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Monday, September 15, 2014

Awesome and Easy Collages for Toddlers

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  I am not otherwise compensated for my opinions.

I found a couple of pins recently that inspired me to do some new simple projects with Cricket's easel.  This is the style of easel we use.  It's just a basic white board on one side and chalkboard on the other.

She loves to paint and draw on it, but these were a few other quick and low budget projects that I used to fill some time when I was tired or she was restless.  

Feelings Collage

First we went through a couple of my old magazines and looked for pictures of people who were showing different emotions, and I cut them out.  Cricket helped me find pictures, and we talked about what they might be feeling and why.  

It was easy to find happy people, and even excited and proud people, but it took a while to find pictures of people who looked sad and angry.  Prescription ads ended up being very helpful.  :o)

I just used plain easel paper from this pad I ordered for Cricket's second birthday.  It's lasted forever!

I taped a piece of easel paper up and wrote "I Feel" in the middle of it.  Then I wrote emotion words like "sad" and "happy" around the paper.  She painted some glue around it and stuck the corresponding pictures next to the word as we talked about it.  

Of course, she loves painting, so painting glue was great fun for her.  She also liked the pictures, and she enjoyed talking about them.

The emotions we ended up with were happy, sad, angry, proud, surprised, and grumpy.  These are all emotions we have talked about with her for a while now, and they have come up in several of her books.

Not only does this help teach her how to express her own emotions, it also helps her practice recognizing social cues in other people to determine their emotions.  This is a valuable skill for toddlers (and for adults), and one that doesn't always come naturally, so it's good to practice.  

After we finished putting the pictures on, she decorated it with stickers just for fun.  She used a couple of stickers as band-aids for the sad person, which showed me that she was really listening to what we were talking about and empathizing with the person in the picture.  

When she finished her collage, we taped it to her bedroom door.  She is very proud of it, and she loves to show it off to people, which gives her even more opportunities to practice recognizing and repeating the emotion vocabulary she is learning.  I was really happy with this activity and highly recommend it.

Sticker Collage

For something even easier, I just put up a piece of paper and let her stick stickers wherever she wanted.  She loved it!  

Just about every toddler loves stickers, so this is a fun and really easy activity for them.  I had a bunch leftover from my classroom that I pulled out, but if you need some, Dollar Tree always has a bunch, as well as the dollar bins at Target or Wal-Mart.  Melissa and Doug also has some great sticker pads that come with hundreds of great looking stickers for a decent price.  A friend got Cricket one last Christmas, and she's still using it!

The only thing about stickers is, some of them are hard to get off the paper they come on, so I stuck a bunch to a chair so I could do dishes while she worked on her collage.

When she was finished, I gave her the option to further decorate her collage with crayons or colored pencils.  She wasn't interested at the time, but I left it up for a few days, and she did come back and color it a little.

She has asked to do this again and again, so I'd call this one a success as well.  

Torn Paper Collage

This is another super easy one.  I taped a piece of contact paper to the easel, sticky side out.  

I let Cricket and her friend tear pieces of construction paper and just stick them on!

They chose to tear the paper into big pieces.  I love that since the contact paper is clear, you can see the drawings she had done on the easel, giving it a kind of background.

To add a natural sensory aspect to this one, try the Contact Paper Window I wrote about when Cricket was younger.  

Remember, it doesn't have to be complicated to be a fun and absorbing experience for a toddler!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Awesome Gifts for Expectant Parents

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  I am not otherwise compensated for my opinions. 

If you are anywhere in the 25-40 age range, chances are, you get invited to a fair number of baby showers.  For a while, it seemed like we had a wedding invitation for every weekend of the year, but now, those have definitely morphed into baby showers.

While my first advice is always to get something off the registry, (They picked it out.  They obviously need it and want it!) some people don't like using registries.  Or maybe you just want a more personal gift.  Or the store they registered at is not in your town and you don't have time to order online.  Whatever the case, here are some great ideas for baby gifts that I have either given or received and loved!

Nursing Survival Kit

One of my friends gave this to me, and we have given it to several others since then.  If you know the mom-to-be is planning on breastfeeding, put together a basket of things she might need.  You could include:

Nursing Cover, Nursing Pads, and Lanolin for the basic needs.


Energy bars, a cute water cup, and a small book to make mama smile.


Nursing tank and burp cloths to make nursing a little easier!


