to fix link.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Help a good cause - part 2

Ok, here's the community garage sale flier I promised you earlier. Click the image below to enlarge.

Get rid of clutter + help a good cause!

Remember Blog Action Day and the whole everyone-can-make-a-difference thing? Well, here's a really easy thing you can do to make a difference: Give away some stuff you're not using.

More specifically, you can support Global Citizen Journey's efforts to help a widow's farming co-op in Burundi by donating items for a community garage sale. The garage sale will be held in Mesa, Arizona in November. The funds will help the women buy land to sustain and support their families.

If you have kids, they can help you items they're no longer using (toys they've outgrown, etc.) to donate for the sale.

For other ways to help (if you're not in Phoenix, don't have stuff to donate, etc.), check out this post.

For more information on the project or to find out when/where to bring your donations, email christinesnider [at] gmail [dot] com or call Ian at 480.390.1077.

I'll post a printable flier later on today.


Photos: 1) by me. 2) by enricod. CCL.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And you thought it was good for you!

Put flaxseed oil on your list of things to avoid if you're pregnant. Researchers who studied 3,354 women in Quebec found that consuming flaxseed oil during the last two trimesters of pregnancy quadruples the risk of premature birth. (Yikes!)

The study didn't find a strong correlation between premature birth and consuming other natural products - including green tea, chamomile and peppered mint (is that the same as peppermint?). It also did not show any increased risk from actual flaxseed - just the oil.


Photo by mcbill. CCL.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Paper with potential

After the Hubs built our new bookshelf, we were left with huge cardboard boxes (which went into the recycling bin) and correspondingly large sheets of paper that had been used in packing (which I held onto). That paper had potential.

It could go underneath messy craft projects.

Or it could be part of a project. At some point in elementary school, we had a friend trace our outline on big pieces of butcher paper. Then we each colored in our own faces, etc. to make it like a life-sized self portrait. I wondered if our nieces and nephews had done that.

When I watched my friend Sarah's daughter Elizabeth recently, I realized each piece of paper was the perfect size to cover my coffee table. I set out the crayons and let her go to town without worrying about stray crayon marks on the table.

Turns out she was mostly interested in taking the crayons in and out of the box. But that works too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

At least the moms got a day off

Filled in Friday for a church Mom's Day Out program. Walked in the door. Got the scoop on the day. Braced for the craziness.

Checked kids in. Checked them out. Rocked babies. Opened juice boxes. Said "don't throw sand!" "use kind words!" and "share!" more times than I care to remember. Played with puzzles. Refereed rivalries. Comforted criers. Put lunch boxes in the fridge. Took them out. Led kids where they were supposed to go. And back. Supervised. Laughed. Fed. Talked. Came home ready to crash.

Still want kids? Yes. Just not 20 at once, thanks.


Photos by me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bookshelf construction

Recently, the Hubs decided he had had enough of the piles of books that were accumulating around the house, and it was time to get a bigger bookshelf. (Even though we've given some away, we still seem to have more books between the two of us than shelf space.)

So off we went to Ikea. And a bigger bookshelf we got.

Somehow, we got it all in the car and got it home. (I had to ride in the back, but it was okay. I just pretended I was being chauffeured, "Oh, driver, take this left...")

The Hubs put it all together.

And he even started loading stuff on it.

Pretty cool, huh?


Photos by me, except for the last one, which is by the Hubs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just a heads up

Thought you might like to know that a blog devoted to what's new with my business, Bold Avenue, is currently under construction.

When it's up and running, you'll be able to see a glimpse of it in my sidebar (unless you're reading this via a feed/email, of course). Which means that while I experiment, it might cause a little sidebar chaos. So, please, pardon our metaphorical dust. And I'll let you know when the New on the Avenue blog is ready to roll.

P.S. If you follow me on Twitter, you might just get a sneak preview. ;)


Photo by the Hubs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy muffin day!

It's not often that I randomly have this huge desire to make muffins in the morning. (Unlike some people. You know who you are.)

