Moving Day

Hi there,

Thanks for following along with me on this crazy journey. I’ve narrowed my niche a bit to food and food art (I guess with my blog name it was inevitable).

I’d love if you’d join me! Follow me at howaboutcookie.com. See you there.

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Cauliflower Three Ways

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I’ve been on a big kick with food art lately. My kindergartener has always notoriously disliked cauliflower, so I figured that presenting it in fun ways would eventually wear him down. The good news is that it did–and it only took three tries. On the face of things, I hope my kids grow up seeing meals as a time to enjoy. On a subconscious level, I hope it’s a lesson on not always taking things at face value and seeing everyday items, problems, and even people a little differently.

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Rainy Days Welcome

The polar vortex cometh (again), and even my kindergartener looked at the freshly fallen snow, sighed, and mused, “I’m sick of winter.” Of course, come summer and the 100+ degrees and stifling humidity, I’ll probably be pining for subzero windchills. We Chicagoans are quick to forget.

Nevertheless, a reminder of spring was in order today, with clouds made of apples and bananas, an umbrella made of apple and cheese, and rain–two ways. It’s like having your very own FLDSMDFR in your kitchen.

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3D Printed Cookie Cutters FTW

When you drink green tea at 9pm, you obsessively search unique cookie cutters online by 2am. True story.

At first, I was browsing sandwich cutters, which expanded to cool cookie cutters, which led me to the subculture that is 3D printed cookie cutters. These. Are. Amazing. Here are my three favorite Etsy sellers at the moment:

Printmeneer

Cookie Parlor

Boetech

and the best part: your kid’s artwork in cookie form!

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How to survive Chiberia

Windchills as obscene as -50F. 12+ inches of snow across the region. Metro-wide city closings. Welcome to Chicago, where it got colder than the South Pole and regions of Siberia this week. The kids got an extra two days tacked on to their winter break thanks to Mother Nature, which means moms across Chicago rolled up their sleeves and dug in their heels.

My weapon of choice in the battle against cabin fever? Fun food and DIY crafts. *cough*andnetflix*cough*

Breakfast on Sunday was a twist on French toast as a “snowde” to the city:

 

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Breakfast on Monday was bagels with a few garnishes, which became Polar Vortex bear and Snowpocalypse Man:

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And snacktime today was spent thinking warm thoughts and trying to remember the color green:

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And as is always the case, comfort food is a salvo for the bitter cold:

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To keep little hands busy, we did this fun ice painting craft, inspired by my blogger friend Angela. It’s just a couple drops of food coloring with water in each cube; freeze for 20-30 minutes, then insert popsicle sticks. It is the most simple and gratifying activity, and one of very few that all three of my kids (ages 2, 6, and 8) loved and kept busy with for a full hour.

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Last night I also cooked up this DIY playdough, which is my favorite recipe:

2 cups baking soda
1 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cups water (mix food coloring with water before adding to the above)

I used one nonstick pot to make all the colors, washing between each one, so this took a while. The actual cooking itself takes mere minutes, though, and makes quite a lot. I halved the amount for the yellow and blue colors and there is still a generous amount.

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And finally, we just had to get in on the arctic freeze fun. There was no way I was going to try the throwing-boiling-water-into-the-air thing, but blowing bubbles is harmless enough. It’s not as easy as it looks, and even in 2 degree weather it took some time for bubbles to freeze. The kids got a kick out of watching them crystallize, though, and I think were also just giddy to be outdoors for the first time in 48 hours.

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This weekend will be a welcome, balmy 37 degrees. I’ll miss the polar vortex, though, for the way it forced us to slow down, stop the daily rush, and enjoy each other’s presence.

Who am I kidding. I can’t wait to send them off to school tomorrow.

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Target 90% Christmas Clearance

Ah, Target clearance. The most wonderful time of the year. I’m no extreme, reality show-worthy couponer we by any means, but as a mom of three and freelance writer, a good deal is my BFF. I don’t have the patience or grit to scout tons of stores, so my local Target is where I do all my scavenging.

