Making Pizza as a Family

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Pizza is a great food. You can’t possibly mess it up. Really. Even the cheapest pizza is pizza, and pizza is good. No matter what. There’s no questioning it. That being said, what if I told you you could make your very own good pizza right in your own home? With your family even!

Seriously. It’s easy and fun. Group cooking is one of the best things a family can do to bond. Really. It is! So. Where do you even start?

First, you need to decide if you’re going to make your pizza dough or buy it from the store. Hand making your dough helps ensure that there’s less preservatives and whatnot, but it can take a little more time than simply rolling out a store bought version.

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Picture From The Home Pizzeria

If you decide you want to go with the homemade dough route, here’s a great recipe to use from Bobby Flay:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling (Using bread flour will give you a much crisper crust. If you can’t find bread flour, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour which will give you a chewier crust.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Leftover homemade dough can be frozen and used at a later date. The recipe says to make the dough into two equal pizza, but I like to do more three so that my family can each have their own personalizable pizza. And yes, I did just make that word up.

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Picture From Vinsar

If you decide to go the store bought route, I totally recommend Pillsbury pizza dough. It’s delicious perfection!

As a side note, even tortillas make a good pizza crust in a pinch. Watch these really closely while baking. They burn quickly. Oh, and French bread is another good crust in a pinch too. Hallow it out and fill it up like you would a normal crust. Don’t forget English muffins either.

I’ve done both homemade and store bought crusts and either are great options, so it really is up to your personal desires. Less preservatives or speed. You pick which is more important to your family!

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Picture From Pizza Pan Best

Next, you need to pick out what toppings you’re going to be using. Cheese is of course a must if your family doesn’t have dairy allergies. I like to do a mix of cheeses like cheddar and real Parmesan (and I’m not talking Kraft here, people!). You, of course, can take it further and bring all sorts of other cheeses into the mixture. For toppings other than the basic cheese, pick things like bell peppers, pepperoni, sausage, spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, chicken, you name it. If it sounds like it would be good on a pizza, cut it up and throw it into bowls so your family can toss it on their pizzas when the time comes. Get fancy. Make themed pizzas. Have fun with it.

Then, you need to decide on a sauce. My family’s absolute favorite pizza is chicken spinach BBQ, so we do a sauce made up of a half-and-half ranch/BBQ sauce mix. It’s totally awesome! You can always go with your basic pizza sauce, too. Another good one is an alfredo/ranch combo. Again, the possibilities are endless. Play around and pick your family’s favorite. If you’re stumped, go with the basic pizza sauce. Like with the crust, you can go with store bought (Hunt’s is my favorite) or a homemade version.

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Picture From AllRecipes

Here’s my recipe for a basic homemade pizza sauce if you decide to go that route:

  • 1 medium can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Garlic to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix it all together in a bowl.

There are more complicated recipes you can follow, but this one is totally scrumptious despite how easy it it. It’s a great way to save money too! Way cheaper than going out and buying pizza sauce. It doesn’t take long to make, either. Five minutes– tops. Leftovers can be frozen, too. For easiest freezing, pour into an ice cube tray. That way taking out how much you need next time is super easy peasy.

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Picture From Babble

After you’ve got your crust out, your toppings cut, and your sauce ready, it’s time to put it all together.

Like I said before, I like my dough to be in three parts so that each of my family members can put together their own pizzas. It’s super fun for kids to be able to make their own creation!

I layer each piece of flattened dough with sauce first, then sprinkle on an appropriate amount of cheese, which for my family is a lot. Then, each person picks what toppings they want and throw them on. It’s as simple as that! Of course, you have pop it in the oven for the appropriate time and enjoy too.

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Let’s break it down the short way.

  1. Pick your dough.
  2. Pick your sauce.
  3. Pick your toppings.
  4. Throw the pizzas together, layering sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
  5. Pop it in the oven.
  6. And enjoy!

It’s a great bonding activity to do as a family and there’s parts of the processanyone can help with, no matter how young they are. My toddler loves to help make our pizzas and I’m sure yours will love to help too.

