Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hello Hal!

We had a new addition to our household yesterday. Hal Moose™, from the folks at Build-A-Bear Workshop®. What a treat! Plushy soft, he also hides a surprise. When your child squeezes his (paw? hoof?) the Christmas lights laced in his antlers light up! Hal arrived in his own decorated box "house" with a copy of Holly and Hal Moose: Our Uplifting Christmas Adventure - a debut storybook starring Hal and his sister Holly.

Currently Holly and Hal Moose™ are being offered together, for a price of $24 and you receive the storybook for free ($15.99 value, while quantities last.) Individual Moose are $12. Just a quick turn around their website shows store locations, an online shop and a virtual community at™. A dizzying array of options are on display from choosing just the right furry friend for an occasion, to dressing them up with clothes, accessories and even sounds.

Daniel, like most kids around this time of year, is quite tickled with all things Christmas. Hal currently has a place of honor tucked in with him in his race car bed.

Win it!
I have a gift card of $10 in Bear Buck$ to give away to some lucky reader.

The Rules:
1. Stop by the Build-A-Bear Workshop website and take a look around. Come back here to this post and tell me your favorite stuffed animal. Maybe it's Hal? Chilly Cheeks Penguin?

2. Extra Credit: Get another entry into this giveaway by subscribing to Relishing the Dirt.

3. Winner to be determined by the Random Number Generator at

Contest Ends: January 15th; winner announced January 16th.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Willy Wonka I Am Not

I do not cook. Oh, I try and my family gets fed, but I am certainly not known for my cooking. I indulge in foodie blogs, and have grand ambitions sometimes... But my longtime favorite has always been baking. For an absolutely yummilicious blog check out Bakerella.

H adores homemade caramels. We visit my parents, and there is usually a basketful at the checkout of the local market. I purchase a couple, and usually find out that he has been making detours on his own to the market and nabbing some more on the sly...

Last weekend I made a first attempt at candy-making with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for shortcut caramels. They taste quite yummy, but I have discovered that handling them isn't the easiest. Despite buttering everything (pan, foil, knife, my hands) I couldn't seem to get them to not stick to everything in sight. So - lots of good-tasting caramel, uh blops to eat. Any recommendations from any candy makers out there? I'd like them to look a little prettier, as well as be easier to deal with. Recipe is below:

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup butter
1 16-ounce package (2-1/4 cups) packed brown sugar
2 cups half-and-half or light cream
1 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Line an 8x8x2- or 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter the foil. If desired, sprinkle walnuts onto bottom of pan. Set pan aside.
2. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar, half-and-half or cream, and corn syrup; mix well. Cook and stir over medium-high heat till mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, till the thermometer registers 248 degree F, firm-ball stage (45 to 60 minutes).
3. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour the mixture into the prepared pan. When caramel mixture is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Use a buttered knife to cut into 1-inch squares. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Makes about 2 pounds (64 pieces).

Shortcut Caramels: Prepare as above, except substitute one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk for the cream. This mixture will take less time to reach 248 degree F (about 15 to 20 minutes instead of 45 to 60 minutes).

Friday, October 17, 2008

We have a Winner!

After consulting the great, the winner of the Yoplait Prize Pack from my first giveaway is #36, Kelly Roncas.

She had this great tip: I like to cut my kids sandwiches in shapes. Dinosaurs are a huge favorite!! For the holidays, we have holiday themed sandwiches. They love peanut butter, so I sprinkle wheat germ on it. They don't know!! It gives them an extra iron boost. I also serve carrots and ranch dip and fruit on the table BEFORE our dinner. Usually, they are starving by dinner time and will pick at whatever is out, just to eat. It works out for both of us: the kids get a snack before dinner to stave off the hungries and I know they got a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables!

Thank you all for joining in!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christmas in, well October?

While I lament every year the earlier and earlier appearance of the Christmas stuff in stores, (There is an aisle of tinsel-bedecked items hanging out already next to the pumpkins and goblins in my local department store.) it does serve the purpose of kick-starting my hunt for holiday deals and goodness. I will go on record as saying that I can't stand the stores the closer we get to Christmas. The crowds and the jostling and the circling for parking just make me twitchy.

I've already written about great websites like Etsy, and hope to support independent artists again this year to find some unique gifts for those on my list. The site 5 Minutes for Mom, which is just chock-full of resources also lists some interesting Mom-owned stores. Isn't this the best pedal car/fire truck? Daniel still has a thing for fire trucks... My grandparents had a pedal car for us kids when we came to visit in Wisconsin. Nothing so fancy (this one actually pumps water?!) - but we spent endless amounts of time cranking that thing up and down the sidewalks in front of their house. I'll have to see if I can find it - there's a great picture of me sitting in the thing in nothing but a diaper with blond curls flying.

As we swing full force into the Holidays, I'll continue to post websites and deals that I think might be interesting. I'm always on the quest for the perfect gift. And I love recommendations too!

Last Call!

Win a yoplait kids prize pack! Contest ends tomorrow, October 16th at 5pm EST.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My First Giveaway!

We are still deep in "picky preschooler" territory around our house. This can range from what to wear each day (the season changes are killers - how late can one wear "summer" crocs around outside?) to the inevitable food battles. We're eating a lot of peanut butter and mac-n-cheese. Daniel does OK with the standard fruits like bananas and apples and grapes, but tends to turn up his nose at anything too exotic. And a vegetable would cry for some recognition around here. I make sure he gets a multivitamin, and try not to stress too much about it.

