My Happy Crazy Life

Valentine Treats and Healthier Eats

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Valentine’s Day”?

Was it chocolate? Roses? Both?


When I think of Valentine’s Day I picture heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, red roses, and white-draped tables in a dimly lit restaurant.

The funny thing is that I don’t want any of those things for Valentine’s Day except chocolate which is a winner with me any day, I’ve been conditioned to relate those things to Valentine’s Day.


One of my goals for my child care program is to help the children develop good eating habits and a healthy attitude toward food, which can be a real challenge during holidays because many holiday traditions include cookies, candy, and other sugary treats. Case in point: When I say “Easter” do you immediately picture a big chocolate bunny?

But completely cutting out treats is no fun, so I go for moderation and balance between healthy and not-so healthy foods. Luckily the parents in my program are on the same page and always come up with holiday treats that are on the healthy side, creative, AND fun.


Valentine's Day Healthy TreatsLast year the parents sent in some amazing Valentine’s Day treats: Strawberry and Cinnamon applesauce, Heart-shaped macarons, Cranberry muffins, Valentine Rice Krispie Treats, and Heart-shaped fruit pizza. We feasted all day!


Valentine's Day Healthy TreatsThe Valentine bags I gave to the children included a package of Annie’s fruit snacks, but the rest were toys and trinkets. As much as children love candy I think they prefer things that they can play with over and over. And I feel better about giving them books and things to play with rather than candy, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone!


What kind of healthy Valentine’s Day treats do you like?

Amy Sue

Thirty One Gifts Purse – Squee!

Thirty One Gifts Purse - PackageSquee! Look what came in the mail today!

It’s my new purses from Thirty One!

I’d been wanting a new purse for quite a while, but I could never find exactly what I was looking for in the store. All the purses I looked at were too big, too small, or too expensive. Especially too expensive!

Then my friend Nicole told me that Thirty One had some of their purses on sale, and since I loved the my new outside bag, my wristlets, and the other bags I’d gotten from Thirty One I knew I had to check it out.



Thirty One Gifts Purse - PursesI fell in love with TWO Thirty One purses, and since they were on sale I got both for the price of one. Now THAT’S a deal!


Thirty One Gifts Purse - Backpack Purse FrontSince it’s summer I decided to use the bright pink Backpack Purse first.


Thirty One Gifts Purse - BackOne of the coolest features of this purse is that the strap is adjustable so you can wear it on your shoulder, across your body, or as a backpack. Perfect for summertime!


Thirty One Gifts Purse - FlapThe front flap zips all the way open, and extends alllll the way down to the bottom of the purse. I’m not quite sure what to put in there, but whatever it is can be pretty big!

The flap also snaps down so you don’t have to worry about everything falling out of your purse if when it goes flying topsy-turvy. Directly under the flap is a large open pocket that goes all the way down to the bottom of the purse too. That’s where I keep my sunglasses, collect receipts, and toss my phone when it’s not in my pocket.


Thirty One Gifts Purse - InsideThe main compartment is huge – I could fit everything from my old purse inside, and then some!

The zippered pocket holds all of my lip products, plus a couple more I’ve added to the collection. There are 2 open pockets; one I use for my checkbooks and lotion, and the other I use for coupons. Either would easily fit a smartphone, except maybe not the iPhone 6 Plus; I’ll have to try Teacher’s and report back to you.

The rest of the compartment is wide open space, and lots of it! Some of the things I never thought would fit but did include a regular size water bottle, a small umbrella, and my iPad mini! Not all at the same time, but still impressive.


Thirty One Gifts Purse - OutsideI decided to save the black and white Organizing Purse for fall. Since I haven’t used it I don’t know how it compares to the Backpack Purse, but it looks really great! Besides, anything with “Organizing” in its name just HAS to be great, right?


Thirty One Gifts Purse - Outer PocketThe front has a zippered outer pocket which I’ll probably use for my phone with a large open pocket behind it. I’m not sure what’s going to go in there, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out once I start using the purse.


Thirty One Gifts Purse - BackThe back also has a large open pocket for storage.


Thirty One Gifts Purse - Inner CompartmentThe inner compartment is similar to the Backpack purse – a zippered pocket, two smaller open pockets, and a large open area for all of my stuff.

The Organizing Purse is a little smaller than the Backpack Purse, but my iPad mini fits inside so I’m sure it’ll be big enough for all of my other stuff.

I’m switching to this one when school starts, and will be sure to let you know how it works!

What about you – do you love Thirty One Gifts too? What are your favorite Thirty One Gifts products?

