Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beef Stew Recipe

Yesterday morning, I pulled out the crock pot to start my FAVORITE Beef Stew recipe for dinner because I knew I wouldn't have time to cook later in the day. But to my surprise, I'd forgotten to buy some of the main ingredients! I'd already opened the stewing beef and started cutting and cooking it, so I HAD to use it now. I rushed to my pantry and started digging around for something I could throw in. I ended up with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and a packet of powdered Ranch! I let it cook for 10 hours hoping that it wouldn't be a  disaster and at the end of the day, when I sat down with my little family to eat dinner, my husband shouted from the table that it was THE BEST SOUP he had ever eaten! YAY! And since my attempt at dinner was a success, I thought I would share the recipe, along with the much healthier and also delicious ORIGINAL recipe (which happens to still be MY favorite beef stew recipe ever!)

(Picture credit and recipe from Movita Beaucoup)

Original Beef Stew Recipe from Movita Beaucoup:

Slow Cooker Beef Stew – inspired by many -
  • 2 lbs of stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium sized onions, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • about 20 mini-potatoes, cut large ones in half, leave smallest ones as is (I like to use a mix of yellow, red and blue, no need to peel)
  • 1  28 oz. can whole tomatoes (I use plum tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 3 cups sodium reduced beef broth, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and then lightly brown the meat in batches. Transfer browned beef to a plate and set aside.
Dump the tomatoes into the slow cooker (juice and all). Crush them with a potato masher or the back of a spoon. Add the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the vegetables and then add the beef and any accumulated drippings. Pour 2 1/2 cups of the beef broth over the beef and vegetables. Give the mixture a quick stir. Add the bay leaves.
Cover and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, add the peas (no need to defrost first), salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth, creating a smooth paste. Stir into the stew. Replace the slow cooker cover and cook until thickened (about 15-20 minutes).
Remove the bay leaves before serving.

My last minute recipe:

Less-than-healthy Beef Stew - inspired by necessity-

  • 2 lbs stewing beef, cut into pieces about the size of your thumbnail (helps the little kids get it down easier)
  • 4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, not peeled, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Family size can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • (refill the can with beef or vegetable stock and pour into crock pot)
  • 1 packet of original Ranch powder

Lightly brown beef in a little olive oil in a pan over the stove. Throw it into the crock pot. Throw everything else in to the crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours! Easy Peasy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Preschool Graduation!

We did it!!! And now we can enjoy the summer before I start round two of preschool with my 3-year-old! Unfortunately, I will not be able to continue teaching with Arielle since her family has moved on to Michigan, to a new house, and a new job. But as luck would have it, another wonderful lady that goes to church with me has agreed to join me for the upcoming school year. Wish us luck!

Preschool Week 35: SUMMER!

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Practice writing b,d,p,q

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Sing songs about summer, 
  • Read books - “July” and “August” 


Wiggle Time: Favorite activities from the year.

Lesson: The 5 senses of summertime

Craft: Watermelon fan and crab picture

Wednesday with Naomi
Last day of Preschool 

Opening Activity: Beginner 1 Books focusing on phonics
  • Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Story and songs about Summer
Snack Time: S’mores!

Wiggle Time: Walk to the park

Lesson: Discuss the 4 seasons, point out differences we see in Summer versus winter, spring, and fall.

Craft: Build Sand Castles!

Preschool Week 34: The Wonders of Water

Monday with Arielle
“Pond Life”

Opening Activity: Adding/subtracting goldfish after reading the number word!

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Review sight words
  • Songs about ducks, frogs, fish
Snack: crackers, carrots&ranch dressing, bananas

Wiggle Time: Froggy hopscotch and leap-frog - a frog can leap as far as 10 ft in a single jump!! How far can we leap?

Lesson: Pond Life - what kind of animals live in a pond? Why do we need water and these animals? How can we conserve water?

Craft: Make a paper pond and put animal cut-outs in their habitat.

Wednesday with Naomi
"Water and Power"

Opening Activity: Beginner 1 Books focusing on phonics

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Read- Water Power by Tea Benduhn
  • Sing the Eensy Weensy Spider and other water related songs
Snack Time: Homemade Lemonade and fruit slices

Wiggle Time: Play in a small pool in backyard or blow bubbles out in the yard. Or try this idea from Apartment Therapy:

 Lesson: How does water generate power? Follow THIS link to find out!

Craft: Popsicle stick water wheel.

Preschool Week 33: All About Moms

"Mother's Day"

Opening Activity: Beginner 1 books focusing on phonics.

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Primary songs about moms:
Mother Dear
Mother I Love You
Dearest Mother, I Love You
  • Book: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Snack Time: Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wiggle Time: Nickelodeon Wii Fit Games

Lesson: What is a mother? Discuss how humans aren't the only creatures with mothers. Explain that some people become mothers by giving birth, and others through adoption.

