Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tomato Season! 10 ideas for tomatoes.

I definitely LOVE a good tomato, who doesn't?  (Okay, I know there are some non-tomato lovers out there but I'm not one of them.)
The best tomato is, in my opinion, one grown in my parent's backyard garden.  These are the tomatoes I grew up eating and they were sweet, and warm, and sometimes ripened on my mom's kitchen windowsill.
Imagine my horror when after purchasing our home, my husband and I discovered that we had no sun anywhere!!!  No garden!!!  I can grow shade plants only.  There is a tiny bit of sun the peeks through our mature trees every now and then so I tried to grow tomatoes in buckets in a wheelbarrow that I would wheel into the sun throughout the day.  Needless to say, it didn't work for several reasons!  So now I am at the mercy of my relatives and friends who have sunny yards (shout-out to Jill for the grape tomatoes I photographed above, then ate!)
Even without an overabundance of my own tomatoes, I know that those with gardens sometimes have more than they can handle.  So ideas 1-10 are "send them to me"...just kidding (kinda).
I linked to sources where necessary!

1. Make your own salsa and give it as gifts.  Can it!  Here is a canning-safe recipe from Ball.  I try to follow canning recipes pretty closely for safety reasons.  This would make a great little gift with some homemade tortillas, dried peppers from your garden, and homemade taco seasoning. (Mix salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and red pepper to taste).

2.  Caprese salad.  A favorite at my house!  Have you seen all the variations on Pinterest lately?  I love the one where you use a toothpick and thread the basil, a cherry tomato, and a tiny mozzarella ball on it.  Drizzle with olive oil, quality balsamic, and a bit of salt and pepper.  For a traditional version, use a larger tomato cut into slices, large ball of mozzarella slices, basil leaves (I roll them and smash a little to get the flavors out!) then drizzle with the same stuff.

3.  Homemade pasta sauce.  This is easier than it sounds.  It works best of you peel the tomatoes (cut out stem, cut an x in the bottom, drop in boiling water then pull out immediately and plunge in ice water).  Then simmer the tomatoes, olive oil, wine, herbs, garlic, and some tomato paste.  There are ENDLESS variations, that's why no recipe.  Perhaps I will actually measure my recipe out next time but I make it different every time based on what I have on-hand!

4.  Juice them- Have you ever juiced tomatoes?  My mom used to juice hers and can the juice to use in soups.  I would probably go more for a nice fresh Bloody Mary at brunch though :)

5.  Use them to dye fabric!  Here is an ehow article on dying things with natural objects.  I have heard of brightening red hair with tomatoes too, but my hair isn't red so I didn't try it, haha!

6.  Tomato sandwich.  I feel like this is a Midwest thing?  Let me know if you are outside the Midwest and eat these too.  It's just tomato, salt, pepper, and mayo on bread.  You could also get wild and make a nice BLT.  I would use some locally produced bacon, yummy!

7.  Roasted cherry or grape tomatoes.  This is a great side dish!  Simply toss with olive oil and fresh minced garlic and roast in the oven at 400 degrees F until they burst.  Salt to taste.

8.  Healthy lunch- slice up a big ripe tomato and top with cottage cheese.  I think I could eat this every day.

9.  Pizza Margherita- Make some pizza dough, pre-bake it a bit, then top with tomato slices, basil leaves, fresh minced garlic, and drizzle with olive oil.  Then place some tiny mozzarella balls on top and bake!

10.  Tomato facial- Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, and they are acidic!  So rub one into your face, let it soak in for bit, then rinse off.  This will make your skin nice and glow-y and should help with minimizing pores!  (If you have sensitive skin you might want to test a tiny amount first!)

I hope I helped you put all those yummy tomatoes to good use!  Share your favorite tomato recipes below!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How-To...make a toddler behavior chart

I have a two and a half year old and an almost five month old.  They keep me BUSY and on my toes!  We had been having some behavior issues out of our toddler, and time-outs just weren't cutting it.  That's when I decided that positive reinforcement is the key!   A pat on the back, a hug, encouraging words- those are all positive reinforcement.  However, we needed more!  Enter, the sticker chart.  Here are some tips for you if you want to make one as well.

  • To make your sticker chart appropriate for your child, you first need to determine what you WANT them to be doing (not what you don't want them to be doing).  It should be attainable- for example, I didn't put on there that my 2 year old should be loading her own dishes in the dishwasher!
  • The older the child, the more items you can add.  Keep it super simple for under 2, maybe three categories.  For my 2.5 year old I have 7 which is borderline too many!
  • Some sample categories on mine:  Use the potty, Play nicely with Stella (her sister), Obey Mommy and Daddy the first time, Clean up some toys, Share something, Be polite, Wake up in your own bed.
Place it in the location you spend the most time in!