But today I did. I wanted some SERIOUS muffins. Not light, fruity, wannabe cupcake muffins. There's a place for those. I wanted something heartier. Something with a nutty flavor but no nuts. Something that I could spread homemade (but not by me) apple butter on and it still wouldn't be too sweet.

So I took the basic oatmeal muffin recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and, shall we say, got "creative." (Yes, this is the part where you should be afraid. This just might be scarier than a grocery store surrounded by barbed wire.)

Here's what I threw in carefully measured out and added:

  • 1 1/3 c whole wheat flour (if your whole wheat flour isn't as yummy as mine you can cut it with white flour. Or just use white flour if you're into that sort of thing. I won't go hunt you down or anything.)
  • 3/4 c oatmeal
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c wheat germ
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 1/4 c cooking oil
After that, it's SMP (Standard Muffin Procedure): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the egg, milk and oil in one bowl. Mix everything else (a.k.a. dry ingredients) in another bowl, and then dig a large shallow hole in the middle. Dump the milk/egg/oil mixture into your dry ingredient depression. Stir it as little as you can get away with to moisten the dry stuff, then stop! Spoon a little of that lumpy goodness into 12 greased muffin cups or muffin papers, stick it in the oven, and try not to peek for 20 minutes.

(Hey, I had to make sure they were cooking evenly!)

I got them done before the Hubs left for work.

They were delightful with apple butter. And hearty. But, if I were going to make them and NOT put apple butter on them, I might add a little more sugar. And reduce the wheat germ a little. (1/4 c was kind of overkill.)

For this morning, though, I have to say they hit the spot.


Photos by me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A brave new (grocery) world

I have to admit, I was kinda nervous about going to American Discount Foods. Sounds silly now, but I used to live right by it and never went there. In my defense, however, it is the only grocery store I know of that has no windows, what appears to be a check point at the entrance and is surrounded by chain link fence with barbed wire on the top.

So was I crazy to be a little hesitant to go in?

It took someone I knew mentioning she'd been there before at the Meal Planning Workshop. And me unexpectedly having a few extra minutes on that side of town before I needed to go pick up the Hubs.

So I decided to venture in.

You know what? The people were friendly, the deals were good and you don't even have to check in at the little checkpoint when you come in.

I might just go back.

And you know what? If you're in the Phoenix/East Valley area, you should give it a try. If not, I hope this still gives you courage to face your grocery store fears.

Who knows what you'll come away with?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Holy overexposed TV personality, Batman!

I first saw this ad in Real Simple. And I was like What?!? That Ty guy from the Home Makeover show? And baby formula?

Similac's copywriters sure tried hard to tie (no pun intended) it all together by talking about good design. (Both of these ads are from Similac's guide to putting a nursery together.)

But, really?

Anyway, gratuitous celebrity usage aside, it does seem like good packaging design. No clue how their formula stacks up against others, but someone (not Ty Pennington) definitely thought about making it come in an easy-to-use container.

  • The scoop attaches to the lid, which is attached to the container, so you don't are less likely to lose either one.
  • It's designed so you can easily hold it with one hand.
  • The label peels back and has Spanish instructions on the back. But good luck doing that with one hand! Pues, buena suerte con hacerlo con una mano solamente!)
  • The opening is wider for scooping.

What I think is really cool is that they made the scoop the exact size to get every last bit of formula out of the corners! Wish my coffee canister was like that.


Ads from the Similiac newsroom.

Coffee canister photo by me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New project / recycled elements

I've been considering doing a line of handmade recycled greeting cards. It's on the (shorter) list of ways I'd like to expand Bold Avenue.

I gave the first card I made of that genre to the Hubs for our anniversary. (That was yesterday. Even though we already celebrated once.) I think he liked it!

Hopefully, I'll be able to experiment and make some more soon.

P.S. In case you're wondering, we went out for really delicious Indian food last night.


Photos by me. Card by me. Indian food by the Copper Kettle. (One of our faves!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tough reality

Kids aren't the only ones who pretend. As adults, there are a lot of things we like to imagine about ourselves and our world. Those of us with something to eat and somewhere to sleep at night tend to pretend that poverty isn't a reality. Or that it isn't a big deal. The unsettling reality is that poverty covers much of the world's population - like a worn blanket covering the globe with only a few patches of affluence showing through.