Amy Sue

True Confessions – What’s in Your Purse/Wallet Redux

About 5 years ago I posted the first What’s in Your Purse/Wallet, and after stumbling across it recently I thought it would be fun to do it again.

So grab your purse (wallet for you guys) and tell us what’s in it. NO CHEATING – you can’t put anything in or take anything out.


Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • 4 pens: 3 pink and 1 blue with a penlight on the end.
  • A handful of coupons that will expire soon.
  • Business cards for my massage therapist. She’s both amazing and affordable – contact me if you’re local and want her info!
  • Small notebook with note paper, a Post-It pad, Post-It flags, and short pen.
  • 2 checkbooks: family and child care.
  • Wallet with driver’s license, debit card, 4 of the 6 kids’ immunization records, insurance and dental cards, various gift cards, and a little cash.
  • Zippered coin purse purple, of course stuffed to the gills with punch cards, discount cards, coupons that have no expiration date, Culvers points and free scoop coupons, CPR, First Aid and child care association membership cards, bank account cards. See, stuffed to the gills!
  • Aveeno hand lotion – brand new.
  • Aveda hand lotion – almost gone.
  • An allergy pill bottle filled with various meds including Tylenol, Sudafed the good stuff you have to sign for, not the OTC stuff Claritin, Prilosec, Advil, etc.
  • My keys: house, Suburban, Rendezvous yes, I do have to look up how to spell Rendezvous every time, Princess’s old car, church outside key, church/school inside key, high school music wing key directors get keys to such places, three grocery store membership cards, keychain with rainbow music notes one side and “Amy Sue” on the back given to me by my best friend in High School, and purple crown carabiner which signifies my self-appointed Queen of the Universe status.
  • Spry Gems mints.
  • Sunglasses. Bright pink, from the Dollar store.
  • A handful of tissues, used and unused. I said no taking things out…
  • Ricola cough drops.
  • Over a dozen lipsticks, balms, etc: EOS honeydew and strawberry, Alba SPF lip balm, Wet n Wild balm stain in bright pink and rose these are super-duper heavy-duty – they last overnight on me, even after washing with face wash, Mary Kay lipstick in 3 shades of pink and rose, Mary Kay tinted lip balm in red and pink, Mary Kay liquid lip color in rose discontinued a while ago so I’ve been hoarding the 2 I still have, and a Lush brand lip color that Princess ordered for me through a friend.

I think I’m a little obsessed with lip products.

I also think I need a bigger purse.

Your turn! What’s in YOUR purse/wallet?

Amy Sue

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with Almonds

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with AlmondsNot only is this chicken salad recipe healthy, it’s super-quick to make too. Teacher whipped it up in less than half an hour so we had time to eat before we had to run out the door for soccer – now THAT’S quick!

Healthy Chicken Salad with Almonds – in Pictures

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - My Great Recipes CardWhen Teacher and I were newlyweds my dad’s mom, Grandma H, signed us up for a My Great Recipes subscription. We got a big plastic storage box with divider cards and one packet of recipe cards to begin with, then more recipe cards were mailed to us regularly until we had the whole set. It was one of those gifts that you don’t think you’re going to use, but when you start using it you realize you couldn’t live with out it.

This healthy chicken salad recipe is just one of our family favorites from “The Cards” – I hope your family likes it as much as mine does!


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Soy Sauce, Sherry, WaterIn a large frying pan, heat some water, soy sauce and sherry or sake we used rice cooking wine to simmering.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Add ChickenSprinkle chicken breasts with salt on both sides, then slip into the soy sauce bath. Cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Sliced CucumbersWhile the chicken is poaching, slice some cucumbers. We like to remove some of the peel to give them a stripes appearance but you can leave the peel on or remove it all if you like.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Flip the ChickenCarefully flip the chicken over and simmer another 5-6 minutes, until cooked through.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Prepare saladMeanwhile, prepare the lettuce. We prefer romaine because it’s more nutritious than iceberg; you can use whatever salad greens you like.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Toast Sesame SeedsToast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, shaking occasionally, until they’re darker and smell fantastic. No, we didn’t burn our sesame seeds; we started with both black and white seeds.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Chicken is DoneWhen the chicken is done, remove it to a cutting board and let it cool a until you can handle it. If the sauce hasn’t reduced enough you can let it continue to simmer until it’s reduced to the consistency you like.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Toast AlmondsToast the almonds the same way as you did the sesame seeds.

Almonds are one of my favorite foods, and they’re so good for you too – full of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. You can find more health benefits of almonds and almond recipes at the bottom of this page.

Little Guy liked the toasted almonds so much that he ate all the leftovers the next day, then tried to toast more in the microwave!