Of course, several of those would make great gifts by themselves, but put a couple of those in a cute basket and you have a really memorable and useful present!  This is a good one for a group or hostess gift, because the more you put in there, the cuter it will be!

Fleece Nose Wipes

This may seem like a weird gift, so let me explain.  When I was pregnant, my mom gave me a bunch of cute fleece squares she had cut out for me to use as cloth baby wipes.  However, once I had Cricket, it became very obvious that they were no good as baby wipes because they didn't absorb liquid well.

I had all these cute little fleece squares sitting around, never been used, and I quickly figured out that they worked great as nose wipes for tiny, sensitive noses!  They are way softer than tissues, you can use them several times, and even toddlers can use them without tearing a hole in them every time they wipe their nose!  Two years later, we are still using them!

So here's what you do.  Get some cute fleece, like these.


Cut them into six inch squares, tie a dozen up in a pretty ribbon and give them along with a note saying what they are for.  No need to sew because fleece doesn't fray.  Easy, cute, and unique!  It is a great thing to keep on hand for last minute gifts!

Little Remedies Box

My sister gave this to me when I was pregnant, and I am STILL using some of the stuff in it!  This is a collection of Little Remedies products for babies and young children, like gripe water, eucalyptus rub, saline nose spray, etc.  It's great, and any new parent will greatly appreciate it!


Ok, y'all knew this was coming right?  No way am I not going to talk about books.  At my baby shower, my hostess put in the invitation a request for guests to sign their name in a board book instead of a greeting card.  They are the same price or even cheaper than a card, and they are way more useful!  Plus, it is so fun to read books to Cricket and get to tell her who gave each one to her.

One of Brian's long time family friends sent us Pat the Bunny when I was pregnant, along with a list of several dozen books that she recommended or that her children had loved growing up.  What a great idea!  I made notes of a bunch of them to get as soon as I could!

I love to give books, so often I will give several of my favorites as a way to start the child's library.  This one is always in the group.


Whether you give a stack or just one, you can never go wrong with books!

Name Bands for Sippy Cups

I don't know if y'all have seen these, but they are rubber bracelet-looking things that go around bottles and sippy cups to label them.  The idea is that they are washable, so you don't have to take them off, and they aren't adhesive, so you don't have a gooey mess after a couple of weeks.  There are several different kinds.  The original ones are actually debossed with your child's name.  (You could also add other information like allergy alerts, phone numbers, etc.)


Or you could get one of these that you just write on with a permanent marker.  Either way, these are a fun and unique but practical gift that any parent will appreciate.


House Cleaning

I don't have a link to this, because it's more of a local thing, but it's worth mentioning.  One of my favorite gifts for friends who are about to have a baby is to pay someone to come clean their house while they are in the hospital.  That way they come home to a sparkling house and no chores to worry about!  This would be a good hostess gift or group gift, as well.

A bonus to this is that if you have friends who clean houses as a job, you are helping them out as well!  If you don't know anyone who cleans houses, you can ask your friends on Facebook for local recommendations or hire a professional service, although that will obviously be more costly.  Just make sure that this is something the expecting parents will enjoy or someone they know, since some people are hesitant to let strangers in their house for obvious reasons.  When in doubt, ask ahead of time on this one.

Closet Organizers and Hangers

This is my go-to gift right now.  I stumbled upon the realization that Amazon has literally dozens of designer closet organizers.  This is awesome because you can find some to match just about any nursery theme!  (I have been known to stalk pictures on Facebook to figure out which colors and designs will match!)  They are a decent price, too!

Closet organizers are super handy because you always end up with clothes in four or five different sizes, and this helps you keep them organized so you don't end up finding an outfit that your baby never got to wear because you didn't realize it was his size four months ago!


Pair them with some matching baby hangers and you have a sweet and thoughtful gift that they won't want to return!


I hope this gives you some good ideas for baby gifts!  What about you?  What are your favorite go-to gifts for baby showers?

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Breakfast Burritos

When we started eating more "Real Food" and trying to cut out processed food as much as possible, one of the first things we did was go through the food we ate on a regular basis to see where we needed to make replacements or get rid of stuff.  We got rid of the Pop-Tarts and instant oatmeal packages that Brian had been using as his breakfast, and started trying to find replacements that were easy and affordable, and still tasted good.

For a while, I made homemade instant oatmeal for him.  Then, in an effort to find something with more protein and more "staying power," I thought I would try breakfast burritos.  I could make them ahead of time and freeze them, and then he could just heat them one at a time.