When I heard that this year's Blog Action Day was focused on poverty, I wanted to share activities to help children understand poverty and what they could do to help others - and I will - but I realized that kids aren't the only ones who need to be reminded that poverty is real and prompted to do something about it. Yes, times are tough. But I think we can all find something to share.

Speaking of which, revenue from purchases made in the Bold Avenue shop today will go to Compassion. You can get started on your holiday shopping and help children in need.

So even though this list is focused on children, I've starred (*) suggestions which apply to anyone.

Five Ways to Teach Children about Poverty and Giving:

1. Start small - Talk about sharing with friends and siblings. Do you already give to a church, charitable organization, etc.? Talk about what motivates you. Find ways to involve your children in ways you are already giving time or money. If you're not giving, look for ways as a family that you can share what you have.

2.* Help the hungry in your community - Donate time, money or food to a food bank near you. Kids can help you pick out their favorite non-perishable food items at the grocery store (might be easiest to stick to the canned food aisle) to give to children in need. Older kids can go with you to volunteer time at the food bank. (Information on Arizona food banks)

3. Time to learn - offers age-specific curricula that looks at "the problems of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity." Not only would this be great for teachers and homeschooling parents, but it would be worth perusing for other parents, as well. The curricula offer great ideas for activities and discussion starters, even if you're not going to go through the entire course.

I support Compassion's Christian child charity. You can too. Sponsor a child today.

4.* Think globally - Child sponsorship is an amazing way to make a difference and connect with the people behind the need. Although they're unrelated, in the last couple days, I've read this fabulous post about what made one man decide to sponsor a child and a very moving story about the effect of sponsorship on one boy's life. I am most familiar with Compassion and have experience with World Vision (find activities and volunteer opportunities here), but there are other organizations out there, as well. The important thing is to find a reputable one and get involved.

5.* Empty yourself - Understanding requires an open mind and, often, empty hands. Empty Bowls events are a beautiful illustration of this. You make a donation, choose a handcrafted bowl (which you keep as a reminder), are served a simple meal of soup and bread, and, hopefully, remember those who survive on so much less than the abundance that we know. Use this as an opportunity to give your children a window into the lives of others.

Whatever you do, let's use our imaginations to find creative solutions to the problem of poverty - rather than trying to ignore it.


1 - City) by fokus Lima. CCL. in Rimac (Lima), Peru.
2 - Children) by Julien Harneis. CCL. in Mugunga, Rwanda.
3 - Feeding birds) by dannyman. CCL. in Barcelona, Spain.
4 - Food bank) by Jeremy Toeman. CCL. in San Francisco, California.
5 - Classroom) by carf. CCL. in Sítio Joaninha (São Paulo), Brazil.
6 - Compassion banner
7 - Empty bowls) by Jeff Kubina. CCL. in Montgomery Run, Maryland.
8 - Girl and photo) by Tom@HK. CCL. in Shatin, Hong Kong.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How (not) to freeze things

So the thing about the frozen chicken. I wanted to try out what I learned about flash freezing from the Meal Planning workshop. I put some chicken on a baking sheet (same one you've seen before.) and put them in the freezer a couple hours. So far, so good.

The problem came when I went to pull them off. Little metal pieces from my well-loved baking sheet actually flaked off and stuck to the chicken! Gross!

My mom (who I called in a panic and then had to call again an hour later in a different panic) said to rinse them off really well in tepid water and call it good.

And to put something (wax paper, parchment paper, etc.) down on the baking sheet next time before I stick raw poultry on it and attempt to freeze it.

Probably good advice.


Photos by me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When life gives you plastic bags...

The Hubs and I have been working on reducing the number of plastic bags that come into our house.

