Favorite Recipes

Chicken Taco Crunch Wraps

The best thing about tacos is that they’re so versatile! This is a fun variation that makes a very hearty, portable meal. This recipe is similar to the Crunchwrap Supremes you find at Taco Bell but with some changes to the ingredients. All ingredients are optional and flexible based on your personal taste.

  • Prep time: approx. 2-3 minutes per wrap
  • Cook time: approx. 6-10 minutes per wrap
  • Makes about 4 large wraps

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of canned chicken breast
  • 1 8oz. brick of cream cheese (room temp)
  • About 4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Small can green chilies
  • About 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • Tostada shells (at least one for each wrap you plan to make)
  • Large flour burrito tortillas (the largest you can find)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Pico de Gallo (or just tomatoes)
  • Sour Cream
  • Refried beans (optional)
Most of the ingredients you’ll need to make delicious Crunch Wraps. Not pictured: lettuce, taco seasoning, optional beans.

Instructions:

  1. Open and drain water from canned chicken. Place all canned chicken in a large bowl with cream cheese and about 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese. (Cream cheese can be warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make mixing easier).
  2. Begin mixing ingredients with large spoon or spatula. This can also be done in a stand mixer to make things a lot easier.
  3. Mix in green chilies and taco seasoning with chicken mixture. Stir until all ingredients are evenly mixed.
  4. Create a work station with an assembly line for burrito tortilla > (opt beans) > chicken mixture > tostada shell > lettuce > pico > sour cream > shredded cheese > (opt tortilla circle).
  5. Place a burrito tortilla on a plate or cutting board.
  6. In the center of the burrito tortilla, (spread optional beans in a thin layer first) place about a cup of the chicken mixture- flatten and shape it to be about the size of the tostada shells.
  7. Place 1 tostada shell on top of chicken mixture.
  8. Place about 1 handful (or 1/2 cup) of shredded lettuce on top of tostada shell.
  9. Top lettuce with 1-2 Tablespoons of pico de gallo and 1-2 Tablespoons of sour cream.
  10. Top ingredients with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese (this will melt and work to seal the wrap during grilling).
  11. Fold one edge of the burrito tortilla up and over ingredients reaching for the middle on top of all the ingredients. *If it seems like your burrito tortilla will not reach to meet all edges in the middle, you can cut out circles from extra burrito tortillas using a cereal bowl to trace around with a sharp knife. These circles can then be used directly on top of the wrap ingredients before wrapping the burrito tortilla.* Continue to fold up the edges going around the wrap in one direction. You will end up with a wrap that is shaped like an octagon or something close to it. You can place a small salad plate on top of the wrap to keep it folded. See video below for example.
  12. Warm a large frying pan or a griddle or grill to medium heat. Oil or butter the warming surface.
  13. Carefully place wrap fold side down on your heated surface.
  14. Place a heat-resistant plate on top of the wrap as it is grilling to ensure it makes the most contact with the hot surface as possible.
  15. Heat the wrap for about 3-5 minutes depending on how hot your surface is. Use a spatula to tip up the edge of the wrap as it is cooking to check for doneness.
  16. Once desired doneness level is reached, carefully flip wrap over to other side and repeat grilling process. 3-5 minutes.
  17. Serve hot and enjoy!
Build a tower of deliciousness, one ingredient at a time.

Nutrition:

  • Serving size: 1 grilled wrap
  • 1 serving is approximately 141 Calories; 2.1g Fat; 1.1g Sat. Fat; 20.6mg Cholest.; 152mg Sodium; 28.7g Carbs; 0.4g Fiber; 17.4g Sugar; 2.6g Protein.
Health · Parenthood

How I Overcame Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

As the title suggests, this article contains some possibly triggering subjects including depression, anxiety, miscarriage, surgery, and infertility. Please read with caution.

I’ve been putting off writing about this for a long time now because it is an incredibly difficult subject to write about. It’s hard to revisit the feelings and events. It’s hard to describe my experience accurately enough for others to grasp. It’s hard not to turn this into a 500 page novel because I want so badly to share every aspect of my experience if it means that one person can find helpful information in it. So here it goes.

My Origin Story

I’ll start by giving you a synopsis of my history and reproductive health. Middle school is a time for change and growth…and crazy bonkers hormones. In my case, my hormones were less focused on chasing boys and more focused on causing me a lifetime of physical issues. I wasn’t diagnosed with PCOS until I was an adult and found a doctor who would commit to the diagnosis, but I had been living with the symptoms since I hit puberty. Irregular periods, debilitating cramps, facial hair and acne (which is extra humiliating when you’re a school age kid), low sex drive (which is rough as an adult), and unpredictable PMS. And on top of that, moments when I thought I would die from the pain of a burst cyst.

Me at a high school dance. Already dealing with PCOS symptoms.

After dealing with PCOS for years, I asked my doctor about treatments. There were none. “Try these pills,” they said. A few miserable days later, I quit them cold turkey. I couldn’t live like that. I asked my doctor if I would be able to have kids. She said she wasn’t sure, but she was optimistic. Other doctors were not. I knew I wanted kids, regardless of how helpful my body would be. Once I finally got serious about trying to conceive, I found out that I had a cyst the size of a grapefruit that needed to be removed. The good news was that the cyst was non-cancerous; the bad news was that it had wrapped itself around the ovary it was attached to, and there was no way to remove the cyst without also removing the ovary. Are you kidding me? Now I’ll never get pregnant, I thought.

To make a long post shorter, I WAS able to have kids. I miscarried once but was able to get healthy, find a product to help me balance my hormones, and have a healthy pregnancy and a very healthy baby. Sleep during pregnancy wasn’t too much of a problem for me, and neither were cravings, constipation or hemorrhoids, or mood swings. Sounds like an easy pregnancy, huh? It definitely could have been worse. I still had plenty of other symptoms, but I was thankful for a fairly boring ride. Most of my struggles came later.

A Tiny Human Just Came Out of Me

I didn’t sleep for 72 hours when my son was born. It was the first time in my life when I dealt with serious sleep deprivation. It turns out, 72 hours without sleep piled on top of pushing a baby out of your body results in what feels like the most wicked hangover you can imagine. And I’m supposed to take care of a tiny, fragile, new human at the same time? What fresh hell is this parenting gig?! That’s most likely where my PPD and PPA began creeping in.

My first born and me immediately after a fast and hard labor. No sleep 24+ hours before AND after.

At my six-week checkup, my doctor’s office handed me a one page “survey” about my current feelings situation. I passed with flying colors, but the reason for that was that six weeks postpartum was probably the high point for me. I had been parenting long enough that I didn’t feel like a total failure. I had a little sleep under my belt. I had lost all of the weight I had gained while pregnant plus some! I was feeling pretty awesome. So I hadn’t lied on my survey. I really did feel good. No feelings of wanting to harm myself or my baby. No crying. No out-of-the-ordinary outbursts. My doctor literally said the words “I see no signs of postpartum depression in you. You’re good to go!” She asked the wrong questions at the wrong time. 

Early on in our new parent experience, we had a bit of extra help. My parents were living a mile away from us, and my mom was able to help out with some things. Soon after my six-week checkup, my parents began discussing the possibility of moving away…3 hours away. That may not sound like a lot for some people, but losing my best babysitter and some of my moral support so soon after becoming a mom was just the first ingredient in my stress stew.

Stress Levels Rising

At the time, my parents were living in a townhouse that we owned. It was my husband’s first house, and we rented it out to my parents when they needed a place to live. In order for my parents to have a nice place to live once they moved out of our townhouse, we offered to help them buy a house that we all approved of. This meant that we would have to sell the townhouse to be able to afford buying a different home for them. In order to sell the townhouse, we had to move my parents into our house temporarily, pack up and hide most of their belongings in the townhouse to be able to stage the home, clean it from top to bottom to make the house sellable, and then hope that the market was in our favor for the sake of our sanity. This process took several months and began when my son was only six weeks old.

