My First Smoothie (with recipe)

I made my first smoothie this morning!  It was a huge hit!  My husband introduced me to the idea of making fruit juices and smoothies from scratch about five years ago, but I never actually did it without his expert guidance...until now!  I am happy to announce that it was easier than I expected.  It helped that the kids loved it.  And the best part...I didn't even use a recipe!  But it was so strait-forward that I'm giving you all my "recipe."  If you haven't done this before, you will be amazed at how simple and fast it mixes up!

My First Smoothie

1.  Put 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit into your blender.  I used a mixed pineapple, mango, strawberry, and peach package.
2.  Add whole organic milk up to the 4 cup line on the blender.
3.  Add about 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar.
4.  Blend until it is a thick liquid.  If your blender needs more liquid you can add more milk.  
That's it!  Mmmmm.  The kids even dipped their bread in it!  It was so fun to mix up and eat...we will definitely be doing it again...and with loads of variations.  Next time I will also use less sugar...I was trying to hurry today and should have started with about half as much, tested it, and then added more if needed.  As it was, it tasted delicious.  I just think I can get away with a little less. Still, I'd call it a success!
Check out that Smoothie 'Stache!

Barrister's Ball

Last month we went on a real date...where we dressed up and acted fancy and stayed out late.  Very late! 
The University of Houston's Barrister's Ball was at the Houston Aquarium.  We arrived stylishly late (partly because I tend to run late and partly because we missed our exit...oops! I guess you can get distracted even without kids!).  I met some of Jon's classmates, we ate cheese and crackers and cake, and danced until the DJ sent everyone home. 
The ballroom was on the third floor of the aquarium.  As we finished walking down a staircase that spirals around a 3-story tall fish tank, a slow Jazz song began to play.  We noticed the staff was cleaning up the restaurant on the first floor.  The lights were low, the chairs were stacked on tables, and the music said, "You know you want one more dance."  How could we resist?  So we had one last dance in the restaurant around the 200,000-gallon aquarium.  
What's a dance without breakfast afterward?  And what kind of breakfast is complete without an order of Super Nachos?  Mmmmm...it's amazing how good Super Nachos can taste at 1:30 in the morning!  We came home just before 2:00 am--easily the latest we've been out without kids.  It was awfully nice of Grandma to babysit.  A very fun date, indeed!

Harry's 10 Months Old!

Not only is he bright-eyed, friendly, and super skilled, but he is pretty smart too!  And this weekend he turned 10 months old!   I thought I'd celebrate by sharing some of his favorite games.
 Here are some of the games I most love to play with him:

* Peek-a-boo.  He will hide behind a window on one of the toys and wait for me to say, "Where's Harry?"  After I say it, he pops out the window and laughs.  We could play this for hours!  He also will cover his face with a book or blanket and wait for me to say, "Where's Harry?" only to pop out laughing afterward.  Today he even started playing Peek-a-boo with a curtain!

* Cars (or Trucks or Trains...).  He' such a little boy.   He will drive a car or truck and make "Vroom Vroom" growls!  I think it is so extremely cute!

* Blocks.  He LOVES to build with the blocks...just like the other kids!  Usually his idea of building involves a lot of crashing, but he does try really hard to stack one Mega-block onto a tower, building, castle, or even just another Mega-block.  He is so pleased with himself when it sticks!

* Containers.  He gets such a thrill out of putting objects inside containers and pulling them out.  It might be balls in a bucket, markers in a can, blocks in a bucket, or toys in a drawer.  He just loves putting them in and taking them out.

* Doors.  Closet door, bathroom door, bedroom door, toy truck door, toy fridge door.  It really doesn't matter what type of door...he loves to open and close them.

*Catch Me!  Okay, he might like this one more than me, but I sure love hearing him squeal with laughter when I chase (and catch) him when he is walking as fast as possible towards something he shouldn't!  It's usually a bathroom door that someone forgot to close or another child taking a nap!



 And, of course, these are a few games I'd rather he not play, but he just loves them:

* Eat everything in sight.  This includes toys, food, dirt, and anything else he can sneak in there when I'm not looking.

* Mud.  Dirt.  He seems so at home in a pile of dirt...it's almost scary!