Luck was on my side this year and I struck gold at my local Target, which went down to 90% off a day earlier than most stores. Here are a few deals I found, plus my haul that cost just a bit under $25. To put it in perspective, that’s the full price of just the curling iron alone! Or 2.5 of the silver night lights! Most of the closeup shots are of items I found in the regular aisles, so if you don’t find them in clearance sections, scout these hidden treasures!

Feel free to follow me on Instagram for recent and updated photos.

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Bento updates: packing the Planetbox Shuttle

For as long as I could remember, I’d been eying the Planetbox. For the unacquainted, it’s this ingenious stainless steel bento-style lunchbox. The genius is in the shape and sizes of the compartments and the way the lid snaps on to keep everything in its place:

Look at that cute little square for treats!

Alas, I would balk at the price. $40 for the box, upwards of $60 if you include the carry bag and accessories like sauce containers. Our set of dining chairs was cheaper than that! So onto my dream wishlist it would go.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to test-drive one of their newest versions. The Shuttle (basic set starts at $34.95) is much smaller in scale, meant for snacks or a sandwich and a side:

I knew right away that it would be perfect for packing a kindergarten lunch. When it arrived, I was kicking myself for not springing for one sooner. It’s nice. Really nice. Thick, heavy-duty stainless steel built to withstand years of use make you realize the cost is worth it. I used the shuttle every day last week to see how versatile it is. I’m used to one or two more  compartments, but there’s plenty of room to fit the same contents a bulkier bento would thanks to how much space the lid creates when closed, if that makes sense. I could stack three sandwiches in the main compartment.

The challenge is in maximizing space and keeping everything separate that should be. Large silicone muffin cups and these IKEA baking cups fit perfectly height-wise. It really is the perfect size for a kindergartener’s appetite, especially when he has 10-20 minutes to eat. It also fits nicely into the LL Bean lunchbox we use with room to stack a juice box or other containers on top.

The only drawback is that it can be tricky to pack with vertical space in mind. So, Planetbox has a meal-planning page on their website where you can create an account and browse a gallery of what other people are packing. You can also build a meal, filling compartments with pre-selected images of food that you can ultimately save and use as a visual guide for later. Again: genius.

Here are my the-sun-isn’t-even-up-yet pictures of meals last week: browse more on Instagram.

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Procrastinator’s guide to advent calendars

Dear fellow procrastinating moms: ‘Tis the season for breathtaking advent calendars, many handcrafted from felt or boasting your kids’ monograms to serve as keepsakes for the years to come.

Stop looking at them. They are not for the likes of us.

Instead, we last-minute ladies depend on ready-made, off-the-shelf wares or haphazard DIY projects. Luckily, there are a ton to be had out there. Just remember, December 6 can be rounded down to December 1, so really, you’re right on time. Now run out there and throw one in your cart or roll up those crafty sleeves.

IN-STORE ADVENT CALENDARS

PicMonkey Collage

Row 1: $39.95, Land of Nod//$49, Land of Nod//same, in red
Row 2: $49, Land of Nod//Santa Advent Calendar, Pottery Barn Kids (no longer available online–procrastinated in getting this blog post up, naturally)//$19.99, Target
Row 3: $29.99, Target//$34.99, Target//Marimekko, $119, Crate and Barrel

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Here’s what I like about the 24-Drawer Decorative House from The Container Store: You can DIY it to your heart’s content or leave it as is to house knick-knacks long after you (finally) throw out the Christmas tree. I saw this in person and it’s a sturdy, coated kraft paper–a far cry from the upcycled cereal box look in the photo. And the size of those last two boxes: genius. As in, even if you waited until a few days before Christmas, all is forgiven when you shove double the treats into those.

Here’s what I like about the Kid Made Modern Countdown Calendar from Target: It’s a sewing craft kit the kids do on their own. I repeat: craft kit. Kids. On their own. I would have picked it up, but it looked very involved and overwhelming for my six-year-old. I may grab it when it goes on clearance to save for next year; the midcentury-modern vibe is too good to pass up.