My stress levels were rising. My mom was still recovering from multiple hip surgeries, my dad and husband both had to work full work days, and my brother had recently moved out of town. I was the only “able bodied” person who could drive the process and do most of the heavy lifting, literally AND figuratively. Plus, I was still trying to figure out how to be a mom. While my parents lived with us, my stresses were building as I struggled to coexist with my family and run my own home. I’ll spare you the details, but I will add that ice cream and carbs had become my “therapy.” My weight got out of control. I gained every pound back that I had lost before my six week check up. As my cortisol levels (stress hormone) spiked, my body began to feel like a fat, disgusting prison.

Cry Me a River

My husband was just as green to new parent life as I was. He didn’t know what signs to look for to recognize depression or anxiety. And even if he did, I’m not sure he would have known that I spent hours alone, cradling my new baby, struggling to feed him and crying my eyes out. Crying harder than I had in years. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried before I became a mother. I wish I could say I cried tears of love and joy when my son was born, but in reality, they were tears of relief. Relief that my son was healthy, relief that we had both survived, and relief that I was DONE being pregnant (at least for the time being).

My husband finally becoming Daddy. Also very low on the sleep levels. But I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

Tears were something that came easy after my son was born. Tears of frustration. Tears of anger. Tears of fear. I became scared of everything. Having this new human in my care meant that I instantly became paranoid that everything harmful in the world could and WOULD hurt my precious package. How could I possibly pile on that amount of responsibility to my already toppling tower of fear and stress? Easy. I had no choice. My brain ran constant terror scenarios of the worst case you can imagine. Things you only see in movies or read about in the most click-baity articles ever written.

Shut Up, Brain

At night, my brain lay awake in the short opportunities I had for actual sleep, thinking up all the best ways to prepare myself to defend my family and protect my tiny baby from the evils lurking around every corner. Being unprepared was not just a fear at that point but my legitimate reasoning for not leaving the house with my baby unless absolutely necessary. I would see social media posts from friends happily leaving the house with their new bundles of joy for a day in the city, a family trip to the zoo, or even just a coffee date with other mom friends. Mom friends? What was that? At that point, I was so afraid to leave the house unprepared that my friendships were suffering.

In solidarity for all the parents suffering.

During the day, I was irritable. But not like just easily annoyed. Like full on rage at the drop of a baby bottle. I tried so hard not to take it out on my husband, but in reality, he took the brunt of my rage like a boxer takes hits to the face. I could see some times when his immense amounts of patience began to wear thin. I could see that he was as confused by my anger and outbursts as I was, but he didn’t know that my outbursts were really cries for help. He didn’t know that I was confused. I was so afraid for my baby to want or suffer for more than a few seconds that I truly believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was the only person capable of caring for my infant child. I was the only one who knew what he needed and how to interpret his cries. 

My anxiety came to a peak one day when I had ventured out of the house on a simple errand. Driving my sweet baby around in the car, in his perfectly safe car seat, in one of the safest cars on the market. But at that point I wasn’t able to trust any other person enough to drive my son around. I’ve never doubted my driving abilities. I’m a very cautious driver without being overly cautious. But that day, my anxiety was in full swing and I was anticipating disaster around every turn. I was driving through a neighborhood I had driven many times, with a speed limit of 25mph and I was doing 20…15…10. When it hit me. Nothing. No one was around. No one behind me. Yet, I was approaching every intersection with a level of caution that was insanely paranoid. Looking both ways more times that necessary. Stopping at stop signs for ridiculous amounts of time. Because my brain had left me terrified of the hypothetical dangers. And then the full blown panic attack set in. Heart racing, trouble breathing, tunnel vision. I pulled over. And for the first time through this emotional rollercoaster of parenting, I heard my brain ask me WHY I was reacting this way.

It’s painful to think back on how I didn’t get to enjoy my son’s first year of life while I had undiagnosed PPD & PPA.

That was abnormal for me because I tend to be very self-aware. I spend a lot of mental and emotional energy every day being aware of why I do what I do and how I interact with my surroundings. As I sat in my car, I reflected on what I was experiencing and why that could be. After dealing with similar situations and breakdowns, outbursts and paranoia, I came to the conclusion that I had been suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety for almost a year. And I KNEW that I had to do something about it. 

I Need Help

I was ready to pursue therapy and medication if necessary. I began researching therapists in my area. At the same time, a company I trusted released a new product that caught my attention. It was a natural ingredient probiotic that was specially formulated to lower cortisol levels and help reduce feelings of stress. I figured, if nothing else, trying this could help me with my every-day mom stress. I was really skeptical that I would even notice a difference, but I was willing to give it a try as a first line of defense against my PPD and PPA. I was ready to try almost anything to have a chance at finally enjoying my son’s first year of life, even if I had nearly missed it.

Do it for you BECAUSE you do it for them.

I do my best to stay as healthy as possible, trying natural remedies before turning to other options. I tried the probiotic; I was skeptical, but I tried it. To my surprise, IT WORKED. Not only did it do what it promised, but I felt my PPD and PPA symptoms (that I was clearly aware of by this point) melt away within the first week of trying this natural method. I was shocked. I thought for sure that it was temporary, but I’ve been taking it for two years now, and I can say that I am a believer. If you’re interested in the product, please follow the link at the end of the article.

But Seriously…

Every person is different. Every momma needs something different in those most vulnerable moments. I’m not here to prescribe anything or tell you that this is the end-all method of treating PPD or PPA. I’m ONLY sharing what worked for me. I can’t tell you exactly why this method worked so well for me, but I continued to take this probiotic through my second pregnancy/birth, and it was a night and day difference in terms of mental health. Situations were different. Stress levels were different. Inevitably, hormones were different. But what I do know for sure is that I was able to enjoy my daughter’s birth and newborn stage in a completely different way than I did with my son. Even in my highest stress moments with my daughter, I was able to look down at her sweet face, take a deep breath, clear my mind, and even enjoy those times. It breaks my heart to think back to the first year of my son’s life and how miserable I was. I was so deeply entrenched in fear and doubt that I couldn’t enjoy those newborn moments with him.

If only I had known better the signs of PPD and PPA. If only I could have seen how abnormal my behavior was, or if only someone could have seen it in me. The best I can do is share a list of the behaviors I experienced during my difficult year to raise awareness. If you or someone you love is experiencing ANY of these symptoms or any behavior or feelings out of the ordinary, PLEASE contact your doctor and make them aware of EVERYTHING. The more your doctor knows about your experience, the better they can help you. Please do not suffer alone. Do not think that others will not understand. Thousands of women have had completely different experiences with PPD and PPA. There is no cookie cutter way to diagnose it. 

List of my symptoms:

  • Anger towards loved ones.
  • Extremely quick to frustration.
  • Paranoia of unrealistic situations.
  • Fear of leaving the house.
  • Fear of being unprepared.
  • Neglecting relationships.
  • Emotional outbursts.
  • Extreme PMS-like symptoms.
  • Heart racing with no stimulant.
  • Feeling the need to be overly cautious.
  • Questioning life choices.
  • Feeling like your baby is purposely inconveniencing you.
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
  • Brain fog stronger than regular “Mom brain”.
  • Irrational fears driving your actions.
  • Abnormal nightmares.
  • Waking nightmares (visions of irrational fears).
  • “Lost time” moments when you realize you’re unaware of how you got somewhere or accomplished a task.
  • Inability to trust anyone with your baby.
  • Inability to trust anyone to help you.
  • Inability to connect with baby
  • Inability to see baby as anything other than a very important task list

For the Dads

Please also be aware that dads can experience the same or similar symptoms. They experience the birth of their children through different eyes than we moms do but can hurt just the same. Please watch your loved ones for behavior out of the ordinary, and make sure to check in on their mental health. The only way we can protect ourselves is to protect each other and to raise awareness of these struggles. Parents need to know that they are not failing when they have these feelings. There is help and they are NOT alone.

And Finally…

As promised, here is the LINK * to the probiotic that helped me. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper recommendation without a proper disclaimer:

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Crafts · Tutorials

Bowling Pin Upcycling Craft

In our house we do our best to recycle our paper, glass, and plastic. We also love upcycling whenever we can. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term that sounds like a word for a hipster bicycle, “upcycling” is when you take something that would otherwise be discarded (like boxes, food packaging, or lightbulbs, as a few examples) and turn it into something new. It’s a simple practice that many of us have just been calling “crafting” or “junking.” Well, now there’s a new, fun term for it and thousands of great ideas from people like you and me who are inspired to use the things they see in front of them to make something brand new.