Craft: Hand print Aprons to give out as Mother's Day Gifts!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Preschool Week 32: Going Green

Opening Activity: Review sight words and phonics flip chart

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Practice singing songs for graduation
Lesson and Snack: Watch the movie "The Lorax" whilst eating M&M's, Almonds, Granola bars, and oranges. Then discuss the moral of the movie and how we can help to keep the Earth healthy and happy. Talk about the 3 R's- Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!

Craft: Reuse old pasta and salsa bottles to make  sparkle vases by painting them with Mod Podge and then rolling them in colored Epsom salt and sparkles.

Preschool Week 31: LAND

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Sort short vowel sounds. Practice writing letters J and K.

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Review sight words.
Snack: bananas, yogurt, raisins, and crackers

Wiggle Time: walk around the neighborhood; notice landmarks along our path.

Lesson: What is a Map/Atlas? How can we use it?

Craft: Let’s make our own Atlas! We can draw a map of the walk we took around the neighborhood.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Phonics and Sight Words

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Read "Ferngully"
  • Sing songs about nature
Snack Time: Fruit and Veggie Tray

Wiggle Time: Nature Walk

Lesson: What do we need that comes from the land? Plant some things in the children’s garden and build a log fairy house!

Craft: Landscape Paintings of things we saw on our nature walk

Preschool Week 30: Ocean

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Word Family worksheets (Mailbox Packet)

Circle Time:
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Read “The Whale and the Snail”
Snack: Cheese, crackers, bananas

Wiggle Time: Songs of the Sea

Lesson: Watch, “Why the Ocean Matters”. Discuss - How can we help take care for our oceans?

Craft: Octopus and coral reef (Pinterest)

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Phonics and Sight Words

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Sing Ocean songs 
  • Read Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle 

Snack Time: Swedish Fish in the Jello Ocean

Wiggle Time: Dolphin Olympics with the beach ball

Lesson: Planet Earth Ocean video

Craft: Paper bowl Jelly Fish

Friday Field Trip
Visit the Aquarium at Brookfield Zoo and watch the Dolphin show!

Due to flooding in the zoo (as well as the rest of the state) we were not able to attend the zoo on this day.

Preschool Week 29: SKY

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: "what do I need?" worksheet (Mailbox book), practice sight words

Circle Time:
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Songs about the weather
  • Listen to the song "Let's Go Fly A Kite" and discuss - what is the "atmosphere"? 
Snack: "Cloud parfait" with blue jell-O and marshmallows!

Wiggle Time: Walk outside and "observe" the sky and the clouds (it was very windy and all the clouds were going by really fast). What else can we see that is flying in the sky?

Lesson: Why is the sky blue? Match sight words to pictures of weather.

Craft: Make a rainbow wind-sock.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Phonics Flip Chart Game- "If this says "D" and this says "ug" put them together and it says "Dug"

Circle Time:
Snack: Bird related foods- Sunflower seeds and boiled eggs

Wiggle Time: Practice flapping our wings while we fly around the block!

Lesson: Float, Fly, or Fall! (If ____ was in the sky, would it float, fly, or fall? Why?)

Craft: Shoe box Skies!

Preschool Week 28: Bugs AND Weather

After taking time off for sick kids and moving things around for FREE field trips, our schedule got a little messed up. So, for week 28 of preschool we had two themes. Arielle did Bugs on Monday and I did Weather on Wednesday.

Monday with Arielle

This preschool Lesson was made possible by the MWS Literacy Bag from our Westmont Public Library. We had a lot of fun discussing the differences and similarities between spiders and other insects. We tried to look for bugs outside...but it is still too cold here. Instead, we hid plastic bugs and played "hot and cold" then we danced like butterflies and wiggled like worms. We did some artwork using our fingerprints to make different kinds of insects by adding 6 or 8 legs.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Reading exercises- Sight Words, Phonics Chart, "You Read to me and I'll Read to you" book.

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Practice songs for graduation
  • Read the book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"
Snack: Sunshine Pudding (Idea found HERE)

Wiggle Time: Running with Pinwheels!!!

Lesson: Weather Experiments from Weather Wiz Kids

Craft: Tornado Tubes and Weather Bags

Inside the weather bag was a straw and cotton ball to show how wind pushes the clouds (blow the cotton balls with the straws), a tornado tube (swirl it and watch a tornado appear), mint life savers to show how lightning works (chew them in the dark with your mouth open and see sparks), and a brown paper bag to show how thunder works (blow it up and pop it!)

Preschool Week 27: EASTER

Preschool was cancelled this week due to many sick children, but we still wanted to post some of the ideas we'd prepared for the week.

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Easter Letter Maze, Time Worksheet, review sight words.

