Sunday, June 30, 2013

Daily Craft - Some earrings!

This weekend, I threw a baby shower for a good friend of mine who will be having a baby girl in September.  It's really had my creativity flowing but, of course, I've not been able to post anything about it previously for risk of giving anything away to those that would be in attendance!  I'm going to start with my earrings though, which were part of the prize bags for the various games.

The theme for the shower was pink and brown, on account of the mom-to-be's last name being Brown, and her having a girl.  I immediately knew that I wanted to make some pink and brown jewelry for the prizes.  I picked up some glass pearls and fished around for antiqued brass findings in my stash.  In that there would be a variety of different age groups being represented, I was hoping for something somewhat classic.  I packaged them with lotion, a compact mirror, and a magnetic notepad.  I'm hoping the winners enjoyed their haul!

My co-host found a polka dot card stock that she used for the invitations, which then became part of the theme, so I was happy to make some nifty packaging with that card stock too.  (More on the packaging to come later.)  I actually love this color combo, so thinking I'll make some more with the supplies that I have left over.  Watch out for those!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daily Review - Pong cell phone case

Since being on maternity leave, Husband has accused me of becoming a cell phone addict.  I'm not addicted, per se, and I still adhere to the no cell phones at the dinner table rule, but I definitely get wrapped up with my electronic leash more than I used to.  My friend at Pong just sent me a new "intelligent" cell phone case, for my Samsung Galaxy.  You may be wondering what makes this case special and worth the hefty price tag ($49.99-$99.99 depending on the device).  Pong's cases are designed to protect the user from the radiation that cell phones emit, redistributing the radiation away from the body without disrupting your signal strength.  We all know that constant levels of radiation probably aren't a good thing, even if the long terms effects haven't really been proven yet.  Children are even more susceptible to radiation than adults, and with kids using mobile and wireless devices more and more, it's nice to know there's something out there that can provide some kind of protection against it.

Courtesy of Pong Research

I got the rugged case, which is perfect seeing as my phone may need to withstand some tough treatment (between me being a klutz and having an infant who may get his hands on my phone).  I've got to say that it feels rugged - durable, fitted, and makes me feel confident that it would withstand being dropped.  The external buttons are covered in the design, but still function well, which means that the entire outer case is one piece with no weak spots.  In the end, this is a case that really appeals to the tech geeks among us but, as a mom, it also holds a lot of appeal.  I, for one, have spent time on my cell while nursing, or while Owen is sleeping curled up on my chest.  Plus, with the accessibility of games and books for children on phones, or the iPad, it's nice to know there's a product that can keep tiny heads and hands safe from harmful radiation.  It's not available for all devices, but this is a company that more people should know about and it's definitely worth checking out if they make a case that would work for you.

DISCLAIMER:  I received no money for this review, but did receive a Pong case .

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daily Tip - Binders are your friend!

Husband and I have a lot of kitchen appliances.  If I'm looking for somebody to blame, it's either my brother (who has admitted to poking around in the kitchen to find out what we don't have in preparation for holiday gifts), or my step-mother-in-law (who loves to pass along new kitchen gadgets that she has found).  We have a drawer that was dedicated to all the various manuals and warranty information for said appliances.  Then, once the baby arrived, it started to fill with all the various manuals for his toys.  Upon opening the drawer the other day to add a few more bits of paper, I realized that it was at capacity.  Thus, time to find a solution. I think there is currently a little section of my brain that is dedicated to "things I've seen on Pinterest."  I haven't necessarily pinned all of those things, but I've spotted them while poking about.  This falls into that category.

I took one 3-ring binder, and one pack of heavy weight sheet protectors.  I gathered all of the manuals for the kitchen, baby items, and other household things.  Each one went into a sheet protector pocket with the corresponding warranty info, receipts, or any other related documents.  I didn't go so far as to alphabetize, but I did try to organize by type.  The binder filled really quickly, so I'm pretty sure I'll already have to start a new one shortly and will probably separate by type into different binders.  It's nice that I'll know where to find everything...for once.  Next up, the closet of doom (which is where boxes of random stuff go to die)?  Perhaps.

What you're favorite household organization tip?  I'm all ears!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Daily Tip - Pool noodle to the rescue

Owen has very rapidly become a mobile baby.  Gone are the days when I could leave him on his activity mat and go shower with the peace of mind that he'd be in the same place as I left him once I got out.  Of course, mobile baby means baby proofing everything.  We already switched our beloved coffee and side tables for a cheapish ottoman that he can bounce off/barf on without incident.  The second he started crawling though, I knew something had to be done with the bed frame of the spare bed that's in his room.  It has a nice exposed metal edge...right at eye level for an infant.

