Monday, February 28, 2011

Ready to “POP” gifts…

IMG_4145 This post provides a solution to two quandaries…
#1. A delicious recipe to make for Peanut Butter Lovers Day – March 1st!
#2. An adorable gift for anyone assisting you with the birth of your child!
First up, the recipe, courtesy of Our Best Bites yet again!! Follow the link on the recipe title to their beautiful pictures of the delicious snack!
Solution #1: Recipe
Recipe by Our Best Bites
I halved the recipe and used one microwave bag of popcorn. I also used the reader suggestion of substituting half the peanut butter chips with chocolate chips. Therefore, the popcorn will look more chocolatey in my pics. When I make more, I’ll definitely use the full recipe and may try it as is..particularly for PB Lovers Day! =)
Also helpful? Don’t use a nearly expired bag of microwave popcorn! I came across an unfortunate number of un-popped seeds in my snack. =( Boo! I’ll fix that before presenting it as gifts.
2 bags of Simply Salted (or similar) popcorn (or about 20 cups of popped popcorn)
2 c. honey roasted peanuts
3 c. peanut butter chips (I used Reese's)*
2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips *
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or oil
*I LOVED this suggestion from one of our readers. If you want more chocolatey flavor in your popcorn, substitute 1 c. of the peanut butter chips with 1 c. of chocolate chips and then still drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn at the end.
Place the peanuts popped popcorn in a very large bowl. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and vegetable oil or shortening and heat for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted peanut butter chips over the popcorn and peanuts and toss to combine.
Spread the popcorn onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. In a Ziploc bag, heat the semi-sweet chocolate chips until just melted and smooth (about 1-1 1/2 minutes, mashing the bag every 20-30 seconds). Cut a small corner in the Ziploc bag and drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn. (2 helpful hints - #1: I was thrilled to find that putting the bag in the microwave was not a problem at all! and #2: cut a SMALL hole in the bag, I cut mine too big initially and had clumps of chocolate instead of a pretty drizzle.) Allow to stand long enough to become solid (you can transfer the pan to the fridge or freezer to hurry this step along). When done, break the popcorn into small pieces and enjoy!
Solution #2: The Adorable GiftIMG_4142  My husband rolled his eyes several times when it came to this adorable creation. Eyeroll #1? When I purchased the Popcorn containers on sale at Michael’s. Didn’t know for sure how I was going to use them, but soo cute and would of course make a fantastic gift somewhere down the line.
Eyeroll #2? Why on EARTH would I go to so much trouble to create something for people such as my OB and the nurses who are assisting with my delivery. My response? Why on EARTH would I not? Are they not incredibly instrumental in my support and comfort in one of the most rare and precious moments of your life? =) I’ll also probably make some for my family watching my son at home (sorry to ruin the surprise folks, hehe). AND…was it really THAT much trouble? Umm, no. Fun really!
All I did was wrap the delicious treat in cellophane, tie it closed with some pretty tulle, and attach an adorable print-out as so…IMG_4141 How fun! And if anything, it’s helping distract me as the countdown begins…10 days and counting!
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“Big Brother” Basket

Trick of the Trade #9: 
How to attempt to prepare for the arrival of a sibling
With baby #2 due in two weeks…I’ve been contemplating ways to make the transition for my son, 27 months old, as smooth as possible. We’ve been talking about the arrival of baby Allie and about how she will be living with us, he sees her room and where she will sleep, we’ve discussed how she will ride next to him in the car, and we’ve talked about ways he can help to be a big brother – such as, helping get things for mommy, getting toys for baby sister, etc.
Of course the big concern is that he will feel left out and taken over by this new little life. So, I put together a little “Big Brother Basket” with toys for him when he starts feeling this way, because let’s face it…regardless of how prepared child #1 is, they are going to feel let down at some point in the transition!
Here’s what I have been collecting over the course of the last 3-4 months:
Gift #1: The Complete Adventures of Curious George with Audio CD’s
038255This is the gift that baby Allie will be “giving” Cooper upon arrival to the hospital. I figured he’d enjoy listening to them in the car on the way home with grandparents. It will give him something to look forward to. Also, we took him to build-a-bear (well, our local Hobby Town’s version of it) to have him make a bear for Allie. So he’ll be bringing her a gift to the hospital as well, and I’ve been telling him that Allie will have a gift for him as well. So he’s anticipating that, what fun! Here’s the bear he made for her, along with his wrapped gift.IMG_4090  Oh, and two more fun little tidbits! We purchased a recordable device to put in the bear that when pressed, you hear Cooper saying, “I love you, Allie!” Precious…truly precious! Also, I bought Big Brother, Little Sister shirts that I patterned the gift tags off of, see?IMG_4084 IMG_4087 Not sure how the photo ops will work out with these, but…I’ll let you know! =)
Gift #2: Hi Ho Cherry-OIMG_4057
Cooper is beginning to enjoy games, and I thought maybe this could be something I could do while nursing? MAYBE? Worth a shot!
Gift #3: Pirate Tub ToyIMG_4080IMG_4081
If there’s melt down come a bath time…maybe this will help calm the storm!
Gift #4: Dr. Seuss Lacing Card Kit
Gift #5: Magnetic Fishing Game
Gift #6: Handy Manny Play Phone
Gift #-7: Farm Animals with Sound! IMG_4053 I put them all in a basket and I know from previous experience, he’ll let them sit until I give him the go ahead to pick one out. So, here they are waiting for the fun to begin!IMG_4093 IMG_4094 IMG_4096The last piece of fantastic advice I received this morning in hopes to prep my son as best I can was to begin explaining to him when he needs my help using the phrase, “Mommy’s hands are busy.” At first, I thought…well, I do explain that I’m busy and he USUALLY waits pretty well, BUT…the explanation of why this is so helpful is the emphasis is put on “mommy’s hands”. Translation – blame is not put on baby sister!!  When I do explain, I explain exactly what it is I am doing…and it will most likely involve baby sister nearly all the time now. I can see the bitterness building up already. So, if I say, “Mommy’s hands are busy”, perhaps the bitterness won’t be harbored toward Allie. =) Hey, any and all advice is worth hearing!! I’ll let you know how it goes…hopefully soon!