In this tutorial, I will show you how I took a simple baby snack food container and turned it into a set of fun outdoor toys for my kids. Because these baby snacks are something we use frequently at our house, we didn’t spend any more money than we normally would have for this craft. But if you’re looking for a ballpark cost for this craft, it cost me about $2 for each container and I made 6 bowling pins in total. The other materials I had on hand, so it was mainly the cost of the containers, which would total around $12. Not bad for hours of toddler entertainment!

MATERIALS

  • Baby snack food containers (I made 6 total so we could arrange them in a pyramid formation for bowling)
  • Red permanent marker
  • Hot glue and glue gun
  • Play sand or dirt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Empty your snack food container by feeding your baby, your toddler, your dog, or your neighborhood birds. No need to waste the contents just for the craft!
  2. Cut off and completely remove the outer label.
  3. Use a red permanent marker to add line designs to the outside of the “bowling pin.” Our particular containers had extremely convenient lines imprinted in the plastic that I just used as guides. You can look up different bowling pin designs online for inspiration or just make it up as you go along! Toddlers are easily impressed.
  4. Temporarily remove lids and add play sand or heavy dirt to the bowling pins.
  5. Make sure to fill the pins only partially to give them a weighted bottom. This will allow them to stand up but make them slightly more challenging to knock over. In picture 5, I am using my fingers to show the level to which I filled the pin with play sand. I tested it a few times, and this seemed to be a good fill point. Any more and the pins would have been too heavy and too difficult for my toddler to knock over with his bouncy ball. Any less and they would have been knocked over by a stiff breeze.
  6. Next, use your glue gun to add glue around the entire lip of the container and quickly replace the lid before the glue cools and dries. Try to add enough glue to ensure a good seal. That way you don’t accidentally have sand or gravel flung around your living room or yard, depending on where you choose to play.
  7. Go forth and enjoy your creation! Upcycling is cheap, easy fun. We use these bowling pins outside AND inside the house. My son not only loves to kick his bouncy ball at them and knock them over, but he also loves to use them for stacking and knocking them down, shaking them for musical instruments, and stacking them like logs in the back of his large toy dump truck.

Leave a comment below about how your family has used this craft at home. I would love to hear how you have used your imaginations to find new ways to see something old. Have fun!

Crafts · Parenthood · Tutorials

Teaching a Toddler to Hypothesize

I’m technically not a homeschool mom, but I never turn down an opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time. A couple months ago, I decided to make a colored rice bin for my toddler son to play in because one of his favorite activities is putting anything into anything else. He’ll spend large parts of his play time filling containers, baskets, nooks and crannies with his toys, and hiding every object he can find behind the couch cushions or in the dog kennels. He even has a large bin of random bottles we’ve collected from the recycle bin just for him to experiment with. He’s quite the up-cycler at two and a half years old.

Making a rice bin is cheap and easy and has already provided us with hours of enjoyment. We use many different sized cups and containers in the bin. Plastic bugs to dig for, scoops, ping pong balls, etc. You could also use the rice bin as a cool digging quarry for small diggers and dump trucks. The whole project cost me around $10 to make with the plastic bin being the most expensive part. Here are the things you need to make one:

  • A decently sized plastic bin with a locking lid. I went for one that was about 9” x 12” and 7” tall.
  • One or two 5 lb bag(s) of white rice.
  • Liquid food coloring.
  • White vinegar (helps seal color into rice grains to prevent color bleeding).
  • Gallon ziplock bags for coloring rice. 1 for each color you want to make.

Easy Directions for Making Colored Rice

  1. Separate white rice into ziplock bags. One bag per color.
  2. Add several drops of food coloring to a bag of rice (do one bag at a time to ensure most even color absorption).
  3. Add one teaspoon of white vinegar to bag of rice.
  4. Zip bag closed.
  5. Massage rice bag to thoroughly mix color and vinegar into rice. (You can add more food coloring and repeat this step for brighter colored rice.)
  6. Repeat with each color/bag.
  7. Open bag zippers and leave bags open, sitting in a place where it won’t be disturbed for 24 hrs or longer. This allows the rice to dry and keep the color from transferring to hands or other surfaces. You can also spread the rice out in a cookie sheet or tray to help it dry faster. The rice will smell a little vinegary at first but this will air out over time.
  8. Once the rice is dry you can dump it all into your bin and enjoy!
Our original colored rice. It turned out great! Time to mix it up.

*A word of CAUTION: we learned the hard way that if you have dogs or other small animals who roam freely in your home, DO NOT leave the rice bin open and unattended. Our dog got into our rice bin and ate some of it. He was not hurt, but he did end up with an upset stomach and potty problems for a few days. Not fun for any of us. Plus, we had to throw away some of our rice that he got wet with drool. Now we’re diligent to not leave a single grain unattended.

Learning to Experiment and Hypothesize

The rice bin (or sand bin, or whatever medium you choose) is a great segue into learning the scientific method and fueling curiosity about the way things work. Free play with the rice bin will usually yield all sorts of creative experiments on its own. But if you have the time and want to introduce some new ideas to your kids, here are some ways you can do that. Of course, this is just a very small list of prompts to get you started but there really is no limit to the ways you can use this rice bin to learn. And don’t worry about your kid’s age. If they’re old enough to know not to eat the rice, then they’re old enough to begin to question the world around them.

Here are some examples of tools we used to enhance our rice bin learning experience (these items can be found around your home or purchased for cheap from the dollar store). These items are not necessary but can be fun additions. Get creative with what you have available:

My son, using a watering can, container lids, a tambourine, and a scoop to experiment with his rice bin.
Imaginations are the best tool!
  • Toilet paper tube
  • Scoops from baby formula containers
  • Ping pong ball
  • Small plastic cups and dishes
  • Plastic bugs
  • Plastic Easter eggs
  • Empty pill bottles, caps, and lids

Helping a child learn to hypothesize is simply about asking the right questions. Hypothesizing is guessing an outcome to an action based on what information you have at that time. All of my son’s hypotheses were based on what experience he already had with the rice medium and how it works with other objects.

I started by standing a toilet paper tube up on end on top of the rice and then filling it to the top with more rice. I then asked,

“What do you think will happen to the rice if we lift the toilet paper tube straight up?”

My son looked at the current situation, considered the information he already had, and then guessed that the rice would spill out the bottom of the tube. He was right! We celebrated that. And I could tell he was curious to try something else. So I took the TP tube and placed it up on end inside a plastic cup. I then filled it back up with rice but took care to fill only the TP tube. Then I asked,

“When I lift this paper tube up, where do you think the rice will go?”

Again, my son studied the situation and made an educated guess. He guessed that the rice would spill out into the bin. He was wrong, but that was good! He was surprised to learn that when I lifted the paper tube, the rice only filled up the plastic cup. And I learned that the cup we chose held exactly the same amount of rice as the filled paper tube. We both learned something!

After we tried a few more experiments learning about volume, I decided to try some experiments with movement and resistance. I used my hand to shape the rice in the bin into a tall slope. Using the ping pong ball, I then asked my son,

“What do you think will happen to this ball if I place it at the top of this slope?”

I was wondering if he would remember seeing an episode of Sesame Street where they experimented with whether or not different materials would slide down a slope. That might have been part of the information he pulled from when he formed his hypothesis. He guessed that the ball would roll down the slope. He was right again! Smart little guy.

We tried one last experiment. With this one, I gave him very little information to start with to see what he might come up with. Placing the ping pong ball on top the rice surface, I asked,

“What do you think will happen to the ball if I use my finger to push it down in the rice?”

This was the first time he looked genuinely confused, like he had no idea what would happen. More likely, he had no words to communicate what he thought would happen. So he just waited to see what happened next. I then used my finger to push the ball all the way under the rice until it was completely submerged. I loved his surprised face! Even though he didn’t have a hypothesis for this experiment, he learned the meaning of the word “bury.”

After we concluded our experiments, I left him to his free play. I could see him trying to replicate some of our experiments. This told me that not only did he enjoy what we had done, he also knew that he wanted to try to gather more information. Even if his brain wasn’t using those terms, specifically, he knew that he wanted to learn more. I’m so excited to find more ways to help him learn to hypothesize and test the world around him. It’s one thing to tell someone else the way things work, but if you ask them to make an educated guess and try the experiment out for themselves, they build many more mental connections and synaptic pathways in their brain than they would have otherwise.

