mug rug swap

i’m a member of the madison modern quilt guild and in december, i participated in a mug rug swap.  what’s a mug rug?  sort of a large-ish coaster.  big enough for “a cup and a cookie.”  a perfect quick project for a bit of immediate gratification.  here’s the rug i made for my swap partner:

IMGP6270-001based on rossie’s quilt “the long conversation” (which i loooooove!)IMGP6271-001 this was my first time to try out concentric curve quilting and I like how it seems like the soundwaves of the conversation.IMGP6272-002i backed it with heather ross’ clothespin people because the colors were a perfect match.  the binding is some really cute teeny binding my mom made for me.IMGP6274-001 And this is the lovely mug rug i got from my swap partner:IMGP6614i especially love this asterisk fabric on the back and the two little blue strips in the binding.  thanks for a great swap, nicky! IMGP6613what a great project!  it was exciting to actually get some creative just-for-fun sewing done.  hooray!

Posted in crafty stuff | 3 Comments

bonus smoothie recipe #3– purple flamenco

purpleflamencoone last freebie smoothie recipe to get your new year off to a healthy start.  this one was inspired by joia soda.  originally, i’d added beet to this recipe and the first time i made it, i put in an entire 1 inch knob of ginger.  um, yeah.  a bit too much kick.  i tried it again with just a light shaving of ginger and it was still barely drinkable (and i’ve drunk a bunch of not-so-great smoothies).  i chalked it up to maybe not liking ginger in my smoothies and asked a few people who do like ginger if they liked the smoothie and they both came back saying the beet flavor was too strong, so i gave it one last try without the beet.  too late to add it to the book, i’d finally found the right recipe.  so here it is for you.  happy new year!

purple flamenco smoothie

1 c. pomegranate juice

1 tbsp. almond butter

ginger (as much or as little as you can stand)

1/2 c. frozen blackberries

(optional: large handful frozen kale if you want a vegetable.)

blend together until smooth.  add more blackberries if too thin, more pomegranate juice if too thick.

on a side note:  i’m doing a smoothie workshop at my library this saturday (january 4) at 2:00.  locals–come on over and have some free samples!  still a few copies of my book (paper or digital) available in my etsy shop…

Posted in clean, recipes, winter, yum | 1 Comment

need a stocking stuffer idea?

stocking stuffer cardshow about a digital copy of happy smoothie?  from now until dec. 25, use the code “santalovessmoothies” in my shop to receive $1 off of your digital copy of happy smoothie.  i will also e-mail you these cute cards which you can print, choose one to cut out and stuff into the stocking of each recipient.  make sure that i have their e-mail address and let me know what date and time you’d like me to send their digital copy and it will “magically” appear at that time (with how much precision can you predict what time stockings will be opened in your house?).

one more smoothie-related announcement for locals:  i’ll be presenting a smoothie workshop at my library on saturday, january 4 at 2:00.  there will be yummy samples!  (and if you know of someplace that would like to host a smoothie workshop (maybe i should call them smoothie parties?), leave a comment below and i’ll contact you to work out the details.)

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kids app reviews

there’s a whole crop of new apps coming out right now and a big season of traveling ahead of us, so it seems like a good time to post a few new favorite apps we’ve found.

Endless Reader

i am soooooo excited about this one!  my very favoritest ever app (endless alphabet) has developed a sequel that is (if possible) even better than the first.  or at least an excellent sequel.  you really should have them both.  but enough gushing–what does it do?  game play starts off similar to endless alphabet–kids pick a word out of the rolodex in the monster’s mouth, the monsters run through the word, scattering the letters hither and yon and kids put the word back together (listening to the letter sounds and names as they go). here’s where “reader” is different than “alphabet”– once the word has been built, a little flying monster comes along, picks up the whole word, flies it out of the way and a sentence appears that incorporates the word.  the chaos monsters run through the sentence and scatter two  other words and kids have to put the three words back into the sentence where they belong.  when they touch the word to drag it back into the sentence, the word says its name until its dropped back into place in the sentence.  when the whole sentence is reconstructed, an animation illustrating the sentence is played.  many of the words that get scattered are repeats of the words from the “rolodex” so there’s great reinforcement.  this one gets a ton of play in our house and is so delightful that i’m even happy to play it…. if i could ever get it out of the happy little dude’s hands.

