Monthly Archives: May 2009

Really Quick Weekend Round-Up

OK here we go!! Heading in the the last week of school and gearing up for summer.  It is a huge struggle for me to keep from scheduling something to do every day during the summer.  I see a blank page in my planner and I cannot stand it.  I’m trying – but there is so much stuff going on and I don’t want to miss anything. 

In fact, I couldn’t even get everything over to the calendar in time for this weekend! Here are a few additions you might want to know about:

  • Pooh’s Corner Super Saturday Storytime at 10:30 Saturday.  Enjoy a morning with Dog and Bear: the gentle unlikely friends created by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Hear the stories, have fun with the activities, and experience the adventures including a personal visit from the delightful pair themselves.
  • Michael’s creative sidewalk chalk demonstration, 10:00-1:00 Saturday.  Cool!
  • Patricia Pollacio will be at Literary Life Bookstore  Saturday at 11:00 am.  She’s famous – this is a big deal!
  • This is for the grown-ups; not the kids but I am bursting with pride that the movie “Food, Inc”is actually debuting in West Michigan!  Step aside, LA and NYC.  We likes to eat and we likes to watch movies.  Check it out at the Muskegon Film Festival – more info from G-Sync.

Check the calendar (on the sidebar now instead of up top) for info about “Dog Day In the Park” and free admission to state parks this weekend also.

Food-Inc-Movie

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Southwestern Corn Chowder

kk_rfw.jpgAfter my last post about ‘Real Food’, I got a good comment that inspired this post. Olivia asked if eating Real Food was possible on a meager grocery budget.  That’s a really important question.  If it’s not possible – why bother?

I know that we can’t afford to eat perfectly.  At the same time, we have a long way to go before we are really maximizing what we can afford. One way I bring down food costs is tby making things myself.  This requires time to plan as well as time to cook.  It is definitely a habit that requires a lot of work to develop.  It’s like exercise.  You can’t run a marathon without training.  I can’t even run a mile without training – it doesn’t come naturally to me and I have to work at it.

One thing I have started doing is making my own broth.  It’s way less expensive than canned, and more nutritious.  It’s the foundation for a lot of recipes, so I’ll tell you how I make mine. Plus, I get to use the word ‘marrow’, which makes my friend Nicol throw up a little in her mouth (her phrase; not mine) which I think it’s hillarious.

It’s really, really easy.  For chicken broth, just take a chicken carcass that has been fairly well cleaned.  After you’ve roasted a chicken, for example, and have picked off the leftover meat for chicken salad sandwiches (or whatever).  Throw it in your crockpot with a lot of water.  Your second ingredient is vegetables.  I throw in some carrots and celery, put the top on the crock pot, and let it cook on low for about 6 hours.  Then I strain the broth with a sieve, and let it cool.  You can discard everything else. After it has cooled, the fat rises to the top and will just jump onto your spoon if you are gentle so you can just get rid of that.

Every time I clean and cut up a carrot or stalk of celery, I throw the ‘leftovers’ in a ziplock freezer bag.  The same goes for vegetables that are kind of getting soft, but I don’t have a recipe to use them up before I would have to throw them away. Everything in the vegetable bag goes into the stock – right from the freezer. 

Can you see the savings?  I don’t buy baby carrots, which are more expensive.  I don’t buy celery hearts, which are more expensive.  I want the scraps.  A whole chicken is less expensive than boneless, skinless breasts.  Plus, you get the bones – where the marrow resides.

Last night, I made this recipe with my home-made broth.  I also freeze corn when it’s in season here (another cost saver), so this was a very inexpensive meal.  We try and eat one non-meat meal per week, but this week we’ve had two already and will have one more tomorrow.  It has taken time for all of us to get used to the meatless meals, but now it’s completely normal.  It’s just a process that takes time.

Southwestern Corn Chowder (an Everyday Food makeover)

2 tablespoons real butter

2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced

3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

coarse salt and ground pepper

4 baking potatos cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups frozen corn kernels

6 cups home-made chicken broth

3 cups whole milk

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add white part of scallion, carrot, chili powder, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until scallion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add potato, corn, broth, and milk.

Bring to a boil over medium-high, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until potato is easily pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in green part of scallion, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day.

For more Real Food Wednesday, check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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Teacher Gifts, Part Two

Wow! Did you read the responses to “For The Teacher“?  You all have some awesome ideas for year-end gifts.  Check out everyone’s ideas (in the comments) if you are still looking for a gift.

I mentioned in that post that I refrained from going overboard for Teacher Appreciation Day.  I can only hold it in for so long, so I jumped all over the chance to do a birthday project for the teacher and aide, who conveniently have a birthday in the same week.

This isn’t exactly my work, but I don’t get that many opportunities to participate in Hobby Hump Day due to my extreme lack of craftiness so I’m going to stretch it a bit.  I conjured up this project all on my own, or so I thought until I read Why Are They Calling ME Mom?’s post about her own Teacher Appreciation Day project.  Definitely some similarities but I swear I thought of it independently.

For my project, The Room Mom and I set up in the Teacher’s Room (the bastion of all gossip, organization, and parental activity in this school.  I heart the parent room)  and took two kids at a time out of class to work on a “Top Secret Project”.

First, we had the kids select different sizes and colors of tissue paper cut (roughly) into circles.

Flower 1

Then, we had them ‘pinch’ the center, and helped them to wrap a pipe cleaner around it.

Flower 3

We started, then let the kids finish wrapping the pipe cleaner around the pencil.

Flower 4

I cut floral foam to fit the base, and when all of the flowers were complete I ‘arranged’ them.  To cover the floral foam, I put shredded paper on the top.

Flower 5

The kids were very proud of their work, and the teachers loved them. We also gave them Horrocks gift cards, and had the kids sign cards for them. 

For more Hobby Hump Day (and a giveaway!!!) head over to 3inunder3.

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Summer Activities

Be sure to get a copy of today’s Advance newspaper (they don’t distribute it in town anymore, but it’s in all the surrounding communities).  There is a ” Love INC Summer 2009 Fun For Families and Children” listing of free and inexpensive events in Kent and Ottawa counties. 

This is published every year and it is a fantastic resource.  You’ll see many of the same things I put on my calendar but for Ottawa county also.  There is also a listing of Vacation Bible Schools.  For you out of towners – this is kind of a big deal around these parts 🙂

It will be up on their website soon, but it’s pretty long so you might want to get a hard copy.  It will show up at libraries pretty soon too.  Good stuff!

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My week, and free movies

It has been an awesome week around here – dramatically different than last week’s Terror of the Tonsils episode.  I don’t usually sing the praises of Western medicine but I do like a good antibiotic once in a while.  Here is how our last week was spent:

Saturday:  Fun BBQ with good friends.  A.P. solved one of those metal puzzle things that you have to twist just the right way to get apart. The boy’s got skills.

Sunday:  All dressed up and no place to sing.  The kids were supposed to sing in church, but the date was changed so they were overly fancy for their W.O.W. (Wee Ones Worship) class.  At least no punch was served so the clothes can be worn whenever it is they do sing.

Monday: School’s Out For Summer.  For Maybelle anyway.  It was the last day of her awful preschool, but the concert that evening was filled with ridiculous cute-ness.  We made a huge deal out of it and gave her flowers.  My favorite part though was during the middle of the concert, she whipped out a tube of Cherry Chap Stick and put some on.  My husband gave me a ‘look’ and loud-whispered to me, “WHY did you give her chapstick to take on stage?!”.  I didn’t.  She smuggled it in, which I had to kind of respect the foresight and planning that took.  Not bad for a 3 1/2 year old.

Of course, the first episode of the Bachelorette kept me glued to the TV that evening.  I am pulling for Ed.

Tuesday:  A.P. nailed some math test that everyone in his grade and the grade above his took.  I don’t really know what it’s all about, but he scored crazy high on it and his teacher said it was a Big Deal.  This is a kid who takes a notebook to bed and does math for fun to relax before he goes to sleep, so I was impressed but not too surprised.

Wednesday:  This was the day we celebrated the teacher’s birthdays and I got to organize a project for the kids which even now makes me want to stop typing and clap in excitement.  You’ll hear more about this on Hobby Hump Day – I took pictures and everything.

Thursday:  We went to the Star Power Rally in Lansing.  This is our second year attending; and the weather was much more cooperative.  The kids had fun and it is always a pleasure for me to get a chance to talk about children’s advocacy issues.

Friday:  We went to a fun lunch party at a friend’s house, and then I had a dentist appointment.  I was completely dreading it, of course.  This is a new practice, and they have TVs for you to watch in your chair, which later serves as a screen for you to see your X-rays.  It’s so cool.  The best part though was that I do not have any cavities and then I somehow convinced the insurance company to call the dentist’s office (!) and straighten out a little billing mess.

I wanted to add some more free summer activities for you to enjoy ’cause last time I checked – we are still the Unemployment Capital of the Country around here and if anyone could use an inexpensive summer – it is us.  It is we.  No, us. Wait.  I don’t know.  Anyhow, someone please correct my grammar, and everyone else check this out.   It’s from the East Grand Rapids Parks and Rec brochure. I don’t know what an inflatable screen is, but I pretty much dig anything involving a Snack Wagon:

Movies in the Park

Movies in the Park are back! Grab your lawn chair or picnic blanket and join us for FREE family-friendly fun at John CollinsPark on the shores of Reeds Lake! Movies will be shown on a 30’ inflatable screen on Friday evenings at dusk. Come early to grab your seat and enjoy a hotdog dinner with chips and ice cream, provided by the Mac Snack Wagon! Macatawa Bank has generously agreed to donate Mac Snack Wagon proceeds to the Reeds Lake Trail Project Phase II. The KDL teen group will be selling fresh-popped popcorn and candy, with proceeds benefitting teen library programs. The series is sponsored by Macatawa Bank, in cooperation with the Kent District Library and the East Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department. The schedule is as follows (weather permitting):

Fri., Jul. 17 Hairspray! rated PG (apx. start time: 9:05p.m., run time 107 min.)

Fri., Jul. 31 Nim’s Island, rated PG (apx. start time: 8:50 p.m.,run time 95 min.)

Fri., Aug. 14 Hotel for Dogs, rated PG (apx. start time: 8:30 p.m., run time 100 min.)

Fri., Aug. 28 Happy Feet, rated PG (apx. start time: 8:10 p.m., run time 109 min.)

If you just can’t get enough of the duck poop in Collins Park, there is also a summer concert series that is free.  Don’t be shy, it’s not just for residents of East Grand Rapids. Details are here:

2009 Summer Concert Series

It’s time for some toe tappin’ music in the park this summer. The 2009 Summer Concert Series, sponsored by United Bank of Michigan and the City of East Grand Rapids, is ready for you and your family. Check out our website for local restaurant specials the night of each concert. Everyone is welcome to come and join us for an evening of music starting at 7:00 p.m. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be cancelled.

All ages welcome! John Collins Park – 650 Lakeside Dr. SE 

Dates: Tues., Jun. 9 & 23 Tues., Jul. 7 & 21 Tues., Aug. 4 & 18 Times: 7:00-8:00 p.m.

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Golden Ticket

This past Saturday was the end of A.P.’s acting class at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.  They had a final performance to show off their new skills.  A.P. liked the class, but didn’t love it.  He was fine with it being over.  Even though we received a scholarship, I have to admit I was a little disappointed he didn’t seem to get more out of it.

Until today.

In an attempt to counter-act the effects of watching too much “Fast Food My Way with Jacques Pépin” (What kind of 5 year old boy asks his mom about scones? Don’t answer that.), I let him watch some Nickelodeon.  I always regret this, because he still doesn’t really ‘get’ that commercials are big fat lies.  This is despite the fact that I constantly tell him, “You know – commercials are big fat lies”. 

Today, A.P. asked me for Kid Cuisine.  It broke my heart.  I told him those kids in the commercials are actors – like when the kids in his acting class did the play for us.  It clicked. He got very excited, and said he was

Pretty sure the food in the Kid Cuisine was ‘gross’, and the kids WHO ARE ACTORS really took bites of grilled cheese and THEN said “Yum!” so they could act like the Kid Cuisine was what they were saying “Yum!” about. And it’s all a big fat lie.

I don’t really want him to think acting is lying, but I’d rather sort that out later than have him believe everything he sees on TV (except Jacques Pépin, who is awesome.).

His acting teacher, “Mr. Ed”, is going to be in an upcoming play at the Civic; “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.  We are going to take the kids to see it, and found out that they are doing a fundraiser.  You buy a Wonka Bar and if it has a Golden Ticket, you get two free tickets to the play.  The tickets are sold at: HopScotch, Schuler Books, Martha’s Vineyard, Snapdragon, Creative Learning Toys, Modern Day Floral, Cafe Stella, and Forest Hills Foods.

I love clever fundraisers and I am probably going to buy three times the ticket price trying to win.  Plus, our kids don’t know the Willy Wonka story, and it will be fun for them when we see the play and the actors (stinkin’ liars that they are) look for golden tickets. And if that isn’t reason enough, I can support theater by buying chocolate bars.  Brilliant.

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Summer Reading Program Round Up

Friday, a ‘summer reading list’ came home from school with A.P. It reminded me to put together this post about the many summer reading programs around town for kids.

Maybelle and I swung by Schuler Books this Saturday to make sure they are repeating their program and were happy to find out they are.  Sign up begins June 6 and the program runs through August 31.  For kids in grades K-8, it’s called “The Curious Case of the Vanishing Volumes”.  Kids track the books they read on a form, then turn in the completed forms for a $5 Schuler gift certificate.  They can do this up to three times.

Schuler also has a program called “Read to Me” for ‘pre-readers’.  Track the books you read to your little one on a form, and they can trade the completed form for a free book (it’s from a box of books behind the counter, not any book).  Last summer, we generally tried to match this up with a Saturday Story time (11:00am) because the readers there are fantastic.

I think Baker Books is having its summer reading program again, but I forgot to pick up the t-shirts my kids won there last year and now I feel like a dork signing up again. 

Grand Rapids Public Library’s program this year is “Get Creative @ Your Library!” and it looks like a lot of noisy and possibly messy programs will be offered, which is right up our alley.  Sign up at your local branch, and once your kids have completed their forms they will get a lunch bag and Whitecaps tickets.

Kent District Library has a similar program that runs June 8 through August 15.  For younger kids, it’s “Get Creative @ Your Library”, and for older kids the title is “Express Yourself @ Your Library”.   No details on the goods yet, but most of the branches have kick off parties (check the event calendar for more details) that your kids will enjoy.

It looks like Pizza Hut is not continuing its summer “Book It” program.  Our local Pizza Hut used to have this all you can eat salad bar/pizza bar, and they changed it to a confusing format where the waitress brings some of the food from the kitchen, and you get some of your own food from the salad/pizza bar, and everyone is running around during the whole meal and it’s a mess.  I’m not overly disappointed about this loss, but I do wish Happy’s Pizza would offer a program.  They are new to our ‘hood and I love it very much.

For kids a little older than mine (grades 1-6) is the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program.  I don’t have any first hand experience with this one, but I will next summer (gulp!).

There are two online programs, which are mildly lame, but when you’re filling out 5 forms every time you read a book, what is it to do two more?  First is the Scholastic Summer Challenge.  Then there is the RIF Read With Kids Challenge, which started in April and ends June 30.  No promise of goods from either of these, but you might win something for entering.

My strategy is to sign up as early as possible for all of these programs.  The more my kids read, the more swag they will end up with by the end of the summer. I keep the forms all together, and fill them in every day, otherwise I get behind and it’s a mess.

I will update this post as I learn of more programs or get more information.  So Maranda intern, please check back before you rip off this post because it might change.  And the rest of you:  get ready; summer reading programs take organization and work.  They are not for sissies.  It’s all about the children. And for the gratification you get as a parent when you max out the programs. But mostly just the children.

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