The rice bin has been a great tool for learning already, and I know we’ve only scratched the surface with its teaching potential. I love when the cheapest toys are the most valuable!

Favorite Recipes · Hmm, Pinteresting

Olive Garden Alfredo Recipe

Who doesn’t love pasta? Of course, some of us have to watch our intake because it’s easy to get carried away, but indulging once in a while is such a treat. Alfredo has always been a “treat” for me, a special meal that I look forward to. But I’m also very picky about the taste. It has to be just right. I’ve never found a jarred sauce or a recipe I like. Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce has probably been my favorite for years. I know there are plenty of people who don’t like OG. That’s okay. But what you can’t deny is that fat and salt can really pump up the flavor in a dish.

Thanks to good ol’ Pinterest, I came across a recipe one night that claimed to be “Olive Garden’s Alfredo Recipe.” Out of sheer curiosity I read the comments left by other Pinterest users. Several of them were claiming that this recipe was incorrect because of one or two of the ingredients. Personally, I didn’t know any better, but I was willing to believe these keyboard warriors because several of them corroborated the story. Further down the comments, I found that someone had posted a comment claiming that Olive Garden actually provides many of their recipes on their website. RECORD SCRATCH. That was news to me. So I did some digging. I was salivating thinking that I could get ahold of the OG Alfredo recipe to make myself. At the same time I was worried that I’d have to get a wider front door put on my house once I ate my weight in Alfredo. Click HERE for the entire online catalog of Olive Garden’s recipes.

Sure enough, after some digging, I found a collection of Olive Garden’s recipes on their website. I scrolled and scrolled until I found the treasure I was digging for. Click HERE for the Olive Garden version, unaltered. Below, I have included the recipe with changes I made after the asterisks (*).

Ingredients

  • 3 oz wt butter *I used ½ cup salted butter or 1 full stick, only slightly more than their recipe calls for.
  • 1 Tbsp garlic *I used a fresh bulb rather than the pre-minced version I usually keep in my fridge for quick recipes and added probably 2 Tbsp because there’s no such thing as too much garlic in a recipe like this.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 ½ cup milk *I ended up adding this last and only used ½ cup since I wanted my sauce to be a little thicker than the recipe calls for. Also, I used whole milk.
  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese *I used closer to 1 cup+ because I wanted the cheese to be the main thickening ingredient.
  • ½ cup romano cheese *I did the same thing as with the parm, 1 cup+.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *I also added about 1 lb of chopped rotisserie chicken for protein.

Instructions

  1. Fried the chopped garlic in the butter until it started to become fragrant and the butter started to turn golden in color.
  2. I then added the flour and mixed it in to make a roux which would help thicken the sauce.
  3. After that was thoroughly mixed, I added the heavy cream and stirred it all until the coloring of the sauce was even.
  4. Then I added the cheeses and stirred until they melted evenly.
  5. After that, I added the milk, salt and pepper, tasting in between additions to make sure I didn’t over salt the recipe (which, in my opinion, is the only downfall of the Olive Garden recipe made AT the restaurant. It always seems too salty to me.)
  6. Finally, I added my chopped chicken and let everything simmer a bit until it reached my desired thickness.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the recipe was good. Very good. I’m glad I added the extra cheese and didn’t add the same amount of milk that the original recipe called for. It was so much richer but most likely with a lower sodium content than what you get in the restaurant. If I was to try anything different the next time around, I would sauté the chicken in the butter/garlic mixture at the beginning to help give it a little more flavor. When I made this recipe I was in a hurry so I didn’t get the chance to think everything through and use my instincts as much as I like to. If you don’t hear from me again after this post, it means I’ve eaten Alfredo until I burst. But don’t be sad. At least I died happy 🙂

Life Hacks · Parenthood

My 5 Favorite Potty Training Tricks

Let’s just get this out on the table now. Potty training sucks. It takes all the fun out of raising a tiny dictator and turns it into…well, poop. If you’re lucky. I used to be hopeful about potty training. My mom told me I potty trained in a night when I was my son’s age. She said all it took was me peeing my pants at night one time to motivate me enough to use the toilet. I’ve heard all sorts of similar stories from parents. In an online mom-group, I read a ton of success stories that filled me with confidence in that we’d be 100% potty trained in no time!

On the advice of MANY other moms, I read a highly recommended potty training book. This book was well written and suggested a method that aligned with my own thoughts and feelings about PT (potty training). Better yet, it made me believe that it would only take us a week to fully day train! I was willing to split up day and night training if we’d only need a week. That sounds great!

Me- genuinely wondering if we’ll ever be done with potty training.

When I first read the PT book, I was 8 months pregnant with our second kid. Looking forward to the future, I knew my toddler would be just about the right age to start PT when the baby arrived. My husband and I both read the book to make sure that we were on the same page with the training method. I read the book twice to make sure all the rules stuck in my mind. We schooled Grandma and Grandpa on our chosen method since we’d be living with them during this big life change. We bought the travel potty, the potty seats, flushable wipes, a couple of potty-related kid’s books, and enough puppy wee-wee pads to blanket the entire house multiple times.

We hid the entire living room floor in the wee-wee pads and covered the couch in towels. Potty training was upon us. But we knew we wanted to focus on it after the baby arrived. At the end of my pregnancy, I was so uncomfortable that I knew I wouldn’t be mobile enough to help my son to the potty over and over. We also knew that once I had the baby, my husband would be on paternity leave, giving us one more person to help. We were so hopeful. What was a week of our time to focus on such an important step in our lives?

As I write this, we’re over 6 months into our potty training journey. Yup. You read that right. 6 freaking months. And we’re still not done yet. I’m not writing this to tell you HOW to potty train. I’m not writing this to tell you which method is best. And I’m sure as heck not writing this to tell you that potty training is easy, fast, or terribly convenient. I’m writing this to tell you that potty training is freaking hard no matter which age you start or how smart your little genius is. But over the last six months, we’ve tried many different methods, tricks and hacks and I’m writing this to tell you which of those tricks worked for us.

1- REWARD SYSTEM

The potty training method that I chose to follow expressly discourages a reward system. But hey, we’re a family of rebels and our parenting motto is “Whatever Works!” because we all get to a point sometimes when it’s more about just getting things done. We didn’t start out our training with a reward system in place. Again, we started this adventure as hopeful parents. Weeks into our PT journey when we were deep in discouragement, we decided to give rewards a try. We started PTing in the fall so we had tons of pre and post Halloween candy at our disposal. One of my favorites that I kept stocked in the house was candy corn. Love it or hate it, most kids don’t care. It’s a special, sweet treat. Our rule was one corn for a pee and two corn for a poop. For a time, it was a great motivator. You could substitute a different food treat in place of candy. I’ve also heard of people using potty charts with stickers given as a reward. If you’re not opposed to a reward system, test out the things that motivate your child.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

The last thing I want to mention about this method is that it did NOT completely ruin our PT results. This singular trick is not the reason we’re still struggling to get to 100% trained. The reward system worked well for our kid, for a time. We were actually able to quit the reward system cold turkey because we eventually ran out of candy corn when it went out of season. Thankfully, our toddler is pretty flexible to rule changes like that, and after asking multiple times finally gave up and accepted the fact that he didn’t need a reward to use the toilet. This method helped transition us from the little, portable potty to the big toilet. So, I consider it a small win in the long game.

2- BATH CRAYONS

These were an item that we already had laying around from bath time. Bath crayons are washable crayons that can be used on the walls of a shower or bath tub. We found that they work great on the glass doors of the shower in the bathroom we mainly use for PT. Many times we found ourselves stuck in the bathroom with a stubborn toddler parked on the potty waiting for results. We were spending anywhere between 10-30 minutes in the bathroom with our son who refused to go on command even when we knew he needed to. So, what do you do to pass the time? We’ve read books, watched videos with him on our phones, or just sat and memorized the back of the shampoo bottle. But once we figured out we could use the bath crayons, we opened a whole new world of bathroom entertainment.

