Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

Before moving to China, I would have never known that I could make my own yogurt.  How did I miss this?  Of course, here in China milk is much more expensive to buy than it is back at home (in the US).  For many of you, this will be a great money-saver!  I am not happy with the "runny" yogurt options available here in China, and I wasn't having much luck finding yogurt without added sugar.

So then I found THIS great tutorial by The Frugal Girl
IMG_4359

My directions are NO DIFFERENT.  I'm only sharing my version because I found it difficult to sort through all of the text to understand the process.  Once I got it down, it really is a no-brainer!  What can I say... I'm very visual!!  So here is my attempt to make it super simple for those of you more like me!  PLEASE refer to  The Frugal Girl post if you want more details I'm not sharing here.

I've made this now 4 times, and I have had awesome results EVERY time!

Supplies
- 1 gallon of milk (less fat, less thick your yogurt will be)
- 1 cup of good quality, plain yogurt, unopened
- Air-tight containers (I'm using recycled jars and Tupperware)
- Large, thick-bottomed sauce pan
- Whisk
- Thermometer
- Cooler
- Measuring pitcher (to help you pour into jars)

Directions
1. Make sure your jars or containers are clean and well sterilized.  You will end up with 4 quarts of yogurt (a gallon), so 4 1-quart jars would work perfect.

2. Pour milk into a thick-bottomed sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat, while occasionally stirring with a whisk, until you reach 185F-190F (85C-90C).  As you can see, a meat thermometer works just fine.  I used a paperclip to hold it on the side of the pan. ;) 

3. Once at temperature, transfer to a sink with cool water.  Allow the temperature of the milk to drop down to 120F (50C).

4. At 120F (50C), whisk in 1 cup of good-quality yogurt until well blended.  I save a small jar of yogurt from each batch I make to use for this purpose.  If this is your first time, you can use a store-bought yogurt.

5. Transfer some of your yogurt to a pitcher to make it easier to pour into your jars.  I do this in the sink to avoid making a huge mess!

6. Fill your jars or containers.  See those two jars I've set to the side?  They still smelled of spaghetti sauce... ack!  I don't think spaghetti-flavored yogurt would be too popular in our house!  And please.. disregard the mess of milk in the photo.  I over-filled my pitcher making it difficult to pour without the mess.

7. Skim the milk froth/bubbles off of the top of each jar/container...

... and your jars will end up looking like this!  Now add the tops and tightly seal.

8. Transfer all of your jars/containers to a cooler that you have filled with a gallon or so of hot water.The Frugal Girl's directions say 120F, but I just use the hottest water I can get from my sink.  I figure that has to be pretty close since it is too hot to put your hands in! Make sure your cooler is in a warm place in your home, away from cool drafts.  

The water only looks murky because some of my jars were sitting in milk.  You may also notice I covered the jars with some plastic wrap before adding the lid... just in case the lids were smelling a little spaghetti saucy!  Because I didn't trust my Tupperware containers would be safe in the water, I was sure to stick something underneath them so they were not submerged.

9. Close the cooler and leave your yogurt there for 3 hours.

10. After 3 hours in the cooler your yogurt will begin to set, but will still be a bit runny.  At this point, transfer it to the fridge.  After a few hours your yogurt will be ready to go!

11. Remember I mentioned saving a small jar of yogurt to use as the "starter" for my next batch?  I make sure to mark it and tuck it in the back of the fridge.

Delicious!!!

The Frugal Girl offers some instructions for making vanilla yogurt on her post, if you are interested in trying that as well.

Now.... Want to know what I'm doing with my yogurt??  I'll have another post to share soon with those details!

Happy Yogurt Making!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Puzzlewich - Feed Your Brain!

I am thrilled to be featuring Shelisa from a great educational (and FUN) blog called Think Magnet!  Her blog is full of creative and simple ways to incorporate learning into the home.  I love how her posts are short and sweet... and many ideas shared can be done with the things you already have on hand.  She also shares some great advice on how to parent learners within your home. Be sure to stop by and see what great things Shelisa is sharing at Think Magnet!

Some of my personal favorites over at Think Magnet...

    

        
1) Sweet Spelling                                   2) Snow Day Science
3) Think Boards      4)  If You Give a Dog a Donut Book Club


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


FEED YOUR BRAIN!
It's the simple, easy teachable moments that become my favorite. My husband grew up with puzzle sandwiches. I love continuing this tradition.

   
 A food for thought chance to practice spatial reasoning, geometry, problem solving and PATIENCE! Also, buys you some time while you're busy filling drinks, cutting up fruit, or actually sitting down to eat your own lunch. When your child is old enough, have them design and cut a puzzlewich for you!

   
 Apply food puzzling to other foods like pizza, breakfast toast, cheese slices, and tortillas!

 
I also recently broadened our Puzzlewich tradition in creating a Tangramwich! You are what you eat...so what if you eat puzzles.

Happy Puzzle Eating!
Shelisa

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For the Kids Friday #51


Welcome to another week of For the Kids Friday!
I am so proud of the success of my blog over this past year, and it is great to see so many people coming to share here each and every week!  As a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you, I am now offering my 12 Week Summer Program at a reduced rate from here on out.  Instead of $50 for this amazing program, I'm dropping the price to $30.  That's it.. not a special... no need to grab it this second... the price will not go back up!