* Kitchen Work.  I'm not sure if he feels like he is helping or if he thinks it is so extremely fun, but he loves to sweep and do dishes! 

We just love this little guy and are so happy he's part of our family.

Baby Time Link Up: Food

Harry has been getting so excited about eating so many things...I keep expecting teeth to show up any day!  About a week ago he actually started to prefer foods with texture in them, which is challenging because he really doesn't have any chompers.  But, I reasoned, we don't always chew our food until it is pureed, so maybe little chunks are okay.  I gave him some mashed spaghetti and he LOVED it!  
Eating bread in the stroller.
He has also fallen asleep in his little chair three times.  The first two times I tried to move him to his bed, but he woke up.  The third time it happened I just gave him a pillow.  (I know, a pink bib and a flowery pillow...will the little man ever survive?  He had a very masculine shirt on underneath the bib!)  I just can't help posting pictures of him sleeping at lunch time!
First, his eyes drooped...
Then his head fell to a shoulder...
Then, he crashed!

What do your little ones like to eat? Or do while they eat?  Have they ever fallen asleep in their food?  I'd love to read all about it!  This linky should be up all week...I'll check your blogs until next Wednesday!  On Thursday I'll post a new Baby Time: Water!   

Jansen Family Adventures

<div align="center"><a href="http://jollyjansen.blogspot.com" title="Jansen Family Adventures" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1082.photobucket.com/albums/j368/cmg38/babytimebutton.jpg" alt="Jansen Family Adventures" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

How to link up:
1-Make a post on your blog about your baby (or toddler..."baby" is relative!) and food.

2-Fill out the linky form at the bottom of my post. "Name" can be anything you like, like the title of your post or blog or baby. "URL" should be the URL of your post. After you submit, your "Name" should show up hyperlinked to your "URL."

3-Throughout the week, you can stop by anyone else's blogs who linked up too. I'm hoping it will be a fun way to get to know each other and the kiddos better. I know it seems like Harry's personality is growing SO much each day!

4-Feel free to post the button on your post or blog...free, but no obligations!


Sponge Painting Kids Craft

Earlier in March we spent a week learning about sponges.  I have a ton of activities to share...we'll see what I have time to post!  I used a lot of ideas from the book Squishy, Squashy Sponges.  One of our favorite crafts/activities was Sponge Painting!
 I cut a couple sponges into triangles, squares, circles, and rectangles so the kids could review their shapes.  I let each kiddo choose two paint colors for their tin.  We've been talking a lot about mixing colors and it was easy to see the results when they only started with two colors.  Each child had a different style and it was fun to watch them paint their papers, mix their colors, and design the page.  After about 5-10 minutes the kids wanted to trade tins.  They each ended up with a very colorful masterpiece!
We had a lot of fun painting this way.  I think at some point in the future I will use the same technique (sponges and paints) to let them decorate a vase, plate, place-mat, ceramic cup, or some other 3-dimensional object...obviously I haven't decided what yet!  This was the perfect beginning project though.  They really liked the sponge textures and learned  a lot using their hands and the paper.
 After she finished painting, Kaia wanted to fold her paper in half to mix the colors.  Then she folded it in half the other way.  I love her final piece! 

We Need More Gates


 
We should have known when his first steps were a month ago that this would be a problem.  Yet, we only ordered a gate for the kitchen.  We have fixed that...more gates are on their way!

Baby Time Link Up: Outdoors!


Harry loves going outside.  Even better, he loves going outside with his favorite people.  (Two great reasons he loved going for a walk on Sunday morning!) 

It wasn't too long ago that I could put him in his swing and he would be happy watching everyone else play in the backyard.  Now he still enjoys the swing, but only for a few minutes.  He also wants to get his play time in!  What does he do in the backyard?  Push bikes around the yard, follow Kaia, dig in the dirt (watch Mom pull the dirty digging tools out of his mouth), try to sneak leaves in his mouth when he thinks Mom isn't looking (and still act happy when Mom takes them away), push buttons on the "kitchen," play on the slide, climb around the "car," squish mud in his hands, and play with any other toys he might find (including the football, Frisbee, buckets, etc.).  He likes to both walk and crawl outside.  I think one of his secret goals is to squash any germ-phobic tendencies he can out of his mom!

