Friday, July 29, 2011

Quick Authentic Italian Pizza Crust

Homemade Mushroom Pizza
I love homemade pizza and am always looking for tasty, quick, and easy recipes.  I got this yummy pizza crust from a cookbook I bought while on vacation in Italy. It is called 30-Minute Italian by Fran Warde.  I usually make a whole wheat pizza crust. However, I had to try this one when I realized it only uses three ingredients and the pizza crust does not use yeast. It is called Quick Pizza Base. My family loved it and my husband said it was so good he would have been happy about his purchase if we bought it at a restaurant. I have to say, I would agree. It was one of the best pizzas I have made.

preparation time 10 minutes
cooking time about 10 minutes
makes 4 small pizzas or 1 large pizza


250 g/8 oz (1 cup) self-rising flour
1 teaspoon salt
150 ml/1/4 pint (1/3 cup) warm water


1. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix well.  Slowly add the water and mix to form a soft dough. When it has bound together, mix the dough with your hands into a ball. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and soft.

2. Divide the dough into 4 and, with your hands (flour your hands well) and a rolling pin (I did not use a rolling pin), flatten it as thinly as possible - or make one large square or circle (this is what I did). The pizza rounds do not have to be exact circles as that is one of the charms of making your own pizzas! Make the pizzas just a bit smaller than your serving plates and as thin as you can.

That is it!  Then add your toppings and bake in a preheated oven, 230C (450F) for approximately 10 minutes or until golden and sizzling.

I made mine simple and put tomato sauce, mushrooms, sprinkled some Italian herb seasoning, a little garlic salt, and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese.  If you want to make it more Italian-like, put sliced mozzarella cheese rather than shredded. On a hot day, serve with Italian Ice Tea. Guten Appetit!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dot Paint is Fun!

I bought my son the Alex Toys Dot and Dashes Paint Set and Do-A-Dot Book: Discovering My World. He loved dot painting. I don't like messes and was not sure how this would turn out. Well, dot paint was not messy and my 2 year old had a blast painting with it. In fact, he even stayed mostly inside the lines. I was very impressed! I recommend dot paint to anyone with a young child learning how to paint and draw.

A fun, mess-free, indoor activity

First dot paint picture. Love it!

How do you get your kid to eat more vegetables? 10 tips and tricks to eating more vegetables!

Getting your child to eat more vegetables seems to be a common problem among many parents.  That is why Social Moms is teaming up with Sarah Matheny, author of “Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love,” to find out what are some mom's best tips and tricks to getting their kids to eating more vegetables!

My son eats a variety of fruits and vegetables. Here are my top 10 tips and tricks to getting your child to eat more vegetables.

1. Offer a variety of vegetables.  Just because you don't like something doesn't mean your child won't like it.  Don't limit the vegetables to just peas and carrots.  Offer broccoli, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, etc.

2. Continue to offer a vegetable even if it's been rejected.  Just because your child rejected a certain vegetable one night doesn't mean they'll reject it another night.  Some books suggest that a child has to try something up to 10 times before they acquire a taste for it.

3. Encourage your child to try at least one bite of everything on their plate.  My mom used this trick on me and my siblings growing up.  After having to eat asparagus a number of times growing up, I now like it.

4. Add sauces and dressings.  I used to not like lettuce until I found a dressing I liked.  At first I would put a lot of dressing on it, now I use very little salad dressing.  Also cheese sauce on vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus can make them more appealing to children and grown-ups.

5. Try everything you put in front of your child.  If you expect your child to eat tomatoes then you should try them too. 

6. Serve small courses.  Bring out small courses of food starting with the food your child is least likely going to like - even if it's just one or two bites.  When they are hungry they are more likely to eat foods they normally would refuse.  End with the foods you know they like.

7. Add vegetables to their favorite foods.  Add pureed pumpkin to the pancake mix.  Saute broccoli and put it in the macaroni and cheese.Add shredded zucchini and carrots to muffins.  There are many ways to add extra vegetables to foods they already like.

8. Give nicknames to their food.  Calling broccoli baby trees and cauliflower baby white trees can make the food seem more enticing.  

9. Puree soups.  If your child refuses certain vegetables, add it to a soup and blend it smooth.  Most kids like pureed soups.

10. Change up the way you prepare the vegetables.  Don't always prepare the vegetables the same way. Some kids like certain vegetables raw, while others like them cooked.  For example, my son doesn't like cooked carrots but he loves them raw.  Your child may prefer tomato sauce over raw tomatoes.  

