To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

I've never been all that excited about cauliflower. It seems to exist mainly as a delivery method for something else - something with an actual flavor, like ranch dressing or cheese sauce. But, when I tried this recipe, I discovered that cauliflower actually has it's own yummy taste. This is worth a try!

florets from 2 heads of cauliflower 
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon peppe

Preheat oven to 450°.  Place cauliflower in a large roasting pan or jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with oil; toss well to coat. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring every 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley, thyme, and garlic. Bake 5 minutes. Combine cauliflower mixture, cheese, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to combine.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

We eat cereal for breakfast and sandwiches or left-overs for lunch, so my planning centers around suppers. I try as often as possible to cook once, and eat twice. I'm going for an easy week since it's the first week out of school for us! Here's my plan.

Monday/Tuesday - ham and pasta salad with extra veggies

Wednesday/Thursday - spaghetti and salad

Friday - Appetizer night! Bacon-wrapped jalepeno bites, veggies and dip, and home-made potato chips (in the microwave!)

Visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas!

Teaching Children Self-Control

One of the hardest things for parents to teach their children is self-discipline, but it may be even more important to their future success than IQ. I've been thinking a lot about it lately as I'm working on a post at my other blog, The Piano Studio, about parental discipline and piano practice. Watch for it on Wednesday. In the meantime, take 5 minutes and watch this great video that explains just how critical this skill is to your child's well-being and success.

If you have a child who takes piano lessons, you might be interested in my most recent post, What Do Kids Do When They Practice Piano? It's an interesting look at how piano practice differs from practicing in other arenas of life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kids Bowl Free All Summer!

I just got an email with coupons from our local Brunswick Bowling entitling my daughter to FREE bowling all summer - one free game every day! If you have a Brunswick Bowling or AMF bowling near you, sign up online for a free pass for your child. In fact, many other bowling centers are offering a Kids Bowl Free pass for the summer. Check this website for participating lanes, and check with your local bowling lanes to find out if they are participating.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giveaway: Legwarmers from Posh Pipsqueaks

Over at the Mom-a-logues blog, Dawn is giving away some ADORABLE legwarmers from Posh Pipsqueaks. My munchkin would love these! Check it out!

$10 Coupon for Christmas Tree Shops

The Christmas Tree Shop is new in my town, and despite its name, it turns out to carry much more than Christmas items. It strikes me as a larger version of a dollar store with more interesting inventory. I've found some good deals there over the past few weeks, including kids birthday presents, planters, dog treats, candles, and some great little jars for keeping my home-grown dried herbs. You never know what you'll find there. I checked out their website out of curiosity and discovered that you can get a coupon for for $10 off if you spend $50 by signing up for their email list. If you have one of these stores nearby, it's worth it! Sign up here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Too Much Information

"Hello? Mrs. Lowe? This is the school nurse. I have your daughter here in the office...

          I am alarmed.

Now, I don't want you to be alarmed...

          I am very alarmed.

She was on the playground, and...

          OMG, I knew she was being far too brave on those monkey bars. She's probably fallen and cracked her head open. Is the ambulance on the way? Where are my shoes?

she caught a ball and it bent her pinky back...

          And it's broken. Is the bone sticking out? Will she still be able to play piano? Where is my other shoe?

and I think it's probably sprained a little, but it's looking much better.

          A sprained pinky? That's all? Oh, no, your voice sounds WAY too serious for a sprained pinky. Keep talking...

They called me down to take a look at it, and she was reluctant to let me see it. I tried to explain to her that it was just a little bruised, and that bruising was nothing more than a little bleeding under the skin..."

I interrupted, "I know where you're going. She passed out, didn't she?"

"Yes!" The relief in her voice was tangible. "I guess I just gave her too much information!"

The minute she said "explain," I knew. After I reassured the nurse that this wasn't the first time, I brought my baby home to rest on the couch and get over the embarrassment. I guess I can give up my dream of having a doctor in the family if the mere mention of blood knocks her out!