 

 

How We Use a Kids’ Art Smock For An Almost Mess-Free Dinner

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If you have a toddler, you know dinnertime is the messiest time of the day. Next to craft time, of course. Let me tell you a secret though…

Clean up doesn’t have to take just as long as it took you to cook the meal!

We tried everything with our daughter to help make mealtime a little less messy. We’ve fed her naked, we’ve fed her over a special rug, we’ve fed wearing bibs, but the thing we found to have helped the most in keeping the mess down is a kids’ art smock.

I promise I’m not crazy.

Normal bibs are great, but they’re so damn small. Plus, those one with the pouches don’t catch much. We even tried those bigger sized ones that aren’t actually that much bigger than normal bibs and those didn’t help much either. Honestly, we were kind of at a loss.

Then one day we received an kids’ Crayola art smock as part of one of our daughter’s presents from her grandma. I had this genius idea that it could not only catch paint while crafting, but also food at dinner time.

We tried it out one night and holy hell, our lives were changes. It’s big enough to cover our toddler’s whole upper body to keep it from getting stained and sticky, plus it’s super cute and easy to wipe off with a baby wipe.

I was in heaven when I figured this out and I knew I had to share it with the rest of the parents I know. This product has been a god sent for mealtime messes and I’m sure it could help your family too.

While it doesn’t control what our daughter throws on the floor or smears on her tray, it keeps her body and clothes (mostly) sparkly clean.

If you’re looking for an option with a pouch, Melissa & Doug’s art smock is the way to go. It’s a little more expensive, but you can personalize it and the pouch really is a handy tool.

Have you and your family tried this mealtime trick yet? What’d you think? Are you as in love with this smock idea as I am?

Tea Over Juice: The Benefits You Need to Know About

tea over juice

I recently wrote a piece revolving around the idea of drinking tea and it bringing happiness to your life. As I was proofreading it, I got to thinking about the fact that tea isn’t just for mommy’s sanity. It’s for children’s sanity (and health) too.

So, here I am- about to blab to you guys all of my feelings on tea and why it’s better than juice. Get ready to hear why you should be using tea instead of juice, what teas you should have your children try, how to brew the tea, and how to go about switching to tea. You’re welcome.

Our daughter has not tried juice. She will not try juice for a long time. She will be two next month. Are we crazy parents? Eh, maybe. But really, we’re not doing it to be mean.

If you break it down, even the most organic of juices have a ton of sugar in them. Sure, it’s fruit sugar, but is it still good for your little ones to be consuming so much of? Really, it’s not. The goodness and wholeness of fruit isn’t put into juice. The pulp is often left out, and you’re left with a sugary drink with basically no nutrition. Maybe a few vitamins here and there, but when you break it down, it isn’t exactly the best choice of beverage.

It doesn’t matter how you look at it. Juice isn’t pretty. A nice treat once in a while, maybe. A daily thing, no.

“But what will I give my child who refuses to drink water? He must drink something!,” you say.

Yes. This is true. Hydration is important.

But why turn to sugary beverages, organic and natural or not, when you could turn to tea? Tea is similarly flavored to many fruit juices you can find in the store, plus it’s packed with all sorts of vitamins and antioxidants. Seriously. None of the sugar, all of the benefits you could possibly cram into a beverage. Better than water, better than juice.

Really.

Think about it.

Do some research. Search your local grocery store. Pick a tea your children might enjoy the taste of and go from there!

When picking out teas for my daughter, I go for caffeine-free versions and fruity flavors. Her absolute favorite is raspberry tea. It’s great for boosting the immune system, can help regulate blood sugars, works to maintain a healthy heart, and is rich in antioxidants. We just throw in a bag into a pitcher of water and let it sit overnight. In the morning, with just one pouch, we have a full pitcher full of great flavored tea the whole family loves!

