Educational Resources: Storyline Online

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We all love entertaining our little ones, but it’s even better when the fun has educational benefits! If you are looking for free educational resources, I have a great one for you: Storyline Online!

This site offers videos of actors and actresses reading children’s books with fun and slightly animated pictures from the book. The great part of having actors and actresses perform the readings is that they often use fun, different, and animated voices! They really bring the stories to life!

My son also has a short attention span, like many little ones. He has a hard time sitting and listening to me read as much as I would like to. Since Storyline Online brings the story to life with music, sounds, and pictures, he has a much easier time sitting through an entire reading on this site.

Storyline Online also has a YouTube Channel that can be found HERE! This allows immediate access to the videos through the YouTube App.

It has been proven time and time again that reading books to children greatly improves their future reading ability, vocabulary, and much, much more. I really hope that your family can use this resource to allow your child to gain the multiple benefits from being read to out loud, even if you are unable do it yourself.

Remedy Review: Sea Salt and Hydrogen Peroxide for Sinus Infection

Unfortunately for the past few days I have been experiencing horrible sinus pressure and pain. I could just feel the sinus infection coming along. Fortunately, through the miracle of the internet, I found a home remedy at Earthclinic.com. I could call this the miracle cure because of how wonderfully it worked!

The directions for this home remedy included mixing “six ounces of warm filtered water with 1/2 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Allow the salt to dissolve into the solution, and insert the solution into a nasal sprayer or neti pot. Leaning over the sink, spray the solution into the nose and allow it to drain through the mouth.” – Earthclinic.com

I followed these directions and used it in my Neti pot. I used it in the method that this instrument is normally used: pouring half of the solution into one nostril, leaning over the sink, and breathing through my mouth so that the solution flowed out my other nostril.

Now I will make a note that it felt a little odd. I could describe it as a tiny stinging, but compared to the agony of my sinuses for four days, it was nothing I couldn’t handle. My eyes also watered a little. After I finished pouring the rest of the solution through my other nostril, I already could feel my sinuses clearing out. I blew my nose several times and it started to stuff up a little.

I laid down for a couple hours while the little guy was napping (Daddy was also home). When I awoke, I felt much better! My nose was still a little stuffy, but virtually no pain! This was quite the relief given I was suffering for days.

Being that this remedy can fend off even a persistent sinus infection, I definitely recommend it. Before you do anything, please please please ask your doctor. I also would not use this on a little one, especially a baby being that they could accidentally swallow some of the mixture and that would not be good. This worked for me, but please take precautions for any side effects that could occur. I hope this information can help you and your loved ones during this cold and flu season!

Improving Instant: Oat Pancakes

Hey all! Instant mixes and dishes are plentiful in the grocery stores these days due to the busy lives of customers from all walks of life, including parents. Now these products may be time savers, but they can often times be lacking in nutrition.

I have decided to take a couple typical pantry staples and create something a little more nutritious for my family: Oat Pancakes! 

My grandmother gets pantry items from her local food pantry and she will give us the items she cannot eat for health reasons. This is where I ended up with “just add water” pancake mix. I didn’t want to feed these pancakes to my son as they were, but I am not one to simply throw out food, so I decided to add old fashion oats to make them a little more wholesome.

If you want to do the same for your family, here’s what you can do:

  1. Follow the directions for 1 cup of mix. Mine had me add 3/4 cup of water. 
  2. To this mixture, add 3/4 cup of old fashioned oats. 
  3. Observe the mixture and add tablespoons of water until it is at your desired thickness. I added 2 tablespoons of water, but my ended up mildly thick. If you like thinner pancakes, add a little more water.
  4. If desired, add a dash of cinnamon to the pancake mixture. 
  5. Drop the pancake mix on a greased pan or skillet and cook accordingly. These do not cook any differently than plain old pancakes!
  6. Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!

Simple Stir-Fry

This is one of my all time favorite inexpensive and quick meals to make. You can even cook the chicken ahead of time to save even more time!

All you need to make Simple Stir-fry is:

  1. Cooked rice (Any type you like is fine. Here I used long grain white rice.)
  2. Frozen Stir-fry veggies
  3. Sliced Chicken Breast
  4. Teriyaki sauce (I love Soy Vay’s Veri Veri Teriyaki! It has no preservatives or high fructose corn syrup and it tastes amazing!)

Just cook and combine the chicken, veggies, and sauce in a pan with a little oil, then serve over rice.

If you choose to cook the chicken from raw, slice it into strips and saute in oil until fully cooked. Then add the frozen vegetables and allow to cook thoroughly. Then add the desired amount of teriyaki sauce. I usually add about 1/3 cup to 1 bag of veggies.

If you want to cook your chicken ahead of time, coat the chicken with a small amount of oil and cook on a sheet pan for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Check to make sure the chicken has reached 165 degrees internally. Let cool, slice, and put in they fridge or freezer until you are ready to cook the Stir-fry.

I hope you all can make this into one of your family dinners to save time and money! It’s way cheaper than Chinese take-out!