We discussed various options - bubble wrap, packing foam, etc.  Then, one day on Pinterest, I came across a picture of somebody who used a pool noodle as a bumper.  It was just crazy enough to work.  So, a trip to my favorite place (the dollar store) and $1 pool noodle later, and we have one fully babyproofed bed frame.  No more sharp pointy edges! 

As you can see, it's also baby-approved, non-toxic, and matches his room.  A win for sure.  Short of putting  him in a bubble, we know there will be bumps and bruises, but we figure it's best to minimize the possibility of scarring and/or losing an eye.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Daily Dish - Pork chop with mango salsa & couscous

I'm really trying to be more creative in the kitchen.  While we have our staples that are quick, simple, and Deuce kitty could probably cook from watching us make them enough times, I have always loved variety in my food.  I'm not a big meal planner though, so it can be hit or miss whether I can put together something new and fun with the ingredients in the house.  Last night, I hit the jackpot though.

It all started with a pork chop.  We like to get the center cut pork chops from Costco.  They're thick and I don't think we've spotted a lot of other chops that come close in comparison.  That led me to the mango salsa, which was easy because we keep frozen mango in the freezer for the baby these days.  It is easy to dice from frozen and defrosts quickly too.  Don't get me wrong - I love a fresh mango, but it can be easy to miss that perfect ripeness.  As a nice compliment to the protein, I whipped up a little Israeli aka "pearl" couscous (which I generally prefer to the standard American couscous as it has a more hearty texture) with some sauteed veggies.  This was super easy to make, and has a pretty short prep/cook time too!  I will say that I loved pretty much everything about this dish, so here's a recipe for you.

Serves 2    

Make the mango salsa first, then set aside while the other components are cooking.

1/2 cup diced mango
1/4 cup red onion (I actually substituted green onion because we didn't have any red onion)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 medium japaleno (If you feel like the jalapeno is too much, it's not as spicy once eaten with the pork chop)
1/2 lime

Place first four ingredients together in a bowl.  Add the lime juice and salt, stirring until well mixed.

2 center cut pork chops (approx 1" thick)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup Israeli "pearl" couscous
1 small onion
1 cup baby bella mushroom
1 cup spinach
2 tsp Lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic

Season pork chops with salt, pepper, and garlic.  Place oil in pan and heat until medium-hot.  Add pork chops and cook until there is a nice brown sear (approx 4-5 minutes on each side).  Lower heat, add the chicken stock to the pan, cover, and cook until pork chops have reached an internal temperature of 145°F.

While the pork chops are cooking, start to cook the couscous per instructions on the packet.   The instructions on the package I had were to add couscous to 1 1/4 cups boiling water, salt, and cover.  Cook for 8-10 minutes stirring frequently.

In a separate pan, heat olive oil, then sautee onion, mushroom, spinach and garlic over medium heat.  Once couscous is finished cooking, remove pan from heat.  Add in sauteed vegetables, toss well with the lemon juice and a little extra olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Once both the pork and couscous are done cooking, serve it up, adding the mango salsa on top of the pork chop.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Daily Baby - My strange addiction?

My name is Natalie and I have an addiction to board books.  It's rare that I can pass a stack of board books, all brightly colored, without diving in.  My favorite place to peruse would be at the dollar store.  Sometimes, they have nothing.  Other times, it's a score!  I can justify those purchases though because, at a dollar per book, I'm spreading the love of reading without breaking the bank.  Husband knows that if I pop out to get Ziploc bags, there's a likely-hood I will return with a box of Ziplocs and 4 books.  He says I have an itch that needs to be scratched!  I think part of the problem is that I always have to see if the book is part of a series and, if it is, I'll be damned if I'm only buying that book alone.  Next thing you know I've found all variations (shapes, colors, at the park, day at the zoo, day at the movies...bath-time, bedtime, tea-time) and they will all be coming home with us!

This weekend's haul included a bunch of Richard Scarry "Busy Town" books, Garfield, a collection of Nursery Rhyme books (in part to help me remember them), a Pirate treasure hunt counting book, plus a couple of Disney classics (Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmations).  Other favorites that I've been collecting are published by Ollie Bollie books, which I love for the illustrations.

Owen gets to enjoy a couple of books every night while he gnaws on his baby toothbrush.  Sometimes he tries to grab and turn the pages...but mostly he just wants to chew on them.  I think that's still encouraging a love of books!

What are your favorite books for babies/children?  I'm open to more suggestions on books to buy!