Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kids: Family Board Games

My son has really gotten into board games recently and he has been picking his favorites.  They are often changing but we have been playing them everyday over and over.  It is usually the same game over and over but some days we pull them all out of the game closet.  Some of them are old from when I was little and others are games that we bought before we had kids and a few were gifts to our little guy.

Check out our game closet!  It is jammed full of different games and we keep the ones that are his favorites and age appropriate on the bottom shelves so that he can reach them himself.  This closet is in our guest bedroom and we have so many games fit in there that there isn't a lot of extra room.  We even have a pile of adult games in the other closet in the room too!!  We are a game family so we look forward to a time where we have family game night!

Here are some of my four year olds favorite games and a little reason why we all like them:

1.  Candy Land- He has loved this game for awhile and he enjoys moving the cards around and pulling out all of the special cards.  The cards are starting to get a little worn because they aren't standing up to the abuse of a four year old but this is still a favorite game and one that everyone has to finish before he says the game is over.  This one picks the color and doesn't really involve counting higher than two but the color recognition and paying attention is a great skill.  The other thing that we were trying to teach him with this game is that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose but just having fun playing the game.

2.  Chutes and Ladders-  This one is one that he likes to play over and over when he in the mood.  It isn't always a Chutes and Ladders day but when it is, get ready to play over and over because he starts and doesn't want to stop.  When he first started playing this game, it was hard to figure out which way to go on the squares and he was often going backwards and not following the arrows.  Now at four, he likes to follow the arrows but still wants to slide up or down if he lands in the middle of the ladder or slide.  It is one of those rules that is hard to explain because when do you move over and find yourself in the middle of a ladder that you can't climb up.  It does seem to be a strange game when I think about it like a four year old but still a fun one.

3.  Parchessi-  He loves the animals and played this before he wanted to follow rules so he often switched animals in the middle of the game which made it a little confusing for the adults to keep up with the game because we thought we were supposed to change too but couldn't figure out how to do it correctly.  As adults, we were often corrected but it seems that he is much more into the rules now and how to play correctly so we are getting much better at this game.  It is another fun game for counting and colors that they can enjoy being a certain animal while playing the game.

4.  Sorry- He loves counting the number on the dice and moving the different pieces.  He usually decides what person is all of the colors and then we start from there.  It tends to end up working out that someone is drastically in the lead and it always seems to be my little guy!  I am not sure if it is another one of the beginners luck but we play with the easy rules which I have a little trouble remembering so I sometimes have to make them up at the last minute to make sure that they work out best for him.  Make sure you know the rules before you start with someone that likes to follow the rules because they will hold you to whatever you make up because you can't find the answer quick enough.

5. Mastermind- This is possibly his new favorite.  I pulled it out the other day to teach patterns and we can't stop playing it.  He has pulled it out probably at least once a day and when one parent gets sick of it, he makes the other one play!  He also made grandma play it when she came to visit.  He gives some fun clues like that one is a color that starts with a B.  It is really funny because we don't need to give clues but he finds that part very fun.  Of course, what game includes quiet thoughtful time when you are a playing with a four year old?  None!  It is a great one for colors and patterns and a little logic.  I hope that this one helps him think in years to come and we will start playing with even harder directions when he gets older.

6.  Memory Match- We have a few different ones and he loves them all.  My little guy likes to match the things even if he isn't playing the game.  He makes piles and puts the sets together while putting them away at the same time.  I also set up smaller sets of matches so that he doesn't have to do the whole set at the same time.  He used to play a version on the ipad that he really liked so I tried an approximate amount based on the number of matches until he got used to it and then I added more.  We have the old Fronts and Backs from my childhood and he also have Thomas and Toy Story.  I think that we also have a Sid the Science kid still in the package that we haven't even given him.  It is always good to get the ones that would be interesting to your child because they will play with it more often.