Soup for the Season: Smoked Sausage Soup

First, let me all wish you a Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is wonderful to you all! 

I have another frugal and delicious soup recipe for all of you! Smoked Sausage Soup is simple and delicious. I don’t even peel the potatoes because 1) it takes a lot of time and 2) there are so many vitamins in potato skins! Also, the skin is so thin on golden potatoes that you barely notice it! This recipe makes a little over 2 quarts of soup to feed your loved ones during the cold months. My fiance and little guy love this soup. 

To make Smoked Sausage Soup you will need:

2 tbsp oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 lb smoked or polish sausage, cut into rounds of similar thickness (**remember to cut these into semi-circles for any little ones, since full circle pieces can pose a cooking hazard**)

1 tsp minced garlic

1 quart chicken broth

1 quart water

1/2 can of diced tomatoes

3 cups golden potatoes, medium diced (I have also tried this with delicata squash and it was very good)

2 cans of white beans (either cannelini or great northern)

2 cups chopped kale

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1.  Heat up oil in a large soup pot to medium heat. Cook chopped onions until almost translucent.
  2. Put in the sausage and garlic. Brown the pieces of sausage.
  3. After the sausage is browned, add water, chicken broth, tomatoes, potatoes ( or squash), and beans. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes ( or squash) are tender.
  4. Once the potatoes ( or squash) are tender, add in the kale, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
  5. Top with Parmesan cheese of desired and enjoy!

Simple Smoothies for the Whole Family

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Does your little one (or significant other) not like eating their vegetables? Do you want your family to start their day off right? Are you someone who has to take their breakfast on the go?

If your answer to any of these questions was “yes”, then I have a solution for you! Smoothies! Smoothies are a wonderful way to pack in some extra fruits and veggies into your and your family’s diets.

The smoothie shown here was made with:

  • Tropical blend frozen fruit (peaches, mangoes, pineapple, and bananas)
  • Organic chopped kale
  • 100% apple juice
  • Chia seeds

The beauty about green smoothies like this is that they are so versatile! They can be made with any frozen fruit of your choice, any liquid of your choice, any green of your choice, and any add-ins (like my chia seeds) that you want! Just blend together until completely combined!

A sample list of these can include any of the following:

 Frozen fruits

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries (Watch out for children younger than 12 months! Some doctors recommend waiting until 12 months of age to introduce strawberries due to an allergen risk.)
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • And many more!

Greens and vegetables

  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Sweet peas
  • Cooked Pumpkin
  • Cooked Sweet Potato
  • And many more!

Liquids:

  • 100% Fruit Juice
  • Milk (I recommend plant-based milks over dairy milk, but the choice is up to you!)
  • Iced Tea (I recommend green tea, but due to caffeine content this is not a good choice for little ones)
  • Iced Coffee (Again, not recommended for little ones due to caffeine.)
  • Or just plain old water!

Add-ins:

  • Seeds (including chia seeds, flax seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, and unsalted sunflower seeds) **POSSIBLE ALLERGEN**
  • Nuts or nut butters (I like almonds the best, but unsalted walnuts, pistachios, pecans,  and peanuts can also be delicious) **POSSIBLE ALLERGEN**
  • Protein powder (not recommended for little ones)
  • Yogurt **POSSIBLE ALLERGEN**
  • Honey or Dates (as natural sweeteners)
  • Cocoa powder
  • And many more!

**Recipe Tips**

  • If you find your smoothie mixture is too thick, just try adding more liquid and re-blend.
  • As buying frozen fruit can often be expensive, try buying fresh fruits that are in season and freezing them for the future. If you already have fresh fruit, but no frozen fruit, you can blend your smoothie with some extra ice to get the same effect.
  • For children who can’t yet suck out of a straw, there are a couple options. You can cut the opening of a bottle or soft-tipped sippy cup a little wider to allow your children to drink the thicker liquid. I go with the option of adding less liquid to create a little thicker mixture and spoon feeding it to my son. He loves it so much, it is almost like a healthier version of a slushie or ice cream!
  • Always check online or with your doctor for possible allergens. Allergic reactions are terrifying, especially for a a parent taken off-guard.

Soup for the Season: A Take on Zuppa Toscana

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Eating out at a restaurant can be expensive and often times inconvenient, especially for parents. One way to reduce these types of problems is to learn how to make your favorite restaurant dishes at home! I did this for my fiance’s favorite soup, Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. By making this dish time and time again, I have made my own little changes to make this into a little bit healthier soup that I feed to my family often! Instead of using heavy whipping cream, I use coconut milk. I really shouldn’t eat dairy so this is a better option for me. I also like to add extra kale since it is so darn good for you!

