Sunday, April 29, 2012

Budget Friendly Cinco De Mayo Layered Casserole

One evening, my husband was in the mood for Mexican, but we were crunched for cash. We decided to raid the pantry instead of going out to dinner. I didn't have a recipe for this casserole at the time. Instead, I decided to throw together things I thought would compliment each other. It has turned out to be one of our regulars, and best of all, the ingredients are things we always have one hand....Left overs are amazing!

What you'll need: (it's very simple to remember because it's pretty much two of everything.)
  • 2 or 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked minute rice
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 2 cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 or 2 cans of cream of chicken soup (depending on how creamy you like your casseroles...I prefer 2)
  • 8 oz of sour cream
  • 16 oz bag of shredded cheese (whatever you have on hand)
  • taco seasoning

Cook rice according to directions. Cook chicken on the stove top and cube. Add taco seasoning with a couple tablespoons of water and simmer until seasoning thickens. Spray large glass pan with cooking spray and layer rice on the bottom. Pour two cans of enchilada sauce over the rice.

Drain and rinse black beans, pour over rice.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together chicken, soup, and sour cream. Spread mixture over bean layer.

Top with cheese and diced tomatoes (and any of your other favorite Mexican toppings).

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes so everything can get all gooey, thickened, and cheesy! Remove the foil for last 5 minutes.

This casserole is something your whole family will enjoy! The meal costs between $10 and $15 depending what your grocery store has on sale at the time, and serves up to 8! That's a little over a dollar per person! Sometimes to make it even healthier, I use brown rice instead of white rice. Shhh...don't tell my husband...he still doesn't know ;-)

Happy Kraftin!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nursery DIY on a Dime

Since we are living in a temporary rental home at the moment, we didn't have too much freedom as far as decorating our nursery. With it being our first child, of course I wanted to go all out. But the voice of reason, also known as Dan (my husband), said to be realistic with paint choices and decorations--he promised when we buy our own house I can let loose. Fortunately, before we moved in, a little girl had claimed that room as her own, and it was already painted a light shade of yellow with pink below the chair rail. We didn't care too much for the yellow, so we made it more neutral and went with a light tan...I think the color name was "coffee creamer" or something that sounded yummy at the time.

Here is where the fun part begins and my creative juices flow...of course being a newly married young couple with our first child on the way, our pocketbooks had no choice but to be tight. Hey, I'm always up for a challenge...I am a deal finder (thanks Mom, I will pass down the skill to my kids!) so most of the things I made by hand with recycled items believe it or not.

These decorative wall pieces started off as those old school hat boxes, with an ugly palm tree pattern on the outside. My mom was going to throw them out, but I took them thinking some day I might have use them...and that day came! I covered the lids with three different left over fabric swatches from the drapes and pillows in the room and spruced  them up a bit with ribbon, felt flower petals, and some bling (every girl needs a little sparkle in her life).

The lid on the bottom with the flower design was my favorite to create! All I did was cut out about 30-40 small petal-shaped ovals from a piece of pink felt, pinched them at the bottom with a little hot glue in between, and attached to the lid in a flower pattern. I fact, I liked it so much, I carried that idea over to one of the pillows on the twin bed in the room. (Let me just add real quick that having a twin bed in the nursery has been great for daytime napping for me and baby. I can be in there with her and allow some down time for myself.)

Instead of painting her name on the wall, we decided to use wooden letters on wooden plaques (from Michaels craft store, Hobby Lobby, or JoAnn's). I found some sparkly crystal dresser drawer knobs for $1 each, that we used to hang each letter from.

(Don't worry we don't let Leah sleep with the pillows/blankets/bears in the crib...I just put them in there to take the picture...SAFETY FIRST!)

The mobile was also a handmade bargain! I used two different sized sewing hoops and wrapped them each with ribbon. I had gotten the "nature ball accents pieces" (or whatever the heck you call them) on clearance at Target for like $3 and spray painted them to match the colors in the room. I used some fishing line my husband had in the garage to hang them at different levels...and of course, each piece is adorned with a tear-drop shaped sparkly crystal (75% off in the wedding section at Hobby was a whole strand of crystal garland that I just took apart...I still have tons of crystal pieces left over for future crafts yay). 

Dan and I had some maternity photos taken and wanted to dedicate them to our little girl by hanging some in her room. These are hanging over the twin bed. 

I found these letters with hooks in the dollar bin at the Michaels check out! I plan on hanging some of her headbands from them.

Here is a view of the nursery from the door. One of my favorite things in the room is the pink chandelier! This was a steal too! 50% off at Hobby Lobby!!! Sometimes thrift stores and consignment shops have old ones that you can spray paint and add shades/beading to your liking. We searched high and low all the shops here and couldn't find any so we settled for store bought....but we love it just the same.