7. Yahtzee Junior- We have the regular one too but he likes the pictures of the Mickie characters to play on the card.  We got it at the consignment sale for just a few dollars.  He loves playing with the dice and the board and the pieces even if he isn't playing with the game so I think that we might have already lost some of the pieces but he has really enjoyed it so I guess that it all balances out in the end.  I am sure that we will move up to the regular one too since he loves numbers too but there are some more things on the score card that make the Yahtzee a little more challenging so I might have to make a four year old score card!

8.  Boggle and Boggle Junior-  He actually likes to play with the letters in Boggle more then spelling the words in Boggle Junior but he loves the letters in both and likes to make up words to spell and ask what he just spelled.  Since he was about two, he would take the big boggle out and see if he could make words with the letters.  It was awhile before he could actually make words with it but he spelled his own words which never had any vowels.  Now with Boggle Jr, there are words to spell and they just have to put the dice up to match.  It is a fun one but it doesn't keep his attention for a long time.  I figure that a little time spelling and playing is better than none at all.

9. Go Fish-  We have a One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Go Fish from Doctor Seuss that he really likes to play.  It is just the cards and board with a space for the cards to go but the fun words make it that much more interesting for my little guy.  The cards have the fish in different colors and with different numbers.  Depending on your child's age, you can play the game differently but we started with the cards on the table and now that he is 4, we hold our cards in our hand and ask the other person for a specific card.  He usually ends up makes most of the matches but it is always a fun game.  (Sorry if you can't find this one but I got it through a sale at a school where I had to buy something as a fundraiser long before I had my son).

10.  Tic Tac Toe-  He loves this game on paper or with his crayola dry erase marker set or especially with his Bug Tac Toe that he made on Valentines Day through a foam kit that we got from his bank.  He really enjoys trying to beat the adults and sometimes he does a great job and other times you have to throw in a win or else he is sad.  Here is hoping that we are close to overcoming that and having him take enough time to pay attention before playing.

I hope that you pull out a few games that you might already have to play with your kids and see what they like.  There are a few others that rise to the top which my four year old likes to play with but doesn't really follow the game but still loves to play.  Have you ever played Blokus?

It is a harder strategy game that you have to play four players and put the next piece at the corner last piece.  My son likes taking all the colors and seeing if he can fit every single piece on the board without having any leftover.  I figure that it still uses a little logic and maybe he will learn to play better than the rest of us with the added practice with the board but currently he just likes to play with the pieces and not really play the game.  Do you have any other games that your kids like to play with but not play the game?

I hope that you try out some new games and see what every one's favorite games are in your family!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spicy Sausage and Garlic Penne Pasta

I had to try to make something from the leftovers in the fridge so I decided to make a pasta with the grilled sausage.  After a quick search on pinterest, I found this recipe.  I decided that it was a lot like my olive oil pasta so I was going to take some of their suggestions and turn it into dinner!!

I started by cutting up the sausage that was left over from the BBQ.  It was a Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage.  It was already cooked and ready to go into a new meal.  I love when I can rework leftovers into a new meal because you might not know this about me but I dislike leftovers.  I don't want to heat up the food from the previous day and eat it again (unless it is taco meat because I could probably eat them everyday).  My husband came in and taste tested the sausage and said it was really good!

I have one issue with sausage- I don't like the skin part.  I peeled off the casing from lots of them before throwing them in the pan.  If you don't like them, I hope that you try to take off the casing too :)

I pulled out all of the ingredients and left them on the counter so that I would be ready to throw dinner together whenever my husband and son made it in from playing outside at the neighbors pool.  It is much easier to be prepared then to be pulling things out with greasy hands.  Learned that one the hard way (as you can tell from the greasy handles on my spice cupboard).

I decided to start with the chili oil that I had made previously.  If you would like to make some, it is super easy so check out my original post here.  I added a little extra olive oil and garlic to fill up the pan the way that I wanted. 

I heated up the oil a little and then added the sausage.  I also added a little black pepper and basil.