  • We started bringing our own cloth bags to the store.
  • We've been reusing plastic containers rather than one-time-use plastic baggies.
  • We keep an eye out for products that don't use plastic (especially that thin, non-recyclable stuff) in their packaging.
  • We also have mesh bags that veggies came in that we take to the store to put more veggies in. (Someday I'll remember to use them!)
Since we haven't been able to eliminate plastic bags altogether (yet), we're trying to reuse those like we're re-purposing other plastic containers.

We use bread bags as trash bags for the car (and occasionally other random things).

When I was getting the food together before our camping trip last week, re-used a plastic vegetable bag to keep a container of honey from getting anything else in the food bag sticky.

Also last week, the Hubs used up a bag of potting soil, which we can't technically recycle. Before he threw it away, however, he used it as a garbage bag and went out to the parking lot and picked up trash. Smart, huh?!

Project Support Beauty in Nature (PSBN) is all about greener living and cleaner communities - one project at a time.

Photos (except the PSBN badge) by me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Notes on meal planning...

The whole meal planning/shopping/saving money thing is such a big issue for so many of us right now that the Moms 2 Moms group at my church did a workshop on the subject ("Meal Planning and Your Time in the Kitchen") and opened it up to non-moms as well.

The speakers,
Veronica Lyts and Shawna Stapleton, presented such good info that I asked them (as well as organizer Charlotte Richardson) for permission to post my notes and their handouts here, and they agreed. The information was targeted toward married women, but most of it applies to anyone who cooks and shops for food.

So here are my notes and links to the handouts and some pics just for fun...


I. Introduction (Charlotte Richardson)

Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 call on women to be keepers of the home.

Proverbs 14:1 says "The wise woman builds her house..." "To build" is to love and serve our families and let our homes reflect the work of God in our lives.

Home is the center of family life and memories, and the kitchen is the center of the home. It’s where people gather - meals, hospitality, chats around dinner, etc.

A few notes on the workshop:

  • Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Just learn!
  • Don’t plan to implement everything. Some things may work now, others may work better later. Some suggestions may not serve your husband and family. What works best for your family in this season of life?

On the subject of hospitality, she read the story of The Good Napkins” from the Girl Talk blog.

II. Planning Meals

Hebrews 10:24

"Benefits to Meal Planning" handout

Planning meals in advance helps you:
  • Save time.
  • Eat more healthful foods.
  • Be prepared to extend hospitality or take a meal to someone in need.
  • Honor God with your time and energy. This also honors our family.
  • For more, see handout.

When you plan, you may need to allow more flexibility, depending on your family’s schedule and husband’s preference.
(Don't overplan - allow time for spontaneity!)

Put recipes in three-ring binder or photo album by category.

Keep in mind what’s on sale when you plan.

Keep a couple "go-to" meals on hand for days that don’t go as planned, i.e. frozen ravioli and marinara sauce in a jar.

Keep a well-stocked pantry – make your own list of items you want to have on hand. If your husband likes to cook, get his input. Sample pantry items checklist.

Veronica's system:

  • Fills out a weekly meal plan page.
  • Keeps all in a binder.
  • Keeps past plans for inspiration.

Shawna's system:

  • Keeps a list with multiple stores she frequently visits on the fridge.
  • Has a checklist of things she likes to get at certain stores.
  • When something is running low, it goes on the list.
  • Writes what’s on sale at each store on a list for Wal-Mart price matching.
  • Makes monthly meal plan with different types of food on different days of the week (salad Mon., pasta Tues, etc.), blocking out "flex" days that won't be planned ahead.
  • Finds items from monthly plan that are on sale.
  • Transfer those ingredients to other list.

III. Grocery Shopping

If you’re struggling with money, ask someone close to you in a similar life circumstance (same number of kids, etc.) how much they spend. Maybe they have suggestions for saving money or maybe you're setting your budget unreasonably low.

Where to find grocery deals:
  • Mid-morning is when items are usually marked down for clearance at grocery stores.
  • Clearance items (especially baked goods) might be in another section of the store.
  • Bakery clearance stores, i.e Oroweat, have great buys. Coffee cake and pastries can be frozen for later and are good to have on hand.
  • Produce markets, i.e. Sunflower.
  • Local farmers' markets.