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Easter Songs 
  • Read, “The Easter Egg” by Jan Brett
Snack: Bunny food (carrots and ranch)

Wiggle Time: The Bunny Hop.

Lesson: What is Easter all about?

Craft: Bunny mask out of paper plate and construction paper

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Easter word flashcards

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Sing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" and other songs about bunnies
  • Read the story of Easter and other books about new life and Spring
Snack: Bunny Bait (Recipe can be found HERE)

Wiggle Time: Easter egg hunt outdoors!

Lesson: Where do baby animals come from?

Craft: Easter Egg Candle Holder! (Tutorial can be found HERE)

Preschool Week 26: SPRING

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: “Beautiful Blossoms” worksheet (Mailbox pack), review sight words, measurements worksheet.

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Songs about spring (pinterest) 
Snack: Apples w/ peanut butter and honey

Wiggle Time: Wiggle time videos inside due to inclement weather.

Lesson: discuss the California Red Woods and the parts of a plant. Discuss how insects, animals, and people use plants and trees for different things.

Craft: Build a flower and label parts. Add a bee to help with pollination!

Wednesday with Naomi
(Special guest teacher, Colleen Hanks with over 20 years experience teaching preschool!)

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Letter of the day - "S"
Reading Development: Rotating stations with sight words, phonics charts, picture to word association flashcards, letter writing.

Snack: Fruit dipped in Peanut butter yogurt sauce

Music Time: Singing and dancing lead by Colleen Hanks and Janna Bluth

Lesson: How things grow - Soil, water, sunshine!

Activity: Plant bananas!

Preschool Week 25: St. Patrick's Day

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: S is for Shamrock Worksheet. Review sight words. Add, Subtract, and Estimate using "gold" coins.

Circle Time:
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Read "The Night Before St. Patrick's Day"
  • Sing St. Patrick's Day songs (see below).

I'm a Little Leprechaun
(Tune of I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little leprechaun (hands on hips) 
Dressed in green, (point to shirt) 
The tiniest man (hold thumb and index finger about an inch apart) 
That you have seen. (point to the other people) 
If you ever catch me, so it's told, (make a motion like you're grabbing at a leprechaun) 
I'll give you my big pot of gold. (make a motion like you're giving something away) 

Eensy Weensy Leprechaun 
(Itsy bitsy spider) 

An eensy weensy leprechaun 
Came out for St. Patrick's Day 
To look for the gold that 
was hidden far away 
over the rainbow 
was where he was told to go So, 
with a wink of his green eye 
He ran to get the gold!

Snack: Lucky charms and "gold"fish crackers

Wiggle Time: Dance and twirl to Irish music and use streamers.

Lesson: Find Ireland on the map. Discuss who St. Patrick really was.

Craft: Cut and color our own leprechaun.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Sight Words and Phonics Game - If this says "B" and this says "ig" put them together and it says "Big"

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Sing the Rainbow song
  • Read books about leprechauns and rainbows
Snack: Color Tray (Red strawberries, yellow bananas, pink yogurt, green celery sticks, purple grapes, orange carrots, blue blueberries)

Wiggle Time: Hang crystals from the window, give them a spin, have the kids chase the rainbows around the room!

Lesson: Primary Colors- 3 clear jars filled with water. Add food coloring to make one red, one yellow, one blue. 3 clear empty jars. Pour combinations of the colored water into empty jars to see what colors you can make by mixing the primary colors.

Craft:  Use pom poms to glue together your own rainbow!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preschool Week 24: SPACE

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Space word worksheets. Race to Space Game. Rockets in Order Activity. Review sight word flash cards.

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Space Songs (pinterest).
  • Read - “There’s No Place Like Space”

Snack: Applesauce and “Moon Rocks”

Wiggle Time: Try to do the Moon Walk Dance. Pretend we are blasting off in our rocket and walk on the moon.

Lesson: Watch video of how food is made for and eaten by astronauts in space. Read “The Sun and Moon”. Identify the planets by listening to clues.

Craft: Solar system picture.

Wednesday Field Trip
Visit Adler Planetarium in Downtown Chicago
Friday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Reading with phonics AND practicing sight words

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Sing "Z is for Zelda who Zoomed off to Mars" and "Xavier the Alien came from Outer Space"
  • Read "Jet Bed" together
Snack: Dehydrated fruit and Tang! Just like Astronauts would eat!

Wiggle Time: Physical fitness test to see if we're ready to go up into space

Lesson: Read book on the Solar System and attach Planet stickers to appropriate pages

Craft: Glitter Rocket Ships

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Preschool Week 23: Fun with Animals

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Q is for Quail worksheet. Practice sight words. Sort animals into groups based on number of legs, size, and color.

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Zoo music CD
  • Read “What Do You Do With a Kangaroo?”and “Wild Baby Animals”. 

