Thursday, August 25, 2011

Traveling snacks

Having recently embarked on a looooong journey via automobile, I thought I'd share a couple of our favorite traveling snacks today.  Honestly, the children would not survive if there were no snacks in the vehicle.

I love to make my own snack mix, and it's one of our favorite road-trip snacks.  Not only is it less expensive to make it myself, but I can put whatever I want in there. 

I start with a gorp mix that I purchase in the bulk section of my favorite grocery store...heaven help us if they ever stop selling it!  The mix contains peanuts, cashews, almonds, golden raisins, dried cranberries, and chocolate, white chocolate, and butterscotch chips.  Probably some other stuff, too, but that's what I'm remembering right now.  It's really good all on its own, but then I add stuff.  I always add m&ms, either milk chocolate or peanut butter, and I always add some kind of dry cereal.  Our favorites are honey nut cheerios, kix, quaker oats squares, or cinnamon toast crunch.  Then I look around the house and add whatever else looks good.  In the past, I have added goldfish crackers, teddy grahams, mini-pretzels, wheat thins sticks, and cheez-its.  It's totally customizable! 

This is one of the things I package in individual portions, like I mentioned earlier this week, because if I don't it'll be gone in one snacking session.  The individual portions make this a perfect snack for the car, and it's got some high quality protein and good fats, as well as being something that everyone likes.

My kids think Puppy Chow (aka Chex Muddy Buddies) is a terrific traveling snack.  I'm not so sure, since it seems a little on the messy side to me, but it does seem to make them happy, and they're pretty good about cleaning up licking off their messy fingers when they're done.  Added bonus: it's easy enough to make that your older children can do it themselves (be sure to supervise them if they use the stove, otherwise, the microwave works great).

Melt together:
  • 1/2 c. oleo (yes, this recipe is from my mom in law, who uses oleo in recipes.  Just in case you can't get that where you live, use margarine)
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter (we used chunky last time)
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
Pour chocolate mixture over 7 cups of Rice Chex (or we use Crispix) and toss to coat.
Add 2 1/2 c powdered sugar and toss to coat again (we usually use our storage container (a gallon ice cream bucket) to mix.  Just add the ingredients and shake).

That's it!  Easy peasy.

But, just in case you don't want to make it yourself, or don't have time before your next road trip, great news!  Chex Mix® Muddy Buddies is now available year-round.  You can print a coupon for $0.75 off 1 Chex Mix Muddy Buddies from General Mills Pssst...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Life and Times of Hector the Monarch

/24/Well, my friends, it's been well over a month since I started this post, hoping that I would, at some point, be able to add the video mentioned below*.  Hasn't happened, so...here ya go.  If I ever do get that video uploaded, I'll place a link in this post.

Ah, yes, my good friend and MC's pet, Hector, has metamorphosed and gone off into the world.  Here's a fond look back at his time with us.
 Hector and his buddy Tiny came to live with us on June 14, when we spotted them on some milkweed plants.  That's Hector on the left; Tiny's on the right.

Hector didn't seem to adjust very well to living with us--there were several times when I thought the poor little guy was dead, based on his strange contortions and his apparent hunger strike.  We moved him to different living situations and eventually he started eating and pooping again--I think he just wanted younger, more tender leaves than the boys were bringing him. 

Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed exclusively--it's what makes them taste bad so potential predators don't want to eat them.  The predators know the caterpillars taste bad because of the yellow and black warning coloration.
 Here he is shortly before he became a pupa--sorry about the lack of measuring device for perspective--our last measurement of his larval state was 40 mm on June 29.

 Hector assumed the J-position during the night of June 29, and this is how we found him on the morning of June 30. 

Monarchs molt several times during their larval stage, each time shedding their skin in favor of a roomier skin underneath.  The final molt happens when they go from larva to pupa stage and form their chrysalis.  That's right: they don't spin a cocoon, they molt, leaving a soft green pupa, the outside of which hardens to form the chrysalis.  We actually saw this happening with Hector and I got it on video*.  We knew it was coming because he started doing caterpillar crunches (seriously).

 Here's Hector the pupa, right after molting.  You can still see the caterpillar stripes underneath the green outer skin of the pupa, and you can see the shed caterpillar skin up at the top.

After a while, the monarch chrysalis looks like this:
As you can probably tell from the change of scenery, this is not Hector--this is Tiny, after he escaped and molted under the ledge of our fireplace--but this is pretty much what Hector looked like for 9 days.  If you look closely, you can see the wings on the left under the outer green.  Monarch pupas display a different defence against predators--camouflage.

 On July 9, we woke to find Hector looking like this.  Remember, the chrysalis is clear, so when the adult butterfly is ready to emerge, you can see the black and orange coloration through the chrysalis.

 Later that afternoon, we found Hector clinging to his empty chrysalis, trying to muster his strength for his first flight.  We were kinda bummed that we missed his emergence--we really thought we had another day.