I cooked them up and since I had so many, I had to dump the first batch into a bowl so that they didn't get burnt while I cooked some more.

I cooked the pasta at the same time.  The one that I was using only took about 8 minutes.  After it was done, I drained it and left it in the pot.

I mixed everything together in the pan to coat the pasta.  I added a little extra olive oil and topped with parmesan cheese.  Here is the finished product ready for dinner. 

It was super tasty and super spicy!  We would totally have this again.  Of course, I have crumbled sausage in the freezer now so it might be a little different next time.  I hope that you try it for yourself with leftover sausage or even worth buying some sweet italian sausage just for this meal!

Spicy Sausage and Garlic Penne

  • 2-4 links Sweet Italian Sausage (any sweet variety should do)
  • 8-16 oz box of penne pasta (or your favorite type)
  • 1-2 tbsp chili oil
  • 2-6 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • dash of black pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese
  1. Cook sausage if it hasn't been previously cooked.
  2. Slice sausage into desired sized pieces and set aside.  Remove casing if desired.
  3. Cook pasta as directed.
  4. While pasta is cooking, saute minced garlic in chili oil and olive oil.
  5. Add remaining herbs (more red pepper flakes to taste, basil, salt & pepper) to oil mixture plus the cut up sausage and continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently. Add additional olive oil as necessary.
  6. Drain pasta and return to pan.
  7. Add pasta to sausage mixture and toss or stir to coat. Add remaining olive oil as needed and top with parmesan cheese.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Month End Coupon Printing

I used to post this information every month and I haven't posted this information since last year so I thought I would get back to the reminders and list of coupon sites just in case you needed them.  Remember to print coupons because some go away at the end of the month....also remember to check back in a few days and see what new ones have appeared!!

Check the following sites:
This is a good time to remind you to clean out all of the expired coupons and put them in the recycle bin!!  I try to remember to clean out my coupon basket but I usually end up going to the store and realizing that so many are expired that I can't find the ones that I am looking for before I get organized.  Make sure that you get cleaned up so that you can find the coupons you need to save money!!

Make sure you don't miss a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Menu Plan Monday 7/29

Monday- Chicken Fajitas Wraps
Tuesday- French Dip Sliders
Wednesday- Teriyaki Chicken with simple fried rice
Thursday- Buffalo Chicken Wraps
Friday- Pizza or Pancakes
Saturday- Leftovers/???
Sunday- Leftovers/???

I can't believe that it is already August!  I am not sure where the summer is going.  I feel like it just started but I am not enjoying the heat.  Hopefully we can find something that we can do for the hottest month of the summer that involves less cooking inside.  I hope that you are staying cool!!

I cleaned out my fridge, freezer and pantry so I was super happy with how I did in July to use things up.  I went through everything and made a list of what was left for August.  I started planning all the meals for the month and I think that I have enough food to last through the month.  I still have a few days left blank but I am sure that I will fill in the blanks as the week comes along.  I like to leave the weekends open since I never know what we are going to up to in the summer months.  Plus, it gives me the flexibility to change up my week if I need to.  I am pretty excited to have another month of food still left in the house without too much grocery shopping to do.  I am sure that we will have a little shopping through the month to stock up for the coming months but I think that we have enough to make it through for most of the month!!  How does your freezer look??  Are you ready for the rest of summer??

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekly Goals 7/28

I didn't know how this week would go but it looks like it is busy once again.  Luckily, since are over the sickness and totally better, things are getting better.  But that meant that we were really busy and I am wiped out!!! We spent way too much time running around and way too much in the sun.  My sad light Irish skin can't take much more.  I think that my foot tan is even worse this year then it was last year!!  I mostly get red everywhere else and freckle.... my feet are the only parts to tan.  Hope you are staying out of the sun and enjoying the summer.