My Little Work Garage by Filimundus

The developers of Pettson’s Inventions sent me a free download code to try out their newest app called “My Little Work Garage” awhile back.  Basic premise is that a car drives into a garage with seven different workstations, each with their own service.  The driver requests the services they want.  Kids can either just do the services requested, or can get creative and do a little bit of everything.  When they’re done, the driver pays and drives away.  There is also a racing component of this app, where they can race cars through 3 different tracks or trick out one of four “racing” cars in the garage.  The racing is a bit tricky as you need to find the balance between going fast enough to win and not so fast that you spin off the track.  The first few times we tried this game, I wasn’t quite sold.  it seemed complicated, one or two of the features were just glitchy enough to be frustrating to the happy little dude (those have all been fixed at this point, hooray!), and i thought maybe it was better suited for older kids.  turns out, i just needed to give my kid a chance to really dig into the app by himself for awhile and figure out how it works on his own.  now, he plays it often. i love the graphics and the fact that it’s wordless (translates across any language and kids don’t always listen to spoken instruction anyway.  an app that kids can figure out on their own without text is a well-designed app in my book.) and there seems to be a good mix of “follow the instructions” and “let’s get creative” (for instance, you don’t have to limit yourself only to the requested services on each car.  they could ask for new tires and you could paint flames on their vehicle instead.  Or add a snail shell for a trunk.  if i could add one thing to the developer’s wishlist, at the end of the car’s time in the garage, the driver pays coins for all services rendered during their visit.  Although the cash register shows the new total and if you buy new gadgets and accessories for the garage, it subtracts the proper amount of money from the cashdrawer, it never says how much the driver is paying.  If the attendant could say “28″ or “14″ or whatever they owe beside a picture of a coin, that would (subtly) add in a solid math component–both addition and subtraction (and budgeting!).   If you have a vehicle fanatic in your house, this might be a good choice.  Available for both Apple and Android.

Breathe/Think/Do by Sesame Street

This simple little app aims to promote emotional intelligence–a lofty goal for an app–and does it well (no surprise, knowing it’s from Sesame Street).  there are 5 scenarios in which  a little monster is feeling strong (uncomfortable) emotions [frustration, nervousness/anxiety (separation), disappointment, impatience, apprehension (bedtime)].  The player is encouraged to help the monster put his hands on his belly and take three slow deep breaths (by tapping the screen for each action).  Then, we “help the monster think of a plan.”  This is the most difficult part of the described process to illustrate in an app.  They chose to illustrate this with some floating bubbles while the monster is thinking and the kid are supposed to pop the bubbles to help him think.  I’m really not sure how this will translate back to the real world, but I don’t have a better suggestion.  Anyway, after popping  a few bubbles, the monster comes up with a plan (and then pop more bubbles until he has three plans).  One of the plans is usually solo, one is with a peer (or just a second solo plan) and one is always with the help of an adult.  The player chooses which of the three plans they’d like the monster to try and then that solution is played out in an animation.  I love the concept of this game and I am eagerly awaiting the day when, in the midst of an actual tantrum, I can actually get him to “Breathe, Think, Do.” (at this point, when I offer the suggestion of putting his hands on his belly and breathing when he’s throwing a fit, the response is generally…. not accommodating.)  Note:  If you’d like to develop this concept further, away from the screen, the Sesame Street site also has these free printables that illustrate the concept.  Also available on Android.

Toca Boca: Lab

Toca Boca has bunch of new apps out since I last wrote reviews.  There’s even a few we haven’t tried yet (see the “looking foward to” list at the bottom of this post).  But when I saw that their newest one (just out today!) features playing with chemicals in a lab and the cutest periodic table of elements I’ve ever seen….. I just had to try it out.  F.A.N.tastic!  (of course, I expect nothing less from Toca Boca, but this one is possibly one of my very favorites from their whole line-up.)  Gameplay:  There are five actions you can do to an element (heat/freeze/centrifuge/pour chemicals on it/zap it with electricity).  Whenever you do one of these actions, the element changes into a different element… or maybe it doesn’t.  You have to experiment to see which actions produce which results and along the way, you’ll “discover” new elements.  I’m assuming that once you’ve played this long enough, you’ll have uncovered all of the elements, but that’s a LOT of different cute anthropomorphized chemicals and gasses!  Originally, I assumed that it was just a made-up table, but I just went to compare it to a real table of elements and… um, it’s actually based on the real thing.  With the real abbreviations and atomic number of each element.  whoa.  but it’s such a subtle part of the game…. now i want to know whether a generation of kids raised on this game will enter chemistry and every time they hear about bromine think of this little brown blob with teeny sticks for arms and a goofy expression.  anyway, there is still much to explore in this game, but it has excellent potential to strengthen STEM skills (experimenting, theorizing, categorizing, predicting…) and it’s also super fun to turn those little elements into ice cubes.