Poor kid, she gets it honestly. I didn't pass out over blood, but the nurses where I got my allergy shots learned to have me lie down first. The important thing is to never use the word, "faint." I hate that word. "Fainting" sounds so weak and pitiful, and it's terribly embarrassing when someone says, "She fainted." The only worse way to say it is "swooning." "Passing out" or "blacking out" is much better. That sounds like you had a serious medical event, and it's more likely to attract concern than laughter. Hey, you might as well get some attention for it! Whatever you call it, it isn't uncommon, but it can sometimes call for a trip to the doctor.  Read more here: When Children Faint. And, uh, somebody tell those folks at Duke Health to drop the F-word.

Piano Lessons For Twos and Threes?

Photo by crimfants
For more articles about piano teaching and piano study, visit my blog The Piano Studio!

I'm an independent piano teacher, and in the last couple of months, I’ve had a few inquiries from parents who were seeking traditional piano lessons for children 2 and 3 years old. I thought I would post some of my thoughts here as a resource for other parents of very young children.

First of all, kudos to these parents! They recognize the value of musical study and want to offer their children an early exposure to music instruction. I’m happy that they contacted me, even though I did not accept them as private piano students. Some teachers do accept students at this young age, and some are quite successful, but my personal preference is to start students at age 6 or maybe in exceptional situations at age 5. However, I want to be encouraging to these parents and to offer some information that will help them as they consider what path to follow. In many cases, I think they may not know exactly what I mean when I say that I offer traditional piano study. They just know that their child enjoys music and they want to provide her with every advantage. Sometimes, when I suggest a program such as Musikgarten or Kindermusik, I get the distinct impression that they consider those to be merely play experiences. On the contrary, I believe that these programs are excellent at providing an early foundation for piano study. Here are some things to consider.

In a traditional piano lesson, the child receives focused one-on-one instruction in how to read music notation and hone their pre-existing fine motor skills to produce sensitive, nuanced sounds. They are given assignments to work on independently at home, and these can include practicing, vocabulary, and written assignments in workbooks. We have fun, but it’s a goal-oriented endeavor that requires a large degree of focused attention and self-regulation, and it can be intense.  If you are looking for lessons for a two- to four-year-old child, my suggestion is that you consider either a group experience like Musikgarten, Kindermusik, Music Together, or Music For Young Children or pre-piano lessons with a teacher who specializes in music for very young children and has some training in that field. Why?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

This should be renamed friendship cake. Put a warm wedge on a plate with some ice cream and chocolate syrup, and anyone you serve this to will be your friend for life.

1 stick butter, unsalted
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9” round cake pan with parchment and spray it all with cooking spray.

Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter, light brown sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 15 seconds. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg. Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add the dry ingredients and combine on low speed until just a few dry streaks remain. Add the chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds. 

Scrape the batter into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan. Press the batter into a smooth and even layer in the pan. Bake until lightly golden and puffy around the edges (the center should still feel quite soft), 18 – 22 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes and then run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Cool for at least 4 hours before turning the cake out of the pan and onto a large plate. (Laura sez: Wait 4 hours? Yeah, right.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

We generally have cereal for breakfast and scrounge around for leftovers or make a sandwich for lunch, so my menu planning consists of suppers. This week is not very exciting, although I'm eager to to try a new recipe for shrimp fettucini using jalepenos and basil grown right in my garden! Incidentally, Food Lion has shrimp on sale as a buy one get one free this week. For lots of other menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie blog where lots of bloggers list their Monday menu plan!


Baked chicken breasts, rice pilaf, sauteed zucchini, broccoli with cheese sauce




Tuna casserole, salad


Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccini with Basil-Infused Lemon Sauce, salad


London broil, baked potatoes, honey-glazed carrots (London broil is on sale this week at Food Lion, too!)