The most important thing when trying to get your child to eat more vegetables is to not give up.  Take it one day and one meal at a time.  Continue to offer healthy choices and over time your child will eat more vegetables.  I would love to hear from you.  How do you get your child to eat more vegetables?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Peas and Thank You blogging program for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Make your own fraction circles

He was super excited about these!
Is two too young to start learning fractions? I personally don't think so. =)  I'm always looking at ways to save on educational games and activities.  I bought some foam sheets for a craft I am planning on doing with the Moppets (preschoolers) in my MOPS (Mother's of Preschool) group.  I am in charge of Moppets this coming year and am planning on doing some cool things with that.  But until then I was thinking, what else could I do with them? Then it hit me, I could make some fractions!  My son loved them! He's only two so he doesn't necessarily get what a fraction is, but they were an instant hit and he loved putting the pieces together.  

Here's how to make fraction circles.  I took 4 colors (green, yellow, blue, and white) of foam sheets and drew a circle on each one.  I left one circle whole, cut one in two, another in three, and the last one in four.  I wrote on the circle pieces what they represent (1/1, 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4).  Then I explained it to my son and let him put the pieces and colors together.  I would say something like, "this is one-half of a circle.  If you have two halves and put them together that makes one circle."  He also counted the different color pieces and enjoyed playing with them.  There are a lot of ways you can use this inexpensive learning tool.  Eventually I'll make more fraction circles but I thought four was plenty to start out with.  If you have an older child they would get even more out of this activity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 7

Dinner - Rotini Alfredo with peas
We have completed Day 7!  For the first time in my life I have kept a food diary and have kept track of eating five colors of food a day for one week. I am pleased to announce that we did it! It takes some planning but I tried to keep the meals simple and allowed room for us to eat out occasionally.

Today was easy.  As you can see below we ate all of our colors by lunch time. When you can combine fruits and vegetables it makes things easier. If you read all of my posts you will notice that everyday we ate dried cranberries. At the moment, that is one of my son's favorite foods. That and almond milk. I hope I gave you a few suggestions for eating different fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.  

A really great book about eating five fruits and vegetables is called Gimme Five! by Nicola Graimes. I bought it at a bookstore in Ireland (it's British) and am not sure where you can buy one in Germany or the States. The book gives a lot of information on the nutritional needs of children, the nutrients found in the different fruits and vegetables, and has some great recipes. An example of something I didn't know - children need 3 fruits and 2 vegetables per day, while adults should eat 2 fruits and 3 vegetables. If you are unable to find Gimme Five! then you could try Five-a-Day Fruit and Vegetables Cookbook by Kate Whiteman or another book like it.

Day 7

Breakfast: cereal and blueberry, strawberry, and banana almond milk smoothie

Lunch: carrot sticks, chopped cucumbers, and cheese pizza 

Snack: goldfish crackers, dried cranberries, and yogurt

Dinner: Pasta with homemade Alfredo sauce, green peas, and baked cheese sticks

Blue/Purple: blueberries
Green: cucumbers, green peas
Red: cranberries, strawberries
Yellow: bananas
Orange: carrots

Read more:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 
Day 5 
Day 6

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Create a Sensory Box

Green / Letter Gg Sensory Box
I have been wanting to create a sensory box for a while and finally did. A sensory box is a box or container filled with different objects, colors, scents, and textures. We have been having some crazy weather in Germany these past few weeks and have gotten more rain this summer than the past two. The parks near our house turn into mud pits because of all the sand. It can get easy to run out of things to do with a 2 year old so I decided to make a sensory box. Here is how to create a sensory box using dyed rice.

You can put anything you want as the base of a sensory box. I bought 10 lbs of rice and dyed 9 cups green - so between 4-5 lbs. You can also use pasta and dye it, water, or anything else that would be fun to play with. A few weeks ago we started doing the Hooked on Phonics for Preschoolers, which gives a good review of the alphabet and the phonic sounds.  My son has been obsessed with letters since around 17 or 18 months when he started noticing letters on signs when we went out. He still loves our letter games but I wanted to do something more with him. I did some research and decided to buy the Hooked on Phonics for Preschoolers. Although it's pretty basic, at least it has him attempting to write the letters (fine motor skills) and reinforces of the phonic sounds (which will help him learn to read). Since we were on the letter "G," I decided to dye the rice green the day before.  I filled the box with objects that started with "g" or were green.  My son had a blast digging through the rice and looking at all the objects.  One of his favorite books lately has been Goodnight Gorilla so I brought that out as well. 

