A Splash of Pink: Disney Princess Necklaces

Although I haven’t mentioned it before, in order to earn some extra money, usually for crafts, or fun money for the family, I babysit during the day. Even though I love my boys, and wouldn’t trade a single one, I do consider myself extremely blessed that during the week everyday is now filled with a splash of pink. The beautiful baby girl I watch has given me a wonderful opportunity to experiment with all things girly, which up until 9 months ago was foreign territory for me. I can’t believe how much she’s grown in the 10 months I’ve had her in my life. That being said, her 1st birthday is approaching fast, and with a ‘Princess’ theme for THE Birthday Princess, I knew these necklaces would make the perfect party favors for her special day. They couldn’t have been any easier, and I thought the results were just adorable. Each necklace represents a different Disney Princess, and in order they are: Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Cinderelle, Tianna, Aurora, and Ariel. I love the simplicity and the how the different colors capture the essence of each character’s unique color-scheme. I opted out of making necklaces representing Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle, but if those are your favorite Princesses, I have listed below the ideal colors to create necklaces for them.

Disney Princess Necklaces

4 Sons 'R' Us: Disney Princess Necklaces

  • 3/4 inch wooden beads
  • 5/8 inch wide white ribbon
  • wooden skewers
  • paint brush
  • acryllic paints

Directions

  1. Thread wooden beads onto skewer. I found up to four would work and allow enough room for drying without sticking to one another.
  2. Paint beads desired color. It helps if you use only one color on beads on the same skewer. While most colors only require one coat, lighter ones such as yellow and white, may require two coats.
  3. Set skewer on top of a bowl, with beads over the center of the bowl, and allow beads to dry. 
  4. Measure ribbon around neck and add 2 inches to the desired length. Cut. Repeat for the desired number of necklaces.
  5. To prevent fraying, use a match or candle, and very carefully melt each end of the ribbon.
  6. When the beads are dry, thread them onto the ribbon into the order shown above.

Pocahontas: 2 tan, 2 brown, 1 turqoise

Belle: 3 light yellow, 2 dark yellow

Mulan: 2 light blue, 2 dark pink, 1 purple

Jasmine: 3 turquoise, 2 gold

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

  • 5-6  bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1.  In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
  2. Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
  4. Preheat your grill to high heat.
  5. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  7. Lightly oil the grill grate.
  8. Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

Easy Oatmeal Bath

I’m sure most of us Moms who have older children have had to deal with the Chicken Pox at least once. I’m sure, like me, when your child has gotten the pox, you’ve run out to the nearest pharmacy and paid a pretty penny for Aveeno’s oatmeal baths to help your painfully itchy little ones find some relief. Worrying about them and this one time illness, I never really paid attention to, or cared about, the expense. Now, years down the road, I have a 3 year old plagued by eczema. Especially in the summer, he gets horribly itchy, scabby patches. What’s even worse, at 3, he doesn’t understand why he get’s in trouble for scratching when it temporarily helps him feel better. He doesn’t think about the sores he will create or the potential for infection like his Daddy and I do. With a child who not constantly, but often needs a soothing oatmeal bath as a healthier form of relief, I was getting a bit frazzled by the prices I was forced to pay for name brand products. A friend of mine mentioned to me that she makes her own version with great success and I followed her advice and I immediately made my own batch of oatmeal bath that afternoon. Now, not only am I saving a ton of money, I don’t have to run out to the store at the last minute, or even clean up sludgy oatmeal out of the bottom of my tub. Do yourself a favor and give it a try for yourself. You will never go back to the name brands again!

Easy Oatmeal Bath

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Oatmeal Bath

  • 3 cups plain, unflavored oats
  • empty bottle preferably with a shake/pour cap (I used an old Parmesan cheese container)
  • food processor or blender
  • a clear drinking glass
  • a tablespoon
  • old panty hose/stockings (optional)

 Directions

  1. Add oats into your food processor or blender and pulverize until it’s a fine powder and you don’t see any big pieces left.
  2. Test to make sure it’s fine enough by adding 1 tbsp of the oats to a glassful of water. If most dissolves and there’s not much left settling to the bottom you’re done*.
  3. Store oatmeal bath in a container until ready to use.
  4. When ready to use, add 1 cup of oatmeal to warm bathwater, stirring until combined. This will leave some oatmeal mess to be cleaned up afterward.
  5. To avoid any messy cleanup, put the 1 cup of oats into the foot of an old panty hose or stocking. Tie the panty hose around the faucet so the oatmeal is hanging directly under the water as it fills the tub. It will run through the oats, keeping the majority of the messy stuff in the ‘bag’, but still creating the soothing, milky ‘oatmeal’ bath.