These are the bath crayons we use. They’ve come in handy so many times in our PT journey.

We used the bathtime crayons to draw on the glass shower door immediately adjacent to the toilet. We worked on our ABC’s, colors, numbers, etc. But the most helpful was learning new words. I would write a new word on the door that was related to our training, regardless of how long the word was. Our favorite word was “COOPERATE” which was written above definitions like “to help” and “work together.” While my son sat, trapped and bored on the toilet, I would read the big word to him and give him a little explanation and story to define it. My son amazed me when we came back after only doing this a couple of times. He not only remembered all the words (not quite site reading but more memorization) and had a grasp of what those things meant. This helped us a lot in our journey because my son is BIG on communication.

I was also able to use the crayons to draw or write things my son was interested in and create stories around those to help him learn concepts like “focusing” thanks to something Cookie Monster once said, team members “obeying” the direction of the captain on a football team thanks to his love of the Seahawks, and I also fabricated a story about how Stormtroopers have to “communicate” to Darth Vader when they need to go potty. That one might not be canon, but it worked for us! You know your kid best. Use these tools to your advantage when helping them learn about the PT process. And if you don’t have a shower door to draw on you can always just use regular paper and tape it to a wall and use regular crayons or markers. Time to get creative in the bathroom!

The shower door is a great opportunity to learn new things since we spend so much time in the bathroom while potty training. Here, we learn words we commonly use plus new words that can help us in our PT journey. Right now our big word of the week is “communicate” which has been a big speed bump for us.

You can also use the bath crayons (or dry erase markers) to draw on the inside of the toilet seat. If your child is having a hard time focusing on staying on the toilet, you can flip them around backwards (facing the toilet seat) and let them draw on it to pass the time. This worked for us for a while and made for some interesting bathroom art to surprise the next unsuspecting toilet user. Click HERE for a link to the bath crayons we use. These ones work really well and also wipe off without a lot of effort. We found them for a few dollars at Walmart and I don’t make any money off this recommendation.

3- TALLY MARKS

While we’re on the subject of the bath crayons, I want to mention one of our latest tricks. We’ve started writing a tally mark on the shower door for every pee and poop made without an accident. Unfortunately, when there is an accident, we erase that line of tally marks and start over. We started this idea without a solid plan for it. We weren’t offering a specific reward or punishment. We just wanted to build into practice the idea that the tally marks hold value.

It’s hard to get a good picture of it but this is our crude tally mark portion of the shower door. Obviously, we’ve had a recent set-back in the pee department.

Recently, after another big accident-related set back, I impulsively offered ice cream as a reward for accumulating 40 tally marks. In the past, my son has only hit 36 tally marks without an accident as his personal record, and he’s never had ice cream in his two and a half years on this planet. So, I’m not sure if it means a darn thing to him, but I’m willing to try it. For science! And for ice cream! Because we all know Momma Bear is going to get some of that ice cream too for her hard work.

Alternatively to the tally marks providing a reward, they can also provide a means of understanding hard work lost. When we have an “accident” (and, to be clear, these are hardly accidents at this point because my son knows the rules, knows our routines and still refuses to use the toilet without prompting) we erase all of the accumulated tally marks for either pee or poop depending on the accident type. When we do this, we make sure to stress that these tallies are valuable and that we’re disappointed to have to erase them. I do see that my son is starting to understand their value, and losing them finally has some significance to him. I am curious to see WHEN (because I remain hopeful) my son reaches 40 tally marks, if getting ice cream makes a positive impact on him in terms of motivations. Stay tuned in for an update!

4- TAKING SOMETHING SPECIAL

This trick came to me on a whim. We had been struggling for weeks to get my son into the bathroom at our prompting (based on his regular and predictable pee schedule), and every time we even mentioned the word “bathroom” it became a massive fight. It became increasingly difficult to keep our composure and creative a positive experience. At one point, before prompting for a bathroom break, I decided that I was not going to use my usual verbal prompt. Instead, I would ask him these words exactly: “What are we taking with us?” I didn’t give him any warning, or any context for the words’ meaning, but I would get up and start to suggest specific toys or items in the room to “take with us.” Then, once he had selected the items, we would carry them to the bathroom (without any resistance, surprisingly), and find a place for them on the bathroom counter while we did our business. It worked! And it still works!

Today’s “chosen” few consists of some magnet tiles, a horse, a spider, a dog toy, and Mommy’s hair clip. Whatever works.

Every time we use this method, we take something different. We’ve taken every toy, some more than once. We’ve taken really obscure objects from different rooms in the house. We’ve even taken random pieces of paper, ads from the mail, or small bits of (what I consider) trash. There have been very few items that I have said “no” to taking with us. Because remember, WHATEVER WORKS. Sometimes we take a specific toy to “show” it how we go potty like a big kid. Or we take a specific book to read. It’s really about the novelty of getting to choose (almost) anything to take with us. Most of the time my son puts the items on the counter and completely forgets about them while we’re taking care of business! This method is probably my favorite.

5- RESPONSIBILITIES

This PT trick has been an interesting one for us. We started working these responsibilities early into our routine. At first, we were having to help our toddler with every step because he was still in that physically awkward phase where things like pushing his pants down was too difficult for his little fingers. Slowly, over many MANY repetitions, he’s been able to take over the responsibility of moving his step-stool, putting up the toilet seat, placing the potty seat on top of the toilet seat, pushing down his own pants, sitting down on the potty seat without assistance, flushing the toilet, writing the tally mark on the shower door, and moving his step-stool to the sink for hand washing.

“Having these responsibilities has helped him understand better WHY we’re potty training.”

All of these things are steps towards his potty independence. All of these learned routines have saved me a lot of work. Having these responsibilities has helped him understand better why we’re potty training. The latest responsibility we’ve given him is to pee standing up. This one seems to be particularly special. For months, we offered it to him as an optional change but he kept refusing. We didn’t push it because we wanted him to feel ready. Thankfully, he found that peeing standing up “like Daddy” was a very special privilege, and it has been the most successful milestone we’ve had in months. I know this particular responsibility doesn’t work for girls, so once we get to the potty training age with my daughter, I’ll let you know what new methods we come up with.

Overall, potty training has been an uphill battle for us. We’re still not through it. But these 5 methods have helped get us through different stages and learn new things about what our toddler needs and how to communicate with him. I don’t expect anyone reading this to need or use all of these tricks. Hopefully, you’ll only need one or two. But I wanted to compile them all in one place so that you can keep them in your parenting “tool kit” and only use what you need. I’d love to hear about any other methods, tricks or hacks that have worked for your family. Please feel free to add a comment or two to this post and share your PT wins or struggles with the Average Momma Bear family.

Decorating a Home · Hmm, Pinteresting

Geeking Out Your Interior Design

Choosing wall colors, cabinet styles, furniture, decor, and making it all work together is hard enough. What about trying to define and capture your own style? Sure, you can cruise Pinterest for hours, days, years and save a million amazing ideas, but how do you take that collection and make it your own?

There’s a reason those Instagram pictures and Pinterest pins of farmhouse, boho, shabby chic home decor have thousands of shares and saves. They’re beautiful. They feel intentional and put together. Personally, I’m obsessed with many of those and strive to make my house look like the pictures I see online, but in reality, I know my house will never look like those. This might be for a few reasons. First of all, those pictures are staged and heavily edited. I know no one who has a family, especially kids, can live in a house that looks like that 24/7 and stay sane. I also know myself well enough to know that I always try to recreate the home decorating styles I see online but my personal style frequently creates an odd mashup that might not be Insta-worthy.

Decor examples from Pinterest (could not trace original author) using a neutral palette with some contrasting patterns or color. *Not my photos*

The common thing about most of those extremely popular decor styles is that most of them are based on a neutral palette. The main base color is usually a stark, clean white, and the majority of the large accent pieces are neutral browns, tans, and creams. Some designs incorporate black as the contrasting color, while some even go as far as to use a single, non-neutral color as an accent.