IV. Food Preparation

Time-saving food prep tips:

  • Chop extra bell peppers and onions. Store in airtight containers in freezer or fridge.
  • Grate cheese and add a teaspoon of cornstarch to keep it from clumping when frozen.
  • Double or triple recipes (especially soup, chili, enchiladas, etc.), and freeze for later. Line your container with foil so you can pop it out and bake it.
  • Put frozen beef in oven (covered) overnight at a low temperature. Shred, bag and use for burritos, BBQ sandwiches, tacos, etc.
  • Look the day before at meal plan: Do I need to thaw anything for tomorrow?
  • Meat thaws faster on a cookie sheet.

How to flash freeze food (so each piece is frozen individually):

  1. Put food on a cookie sheet.
  2. Freeze 1-2 hours.
  3. Put into airtight container/Ziploc bag.

Great things to flash freeze:

  • Fruit (i.e. berries), chicken breasts, sausage, etc.
  • Cookie dough (in cookie-sized portions) - Bake cookies from frozen by adding a couple extra minutes to baking time.
  • Bell peppers - Cut into rings or slice.
  • Meatballs - Prepare as usual, bake on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, let cool, then freeze.
  • Onions - You can chop in food processor, then scoop out and freeze in "little piles."
  • Pesto, pasta sauce, broth, etc. - Save empty quart jars, fill part way (from bulk container or when making your own) and leave lid loose until frozen.

V. Recommended books

VI. Tips from Participant Q&A

Recipe inspiration and organization:
  • Organize a recipe swap with friends.
  • On your meal plan, write the cookbook page for each item or make your own index of favorites.
  • If you only use a couple of recipes out of a cookbook, copy them and donate the book to Goodwill.
  • When you want new ideas, list interesting recipes from cookbook with page numbers, refer to it when you need inspiration.
  • Type up recipes in Word - easy to search, easy to save online or emailed recipes.

Recommended sites:


  • American Discount Foods - go there first since they carry a different mix of discounted items from week to week and may or may not have what you're looking for. Produce arrives at 3:30 pm.
  • List what's in each store aisle of your favorite grocery stores, print off a list before you go and check items you need to streamline your trips to the store.

Food prep:

  • Cook a large amount of hamburger at once and freeze in portions.
  • With a friend, pick 3 or 4 recipes and each bring half of the ingredients. Spend an afternoon cooking to have meals ahead of time.
  • Roaster pans are good for bringing someone a meal.
  • Kids can eat the same meal as rest of family most of the time. Sometimes ingredients need to be "packaged" differently, so they can pick them up.
  • Make apple cinnamon pancakes and freeze any leftovers for snacks (on their own or with peanut butter.)

When you don't have a lot of space:
  • Store infrequently used items (large dishes or bulk food items you've put in smaller jars) in on shelves in garage.
  • Put spices on lazy susan or in a drawer
  • Put staples (beans, pasta, etc.) in labeled Rubbermaid bins (next size up from shoebox) or in jars on the counter

Cleaning up:

  • Holy Cow products (you can buy 3 products for the whole house).
  • Hot water and soap work great too.
  • Crockpot liners keep food from sticking to the crock.



Photos by me.

Handouts by Shawna Stapleton and Veronica Lyts. Used by permission.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kids at the (state) park

One thing I'd like to add to my post about our trip to Cottonwood/Sedona/Jerome is that a lot of state parks have activities geared towards kids.

At Red Rock State Park, we saw kids scurrying around, working on some kind of scavenger hunt. The visitor center also had this little, child-sized desk set up with coloring pages and crayons.

Most Arizona state parks have Junior Ranger activities. This page links to each park's "for kids" page, which have downloadable activity sheets with facts specific to each park. (I'm guessing other states have similar programs, but I'm not going to list links for the other 49.)

For more info on state parks and other great places to visit around Arizona, I definitely recommend the book Arizona Family Field Trips. We've found it helpful - even without kiddos.

If you're in another state, you can do a Google search to find state parks near you or start here.