Family Games for Wii

Instead of boring you all that are on newsletter updates with a bunch of Wii-related posts on a regular basis for those that don’t care, I decided to start a brand new section on Idea Queen for all the game reviews.

This new section is under the Crafts & Activities area of the site and titled “Family Games for Wii“. I’ve set up a unique scoring based on several areas which I feel a family game full of activities should have. Since the purpose of a Wii is to get kids up and moving, this is also part of our scoring which may make even some really good games a little “off” to other reviews.

You’ll also find links to Amazon above every review in case you’d like to purchase the game or read what others have to say, since we’ve found some of the best deals can be found on that site (just today I purchased Wii Play with a remote used for $20 on Amazon -I’m excited!).

For those of you who are interested in the Wii games, I hope you’ll enjoy this new section!

Potato Chip Chicken Strips

We tried out a fun new recipe the other night, and I just knew it was going to be a hit. My picky son still wouldn’t eat much of it, but I never know what he will or will not eat (his tastes seem to change by the hour, so don’t let that stop you from trying this!).

What you’ll need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup (8oz) sour cream
Garlic salt
Onion salt
Paprika (optional)
Potato chips, crushed

Take your sour cream and mix with spices in one bowl. Put your potato chips in another bowl. (For those familiar with making any kind of breading, the sour cream is the liquid part, and the potato chips are the coating). Warning – you WILL get messy. The original recipe says to “dip”, but you just can’t without getting your hands down in it. My suggestion is to drop in as much chicken as possible into the sour cream, get it coated, then drop them into the potato chips one by one.

Once coated, place them in a large baking dish that’s been greased. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes at 400*, or until chicken is no longer pink.

This was an AWESOME recipe that I’ll be using again!

We Got a Wii!

Yes, after many grumbles about hearing how everyone else got a Wii, we finally got one ourselves. With a slightly overweight 6-yr-old and me trying to lose weight as well, I finally justified the cost as something this couch potato family really did need.

Now one thing I will tell you – we did NOT buy it from eBay or anywhere else online. I still am just floored how much those are selling for. I’ve yet to see one sell for under $300 on ebay and just about as much at other stores when you add in shipping, which is just nuts to me. The auctions that include a bunch of extras, well, I can understand that. But the ones with just the basic Wii – a set of controllers (remote and nunchuk), the console, and Wii Sports – I can’t understand why those are selling so high. I paid $250 plus tax on one from our local Game Stop. Not the best of deals, but at least I didn’t pay too much and it was brand new (would you believe I’ve seen USED ones sell for more online?).

So far it’s everything we thought it would be. I’m so sore from playing I can’t barely move in the morning, and my daughter hasn’t sat and watched TV since she came home Friday afternoon from school. We had friends over last night for a few games of bowling, which was a blast. And no matter how much I hurt, I can’t stop playing. It’s got the addictive elements of a video game, yet it’s actually GOOD for us. I don’t have the “I haven’t done anything useful” guilt that normally goes along with playing too many games. I LOVE it!

Yesterday I went poking around for more games, just to see what’s out there. It’s not that I really want to spend a whole lot more on this because I really didn’t have the money to buy the Wii in the first place. But I did want to see what we could put on some wish lists and swing for birthdays or whatever. (Amazon and eBay don’t have bad prices on games, by the way)

I did, however, end up buying another “game” anyway. Remember how I said I justified this purchase with the promise of our family getting in shape? Well, I ended up buying My Fitness Coach. I probably would have bought the Wii Fit system, but it just cost way too much right now.

I actually saw another fitness “game” with a well known fitness guru’s face on it at Game Stop, although I’m glad I went online to look around first. For one, the other game has some NASTY reviews on Amazon. Not just a few either, but a LOT. For two, it uses Wii Fit, which My Fitness Coach does not. I don’t want to invest more than I have to at this point.

Now I will say this about the Wii. It does take a little getting use to because it’s not like a normal game system. The bad reviews I’ve seen on them usually have comments such as “I played it for 10 minutes then took it back”. Well, it takes more than 10 minutes to get use to it. Plus if you are looking for a normal game system that requires you to sit on the couch, this is NOT it. Oh no, this MAKES you get up and move, which is EXACTLY why we bought it. In fact, I tried to sit for a moment while bowling, and accidentally threw the ball into the crowd. Oops! So no, it does not work sitting.

Am I glad we bought it? Oh yeah, without a doubt. Was it worth the cost? Well, if you compare it to similar things such as exercise equipment and gym memberships, then YES. But I would NOT spend more than you have to, since you CAN find it locally if you wait or look around a bit (I had seen them before Christmas at Target, yet they were sold out last week. As mentioned, I looked elsewhere and found it).

Easy Pattern to Sew a Teddy Bear

With my best friend’s baby shower coming up soon, I’ve been on the lookout for some interesting handmade baby toys to make. But while looking at patterns in Joanne’s today, I decided that a teddy bear might be fun to make. I really didn’t want to spend something like $8 on a pattern I probably wouldn’t use more than once, so came home to look.