As much as I would love the look of a neutral palette, I tend to require a little more color in my personal designs. I do my best not to go overboard with color. A little goes a long way. That rule applies to all of the suggestions further in this post. That being said, some bold color choices can make for a playful and interesting aesthetic. Below, I have included a picture of the dining room wall I painted in my last house. I chose a bright teal because it is my favorite color, and I wanted to create a unique “pop” of color among our mostly neutral paint palette. Adding fun, geeky decor to your home is a nice way to hint at your style, but adding just the right color to a wall can brighten your day and put a smile on your face when you look at it.

A bold teal color I chose for my dining room wall. This became my favorite wall in the house because it breathed life into the otherwise neutral color palette and gave a beautiful color contrast to any artwork placed on it.

Getting to design your own interior space can be overwhelming, but it can also be freeing. Take into account the things you’re interested in. If that happens to be neutral, pattern heavy, boho-inspired, green spaces, then good news- there’s tons of inspiration for you online! But if you’re more like me and appreciate something a little more unique and a lot more geeky then I have some wonderful resources and ideas for you ahead.

“Our family is full of geeks. I can trace it directly to my geeky parents.”

Our family is full of geeks. I can trace it directly to my geeky parents. My husband and I have definitely passed it on to our kids. Because of this, I love finding ways to incorporate our personal, geeky style into our interior decoration. It can be tricky if you’re hoping to stay away from in-your-face, obvious fandom references. I have taken the time to compile several extremely geeky color palettes (found at the end of this article) that reflect different fandoms. These colors can be easily incorporated into your designs with subtle tricks such as decorative throw pillows, wall art, and thoughtfully placed knickknacks or more visible, yet aesthetically pleasing, hints like full colored walls, bedding, or murals.

These ideas should be used in small amounts. Too many of these ideas in one place can get a little too busy and quickly become tacky. So, try to spread the geekery throughout your house. It will be more like an Easter egg hunt for your guests to discover and less like a visually overwhelming mishmash from wall to wall. One way to hide geeky clues in plain sight is to add home decor items like the ones below. (All items can be found at ThinkGeek.) These items can easily be accents in rooms where they blend in with other regular decor. The red clock could be used in a farmhouse style kitchen as an interesting color contrast piece. The towels could be used as decorative hand towels, placed on top of solid color towels with similar palette. The constellation light could be a sweet feature on a guest room nightstand to brighten someone’s night.

Small decor pieces like these can easily be worked in to existing decor schemes to add geeky flair. (These items can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

Here is an example of geeky decor that can be added to even the most elegant dining room. These Harry Potter themed plate and flatware sets (also found at ThinkGeek) are a great way to hint at something without being too obvious. Don’t even mention their theme to your guests and see if they discover it for themselves!

Beautiful Harry Potter dinnerware and flatware can be an elegant way to geek up your dining space. (These items can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

If you happen to have a home theater or a movie viewing area, you can always find beautifully done, artistic posters that celebrate some of your favorite movies. The posters below are just an example of the great ones you can find on the internet. Nowadays, there is such a vast collection of artwork like these that you can use to hint at your fandoms rather than being blatant with an obvious movie poster. Take it a step further and put these artistic posters in wooden poster frames before hanging them. It will create an even more sophisticated and intentional look for your media room.

These posters would be beautiful in a family room or theater. What better way to showcase your favorite geeky movies than with these works of art? (These posters can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

Bedding doesn’t have to be boring. Adding some geeky bedding to your boudoir can allow you to sneak in some geek while allowing the rest of the room to be more neutral. Here are two good examples of geeky bedding that aren’t too flashy or juvenile. You could also carefully add in a themed pillow or two, nestled in with some matching, solid colored throw pillows.

These bedding sets are a fun way to use subtle, geeky prints in the bedroom. The example on the left is a Star Wars theme with TIE Fighters mixed in with the geometric pattern. The example on the right is a damask print using Harry Potter artwork for a more elegant approach. (Both sets found on ThinkGeek.com)

A bedroom is also a great place to make use of the fandom-based color palettes. For example, if you’re looking to hint at what Harry Potter house you belong to, you can always choose a color from the House’s palette, paint your walls with it and use the House’s secondary color as an accent in the decor. Here, I have provided two examples where I used the main color from one represented Hogwarts’ house (Ravenclaw in one example and Slytherin in another) and used the room’s decor as the secondary colors used in the Harry Potter movies. This is a neat way to use bold color schemes without overwhelming the visual aesthetics of the room. The remaining colors should stay neutral to keep the room from feeling too visually “heavy.”

Using Sherwin-Williams online color sample generator, I created two examples of room decor using Harry Potter House colors as wall paint and the secondary color in the room decor.

Using bold colors in your house doesn’t have to be scary. In our last house, my husband and I decided to incorporate our geeky personal touches into some of the most visible places. We researched the exact blue color of the TARDIS from Doctor Who so that we could paint our front door to match it. We wanted to make our front door look as much like the TARDIS as possible without being too obvious. So, we chose a door with windows at the top and used the bright blue paint color to give people that “hmm, this reminds me of something…” feeling every time they looked at it. We actually ended up loving the bright blue color so much that we decided to paint our powder room with the same color. It turned out great! It made that little room feel special and different without being out of place. Check out the photo of our TARDIS blue bathroom below.

We used Sherwin Williams 6811 – Honorable Blue as the paint color for our front door and powder room. This color was the closest color matching the TARDIS blue from Doctor Who.

Wall art can be a tricky decorating tool. So much of the wall art that you can buy in stores looks like stuff you see on the walls of a hospital or dentist’s office. Finding artwork that adds a little bit of geekery into your decor without being blatant can be tough too. Here are a couple examples I found that could work in a pinch. Below, you can see the first is a set of prints based on the art found in the newest Zelda video game, Breath of the Wild. That game has amazing visuals, but I liked that this art set was simple and graphic. Add these into a boho-feel room, and they’ll blend right in. You could even convince your guests that you purchased them abroad, haha! The second piece of art is a clever take on a classic piece of artwork. I love this one because it has a lot of color and visual interest. You could pull colors from this painting to add into your room in other decor pieces- pillows, lamp shades, rugs, etc. to bring the whole room together and keep this painting from standing out too much. Both of these examples have a lot of versatility in helping you visually pull a room together with simple decor using either style or color scheme.

Two great examples of artwork you can hang and enjoy in your home. Guests might not even notice the geeky hints!

And don’t forget about decorating outside your house! The front porch is the first thing people see when they come to visit you. If you’re like me and enjoy letting guests know a little about you before coming into your house, a geeky doormat is a great addition. To accent our Doctor Who door color, we found a great doormat that read “It’s Bigger on the Inside.” This was such a fun conversation piece when other “Whovians” would visit our home and recognize the geeky decor hints. Especially since our house really did look bigger on the inside!

Overall, there are a lot of possibilities and ways you can hint at your fandoms with your interior decor. It takes a light, creative touch. This is a subject I could write a whole book on if I had the time! And no, I don’t make any money off of my recommendation of ThinkGeek, but if you’re looking for anything from decor to gifts to clothes that are geeky in nature, that’s the place to go.

As promised, here are my fandom-based color palettes below. Each color has been assigned a hexadecimal color code (or hex code) that can be found at the bottom of the palette. You can read my previous post where I outline several websites I use when creating color palettes like these. These hex codes are used on several of the sites listed in my post to correspond to specific colors. With these hex codes and the websites I provide, you should be able to replicate these colors in other places for your own use.

Feel free to refer to these palettes when needing geeky color combinations, but please cite me as author. I put in a lot of time and effort developing these collections. Also, I would love to hear any suggestions you have of other fandoms for which I should make color palettes. If I use your suggestion, I will credit you in the next color palette post!

A few of my other favorite fandoms. The Harry Potter colors were borrowed from somewhere else (author unknown) because I felt that they were already pretty accurate. The rest of the palettes are my creations, most sampled directly from pictures of these fandoms.
Decorating a Home · Hmm, Pinteresting

5 Best Online Resources for Color Palette Creation

Over the years, I’ve collected many reliable resources for color sampling, color matching, and palette creation. Deciding colors for your home or design projects can be overwhelming when you don’t have somewhere to start. As a graphic designer, these resources are invaluable to me, but I have found even more uses for them as I help design our dream home. Here is the list I have compiled of the most useful online resources for any of your color projects.

Here’s a screen capture of an Encycolorpedia color page. This is only a small sample of what each page details for any color.