DIY ADVENT CALENDARS

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Row 1: paper bags//vending machine snowmen//paper candy pouches
Row 2: coffee cups//mini muffin tin//toilet paper rolls
Row 3: clothespins//paper trees//books

PRINTABLE ADVENT CALENDARS
some require a modest fee, i.e. $5 or less.

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Row 1: Mibo//adorable little houses//more adorable little houses
Row 2: b&w boxes//a town’s worth//merry + bright
Row 3: vintage ornaments//can’t get enough houses//mibo penguin

As for us, this is the first year we actually started on time. We’re using a felt craft kit from Target that was super easy and simple fun for the boys, in the holiday craft section for $10. The pockets are tiny, though, barely able to fit a hershey’s kiss or erasers. I may just have to spring for one of the printable houses.

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pint-sized problem-solving

My kindergartener attends a STEM school (science, technology, engineering, math). The great thing about the curriculum is the emphasis on real-world problem-solving. Some homework pages will show pictures of “problems” (i.e. messy room, broken mug, etc) and ask the kids to draw their solutions, complete with descriptions of the process and labels of each pertinent tool.

All that to say, he’s rubbing off on his little sister. Lately, she’s been doing a fabulous job of helping me troubleshoot stubborn issues. Observe:

PROBLEM: A shag rug that hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks.
SOLUTION: Grab a box of cereal. Turn upside down. Stomp around for good measure.
RESULT: A vacuumed shag rug.

PROBLEM: A toddler who’s been looking a little thin lately.
SOLUTION: Walk to the fridge. Whine until mom gets off Instagram and opens fridge door. Grab a stick of butter. Unwrap and eat.
RESULT: Tada, fattened toddler.

PROBLEM: A broken rice cooker.
SOLUTION: Wait until mom loads the dishwasher. Run to another room and cry until she comes. Throw anything onto the floor to distract her. Quickly run back to the kitchen, open cupboard door, and throw fistfuls of rice into the dishwasher. When mom comes back and closes the dishwasher door, act cool.
RESULT: Biggest rice cooker ever.

PROBLEM: A leather couch that could use some conditioning.
SOLUTION: Dump a 6-oz. container of yogurt onto leather couch (organic yogurt is preferred). Buff with hands in a smooth, circular motion.
RESULT: Buttery, like-brand-new leather.

I’m so proud of her. Should you be interested in using her services, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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November 21, 2013 · 9:52 pm

$2 Off to Chicago’s CHiTAG Toy and Game Fair

I don’t attend a lot of fairs or expos, but when it comes to the business of play? I’m all there. This weekend, Navy Pier becomes home to the 11th annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair, where vendors like HABA, Plan Toys, Razor, Kickboard USA, Bananagrams, TOMY and more set up shop and show off their wares.

Look, a coupon:

Click the image for ticket info and a full-sized coupon to print.

You might be able to get in free:
Teachers, librarians, scouts in uniform, and kids under 3 are free. Grandparents with grandkids in tow are free on Sunday. (Translation: book a ressie for a leisurely, kid-free brunch date with your hubbie on Sunday.)

When and where:
Saturday, 11/23: 10:00am-6:00pm
Sunday, 11/24: 10:00am-5:00pm
Navy Pier, 2nd floor Festival Hall A (far east end)

What to expect:
An epic playdate that your kids will never want to leave. Browse the list of vendors and exhibitors and check out featured exhibits. Many will have life-sized versions of their bestselling games, and there will be fun events  both on Saturday and Sunday, including:

- Star Wars character lunch (fee required)
– Young Inventor Challenge, where kids showcase their own original toys
– a yo-yo contest
– magic performances
– puppeteering classes

and a ton more. Other perks include raffles, coupons, and discounts (oh hi, 30% off a Kickboard scooter!) at individual booths depending on each vendor.

Race ya there!

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