Last week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family- Lots of time with the family
  • One Man Band Performance- We had a blast and really enjoyed the music and playing instruments
  • Sunnyland music Performance- We had a bigger blast and really enjoyed the music and my little guy played the jug and a bunch of other instruments and posed for some pictures :)
  • Polkas You Can Dig Performance- It was an interesting and different performance.  Mine got to wear the train conductor because he noticed that he was so into Thomas the train!!
  • Storytime or Archeology Museum- We went to the museum and hung out with our friend in the Printmaker shop.  My little guy had a blast!
  • Playdate with a friend at the park- I am starting to loose track of my schedule with what this was supposed to be but we went to the park between Sunnyland Music and Polkas and had a picnic.
  • My Gym Camp- My little guy had a blast and would have stayed all day if I let him!!
  • Go to Spray Park and playground- We were at the playground and spray park from 9:30 until 4:00pm.  I am exhausted and got way too much sun.
  • Show at Mason District park (if it is not too hot)- Great weather and we were out to enjoy a new music group- Grandson's Junior.  My son likes to already know the songs so it was a little slow going because he didn't know the song but he bopped his head to one and was entertained by the Button Factory song which is funny because my cousin used to sing it to him all the time when he was
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I cut all my coupons last weekend!!  I was pretty excited to get all caught up!
  • Get coupons on Friday- My husband got mine because I totally forgot it was Friday!!
  • PT for TMJ- It is my second to last appointment and I am sad to be done but glad to be feeling better.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I shut off the computer most of the times that we left the house and every night.
  • Continue to read The New Good Life by John Robbins- I have been working on reading the book and it has taken me a little while with everything going on and the fact that I am exhausted at night and can't make that much progress.
  • Read next book in the pile when done (if I finish this week)- Started reading the next book on Saturday.
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I cleaned up everything and it felt like the kitchen was more of a mess and we used even more dishes this week but I think that it was just that I wanted to clean up less :)
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I did clean the dishes one night and get the kitchen totally cleaned up early in the week but it is all a blur.  I also got everything cleaned up on Friday night to start off the week right...most the rest of the week, it was impossible for me to stay awake long enough to clean them.
Blog Goals

  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- Done
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Done (some for month end)
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family
  • Tangle of Tales puppet show
  • Swimming with friends
  • Dentist appointment for little man
  • Uno, Dos, Tres con Andres music performance
  • My Gym Camp
  • Show at Mason District park (if it is not too hot)
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Continue to read The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann
  • Read next book in the pile when done (if I finish this week because it is over 400 pages)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals

  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chocolate Bundt Cake from a box mix

I had a picnic to go to and I was in charge of dessert.  Umm, fresh out of ideas!!  After cleaning out the cupboard and avoiding cooking, I decided that I was going to use a box cake mix because I wasn't really in the mood for coming up with a new recipe.  Then, I came up with a new recipe.  I looked on pinterest and found a recipe to change a box cake mix into a pound cake which sounded yummy.  If you are interested in reading the original recipe, click here

I had all the ingredients and I was ready to bake.  I decided to use my tulip pan.  Do you like it?

I had a triple chocolate cake which is one of our favorites.  I got it on sale super cheap at one of the last Harris Teeter sales.  I had a box of pudding that my mom gave me which was vanilla...we prefer chocolate so it was sitting with no purpose.  I also had a yummy chocolate glaze. 

I put the cake and the pudding mix into the bowl and mixed them up.

Then I added the liquid ingredients to the bowl.

I mixed my with a fork and didn't use my big Kitchen Aid mixer because I thought it was a little overkill for a thin cake batter.

I prepared the bundt pan with Bakers Joy floured cooking spray.  I normally use Cake Release from Wilton but I decided to try the new toy that I had in the cupboard from my couponing.  It worked great.

I poured the cake mix into the prepared pan and baked.

When it comes out, it looks like this.  I thought it looked pretty chocolate even though I used a vanilla pudding.

