Need a Break? Come Play

Being a mom is a full time job, there’s no doubt about it. We all need a break sometimes. Just a few quick minutes for a game of solitary, or some other easy game to play on a whim.

That’s why we’ve added a brand new page on Idea Queen designed to give parents the short break we all need. On our new “Games for Mom” page, you’ll find several different online games to play right in your browser – no downloading or sign up required! You might even find a few games to play along with the kids.

So what are you waiting for? Go play! (Just remember to bookmark the page and come back oftenπŸ˜‰ ).

Webkinz Pet of the Month – May 2009

A nice surprise may be coming your way if you own the Webkinz Pet of the Month for May 2009 – The Cocker Spaniel! This is an older favorite to many kids, and he’ll be getting all kinds of bonuses in May.

If you don’t have a Webkinz yet or need to renew the year membership, this pet is perfect for adopting in May due to all the fun extras you’ll receive. Be sure to see pricing options at Webkinz Amazon

Turkey Breasts, Not Chicken

One of our grocery store chains around here is pretty well known for their nice selection of meats. It’s always fresh, and they do an excellent job with the variety too. So when I’m in need of meat (which I always am, normally I start supper with some form of meat and go from there), I’ll go to this particular store.

The other day after getting the basics (chicken breast, roast, hamburger, hot sausage in various forms, steak, and a few other specialty items), I spotted turkey breasts. You know, like raw. Not sliced into sandwich meat and packaged or even a whole turkey, but just the breasts like you would see chicken. This looked fun to me.

I got to thinking about why we don’t cook with turkey more often. Is it because after Thanksgiving we just don’t want anything to do with it? Or is it because it’s best in lunch meat form? But then again, why are we just limiting ourselves to two very boring recipes? Well, I had to grab what I spotted at the store because I was going to try out something NEW which I’m just sure would be fantastic.

Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of recipes for turkey breasts out there, and in our massive collection I’ve only gathered a handful thus far. One in particular, though, really looked good to me. Of the small handful of turkey recipes, this happens to be the only one that uses turkey breasts. Lucky for me it sounds good. We haven’t tried it just yet, but you can see it here: Cranberry Apple Turkey Breast


Gardening Ideas Series – Vegetable Plants

This is part six of our Gardening Ideas Series, which talks about where to find vegetable plants online and offline. See the rest of the series in our Gardening section.

While I personally buy my vegetable plants in local greenhouses, I know not everyone has that option. Which is why Nature Hills is a great place to look when buying vegetable plants online. Click the banner above for more information on their selection, including organic plants of all kinds.

This year we plan to plant our three favorite vegetable plants. We didn’t start them inside because it’s just easier to buy them, and we know they’ll grow well if we do. Here are those three:

– Tomatoes, Better Boys
Easy to grow just about anywhere, although it’s been our experience that a new garden freshly dug up will product the absolute best crops. The first year we planted tomatoes, we had hundreds (no joke!). This particular kind are our favorites, and perfect for salsa.

– Green Bell Peppers
Also great for salsa, thus the reason we buy them every year. In the past we’ve used them for other cooking as well. Sometimes peppers can be quite fickle though, and not every year is a good year. Keep a close eye on them as they are growing and keep them free of weeds.

– Jalapeno
Nothing fancy or extremely hot, just a regular Jalapeno (sometimes reffered to as “Early Jalapeno”). These are the best for salsa if you don’t use too many. It can also be a finicky plant, so keep it free of weeds and bugs. Also watch you don’t mow over it. Yes, I did that to a plant one year. Oops.
As mentioned previously in the series, we are keeping the tomatoes separate from the peppers on either ends of the “old part” of the garden. The tomatoes need a whole lot more room than the pepper plants do, and those pepper plants won’t get to big at all. You also need to make sure these get full sun and no shade from those tomato plants (or anything else for that matter).

For more vegetable plant ideas, be sure to visit Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

Tidy Tuesday Challenge – Laundry Room

I’m a day late, I know, but yesterday was a bit hectic. But today I’m ready to jump into some major housework and a brand new challenge for the week.

For some reason my laundry room has been a mess since I moved in. If I’m not behind on doing laundry, I’m behind on putting it away. And if all our normal clothes are put away, there’s always something stacked in the laundry room that needs attention. I’m sure I’m not alone here, so this week’s challenge is focused on the laundry room.

Right now I need to get a lot of things put away, and also get the out-grown pile in bags. What kind of work does your laundry room need? Do you need to put away clothes, get caught up on laundry, or do something as simple as mop the floor? Post it here if you are joining in our weekly challenge!

What’s for Dinner?

While I’ve been on a major kick trying new recipes out left and right, it’s always nice to fall back to our regular menu as well. I thought I would take a day and post our tried and true favorites that have been posted on the blog over the past few years.

Beef Stroganoff
Always a favorite, even if it’s not the traditional form. Think of it as the Hamburger Helper version, only made from scratch and large enough to actually feed the entire family.

What family doesn’t eat this on a regular basis? Although I think we make it at home MUCH more than we order it. Everyone loves what has been dubbed the “mountain pizza”.

If you are making the meat right, you’ll have a hard time guessing it’s not from your favorite taco joint. In fact, when we actually do go out to a taco restaurant, my oldest orders something like nachos because he knows the best tacos are at home.πŸ˜‰

I love steak, so this is one of those at least once a month meals. I hate messing with a grill, so it’s always cooked on the stove with a flat griddle-like pan. Of course, you have to make mashed potatoes with them too.

Hot Wings
I’ve been known, on many occasions, to make a meal out of hot wings.  Actually, what I do is cook up all the chicken and only put the hot sauce on mine. I LOVE hot wings and have no problem making them a main meal!