Here's our boy outside.  We can tell he's a boy because of the dark spots on the veins of his lower wings--can you see them?  It's a bit more pronounced on the right wing.  On his left wing, you can probably see what looks like a white dot--that's actually a hole in Hector's wing--it didn't form correctly, or he somehow injured himself emerging from his chrysalis.

We see monarchs flying by from time to time, and wonder if our friend has come back to visit :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Snacks

In honor of school starting soon, here's another forehead-slappingly simple tip for you. 

My kids are snackaholics, I won't lie.  Like most kids, they would definitely prefer to snack all day, rather than adhere to the 3 meals, 2 snacks a day schedule I attempt to follow.  And with the impending advent of school, I will be needing more portable snacks for the kids.  I love the grab-and-go convenience and portion control afforded by individually packaged snacks, but you are definitely paying for convenience. 

So, why not individually package them yourself?  Well, why not?

Here's what you do (not that you need instructions, do you? really?):
1. Buy (or make) snacks.
2. Check the serving size.
3. Place a serving (or more or less depending on your needs) into a snack-sized ziploc bag, or small reusable container.
4. Repeat until all of the snack is in individual portions
5. Display prominently on the snack shelf.

The key is to do this ahead of time, so that when seconds count, and it's time to grab a snack and head out the door, you're not left scrambling for the cheez-its and baggies.

Are you wondering what kinds of snacks you'd package this way?  Well, anything, really.  Gorp, goldfish crackers, teddy grahams, chex mix, popped popcorn, cheez-its, Club cracker sticks, raisins or other dry fruit, nuts, dry cereals, carrots, grapes, homemade granola bars.  You could do applesauce, yogurt, canned fruit, or even jello or pudding if you have the refrigerator space.

That's it!  Have you slapped your forehead yet?  Go ahead and do it now, if you haven't already.

   

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cracking the Code

My secret's out.  OK.  It wasn't really much of a secret, since it was posted on my blog, but my most loyal reader has spotted it, so I thought I'd point it out to those of you who haven't noticed.

I added a tab to my blog called "Cracking the Code," and it contains a guide to the nicknames I use most often.  So, if you tend to have trouble figuring out who I'm talking about in my posts, you might want to bookmark this page.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Done!

It's finished!  Yay!  I met my self-imposed Saturday deadline.
Welcome...
let me show you around...

 But first, the "before" picture...

 and in progress...

 and blank slate, sort of.

When thinking about how to replant this space, I decided I wanted to keep the pre-existing peonies, which are a purply-pink color, and asiatic lillies, which are orange.
I decided to leave them in place, rather than trying to move them, because I didn't want to push my luck.  They're beautiful and huge, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to relocate them without killing them.

I wanted to have some common elements tying both sides of the path together, so in addition to adding matching solar lights to this side of the path, I planted some black eyed susans.  There were two there already, almost overwhelmed by the irises, which I moved (I was going to say you can just barely see them in the "before" picture, but no, you can't).

 

I also used some plants with similar colors to the ones around the pond.
These purple coneflowers and bee balm mirror the color of the lavender around the pond.

 And, yes, I relocated a few of the iris rhizomes (less than 1%, though)--sure hope I managed to get purple ones.  When MC saw this, he said, "uh, mom, you do know those are irises, right?"  He was just a bit incredulous that after all of that sweaty, back-breaking work, removing the things, I would put some back.

Oh, and I'm planning to plant some daffodils and tulips this fall as well.  We should have blooms throughout the entire growing season :)

Ta da!  In what is, perhaps, the understatement of the century (or at least the week), Hubby commented, "huh, that looks better."  Uh, yeah it does. 

I love it!  And I think I'll love it even more as it grows in to the space over the years. 

If you're feeling lost, or just want to re-read the genesis of this project, here ya go:
Manual Labor--digging the hole
Weeds--motivation
No Weeds Here--the finished pond
Sneaky Zucchini--in the process of defeating my arch nemesis

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sneaky Zucchini

Humph.  This project is taking longer than I thought it would.  That's right: I've officially thrown in the towel on weeding this patch of real estate, my arch nemesis.  I'm not sure if I'm going to make my self-imposed Saturday deadline...  I'm about 2/5 done digging up irises; I'm pretty sure I'll be able to get them all out by Saturday, but then I need to plant, edge, and mulch.  By the way, if you need any irises, feel free to stop by--we've got plenty (and Hubby doesn't like it so much when I just chuck them into the woods and they start growing there)!

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Did you know that August 8 was national "sneak some zucchini on to your neighbor's porch" day?  Yes, it's actually a day.  Unfortunately, I missed it due to lack of production.  I think I was watering the zucchini too much, because once I cut down, the zucchinis started producing, and now I have 3 beauties sitting on my counter waiting for me to do something with them. 