UPDATE on "Mommy's hands are busy"...yeah, backfired. Maybe it's just my manipulative quick-witted son, but he began using the phrase, "Mom, I can't, my hands are busy" whenever I'd ask him to do something. Good thought though! hehe

Garage Organization

IMG_4075 My husband is being very patient as my nesting instincts kick in with the upcoming arrival of baby #2. I already posted pictures of the nursery…what I hadn’t taken care of yet was organizing all the stuff that had previously been occupying Allie’s closet. My dad assembled a shelving unit I purchased from Home Depot in the garage, and even bolted it to the wall (so it doesn’t fall over once it’s FULL of all my stuff). I finally organized all the tubs and even still have some empty tubs!! How exciting!

Trick of the Trade #8: When organizing, group like things.
This is half my battle of organizing, figuring out “like” things. It seems like it should be obvious, right? Not always. So, I figured I’d share with you the labels I made to get your organization ideas going. My husband gave me quite the eye roll as he watched me “design” the labels for my tubs. I know, it’s silly, but it makes me smile. The small, silly things that make us women happy!
  • Gift Bags: Baby, B-day & Tissue Paper
  • Gift Bags: Neutral, Holiday & Basket Filler
  • Ribbon
  • Random – (Let’s admit it, there’s got to be a place for some “mis-organization”)
  • Grab-and-Go Gifts: Adult - (This tub is for random gifts I pick up or…*gasp* plan to re-gift! Eek! Gifts geared for my friends)
  • Grab-and-Go Gifts: Children - (Same as adult, but for kids this time)
  • Paint Supplies
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Decorations - (Notice, it’s currently empty! Gotta get ‘em out before baby comes and I have no time.)
  • Easter – Decorations - (I actually have 2 tubs for this)
  • Silk Flowers
  • Guest Room Decor - (The leftover chotchkes from what used to be the guest room and is now Allie’s nursery)
  • CARS – Extra Supplies - (This tub holds leftover birthday supplies from my son’s birthday bash)
  • Extra Decorations - (Random holiday supplies that don’t fit in the appropriate tubs)
  • Summer - (Pictured in first picture - This tub holds chalk, sand pails, sunscreen, etc.)
  • MOPS - (Pictured in first picture - Random holiday supplies that don’t fit in the appropriate tubs)
IMG_4078 You may be thinking of many other tubs that should be pictured. Allow me to explain some other “hidden” organization. I have two 4th of July/Patriotic tubs (one in the garage, one under my bed), I have a Valentine’s decorations tub (under my bed), and I also 3 LARGE Christmas tubs in the garage as well as one small one under my bed. Now that I’ve been working on my sewing skills, that will probably soon take over one of the empty tubs shown above.
There you have it ladies…my weak attempt at keeping things properly housed so that I can maintain some form of organization when baby #2 arrives. =)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spicy Sweet and Sour Chicken

IMG_4072 Just tried a new recipe that was a hit with the hubby! Mmm..not terribly difficult or time consuming either. =) (Don’t be overwhelmed by the ingredients list, it is long, but simple ingredients.)