I went through a bunch of recipes on Pinterest, but what I found was, there wasn't really any special "recipe."  It was basically just, "put whatever you like to eat inside a burrito and mostly it will be fine."  After making these over and over, I've pretty much perfected my version, so I thought I'd share it.

My breakfast burritos include:

1 Dozen eggs, scrambled
1 Onion, sauteed
Spinach (or Kale)
1 Bag Tater tots
Half a Package Turkey Bacon
8 ounces Cheddar Cheese
2 8-Count Packages Large Tortillas

One batch makes approximately 16 burritos.

First, you have to prepare all your ingredients.  If you have time, and have no toddler begging for your attention, make the bacon first, so that you can make the veggies and eggs in the skillet using the grease from the bacon.  It makes it taste really good!

But if you do have time constraints, make the bacon ahead of time and put it in the fridge or even the freezer until you need it.  That way you have less to do all at once.

Also, you can slice the cheese ahead of time.  I use 8 ounces of cheddar cheese, and cut the block in half horizontally first, and then into long rectangles.  However you do it, you just want to end up with sixteen pieces, so you have one for each burrito.  I guess you could shred it, too, but I hate shredding cheese, so...

The first thing to do is get your tater tots in the oven.  I started off using hash browns, but they usually have to be cooked in a skillet, which takes extra time, and plus, I am horrible and flipping those stupid things.  Tater tots are the way to go.  Put them in the oven to cook while you work on the rest of the stuff.

(And yes, I realize that tater tots don't count as "Real Food," but I learned the hard way that if you don't use a potato product, the burritos don't stretch nearly as far and don't fill Brian up as well.  And since there is no way I'm making enough hash browns by hand to do burritos, tater tots it is!)

Then make your eggs with veggies.  I chop and saute an onion first, and then add a dozen eggs and scramble.  Right at the end, I throw in a couple of handfuls of spinach or kale, whichever one I have.  I usually have some in the freezer so I can just crush it with my hands while it's frozen in the bag and not have to chop it.  Saves time.

Oh, and don't put salt on your eggs until the end.  It makes them tougher and chewier if you put salt on while they're cooking, so I've read.

Once everything is ready, make an assembly line, like so.

In each burrito, put on a tortilla a scoop of the eggs/veggie mixture, like, four tater tots, a piece of cheese, and crumble one piece of bacon on top.  (NOTE:  Get the name brand tortillas.  Trust me.  I tried using Aldi ones and they were not soft enough, so they kept tearing when I would try to roll them up.  Splurge on the good ones at Wal-Mart!)

Roll them up so they are closed on both ends, wrap them in plastic wrap, and lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Stick them in the freezer overnight.  Then you can transfer them, still wrapped, to a Ziplock, and just pull one out as you need it.

Now, here's the trick.  You have to take the burrito out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.  Otherwise, you're gonna pull a Hot Pocket and have a half-frozen, half-boiling breakfast.  Let it thaw overnight and then heat it up in the microwave for about a minute.  Eat, enjoy, and have a great day!

Husband approved!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Most Awesome Pinterest Boards

I love Pinterest.  I am not ashamed.  In fact, I'm going to show you how much I love Pinterest by showing you my favorite boards.  I'm pretty sure some of my Pinterest boards are better curated than some museums.  If not in terms of quality, at least in terms of time spent on it.  And the thing is, before you tell me how much time I'm wasting, my boards are useful.  They either give me good ideas or they make me laugh, both of which are very necessary to my daily life.

The Obligatory Food Board

I'm pretty sure everyone has a food board, and rightfully so.  Pinterest is like an interactive cookbook with lots more pictures and a search feature!  I've done several posts like this one and this one about recipes I've found on Pinterest, but if you're looking for more, this is the place to look.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Yummy! on Pinterest.

The Kid Board

This is my most popular board, with over 3,500 followers.  This is where I pin all the cool ideas I find for parenting tips, crafts, game ideas, coloring pages, and whatever else I feel like relates to raising kids.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Raising Kids on Pinterest.

The Comedy Board

My humor board is my most favorite board.  Whenever I'm sad or having a rough day, I know I can look through this board and I will be laughing out loud in ten minutes or less.  Seriously.  I dare you to read through it for ten minutes and not laugh out loud at least once.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Ok, that's funny on Pinterest.