To make this take on Zuppa Toscana you will need:

  • 1 lb of ground mild or hot Italian sausage (if you can’t find plain ground sausage, you can use about 4 uncooked Italian sausage links and cut them out of the casing)
  • 1/2 of a medium onion ( I use red)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • about 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 quarts of chicken broth
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 cups of chopped kale
  • 1 13.5 oz can of unsweetened, full fat coconut milk (or 1 cup of heavy whipping cream)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Start out by browning the ground sausage in a large soup pot.
  2. While the sausage is browning, cut up the potatoes into thin quarter slices, about 1/4 inch thick. See picture for reference. The chopped potatoes should come out to about 8 or 9 cups. 20161227_180016.jpg
  3. Once the sausage is done browning, add the chicken broth, water, onion, garlic and potatoes. Allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Add the coconut milk (or cream) and stir to incorporate thoroughly.
  5. Finally, add the kale and cook lightly. Add any salt and pepper for desired seasoning.
  6. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

*Recipe Tips*

  • If you are really trying to stretch this, try adding more potatoes. It will make a more filling soup.
  • Adding cream instead of coconut milk will result in a creamier soup
  • Use hot Italian sausage if you like a spicier soup. For even more heat, I recommend crushed red pepper, but my fiance loves adding sriracha!

Baked Ravioli Lasagna

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Now, I know for being called “Momma Bear’s Muchies” more food based posts would have been expected, but I FINALLY was able to find something interesting to put up here! I used my own creativity to use the foods I had to create something a little different! Baked Ravioli Lasagna was something I whipped up for my fiancé and my little man for dinner the other night. I know that cheese ravioli is not the absolute best thing to eat nutrition wise, but there are much worse options available. I’m mainly talking about canned spaghetti and pasta products. There is usually so much sodium and other additives in canned products such as these that they are generally best avoided. Instead of feeding your little one canned spaghetti, try frozen raviolis or my Baked Ravioli Lasagna! It is fairly inexpensive to make and takes the hassle out of classic lasagna.

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What you are going to need to make this dish is:

  • About 18 frozen cheese and/or meat ravioli (depending on size)
  • One 32 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I used organic from Aldi)
  • 1-2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (Also Aldi brand)
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • One 8×8 pan or baking dish (I used glass)

 

Start off by boiling the frozen ravioli according to the directions on the packaging. Drain the ravioli and let cool enough to allow for easy handling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Next, fill the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish with about a third of the jar of spaghetti sauce. Lay down the ravioli side-by-side, slightly overlapping. I got nine in one layer with the size of my ravioli.

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Pour about another third of the jar of spaghetti sauce over the layer of ravioli.

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After the sauce use about half of the shredded mozzarella cheese to cover the layer of sauce.

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Repeat the same layering pattern of ravioli.

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Coat second ravioli layer with remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is slightly brown.

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Allow to cool and dish to set. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve with bread sticks and salad if desired.

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Enjoy!

 

 

Once Upon a Child

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With Christmas drawing nearer and most people’s budget’s even more tight than any other time of the year, I thought it would be a great time to post about a store called Once Upon a Child. If you are not familiar with this store, Once Upon a Child is a resale shop dedicated to all things young child and baby. The store near me even sells maternity clothes! That was a big lifesaver when I was pregnant. Deciding that our son has many toys already and knowing our family members were sure to get him a ton of clothes and toys for Christmas, my fiancé and I decided we would go to Once Upon a Child and get our son a few things. We came out with a couple clothing items, three pairs of shoes, and a shape sorting bucket (since he is really into organizing and sorting things at this time). The clothing was very affordable along with the shoes. Knowing how fast children grow out of clothing, it was all almost like new. The shoes were only $6.50 a pair. I even bought him a pair of winter boots at $6.50 as opposed to the ones for about $15 I had thought about getting him at Walmart. The shape sorting bucket was only $4.50 and appears as if it has never been used. The great thing about Once Upon a Child is that you can sell your items back to the store if your child does not use them anymore. It also keeps up with current safety codes, so it does not buy any gear that has been recalled. With how expensive baby and young child items can be, Once Upon a Child can be a great resource, not only during the gift-giving time of the year, but also year-round.  For more information about this great store and to find locations near you, check out their website HERE

The picture above is my son with the Easter bunny that the Once Upon a Child in my area hosted for free during this past Easter season.

Libraries are the best!

Let me start off saying I absolutely adore the library. By just signing up for a card you get nearly unlimited resources for FREE! Books, movies, music, programs, playrooms, and more, all for free. Unfortunately I live in a city where I have to pay for parking, but the amount of fun my son has at the library for just a little bit of change is totally worth it. As you can see above, he adores playing in the children’s play room. He has multiple educational toys at his disposal and can play for hours without getting bored. We even go to a program every other Tuesday  called “Baby and Me”. We spend a half an hour in a group with other parents and children from birth to 2-years-old. We all sing songs, socialize, and have tons of fun. There are also multiple other events and programs throughout the year. If your child is a little older, there is tutoring available. I love to get  my son the “Baby Signing Time” DVDs that my library carries. He loves the songs and I can tell he is trying to make some of the signs! It’s entertaining and educational for him! I encourage you all to check out your local library for all that it offers because you just might find a gold mine!