Sunday, July 27, 2014

16 Months: Letters

Well, everyone in our house came down with a cold in the last two weeks (hence why Little Cutie is in her jammies in every picture in this post). Fortunately, that didn't stop us from learning about letters two weeks ago! (Just delayed mom in posting about it!) The goal wasn't so much to teach the alphabet, but to just start talking more about the letters that are all around us.

A Is for Adventure by Irene Kilpatrick (The Backyardigans)
Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss
The Alphabet Book by P. D. Eastman
A to Z by Sandra Boynton
ABC (Scholastic Rookie Toddler)
Alphabears by Kathleen Hague
Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin
The Hullabaloo ABC by Beverly Cleary
My First ABC: A Lift the Flap Book (DK)
I Spy Little Letters by Jean Marzollo
Discover Letters: The Alphabet in Nature (Baby eyelike)

LeapFrog Fridge Phonics
Little Cutie has always loved this toy. She likes to push the button that sings the ABC's. But she usually doesn't let the song go all the way through, so it just says "A...A...A..." She does like to change out the letters and dances to the tune.

Magnetic Learning: Let's Learn our First Words
I knew this would be too advanced for Little Cutie, but we played with it anyway. She liked putting the letters on the pages and making them stick. We talked about what the pictures were on the pages and played with the magnets.

Mini Foam Alphabet
I found this little alphabet at the dollar store. Little Cutie likes to take apart our large floor alphabet mat, so I thought this little version would be better for her to play with. She loved to take the squares apart and pop out the letters. We talked about each letter, but she wasn't very interested in putting the letters back in the squares. She also put all the letters in a container and stirred them up with an ice cream scoop. She played with this the most during the week.

Mega Bloks ABC Spell!
Little Cutie loves to build with her Mega Bloks. This set is actually meant to build the words to match the pictures on the blocks, but we mostly just built with the blocks and talked about the letters on them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Prepping for Baby: Freezer Cooking

#2 will be here before we know it. Having the time to make a home cooked dinner for my family will soon become a temporary thing of the past. I decided last week (maybe it was my nesting instinct kicking in) to make some freezer meals ahead of time so we all don't have to suffer too badly after her arrival.

I have not done much freezer cooking before, so I researched different strategies and recipes for freezer cooking before venturing into this unknown territory. I decided for my swollen feet's sake to create one meal type a day, and most likely just to double the recipe of what we already were eating that day anyway.

Day 1: Chicken Parmesan
I found this recipe on Skinny Taste and it is definitely a household favorite. For freezing, I followed all the directions until adding the sauce. I let the chicken cool completely, then put them on a different baking sheet than I used to cook them on to flash freeze in the freezer. (Flash freezing is basically just freezing items individually.) This way, they wouldn't get stuck to the pan. After about an hour, they were completely frozen and I put them in a freezer bag. Though we haven't cooked any of the frozen ones up yet, I would say to let the pieces thaw completely before cooking. Then either put in the microwave until the chicken is cooked and add sauce and mozzarella cheese or if you are making a bunch, put them in the oven and continue the instructions on the recipe site. (I will try to remember to update with what worked for us when we eat these). This will be one meal for us, with some leftovers for lunches.

Day 2: Spaghetti
I found this recipe on A Time to Freeze. I realize spaghetti is one of those recipes that a seasoned cook would probably know how to make, but I didn't know the best way to freeze it. When I was making this recipe, I decided it was a lot of food for our little family, so I split it up between two freezer bags to create two meals.

Day 3: Egg & Sausage Cups
I found this recipe on Once A Month Meals. They call them Mini Sausage Breakfast Quiche, but they are just Egg & Sausage Cups in our household. I have made these in the past for Little Cutie and she gobbles them up! The first time I made them, I used Jennie-O Lean Turkey Breakfast Sausage Roll. This time around, I used Jennie-O Ground Turkey Roll. I think I preferred the ones with the breakfast sausage, but this batch was equally as delicious. I did notice that I always have some extra ground turkey left over after making them. For freezing, just flash freeze and store in freezer bags. These will be for breakfasts or lunches.