Here are some fun ideas from allrecipes.com to accomplish your sneak.  I actually would have appreciated a neighbor sneaking zucchini on to my porch on August 8, but just in case your neighbors are not like me in this regard, here's a kinder, gentler way to sneak that green summer squash onto your neighbor's doorstep (because I know you're already planning for next year):

(The BEST Ever) Zucchini Nut Muffins
3 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
2 c sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c oil (soybean preferred)
2 c grated, unpeeled zucchini
1/2 t vanilla
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c golden raisins (I leave these out)

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then set aside.  Combine sugar and eggs in large mixing bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Gradually add oil, beating constantly 2-3 minutes.  Add zucchini and vanilla and blend well.  Stir in walnuts and raisins.  Fold in sifted dry ingredients just until batter is evenly moistened--careful not to overmix.  Spoon batter into non-stick muffin pans.  Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let stand 10 minutes, then turn muffins out onto rack to cool.  Makes 24 muffins.

Mmmm...guess what I'm doing today, besides digging up more irises, that is.  Watch out zucchinis, here I come!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Leftover Paint

If you live in a house, chances are you have leftover paint from at least one project lurking around in your basement or garage or storage shed or somewhere. 

Today's tip is forehead-slappingly simple: label your leftover paint. 

You may think you'll remember that you used the desert sand in the bathroom and the bone in the laundry room, but you won't.  So yes, save that paint, but label it with the name of the room or project for which you used it, and the date (according to http://www.diylife.com/, solvent based paint has a shelf-life of 15 years; latex based paint has a 10 year shelf-life).  I would even tape the paint chip to the can.  To free up storage space, you can transfer leftover paint to another airtight container--just be sure to label that, too.

Added bonus: if you leave your leftover paint for the new owners when you sell your house, the new owners will know which paint to use in which room for touch-ups, and when the new owners decide to repaint in EXACTLY the same colors, because they're just so perfect for the space (and/or they don't have enough artistic vision to come up with their own color combination (me, me!)), they'll know exactly what shades to buy.

For ideas to use up your leftover paint, click here.  My favorite: make your own artwork (yes, we WILL, and before the year is over).

If you decide to dispose of your paint, please do so in an environmentally responsible way.  Never pour paint into drains, sewers, or waterways, and don't put liquid paint in the trash.  You can check here or contact your local department of environmental conservation for proper disposal methods. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hubby's Company Party (not potty)

We had Hubby's company party/picnic onboard a paddleboat this weekend.
  
 We got to go under this historic lift bridge (twice), which is always a thrill.

We saw a POTTY (not party) barge.  Guess there's a first time for everything, even things you've never thought of.  Don't worry: they took pictures of us, too.

Afterwards, we hung out on a spiderweb
and Bubby impressed with his mad jumping skills.

What a fun and beautiful day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Great deal on Kellogg's Cereal, still available!

Remember when I posted about getting Kellogg's cereal for 56 cents per box?  Well, I got my $10 pre-paid Discover card in the mail last week.  This rebate is still available, if you want to get in on the fun :)

To review, just clip the UPC symbols from 10 boxes of selected Kellogg's cereals* and send them in with the form found here.  You don't need to send a receipt, so check your cupboards for participating cereals*.

If you order from amazon.com, don't forget to save 15% by using the subscribe and save option.  You can save an additional 10% on Kellogg's cereals through September 15 by entering promo code KELBTSII at check out.

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Search & Win

And it's Mega Swagbucks Friday!  If you haven't already joined, you really should.  Through Swagbucks, you can earn points that can be used for fabulous prizes, just by doing things that you already do on the web.  I've been a member since April, and I've already earned $20 in amazon.com gift cards, just by running searches. 

Don't shop amazon?  Swag Bucks can be used to purchase apparel, kitchen items, electronics, gift cards and lots more in the Swag Store!  Plus, Swagbucks recently added NEW rewards, including O’Charley’s eGift Cards, Brinker International eGift Cards (valid at Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, and more), Home Depot gift cards, as well as eGift cards to Fandango, Home Depot, Rixty, CVS, Overstock, Lands End, Cabelas, and more!

When you sign up, be sure to enter the registration code AUGUSTBONUS to automatically snag 50 Swagbucks (in addition to the 30 you’ll earn for signing up) through today, August 12!

Here are a few ways to earn Swagbucks

* Searching the web
If yours is a winning search, you will see a “Congratulations” screen featuring your Swag Bucks award immediately above your search results; you will never be directed away from your search. You can win multiple Swag Bucks every day; Swag Bucks can be won in denominations ranging from 1 – 1,000.

* Voting in Daily Polls
Snag 1 Swag Buck per day for voting in the daily poll.

* Printing and using coupons
You'll snag 10 swagbucks for each coupon you redeem.