The Snarky Board

Taking a page from My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler, I started a couple of snarky boards.  This particular one is full of things that I find on Pinterest that I think are ridiculous or awful or in bad taste.  Usually I change the comments to poke fun of the pin.  Often people repin these in earnest, snarky comment and all, which always makes me laugh and shake my head.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Yeah, That's a Nopefish. on Pinterest.

The Other Snarky Board

In the same vein, this board focuses on pins that require just a ridiculous amount of time and energy, especially for a small result.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Ain't Nobody Got Time for That on Pinterest.

Ok, One More Snarky Board

My last snarky board is full of "inspirational" sayings and quotes that actually don't make much sense.  Often they sound good at first, but if you actually think about them in a broader context, they are terrible things to say to people.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Lies! on Pinterest.

My Mission Accomplished Board

This one is my own invention, at least to my knowledge.  When I try something that I found on Pinterest, I move that pin from whatever board it was on before to this board.  I usually add a comment about whether I liked it or not, or anything I did to change it.  This board has been very helpful for me when I need to go back and find something I know I've already done.  Plus, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment, like checking off a list.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Mission Accomplished: Pinterest Ideas I've Tried on Pinterest.

Which board do you like best?  Which of your boards is your favorite?  Let me know, and while you're at it, subscribe to one or all of my boards so you can see the awesome stuff I find!

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Awesome Playlist for Toddlers

Ok, so I know "I made you a mix tape" is so 1996, but toddlers don't know that, so bear with me.

I decided to make Cricket a playlist that combined her favorite songs from the Pandora Toddler Radio stations we listen to, plus some of my old favorites and a few educational ones thrown in there for good measure.  My goal was to find songs that wouldn't drive me crazy and that were at least tolerable from a musical standpoint.  No tone-deaf kids scream-singing or tinny synthesizers and canned vocals.  Blech.

It has a little of everything.  ABC's, Raffi, Elmo, Muppets, and Veggie Tales.  It has a couple of more modern takes on old classics, like O.A.R.'s cover of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or the "Crazy ABC's" about words that start with silent letters.

The result is a surprisingly awesome CD that even I enjoy listening to.  I liked it so much, I gave it as gifts to all of Cricket's toddler friends and cousins.

So here is my playlist.  Most of these can be found on iTunes.  A couple of them cannot, but you can buy CD's on Amazon or find a couple of them on YouTube.

Cricket's Mix

1.        All I Want is You by Barry Louis Polisar
2.        ABC’s by Ralph Covert
3.        The B-I-B-L-E by Veggie Tales 
4.        You are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell
5.        Fifty Nifty United States by Ray Charles
6.        Crazy ABC’s by Barenaked Ladies
7.        Pollywog in a Bog by Barenaked Ladies
8.        Alphabet of Nations by They Might be Giants
9.        Little Sack of Sugar by Elizabeth Mitchell
10.      Animal Alphabet Song by The Hollow Trees
11.      Elmo’s Song by Sesame Street
12.      Mr. Sun by Charlie Hope
13.      If All of the Raindrops by Laura Doherty
14.      If You’re Happy and You Know It by Larry Groce
15.      Itsy Bitsy Spider by O.A.R.
16.      Brush Your Teeth by Raffi
17.     Mah Na Mah Na by The Muppets
18.      The Green Grass Grows All Around by Jewel
19.      A Pirate Says Arr by The Backyardigans
20.      Patience by Music Machine
21.      I’ve Been Working on the Railroad by Larry Groce
22.     Walking, Walking by Anne-Marie Akin
23.     God is Bigger by Veggie Tales
24.     Silly Songs Remix by Veggie Tales
25.     Happy Tappin’ with Elmo by Sesame Street
26.     Apples and Bananas by Keith Urban
27.     Roll Over by Charlie Hope
28.     Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by The Wiggles
29.      Skinny Marinky Dinky Dink by Cooltime Kids
30.      Wheels on the Bus by Ukulele Jim
31.      Baby Beluga by Raffi
32.     Goodnight by The Laurie Berkner Band
33.      Sing by Sesame Street

In case you don't feel like spending the absurd amount of time on this project that I did, which I understand, here are a couple of really good CD's that I got several songs off of.  Just get a couple of these and your toddler will be happy.

Ralph's World

Elmo Dance Songs

Veggie Tales Sunday School Songs

Whaddaya Think of That

Songs for Wiggleworms

I also did a post not long ago about great music for toddlers, and several of these songs come from CD's I recommended on there, so check that one out as well.  Happy listening!