Saving Money By Growing Peppers

Red bell pepper...eventually!
The hubby and I enjoy peppers, but we don't enjoy their price tag. So, this year, we're growing our own! We've got so many, I've been threatening to answer the phone, "Lowe Pepper Farm, how may I direct our call?" Since we'll essentially end up with organic peppers, we're saving lots of money over what organic would cost at the grocery store. Besides the financial benefits, there are educational ones. Growing things teaches my munchkin that food just doesn't appear magically at the grocery store. If all of that isn't convincing enough, it's fun, too!

We have bell peppers in a variety of colors, jalepenos, and some hot banana peppers. Either they're really easy to grow, or we've been lucky so far. No pests or problems.

We'll have jalepenos soon!
Wanna grow some peppers, too? If you don't have garden space, you can plant them in containers. They'll happily grow on a sunny patio. Peppers prefer full sun, but mine seem to be tolerating partial shade pretty well. If you don't have good soil, get a bag of garden soil to mix in when you plant. I planted baby plants, but peppers are also easy to grow from seed. At this late point in the season, though, you're better off starting with plants. I fertilized with a slow-release pellet style fertilizer when I planted them. I've read that you shouldn't fertilize after they begin to blossom, so keep that in mind. Once the peppers appear and begin to get heavier, you may need to use a wire cage or stake them to help provide some support. If your peppers don't look good, visit this page for suggestions on what to do for just about every imaginable pepper problem.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coupon Organization

My piano students have had their recital, so summer has begun for me even though the munchkin still has another week of school. This means I have time to reorganize my coupons! I've learned how to save significant money by using coupons when staple items are on sale and then buying multiples to stockpile until we need them. Hopefully, my new system of coupon organization will help me keep it going!

My old system was an accordion file, but in order to see the coupons, I had to pull everything from one category out and flip through each coupon. This system is much better. I'm saving more coupons but clipping fewer of them, and the ones I do clip, I can see at a glance. Now that the munchkin is old enough to help, I can put her to work clipping and culling the expired ones.

So here's the system. I bought a zippered binder, and I put a dedicated pair of scissors and a Sharpie in the front pocket so I don't have to search for them. When I get the inserts in the Sunday paper, I write the date on the front and slip it into a sheet protector. Many sites like Coupon Mom match up these coupons with store sales each week, and they reference the coupon by the date of the insert. By organizing them this way, I just pull out the insert I need and find the coupon rather than clipping them all.

I organize other coupons in baseball card pocket sheets. It took me a while to find these in the store! I thought they'd be with the other sheet protectors, but they weren't. At Target, I found them near the registers with the collectible Pokeman and other similar cards. I have dividers that create categories for coupons that are specific to certain stores as well as all of my grocery categories. Now I can go quickly to the section I need and see all of the discounts and the expiration dates at a glance.

Is it worth all of this effort? Absolutely! I saved $50 last week on groceries using store sales and coupons. It took me about an hour to plan my trip, but I'm out of practice. I'll get faster at it! Anyway, $50 / hour is nothing to sneeze at.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bella!

When we adopted our dog Bella, we arbitrarily chose May 1 as her birthday. For two years now, my munchkin has been asking to have a birthday party for the dog. Maybe I was feeling a little guilty for not having had our usual Christmas cookie-decorating party this year. Or, maybe I'm just insane. For some reason, I said yes.

One of my piano students said the party would be a Bella-bration. I told him I'd give him credit for the name this year, but next year all bets are off!

The girls played Pin The Paw On The Puppy, Tug o' War, and Dog Food Relay. For the relay, we divided into 2 teams and transferred dog kibble from one bowl to another, one little piece of kibble at a time. That tired them out nicely! We made Shrinky Dink dog tags and decorated pupcakes. Aren't they cute? The ears are Tootsie Rolls that I softened for about 5 seconds in the microwave before we molded them into shape.

It turns out that it's a lot easier to have a Bella-bration than to pull off a cookie decorating party in the middle of the Christmas bustle. This could turn out to be a permanent Lowe holiday!
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