If you haven't heard about my program, I'd LOVE for you to take a moment to check it out.  You can find all of the details HERE.

Here are some of my favorite link ups from last week....
You are all SO inspiring!!  Thanks so much for sharing!

If you've been featured below
grab my A++ and brag about it to your friends :)
A++



Shooting Star Bean Bags
at Helping Little Hands


Color Resist Sight Words
at Train Up a Child


No Sew - Love Gnome Tutorial
at My Rhythm & Rhyme in Motherhood


Weaving Loom
at Jellyfish Jelly


Elmo Nails
at Fancy Frugal Life


Long-Sleeved Onesies from Short-Sleeved
at Monkey See, Monkey Do!


Valentine's Day Felt Cookies (DIY Play Set)
at H is for Homeschooling


Now onto the Party!
For the Kids Friday



1)  I would LOVE for you to first be a follower of my blog.  (And why wouldn't you want to be?!)

2)  Grab my For the Kids Fridays Button and place it somewhere on your blog.  Be sure to link back to me!

3)  Link up as many KID-RELATED activities, games, recipes, parties, gifts, clothing you've created, crafts, traditions, lessons, and so on... that you would like to share.  Please add a different link each week.  They can be old or new... this is just a place to share ideas for our kids to enjoy.  Bonus points to those that serve some educational purpose too!  Link must be to the specific post, and not your general blog page.  Please don't link to your store.

4)  Share the love and comment on at least one other link.  Everyone loves to get feedback.


That's it!  Have fun, and thanks so much for participating!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Promoting Good Behavior - Reward Store

Don't call me mother of the year.  I think like most mothers out there, I am always feeling like I could be doing a better job at one thing or another.  Recently, I had both my Chinese driver and my Chinese housekeeper tell me that they thought my children were so well behaved, and always listen to me.  THIS, coming from people that spend a LOT of time with me and the kids.  I about FELL OFF MY CHAIR.  I for one, feel like my children NEVER listen to me.  Please tell me I'm not alone here.... PLEASE!!

Ok... so another attempt on my part to bring some "lets work together" harmony into our home.  A while back I had seen THIS idea which I shared on a collection of Parenting Tips, Tricks & Inspirations.  I think this will be the perfect motivator for my kids, the perfect thing for me to implement, and a great way offer positive reinforcement in place of the nagging I've resorted to.  I have made some changes to make it more appropriate for our home.  And of course... after using it for a few weeks, I've learned a thing or two.  I'll share...

Our living room now proudly displays the Reward Store.

Rather than offering an allowance, or using a chore chart, my children earn Mommy Money that they can use to buy things from the Reward Store.

First...
We went shopping together!  I told the children that we were buying things that they wanted to go into our store.  We had a nice variety of items, some inexpensive, and some more.  Some toys, games, treats, books, and so on.  The kids were great about helping select the items.  And no... I didn't buy EVERYTHING they brought to the cart.  ;)


Next...
I had the children put prices on each item.  I tried to keep it in "real" terms.  If it was a $5 book, then they put a $5 sticker on that item.  If it was a $20 basketball, it got a $20 sticker.  However, I thought it was likely smarter to put a higher ticket price on the candy we tossed in.  Instead of a $.50 package of M&Ms, we marked them at $3.  


You know your kids better than anyone.  I know, that if I have a Reward Store full of candy, then my kids will be buying nothing but!!!  So after a few weeks of using our store, I'm debating as to whether or not I keep the candy in the store.  If I do keep it, I will be increasing the price, I am sure.

A great thing to add...
Years ago my sister gave me this AWESOME Kids Coupon Book.
It was the PERFECT addition to our Reward Store.  
 
 I added this book to our store, but added a price tag to the back of each.  That way the kids can choose an item from the coupon book as well.  It is your choice if you allow the children to reuse coupons, which I decided to do.  Of course, who needs a book!  You can create your own coupons for your Reward Store!

Some of my favorite coupons in the book are...
* Stay up one hour past your bedtime
* Your choice of one item at the grocery store
* You don't have to clean your room for a week
* Your own batch of cookies, to share or keep for yourself
* A birthday cake, and it doesn't have to be your birthday


Ready, Set, Display!
Find a place that is up and away, but visible to display your Reward Store.  I found a great plastic tub that I was able to fit most of our stuff in.  My daughter was excited to make a sign for the store, which we hung on front, then we placed our "store" on top of the bookshelf in our living room.


So what about the Mommy Money?
You can download the template that I used to create my Mommy Money HERE (Word 2007 Document).

I found a photo of myself and my husband, and cropped the image to the shape of an oval.  If you see below, I am using Word to do so with a photo of my husband.

1.  Add the photo you would like to use
2.  Right mouse click on the photo and select "Format Picture", click the "Layout" tab, and select "In front of text"
3. Select from the "Format" tab on the Word menu then "Picture Shape" as seen in the image above.
There, you will see the oval shape option (circled in red).  Select that.
4.  Resize your photo to the appropriate size, and place it in the middle of your bill.
5.  Copy and past your cropped photo into each of the other bills.