* Purchasing Daily Deals
Each time you purchase from a daily deal website, like Groupon or Eversave, through swagbucks, you'll receive at least 100 and up to 3000 swagbucks!

* Taking Surveys
Each survey that you chose to engage with may have a different Swag Bucks payout. Completing “deeper profiles” helps Swag Bucks alert you only to surveys for which you qualify and typically enables you to complete more targeted surveys which have significantly higher Swag Bucks payouts. Snag 1 Swag Buck per day just for heading over to the Survey page!

* Watching videos
Swag Bucks are awarded randomly via Swag Bucks TV. Not every video you watch will earn you Swag Bucks, but just like Swag Bucks search, every video you watch is a chance to earn.

* Completing Special Offers
To ensure that an offer has been completed, follow the instructions provided for each individual offer. The offer needs be completed in the same session and all information required to complete the offer MUST be accurate. The majority of offers will credit your Swag Bucks account within 20 minutes. However, the estimated wait time varies from offer to offer. Some may take a few hours or a couple of days before final confirmation is received.

* Playing Games
Swagbucks recently released FREE Swagbucks Games… find a game you like, play for free AND you’ll be eligible to earn bonus Swag Bucks just for playing!! There are two ways to be rewarded for playing games (1) Play games for free and you will randomly earn from 1-5 Swag Bucks (2) Buy into tournaments where you risk a small amount of Swag Bucks for the chance to earn a large amount. Just login or register and click on the “Earn” tab, then in the drop down menu choose “Games”.

* Finding Swag Codes
Swag Codes are strings of alphanumeric text that you can apply for instant Swag Bucks. Swag Codes can appear anywhere, and at any time, throughout the Swag Bucks network including the Swagbucks newsletter, any Swag Bucks powered Search&Win Site; the Official Swag Bucks blog, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter page, Flickr page; and affiliated partner sites. Swag Codes can be redeemed by entering the codes into the Swag Codes box on your My Account page.

* Sharing Your Birthday
Be sure that you enter your birthday in the account details and you’ll snag 50 Swag Bucks on the big day!

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* Participating cereals include:
Kellogg’s All-Bran® Original
Kellogg’s All-Bran® Bran Buds®
Kellogg’s All-Bran® Complete® Wheat Flakes®
Kellogg’s Smart Start® Strong Heart Antioxidant
Kellogg’s Smart Start® Strong Heart Toasted Oat
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® Touch of Honey
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® Crunch
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® Extra!
Kellogg’s Crispix®
Kellogg’s Product 19®
Kellogg’s Mueslix®
Kellogg’s® Cracklin’ Oat Bran
Kellogg’s® Lowfat Granola with Raisins
Kellogg’s® Lowfat Granola without Raisins
Kellogg’s® Fruit Harvest Strawberry/Blueberry
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies®

Disclosure: This post contains one or more referral links that may yield commissions for The Accidental Blogger at no cost to you.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I decided to make cinnamon swirl bread yesterday afternoon, while my older boys were both at day camp and Bubby was visiting a friend.  But somehow, I ended up taking a nap instead.  Oops.  Oh well, that gave the butter p l e n t y of time to soften.
That's why I found myself still awake last night close to midnight with that wonderful baking-bread smell overlaid with cinnamon-y goodness wafting toward my grateful nose.  Mmmm.  Is there anything better than the smell of baking bread?

I was inspired by this recipe from Saving Addiction, but since I don't have a bread maker (or, as Hubby will tell you, I am the bread maker), I adapted it with the help of good ol' Betty (Crocker, that is).  I noticed the bread recipe was pretty close to Betty's Traditional Roll Dough recipe, so I used that recipe for the dough, and used Saving Addiction's recipe for the filling.

Dough
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. softened butter (or shortening or margarine)
1 t. salt
1 pkg (2 1/4 t) dry yeast
1/2 c. very warm (120-130 degrees) water
1/2 c. very warm (120-130 degrees) milk
1 egg

Filling
egg white
1/4 c. melted butter
1/3 c. sugar mixed with 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • Mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar shortening, salt and yeast in a medium bowl. 
  • Add warm water, warm milk, and egg. 
  • Beat on low speed 1 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. 
  • Beat on medium speed 1 minute scraping bowl frequently. 
  • Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. 
  • Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. 
  • Place in greased medium bowl and turn greased side up.  Let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until double. 
  • Punch down dough.  Roll or flatten into a 9 x 18 inch rectangle. 
  • Brush with egg white.  Brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. 
  • Starting with one 9 inch side, tightly roll dough, pinching edge firmly to seal.  Place, seam side down, in greased loaf pan.  Cover and let rise until double, 30-45 min. 
  • Brush with melted butter.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until loaf are golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
    Uh, mom, why are you taking
    pictures of the bread?
    For an extra special treat, use this bread to make French toast...that is, if it lasts long enough :)
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