Day 4: Lasagna
My husband does not like ricotta cheese, but he loves lasagna, so I was happy to stumble upon this recipe on a while back. On this particular evening, I had already planned for us to have lasagna for dinner, so I just doubled the recipe..sort of. I cooked all 18 noodles together, but my skillet could only handle one batch of the sauce mixture at a time, so I mixed those up separately. For freezing, I lined a glass baking dish with some foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Then I layered the noodles and sauce mixture like the recipe says, and topped with mozzarella cheese. I did not put it in the oven. Next, I sprayed another piece of foil with cooking spray and put it over the top of the lasagna. I put the pan in the freezer and left it in there overnight. The next day, I pulled the lasagna out of the casserole dish, foil and all, (so I can use the dish for other meals in the mean time) and wrapped the lasagna with a few more layers of foil. For cooking day, remove all of the foil and place back in the same casserole dish used when creating it. I would recommend thawing it overnight, but you could certainly put it right in the oven frozen. It just might take longer to cook. This will be one meal for our family, with a few days of leftovers for lunches.

Day 5: Browned Ground Beef
I personally hate browning ground beef, and there are so many recipes where you have to before you can actually make the meal. I decided it would be helpful to have some already browned ground beef on hand for recipes like sloppy joes or tacos. I simply browned it in the skillet like normal and drained the grease. Then I put it into freezer bags and let it cool completely before putting in the freezer. I did mine in one pound batches because most recipes we use call for one pound. I felt like I had wasted space in my freezer bags, but I didn't have any smaller bags on hand. I chose to store mine into rolls because it made more sense space-wise, but you could certainly freeze them flat. This will provide for two meals for our family.

Day 6: Pancakes
These were so easy to make. We were already having pancakes for Sunday breakfast so I just kept on making them after everyone was done eating until I didn't feel like making any more. I used Krusteaz Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancake Mix and just followed the instructions on the bag. For freezing, I laid all the pancakes out individually on some wire cooling racks and waited until they were completely cooled. Then I just took the racks and put them right in the freezer to flash freeze them. After about an hour or so when the pancakes were frozen, I put them into two gallon sized freezer bags. This will provide for one, maybe two, breakfasts.

We calculated that we got at least six dinners out of all this for our family, plus some breakfasts and definitely leftovers for lunches. I hope to make some more freezer meals as long as my wombmate decides to stay in there. I will share them if I do! Anybody have any favorite freezer-friendly recipes to recommend?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

16 Months: Colors

Last week, we focused on colors. In addition to the activities and books, we made sure to talk about colors in everything we did all week, whether it was getting dressed, eating food, or looking at things outside.

Eyelike Colors by PlayBac
Many-Colored Blessings by Dandi Daley Mackall
Elmo's Guessing Game About Colors (Sesame Street)
Shiny Touchy Smelly Colors by Dawn North
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. / Eric Carle
Richard Scarry's Colors by Richard Scarry
My Very First Book of Colors by Eric Carle
Colors by Xavier Deneux
Colors with Albert and Amy by Tony Potter
Brainy Baby Shapes and Colors by Edith Reynolds
Baby Colors (DK)

Harold and the Purple Crayon Coloring Page
We read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson and of course did some coloring with a purple crayon. I created this coloring page simply by scanning one of the pages from the book and printing it out. I think she really liked the purple crayon because it showed up a lot better than some of the other colors we have colored with in the past.

Blue Jell-O Play Dough
Because Little Cutie is still putting things in her mouth, I wanted to find a play dough recipe made from edible ingredients in case she tried to put it in her mouth. I found this recipe using Jell-O and whipped up a batch. It was super easy to make. I was surprised at how long she played with the play dough. We did have to stay close by because she tried to eat some a few times though. We also got out a cookie cutter to make stars in the dough. Daddy was making little people and animals for her and she enjoyed making them move around and tearing their limbs off!

Red Sidewalk Chalk
I recently found two pieces of sidewalk chalk and a holder from the Target dollar spot on clearance for $0.30! I liked that they came with a holder...less mess! Little Cutie thought the chalk was really neat. She even tried drawing on my foot and the flowers. She didn't fully understand the concept of drawing on the concrete though; she occasionally would just hit the sidewalk with the chalk.

Yellow Balloon
We actually got this balloon from a car dealership a little while ago, but it no longer has helium and has seriously decreased in size. Regardless, Little Cutie loved carrying the balloon around the house. We also kicked the balloon around and tossed it up in the air and watched it slowly float down.

Green Bead Discovery Bottle
Little Cutie loved the seashell discovery bottle I put together for her a few weeks ago during our summer theme, so I decided to incorporate one into our color week. I found some green beads randomly a while back and knew these would be perfect, as they are too small for her to handle independently. She loved shaking the bottle and watching the beads whirl around in the water.