Earning Mommy Money
At our house, it is WAY harder to earn a Daddy Dollar than it is Mommy Money!  You need to decide what things you want to encourage in your children.  It may be different for each kid in your house too.  For me, having the kids pick up after themselves, get ready for school and bed without my nagging, doing homework without being told, and being kind to each other, are my BIG things.  So these are all things they earn money for.

I reward my children with $1 for each morning we get off to school on time without me having to tell them more than once.. "Finish your breakfast!"... "Get dressed!"... "Put on your coat!"... and so on.  If they are going out of their way to be helpful, they can earn a dollar or two.  If they, on their own accord, are exceptionally kind to another sibling, I may be willing to offer up even more.

The key is, decide what you want to encourage in your children!

It is up to you if you think confiscating Mommy Money is a route you want to go.  I have told my children that being unkind to each other will result in them having to "pay" the other child from their own Mommy Money stash.

Also keep in mind how quickly you'd like your children to be able to redeem prizes from the Reward Store. If you are forking out enough cash for your child to be buying items from the store each day, you may need to rethink your strategy!  Give out less money, or raise the prices in the store!

Adding to the Store
How many times do your kids come up to you at the store BEGGING to have this or that??  I think the Reward Store is a great solution to that.  Now you might be more inclined to buy that item, only to stick a price on it and toss it into the store.  Your kids are still selecting the items.. and are more motivated because these are things that they really want, right?  So keep adding the store.  Make it fun and mix it up!

If you give it a try, I'd LOVE to hear how it goes for you!
What things do you have in your Reward Store?


Happy Kids... Happy Mommy!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More Dr. Seuss Inspirations


Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!!
It's that time of year again!  I've got a GREAT collection of amazing ideas to inspire you!

And don't miss my Dr. Seuss Inspirations shared last year HERE.

Lots of fun ideas!!!  Thanks to all of you who share your fabulous creativity with all of us!



dr seuss party thing 1 thing 2 cupcakes
Thing 1 & Thing 2 Cupcakes
at Good Life Eats


Dr. Seuss Wall Art
at Artsy Fartsy Mama

Dr. Suess Birthday Party IdeasDr. Suess Birthday Party Ideas
Dr. Seuss Birthday Party
at HWTM Daily Blog


Dr. Seuss Upcycled Chair
at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations


Dr. Seuss Snacks
at Simple Girl


DIY Dr. Seuss Treats
at Doll House Bake Shoppe


Strawberry Shortcake Cat in the Hat Treats
at The Hokey Pokey Kitchen


Green Eggs & Ham Costumes
at MADE

Dr Seuss Scrappy Lap Quilt
Dr. Seuss Scrappy Lap Quilt
Available on Etsy by Plum Cozy Cottage

Wooden name blocks customized with your theme -- Dr. Seuss inspired Cat In The Hat theme--black red turquoise white
Dr. Seuss Wooden Name Blocks
Available on Etsy by Me and These 3

Dr Seuss Wall Hanging were you wondering...peek a boo Dr Seuss were you wondering...
Dr. Seuss Wall Hanging - Lift the Flaps!
at A Cuppa and a Catch Up...

1606cartoonbook-table
Storybook Pages as Place Mats
at Real Simple


Sweet Dr. Seuss Snack
at Random Thoughts of a Supermom!


Links to Free Dr. Seuss Fonts
at Coolest Family on the Block


Truffula Tree Tutorial
at Art Projects for Kids


"There's a ______ in my pocket." Classroom Book
at A Place Called Kindergarten

Cat7,8
Cat In The Hat Hats (from toilet paper rolls)
at Stuff by Ash

Grinch Punch Recipe
Grinch Punch
at Taste of Home


Thing 1 & Thing 2 Puppets (with printable)
at Crack of Dawn Crafts

Stripe Series (RED)
Knit Hat & Tie
Available at Etsy by Sweet Pea Toad Tots

Cat in the Hat Suspender Tie shirt
Cat in the Hat Suspender Tie Shirt
at Etsy by Bubbles & Bugs


Seuss Party Centerpieces
at Amy Ro. Creations


Cat in the Hat Pizza
at Gallamore West


Dr. Seuss Cake
at And Everything Sweet


Cat in the Hat Cake - And a Great Seuss Party
at Him.Her & Company

obSEUSSedLinkCollection
ObSEUSSed Link Collection - Add your Seuss posts!
at obSEUSSed



Dr. Seuss Learning Units

Green Eggs and Ham (I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books)
Green Eggs & Ham Themed Unit
(Click to Download) by Sun Scholars
A Free Sample of my 12 Week Summer Home School Program

Seuss Learing Pack Button
Dr. Seuss Learning Pack (free)
at Living Life Intentionally


Dr. Seuss Unit
at What the Teacher Wants

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (Bright and Early Books for Beginning Beginners)Roll and Graph: Forest AnimalsMrBrownDie
Dr. Seuss Unit
at 2 Teaching Mommies

Pinned Image
Dr. Seuss Directed Reading Thinking Activity
at TeachersPayTeachers