Other great options include:

Tazo Tea Passion – A fruity flavor that’s great warm or iced! Hibiscus, lemongrass, mango, and passion fruit meld together for a tropical taste any age will love. It’s got a ton of flavor and one or two bags is enough for a full pitcher. Plus, it’s a pretty pink. Available mainly at Starbucks, but also on Amazon and various other retailers.

Tazo Calm Chamomile Herbal Tea – Chamomile tea is an awesome tea for before bed. It helps calm toddlers and children alike down in a matter of minutes. Plus, it’s great for mommy too!

Your Tea Organic Chocolate Mint Rooibos Tea – Chocolate and mint? Need I say more? This organic tea is sure to please even the pickiest child. Really! It’s very low in caffeine, packed with nutrients, and is a great alternative for those children who can’t help but stay away from sugary drinks like juice or chocolate milk. Another awesome chocolate mint tea is Tazo’s Cocoa Mint Mate Tea.

When Choosing Your Child’s Tea Make Sure To:

  • Check caffeine levels – pick one with little to no caffeine. Decaf is best.
  • Pick a flavor similar to one they know and love. It will help the transition from juice to water, if there is one happening.
  • Pick one you too will enjoy so you can drink it together. It’s a lot of fun to relax with a nice, warm (or cool) cup of tea with your child!
  • Make sure you can brew it how you want (cold, hot, or both).

When Brewing Your Child’s Tea Make Sure To:

  • Check the temperature of the water. Make sure it’s lukewarm, or about room temperature if you’re hot brewing. If it’s too hot, pop it in the fridge for a while, add some ice, or throw in some cool water.
  • Brew for a limited time if brewing hot. Children generally enjoy weaker teas, so only brew for about 3/4 of the time the box instructs.
  • If you’re cold brewing, you can leave the bag in as long as you would like. We do one bag per pitcher overnight.
  • If the tea is too strong, add more water.

When Transitioning From Juice (Or Other Beverage) to Juice Make Sure To:

  • Introduce it slowly. Give them juice or whatever else their vice is still for a few days, but introduce a cup of tea in replacement of the other beverage once daily. With time, start taking away the other beverage more and replace it with tea as often as possible. Eventually, the switch will happen.
  • Be patient. It will take time. For some kids, a lot of time. Don’t worry and certainly don’t give up.
  • Try various flavors. Maybe your child isn’t into raspberry tea and needs to try a passion fruit tea instead.
  • Make it fun. Have taste-testing games. Try the tea with them. Get creative!
  • Add honey if it isn’t sweet enough for your child. Slowly take away the honey if you so choose.

You can do this!

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Crafts For Tiny People With Big Hearts

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Valentine’s Day is coming up and that means it’s time for crafts galore. It can be hard to figure out what your children should be making for the loves of their lives (grandparents, friends, etc), which is why I’m here to bounce some ideas off you.

These are all crafts that are simple enough for a toddler to make, but can be made by any stage after that too. They’re cute, easy, and a ton of fun.

Get out your journal! It’s time for some crafty notes.

“I Love You to Pieces” Card

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Idea/Picture From Solis Plus One

This one is super simple, but you should be involved as much as possible when making it. Write out the words in whatever fancy font you’d like (if your child isn’t old enough to do so herself) and draw a BIG heart. Then, let her cut out shapes (if you trust her with scissors) and paste the pieces in the heart. It’s fun, easy, and seriously, does it get cuter than that?

Jar Full-o Stuff

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Idea/Picture From Coffee Cups & Crayons

This is about as simple as it gets. Have your child pick out his favorite rocks, candies, and other little trinkets to give to just about anyone. You can have him decorate the outside for even more fun. Get creative. Use paper, glitter, glue, buttons, you name it! The possibilities are endless.

Heart Stamping

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Idea/Picture From Craftulate

Kids LOVE to stamp. Smash a simple empty cardboard toilet paper roll into the shape of a heart and use tape to hold it in place. Dip the end in just a little paint and let him go! He’ll have a blast watching the shapes appear on paper, plus it makes a cute card for just about anyone.

