Monthly Archives: October 2007

Tasty Tuesday Tactics

choo-choo-board.jpgIn our house, we use a “Choo Choo Board” to reward positive behavior.    Each train has a velcro circle on the back; and the board has 10 velcro circles on the track.  A.P. has the opportunity to earn a Choo Choo for various good deeds. It hangs on our dining room wall.

When he gets to 10 – a full board – we have a rotating incentive.  It goes from Chuck E Cheese, to a small toy (think Dollar Store dinosaur), to Craig’s Cruisers, to another small toy. The bar is set pretty high, but still, we have gone to both places enough times to learn a thing or two about how to survive.  Make sure you bring hand sanitizer. 

Here are my Chuck E. Cheese tips: 

First; make sure you use a coupon for tokens.  Just go to the website, and sign up. You will receive coupons via e-mail.  You can also find them frequently in the Sunday paper, as well as on different products. I think I found some on a macaroni and cheese box. There are also free token rewards, such as good grades, or other things Chuck deems worthy.

2002-07-25_2104-53.jpgSecond, don’t worry about geting your kids to eat there.  Think if you plunked yourself down in the middle of the most interesting place you could imagine, and your mom kept insisting you eat some OK but not amazing pizza before you start exploring.  Just get an endless salad bar and drink for yourself, a little casino-style bucket of tokens for the kids, and have a seat.  They know what to do. 

Today we found ourselves at Craig’s Cruisers. I actually do like the food here. No, it isn’t going to win any awards, but the pizzas come in interesting combinations, and for $6.99 it’s all you can eat. Just make sure you go hungry.  It’s easier to get the kids to eat here, because they aren’t right in the middle of the games.

This is more difficult for me than Chuck’s place.  First, it’s bigger. Second, it’s dark. And third, much of it is ‘too old’ for my kids. Fortunatley, our kids are too young to know that they aren’t actually playing the games; they are on the ‘start’ screen; so those are free.

Another fun, free thing to do at Craig’s Cruisers is watch the chubby middle aged guy with a receeding hairline (the one who is not your husband – that would be horrifying and not funny at all) do “Dance Dance Revolution”.  I have not had to work so hard to stifle a laugh in a long, long time.

Blue StreakThe Kiddie Coaster is always a hit.  It simulates a ride on the Blue Streak at Cedar Point.  I think. I get the Blue Streak mixed up with that rickety old thing at Boblo Island, if anyone is old enough to be able to say they remember that.

My favorite thing to do is a family activity.  We play a game called “18 Wheeler”. 

There is a huge seat, so all four of us sit together.  I shift, Mr. Binder works the gas and brake pedals, Maybelle is on the horn, and A.P. is at the wheel.  I ask you – where can a whole family have more fun for $0.25??

Maybelle and I blew a bunch of tokens playing those games where you put a coin it, and you think “This is the one.  It’s going to push all those coins over the edge and they will all be MINE!” Alas, it never does.

One guy actually won 200 tokens playing the “Deal Or No Deal” game while we were there.  It looked like the game was broken; the tickets just kept coming. To put that in perspective; a “Care Bears” wall clock costs 500 tokens.  A Detroit Tigers batting helmet is 1500. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to amass that many tokens.  I don’t want to know.

A few bucks for the games, a few laps around the go-kart track, and we were done.  We did get the best little parting gift ever.  We were deciding between another crappy rubber ball and some kind of multi-colored octopus thing when I spotted some binoculars. Yes, they are cheap and plastic and will be broken by Thursday. But we were able to get two pair, and the kids were remarkably quiet on the way home.  We even had enough left over for miniature pterodactyl, which is inexplicably bright pink.

Both are so fun for your kids; and they don’t have to break the bank!


Filed under Tasty Tuesday

Menu Plan Monday

I am happy to report that last week’s, um, creative menu was a big hit. I am not as happy to report that my husband was even more delighted with our $0.00 grocery bill for the week, and asked if I could do it again.

Probably not without a few purchases… we are entirely out of fresh produce, as I used up the last of the apples up tonight in a little number I will call “Apple Crisp-obbler“.  I peeled and cut up about 5 apples, then put them in a bowl with two handfulls of sugar (less than a cup. It’s hard to hold sugar) and a few good shakes of cinnamon, and then a little bit of nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves. I set it off to the side while I mixed up about a cup (whatever was left in the box) of Jiffy Mix, with two pouches of some oatmeal with almonds no one liked. It’s the instant kind. I threw that in with about 1/4 stick (3 tbsp?) of melted Crisco. I greased a pie dish and put the apples in there, then the oatmeal/Jiffy Mix on next.  I baked it at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  It was good!