He usually wants to stay outside when it is time to come in.  One of his saddest cries is when he thinks we are going outside, but we are really only walking past the door!  

What do your little ones like to do outside?  I'd love to read all about it!  This linky should be up all week...I'll check your blogs until next Wednesday!  On Thursday I'll post a new Baby Time: Food!   

Jansen Family Adventures

<div align="center"><a href="http://jollyjansen.blogspot.com" title="Jansen Family Adventures" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1082.photobucket.com/albums/j368/cmg38/babytimebutton.jpg" alt="Jansen Family Adventures" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

How to link up:
1-Make a post on your blog about your baby (or toddler..."baby" is relative!) and outdoors.

2-Fill out the linky form at the bottom of my post. "Name" can be anything you like, like the title of your post or blog or baby. "URL" should be the URL of your post. After you submit, your "Name" should show up hyperlinked to your "URL."

3-Throughout the week, you can stop by anyone else's blogs who linked up too. I'm hoping it will be a fun way to get to know each other and the kiddos better. I know it seems like Harry's personality is growing SO much each day!

4-Feel free to post the button on your post or blog...free, but no obligations!

Simply Kites

Last week the kids taught me one of the secrets of youth.  It started when they wanted to make kites.
I started talking about patterns and folding and frames and Kaia just said, "No, Mommy.  I can make it!  I just need a white piece of paper."  

So I gave her and her friends each a white sheet of paper.  Then I waited.  They colored.  They cut.  They taped.  I didn't even help.  Soon they each had a paper-yarn kite.  Kaia's was a "Rainbow Kite."

It turns out that wind blows paper-yarn kites just as well as any other kite, especially if you run.  
The Secret of Youth?  Life is sweet.  Keep it simple.



My New Favorite White Roll Recipe

These rolls are so delicious--soft, light, and fluffy on the inside and crunchy/chewy on the outside.  They took less than two hours from start to finish, and most of the time was spent rising or cooking.  The original recipe is available from Taste of Home.  I doubled it and changed a few steps so my Kitchen Aid could do most of the work.  Here's what I did (for 24 dinner rolls).

Ingredients:

  • about 4  and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon and 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Smart Balance (or butter)

How To Make The Rolls:

  1. In Kitchen Aid, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. 
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and butter till it's warm enough for yeast.  Stir frequently so butter melts fast.  If it's too hot (like over 125 degrees), let it cool on the counter.  
  3. Pour over dry ingredients.  Mix with dough hook.  Gradually add remaining flour to form a soft dough.  (In Houston I find I often add more flour than recipes suggest because of the humidity.)
  4. Let mixer knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 more minutes.  The dough should not stick to the sides.  It should flop around the hook like a soft ball as it is kneaded.  When it is done, cover with a cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Knead down by hand for about 30 seconds.
  5. Divide dough into 24 pieces; shape each piece into a roll. Arrange in a greased 9" x 13" glass pan. Cover again and let rise until doubled--about 35 minutes.
  6. Bake at 375° for about 17 minutes or until golden brown (our oven tends to cook fast). Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.  Smear a little butter over the tops of each roll.
Eat warm or cool--these rolls are yummy!  It's a good thing I made 24 because they never would have survived lunch if I'd only made 12!

Why Does This Make Me Laugh?

I know it shouldn't.  I know a more responsible mom might have seen what was coming and prevented it, but I grabbed the camera instead.  The background?  We went for a walk this morning...yes, jammies and all.  We stopped on a bridge.  You can see the rest.
At least we have a responsible Dad intercepting here!  Foiled again.

My 9 1/2 Month Old Showing Off His Walking Skills

Yay!  It looks like Blogger Video and I can be friends again.  I still don't know why it wouldn't post my last video, but this is much better!

Harry's first steps were just over a month ago.  Now he's walking like a king!  He really started taking off last weekend.  Check out the last few seconds to see how we keep him out of the kitchen now!

Baby Time Link-Up: Milestones

Jansen Family Adventures
<div align="center"><a href="http://jollyjansen.blogspot.com" title="Jansen Family Adventures" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1082.photobucket.com/albums/j368/cmg38/babytimebutton.jpg" alt="Jansen Family Adventures" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Reading about baby milestones can elicit all sorts of reactions from this particular sleep-deprived Mommy.  I'll be proud if my baby is ahead of the line (despite the fact that I have nothing to do with most of the milestone developments!) and relieved if he's behaving like other babies.  And if he hasn't quite reached one of the milestones?  Well, I'm sure someone just messed up when they wrote down that age!