So when Yoplait offered a chance to try their kids yogurt, I was definitely on board. Yoplait Kids Yogurt provides:

- 16 mg. of naturally sourced Omega-3 DHA per serving
- Excellent souce of calcium
- No artificial sweeteners or flavors
- Good source of vitamins A and D
- With protein
- 25 percent less sugar than the leading kid's yogurt

My guy who is a picky eater will drink lots of things, and he dove into the Mixed Berry yogurt drink with gusto. He also found a picture of the yogurt I had lying around on our computer desk and came running saying: "I want this."

I need to get back to the grocery store!

I am also excited to present my very first giveaway! Win a prize pack from Yoplait: A cooler, a coupon for Yoplait Kids Yogurt and a Brain Quest game.

The rules:
1) Leave a comment on this post to enter. (Make sure I have an email, or some way to get in touch!) Just say hi, or just for fun leave me a tip that helped your picky eater get on with eating.
2) Visit my blog Dirt Makes Fat and subscribe to get an extra entry. Tabs at the top will keep you in touch with us here at Relishing the Dirt as well.

Contest ends October 16th.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where's that instruction manual?

Lorilee Craker’s book The Wide-Eyed Wonder Years: A Mommy Guide to Preschool Daze couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me and my just-turned-three-year-old son. Daniel has been existing on a diet of peanut-butter crackers and macaroni and cheese. On the good days I can get an occasional banana, or a cup of yogurt in there. Daniel has boundless energy, and can usually be found bouncing on my bed or somersaulting from the couch. I try not to fret about it.

Enter Ms. Craker’s book. Written in an engaging, easy to read style reminiscent of gabbing with your Mommy group about raising kids - she tackles issues like picky eaters and more. This book can be read cover to cover, or there are fifteen chapters with amusing titles such as: "I Can’t Believe He Said That!"(kids say anything and everything, usually at the most inconvenient time) and "If You’re Going to Kill Each Other, Do It in the Basement!"(what to do about sibling squabbles). So if you like, you can jump to a particular area of interest.

Each chapter is liberally sprinkled with anecdotes from her "preschool panel" as well as stories from her own life, and examples as to what some Moms did when their little one, say, wanted to wear shorts in January. It was also nice to see a few chapters devoted to Moms such as: "Mom and Dad Got It Goin’ On" and "Mommy Minispas" to name a few.

On those days when your best buds aren’t around, this book is a nice portable way to remind yourself about the wonders of raising our little ones.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Think Pink

My household occasionally feels like testosterone city. I spend my time stepping on matchbox cars and Spiderman or Batman action figures, and it’s not unusual to see H striding through the living room with Daniel firmly attached to his back - upside down. So the girly side of me gave a little squee of delight when I opened the package from 24/7 Moms with a lovely pink MomAgenda to test-drive.

I have a slight addiction to planners. It usually strikes sometime in the fall as the year is winding to a close, and visions of a better-organized me tiptoe ahead of me sprinkling flowers in my path.

MomAgenda is wonderful! Wide pages leave lots of space for information, and I can block in my week up top, and start a schedule for Daniel in the slots for kids below. (My friend Kim with five kids might have to squeeze a bit... but it’s loads of room for me.) I like the idea of planning dinners for the week, but I am rarely so organized. We’ll have to see if this new available space gives me some inspiration.

The front is chock-full of useful information such as: online resources, toll-free numbers, lists of holidays. The rear follows up with advance calendar planning into the coming year and many, many blank pages for planning/making notes with titles such as: books, movies, music, fashion, restaurants, wines, health, fitness... There are pages for entertaining and party planning, vacation ideas and planning, and just blank pages to scribble on to your heart’s desire. The final address book is removable, thank goodness as I spend far too much time transferring numbers when I get a new one.

I’m enjoying having useful information in one neat, pretty package.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Found Money

Even before the baby I would find myself suddenly complaining that the purse I was carrying around (and afterwards the diaper bag) would after awhile come to feel like I had a secret stash of bricks inside. I'd fuss, and fume and harrumph. And when the bag was finally turned upside down about a pound and a half of change would fall out.

I started stashing the stuff. We've managed to keep the coins out of the couch cushions, but they turn up on counters, tables, in the laundry. I even found Daniel stooped over in the parking lot of the library the other day, and when I asked him what he was looking at he nonchalantly replied: Money, while poking in the dirt with his finger. Sure enough it was a penny. When I heft the piggy bank, and it starts to feel a little, um, hefty, I tote the thing to the grocery store with me and plunk the contents in the Coinstar counting machine. Invariably I can get between $10-$20 off our groceries this way.

Awhile back I saw an ad for a credit card that pretty much wanted to do this same thing for you. They said that they would round your purchases up to the nearest dollar and stick the difference into a savings account. I remember scoffing to myself, and thinking: Why do I need you to do that?? I can do that myself. It's found money that would just be junking up my car or weighing down my diaper bag - it's amazing!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Cupcake Conspiracy

On the technical side of the conspiracy going on around my house lately: I LOVE the muffin tin. I did load it into the oven by placing it on a cookie sheet... I just wasn't sure how bendy the silicone could potentially get after being in the oven. The cup sizes are a little different, and so the blueberry muffins ran over a little - but that can be adjusted. And something I never even considered until I tried them... the muffins were all uniformly cooked! My old metal tin would leave them darker in spots, especially directly on the bottoms, but these tasted even yummier. Give some silicone bakeware a try!

Next up:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mommy Jewelry

I love silver jewelry, and was excited to find Beth at Heart on Your Wrist. I actually purchased a few items this past year, getting a necklace for each of the "Grandmas" for Mother's Day, and even splurging on something for little ol' me.

Beautiful pieces, speedy professional service - I highly recommend giving Beth a try if this is something you are looking for. Her website has been updated with new designs - or create your own - and even fun words to wear.