The only downside of this activity is that rice will get everywhere, unless your child is older and/or understands better than mine.  I had to remind him several times to keep the rice in the container and on the blanket.  He wanted to put it rice everywhere!  Thankfully he did pretty well except when I left to get my camera upstairs, he put a few handfuls on our couch.  Besides having to stay near him while he played, this was a great activity for him. 
How To dye rice: Put dry rice in a large bowl, add about a teaspoon at a time of rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of food coloring, mix and adjust coloring as needed. Dry on wax paper for at least an hour before storing. I got this idea from Totally Tots

I had to make two batches for 9 cups

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 6

Lunch - salad with fish sticks
Today turned out good on our food challenge.  We ate lunch out again today. This time we went to one of our favorite places in our small town, a guest house. I ordered a salad. Salads are very popular in this part of Germany and usually include some kind of legumes or meat. While my husband did not order a salad for lunch, he did eat a few bites of mine giving him a small dose of the raw nutrients. My son tried a few bites of my food but only wanted fish sticks and some of his dad's fries. You can't win everyday.

Day 6

Breakfast: cereal and bananas

Snack: strawberry fruit stick

Lunch: Guest Haus Restaurant in town - salad with fish sticks

Snack: cheese, purple and green grapes, dried cranberries, cheerios

Dinner: 7 Bean soup - with split peas, purple, red, black, white beans, and tomatoes, homemade whole wheat corn bread, and rice

Blue/Purple: purple and black beans, purple grapes
Green: split peas, lettuce, cucumbers, green grapes,
Red: cranberries, tomatoes, strawberries, radishes
Yellow: bananas, white beans, corn
Orange: carrots

Read more:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 
Day 5

Monday, July 18, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 5

Beans and Rice
Just two days left and we will have eaten at least 1 of the 5 main colors of fruits and vegetables a day for a week.  Here is what we ate today.

Day 5

Breakfast: sweet potato pancakes, kiwi, and yogurt

Snack: crackers, cheese, cranberries, and dried strawberry fruit stick (all natural)

Lunch: Burger King (not my favorite but we were running errands) - chicken nuggets, cheeseburger, and french fries (they were out of the apple slices)

Snack: banana and rice pudding

Dinner: 7 Bean soup - with split peas, purple, red, black, white beans, and tomatoes, homemade whole wheat corn bread, and rice

Blue/Purple: purple and black beans
Green: kiwi, split peas
Red: cranberries, tomatoes, strawberries
Yellow: bananas, white beans, corn
Orange: sweet potato in the pancakes

Read more:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 

Evenflo Symphony Car Seat Giveaway

I would LOVE to win the Travel Safely This Summer - an Evenflo Symphony Car Seat Giveaway featured on Real Moms Real Views. The car seat holds a child from 5 lbs to 100 lbs. If you would like to enter visit this link.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 4

Dinner - Eggplant Parmesan
We are more than half-way done with this week's challenge of eating 5 colors of fruits and vegetables a day.  With just three more days to go, I think we will follow through with this challenge.

Tip for fussy eaters: A friend recently asked me how I get my son to eat such a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Simple, I ask him to eat one bite of this and then he can have what ever it is I know he likes.  After he eats something a few times he usually eats it no problem.  However, there are days that he's not interested in eating certain foods but I always ask him to eat at least one or two bites of everything we're having for dinner.  Up until about 4 or 5 months, he would spit out food he didn't like. Now he willingly will eat new foods even if he doesn't like it. I am never pushy nor do I force him to eat something.  I simply ask him or tell him he can have ___ if he eats a bite of ___ first.  If he down right refuses, I let it go and try again another day. 

Here is what we ate today.

Day 4

Breakfast: whole wheat pancakes and blueberries

Snack: peanut butter crackers

Lunch: broccoli macaroni and cheese

Snack: green and purple grapes, cranberries, banana, cheese, and Cheerios

Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan, tomato sauce, carrot sticks, and fresh garlic bread

Blue/Purple: blueberries, purple grapes, eggplant
Green: broccoli, green grapes
Red: cranberries, tomatoes
Yellow: bananas
Orange: carrots

Read more:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Saturday, July 16, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 3

Fun smiley face for my son - kids love silly faces
We have completed day 3 of our 5 colors a day fruit and vegetable challenge.  We seem to be eating a lot of green foods lately.  I think that is okay since we're rounding it off with a lot of other colors.

Occasionally, I make my food presentations fun. Today I made a smiley face for my son.  I gave him his whole wheat crackers and 2 corn tortilla chips on the side after he ate his vegetables. 