I turned it out on a container that I could carry the cake to the picnic.  Can you see the tulips and the leaves?

Is this a better picture of the tulips?

Then it was time to coat it with the chocolate glaze.  The glaze was super easy to use because you just microwaved it and then shook it and microwaved it again.  I poured it right on top and had my finished cake for the picnic.

Everyone enjoyed the cake and this is all that was left after the picnic.

Then, I got to have a piece the next day.  It was super yummy and I wanted to take a fork to the rest of the cake.

I enjoyed the cake and I know that you will too.  It was super moist and perfect thickness.  I know that I am going to make it again soon (especially since I still have all the ingredients in the pantry).

If you want to check out the original post, make sure you do that here.  She does here recipe a little differently so feel free to mix the directions to what works best for you.  I hope that you make this yummy cake for your friends and family.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

  • 1 box cake mix
  • 1 box (3.4 oz ) instant pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil

Mix all together until well blended. Pour batter into greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Let sit in pan ten minutes before turning out on to a plate or platter. Top with powdered sugar, glaze or fruit.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Homemade Pancake Mix and Fluffy Pancakes

I decided that when I would run out of pancake mix that I would start making my own.  I try to make most things from scratch because it is cheaper and a little more healthy to know exactly what is in your food.  I made one batch and we didn't love it.  I bought more pancake mix.  Oh well!  I just don't have a lot of chances with my family so I figured that I would be stuck with pancake mix forever. 

Well, we ran out of the mix again and I wasn't going to the store to get another one but my sick son requested pancakes for dinner.  You gotta have what you want when you are sick right?  I went searching on pinterest and opened up at least 20 different recipes.  I finally went with one on Jamie Cooks It Up.  Check out her blog and see all the great pictures with this recipe.

I finally picked one with all the things that I already at the house and that showed the beautiful finished pancakes.  I pulled out all the ingredients to make sure that I had them to make the pancake mix.  I also pulled out one of my handy tupperware bowls that I was going to mix and store in.  Super excited because I had everything to make the pancakes that my son requested for dinner!

Then I measured the flour into the bowl.  It filled up most of the bowl so I was glad that I grabbed the middle sized bowl instead of the small one that I first picked up.

I had a little helper who dumped the rest of the dry ingredients into the flour.  If you look closely you will see the whiter ingredients on the top of the pile.

My little helper mixed up all the ingredients with a fork.  Doesn't it look pretty?  Okay, it sort of looks boring at this point but you can store this on the counter or in the pantry just like pancake mix from the store.  It is ready to use at any point for a yummy pancake dinner or breakfast.

Of course, I was going straight to the pancakes tonight because we were ready to eat.  I pulled out all the ingredients and found that we were just a little bit short on the milk so I sent a quick text to my husband on what we needed and where he should get it (since it was on sale).  I always try to follow it exactly the first time that I make it and we needed it for the next morning for my son.  He grabbed what we needed at the store while I was in a holding pattern at the house.  This gave me plenty of time to take out my fancy batter bowl that I never use (got it as a wedding present) because I always use a plastic measuring cup....same as my mom.  I guess we are simple folks and don't go for the fancy stuff but I was glad to use this nice buttercup batter bowl (for maybe only the second time in 9 years).

I measured the pancake mix into the batter bowl first.

My helper was wondering why it was taking so long and I explained that we were waiting for Daddy to come home with the groceries.  He is either scratching his head in confusion or just trying to look cute for the camera.... one will never know.

The groceries came home...okay so did Daddy so I lost my helper (thank goodness) and gained the milk.

I put all of the milk into the bowl and mixed.  I wasn't sure if I should put all the wet ingredients in and then mix or mix after each one so I made it up.

I cracked the egg into the measuring cup from the milk and mixed it up a little.

I melted the butter in the microwave...watching carefully and for the first time in ages, it didn't explode all over the microwave.  YEAH!!!

I added the eggs to the mixture.

