Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Carrot Zucchini Bread

I made zucchini bread for the first time a few weeks ago, and now I'm hooked! Good thing too, since I had a lot of zucchini. The only drag is all the grating. The recipe I based mine on is a customizable one, allowing you to use 2 cups of a variety of fruits and vegetables. I added a couple ingredients from other recipes and my own tinkering and this is the final result:

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini, drained
  • 3/4 cup grated carrot
  • optional: raisins and/or nuts
  1. Sift dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl , beat the eggs. Add oil, vanilla, and sugar and mix well. Stir in zucchini and carrot.
  3. Add dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated but not overstirring. (Stir in raisins and/or nuts if applicable.)
  4. Pour into greased loaf pan and cook at 325 F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool before removing from pan and slicing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Wedding and a Baptism

When we first moved here, we became friends with a couple who were preparing to be baptized into our church. They have been nothing but amazing since day one, always willing to serve in any way they can. Dan is great with the kids, and Felicia is always thinking of others. She has a Vikings/Packers rivalry with Justin. She bought Gabe a Vikings onesie, planted it in the mother's room at church for me to change him into, and then I handed him over to Justin. The look on his face was priceless!

They were looking around for someone to teach them their first dance for their wedding and I volunteered. I taught them the waltz to their chosen song, Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up." They were fast learners.

The wedding day finally arrived. The rain did not fall, thankfully, as we were gathered outside by a park gazebo. The ceremony was short and sweet, and the bride and groom were radiant.

The reception followed later. They danced wonderfully and made me proud. The food and desserts were great. Then came the dancing, and the party really started! Gabriel fell asleep in a friend's arms, allowing Justin and I to dance our feet off. Caden ran around the dance floor holding a balloon and chasing the other kids. We had so much fun and only left once Gabe woke up, which is when things started to slow down anyway.

Hokey Pokey

The next morning they got baptized. Dan asked Justin to baptize and confirm him, and Felicia asked me to speak on the Holy Ghost. We were both flattered they made us a part of this special day when we came into their lives only a few months ago. Can I repeat how awesome they are?

They even thought of us while on their honeymoon in D.C! They brought back chopsticks for us and a fun planet book for the kids. I am so thankful to God we met and have become friends!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LDS Church History Tour Guide App Review

I have been fortunate to live in many places full of LDS Church history: San Diego, to where the Mormon Battalion marched; Utah, where the Mormon pioneers settled; Arizona, also settled by Mormons; and now near Palmyra, New York, where Joseph Smith saw the First Vision.

One of the biggest LDS Church history sites in the Midwest, where Justin grew up, is Nauvoo, Illinois. He has been there many times. The first time I went to Nauvoo was after we got married. We went with Justin's family as part of our honeymoon. We saw the pageant and went to the temple. It was so muggy and buggy, I couldn't imagine living there in pioneer times.

Joseph and Hyrum statues outside Carthage Jail, where they were killed

Justin and his parents outside the Nauvoo temple.

There are many other historical sites in that area that I have yet to visit but would love to once the boys are older. To make the road trip more oganized and fun, you can use GuideMe Travel's new Church history tour guide app for traveling from Independence, Missouri, to Nauvoo, and vice versa. The app includes a GPS-based audio tour, which can be played manually if you don't have GPS and also includes a written script; sites to see, including their contact information, hours, prices, and ratings; a map; and FAQ.

*Very thorough tour that not only includes historical and scriptural information but also specific directions to, photos of, and helpful tips about the sites, such as when to visit and if restrooms are available.  It also keeps track of sites visited.
*The female guide's voice is very articulate and moderately paced for easy listening.
*I appreciate that the script is available to view as well so you can read it if you missed hearing it and don't want to listen again or if you are more of a visual than auditory learner.
*Very easy to use!

*Only compatible with Apple products.

You can buy the app for $4.99 at the App store or through iTunes. For more information, visit ldsgpstourguide.com.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paper Plaza Mini 3D Card Giveaway

Here is the third, and final, review and giveaway from Vishruti's Etsy shops. This time it is for her paper shop, Paper Plaza:

I was born with a love for all things paper and developed a keen sense of environment conservation at a very young age. I got into crafting as a kid, but my interest grew more during my teens. I would typically be interested in paper, glitter, packaging, re-using, artistic design, poster making--what we call today communication design. 

Paper Plaza is all things paper with a touch of India and personal style. I love sourcing these wonderful Indian envelopes with lot of character. I make sure that they are of great quality. People use them as note card holders, gifting sets, envelope systems, etc. 

The first items listed were little handmade notecards. They sold very quickly! They surely carry a lot of emotion and "cute" with them. The whole idea of creating something so small and cute is awesome.  Each card is a piece of art, special and unique in its appearance and ready to ship--and they all ship free with another item!

Vishruti sent me this mini card and scrapbook flowers to review:

*I love that the card is so small. I don't like writing meaningless or repetitive phrases on a blank card just for the sake of filling empty space, so these tiny cards are perfect for when you don't have much to say besides congratulations and your name.
*Very cute designs and lovely colors. The 3D look makes the cards classier and professional.
*The scrapbook flowers add the perfect Indian flair.
*Great customer service as always!