Matching Poms in Stacking Cups
I really wasn't expecting her to be able to match the poms correctly in the stacking cups, but it allowed us an opportunity to talk about the different names of the colors. She did get one out of six correct though!

I was featured for Tot School!

Monday, July 7, 2014

16 Months: Fourth of July

Everything was red, white, and blue last week in honor of America's birthday! We didn't set up the shelves as we were traveling some of the week and didn't have as many activities as we have in the past.

Looking for Uncle Louie on the Fourth of July by Kathy Whitehead 
Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong
Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts
Happy Birthday, America by Mary Pope Osbourne
Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw
God Bless America by Irving Berlin (illustrated by Lynn Musinger)
Hooray for the 4th of July! by Harriet Ziefert

Color an American Flag
This week, we got out some colored pencils to color with. Little Cutie was interested for maybe a minute and then walked away. She only colored with the red. I tried showing her the blue, but she was not interested.

Yankee Doodle Rhyme
This was our song/nursery rhyme for the week. I found the book by Mary Ann Hoberman to follow along with. It ended up going into much more detail than the traditional version of the song that we knew. Little Cutie loves when we read in a sing-songy voice (usually only where there are rhyming books). She dances to the beat and waves her hands.

Red, White, and Blue Bead Necklaces
Little Cutie loved playing with these necklaces. She put them around her neck. She shook the container. She took them out of the container, and put them back in. She dragged them all over the house. They were definitely a favorite of the week.

Red, White, and Blue Pom Chute
I taped an old paper towel tube to the wall and got some red, white, and blue poms. We started with 3 different sizes, but the large ones were too big to fit in the tube, and Little Cutie put the small ones in her mouth right away, so we just stuck with the medium sized poms. She wasn't real interested in this activity, but we had her attention for a few minutes.

We hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July weekend!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

15 Months: Summer

Summer is officially here! We exposed Little Cutie to a lot of seashells and water for our summer theme. Here were our shelves:

A Day at the Beach (Dora)
Bunny at the Beach (Usborne)
Bebe Goes to the Beach by Susan Middleton Elya
Let's Look at Summer by Sarah Schuette
Signs of Summer by Colleen Dolphin
The Seasons
Baby Loves Summer! by Karen Katz
Seaside by Roger Priddy
At the Beach by Anne Rockwell

Watering Flowers
This one was more of a challenge for Little Cutie than I thought it would be. I think it was because there wasn't a good place for her to hold her little watering can. I showed her how to pour the water onto the flowers. I think she watered more of the sidewalk than the flowers, but that's okay. She was giggling the whole time.

Paint with Water
Because Little Cutie is still putting things in her mouth, I wanted to expose her to some painting, minus the mess of the paint. These paint with water books are great, but I have not been able to find them in the stores. I just tore out a page of a book that I had when I was little. She loved using a new utensil and dipping the paintbrush in the water. I wish I had a smaller brush for her little hands, but we used what we had.

Shells in a Wipes Container
Little Cutie loved putting the shells into the wipes container. She loved to hear the "clink" sound they made when they went in and hit the other shells. And of course, she started to put the shells in her mouth.

Craft Foam Ice Cream
This one was just for fun. Little Cutie had never touched craft foam before so I cut out some ice cream and cone shaped pieces for her to play with. No real agenda here, just open ended play. I made 2 cones and 6 scoops of ice cream. She liked to pick them up one at a time and carried them all over the house. At one point, I saw her putting them inside her watering can. She also liked to chew on the craft foam (will this stage of putting everything in her mouth ever end?!).

Seashell Discovery Bottles
I want to expose Little Cutie to so many new things, but I feel limited in what I can do because she still puts things in her mouth. I found the idea for discovery bottles on Pinterest and decided to make some with the shells this week. I put three shells in two bottles and filled them with water. She thought they were sooo cool! The shells clinked together when she shook them.

She Sells Seashells Tongue Twister
We have been trying to incorporate a nursery rhyme or song with each week's theme. This week the tongue twister She Sells Sea Shells seemed appropriate. I couldn't find a book with the words at the library, so I just created my own and printed it out. You can get a copy HERE. (it folds into quarters)

Big Bath Tub
We have been using the infant/toddler tub for bath time with Little Cutie since she was born. But in keeping with our summer theme, we decided to fill up the big tub and let her explore in the water with about 5 times the amount of toys we usually have in the tub. She played with rubber ducks, Alex Quacky Cups, a watering can, and even the craft foam ice cream made its way into the tub. She may have been a little wrinkly when she got out.