Encycolorpedia is a website that I came upon accidentally one night and has since become one of my go to sites for color information. I usually deal in hex codes (six digit codes, using letters and numbers, that represent each color a computer can understand) for colors in my graphic design, or Pantone colors (a collection of color swatches widely used and recognized over a large variety of color-based industries).

Encycolorpedia works like a color search engine where you can input a hex code, Pantone code, color name, or paint name/code, and it finds information on that color for you. Even if you only have one of those designations for your color, it will find and display all of the others PLUS many other pieces of information about your color all in one place. It finds things like the shades and tints of your original color, different color codes from various paint companies, and what your color looks like when seen with different types of colorblindness, just to name a few. I’m totally blown away by the amount of information Encycolorpedia can find about a single color. I’ve already found so many uses for this website, I’m amazed it’s free.

Paletton is another neat website that offers you a color wheel with movable sliders giving you complete control in finding color palettes based on monochromatic, adjacent, triad, tetrad, or freestyle (2, 3, or 4 colors) colors. Each color palette then gives you tinted and shaded versions of each color, plus the individual color codes for each color. This resource is great for choosing colors that can work well together based on color theory. You can also randomize a color palette or give it a few parameters from which to find you different palette options. I’m so excited to use this site more and learn all of its capabilities.

This is the layout for the Paletton website. The lefthand color wheel has several interactive sliders that give you control over your color picking.

Sherwin-Williams also has a great site for choosing colors. Of course, you’re restricted to their list of paint colors, but their list is pretty extensive. You’re bound to find something very close to what you’re looking for. But if you’re worried they won’t have the perfect color for you, don’t! Sherwin Williams offers a paint color matching service. Take a swatch from any other paint brand to them and they can match it perfectly using their signature paint recipe.

Their site offers a large, easy-to-navigate color palette, and each color gives you a visual example of what that color looks like in a fairly realistic setting. You can change the image used in this visual example, you can even use your own image, and the computer will do its best to superimpose the chosen color on your image. This feature works fairly well, but the more busy and complicated your image is, the harder it is to get the computer to put the color in the right place. Each color also comes with suggestions for similar colors, as well as suggestions for complementary color palettes. This resource is great for helping you find colors that work well in your home. Check out how beautiful their color palette looks below.

The Sherwin Williams color palette allows you to click any color to learn more about it or get access to paint swatch information.

Pinterest is such a great idea resource. It’s such an easy way to find thousands of ideas for nearly anything. The fact that it’s so visual makes finding color palettes that fit your interests fast and simple. There are board after board of color combinations to choose from. The best thing about these color boards is that most of them have been compiled by real people. There is something special and beautiful about the amazing color combinations people create. Sure, a computer can give you an accurate color palette based on color theory, but the human eye, personal experiences, and aesthetic preferences make for some very beautiful combinations. Just try searching for “color palette” in the search bar or click the link I have provided to see my personal collection of color palettes. Below, I’ve included a visual example of how you can collect color palettes on Pinterest. Just scrolling through hundreds of these beautiful palettes will spark so much creativity in you!

A snapshot of some of the color palettes I keep on one of my idea boards on Pinterest.
An example of how AskVal picks colors from your pins.

My last color resource is one that works in combination with Pinterest. It’s called AskVal. Valspar is a specific paint brand that developed a neat app that takes any of your Pinterest pins and turns it into a color palette. It can even sample colors from a whole board to give you a color palette. This is helpful if you’ve found a specific pin or board that you love but don’t have access to any color sampling programs like Photoshop. AskVal will give you five sampled colors, one of which is adjustable with an “eyedropper” tool, allowing you to sample a color by clicking anywhere on the image. Then each color on the palette gives you details about what paint brands have a close match, the paint color designation number, and which retailer carries that paint. This app is a lot of fun to play with. It is fairly intelligent in its color choices, which can save you a lot of guesswork.

Altogether, these resources create a powerhouse of color choice, color matching, color theory, and palette creation. These sites are great to have bookmarked in your favorites for those times when you need help picking out colors and don’t want to stand around fumbling with paint chips in the hardware store.

Crafts · Hmm, Pinteresting

Frosted Glass Painted Dishes

This craft was somewhat of an experiment for me. I’ve made these before but this time around I was able to take the original idea and put my own twist on it to make it unique. I found the original craft tutorial on Pinterest years ago. I would love to credit the original idea-maker, but with Pinterest, that’s hard to do. This craft technique is so versatile. Once you master the original method, you can use this on various materials and experiment with different colors and painting styles.

The original crafter’s idea was to use craft glue mixed with food coloring to create a frosted “sea” glass effect when painted on glass pieces. That method does work and yields a pretty decent result. In my first attempt at this craft, I followed the directions given and was able to reproduce the sea glass effect, but I wanted to try something a little different this time.

Water Lilies, Green Reflection, 1914-17 by Claude Monet

I took the original idea a step further and used the same materials with a different process to create a more impressionistic look. Impressionism is a style of painting (typically done in oil paints) made famous by artists like Claude Monet. Typically, impressionistic paintings use long, visible brush strokes and muted, pastel-like colors, blended together to achieve a soft texture. Here is an example of a well known impressionistic painting by Monet called, Water Lillies, painted in the early 1900’s.

PAINT OPTIONS

The consumer paint industry has come a long way in the last 10 years. It is now possible to go to most superstores (like Walmart or Fred Meyer) and find a spray paint aisle and various specialty craft supplies. In the spray paint aisle, you can usually find paints of different sheens and textures. One novel invention of recent years is “sea glass” finish spray paint. This spray paint has an ultra-matte texture that adheres to glass perfectly, giving it a look similar to a piece of glass textured by tumbling beach waves and rough sand.

These sea glass spray paints work so well that they almost avoid the need for alternatives like glue and food coloring. But if you’re looking for convenience and have glue and food coloring on hand, it will do in a pinch. Plus, spray paint can be expensive if you’re wanting to use multiple colors. Using glue and food coloring is more flexible and easier on your wallet than canned spray paints. I was able to mix 4 different colors initially and 2 shades from leftover colors just from one bottle of glue and a box of colorings.

MATERIALS

Paper to protect your work surface

1 bottle of white craft glue

Desired food coloring(s)

Toothpicks or skewers (the thicker the better)

Tape (any kind will do)

Plastic wrap (static cling plastic food covering)

Various glass pieces (cups, bowls, plates, candle sticks, candle holders, etc.)

2-part Epoxy (make sure it lists “glass” as a surface it adheres to)

1 or 2 paint brushes or sponge brushes

Small dishes or cups for mixing glue and colors (at least 1 for each color you plan to make)

Matte finish sealing top coat (either in spray form or paint-on form like Mod Podge)

dish soap and white vinegar for sticker removal (if necessary)

DISHES

I made it a point to do this craft as inexpensively as possible. You don’t need to spend a lot on this project to get a good result. I got my glass pieces from the dollar store. The dollar store commonly has a dishware aisle that has various glass plates and bowls, most with interesting designs that look good when accentuated with colored glue. Make sure to look also for the home decor section of the dollar store for candle sticks of various heights and shapes. These can be glued to the bottom of the bowls, plates, or cups to offset their heights and give an eclectic mix-and-match look. You can also find many of these similar glass pieces at thrift stores but may end up paying a little more for them. I usually play it safe by shopping for them at the dollar store.

Glass pieces I found at my Dollar Store. All together less than $10.