Day 2

Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes, sliced pears

Lunch: Nachos with tomatoes and avocados

Snack: blueberries, green grapes, oranges, cheese, and graham crackers

Dinner: Sausage, veggie sausage (for me), broccoli mac and cheese, and banana pudding

Nachos for the rest of us
Blue/Purple: blueberries
Green: avocado, green grapes, broccoli, green pear
Red: tomatoes
Yellow: banana
Orange: oranges

Read more:

Day 1
Day 2

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 2

My son enjoying his snack
Day 2 was successful!  We ate out for lunch so I ordered spinach ravioli that I shared with my 2 year old.  It was an easy way to get spinach in our diet. We had tacos for dinner.  If you are eating meatless, stuff the tacos with beans and rice instead of the meat and top with any additional items.

Day 2

Breakfast: French toast, sliced apples

Snack: Green and purple grapes, sliced cheese, crackers

Lunch: Spinach ravioli with alfredo sauce, carrots, tomatoes

Snack: dried cranberries, graham crackers

Dinner: Avocado, Tacos with beef, rice, beans, and corn

Blue/Purple: purple grapes
Green: spinach, avocado, green grapes
Red: red apple, tomatoes, cranberries
Yellow: corn
Orange: carrots

Thursday, July 14, 2011

5 Colors a Day for 1 Week - Day 1

Bison, corn, and carrot mashed potatoes
Eating healthy is a priority to me (although rarely will I turn down a good dessert). When my son was first starting to eat solids I tried to offer him five different colors of fruits and vegetables a day.  The past few months I have not been doing as good of a job as I had in the past. So now I'm back for a challenge.  I am going to document the different color fruits and vegetables we eat for a week.  Since I am a flexitarian and don't eat a lot of meat, some of my dishes will be meatless while other dishes will have meat in which I may or may not eat.  By starting in the middle of the week, I will hopefully stick with this as the weekend is usually the hardest since we eat out more.  I have never kept a food journal before so this will help me keep track of the different foods so I make sure we get a variety of each color. I hope to give you a few ideas as well.

Day 1

Breakfast: Cheerios, dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, and prunes

Lunch: Blueberry/banana almond milk shake, peas, tomatoes, pizza, and crackers (my son ate some sliced turkey and yogurt as well)

Dinner: Bison, carrot mashed potatoes, and corn

Blue/Purple: blueberries, prunes
Green: peas
Red: tomatoes, cherries, cranberries
Yellow: bananas, corn
Orange: carrots

Quick and Easy Mexican Casserole Recipe

We love Mexican food. This is a quick and easy Mexican casserole recipe. I made this for our German/American church pot luck last Sunday. It's a great pot luck dish.  Since I made it the night before, I waited until the morning to put the sour cream, tomatoes, and cheese on top.  I cooked it at church on low for a little over an hour.  I left the foil on top until the last 15 minutes.  It turned out great!  It takes about 15 minutes to brown the meat and assemble and another 15 minutes to bake it.


1 lbs ground beef
1 can of beans (black, pinto, or kidney)
~3 cups crushed tortilla chips (I crushed them in a zip lock bag)
~1/2 container of sour cream (start with a whole container)
1 cup diced tomatoes (you can use can or fresh)
2 cups cheese
1 jar hot sauce


Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Crush tortilla chips and place on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Brown and drain ground beef, return beef to the pan.  Add the beans and hot sauce to the ground beef and cook for about 5 minutes.  Pour beef mixture over tortilla chips.  Top with sour cream, then diced tomatoes, and cover with cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Your child will fall asleep on their own

Almost every parent at some point will ask themselves, "when will my child fall asleep on their own?"  It's been a little over a year since I wrote about Our No Cry Sleep Solution.  Every parent has the right to choose what works best for them when they are raising their children.  When it came to getting our child to sleep it seemed like most people tried to convince us to let our child cry himself to sleep.  We can see why some would choose this method, however, my husband and I never felt comfortable doing this.  It was frustrating trying to find personal experiences of people not letting their child cry it out.  Being more of an attached parent and not letting your child cry it out can be stressful and tiring at times.  However, your child will eventually learn to put him or herself to sleep.  Having your spouse or a close friend who can help you makes things a lot easier.  Thankfully, my husband and I worked as a team and when one of us was too tired to sit in the room with my son, the other one would step in.  I know of several single parents who ended up co-sleeping until their child was ready to sleep on their own.  I also have a few married friends who did the same.  You have to do what works for you.  After almost two years of  helping my son fall asleep (first nursing him to sleep, to rocking him to sleep, to putting him in his crib and staying in his room until he fell asleep), I am pleased to say that my son now goes to sleep on his own.  