Bellamon:  The Math Tree

Lovely design, lots of scaffolding, and a simple premise drew me to try this app, but it’s earned a review here because i’ve actually seen real-world addition/subtraction learning in my son now that he’s used it for awhile.  i will say that the other night, while he was playing, he apparently got tired of the voiceover’s constant commentary (“eight is too many.” “2 is too few.” “how many birds are in the tree?”) and yelled “stop saying that!” at the phone.  it would be nice if there was an option to turn the sound off.  (although it’s not that unpleasant if you’re not mad at the lady for constantly correcting you…)

we are excited to try: Toca Boca “hair salon me” and “mini“, Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer, Kapu blocks, Cowly Owl’s Little digits

if you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, vote in the comments whether you prefer chatty paragraphs (like the post you just finished reading) or the fill-in-the blank formula i used on my first app-review post?

Posted in apps for kids, kid stuff, reviews | 1 Comment

choosing a blender

IMGP6268-001with all this smoothie talk, i wanted to share a little bit about the blender i own.  for the first year or so of my daily smoothie habit, i used the blender we had owned for awhile.  it worked pretty well, but i was tired of having to take all the pieces apart every time i wanted to wash it.  then it suddenly stopped working.  the motor still sounded like it was running, but the blade didn’t spin at all (and I checked–the blade wasn’t jammed or anything).  time for a new blender!

i debated going for the big name option and getting a vitamix, but then i saw how much even a low-end one cost and i realized i needed to research and make sure this was the best blender for me before plunking down that kind of cash.  while poking around the internet and getting overwhelmed with all of the blenders on the market claiming to be the best of the best, i discovered this video


between that and the fact that i’d actually tried out a kitchenaid at my sister-in-laws and liked it (the blade is incorporated into the pitcher!  it actually blends things well!), and i could pick from many awesome colors, aaaaand the fact that i found one on sale for $60…. it was pretty much a no-brainer.

now that i’ve owned it for awhile, my only complaints are that it is louder than my old blender (oh well.) and that recently it’s started leaking around the blade.  that’s usually fixed (albeit temporarily) by tightening up the nuts that hold it in place, but i can foresee having to replace the jar before the motor burns out on this one.  but even if i have to buy 4 replacement jars, it’s still waaaaay cheaper than a vitamix.  and cuter.  and i don’t have to poke it with a stick.

note:  kitchenaid did not compensate me in any way to write this post (although if they wanted to send me a replacement blender jar, i wouldn’t complain.  ahem.)– they don’t even know my blog exists.  if i was blogging for income, this would be where i would announce some big kitchenaid blender giveaway, but…. nope, i just blog for the joy of it.  sorry.  no free blenders, just free blabbing.

another note:  the smoothie book is still on sale in my etsy shop, 25% off (use the coupon code, “ipreferprint”)!  i’m crossing my fingers that it gets printed tomorrow…

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bonus smoothie #2 — feel better

feelbetteri have been dealing with one of those annoying colds that last forever.  the kind that aren’t really bad enough to justify lying around in bed, but that just sort of steal your extra energy and make everything seem so much more challenging.  this morning i was inspired to try to create a smoothie to combat that feeling.  i have no idea if it will help me to actually feel better, but it tasted awesome and certainly can’t hurt to drink a few of these.