Today I read Week 42 from Planning Family and had two responses: proud and relieved.

Proud came after reading this:  "During this point of your baby's life, he ... may even be able to point to something he would like to have, like a toy on the other side of the room."  Haha.  When my baby sees a toy he wants on the other side of the room, he will walk over and get it!  His sister is not happy about this.

Relieved  came after reading this:  "If he hasn’t already, he may drop the third nap of the day, relying on only the morning and afternoon naps to get him through."  I have seriously started worrying about this baby's lack of daytime naps.  He is the first baby I've known that didn't take at least two (and often three) 2-3 hour long naps!  I know he's 9 1/2 months old, but this was still a relief.

I read a lot of blogs that have babies close to Harry's age and thought it would be fun to link up and talk about a similar thing once a week.  I'll be posting with a linky on Thursdays and would love to have you link up any time before the next Thursday--even if your "baby" is older or younger than mine!  I don't want this to be complicated: if you want to join the linky, great!  If you want to post the button, even better!  Doesn't it sound fun to read in depth about the same baby theme on lots of blogs?  Just sign the new linky each week and check out the other mom's posts!  The theme this week is obviously "Milestones" -- you are free to interpret and present any way you'd like!  Next week, the theme will be "Outdoors."  If you want to pick the theme or host the linky, let me know in a comment or email!

Pretty Neat (Review and Giveaway)

I have always felt a little guilty for my version of "organized."  I usually have many "current" projects that I like to be able to access instantly.  This translates to a lot of piles.  You could actually learn a lot about me by looking through my kitchen piles!  (That might make a fun post someday!)  The point is, that's how I work,  and while I've felt guilty about it I'm not ready to change.   What I have wanted to change--and been way too intimidated to begin--is the way I schedule meals.  
  I have wanted to create a monthly meal calendar and do all my grocery shopping in one trip for some time.  Somehow, it just hasn't happened yet.  

When I was given the opportunity to review Pretty Neat by Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch, I read the introduction and then skipped right to chapter 12: Master Home-Cooked Meals (Really!).  I appreciated the advice and loved the short, practical examples of ways different women dealt with the issue.  I made a plan!  A real plan that I have actually followed!  I let go of the month-long idea and settled for a week-long plan instead.  I decided to have Pizza Mondays every week.  I have a great 30-Minute Pizza Recipe that we all love--healthy, fun, and convenient for our schedule.  I have pretty large lunches, so I chose 3 simple, transportable dinners for days when I go running.  I let Kaia choose one meal and then I finished the schedule with a crock-pot meal and an instant meal.  I didn't want to include the instant meal, but I decided to be realistic.  By the time we get to dinner, I need a hands-free, fast meal once a week.  That is the heart of Pretty Neat:  you have to find an ideal that is realistic.  

The whole book is just as brilliant as the last chapter.  It has tips on everything from filing to toys to email (yes, your inbox gets a chapter!).  Throughout its pages the realistic perfection theme is beautifully drilled into you.  I don't need to feel guilty because my kitchen can  never be featured on the cover of a glamorous magazine.  I can improve where I can, and that is okay!  

I completely recommend this book!  The fact that it is only 167 pages is even better!

Now the really fun part:  Buttoned Up is giving away a copy of Pretty Neat to one of my readers!  To enter, leave a comment telling us a source of organizational stress for you OR an organizational tip you've discovered.  You must have a US mailing address.  You can have extra entries (up to four) if you follow this blog or post about the giveaway on a blog, twitter, or facebook.  Please let me know about your extra entries in a comment! I will pick a winner randomly (using Random.org) on Friday, March 11th at 9:00 pm. 

Troubles in Princess-Land

"Where is my prince?  I need a prince!"

 
"Finally!  A prince has found my missing glass slipper and come to save me!"

 
A happy princess.

Friends make decent princes too...when Daddy's not around!