Cold Veggie Pizza
This use to be something I made all the time, but as the kids have gotten older they’ve started protesting vegetables as a main dish. It’s still something I make from time to time, but has been reduced to a side dish or something that’s made along side another dish such as pasta (my daughter loves veggies and hates pasta, where my son is just the opposite, so this dish works perfect with pasta).

Chicken Fried Rice
Here’s another recipe I use to make A LOT, but haven’t made in awhile. Probably because it’s a whole lot of work putting all the “pieces” together. Plus we haven’t had chicken leftovers in awhile. But I’m thinking it’s  time to make chicken followed by this recipe.

That’s about it for our specific meal ideas, but you can always see more on Idea Queen under “Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas“.

Last Minute Easter Crafts

If you are looking for a few last minute Easter crafts over the weekend, be sure to see our full page of Easter Crafts at Idea Queen.

I know I’m guilty of not pulling out the egg decorating kits just yet, but it’s something we plan to do over the weekend. On the page linked above you’ll find some additional craft ideas, including a different way to color eggs, plus some traditional crafts for Easter.

Have a great weekend!

Butter Braids Recipe

Before I jump into the recipe, let me first tell you a story. I know I’m probably among the minority here, but I’m just sick to death of the fundraising companies taking advantage of the schools. The last fundraiser our PTO did was for butter braids, despite my protest they were charging WAY too much. The butter braids were being sold for $12, and the company was giving only $5 of that to the school (IF we sold over a certain amount, which I don’t believe we did, so ended up with LESS). Yes, the company’s profit from those simple breads was at least $7 per, while the school got only $5.

I thought these prices were just beyond insane, and my ranting only increased when I saw very similar butter braids at the local grocery store for $4.50. My jaw dropped, and I was even more disgusted.

So I went on a quest to find an even cheaper way to do these tasty treats. I’m just going to make my own! Now I will warn you though – you need a bread machine to mix the dough. I’m sure you could do it by hand, but it’s SO much easier to have a bread machine. (Again, if you don’t have one, see our post on why you need a bread machine)

First you’ll need my awesome cinnamon roll recipe (and by “my” I mean I’ve claimed this, not invented it. This recipe was given to me awhile back). Here’s the dough for the base of the bread:

Butter Braid Bread Base

3/4 c water
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
6 Tbs sugar
1/4 c butter (softened)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs dry milk
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Add to bread machine and set on “dough” cycle. Cut dough in half to make two breads. Roll each out into a rectangle. Add your fillings (see below for options) in the center of each dough, leaving space on the edges. Cut 1 inch strips on the sides from edge to center. Fold in and tuck under strips to give a braided appearance (see this picture of butter braids, although I tuck mine under a little more than what’s pictured).

Let rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 375 for 15- 20 minutes or until light brown. Add frosting or glaze (see options below).
Now for all the options. You can use any combination of the following, but to make them just like the butter braids you see in stores, I’ve tried to organize them a bit.

Option 1

Filling Options for Cream Cheese Frosting:

– Apple Pie Filling
– Cherry Pie Filling
– Blueberry Pie Filling
– Peach Pie Filling

Basically any type of pie fillings will do, and those listed above are best with the cream cheese frosting on the top.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4oz Cream Cheese
2 Tbs Butter
3 Tbs Powdered Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla and powdered sugar.

Option 2

Fillings for Glaze:

– Cinnamon (1/4 c melted butter, 1/3 c brown sugar,1 tsp cinnamon)
– Jam or Jelly

Glaze Recipe

1 c powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbs milk

Mix together, adding milk as needed.
That’s it! The fun part of this recipe is trying out different fillings and toppings for the bread and coming up with completely different breads each time.

Gardening Ideas Series – Flower Bulbs

This is part five of our Gardening Ideas Series, which is all about finding bulbs for your flower garden. To see all the past ideas, be sure to see our Gardening Section.

Perennials are probably my favorite types of flowers, since they require little to no effort on my part and can fill in anywhere in your flower garden.

While some flower seeds are classified as perennials due to their ability to reseed themselves, your best bet for a beautiful flower is to buy bulbs (or get starts from friends and neighbors, of course).

There are simply too many different types for us to list here, so I recommend heading over to Nature Hills Nursery, Inc. to see what they have available. Walmart is another option, although there’s a good chance they wouldn’t grow. Best to stick to trusted sources or live plants in your area.

Around my yard I’ve let the tiger lilies take over for the most part, but we’ve also added Iris and will be adding Bleeding hearts (which is more of a plant than a flower, but I did get a start of it like you would a flower bulb). Aside from those, I also like to plant some annuals around so my flower garden is never the same two years in a row.πŸ˜‰

I’ll be replacing the tiger lily slowly with other plants, and there’s no shortage of them online. Nature Hills currently has over 300 varieties to choose from, so you are sure to find flower bulbs to plant in your yard! I’ll be hitting this site up soon when I’m ready to add more.

Tidy Tuesday – Sorting Clothes

Yup, it’s Tuesday again! Time to pick a chore you don’t do on a regular basis and work on it this week.

Looking at the mess of clothes we’ve got, I figured this would be a good week to sort clothes. We get loads of hand-me-downs from cousins and neighbors, and it’s gotten quite out of hand. I know there’s several of these boxes with clothes that will fit my kids, I just need to find them.

On the flip side of that, I need to get rid of all the clothes the kids have grown out of. So while you are putting new clothes in the drawer, get rid of the ones that they’ve outgrown. Give them to a friend, relative, or local consignment shop if you have no one else to give them to.

Be sure to post your progress later this week!