“feel better” smoothie

3-4 clementines, peeled

juice of 1/2 lemon

a dusting of fresh-grated ginger (pack in more if you’re a big fan of ginger)

2 t. honey (or more, suit your own taste)

a dash of cayenne

1/2 frozen sliced banana

1 T. almond butter

advance prep:  slice and freeze a banana.

combine first five ingredients in your blender.  add a bit of water if necessary to get the clementines to turn into a liquid.  once you’ve got about a cup of juice, add in your banana and almond butter and blend until smooth and thick.  add more banana to thicken further.

the cayenne adds just a little heat to the back of your throat (great if you’ve got a cough).  if you like a lot of heat, you can add more than just a dash.

if i had any more of my mom’s homemade elderberry syrup, that would totally be going into this concoction.  since most of you don’t have access to that, i believe that sambucol is a good substitute?

one more tip:  i can never seem to use up a whole ginger root before it gets moldy, but then i read somewhere that it freezes well.  i now store mine in the freezer and i think it actually grates much easier when frozen than when fresh.

and i’ve decided to extend the sale on my book for one extra day.  through midnight tonight, you can use the code “helloagain” to receive 40% off the cover price of happy smoothie in my etsy shop.  locals who can arrange for in-person exchange of copies are welcome to add their name to the doodle here (where prices are also $12/ book or if you order 3 or more copies, then $10/book).  thanks again to everyone who has ordered a book so far.  i have been so amazed and humbled by your response to my little project.  thank you.

Posted in recipes, winter, yum | 1 Comment

movie monday: blowing out a candle

we’ve started a new dinnertime tradition here in the happy household.  every night before we say grace at the dinner table, we light a candle.  we keep the candle burning throughout dinner and when everyone’s ready to leave the table, we blow it out. i find this to be a very calming, centering practice for all of us and i love the ambiance of having a “candlelight dinner” every evening.  especially in these dark winter months.

the other day, we were all actually home at lunch sitting down to eat together, so we lit the candle during the our meal.  the happy little dude tried to blow it out afterwards, but… his technique was a bit off (he was overly cautious after an earlier enthusiastic attempt splattered melted wax back up onto his chin) and after watching him try to blow out the candle for a few solid minutes, i decided it might make an entertaining movie, so i filmed the rest of his attempts.  enjoy!



on a completely unrelated note, but because this recommendation is already very late and i don’t want to delay it any longer, the happy little dude and i have very much been enjoying two free advent calendar apps this year. the first is binny’s advent calendar (2012 version). because it’s last year’s calendar, it’s free, but because we didn’t use it last year, all the surprises are new to us. my favorite is probably the faux fisher-price record player on day 1, but i also like to listen to the (vaguely creepy) little elf say “not yyyyyyet!” when you click on a future date. it’s also available on android! the second advent app that we love is fiete christmas. this is a simpler concept where each day, a different gift gets a number label and you can open it to reveal a different classic toy which kids can then play with by moving them (and flipping them) with their finger. i love the design aesthetic of this one–it’s so cozy that i really want to crawl in and enjoy a cuppa something warm by the fireplace. it’s related to the fiete apps (available for both apple and android) which i’m planning to purchase to try out on our next car trip. since i’ve been very behind in my own advent calendar plans this year (sigh.), it’s been nice to have a small alternative until i can get our tiny stockings on a string put up. maybe we’ll get that done today.

p.s. don’t forget! today is the last day to use the “hellohappysmoothie” code to get 40% off of printed copies of my smoothie book!

Posted in apps for kids, kid stuff, reviews, video, winter | 2 Comments

bonus smoothie recipe #1 — “pumpkin” nog

IMGP6153thanks so much for the enthusiastic response to my last post!  as a token of my gratitude, i’ll share a freebie recipe for everyone.  this morning’s smoothie didn’t make the cut into the book because it’s a bit too decadent for everyday (and because i already have a “december” recipe that i’m quite pleased with), but it was so delicious that you just have to try it.

“pumpkin” nog shake smoothie

1 c. almond or soy nog (or if you’re feeling extremely indulgent, i suppose you could use real egg nog….. but i loved it with this brand.  yes i am a sucker for pretty packaging.)