I will dive in again and use what is hanging out in the freezer and on the shelf already. Fortunately two dinners will be away from home, so it will be pretty easy!

Here goes:


Peking Pork Chops

Crock Pork Roast with Sherry Plum Sauce

  • 4 lb. pork boneless loin roast (I only have pork chops but will give it a go anyway)
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 C. dry sherry
  • 1 T. ground mustard (dry)
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 1/4 t. ground ginger
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C. plum jam (OK another substitution.  I have duck plum sauce in my ‘fridge.  I have no idea what I was going to make with it but it’s goin’ in the crock pot now.)

Trim excess fat from pork. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Cook pork in oil, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Place pork in crockpot.

Mix remaining ingredients except jam; pour over pork.

Cook on low 7 to 9 hours or until pork is tender. Remove pork from crockpot. Cover and keep warm.

Skim fat from juices in crockpot. Stir jam into juices. Cover and cook on high about 15 minutes or until jam is melted. Stir. Serve sauce with pork.

This recipe is adapted from one one That’s My Home.

Served with asparagus, frozen this summer.


My Spooky Meal.


Sloppy joes that I do not have to make.  Grandma likes to see the kids in their costumes, so she serves it up on Halloween.


Chicken and Rice With Veggies

Cut two boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite sized pieces.  Sautee in olive oil until browned.  Add a bag of frozen vegetables, thawed and mix until heated through.  Add two cups of cooked rice and stir to mix.  Add 1 can of fat free cream of chicken soup and 1/2 can of water.  Turn heat to low and simmer until incorporated.


Dinner at my sister’s church. I am going to make an appetizer.

Peeling Hard Boiled Eggs Huevos Endiablados

  • 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • chili powder, to taste
  • Cilantro sprigs

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put them in a bowl. Mash well and mix in the mayonnaise, lime juice, cumin, capers and salt. Fill the egg-white halves equally with the yolk mixture. Sprinkle lightly with chili powder.

Arrange on a serving plate. Garnish with cilantro. Serve cold.

This recipe is from Recipe Goldmine.

For more Menu Plan Monday, check out I’m an Organizing Junkie!


Filed under Menu Plan Monday

Lansing – A Nice Place To Visit

But I didn’t wanna live there. I grew up near Lansing, then moved back for a brief time as an adult. It is not my cup of tea.

So what on earth would bring me to Lansing two weeks in a row? We are going today, as well as next week.  My sister, primarily.  She still lives in the area (and is very happy; thank you very much). 

Today we are going to see a Lansing Library literacy program. I know; a library event. What a surprise.  Among the activites is an opportunity to meet someone my children absolutely love:

Super Why!”.  It’s a PBS show (about reading – hence the library promoting TV) created by the same person who did Blues Clues.  I have mentioned before, and will undoubtedly mention again, that I love Blues Clues. Blue and Steve from Blue's CluesSome day, I will devote an entire post to why Steve is SO much better than Joe; but for now I will restrain myself.

Our second trip will be to celebrate Día de los Muertos at my sister’s church. It’s a Mexican tradition and it means Day Of The Dead.  People who have died are remembered by their friends and family.  Her church will have an altar (part of the custom) set up to leave food and treats, or little things the dead people enjoyed while they were alive.  It is a nice way to remember and honor someone who has died in a fun, and not sad way.  It’s a big party.

For the kids, we are going to make a “Paper Bag Monster Piñata”.  The supplies are things we already have on hand (always a plus). There are very good, detailed instructions here

The end result looks like this:

The only things you need to make it are:

  • A large paper bag
  • String
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Crepe paper streamers
  • Optional: Googly eyes, paint

Now I like a good papier-mâché project as much as the next mom. What’s not to love about kids with paste in their hair and strips of newspaper stuck to their shirt asking when you are going to put the candy in in – 14 days in a row? But this quick, easy version will just have to do.  Enjoy!


Filed under Something to Make Saturday

Good Help – Not So Hard To Find

For those of you that are perfect parents, you can just skip this post and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.  The rest of you – keep reading.

Being a stay at home parent is hard.  Being a working parent is hard.  Being a good spouse and a parent at the same time is hard.  Being a single parent is hard. Parenting is hard, period.

Many of us would not hestitate to enlist the assistance of a trainer at the gym if we had some physical goals we were trying to reach.  Yet, we are hesitant to ask for help when it comes to parenting.  Why?

Well, there are many reasons, but a big one is that we don’t know what kind of help is available.  Enter parenting coaches.

I met Jill Urbane aka The Mentor Mom at a Bright Beginnings Parent Education meeting where she talked about Discipline for Children Under Five.  She gave a great talk and answered our burning questions, such as “How do I get my children to stop whining?”. 