4 tsp. cornstarch, divided

2 T soy sauce, divided

1 tsp. peeled minced ginger

1 tsp. dry sherry (optional)

1/8 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces

½ c. chicken broth

1 T brown sugar

3 T ketchup

2 ½ T rice vinegar

2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand=yum!)

1 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 T canola oil, divided

1 large yellow onion

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 ½ c. diced pineapple

Directions: Combine 2 tsp. cornstarch, 1 T soy sauce, and next 5 ingredients (thru garlic) in a medium bowl.IMG_4059 Add chicken and stir to coat. Set aside. IMG_4060 Combine chicken broth, remaining 2 tsp. cornstarch and 1 T soy sauce with brown sugar thru sesame oil, set aside.IMG_4065 Heat ½ tsp. canola oil over med-high heat. Saute onions and red bell pepper, about 4 minutes, until crisp-tender.IMG_4061 Remove from heat and set aside. IMG_4067 Heat remaining 2 ½ tsp. canola oil; add chicken mixture and spread in even layer in pan. Cook, without stirring 1 minute. IMG_4063 Saute about 3 more minutes until chicken is done. IMG_4069 Return veggies to pan. Add soy sauce mixture, and pineapple, stirring well to combine. Bring to boil, cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. IMG_4070 Makes “8” servings. (umm..maybe in some households? My husband and I ate nearly all of it! Oops!) Goes well with rice noodles or rice.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Silly Faces Game

Oh the “exciting” mix of rainy days and toddlers! I purchased the Silly Faces Colorforms game on a whim at HomeGoods (too good a deal to pass up). Who knew that my son would not only love it, but that it would begin to teach him the initial social rules of playing a game! 

I bring you, Trick of the Trade #7! 
Play games with your kids. It does a kid good.

He is learning to take turns and follow rules. The other fun thing this game encourages (which we had already had silly fun doing) is celebrating our different emotions. We will say to Cooper, “Show us your angry face!” or “Show us your sad face…” and he delights in switching into the different roles. My husband and I get a kick out of doing this because it reminds us of a scene in the movie The Imposters with Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, it’s very off-beat humor, but my husband and I love it. =) Anyhow, back to the topic at hand, it’s good practice for reviewing emotions. Don’t hesitate to try a game out with your child! You never know, they may be more ready than you would’ve thought.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day

So, in staying true to the “purpose” of my blog, I have two thoughts to share on Valentine’s Day regarding building your marriage.

Thought #1:

Celebrate the Past!

My husband and I rarely make a big “to-do” about holidays, particularly Valentine’s Day, and while we still didn’t go overboard this year, we celebrated. And I’m certainly glad we did…allow me to explain.

We did the math and it was our 10 year anniversary celebrating Valentine’s Day together this year. So, our very first romantic Valentine’s date? Kentucky Fried Chicken my friends!! Ha! My poor, adorable husband…we’d only been dating about 2 weeks when we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day, and in his defense, he did plan a very romantic cracker and cheese scenario at the park, where he even played guitar. But, once we wrapped things up there, around 5:30 or 6 in the evening, he casually said, “Where would you like to go to dinner?”

*Ahem*…sorry, you don’t just show up for dinner somewhere on Valentine’s evening!! hehe So, we ended up at KFC. The reason I tell you this, is to help you understand our celebration THIS year.

That’s right ladies (and gentlemen, although I doubt there are any reading this)…we celebrated in STYLE at KFC! IMG_4032I texted my husband this clue to where we would be celebrating:KFC ClueKEN + TUCK (from Bug’s Life…Tuck and Roll?) + E     (the letter e in sign language)

            FRY (from Futurama) + ED (from the cartoon Ed, Edd, & Eddy)


I arrived before him and decorated the table:IMG_4033 I even made “custom” conversation hearts with words significant to us (of course, the really significant ones you can’t see here, but…oh well):IMG_4034 We had a relaxing dinner with our son included. =)IMG_4043 

Thought #2:

Celebrate…with time alone!

IF you have kids…this is crucial. This was all we were planning to do for Valentine’s Day, until the stars aligned and I received a phone call from my in-laws offering to babysit Sunday evening (the night before Valentine’s Day), and I received an e-mail from Sienna (a local restaurant in El Dorado Hills) with their Valentine menu, stating that they still had reservations open.

Cue….Hallelujah music!

I took a hint and made reservations. THEN…here’s the clincher.  The in-laws took them to THEIR house and watched him overnight for us!! Look at how ecstatic our son was to go spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa:IMG_4024 Here’s how our “us” evening went…

Ryan presented me with his gift (prepare for husband bragging…which is also a marriage builder ladies,                R-E-S-P-E-C-T if you don’t know the secret!) He gave me a gift card for dance lessons after baby comes. I’ve been wanting to take ballroom lessons, mmm, basically since we got married. So, HUGELY exciting!