I had so much fun getting the nursery ready for our baby girl!  Making the majority of the items makes this room more meaningful to us as a family. I hope some of the things I've shared got your creativity sparkling, and maybe I inspired some of you to go out and recreate your own things instead of dropping big bucks!

Happy Kraftin!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FCAT testing is over!

So it's been a while since I've posted, but I have an excuse. Not only did I survive my first week back from maternity leave, but I was welcomed back with having to administer the beloved FCAT! For those of you from Florida, I'm sure you've heard of it. For others, it's the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test...let's just say it's a HUGE stress-filled end of the year cumulative assessment that pretty much determines everyone's future (kids and teachers). We prepare for it all year long, and now that it's over, we can breath! I feel sorry that so much rides on one test. I could see the fear in their eyes as they entered my classroom for testing...fingers crossed they did well! Stand by for a real post :-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social Butterflies

So I just had to return to work this week after being on maternity leave with my precious little girl...wahhh :*( and I figured I should probably share a little something about my work life. I am an elementary Special Education teacher that teaches reading and math to struggling students in grades K-5. Their learning disabilities are sometimes accompanied with "social awkwardness." To encourage positive social interactions among them, I created this tool to go along with the Bug Theme in my classroom. It's pretty simple to recreate, and the concept is very easy.

After plenty of modeling and practicing what positive social interactions may look/sound like, the students get their picture taken and laminated on tag board paper or card stock (you could also use their names instead, but I liked the idea of pictures). I blurred their faces out to protect their privacy, but you get the idea.

Each student starts at the bottom, below the "egg" (I used Velcro to attach everything). When I witness a positive social interaction (sharing, complimenting, helping etc.), they get to move their picture up one level in the butterfly life cycle. (Killing two birds with one life cycles AND social skills!!!) Once a student has passed every level, he/she gets to visit the Treasure Box!
Sometimes teachers are so quick to use negative reinforcers (time out, turn your card to red, no recess, etc.) but a lot of time, negative behaviors can be eliminated (well at least decreased) when students are working so hard toward the positive reinforcement.  It all depends on the type of students you have I guess. But, if you are a teacher who is struggling with behavior problems or social awkwardness, give it a whirl! What do ya have to lose? 

This chart was created with things from the dollar store believe it or not!

The butterfly was a steal at the dollar store...if you can't find one there, look for old Halloween costumes at K-Mart or Walmart.

The chrysalis is just a crumpled up lunch bag.

The caterpillar was one of those fluffy dish/car washing things with 4 pom pom balls (2 medium white, 2 small black) for eyes.

The egg is a large pom pom ball.

Like I mentioned earlier, I used Velcro for the bottom starting line and arrow. The whole thing is on two foam display boards (the thick poster boards kids use for projects) covered in paper. You can also recreate something like this on a smaller scale and use it at home with your children, especially if siblings are having a hard time getting along with each other. Maybe instead of treasure box, you could use a reward like a trip to the park. Good luck! 

And as always...Happy Kraftin!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Princess Party Pleasers

So I have always loved all things pink, cutesy, girly, glittery, and sparkly. Ever since having my little girl this past November, the obsession has intensified! My craft room looks like a pink tidal wave came and crashed through. But that's a whole 'nother blog post...

Since every girl is a either a Princess or Ballerina at heart, I thought these would make the perfect gift or decoration at a party or shower. These have been a hit at my shop ever since I made one for my friend's baby shower. They look just like a little ballerina tutu! So, if you are trying to figure out how to WOW your party guests, this has the WOW factor you might be looking for.

Light Pink and Hot Pink

Light Pink and Green

Lavender and Green

Happy Kraftin!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Egg Disaster

So a fellow blogger I follow from "A Bird and a Bean" gave me the courage to post this disaster, as her results were somewhat similar to mine. I saw this idea from pinterest of these adorable deviled egg chicks, and thought "this shouldn't be too hard." I am pretty handy in the kitchen and love to try new things (especially during the holidays). So here is a picture of what they were supposed to look like:

Adorable right? Perfectly peeled, no cracks....

Turns out I was waaaaay out of my league in the attempt to make these. Never again. I didn't even end up bringing them for Easter dinner at my parent's house. Too much of a disappointment. My husband was thrilled because he got to enjoy them! Although they looked hideous, he says they tasted wonderful. Thanks always have my back. :-)  This is the way mine turned out:

Scary...they look more like bald ninjas without a nose. A for effort right Bird and a Bean?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Recycled Easter Egg Cartons

After dying your Easter eggs this year, don't throw away those styrafoam egg cartons! Recycle them for the next time you and your kids decide to paint. As a teacher, I am constantly using these in my classroom (if and when there is time for the fun stuff). They are perfect to cut up into 6's and let each center/desk group share. They can be easily washed and reused many times.

Happy Kraftin!