After carefully scanning loads of patterns, I found the absolute perfect one. This one is four pieces – all body and no little “parts”. This to me is huge, since I have a hard time assembling things like arms and ears. But THIS pattern is so simple I think just about anyone can do it. (Warning – the above link is a .PDF file, so may take a few extra seconds to load).

One small tip though – it took me a few minutes to realize when you are sewing together the pieces in the first step that you only sew the side of head and belly, NOT the whole thing. Most people might already have assumed it, but I didn’t at first. I only realized it after I looked at the pieces a few minutes and tried to imagine how they would look all put together.

I’m making this bear right now with fleece, and it’s SO EASY. I hope you have fun making this bear as well!

Fun Kids Room Decor

Let’s face it – the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to decorate a kids room is with posters. Not just any posters though, but rather ones features their own personal interests.

For Christmas I had found a book of Hanna Montana posters that included probably 10 or more sheet-of-paper-sized posters. Since I have a Hanna Montana fan, this made an excellent gift. It also dressed up her room a lot, and she loved it.

Full size posters are also great, and both my kids have those on their walls as well. We got them pretty cheap, spending no more than $5 on each of them.

But what else can you use for fun kids room decor? Well, how about some personalized art?

Just about every place that sells crafts also sells poster boards for a little bit of nothing. You know, the giant sheets of paper the same size as a full size poster, usually made from cardstock or other sturdy paper. While you are there, pick up some crafty items such as paint, glitter glue, foam stickers, colored feathers, or whatever else catches your attention.

With all your supplies ready, let the kids have at it! You could make a whole day around this craft project, then help them put it up on their wall when they are finished. Not only are you giving them something fun to do, but allowing them to get involved in the design of their room. See? Fun, easy, cheap. Perfect!

Family Literary Activities

Since I have a son who is crazy about books, I’m always looking for ways to include his love for reading in family activities. Recently he picked up a Goosebumps book, and has since fallen in love with the series.

Now I’m especially glad that Goosebumps is so popular that everyone in his class knows it. Peer pressure can sometimes work in their advantage, that’s for sure. Not only do they all know the books, but the series as well. I managed to find a few DVDs for Christmas, and he absolutely loves them.

With there being both books and a TV show, we’ve come up with an excellent activity to do together. First he reads the book and talks about it. Next we locate the show that goes with it (I have Netflix, and have put a few of those on my list), and then talk about the differences.

At school in years to come he’ll have tons of boring book reports to do, so I don’t make him write anything down. But the discussion of something he’s interested in makes for an excellent learning experience that he won’t be bored with.

I’ve also done this with my daughter (who’s just starting to read) with the Barbie and the Diamond Castle. She got the movie and book both for Christmas, and we watched the movie first. When we read the book, she helped read the story because she recognized some of the names and places.

So with my son it’s book first, then show, helping his comprehension skills. With my younger daughter it was movie first then book, helping with her reading skills. And finding something they are interested really does make all the difference. 😉

How Peer Pressure Can Be Good

Since we live in a small town that lacks a true class system in the schools (at least for now), my kids are more or less friends with everyone in their classes. After school, though, they have some specific friends they play with quite often, mostly because they are in the neighborhood (although in a small town like this, no one is more than a mile away unless they live in the country).

I know my son’s little after school “group” quite well. There’s the boy across the street who he’s known since preschool (they are in 2nd grade now), the two boys on either sides of town who seem to wander over in this direction often, and the little girl up the street. Five of them in all who run together on a regular basis, and are all in the same class this year.

My son has always been an excellent reader and fantastic at spelling (where he gets that I’ll never know, since both his dad and I are awful at spelling). Last year he was constantly on the “challenge list” because those regular words were nothing to him. It hasn’t changed this year either, and rarely does he bring home anything but an A+ spelling test.

This week’s spelling list came home on Monday, and I got a good laugh out of what I saw. The review list and challenge words were on the same paper, with a note at the bottom as to who was doing the challenge list this week. Who did I see? All five of the “gang” with a few others. My son and his four best friends all passed their Monday spelling list.

Now he never really talks about it, but I have to wonder if somewhere down the line his little clique has made this into a competition or something popular. I almost wonder if it was my son’s doing, since he can be quite a leader at times (and even when he’s not the leader, he’s never the follower, but out in his own little world – ha!). It could have also been the girl of the group, who’s mother is a teacher in another town, or all of them put together. Who knows. But the fact remains they were all on that list, possibly motivating each other to get them all right.

I just thought that was very cool that he’s found himself a group of friends who care about grades. Quite rare, I think, so I’m very happy. Let’s just hope this continues in grades to come!

Cooking with Kids

My daughter loves to watch Food Network. Actually, she just loves food in general. At six, she’s informed me she wants to be a chef when she grows up, that is, if her pop star career doesn’t take off. He he.

I’ve been mulling this idea over for awhile, thinking I’d love to give her a head start on this career. It worries me a bit, since living in the middle of nowhere it’s not like we have a whole lot of opportunities for gourmet cooking. The closest we have to a fancy restaurant is Applebees and Red Lobster. Still, I think she might go far if given some encouragement.