*I skip this step, but if you want to be absolutely sure you’ve gotten all the big pieces out, you can sift your pulverized oatmeal before storing it. The more big pieces the less likely it is to all dissolve.

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

This recipe, from Budget Bytes, makes wonderfully fluffy, moist, and delicious sandwich bread. Serve it toasted for breakfast with some yummy cinnamon honey butter. Heck, just eat a slice when it’s still warm from baking in the oven. It’s addicting. It’s also cheaper, and tastier than it’s mass-produced counterparts. And the piece de resistance… it only costs about $1.34 per loaf, which breaks down to about 11 cents a slice! What better sandwich is there than the one that leaves both your stomach and wallet full?!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

  •  1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 2-3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp salt

Directions

  1.  Combine the water, yeast, and honey. Stir to combine and allow to sit until it becomes foamy. It may take up to ten minutes because of the honey.
  2. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
  3. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour. Once that’s mixed in add the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can no longer stir it with a spoon.
  4. Turn the ball of dough out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the all purpose flour.
  5. Keep adding flour until you have a soft, elastic but not sticky ball. Knead for about 3 minutes.
  6. Loosely cover the ball of dough and let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into the log about the length of your loaf pan.
  8. Coat the bread pan with non-stick spray or oil and place the dough inside.
  9. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled inside, about 45 minutes.
  10. Cut a long slit in the top of the dough to allow for expansion during cooking ( a serrated blade makes the smoothest cut).
  11. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until a deep golden brown on top.
  12. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool before slicing*.

*To make slicing easier, and to create prettier, more uniform slices, turn the bread loaf upside down before cutting.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Over the past few years, my husband and I have avidly been trying to look for areas in our home where we could cut costs by doing things ourselves and giving up convenience purchases. We’ve also noticed that the extra effort pays off, in that we’ve been able to cut out a lot of chemicals and other harmful substances. This past week I finally convinced my husband to take the plunge into homemade laundry detergent. He was skeptical since it was a powdered detergent, and also worried that it wouldn’t be able to cut through the dirt and grime of our four, very active boys. The results; however, were remarkable. Clean, clean clothes, including underwear, and soiled towels!  This recipe only costs about 5 cents per load as compared to about 20 cents with store bought detergents I’ve purchased at sale prices. Even better, this is entirely HE washer safe! All that’s required to be HE safe, is a detergent that’s low-suds. Think about it…they use less water so it makes complete sense that they would need a low suds detergent. It’s nothing else. Don’t get caught in the same trap we were initially, and continue to pay the ridiculous prices for ‘special’ detergent. It’s just another gimmick to get you, the consumer, to spend more money.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1 bar fels naptha, or zote
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

Directions

  1. Grate your bar of laundry soap (fels naptha or zote) as finely as possible.
  2. Put grated soap into a storage container. Add in borax and washing soda.
  3. Stir until evenly combined, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp per load of laundry. 2 tbsp for heavily soiled loads.

BLT Mac N Cheese

I found this recipe several years ago, perusing magazines in a waiting room. It’s a Betty Crocker recipe, and it’s delicious. My family loves macaroni and cheese. They love it from a box, they love it from scratch, they even love it with cut up hotdogs in it. I figured, given their love of the classic side dish they’d happily eat as a meal any time, any day, that this could either be a beautiful thing or a risky gamble. This recipe had me at BLT. I love them. Mostly, I love them because I love,love, love tomatoes. So naturally, I dove in and made this meal the same night I had come across it’s recipe. Since then it’s become a staple and a regular meal appearing on our monthly rotations. The flavors blend spectacularly! Even the rest of the family, literally everyone else, who all detest tomatoes about as strongly as I love them, ate every bite.

