Collage Recycled Mags Into a Sign You Can't Ignore

Just started this project this evening. Ever forget to brush your child's teeth, or put on sunscreen, or pack backup snacks, or or or or... over and over and over again? I realized I forget bedtime tooth brushing about twice a week. Hey, unless it's bath night (every other night) bathroom things don't always enter my head at bedtime. Why would they? I'm so focused on winding down, reading stories, cleaning Otto's room, pajamas, desitin, trying to score some cuddles, and on and on and on....

But his pearly whites are so gorgeous! Wouldn't you die for gleaming white brand new teeth like your kids'? (On a side note, if I ever win the lottery I'm immediately getting a full set of veneers.) Otto's beautiful pearls must be protected; being flakey at bedtime is no excuse!

So, I'm making a collage sign to hang over O's crib that says "Brush Teeth". So far it's coming out pretty cute and it'll be free (just using old magazines and glue I had on hand).

The font I use that makes excellent letter outlines for the collage to fit in is called "Milk Cocoa (sRB)". Love it.

We did a larger version of this same idea a few months back for a friend of Otto's and created a laminated placemat with his name collaged. Such a great, free gift - thoughtful, unique, and adorable!



Cookie Cutter Banana Pancake Dippers

As quick and easy as any other pancake preparation, using an aluminum cookie cutter as a mold adds much charm and makes the pancakes perfect sized for picking up and dipping!

You'll need:
- Spray cooking oil

- Open face aluminum cookie cutter(s)

- Batch of pancake batter with 1 thinly sliced banana folded in (my recipe can be found below)

And go!
1. Start by coating the interior of the cookie cutter with the spray oil (this will ensure the batter doesn't stick when it's time to flip) and spraying the skillet

2. Place cookie cutter with its "cutting" edge directly on your hot skillet

3. Pour batter directly into the cutter, about 1/4" to 1/2" deep

4. Cook until you see little bubbles appear in the batter, plus 30 seconds

5. Use a tea towel or lightweight potholder to grasp the cookie cutter and lift up, the pancake should ease out of the mold and will now be sitting on its own in the pan (see image)

6. Flip to brown opposite side

7. Serve with dipping sauce of choice

Below is a picture of my little guy, Otto, dipping his banana butterfly pancakes in some no-sugar added blackberry sauce from Apple Annie's (a local southern AZ farm with amazing jellies, syrups, salsas and relishes).

My recipe:

The recipe I use is a barely re-worked version of the Joy of Cooking "basic pancakes" recipe. I've reduced the size of the batch by half without reducing the quantity of banana so mine end up crazy banana heavy; I also combined some of the stirring steps (in the original version you mix all the dry stuff together, then all the liquid, then combine - but I find that if you work fast there's no need to do this in 3 steps and dirty extra bowls); and we use whole wheat flour instead of of all-purpose.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/2 TBSP sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups milk
1 & 1/2 TBSP butter or unsalted butter
1 jumbo brown egg
1 big banana sliced very thinly
Optional - a wee splash of vanilla, almond extract, pinch of nutmeg, and/or cinnamon

1. Preheat skillet on med/low (just under the halfway mark on the heat dial) for about 3 minutes

2. Throw all ingredients in a bowl and briskly stir with a fork until combined

3. Follow the above recipe and you'll end up with dipping pancakes!



Crayola Bathtub Markers and Bath Paints (product reviews)

A perfect rating would be 6 rainbow hearts (whatever, it's cute):YYYYYY

Crayola Bathtub Markers get a lame-o YYY 3 hearts
Why this rating?
  • Stains the bathtub. Especially the blue. As you can see in the above pic, we're now rocking a semi-permanent guitar and vroom (aka car) on our tub. My 50 year old bath's porcelain may be especially old and porous, but that's no excuse. Note that I have not yet tried to "magic erase" these drawings, and I do have hope, as the Mr.Clean magic eraser has rarely let me down. -1 heart
  • Drawings run too easily. For example, if you draw a cute little cat with the red marker 2 seconds later it looks like a bleeding messed up dying cat. -1 heart
  • On top of the above complaints, I don't know if I would buy them again. Therefore -1 heart

Crayola Bath Paints get a respectable YYYYY 5 hearts
Why this rating?
  • Doesn't stain the bathtub or my kid.
  • Drawings don't run at all - the paints are super-dense and you can even draw on bath bubbles with them.
  • I probably will purchase these again. But I'm waiting until Otto is a bit older (maybe I'll try again when he turns 2) because...
  • If your wee one isn't big and/or strong enough to squeeze the paint out of the containers (which are like mini ketchup and mustard bottles you find at picnics) then you, as the bath moniter, are going to be spending a lot of time and energy squeezing paint and drawing. Not that that's unbearable, but it is tiring, and doesn't really offer much artistic outlet for your small fry. -1 heart



10 Minute Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas

This recipe truly takes just 10 minutes and has only 3 key ingredients - talk about fast, easy, healthy, and delicious. It's also a great recipe for young chefs. Quick clean up too.


- Whole wheat mini pitas (our Trader Joe's always carries these)

- Pizza sauce (you can add nutritional value by stirring in pureed pumpkin at a ratio of 3:1 [sauce:pumpkin] and it won't affect taste or consistency)

- Shredded mozzarella

Set your oven to low broil.
1. Use a butter knife to halve the pitas so that each pita "pocket" becomes two pita "discs". Lay the discs rough side up on an ungreased baking sheet.

2. Smear on pizza sauce to taste

3. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella to taste

4. Option - top mozzarella with whatever you like. The ones I made tonight (pictured) have a bit of shredded basil from my garden on top. Customize for each member of the family! I love "old man" toppings like green olives and artichoke hearts. My husband takes his Kevin McCallister style (plain cheese). And Otto digs chopped veggies added to almost anything.