Snack: yogurt, fruit, and goldfish crackers

Wiggle Time: Animal Dice - dance like the animal rolled. "Mystery Animal Box" - guess which animal from clues given and then act out the animal.

Lesson: Discuss carnivores/herbivores/omnivores. Discuss climates/habitats animals live in. Discuss special features about animals and special adaptations.

Craft: Making Tracks on paper. Choose pictures of animals to look for on Field Trip to Brookfield Zoo on Friday.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Recognizing animal words (cat, dog, fish, rat, etc.)

Circle Time:
  • Date/Time/Weather
  • Sing animal songs from alphabet book
  • Read phonics animal books together
Snack: Kangaroo Treats (celery and carrots in ranch) and Monkey Snacks (Frozen bananas in chocolate)

Wiggle Time: Animal dances on the Wii

Lesson: Watch a part of Planet Earth with popcorn and juice and talk about the different climates animals can live in and then discuss the food chain.

Craft: Paper bag animal puppets

Friday Field Trip

Visit to the Brookfield Zoo!

Preschool Week 22: Presidents of the United States

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: Finish addition worksheets. Alphabet Worksheets - G is for Government

Circle Time:
Read “Arthur Meets the President” by Marc Brown
Snack: Presidential Pretzels, Pears, and Peanut Butter Finger Bars

Wiggle Time: Coin Toss

Lesson: Learn some facts about our current president. Watch Disney: The American Presidents (George Washington) on youtube.com

Craft: Presidential Mobile. National symbols coloring sheets to take home.

Wednesday with Naomi

Opening Activity: Sight Words and Presidents flashcards in rotations

Circle Time:
Read story about the life of Abraham Lincoln
Snack: Lincoln Logs!!

 Wiggle Time: Presidential Fitness Test

Lesson: Identifying presidents on our money while we scrub coins with baking soda and vinegar 

Craft: Washington Wigs or Lincoln Hats!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Preschool Week 21: The Week of LOVE!

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: “scoops to share” (mailbox worksheet), letter workbook E and F (E is for Exercise!)

Circle Time: 
Songs (pinterest)
Read, “The Night Before Valentine’s Day”

Snack: heart-healthy fruits and veggies

Wiggle Time: Wiggle Block - exercises for a healthy heart. Listen to hearts before and after!

Lesson: Where is our heart? What does it look like? How does it work? How can we make our heart happy? (good food, exercise, no drugs)

Craft: cut out heart, glue on pictures of things that make our hearts happy and healthy (foods, exercise, hugs, being kind)

Wednesday with Naomi 

Opening Activity: Math pages and sight words in rotations

Circle Time:
Sing songs about love and read books about love

Snack: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk (made during snack time!)

Wiggle Time: Wii Dance to love songs

 Lesson: What does love mean? Are there different kinds of love? How can we show love? (talk about love languages in little kid terms)

Craft/Activity: Make our own Valentine's day cards for each other, our families, and our friends. Pass out valentines with option to watch a movie about love (of the princess variety)

Preschool Week 20: Art in all its Forms

Monday with Arielle

Opening Activity: “Shadow Surprise” Worksheet (Mailbox pack).

Circle Time:
  • Date/Weather/Time
  • Cute song found about groundhog found HERE
Snack: groundhog treat (pinterest)

Wiggle Time: new wiggle block - dance moves!

Lesson: What is Art? Who is an Artist? What can we use to make Art?

Craft: pipe-cleaner sculptures

Wednesday Field Trip 

For our Field Trip, we paid a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago because they offer FREE admission the first and second Wednesday of every month!

 The girls were so excited when we got there and started our tour!

First we spent some time in the Children's portion of the museum...

 They actually had a lot of hands on things for the kids at the museum. They were able to make their own art books, discover art through games on the computer, and even put together puzzles of art pieces in the museum!

When we were done in the Children's Rooms, we headed over to the actual art exhibits...

The museum was AMAZING and I couldn't believe how excited the girls were about the exhibits. We thought for sure they would get bored, but they loved finding iridescent (our new word for the day) art pieces, hidden animals in the art, and beautiful "princesses". They also loved the "genie lamp" and "magical treasures" they spotted everywhere!

I thought this picture was funny because the girls are looking at a statue with multiple arms and their faces show obvious concern :)

We also had lunch at the museum and when we were done with our tour we picked up magnets and postcards from the gift shop before taking one last picture and heading home.
Friday with Naomi 

Opening Activity: Famous art coloring pages (Mona Lisa, starry night, etc.)

Circle Time: 
  • Date/Time/Weather 
  • Focus on music and poetry  (Read Mother Goose)
Snack: Make Fruit Loop necklaces and then eat them with milk

Wiggle Time: Practice different styles of dancing

Lesson: What does it mean to create art?

Craft: Sculpting and painting salt dough