BLT Mac N Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: BLT Mac N Cheese

  • 1 loaf, 32 oz, prepared cheese product, cubed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bag, 9 oz, fresh spinach
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup plain, or Italian style, panko bread crumbs*

Directions

  1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot, add butter, milk, and cubed cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wisk, until melted and evenly combined.
  2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water 3 minutes less than indicated on the box in the directions. Drain.
  3. Pour the drained macaroni in with the cheese sauce. Mix well.
  4. Stir in the shredded cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to a 15×10 inch (4 quart) baking dish. Cover with foil.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover. Spread bacon and bread crumbs evenly over the top.
  8. Bake 5 minutes longer or until the top is lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

*To ensure nice browned, crisped breadcrumbs you can toss the breadcrumbs in 1-2 tbsp of melted butter before adding to the casserole.

Baby Cereal Pancakes

Why is it that every parent seems to find themselves inundated with baby food at some point, and it always seems to be at the point when the babies no longer want baby food? This was exactly my predicament with several unused boxes of baby cereal. I couldn’t just toss them, and at the time, I didn’t have any friends who could make use of them. When I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest, I thought it would be a perfect way to still use the cereal, but also to help my son continue getting used to ‘chewing’ with his new teeth. These were absolutely perfect for us. It’s a denser pancake than a traditional batter, but I found that just helped it cook quicker. Best of all, the recipe made a ton, and it’s freezer friendly so I didn’t have to do this every day. Just pull out however many you need for breakfast or morning snack, and let them thaw.

Baby Cereal Pancakes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baby Cereal Pancakes

  •  1 cup whole wheat flour (or 1 1/2 all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup baby rice cereal (straight from the box)
  • 1/2 cup baby oatmeal cereal (straight from the box)
  • 1 cup formula, or milk, depending upon age
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana, or other mashed fruit of choice
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, or water
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Add the apple juice, and stir until evenly combined and pancake consistency is reached.
  2. Cook on the stove top in a frying pan just as you would ‘regular’ pancakes. I used a small spoon to drop small dollops of batter onto the pan. 
  3. Let cool and serve.

I originally made these for my littlest man when he was just starting to eat and be introduced to table foods. He loved them. At 3, he still prefers them to ‘normal’ pancakes. Also, it’s important to note that although this recipe will make a lot due to their miniature size, these freeze extremely well. To freeze, just place completely cooled pancakes into a freezer safe zip-locking bag. Seal and set in the freezer. When ready to use, just pull out the desired amount, place them on a plate, and allow them to thaw before serving.

Doctor Who: Tardis Cake & other related treats

In March my big, bad 12 year old (I’m kidding, he’s an angel) turned an even bigger and badder 13. I’m a die-hard Doctor Who fan creating another generation of fan-boys  So far all four love the show, but with my 3 year old, and the now 13 year old it’s a love bordering on obsession  The 3 year old refused to be anything other than THE Doctor for Halloween, and my birthday boys entire wishlist was related to the show. I had found this really awesome Thor hammer on clearance at Target and just knew he’d love a Thor cake (he’s a fan-boy  he loves comic books), but I was wrong. Nothing but a Doctor Who themed cake would do. The result was a lovely Tardis cake, and he was happy and impressed!

The Doctor

4 Sons 'R' Us: 'The Doctor' Costume 009

 

My little Wholigan with 10’s customary blue suit, converse sneakers, glasses, and of course his sonic screwdriver (built by my wonderful husband).

Tardis Cake

4 Sons 'R' Us: Doctor Who, Tardis Cake

  • I simply cut the Tardis shape out of a sheet cake. Frosted the whole cake blue. Piped on the doors and fake windows. The top two windows are squares of white chocolate. I used a toothpick to poke out an outline for Police Box and then traced with white icing. 

In anticipation of the premiere of the second half of season 7 of the show, I decided that since it was such an exciting night in our house, I’d make some coordinating treats to add to the anticipation. While we watched the premiere episode, ‘The Bells of St John,’ the kids munched on slices of Fish Finger and Custard Pie (which was actually a basic ‘dirt’ cake with a few changes made) and mini Adipose.