5. Broil until the cheese starts to brown (about 5 minutes).

Done! In the image pictured I posed a Thomas the Tank Engine in the pan so you can see just how bite-sized the finished pizzas will be.

If you want to add another 2 minutes to the recipe you can pre-toast the pita discs under low broil for about 2 minutes before adding sauce and cheese. this will guarantee you a crunchier "crust" for your pita pizzas. But honestly I never do it that way. They're definitely not soggy if you skip this step.




Which Fruits and Vegetables Should I Buy Organic? The Dirty Dozen

Heard about the dirty dozen? These are the 12 fruits and vegetables that are considered the "dirtiest" (meaning most pesticide-ridden) and that should (as recommended by experts, I'm just relaying the info here) be bought organic whenever possible. Even though I'd heard of the Dirty D, I never took the time to find out which fruits and vegetables they were. Except today I did and here's the list:

  • apples
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • cherries (good to know, this time of year I'm so tempted but I'll hold off for organic)
  • grapes (imported)
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • pears
  • potatoes (whoa, very good to know)
  • raspberries
  • spinach
  • strawberries
Then again, there is also a list of fruits and veggies that are considered clean enough whether you buy organic or factory-farmed:


  • asparagus
  • avocado*
  • banana*
  • broccoli*
  • cauliflower*
  • corn*
  • kiwi*
  • mango*
  • onion*
  • papaya
  • peas*
  • pineapple
* indicates fruits/vegs that are widely available organic and from personal experience don't really cost that much to buy the organic version (at least in the southwest US where I live). So, I don't think this CLEANer list will affect my past shopping habits as far as stopping buying these items organic (fresh and frozen); I'm going to keep doing just that. However, I'm super-happy to see asparagus and pineapple on the CLEANer list because they are not as readily available organic and are both favorites.

Here are a couple of website stories that get deeper into this information (and that I used as sources):




Sweet Potato & White Bean Smoothies (I'm Serious)

Enlightened by a packet of Sprout baby food ( http://www.sproutbabyfood.com/ ) that I picked up at Whole Foods, it dawned on me that sweet potato and white bean purée is creamy, sweet, and mild enough to blend right into any smoothie I'm whipping up for Otto, packing lots of additional nutrients into the traditional concoction. (A simple favorite is 1 banana, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup frozen strawberries, blueberries or peaches, 1/4 cup sweet potato white bean purée, and then water as needed to get it to the consistency you like.)

To make the purée cut 1 sweet potato into roughly 1/2" cubes (I leave the peel on, but that's up to you) and steam until tender. Prepare 1/2 cup dry white beans according to directions (or open a can of prepared white beans packed in water). Purée the lot in a food processor until creamy, adding water until you get your desired consistency (the consistency you're going for is baby food).

Note[1] - what you've just made actually is baby food. You can freeze it in ice cube trays, store the cubes in freezer safe bags, and thaw cube-by-cube as needed for use as baby food or in future smoothies.

Note[2] - this is also an excellent addition to most pasta sauces (red, cream-based, vodka, &c.) and doesn't affect the flavor enough to be noticed.

Why sweet potato and white beans? According to foodfit.com, white beans are an excellent source of fiber, folate and a good source of iron. According to nutritiondata.com, sweet potato is a good source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese.

Oh, and speaking of Sprout baby food packets... In case you're interested and don't have a local Whole Foods I thought I'd add a link where you can purchase them online. I couldn't find this particular flavor on Amazon but the EcoMom website came up first in a google search and seems to be a good site with a fair price on the packets which are about $1.30 each at the store: http://store.ecomom.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SF-BSPWB-012

A Simple, Fun Twist on Eggs w/ Toast

If you're anything like me, you're always on the lookout for new, easy recipes to entice your kid(s) to eat healthy foods and to try new things. One recipe I've found that goes over like gangbusters with my toddler is Eggs in a Basket. Simply put, you're cooking the egg directly into the toast by making a cavity in the center of the toast for the egg to sit while cooking. The end product is cute, healthful, and yummy.

I purposefully make a very sloppy version that allows the egg whites to run onto most of the bread - which means every bite has a little bread and a little egg. I've also stirred the egg before pouring and mixed in some chopped spinach a few times (and managed to add some veggie nutrition to the mix). My son is "tall and skinny with a big head" - as his doctor put it - so I have no issues frying in butter... but a nice thing about this recipe is that there are just no rules; it's so tweakable. If you have a little Martha Stewart in your blood, you could make the shape that holds the egg something very cute, like a heart, star, mickey mouse head, daisy, and on and on...

At my house, we cut the finished product up into bite-sized pieces of "eggy bread" and Otto just loves it.

Below are a couple of links with more official recipes for this breakfast treat.



Easy Disposable Snack "Bowl"

I took Otto to his first movie on my birthday last week.

We saw the documentary "Babies" and he had a great time; we both did!

Getting ready for the outing I knew I needed to prepare a Movie Theater Survival Kit including things like a pacifier, sippy cup, bag of snacks, etc. But I was concerned that Otto would drop his snack bowl on the theater floor and didn't want to deal with any fumbling around in the dark. So I decided to cut the top 2/3 off of a half dozen brown paper bags. I recycled the tops and threw the bottoms (aka the "bowls") in the survival kit. During the movie, I poured small portions of crackers, cereal, and dried fruit into a "bowl", unworried about anything dropping because if it did I would just go for another disposable "bowl" right away.

At the end of the movie, Otto had only gone through a single snack "bowl" which we tossed in the bin along with my nacho tray. A total success! Hey, I got to eat movie theater nachos, that's a stellar day in my book no matter what else happens.