Brownie Brilliance

 
If microwaves offend you, don't read this post.  
If microwaves don't offend you... I think this is brilliant!  

There are lots of recipes in the blogging world for cakes cooked in a mug in the microwave.  We found one we liked (I have to give some credit to my husband for this idea!) and created our own Brownie Mix.  Here's the directions:

Brownie Mix Brilliance

1.  Line up as many baggies as you'd like to pre-mix (each baggie makes one large brownie) and then add one large mug to the line.  You have to make one for immediate consumption, after all!

2.  Place the following in each baggie and the mug:
* 1/4 cup flour
* 1/4 cup sugar
*  2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
* pinch of salt
* about 1/4 cup chocolate chips

3.  Label each baggie with the following:
  "Add 2 Tbsp oil, 2 Tbsp water, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla."  

4.  To cook the brownies, pour the baggie into a mug.  Add the ingredients in step three.  Make sure everything is mixed together thoroughly.  Cook in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes.  It should be soft and chewy.  I like to add a scoop of ice-cream and eat it warm.  Mmmmm, yummy!  I hope you like it as much as I do!

The really great part is that when we have "mini-dates" we can whip up some brownies in about 2 minutes.  Sweet!

Happy 9-Month Birthday!!

It might seem silly to wish our little man "Happy Birthday!" six days after the fact, but there's a lot to celebrate.  Harry has now been out in the world just as long as he was "in!"  Here's Harry's 9-month Trait Sheet:
Attitude:  Happy.  Friendly.  Persistent (I CAN get it!). Loving.

Favorite Activities: playing with other kids, going outside, playing in balls, exploring, practicing walking, playing with doors, "ringing" doorstops
 Sleep: 12-13-hour nights with 3-4 brief interruptions.  Morning nap (20-45 minutes), afternoon nap (1 1/2-3 hours), evening nap (15-20 minutes, if it happens).

Favorite "Solid" Foods:  oranges, strawberries, pretzel sticks, yogurt (Dannon natural vanilla), waffle pieces, Gerber "puffs," mashed bananas, mashed pears, mashed peaches (I hope I got all his favorites!)
Best Words: "Dada," "Mama," "Mmmmm (when he LOVES his food!)," "Hi!" (though "Hi" sounds more like "Ha," but that's what he means!), "Beh, beh," (whatever that means!).

Biggest Complaints:  cries when he is hungry, tired, and if he can't go outside or play in the toilet. Fortunately, he's easily distracted.

Most Mischief:  races to get into trash cans, toilets, and the diaper mat.  Also eats everything.
We are just loving getting to know Harry better and better as the weeks go by.  He is absolutely delightful and we are thrilled he is part of our family.  That 1-year birthday is just around the corner!

20 Minute Dinner

I'm calling it Bok Choy Beauty.  Anything that is so delicious and takes under 20 minutes to prepare is beautiful.  Kaia called a lot of the shots on this one...she saw the bok choy and wanted to buy it.  I thought, "It's supposed to be anti-cancer and full of healthy goodness, so why not?"  When we were on the canned veggie isle she announced that the little corn was her favorite, so we picked that up too.  By that point I was getting a vision of dinner.

Bok Choy Beauty

Ingredients:  
1/2 a large head of bok choy
1 can of little corn
1/2-1 pound of cooked sausage*
1 can of coconut milk
about 1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
about 4 chopped Roma tomatoes
rice

1.  Start the rice right away so it will be done when the curry is ready.
2.  Pour the coconut milk in a large frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high.
3.  Stir the curry paste into a few tablespoons of cool water.  Once it dissolves, pour it into the pan.
4.  Chop bok choy.  
5.  Add sausage and corn to pan.  Once pan is boiling, add bok choy.  2-3 minutes later, add tomatoes.
6.  Let everything simmer together uncovered for a few minutes.  You don't want the veggies to disappear because you overcook them.
7.  Serve over rice!  If you didn't salt the rice, you may want to add salt.  Oh yes...it's very good, especially if you like Thai-ish food!

*Brilliant idea for fast dinners:  Cook 2-5 pounds of meat (fresh sausage, ground turkey/beef, etc) at the beginning of the week.  Divide it into 1/2-1 pound portions and store it in freezer baggies in the freezer.  It makes cooking all week much faster!