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Archive for July, 2012


Vroom! Vroom!  An eraser car is a creative, fun activity children can make as a back to school craft or even on the weekends! Adult supervision will be required, especially for smaller children, to prevent little ones from putting pieces in their mouths. Have fun!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Knife (have a parent do this part of the craft)
  • White Glue
  • Thumbtacks
  • Cardboard
  • Permanent Markers

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

  1. Begin by cutting erasers with a knife (a parent’s job; kids can use scissors for this, but the cuts won’t be as straight).
  2. Stack the erasers to make cars, trucks, and trailers. Pencil-cap erasers and automatic pencil eraser refills make good cargo. Use white glue to hold the pieces together.
  3. To make tires, press thumbtacks into a piece of cardboard, color them with permanent markers, then remove the tacks and press them in place on the vehicles.

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Handy and delicious? What else can a mom ask for when feeding her kids…plus its fun for the kids to eat! Check out this Mac ‘n Cheese Cupcake recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound baked pasta (rotini, bowtie, or macaroni is perfect!)
  • 1/2 cup hot water, saved from the water you boiled your pasta in
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (8 oz.) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • Ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and hot pasta water until softened.
  2. Whisk in the egg, then stir in the cheddar cheese, onion salt, and pepper.
  3. Spoon into muffin tins prepared with cupcake wrappers.
  4. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or just until the tops of each ‘cupcake’ have been lightly browned.
  5. Serve warm and enjoy!

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It’s another hot, hot, hot day in New York City and I am blasting the air conditioning. I am concerned about our electric bill, but do the best I can to save energy where I can. I remember learning at school as a child how to conserve energy. Teaching kids about saving energy doesn’t have to make them feel like they’re at school. Lecturing them endlessly about turning out the lights when they leave a room will only deter them from actually doing it.

Here are some tips for your kids. 

  • Turn off lights and electronics when you leave a room. Keep doors to unused rooms closed.
  • In summer, use the microwave, crockpot, or toaster oven instead of the stove/oven. When using the stove/oven, keep lids on pots on the stove, match pot to burner size, and don’t preheat the oven for too long.
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Take five-to-ten minute showers instead of baths.
  • Wash and dry full loads of clothes only. Wash on cool setting. Line dry many items. Do the laundry at night, not in the heat of the day.
  • Don’t hold the refrigerator door open!
  • Change incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent CFL bulbs. If you replace 25 percent of your light bulbs with fluorescents, you can save up to 50 percent on your lighting bill.
  • In summer, close drapes, use fans, and turn thermostat up to 78-80 degrees. In winter, open drapes and turn thermostat down to 68-70 degrees.
  • Consolidate errands and cut out some car usage. Walk, ride your bikes, carpool, or get a scooter.
  • After letting the kids play online energy games, arrange a family pizza night where everyone gets together and has a discussion on what it means to save energy. Ask them what they think of when they hear the word “energy.”
  • Set one night per month to have a “lights out” night, where all lights and electronics are shut off. Light candles or light a fire in your fireplace (if not electric) and pretend to be old-fashioned. Play family board games, read and eat by candlelight, write pen-and-paper letters to friends, or go outside with a blanket for a nighttime picnic and look for shooting stars.

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It’s Thursday, the work week is drawing to a close, and you are probably EXHAUSTED. Forget ordering in Chinese food and make it yourself! Never cooked Chinese food before? Save some calories and a little cash with this DIY makeover of a popular Chinese takeout meal. Many Chinese recipes are quick, easy to make, or both. Some can be made with ingredients that are available at most local supermarkets, while others may require a trip to a Chinese/Asian market or using a substitute. Whether you’re new to Chinese cooking or just looking for a recipe that doesn’t require spending too much time in the kitchen, you’ll love this recipe! Skinless chicken breasts, a light batter, and just a bit of oil for pan-frying yield the right texture with less fat for “Lighter General Tso’s Chicken.”


Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serving: 4 peeps 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
  4. Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

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This past weekend there were about 10 kids at my family’s house for the weekend, and for the most part, the screaming, crying and whining was kept to a minimum. I started asking my sister-in-law’s friends what they do to teach their infants and toddlers manners. It’s true — you’ll never get your 2-year-old to chew with her mouth closed. But you might be surprised what she can learn if you focus on conveying the idea of manners, the principle that there are ways to behave and ways not to behave.  In my opinion, the most important is:

THE GOLDEN RULE
We can, however, use kids’ tendencies to help them learn. The Golden Rule – treating others the way you want to be treated – is well applied to basic manners. When kids can see how they can benefit from using manners – both the simple and the more complex – they are more apt to use them.

Here is a list we should all aim for (or at least I want to try for!):

Manner #1
When asking for something, say “Please.” When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

Manner #2
Clean up after yourself. Whether at home or at a friend’s house, always pick up after yourself. It’s their mess, so they need to clean it up. If children leave a mess, then remind them that they need to clean up before the next activity can begin, and stick to it.

Manner #3
Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Manner #4
If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation

Manner #5
When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #6
When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #7
Don’t call people mean names.

Manner #8
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.

Manner #9
As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

Manner #10
Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

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I am constantly around new babies – I swear I sneeze and there are 2 new babies in my life from my best friends to cousins to family members. Sometimes it is overhwhelming hearing about all of their “new-mom” or “to-be-mom fears.” It makes me think, what kind of new mom will I be? I did a little research and here are some new mom baby fears and how you can conquer them. J

LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH YOUR NEWBORN

  • Fear: You don’t want to expose him to all sorts of germs. 
  • Re-Think It: Sneezing kids and groping strangers are legitimate concerns, but cabin fever is an even bigger one. You need fresh air and a change of scenery to boost your spirits. Plus, even very young babies benefit from the stimulation of a different environment. 
  • Move Forward: Run errands together, go for strolls, and boldly live your life. But be smart about bugs: Avoid crowds until your child is 3 months old (especially during the winter, when colds and flu are rampant).

MAKING NOISE DURING NAPTIME

  • Fear: Everyone says, “Don’t wake a sleeping baby.” 
  • Re-Think It: Tiptoeing around the house impedes your ability to get things done in those precious free moments, like tidying up or phoning a friend. Ordinary household noise won’t wake most babies, who are used to sounds from the womb. 
  • Move Forward: While it’s certainly not advisable to blast your stereo, break out of your Cone of Silence. If your child is particularly noise-sensitive or tends to awaken prematurely, try turning on a fan. And if you live in a bustling city environment, a white-noise machine can effectively mute street sounds.

PUTTING YOUR INFANT DOWN TO BED WHEN HE/SHE IS CRYING

  • Fear: The last thing you want is to leave her emotionally scarred from your “abandonment” or feel like you are being a “mean Mom.” 
  • Re-Think It: Endlessly rocking and patting your still-wailing baby can heighten up your anxiety, frustration, and exhaustion levels — three things a new mother definitely doesn’t need any more of. What’s even worse: A child who spends almost all of her time in Mommy’s arms may become even fussier when you put her down. Nip it in the bud!! It will become a vicious cycle. 
  • Move Forward: Accept that crying is part of being a healthy baby, not something you always need to stop. Often, it’s your child’s way of soothing his or herself. While it’s fine to soothe your infant for a while, placing her in the crib and leaving the room to take a breather is totally permissible. Just make sure he or she is not in distress.

 SLEEP-TRAINING

  • Fear: No one wants to listen to her child shriek for hours nonstop. 
  • Re-Think It: If a few months of nighttime wakings have left you feeling super tired – now imagine doing it for a year or more! While stumbling into the nursery multiple times a night to help your baby settle down feels like the right thing to do, it’s not: Sleeping through the night and self-soothing are learned skills — and it’s your job to teach them! 
  • Move Forward: By 3 months, your baby is developmentally ready for sleep-training. While you can certainly wait until, say, 7 or 8 months to let her cry it out, keep in mind that the older she gets, the more ingrained her nighttime habits will become. Start by putting your child in her crib, drowsy but still awake.

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No, I did not say that!

Daughter: “Dad, when am I going to the dentist?”
Dad: “Soon baby.”
Daughter: She looks at her twisted teeth and says,

Good because it’s like a circus in my mouth”. 

– Gabriella, age 7

Editor’s Note:
Please spread the giggles by sharing your funny quotes with us at editor@letop-usa.com!

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