I was poking around the other day, and came across a website called Spatulatta.com, which focuses on cooking with kids. They have videos and recipes, as well as fun things to make that encourages healthy eating. This is pretty important to us, since she is a little overweight (like I said, she loves food!).

I’m going to spend a little more time looking around the site, but I think this will be one site we visit often. I’ll be getting her more involved in the kitchen when I cook, in hopes that some day she’ll be a famous chef. Even if this career choice doesn’t hold until adulthood, cooking is still a great skill for anyone to have, and one very cheap, very useful hobby!

New Year Weight Loss

Now I know, it may be one of the oldest resolutions out there (and the easiest one to fail on), but that’s what I made this year. Mostly because I’ve already been at it for over two months now with huge success. My goal? Another 15 pounds, making me less than I have been in nearly ten years.

It started somewhere in October. I weight a whopping 170 pounds, and I just felt fat. Who’s really comfortable being overweight? Not me, that’s for sure. Especially when my own mother is a good 50 pounds under me. Yes, she’s a toothpick, and I remind her of it daily. I no longer go clothes shopping with her, and if she tries, I tell her perhaps my kids have clothes she can wear.

Back to my own weight issues…….

Being a tad on the short side, I really should be around 130 lbs or less. That was my BC weight (you know, “Before Children”). Those days have come and gone though, so I’ve given away my boxed up size 6 jeans who’s only purpose now is to mock me.

So my first goal, set around Halloween, was to drop 15 pounds by New Years. That would put me at 155, which I haven’t seen since before I was pregnant with my second kid. And guess what? I hit it, dead on, with a brand new habit of eating less.

It was simple really. All I did was keep track of how much I ate and how many calories I burned. More burned than intake. Easy. I ate a minimum of 1200 calories a day, but some days I was hungry. Especially at the beginning, but my desire to lose weight squashed the craving and eventually I wasn’t even able to eat that much.

My eating habits didn’t really change, but rather were rearranged. I still ate my ‘mountain pizza’ at 500 calories per slice (yeah that was a shocker), but only ate 2 slices instead of 4 and didn’t eat any more meals on those days. I cut down on my morning cappuccino from 6 heaping tablespoons to 3 normal sized teaspoons, and from 2 glasses down to 1. I also cut down on the pop, and somehow ended up cutting it out of my diet all together with (wasn’t intended, but I ended up replacing it with one vitamin water a day instead of 2 or 3 bottles of pop). There also wasn’t junk food in the house, even though there never was before, but rather those 100 calories packs of various foods (Oreo crisps included!). That way I still got “snacks”, but didn’t go overboard or over eat.

Now as for exercise, I still couldn’t seem to pry my lazy rear out of the chair. Much to my surprise though, it didn’t matter. At my current weight, I manage to burn an average of 2300 calories a day doing my normal daily activities. So all I did was make sure I didn’t eat over 1300 calories a day, and I managed to burn 1,000 every single day. That’s 2 pounds a week, the max of what you can be burning unless otherwise directed. So 8 weeks later burning 2 pounds a week (taking breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas overeating, which I really just broke even on those days), I dropped 15 pounds. TA DA!

I’ve been coasting for the past week to see how I do with my new smaller appetite, and so far I’ve dropped another pound. Next week I’ll jump back in and just do some calorie counting to see where I’m at, then get fully back into this. I have another 15 pounds to go, so by the time my class reunion rolls around I’ll be dang near at where I was in high school. Fantastic, right?

So to recap, my “method” is nothing more than burning more calories than I take in, and keeping good record of it all. I write down EVERYTHING from the 130 vitamin water to the 200 calorie fun size candy bar (and yes, those are a rare treat when I can spare the calories for the day). If it doesn’t have a label, you can look up just about any food online (like eggs, fast food meals, and veggies).

To keep track of what you burn, I highly suggest this website:
http://www.caloriesperhour.com/

Good luck!

Omelet Maker Ideas

For Christmas I got a brand new kitchen toy – and I LOVE toys for the kitchen. An omelet maker! My kids were quite happy to see this, as previous attempts at making omelets were a bit sad. Out of all the things I can make in the kitchen, omelets just aren’t one of them.

But this little toy is just FANTASTIC. We tried it out for the first time last night, scrambling up four eggs and adding a few tasty ingredients (cheese, garlic salt, and cilantro……sounds a bit odd, but it was actually very good). I was just amazed how fast it cooked and how easy it was to slip them right out of the wells.

Now I like omelets alright, but in order to get full use out of this, I’m on the hunt for other ideas. I’m a bit nervous as this is meant for eggs, but I”m sure there are other things we could cook in it. I’m especially interested in using this along side our bread maker, such as with some type of dough mixed with breakfast goodies.

If you have an omelet maker, I’m open to ideas and recipes! For now though, I’ll be playing with different omelet recipes to see what I can come up with. After all, there is a hundred different ways to create an omelet.