NOT-SO-STICKY SITUATION

Before you begin this project, you’ll want to remove all the price tags and stickers from your glass pieces. If you have stubborn stickers that leave behind a residue like I had, you’ll want to try my easy removal method. Fill a sink or large tub with hot water and place all glass pieces in the water so that the stickers are completely submerged. While filling sink/tub with water, add a bit of dish soap so as to create a decent amount of bubbles. Then add about ¼ – ½ cup of white vinegar to the water. Let the glass pieces sit in the water overnight, if possible. The longer they sit, the easier the stickers will come off. Once they have soaked, simply peel off the stickers and wipe off any residue left behind with a soft cloth.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cover your work space with paper or plastic to protect the surface.
  • Using your tape and toothpicks/skewers, tape skewers to your paper work surface in arrangements that run perpendicular to the lip of each glass piece being painted (see IMG 2 & 3) so as to keep them from sticking to the paper once they are painted with glue mixture. The tape keeps skewers from moving when the glass pieces are picked up.
IMG 2: arrange toothpicks/skewers under glass pieces, IMG 3: tape down toothpicks to prevent them from moving, IMG 4: choose your colors.
  • Using the desired number of mixing containers per number of colors, divide most or all of the bottle of glue between them (see IMG 5).
  • Add about 4 drops of food coloring to each of the divided amounts of glue (see IMG 6).
  • Mix the food coloring into the glue. I used one of the thick toothpicks I had available to mix with because I could throw it away and use a new one for each color. You could use the paintbrush and wash between colors or use a kitchen knife that you thoroughly clean off afterwards (see IMG 7).
  • Once, color is thoroughly mixed into glue, cover each dish with plastic wrap to keep the glue from drying out (see IMG 8).
IMG 5: divide glue, IMG 6: add food coloring drops, IMG 7: mix glue and coloring, IMG 8: cover colored glues with plastic wrap.
  • Add a small amount of colored glue to your paintbrush and paint a thin layer on desired glass pieces. Try to keep each layer of colored glue very thin (see IMG 9). Once painted, the glue will try to pool and drip if too much is added at one time. Thin application allows for the glue to dry faster, creating a more even layer and no drip marks (see IMG 10). But don’t worry if your first couple layers look blotchy, each added layer will even out the color application more and more.
  • **Make sure to paint only the outside of the glass pieces that would come in contact with food. Craft paint and food coloring are usually non-toxic but most sealants are not and you would not want that to come in contact with foods. You can also choose not to spray a sealant on at the end if you’re worried about it coming in contact with food. But be aware that the dried glue surface would be easier to scratch without a sealant top coat.**
  • After the first colored glue layer dries completely, add additional layers while allowing it to dry completely in between. I usually let my painted pieces sit overnight (see IMG 11) to dry but this can take a long time with multiple layers. 1-2 hours between layer applications should be sufficient. If at any time you’re unhappy with the color or application of your layers, you can always wash off the colored glue. Craft glue is water soluble and should wash off with minimal scrubbing. Then just start the layer application process over again once the piece is completely dry.
  • To achieve an impressionistic look similar to what I did, layer complimentary colors with dry brush strokes. Melt colors into each other using an ombré effect. I chose to paint my pieces to resemble flowers, blending a darker green to a lighter green on the candlestick bases to imitate flower stems and using darker colors on top of lighter colors to give the impression of flower petals.
  • Once you have achieved the desired color effects, decide which pieces will need to be glued together.
  • In the areas where two pieces will need to be glued together, colored glue layers will need to be removed. This is easy to do with with a wet towel, rubbing gently in a circular motion until only clear glass is revealed.
IMG 9: keep paint layers thin to avoid drips, IMG 10: this is an example of a layer that is too thick causing drips and an uneven coat, IMG 11: Let your layers dry thoroughly between coats.
  • In a small disposable cup, bowl, or dish, mix the two-part epoxy together with a toothpick/skewer and gently apply to the cleaned glass pieces to be glued together. Less is best in this case so as not to detract from the look of your pieces with globs of glue. The best way I’ve found to do this is to apply epoxy only along the side with the thinnest edge and then place it upside down on the piece you’re gluing it to. This keeps the glue from dripping down the piece while drying. **Make sure all pieces are sitting on a completely flat surface to ensure that pieces do not slip off center while epoxy is drying.**
IMG 12: I found this two-part epoxy glue to work really well for projects like this, IMG 13: this stick is perfect for mixing the two-part epoxy and actually came in the epoxy package, IMG 14: the plastic shell from the epoxy package works well as a mixing dish.
  • Let epoxy-glued pieces dry completely before moving on. My epoxy claimed to have a 5 minute drying time, but I left them drying overnight to ensure a strong bond.
  • Once glue has completely dried, take pieces, work surface cover, and toothpicks outside (for proper ventilation) and spray the painted surfaces with a top coat sealant. This may take a couple layers to achieve completely even coverage. If possible, spray pieces outdoors on a sunny day. The sun helps the sealant dry quicker and more evenly.
IMG 15: arrange a spray area in the sun to maximize drying times, IMG 16: spray multiple, light coats for even application rather than one heavy coat.

FLEXIBILITY

This craft can be used in many ways. I used this method to decorate glass candy dishes for Easter, using pastel colors and flowery designs  for a spring effect. You could also decorate dishes for other holidays or even paint the outside of clear ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree. Some craft stores also sell glass blocks that can be filled with lights or keepsakes, and this craft method could be used to decorate the outside of those. Please leave a comment below and let me know how you’ve used this method to create something fabulous!

My finished products!


Favorite Recipes

Breakfast Scramble

I love this recipe. It’s quick, easy AND delicious. You can eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner! We usually treat this as one of our breakfast-for-dinner recipes. It’s definitely comfort food; perfect for a cold night or any time you want something that can easily feed a whole family in about 30 minutes. It is easiest to cook this on a griddle or in a very large frying pan.

INGREDIENTS

Most of the ingredients needed for the breakfast scramble.
  • 1 package/bag of uncooked shredded hash browns (about 1-1/4lbs or 20oz)
  • Eggs (1-2 per person being served)
  • Milk (about 1/4 cup per 8 eggs)
  • Garlic salt for sprinkling
  • Pepper for sprinkling
  • Dried parsley for sprinkling
  • 1 medium onion (any color works)
  • Your favorite cheese, shredded works best
  • 1 package bacon (or preferred breakfast meat, about 12oz)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat griddle or pan to medium high heat (I set my griddle to 350 degrees specifically). No need to pre-grease pan because bacon will cook first, and bacon grease can be used for the remainder of foods. If other breakfast meats are used instead, grease griddle or pan accordingly.
  2. Dice onion into about 1/4″ pieces.
  3. Remove bacon from package, keeping pieces together (making it easier to cut). Using a sharp knife, make vertical slices through bacon slab about every 1/2″ until all bacon is cut into pieces about 1/2″ x 1″ pieces. It’s not necessary to separate the pieces, as they will come apart while cooking. *See photo below for example.*
  4. Break eggs into a bowl big enough for all of them plus milk and seasonings. Add milk, some garlic salt, pepper and parsley. I usually eyeball amounts, but to help you estimate- I used 8 eggs for 4 servings (2 eggs per person), about 1/4 cup milk, 1/2+ tsp garlic salt, 1/4+ tsp pepper, 1 Tbsp parsley. Mix until eggs are beaten and all ingredients are evenly mixed in.
  5. Add bacon to heated griddle/pan. Cook bacon until it’s thoroughly cooked. Remove bacon from griddle/pan and set aside on a plate with paper towels to soak up excess grease.
  6. Add cut up onion pieces to griddle/pan using the bacon grease already in place. Brown onion until it is translucent and caramelized.
  7. Remove onion from heated surface and set onion aside on a paper towel covered plate like bacon. Bacon and onion can share a plate at this point if necessary.
  8. With griddle/pan still sufficiently greased, add hash browns. Flatten hash browns with a spatula so that the majority of them are making contact with the heated surface. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over the hash browns. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes on one side before flipping and doing the same on the other side. (5-7 minutes on each side while keeping close watch on them as to not let them burn).
  9. Once hash browns reach desired doneness, add bacon and onions back to the grill/pan.
  10. Slowly and carefully add beaten egg mixture into the hash brown, bacon, onion pile. Begin mixing everything together while also letting the egg cook on the hot surface. The egg mixture will begin to hold the hash brown mixture together.
  11. Once egg is completely cooked, turn off heat and cover mixture with shredded cheese. There should still be enough residual heat to melt the cheese. Enjoy while still hot!
The three stages of the bacon for this recipe. Whole, chopped, and cooked.

This meal can be easily reheated and enjoyed again IF there are leftovers!

Nutrition

  • Serving size: as cooked with 8 eggs serves about 4 people.
  • 1 serving is approximately 498 Calories; 25.2g Fat; 11.1g Sat. Fat; 468mg Cholest.; 829mg Sodium; 38.9g Carbs; 4.4g Fiber; 7.6g Sugar; 35.1g Protein.