  • If you notice my categories above you will notice the category "Be polite".  This was my catch-all category, so I give her a sticker for that one if I notice anything positive that she does that isn't on the list.  So if she does something kind for someone (pick up something they dropped, help someone on her own, comfort someone who is sad, etc.) I give her a sticker here.  It is also for the obvious-saying please and thank-you, and asking nicely for something.  You want to be sure you reinforce all positive behavior!
  • Do NOT "set them up".  This is for when they genuinely do something on their own.  For example, don't put pressure on them by saying "you have to clean up your toys or I won't give you a sticker."  Can you see how this makes the chart a negative thing kinda?  
  • Do NOT take stickers away.  If she earns a sticker for playing nicely and gently with her baby sister, but five minutes later throws something at her, I don't take away the sticker.  She earned it fair and square! 
  • Anytime I see her do something on the chart, she gets a sticker.  If we are out and about, I keep track of them and she gets to put them on when she gets home- this is so exciting for her!
My lovely drawings!  Check out the awesome beard I drew on my hubby :)

  • I put her name at the top "Lola Jane's Chart!" 
  • I used a ruler to make boxes, in this case seven down and four across.
  • Write in a simple sentence the category, and draw a picture if they can't read.  You will notice that my artwork is not spectacular, but its enough to help her know what is what.  If you REALLY can't draw at all, print off some clip art that you find online or cut pictures out of a magazine.
  •  I wrote the numbers one through six in each box.  A sticker will go on each number as she earns them.
30 cent prizes from Target!!!  Love when they do 70% off!

  • For a younger child, you should keep the rewards simple and fast to earn.  For the very young, the sticker itself is sometimes the only prize needed!  As they get older, move to three stickers equals a prize.  For LJ, she has to earn six in a category to get a prize.  You might decide to do a total number for the day, but I go by category.  So if she gets 6 stickers in the "Play nicely with Stella" category, she gets a prize.
  • Does your kid bug you for stuff at the grocery store, the department store...everywhere you go?  Well if it is in your price range, make the answer "Okay, we will buy this to put in your prize box".  LJ earned a pair of swimming goggles really fast one day because of this!
  • Keep an eye on Dollar General clearance, Target dollar section clearance and the like.  I just got her about 15 things that she will love from the Target dollar section for 30 cents each because they had it all marked 70% off.
  • Put in "coupons" for things they would want.  Maybe its staying up an extra ten minutes, a special outing with just mommy or just daddy, or TV time. 
  • I stay away from using any type of food or candy as a reward.  I read an article about this possibly contributing to eating disorders or bad eating habits and it made sense to me.  This is a personal opinion, obviously you can do as you choose! 
  • This doesn't need to cost a bunch of money (or any if you do the coupon idea) nor should it.  The point isn't to get them addicted to earning stuff. 
  • When the ENTIRE chart is finished, have a family celebration!  A trip to the bowling alley, Build-A-Bear, or the Zoo would be a fun way to celebrate.  Then its up to you if you need another chart or if their good habits are engrained enough to not need one!
Mommy's reward- my babies getting along and smiling!!!

I hope this helps you with your toddler!  Please comment below with your own category ideas or your own take on the sticker chart.  I know a lot of you have some great ideas for something like this! :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Simple Summer Dress

This year for the Fourth of July, I decided to make matching dresses for the girls to wear.  I wanted something simple- but not as simple as a pillowcase dress.  SO...I opted for a ribbed knit bodice and a gathered skirt.  Add a couple of straps, yoyo's, buttons, and a decorative hem stitch and it looks waaaaay more time consuming than it was in reality (my favorite kinds of projects!)

Step One- Cut a rectangle of your rib knit and hem the top (1/2"). Measurements should be the length you need plus one inch, then the width you need minus one inch (so it stretches tight to fit and won't fall down!)

Step Two- Cut a rectangle for the skirt.  Measurements should be the length you need plus one inch, and the width you need x4 for a nice full ruffle.

Step three- Hem the bottom of the skirt 1/2".  I used a decorative stitch that reminded me of fireworks!

Step Four- gather the top of the skirt.  Gather it so that it is several inches wider than the bodice.

Step Five- Attach bodice and skirt.  Find the middle of the bodice and pin to the middle of the skirt.  Then pin the edges.  Then find the middles and pin again.  You will stretch the bodice as you sew so that it matches up with the skirt.  Be sure to use a zigzag or other "stretch" stitch on your machine.

Step Six- Match up bottom hem, waist hem, and top and sew top to bottom- voila, a dress!  Now for straps.

Step Seven- Cut a long strip from your knit fabric- the ribs should be vertical if you lay the strap down horizontally.  Pull it, stretch it, work it!  Do this until it curls up like this photo:
Step Eight-  Cut two straps and attach.  Try the dress on your kid so you know where to place them.  Don't skip this- the knit can trick you!  I made mine halter style, but you could attach on the back also- or criss cross them.

Step Nine- Make two yoyo's and sew to cover where you attached straps.  Sew buttons onto the center of the yoyo's.  If you don't know how to make one, just google it, there are a million tutorials!

That's it!  Check out my adorable models enjoying theirs this week!

Lemonade is a must on a hot day!
happiest. baby. ever.
"Can I have my sucker now? Please Mommy, no more pictures."
If you make one in a different color scheme, let me know!  I love seeing pics!  I sure plan to make more :)

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