About a month ago (right before he turned two), we were able to put him in his crib and leave the room.  Since I breastfed him his first year of life he typically fell asleep during the last feeding.  Who was I to wake him up?!  I went against the advice of others and gently laid him in his bed once he fell asleep trying NOT to wake him because if I did he would be up for another hour or two. Also if he woke up at night (which didn't and still doesn't happen that often), we will change his diaper and usually bring him to our room.  Sometimes my husband will take him back to his bed once he's asleep, other times he stays with us until the morning.  If I tried taking him back to his bed, he'd wake up.  And no, he never developed a habit of waking up in the middle of the night or demanding to sleep with us.

Once I started weaning my son, my husband stepped in to help put him bed.  At first my husband would read to him and then rock him to sleep.  The first few nights he'd cry some for me but my husband stuck with it and gently reassured him that he was fine.  After several months we would take turns putting him sleep because we needed to make sure he'd go to sleep for both of us.  Then we transitioned to after story time my husband would put him in his bed and sit in his room until my son (and sometimes my husband) fell asleep.  Once he seemed comfortable with that, we started putting him in his bed and saying something such as "goodnight, love you.  I'll be back to check on you in a few minutes, please lay down and go to sleep."  And half the time he would say, "Mommy will be right back?" or "Daddy will be right back?"  We would say yes and would come back into his room to check on him after a few minutes.  By this time he understood the concept of us returning so he didn't cry for us.  If he was standing or sitting up in his bed, we'd gently ask him to lay down and tell him "goodnight" again.  During this time we also added a nightlight which seemed to help him.  This phase didn't take very long because he ended up falling asleep before he came back to check on him.  Now we are able to put him to bed and say goodnight and leave. 

I want to encourage you that if you decide to not let your child cry it out that they will naturally learn how to self-soothe and go to sleep on their own when they are ready.  Don't give up.  It took us almost two years to get where we are.  It may take you less or maybe more.  And, it's okay to bring them to your room on nights you are too tired to stay with him until they fall asleep, if you choose to do so.  While you should be consistent for the most part, it's okay to vary your routine some if you need to.  They are adaptable and will eventually not need your help to fall asleep.  It was worth the sacrifice to us and our son has adjusted very well.  He even falls asleep in hotel beds with no fuss - I think that is partly because we waited until he was ready to fall asleep on his own.

I'm curious, if you did not let your child cry it out, how long did it take your child to naturally be able to fall asleep on their own?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Child Friendly Hotel Safety Tips

Summer is here and many of you will be traveling.  As someone who travels a lot, I thought I'd share with you my hotel safety tips when traveling with kids.  It seems like most people stay in hotels when they travel. Here are a few ways to keep your children safe and healthier next time you stay in a hotel.

Childproof your room. Depending on how much time you plan to spend in your hotel room and the age of your child will determine how much you need to do. Minimally it’s a good idea to bring outlet protectors and remove any sharp or heavy items from desks or tables that could fall on your child. Move the mini shampoo and soap bottles out of the child’s reach. Lock the mini bar and refrigerator if your room has one.

Remind your child not to answer to the door. If your children are old enough to stay in the room while you are gone, make sure they do not open the door for strangers. If someone knocks at the door and they are worried tell them to call the hotel’s operator and then your cell phone.

Monitor the television. If your children are older, and you allow your children to watch movies while you go out, you can ask the hotel to remove certain channels and movies from the list in your room. You can also put a limit on the number of movies they can purchase.

Kidco PeaPod Plus Indoor/Outdoor Travel Bed - Red
Kidco PeaPod Plus
Crib Safety. Depending on your child’s age you may need a crib. If your hotel has cribs, be sure and ask before you arrive if the crib meets the standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  If the hotel receptionist on the phone doesn’t know, ask for the make, model number, and year it was made and look it up online before you go.  If you have any doubts about the safety and availability of cribs, consider bringing a Pack 'N Play or if you're flying, a self-inflating travel bed such as the KidCo PeaPod.

Ask for a non-smoking room. Secondhand smoke kills. According the American Cancer Society  secondhand smoke can have a more detrimental effect on children than adults. Even if you smoke, please consider not smoking in your hotel room if you have children with you.

Clean the remote control and telephone. Hotel television remote controls and telephones are two of the dirtiest items in most hotel rooms. It’s always a good idea to bring a few disinfectant wipes when you travel. It’s also a good idea to clean the door knobs, light switches, faucet handles, and toilet handle. Remember, just because something looks clean, doesn't mean it is clean.  For more information on germs in hotels see Heidi Lowry’s article here.

Use the deadbolt.  It’s a amazing how many people do not use the deadbolt when they stay in hotels.

These tips are not very time consuming and worth the effort. What are your hotel safety tips?

My hotel safety tips were originally featured in Imperfect Parent.
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