I was VERY excited to learn (and you will too) that she has a blog. You have to check this out. She offers parenting advice, activities, book reviews… all with a great sense of humor. I have added her to my blogroll.  Information on her coaching services is also on her website.

I met Jennifer Wolf aka Pathways Parent Coach at the GRCC Family Matters event a few years ago.  I asked her to speak at an organization I belong to about the effects of media on children, and everyone in attendance was impressed.  For more on this subject, sign up for her free 30 day e-course, “Making Smart Decisions About Television“.

Jennifer has a website with LOTS of useful parenting information, including her coaching services. And guess what; she also has a blog!  It is for Christian mothers (although Pathways Parent Coach is for all faiths), and even has a free weekly telephone support call. I have added “Faith in Parenting” to my blogroll as well.

Coaching is not just for the big issues we face in parenting.  Sometimes we get stuck here and there on the little stuff, and just need some guidance. We always tell our kids to ask for help when they need it – it’s good advice! 


Filed under Feature Friday

Very Exciting News

Woman Reading a Book (KITAP OKUYAN KADIN) -  Turkish artistJust about the time everyone is starting to grumble about winter being around the corner, and getting sad about summer being over, I am secretly excited.

For me, this means one thing. Yes, it’s that time again.  The Grand Rapids Public Library’s Reading Program is here!!


I’m sure you have been to the library this week already – I mean come on, it’s Wednesday; but for the one or two of you that haven’t I will fill you in.

This year, the program is called “Spilled Ink” and it runs from October 20 to February 29.  In that time you read 10 books.  When you sign up, you get a swell pen and a form to track your books. 

The librarian said that if you are a parent and you read children’s books frequently, you can also count 5 children’s books as one adult book.  Come on now. I signed up yesterday and would be done already if I used that – my kids have an insatiable appetite for being read to.

When you’re done (after February 1 and before the deadline of February 29 – apparently it is a leap year), turn in your form and get a library totebag and a Culture Pass. 

The Culture Pass has coupons to museums, theaters, and other stuff around town.  You will also be entered in a drawing to win a gift certificate from Schuler Books.  I think there is one certificate per branch.

You can also listen to audio books – perfect if you are travelling for the holidays. Now if you see me, you’ll know why I am smiling.  I’m getting another library tote bag 🙂

Look in my sidebar for the books I have read for Spilled Ink.  If you need a starter, I would recommend the book, “Buy, Buy Baby” by Susan Gregory Thomas.  It scared me. The author very methodically investigates the way that children are marketed to by toy, book and video companies.  It seems that they know more about our kids minds than we do. What are your suggestions? Leave a comment!


Filed under Breaking News

Spooky Meal

Winter Bazaar

In my usual Halloween delinquence, we still haven’t carved our pumpkins.  They have been sitting on the front porch, un-carved, for about two weeks now. Apparently the squirrels took this to mean that they should carve them, because they have completely torn into them and there are seeds and pumpkin guts all over the porch.  No; I haven’t cleaned them up yet. That’s about as gory as I get.

I have decided to serve a ‘spooky’ meal for the first time this year.  It is entirely inspired by some very cute Halloween placemats and napkins I got real cheap at Kohls last year on about November 1st.

So here it is – my Super Spooky Meal!  My kids will probably be more scared that I am asking them to eat peppers than anything else…

Jack O Lantern Pizza

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup salsa 
  • 3/4 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups biscuit mix
  • 1/3 cup very hot water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • Toppings, such as orange and green bell pepper strips, sliced ripe olives and cherry tomato wedges, if desired.

Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 450ºF. Grease 12-inch pizza pan. Cook beef in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain. Stir in salsa, corn and 1/4 cup water. Heat to boiling; remove from heat. 
Mix biscuit mix, 1/3 cup hot water and the oil until soft dough forms; beat vigorously 20 strokes. Let stand 5 minutes. Press dough in pizza pan, using fingers dipped in biscuit mix; pinch edge to form 1/2-inch rim. Spread beef mixture over dough. Sprinkle with cheese. 
Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Arrange Toppings on pizza to form jack-o’-lanterns.

Eyeball Jello

Pour lemon jello into ice cube trays.  Drop a blueberry or grape into each tray; let set.  When you pop it out, it will look like an eyeball. 

Spooky Hand Punch 

Spooky Hand Punch

  1. Wash a rubber glove, fill with water and tie tightly at the wrist with rubber band. Place in freezer for 1 to 2 days.
  2. Mix a 2 liter of ginger ale with a 46 oz container of dark colored juice (cherry, berry, etc.)
  3. Dip frozen hand in warm water briefly to loosen the glove. Cut glove to remove and place frozen hand in punch before serving.

For more Halloween ideas, head over to Scribbit!


Filed under Winter Bazaar