1 T. almond or cashew butter

1/2 c. frozen roasted sweet potatoes

1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg

advance prep:

roast sweet potatoes at 400° for an hour until tender.  let cool, peel, cut into 1″ cubes.  arrange the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze.  you could probably also freeze dollops of pumpkin puree instead, but i haven’t tried that myself, so it’s at your own risk.

combine all ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth.  if it’s too thick, add water (i don’t normally advocate for water in smoothies, but the nog won’t thin this down very quickly and i had trouble getting mine up through my straw!).  if it’s too thin, add more frozen sweet potato.

before adding water, i probably could have eaten this with a spoon and easily mistaken it for a pumpkin nog milkshake.  enjoy!  (and don’t forget to order your books by monday night to take advantage of the “hellohappysmoothie” coupon code for 40% off the list price)

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what’s been keeping me busy lately, part 2 (mom & sister sarah might want to skip this post if they want to be surprised for christmas…)

anyone who’s read this blog for awhile or who knows me in real life knows that i have a tendency to get a bit … over-ambitious with certain projects that really should be quite simple.  not all projects get the crazy-treatment, but every so often i get inspired and just go nuts.  last year, it was the busy book bonanza.  this holiday season, it’s been the smoothie book.  it started off innocently enough with my sister asking me if i could give her a booklet of my favorite smoothie recipes for christmas.  i sort of harumphed something about, “yeah, i could probably pull a few recipes together, i guess.” (this is how all of my obsessive projects seem to start) and then i realized that maybe, if i was putting one together anyway, my parents might also like a copy.  and then, i mentioned the project to some friends that i run with once a week and they both enthusiastically (and without any provocation from me whatsoever) said, “hey, we’d love to buy copies!  are you selling them?” and so now (hopefully mom and sarah have had a chance to avert their eyes by this point?) i’d like to offer all of you the opportunity to order a printed copy of the happy smoothie book or purchase a digital download version to keep for yourself or to give as gifts.  would you like to see it?

IMGP6125 ta-da!  the book contains 12 original smoothie recipes with full-color photographs of each–one for each month of the year–with seasonal produce (when available).  none of the smoothies contain ice cubes, protein powders, or processed sugar.  all of the recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan (other than a few optional suggestions to add yogurt or honey).  instead, they rely heavily on fruits, vegetables, nuts and nut milks.  i’ve set up the recipes with little symbols to help make substitutions easier if you need to make them.

IMGP6117 IMGP6116 the book is coil bound across the top and incorporates a chipboard-reinforced paper “easel” that will allow you to stand the book up during use, but folds flat for storage.  it is printed on heavy cardstock with high-quality inks that won’t run if they get wet (in fact, water beads up on the surface of the printed pages) and can be wiped clean with a soft towel.

IMGP6136i am hoping to be able to get the books mailed out in time for christmas gifting.  Since this is a busy time of year for the local print shop i’m using (and loving!), the best way for me to ensure that everyone gets their books as early as possible is to gather pre-orders between now and monday night, december 9th so that i make sure to order enough copies for my first run.  you can order books in my etsy shop (payment accepted via paypal).  if you’re local, would prefer to pay by check or cash, and are willing to make arrangements to pick-up your book in person (to save on shipping fees), please add your name to this doodle by monday, dec. 9.

IMGP6146digital copies (pdf) are also available and can be purchased for your own use or sent as a gift (just tell me the e-mail address you’d like me to send it to and what day (and even what time!) you’d like it to arrive in their inbox).  the digital version can be viewed on any screen where you’re able to view pdf’s.  so far, i’ve had good luck looking at it on my iphone, computer screen, the kindle and ipad.  it can also be printed from the pdf, but you should be aware that it’s formatted to a 5″x7″ page size, not the standard 8.5″x11″.

printed copies of the book will cost $20 plus shipping and handling.  digital copies will cost $5.  as an introductory special price, if you order before midnight this monday, dec. 9 you can use the coupon code “hellohappysmoothie” to receive $8 off printed copies of the book.  If you’re considering ordering three or more copies, contact me and I can set up a separate listing with an even more generous discount.

a note to international readers (if i have any?), i’m afraid i won’t be able to get a printed book to you by christmas morning, but you can always purchase the pdf as a teaser and let the recipient know that a hardcopy will be in their mailbox soon!

IMGP6114all profits from this project will go towards adoption-related travel expenses. a big thanks to everyone who has cheered this book on and helped it become a reality.  i hope you like the end results as much as i do!

Posted in clean, yum | 2 Comments

what’s been keeping me busy lately, part 1

most of you already know this, but it’s finally time for the official blog announcement (because we’ve finished turning in all of our paperwork!  at least i think we have…) — we’re in the “waiting pool” again!

here’s the profile we put together this time to introduce ourselves to expectant mothers considering placing their child for adoption (the “click to read” button enlarges it to full screen):


exciting times in the happy household!

Posted in baby stuff | 9 Comments