Fish Fingers & Custard Pie

4 Son's 'R' Us: Fish Fingers & Custard Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1, 8 oz, package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2, 3.5 oz, packages of instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 12oz container of cool whip, thawed
  • 1 package of oreos, about 16 ounces
  • chocolate goldfish (fish fingers)
  • whipped cream

Directions

  1. In a food processor, chop the cookies until no chunks remain and the white cream has disappeared. 
  2. Transfer cookie crumbs to a separate bowl.
  3. In the food processor, combine butter, cream cheese, and sugar until evenly combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, evenly combine milk and whipped topping.
  5. Add milk mixture to the food processor and pulse until evenly combined.
  6. Pour ‘custard’ into a pie pan.
  7. Chill until ready to serve.
  8. Top with ‘fish fingers’ and dollops of whipped cream.

Warning: Unlike me, be sure to warn your child that a ‘dirt’ cake doesn’t actually contain dirt. Otherwise they might refuse to eat it and wonder why on earth you would ever willingly feed them dirt.

Adipose

005 

  • large marshmallows
  • mini marshmallows
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • water
  • black icing gel

Directions

  1. Make a ‘glue’ by creating a paste of confectioners sugar and water. Keep adding confectioners sugar to a little bit of water until the mixture has the texture of paste.
  2. One at a time, add paste to one end of a mini marshmallow and hold onto a large marshmallow for a few second, until stuck.
  3. Repeat until you’ve created two arms and two legs.
  4. Once you’ve created the desired number of bodies, draw eyes and a smile on with the black icing gel.

These treats would also be great for an end of the season party or even to celebrate the 50th Anniversary special! What Whovian, young or old, wouldn’t go ga-ga over themed treats during an episode?!

Homemade Gak

How many others remember Nickelodeon, both their TV shows and their products, vividly from their childhood? Gak was one of my favorites. I vividly remember the ‘fart’ noises it made when squished, and the way my parents cringed at the thought. It stretched, it squished, it oozed. Remembering all the fun I had had as a child, I really enjoy bringing some of these toys back for my own kids to play with and enjoy today. Being a mother to 4 boys, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with any toy, or substance, that emits any noise slightly resembling flatulence. I found this recipe from Lil Luna. My boys, young and old, literally spent hours playing with the stretchy, gooey gelatinous substance. Even my teenager traded the iPod in for some good old-fashioned hands on fun with something ‘yuck’. I’m especially fond of any toys, activities, or crafts that get all four playing together. They actually cooperated, shared, and just got to enjoy each other’s company. Our first batch was yellow, but yours can be any color your heart desires. Mix and match your food coloring. Experiment, but most of all have fun!

Homemade Gak

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Gak

  • 2, 4 oz, bottles of Elmer’s Glue
  • 1 tsp borax
  • water
  • food coloring

Directions

  1. Empty both bottles of glue into a bowl. 
  2. Fill bottles with warm water, recap, shake, and then empty into the bowl.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring. Stir and set aside.
  4. To another bowl, add 1/2 cup of warm water. Add in the borax and stir until dissolved.
  5. Pour the borax mixture into the glue bowl.
  6. Begin by stirring with a spoon. Once it becomes super stringy, begin mixing and squishing by hand. It should be pretty gelatinous by this point.
  7. Let the kids play with it for a few minutes and it will become the perfect gooey consistency.

Even better, when you’re done, your Gak can be stored for play at a later date.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Gak

One Pot Spaghetti

Do you ever have those days, or nights, where there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day? Here you were getting off work, helping with homework, tidying the house with hours to spare until dinner when all of a sudden you check the clock and it’s already almost time to sit down at the table? Happens to me all too often. Just for those nights I like to have a list of quick, easy meals that use ingredients I always have on time. Especially on those nights, rushing to get a hearty meal on the table, a meal that makes minimal mess is essential. One Pot Spaghetti, wish it’s special secret ingredient, is at the top of my list. It’s easy to throw together, and has a to die for taste that will impress even the most traditional spaghetti lovers. From the time you begin, you can be seated at the table with your family enjoying an un-rushed conversation over a hearty, hot meal in less than 30 minutes.

One Pot Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

  •  1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz spaghetti, whole or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. In a Dutch Oven, or a large pot, brown the meat with the onion. Drain.
  2. Add garlic and let cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  3. Add broth, spaghetti sauce, and water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add spaghetti and reduce heat.
  5. Cook covered 17-20 minutes, or until the noodles are al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  6. Stir in parmesan cheese.

You will never want to cook spaghetti the old way again. It’s incredibly tasty, and one pot makes clean up a breeze.

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti