Tuesday, June 09, 2009

An Apron Full of Giveaways 06.09.09

Sygent Creations, $35

Welcome to An Apron Full of Giveaways linky list, where we share all of the great contests happening all over the web.

This week, we are starting our second week of the Water Way Challenge with Crystal Light and sharing another $50 for one lucky reader. I will be doing four posts in all so be sure to enter each of the giveaways to increase your chances of winning that $50 prize. Good luck to each of you!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, "MomAdvice (Children's Movies)."

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!


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Summer Activity: A Visit to the Fire Station



It has been a tradition in our family to visit the fire station at Christmas and make special treats for the firefighters. This year our mom's group had it on the calendar to make a summer visit and the kids were so excited to visit the fire station again. I don't know why I had not thought to do this in the summer before!

I get a lot of promotional stuff from different companies and I had saved this tin (with a company logo on it) and recovered it with a bit of wallpaper from the thrift store and a little glue. Ethan worked hard on a thank you card for the firefighters and I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookie bars. We packaged it in tissue and we were off for our visit to the fire station.

Don't you love those orange fire engines? I was sucked into taking pictures of the fire station and completely was not paying attention to my kids. There were just so many cool things to see there that I had a hard time capturing all of it.



Thank you to the firefighters at Harris Township Fire Station #2 for sharing all about your job and how things work at the fire station. My children could not have enjoyed the day more and we are so thankful we have such great people protecting us!

I encourage you to read Michelle's post, at Leaving Excess, on how important our firefighters are and what you can do to show your thankfulness to them!

What are some ways you thank those that serve or care for your family? I would love to get some new ideas for teaching our children thankfulness!

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Monday, June 08, 2009

I Feel Lame Asking...

2009 BlogLuxe Awards

2009 BlogLuxe Awards

I do feel a little lame asking, but if you have a couple of seconds, would you vote for my blog for the BlogLuxe Awards? I would be ever so grateful! Our site is up for the Cleanest Blog Award and the Blog You've Learned the Most From. You can enter once daily for the blog of your choice.

It would mean the world to me! Thank you to whoever put our name in that hat- we appreciate it!

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Perfectly Baked Brown Rice

Rice is truly one of my favorite side dishes. It goes perfectly with everything and it is frugal to boot! I love white rice, but have been working lately on adding more whole grains to our family's diet. The problem with my family is that they are really resisting the whole grain switch. It seems to be all about texture with them so it takes a really great recipe to get them on board with the changes.

These days, I have been working really hard to find a recipe for brown rice that my whole family would enjoy. You may remember my Notebook Experiment where I attempted cooking brown rice the same way as you cook pasta. My concern with that version was that I was boiling out the nutrients of the rice.

A couple of great people suggested trying Alton Brown's method of cooking brown rice and I am so glad they did! I had been on a search for the perfect brown rice and stumbled upon the same recommendation to try Alton Brown's recipe.

We have already eaten this brown rice four times in the last two weeks and I know that I will probably never make another version of brown rice again. It is perfectly fluffy, delicious without the grainy taste, and has been devoured by all in our family. My son has been begging for brown rice with our meals and that is how I know that this recipe will a repeat performer each week.

Alton Brown's Baked Brown Rice

1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
2 1/2 cups water (we substituted this with chicken broth instead)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Amy's Notes- When I package this up for leftovers, I add a tablespoon or two of water or chicken broth to the rice before storing it for later. This seems to help keep the rice more moist and helps it hold it's texture a little better.

Do you have any whole grain recipes your family enjoys or any creative ways of adding more whole grains to their diet? Please share!

Related Links:

Presto Pesto Rice
Yummy Mexican Rice
Lemony Rice Pilaf

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Freebie Friday: June 5, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! A huge thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for rounding up all the latest & greatest freebies for our readers each week. I love Heather's Money 4 Mom entries and she has a good one this week on the Pinecone Research Panel. Thanks, Heather, for all you do!

Don't forget to enter our $50 giveaway each week (for the next four weeks) sponsored by Crystal Light. You can also visit An Apron Full of Giveaways to find out all about the great contests on the web each Tuesday.

Health & Beauty

Food

Mars Free Chocolate Friday

Entertainment


National Parks Fee Free Weekends
Country Music downloads (People Magazine)
LeapFrog Learning Rythyms CD download
Spin Magazine (2 year subscription, Free Biz Mags)
Road & Track Magazine (1 year, Free Biz Mags)

Home & Garden

Summer Scents Gift Pack (SC Johnson)
Kitchen Basics "Cooking with Stock" recipe booklet
Parenting Magazine Product Tester
VS Panty in-store (for Facebook fans)

Upcoming Freebie Events:
Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

JUNE
5 - Krispy Kreme Free Donut
6 - Friendly's Free Ice Cream Day Noon to 5pm
6 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop make a hardware sorter 9 to noon
6&7 The Home Depot Home Improver Workshops - 5 different topics
6&7 Bass Pro Shops Family Summer Camp - make leather keychain noon to 6pm
7 - Toys 'R Us Starfy Event - free giveaways 12 to 2pm
13 - Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a putting green 10 to 11am
19 - Orange Julius Free Light Smoothie Day
20-21 - National Parks Fee Free Weekend
21 - TCBY Father's Day - free cup or cone for dad
27 - Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a pirate ship 10 to 11am

JULY

4 - The Home Depot Kids Workshop make a picnic caddy 9 to noon
10 - Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day
11 - 7-Eleven Free Slurpee
18-19 - National Parks Fee Free Weekend

AUGUST

15-16 - National Parks Fee Free Weekend

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Guest Blogging Today at, "A Soft Place To Land"

I was so excited and honored to be asked to guest blog for Kimba at, "A Soft Place to Land." Kimba is one of my favorite blogging friends and she has been contemplating taking on a No Spend Challenge of her own. She asked me to share my thoughts on our family's No Spend Challenge to share with her readers today.

I am so thankful for the opportunity and I hope you can explore her beautiful blog today. It is a treasure to me!

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Play It Again, Momma: Homemade Gold & Silver Jewelry Cleaners

I like to keep a little dish by my sink to put my jewelry in while I am doing the dishes. I also love to thrift shop so I put my love for thrift and my little dish together and came up with this cute little idea.

I use a thrifted candle holder to put my jewels in. They look so pretty and, if the edge has a nice lip on it, it is a safe way to keep your jewels out of harms way. It also makes your jewelry a pretty display while you are scrubbing your little heart out and cursing your family for not helping you... or praying- whatever you happen to do while washing the dishes.

And, if you so choose, you could also be cleaning your jewelry while scrubbing your heart (as you curse your family or pray).

Here are two handy little recipes to keep tucked away for that special day!

Homemade Silver Jewelry Cleaner:

In a bowl, place strips of aluminum foil in and place your silver jewelry on top of them. Cover the silver with boiling water and then add three tablespoons of baking soda and soak for ten minutes. Mix remaining hot water and a drop of liquid soap into another glass bowl. Place your silver in the soapy water and wash. Rinse with clean water and polish dry your pieces with a soft cotton cloth. Please take care, some solutions that are great for some metals and stones may damage others.

(Side Note- I use this solution for cleaning all my silver jewelry and have never had any problems. This works like a dream!)

Homemade Gold Jewelry Cleaner:

Fill a small bowl with warm water and a drop of liquid dish soap. Allow this to soak for approximately ten minutes. Proceed to brush the pieces with an eyebrow brush (or a similar substation such as a toothbrush) while they are being soaked. Then you should transfer the gold jewelry to a strainer and then proceed to rinsing it off with warm water. Finish by drying with a soft cotton cloth.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Will Zoo Maps Keep My Child Busy?

This notebook experiment is a lovely little repeat and I plan to do this again with my son this summer. It is a handy little rainy day activity to keep in your back pocket!

Experiment: Can a few printed out zoo maps keep my child busy for an afternoon?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 06.19.08

Materials Needed: Please see Let's Explore for specific directions on how to complete this experiment. I printed out the zoo maps that Let's Explore had suggested along with maps from our own local zoos for my son to look at. I wished we had a color printer to print these out, but Ethan still was able to visualize where all the animals were in the zoo.

Results: I planned this activity the day after we went to the zoo so all of the exhibits were fresh in his mind. At first he copied the maps and used those as a template for his own map. I then asked him to make a map of his very own imaginary zoo and he filled this with the traditional zoo animals. I challenged him a little and asked where the dinosaur exhibit was and he looked at me like I had two heads, "Um, mom...dinosaurs are extincted." This is when I stressed that it was an imaginary zoo and he could fill it with whatever he wanted. That is when he really let loose on his map and created some interesting exhibits like a squid exhibit, a special T-Rex exhibit, and some animals that I can't even pronounce.

Just like our grocery store experiment, we also wrote the zoo words out and I had him practice on his writing. I am trying to encourage this as much as I can so he will have a great start to his first year at elementary school.

Once we completed this, I told Ethan that he could build a zoo out of the Little People sets that we had. He was very quiet for an hour while I worked and then told me that I could come downstairs. "Ticket please, ma'am." Every toy in the world was out and lined up for an exhibit. I applaud the effort, and silently cringed as I saw every toy bin dumped to build the masterpiece.

Conclusion: This was a wonderful activity to foster creativity, build our writing skills, and also kept my son relatively quiet for an afternoon. I did have some clean-up on my hands, but building a zoo can sometimes create a bit of a mess. Many thanks to Let's Explore for inspiring me as a parent!

********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Amy's Notebook 06.03.09

I am going to have to try making these sweet little felt flower hair clips (@ koala brain)

I have been inspired to make some homemade Pop-Tarts today (@ The Idea Room)

I like this list of things to pack when traveling with kids (@ Make & Takes)

These strawberry butter looks like a delicious summer treat (@ The Kitchn)

I have a feeling I could polish off a couple of these stuffed grilled portobello mushrooms (@ Annie's Eats)

This is a great idea for putting cleaning agendas in each room (@ Parent Hacks)

This green space travel case made me giggle and inspired (@ design sponge)

I love this refashioned picnic basket for the summer season (@ Oilcloth Addict)

These breaded & baked chicken drumsticks look like they would make delicious picnic food (@ Simply Recipes)

I want to add some of these ideas to our summer list (@ two straight lines)

I love this idea for stocking a family store (@ Like Merchant Ships)

I love these DIY craft organizers (@ Ashley Ann Photography)

These twine covered Mason jars are beautiful (@ Vickie Howell)

This kitchen stool makeover is adorable (@ A Soft Place to Land)

I am dying to try this chocolate ice cream cake (@ Omnomicon)

I like these ten tips for being a more light-hearted parent (@ The Happiness Project)

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

All Knitted Up: Violet Ruffled Shawl

Pattern: Ruffled Shawl by Gail Tanquary

Needle Size: US 10 Needles

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease in Violet (5 skeins)

Notes: I could not wait to show you my latest knitted project. I am so proud of this, in fact, that I carry it around in a tote bag with me to showcase to anyone who will talk to me. This truly is my proudest knitting moment to date and I would like to introduce you to my new summer shawl!

The shawl itself was very easy and straightforward. The shawl started with only two stitches and then increased as you went along and grew from that tiny point into the shawl. You then decreased back down until you had a single stitch left on your needles. At this point, you picked up the edge again and knit back into it to create the bell-shaped ruffle. I had no idea how to "pick up" stitches so this required a great deal of assistance from my sweet mother-in-law.

The ruffled edge was a true challenge for me though and each row, on the ruffle, took approximately an hour to complete. I should have used longer circular needles than I had, as the stitches were so bunched on the needles I had no idea if I was doing anything right at all. The ruffle itself took a full three weeks for me to finish and three hours to cast off.

Once I cast off the ruffle though, I quickly realized that this shawl is not intended for a petite girl. The length of this shawl came to my toes. It was intended to be thrown over your shoulder, but my frame is narrow and I could have easily wrapped it three times. I knew if I left it this way, I would never wear it. After that much work, some modifications had to be made.

Pictured here is my modification to the pattern. I folded each side of the corners of the shawl in sixteen inches on each side and seamed it to the top of the neckline. This created a pocket that I can tuck my hands into when I am cold and created a sizing more appropriate to my body type.

I absolutely am in love with this shawl! I chose cotton yarn so that it could be enjoyed during any season and I wouldn’t get too hot. This shawl will be well-traveled and loved. I have pictured myself in it on so many occasions already.

This project was a true challenge, but I am convinced if I can make this, I can do pretty much anything!

Below is a video that explains the process of picking up stitches that you can use for reference if you haven't done this before.


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An Apron Full of Giveaways 06.02.09


It occurred to me this past week that never in the history of An Apron Full of Giveaways have I actually shown you any from my own collection. A collector of aprons, a showing of none! What in the world is wrong with me?

When I went to California last year, the only thing that I came home with were two aprons and a set of measuring spoons from Anthropologie. If I had a million dollars, it is where I would most likely spend every single dime. Pictured here is one of those aprons to go along with our list of of giveaways this week!

This week we have a giveaway that will be ending tonight at 8PM EST. We are offering you a chance to win the new Aurora Photo Editing Software. If you are looking for a new photo editing software alternative, this is a contest you will definitely want to check out.

Our new giveaway this week is a $50 giveaway in conjunction with the Crystal Light Water Way Challenge. We will be offering $50 to one lucky winner each week that we participate (four weeks in all). Be sure to enter each week to increase those chances of winning! We are talking about staying hydrated and I can think of nothing more frugal than drinking water!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren't giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, "MomAdvice (Children's Movies)."

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

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Monday, June 01, 2009

My Favorite Zesty Chicken Marinade


I think the best part about the summer season is all of the outdoor eating and grilling. I can admit, we are still getting the hang of grilling and learning about all of the fun things we can eat out on our grill. I am determined to try new marinades, sides, and even grilling some pizza this year. We have a full summer of learning ahead of us!

One thing that has been helping me get the hang of grilling is a remote digital thermometer to monitor the meat temperature. We were taking our food off too soon or too late and this gadget helps us get the perfect steak or piece of chicken every single time.

My girlfriend was the one who shared this gadget with me and I found a very inexpensive one at Walmart over in the grilling supplies that was about $16. I can't seem to locate what I bought, but this Taylor Weekend Warrior Digital Thermometer ($15.98) is the same price and does the same exact thing. Mine was a no-name brand that has worked just as good as the fancy models and has saved us from nuking our meat in the microwave after grilling. If you are looking for a handy gadget for Father's Day, this is a thoughtful gift to give with an oven mitt or a book of new barbeque recipes.

We tried a new marinade recipe that is so delicious and offers a great deal of flavor to our chicken. I throw this marinade together and then let the chicken marinate all day in the refrigerator. This makes the most juicy and tender chicken. Serve with some yummy lemon rice and my roasted green beans for the perfect summer dinner.

Zesty Chicken Marinade

(Marinade for 12 pieces of chicken, halve this recipe for four to six pieces)

1 cup oil
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons Miracle Whip or Miracle Whip light
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon garlic salt

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Use to marinate chicken pieces at least 30 minutes and then to baste the meat as it cooks in the oven or over hot coals.

Do you have a favorite grilling recipe to share? Please share here!

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MomAdvice Monthly Recap: May '09


I just want to say a special thank you to each of you for visiting my website and sharing it with your friends, family, and your own readers. We had another great month and it is all thanks to you. I hope to continue offering support through our site, lots of giveaways for our readers, and a place where you feel valued and cared for. If there is anything you would like to see on here, please contact me (amy@momadvice.com) and let me know what you would like to see in the upcoming year.

Don't forget, you can subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogs and you can even subscribe to my article feed.

This month's top referrers were:

1. Freebies 4 Mom
2. Money Saving Mom
3. Twitter
4. Deal Seeking Mom
5. A Soft Place To Land
6. Facebook
7. Swagbucks
8. The Inspired Room
9. Feels Like Home
10. Sparkle Power

Please take some time this month to check out each of their sites. They are amazing at what they do and we are thankful that we have such great supporters!

This month's top articles & entries were:

1. 7 Tips for Leading a Balanced Blogger Life
2. Notebook Experiments: Can I Make a Pretty Wreath for Our Door?
3. World's Greatest Homemade Slushies
4. The Mother's Day Notebook Edition
5. The Only Corn on the Cob I Will Ever Make Again
6. A Simple & Easy Basic Pizza Dough
7. All Knitted Up: Sweet Baby Blankets
8. A Real Review of Restaurant.com
9. Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Wall Art?
10. An Elegant Strawberry Salad

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