Tissue Paper Wreath

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Idea/Picture From Happy Hooligans

This piece is totally adorable and super easy. It doesn’t get much better than that, right? Start by allowing your little one to paint a paper plate that you’ve cut the center out of. Then, while the paint is still wet, let them stick colored tissue paper all around. This is super cute to hang on the door, or really anywhere.

Noodle Necklaces

 

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Idea/Picture From The Alison Show

Who doesn’t love necklaces? Simply cut a piece of string and tie a bead at the end so that the pieces don’t fall off. Give your child some big, easy-to-string noodles, and let her set to work. If you’re really feeling fancy, let her roll the noodles in paint first. For an extra bonus, throw in some glitter to the mix. Super cute, plus it’s a pop of fashion for any toddler’s wardrobe on Valentine’s Day.

Hand Print Poem

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Idea/Picture From The Barger Fam

For children who aren’t big into crafting (do those exist?!), this easy craft is a great idea. Simply pick your favorite lovey-dovey poem, print it out along with his name, and have him stamp his hand print right underneath of the writing. This one is great for grandparents and teachers alike.

What are you waiting for?! You have crafts (and memories) to go make!

 

 

Best Birthday Books to Give to Your Toddler On Their Birthday

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Our family is obsessed with books. Seriously. Our toddler has so many books that we can’t shove any more into her huge shelf. It’s bursting at the seams. That’s mainly because we buy them for her as gifts for every holiday. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and everything in between.

Of course, that includes her birthday too. Last year, for her first birthday, we decided to ask all of the guests who attended her party to bring a book instead of a toy or other present. She has a ton of clothes, stuffed animals, and other toys, but really, she could never have enough books. It just made sense to me.

This year is dawned on me that there are actual birthday books. Like, the subject of some books are birthdays themselves. Why I didn’t think of that last year, I have no idea, but her birthday is coming up in March so I set out to do some research to see if some of her favorite authors had any birthday books and a lot of them totally did!

Here’s the list of the best birthday books I compiled:

Curious George and the Birthday Surprise

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Follow George as he tries to figure out who the man with the yellow hat is putting a surprise party together for! This adorable book is great for toddlers, like mine, who love Curious George and trying to solve mysteries. It’s by far one of the cutest books I’ve ever seen and perfect for a birthday gift to any toddler.

Happy Birthday, Mouse!

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If you’ve read the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, you know this book totally rocks even if you haven’t read it. Laura Numeroff has yet to mess up a book and is definitely one of my favorite children’s authors of all time. In this humorous and adorable book, Mouse finds himself quite the treat.Your toddler will be laughing by the second page and I know that for sure!

Birthday Monsters!

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Sandra Boynton is the queen of rhyming and this book certainly shows that. Your little monster will love waking up to read this book on his birthday, or any other day of the year. It’s cute, funny, and full of great illustrations sure to please even the most curious child.

The Birthday Box

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Our toddler is in love with any book written by Leslie Patricelli and we can see why. She’s hilarious in her writing and totally relates to children in every detail of her books. The Birthday Box is one of her best and most creative pieces, along with PottyToot, and Yummy Yucky. Her books are a must-have in every household!

 

Cleanse the Soul With a Little Rain Play

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We live in Washington and my daughter’s favorite time to go outside is when it’s raining.

Now, I don’t particularly like the rain. It’s ok and all, but I don’t like being wet and cold. Ashlyn, on the other hand, enjoys soaked socks and dripping hair.

When she first started hearing the rain pound on our roof and begging to go outside to jump in the puddles, I dragged my feet. I did it, but not without wanting to go inside every second of it.

Eventually, I decided it wasn’t so bad after all. It’s only temporary and each time I remind myself I’ll be able to go inside and warm up soon.

It’s worth it to me. It’s worth it to watch the grin spread permanently across her cheeks as the murky water splashes around her. It’s worth it for the warm snuggles I get when we finally do go inside. It’s worth it for the memories we’re making.

After all, that’s what life’s all about, right? Making memories. Sometimes it’s wet. Sometimes it’s cold. But the memories, they will always be there to warm my heart, so I continue to do these sorts of semi-miserable things with my growing little girl.