Then the butter.

I mixed it up until there weren't too many lumps.  I used butter on the pan to start but I always have trouble keeping up the speed making pancakes with re-greasing the pan with butter so I quickly switched to the nonstick spray.  The pancakes cooked up nicely and get bubbles in them.  They started to brown around the edge and then I flipped them.

I got a big plate full of pancakes and we were ready for dinner.

We ate them very quickly so I decided to make a second batch.  I mixed all of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients at the same time.  The batter ended up a little runnier then the first so it might have been the mixing or maybe I was a little heavy on the milk since it was a really full gallon.  I made a bunch of plain pancakes and then I made what my husband calls dessert pancakes since they are like cookies.  I just added the chocolate chips.  If you want to make sure that the chips are into the batter and not sitting on top to burn when you flip them, just press your finger on them and push them into the batter.  If you are a neater person, you can also use the back of a spoon or fork.  It puts a little bit of the batter on the top and then the chocolate chips stay in the batter and super yummy!

The second side cooked up really quick since the pan was getting super hot so I did have to continually reduce the heat so I wasn't burning the pancakes.

I got a whole other helping of pancakes ready to eat and I think that the family started slowing down because we didn't eat a lot of the second batch.  But I ate one while I was finishing a batch in the kitchen.  See the yummy chocolate chips!!

I had some extras so I put a few in the fridge for my son for breakfast the next day and then the rest went into a big sealed bag and into the freezer.  I love having the pancakes at the ready when my son wants a few because they make a really yummy breakfast, lunch or dinner to pull out on a moments notice.  If you look closely, you can see that these are thinner then the first batch so feel free to make the pancakes exactly how your family likes to eat them.  I like them thinner and my husband likes them son said that he likes them both!!

I hope that you try the recipe to and see how you like it!!  Make a double batch and freeze a few.  I promise that you will be happy when you can quickly cook up a few in the microwave on a weekday for breakfast.  I know that I always am!!

If you want to make yours, here are the recipes.  First for the dry mix and second how to make them into pancakes.  If you want to check out the original recipe, click here.  Jamie Cooks It Up has her own great pictures and even has a printable label that you can put on canning jars with how to make them.  It would be great for your pantry or for a gift.  I am always on the lookout for a great gift.  Put this mix in a canning jar with the beautiful label and add a spatula on the side and you have a great gift for anyone through the whole year!!

6 C flour
4 T baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
6 T sugar

1. To make the Pancake Mix find a large bowl and add 6 cups flour, 4 tablespoons baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 6 tablespoons of sugar.
2. Grab a fork and stir. You want to be sure it gets well combined.
3. Store in a sealed container- either covered bowl or canning jars work great.


1 1/3 C pancake mix
1 C milk
1 egg, beaten
2 T butter, melted
1. In a small mixing bowl, add 1 1/3 cup of pancake mix, and 1 cup milk.
2. Crack and egg into a small bowl or measuring cup (from the milk). Take a fork and whisk the egg up until it's nice and frothy. Add it to the bowl. Whisk the ingredients together just until combined.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add to the bowl. Stir until everything is combined.
4. Heat up a griddle and rub just a bit of butter over the top of it or use non stick cooking spray
5. Pour the batter out (about 1/4 cup for each pancake) onto the hot griddle. Allow the pancakes to become golden along the bottoms. Flip them over and let them cook on the other side.

Note:  Made these again and I only had one egg left but I knew that we needed a little more than one batch from the last time I made them because they were so yummy.  I decided to increase the milk to 1 2/3 c and 2 1/2 T butter a little to add more pancake mix.  I used 2- 2 1/2 cups of mix and mixed it all up.  It was a little thinner than I wanted (or remembered from last time) so I added a little more pancake mix and mixed up to 2 1/2.  It was a just as yummy as the first time and we had enough for dinner!! I now make it this way all the time!!

Shared at  SNF Recipe Link Party