Category Archives: family

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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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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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.

printable advent

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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Rise and Shine

I was never a morning person. My mom had this nickname for me in Korean that pretty much means “sleeping pig”. Pretty accurate. But if anything gets you used to a 5:45ish wake-up time, it’s motherhood. It takes me a few minutes to get my bearings, but slamming kitchen drawers and muttering under my breath usually does the trick.

Kids, of course, are all morning people. It’s the most well-rested they’ll be all day, the calm before the overstimulation storm. The way my three rouse with nary a yawn or croaky voice always impresses me. Sometimes I stare at them and squint a little, wondering if they’re really mine. Sleeping pigs they are not.

Today my third grader is home sick, so he’s not his usual rise-and-shiny self. I made a fun little breakfast plate to brighten his morning and made myself a little incentive to like mornings more.

PicMonkey Collage

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Bento Updates

Like I shared in this post, I started making bentos to give my picky eater incentive to eat a decent lunch during school. I’m a fantastic starter, but a not-so-great finisher, so I’m probably the one who’s most surprised that I’ve kept it up this long.

I started out following a few blogs, but I find the most inspiration on instagram for the instant ogling gratification. I especially like the instagrammers who don’t have SLRs and post grainy, off-centered iPhone pics instead. It just feels more intimate and real-life. I can practically hear their 6-year-olds yelling that they can’t find their homework or need matching socks.

These lunchbox masters are worth the follow:
weelicious
becoming a bentoholic
bento for kids
lunchbox dad
bento nation
beans bags
creative fun food
antsbento
happy bento

Now that I’m mildly obsessed, I’ve picked up a few pearls of wisdom along the way:

1. Pack it in. One morning, after I snapped a picture of a just-packed lunch, my kindergartener announced, “Mommy, sometimes the food bounces around.” Whoops. While aesthetics are nice, practicality is better. I go for smaller containers packed tightly, or containers with sections that get their own “seal”.

2. Work with your budget. Some of the tools and containers out there are adorable. A $5 set of picks here and a $10 set of silicone cups there, though, and it adds up. While I love the look of a lot of these products,  I stick to the food itself. If you have the money to spend, though, go crazy.

3. Stealing is totally ok. As in, stealing ideas. So much of social media is about inspiration anyway, and kudos to you if you can translate that into real life vs. pinning it on your “GOTTA DO THIS” Pinterest board and walking away. Giving credit where credit is due, though, is basic good manners.

4. People will judge you. A couple well-placed sandwiches is fine. But once you whip out divided containers or take a cookie cutter to a cheese slice, you become one of “those” moms. Your legitimate, rational reasons for doing it in the first place fall on deaf ears. To keep at least a few mom friends, it’s best to post a lot of pictures of your messy home.

5. By that same token, bento bloggers are a sensitive bunch. Much like the apples upon which we craft checkerboard patterns, we have thin skin. Any hint of sarcasm about our creations leaves us reeling. But not to worry; it becomes fodder for the next day’s panda-shaped pancakes.

A few of our most recent lunches. (For the rest, follow me on Instagram.) I don’t blog exclusively about bentos so pardon the quality of these photos. I’d do a better job with them, but, well, I’m too busy trying to find matching socks.

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