What about you? What sorts of things do you do with your toddler that you don’t really love but do for their happiness? Do you jump in the rain? Let them paint and spend forever cleaning up afterward? Do you read them that same book over and over and over again?

Whatever you do, don’t stop doing it. OK?

 

10 Tips For Moving With a Toddler

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You may have noticed I was a little behind on comment replies this last week. It’s because we just moved into a brand spankin’ new house! Yeah. It rocks. Huge upgrade. We’re in love.

But really, moving with a toddler was a challenge and since I just had a recent experience with it, I thought I might have something to bring to the table for other parents who fear the whole idea of it.

It’s not as scary as it seems. I promise.

Especially if you follow these tips:

Pack WAY Ahead of Time

We were supposed to move on Friday, but our closing date was bumped up. Because we weren’t prepared by packing ahead of time, it was a mad rush to pack it all in one day. We wanted out of our rental as soon as possible.

Seriously, pack ahead of time. Do a little bit each day for like the whole month before you move. It will make it feel a lot less terrifying, especially with little ones running around “helping”. We started with things we didn’t use, like decorations, memorabilia, and camping stuff.

Get Rid of Stuff As You Pack

Notice a doll your child hasn’t played with in a year? A shirt you wore before your pregnancy but wouldn’t dare put on again? The single sock you know will never find a mate? Toss it in the Goodwill pile. The more clutter and unused items you get rid of, the less you’ll have to deal with moving into your new house. No need to unpack unneeded things. I learned this the hard way with previous moves.

Pack Child Entertainment Last

On moving day, you will want to entertain your child. We left the television up and didn’t put it in the uHaul until right before we were about to go to the new house. It was a life saver. We also left out a few pens and some paper for when Mickey Mouse got boring. Moving takes a long, long time. Your child will want things to do. Leave those things out until the very last possible moment.

Have Snacks

You might be too busy to think about eating, but your toddler isn’t. Along with entertainment, leave out snacks for them to munch on throughout the day. Bananas, oranges, crackers. Those sorts of things. Chocolate is a big hit, too. It’s a good idea to get a good stash of easy to eat foods ready for the move. Dried fruits, health bars, and other things of that sort will save your life.

Also, leave out an extra set of clothing. Your child will likely spill something on herself if you don’t. Children sense things like that.

Take Breaks – Often

Moving can be stressful for the little one. All of the things she knows and loves are being boxed up and put into a truck. It’s traumatic, really. Take time to pay attention to her. Color with her a little. Have a little conversation about where things might go in the new house. Go for a quick walk. Snuggle. Let her know you care about her feelings and well being.

Have a Place For Nap Time

The important thing to remember is that your child still needs a basic functioning schedule. An overtired, unnapped child isn’t going to help your move. Make sure there’s a comfy place for him to lay down. Don’t forget the stuffed animal he can’t sleep without!

Ask For Help

If you have someone willing to help, take every ounce of what time they’re willing to give you. The more people you have helping, the faster it will go. Plus, it’s nice for your child to have someone other than you to talk to and play with during it all.

If you don’t have help, it’s not the end of the world. You will survive. I promise!

Make it FUN

Seriously. Make it fun. Let them help. Give them a special box to put things into. Let them help bring small boxes or other items to the truck. Give them crayons to decorate the boxes with. Anything, really. Kids LOVE to help and it’s a lot of fun for them. If they’re having fun, it will be more pleasant for them.

Unpack the Kiddo’s Stuff First

The quicker she has her room set up with all of her belongings, the faster she will feel more comfortable with it all. It will give her a place to be entertained with her toys and other things. And GASP– she may even fall asleep. If you’re lucky, of course.

Explore

Exploring the new area can help your child become antiquated with things. Jump out of the truck and set to deciding on where things will go together. Find new hiding spots. Let him see the local part. Have a family date at a nearby diner. It’s important to remember that if you have a good attitude and it’s likely he will too!