Then, we watched the A-Team (Ryan’s joy, but entertaining I must admit).

Romantic dinner at Sienna. IMG_4027 Then, we went home and enjoyed watching Predators as loud as we wanted, because we had no kid in the house!!

So, to sum it up…even though Valentine’s Day IS the most contrived holiday of them all…take time to dote on the one you love. It doesn’t have to be ON the day, but celebrate somehow!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sweetie Pie Pops

IMG_4014-edited Our Best Bites is helping me step out of my comfort zone in the kitchen! Follow their link to get the step by step instructions (with pictures) for these adorable Pie Pops. They even have the free labels you see that say “Be My Sweetie Pie”. Couldn’t be easier! My friend and I made over 40 for our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group for Valentine’s Day. What a fun, cheap gift!

Another link you HAVE to check out before you make them is the pie crust recipe over at The Pioneer Woman. I’m not all goo-goo over pie crust, but this recipe is YUM-O!! Even my “chef friend” gave the thumbs up and was impressed at how easy it was.

A few helpful hints, use 6” lollipop sticks (I think they mention this, but, just in case) and the bags we used were 4x6”. I thought for sure that would be too big, but they worked perfectly! Lastly, you really can’t fit very much filling into each pie pop, so go easy, otherwise it oozes out. Also, I didn’t punch holes in mine and they baked perfectly. I used cherry preserves and mini chocolate chips for the filling. The fruit is definitely the way to go! The sweet is divine. =) We tried banana and nutella, but it was a bit dry. Let me know if you try them and how they turn out!IMG_4015-edited

Valentine’s Day Coupon Book

A year of my love My motto is “I’ll test it out for you…”, however, I’m going to fudge the rules on this one a bit. Here’s a link to a super cute Valentine’s Day Coupon Book over at Delightful Order. The reason I’m passing it on without me testing it out is…it’s just not something my husband and I enjoy. BUT, if it were, this one I would use! It’s super cute and reasonable to carry out. The format is giving a coupon for each month of the year. So, enjoy the free printable if this is something that floats your boat. I might save it as an idea down the road. Here’s the idea…there’s a different design for each month, go check it out!a year of my love...opener Happy Valentines Day!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Crayon Roll…aka: I CAN sew!

IMG_4006  I can’t recall if I’ve shared that I received my first sewing machine for Christmas. I was borrowing my poor best friend’s (and breaking parts half the time I borrowed it…sorry friend), and decided it was about time I became acquainted with a machine that was my very own. Then, perhaps I might actually sew more frequently, with less frustration.

IMG_4007So, my first project on my new sewing machine was the valance for my baby girl’s room:IMG_3808 Thankfully, I did have some helpful hands watching over as I made my attempt. But, I was thrilled! It turned out great.

For my next project, I thought I’d try something small, less fabric to destroy in case of total destruction. =) But, the more projects I do, the more comfortable I will become, right?

I found this idea for a Crayon Roll on The Pleated Poppy. Adorable, and maybe will actually get my son to enjoy coloring a bit more! I bought the fabric at Joann’s and completed the project in less than half a day! Not too shabby. I didn’t include step by step instructions, those you can find at the link for the Pleated Poppy above.


2 pieces of same fabric for outside and inside – 5″ x 16 1/2″

1 piece of coordinating fabric for pocket – 6″ x 16 1/2″

1 piece of flannel for lining (color doesn’t matter)– 5″ x 16 1/2″

1 coordinating hair elastic

1 button

needle and thread

1 box of 16 crayons

disappearing ink fabric marker

I will share the two steps that gave me a little hesitation (my motto here on rookietorockstar is I’ve tested it…otherwise, I won’t share). Here’s the final product:

IMG_4008-corrected IMG_4007



Step #1: Sewing down the hair elastic.

A hair elastic is thick, people. So, to get it to pass under the sewing machine foot is a bit tricky. But, once you get it, it’s no biggie. Just be persistent (and in my case, using the same color thread as the fabric helped hide any imperfections).

Step #2: Sewing on the button.

I believe they call this an “invisible stitch”? I realized I couldn’t just go through the fabric, because that would sew the pocket closed behind it. So, you have to just catch some fabric as you sew. I was worried because the button obviously needs to be pretty sturdy with toddler fingers pulling at it. But, after lots of stitches, it seems to be pretty sturdy.

Other than that…the project went pretty flawlessly with the instructions provided over at The Pleated Poppy! Yay, another sewing project under my belt. I bought extra fabric and plan to make more for a few friends. Fun, fun! Don’t be shy about sewing ya’ll…just give it a go, like me. If I can do it, you can, trust me!