*Some of the jewels on the flowers are off center.

Enter to win any mini 3D greeting card! Open worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gabriel's First Birthday

Justin's family came into town for Gabriel's first birthday. Saturday we took them to Nicky Doodle's for ice cream, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Sunday we played Catch Phrase (lots of cheating went on!) and watched Emma Smith: My Story.

enjoying cherries

Monday we went shopping while Justin played in a tournament with his dad caddying for him. I found a shirt and snow jackets for the boys, and Caden got to go on the carousel with Keilani. We stopped by Sam's Club before heading home. (I can't wait for Costco to open in Syracuse!) We ended the night with Saving Mr. Banks, a very touching story.

teething bling

Tuesday was the big day. The men were at the tournament again, so we took the boys to the rec center and then made banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, with a hint of brown sugar and cinnamon. Best frosting ever!

We ate at the casino buffet and visited the pro shop where Justin works. It was very nice and the view was gorgeous!

Once home we sang to Gabriel and gave him a plain cupcake, which he waited to eat until after we finished singing and then happily devoured, unlike Caden at his first birthday (or this one, for that matter. He just licked off the frosting.).

first bite

Gabe got Baby Signing Time DVDs from my mom and the peas from Toy Story 3 from Titi Kirsten.

Wednesday we went shopping again and had the missionaries over for dinner. Later I made sticky popcorn and we watched Epic. I must say, I was very happy that everything I cooked for my in-laws was a hit!

Thursday we toured the house we originally were supposed to move into. The upstairs is pretty, but the entire downstairs needs to be remodeled. After naptime, Caden got his birthday gifts: play swords from us and a plasma car from Justin's family. All were the same colors, teal and light green!

The family left early Friday morning. We had a wonderful time together and the boys enjoyed all the attention and gifts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Teach Your Child at Home Using Everyday Activities

Photo by Peter Galbraith

You don't have to spend money on preschool or be a seasoned homeschooler for your children to learn about the world around them. You can make your home a place of learning by turning everyday opportunities into chances to teach knowledge and skills.

Why not start with the things kids interact with most? Any toy can become a chance for subtle learning. Pretend to care for stuffed animals to emulate caring for pets; note the shapes, sizes, and colors of toys; try to figure out how some toys work or are made; play with blocks to explain simple physics concepts. There are endless possibilities! Let your child's play guide you.

Board Games
Board games are easy ways to incorporate math and other academic skills. Chutes and Ladders and Hi Ho Cheery-O! are excellent for counting and introducing addition and subtraction. Uno teaches preschoolers to match numbers and colors, and Candyland is perfect for reviewing colors as well. Matching games are good for teaching word recognition too, not just pictures.

Other Games
Other home and travel games make great learning opportunities. I Spy teaches children to observe and describe their environment. Hide and Seek helps children practice counting, searching thoroughly, and using their sense of hearing.

Puzzles are fun ways to learn matching, from the simplest illustrations to complex puzzle pieces. They're great for reviewing geography too.

Almost anything can be learned through song, not just the alphabet. Use tunes to common children's songs to teach names, dates, and places--even math!

Books are oceans of knowledge just waiting to be charted. There are so many creative nonfiction books too, making information that can be boring or difficult to understand and remember into fun, attainable, and memorable. 

You can find anything online, especially on YouTube: how to make things, how things work, where things come from, what things look and sound like, etc. You can also learn American Sign Language. Don't have Internet or suffer from poor video quality? Borrow or buy educational DVDs, like the popular Signing Time.

Make technology your educational friend with learning games and shows. PBS Kids is a favorite at our house. Even do something as simple as making a password your child's name so he or she has to learn to spell it to use the computer or other device.

Around the House
Use measuring to explain math and cooking to explore science. Teach your children life skills, like doing laundry, cleaning, sewing on a button, budgeting, etc. Plant a garden to watch how things grow and die. Let your children help you fix things (or watch a professional do it). Hang maps, graphs, and charts in the kitchen or bedroom for quick reviewing of knowledge. Play musical instruments (or make your own) and create art together.

Free Community Activities
Go to reading time at the library for social interaction and to discover new books, songs, and themes. Attend free classes, workshops, festivals, markets, parades, museums, and events in your comunity to expose your children to new hobbies and ideas.  

Out and About
Count stairs you climb, talk about the weather, find different modes of transportation people use. Make anything into an observation, an explanation, or a game --or a question to explore together if you don't know the answer. Take the time to listen to your children to find out what they are interested in.

What do you use to teach your children at home?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

5 Cooking Tips

Just some random but useful tips to make cooking easier!

1. If you lack a vegetable steamer, use a mesh strainer instead. Cover it with a pot lid for quicker steaming.
2. Don't have any eggs to coat food with before breading it? Use mayonnaise instead!
3. Use ice cube trays to freeze lemon or lime juice and fresh herbs in olive oil so you always have some on hand.
4. When you buy meat, cut, portion, and store it all the same night so you don't have to take the time to do it (and clean up the mess) the next time you cook meat.
5. Wash your hands with toothpaste to get rid of garlic and onion odors.
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