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Slice ChickenWhen the chicken is cool enough to handle, slice it into 1/2″ pieces.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Ready to EatThe recipe says to layer lettuce, cucumber and chicken, drizzle the sauce over, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and almonds, but it works better for our family to keep the components separate and let everyone put them together however they want.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Little Guy's PlateLittle Guy wanted some of everything, but not all together. He’s our pickiest eater so I was really surprised when he said “This is the best chicken I ever had!” and asked if we have it for his birthday supper.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - My PlateI layered my salad, adding extra almonds. The chicken salad is great without the almonds but the nutty crunch they add makes it even better.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Angel Face had SecondsAngel Face liked it so much she had thirds!


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Pre-Dinner Water FightProbably because she was hungry from the water fight she had with her boyfriend Rick.


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Water FightRun Angel Face, run!


Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe - Back of Recipe Here’s the back of the recipe card, in case you were wondering.

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe

One reason this chicken salad recipe is so healthy is because there’s no mayonnaise in it; the chicken gets its flavor from the soy sauce bath. Like any salad, you can change it up by using your favorite veggies, and the amounts are variable depending on your preference.

Healthy Chicken Salad Ingredients
For 4 servings:

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, skinned and deboned
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp sake, sherry, or lemon juice we used rice cooking wine
  • 2 tsp soy saucewe used more
  • 2 cucumbers, pared and sliced
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Healthy Chicken Salad Directions

  1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt. Heat water, sake, sherry, lemon juice or rice cooking wine to simmering.
  2. Add chicken. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, turing once, until chicken is cooked through. When done, remove chicken to cutting board and cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, rinse the lettuce and slice the cucumbers. Layer cucumber over lettuce on a serving platter. Thinly slice the chicken and arrange over the cucumbers.
  4. Drizzle cooking sauce over the chicken. If sauce has cooked away, add 2 Tbsp water, heat to boiling, and scrape up brownings to create a sauce.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and sesame seeds.

Nutrition information according to MyFitnessPal:279 calories, 11g fat, 32g protein per serving.

Like I said, I hope your family likes this healthy chicken salad as much as mine does!

By the way, the carrot cake Princess made several years ago was also from My Great Recipes, and I’ll be posting more family favorites from “The Cards” as I have time.

Amy Sue

Copyright Woes

Copyright CI started writing this over 2 years ago but was so upset by the whole situation that I had to set it aside. Enough time has passed now that I can finally talk about it without feeling sick to my stomach.


A couple of weeks ago I opened a Pandora’s Box of copyright woes – by accident of course. Do these things ever happen on purpose?

I was busy working on my Child Care Curriculum post, and wanted to link to one of the page on my child care website but couldn’t remember the page’s URL. A URL is the that you put into the window at the top of your page to find a website.

Because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to stumble around the website trying to find it, I did a Google search for a phrase I remember being on the page. And viola – there it was at the top of the page! That’s what good SEO will do for you!

But wait… Underneath my page was a short list of other sites, each displaying the exact same phrase as on my page.

What the heck was going on? How could they have the same phrase?

Of course I was curious and had to take a peek at the other sites… What I saw shocked me – my words, exactly as I had written them for my website, but on someone else’s website. Some sites didn’t even fix my typos!

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.


I’m not a babe in the woods when it comes to copyright issues. When I was developing pages for my first website, Zany Zebra Designs, I couldn’t find a photo I was looking for so I “borrowed” one from another website and edited it to fit my needs. At the time I thought that what I’d done was OK, but I soon discovered via a DMCA Takedown Notice sent to my web host that I was 100% wrong.

To follow DMCA guidelines, as soon as my web host received the DMCA Notice she disabled the page in question and contacted me to let me know of the issue.

I totally heart-palpitating, hyperventilating, knee-knocking freaked out.

At first I honestly didn’t understand because I really thought that using an edited picture was OK. Once I realized that I was in the wrong I felt really bad, but I also wished I’d just gotten an email that said “Hey, I noticed that you copied one of the pictures from my website – did you know that’s against copyright laws?” instead of the formal Takedown Notice. It would have saved both of us a lot of time and stress.

Eventually things worked out I took down the photo and apologized profusely, and even though the situation was frightening at the time, I’m glad it happened. It forced me to become familiar with copyright laws and I learned what to do if someone copied from my website.

Like now.


The Google search turned up more than 40 websites that had copied at least a full paragraph of text from my website; either entirely word-for-word or with very minor changes, like replacing my business name with theirs.

Due to my previous experience, I decided that instead of sending formal DMCA Takedown Notices I’d contact the website owners first to point out that they had copied my material and ask them to voluntarily remove it. I also decided that while I was at it, I may as well see if material from any other pages on my website had been copied.

And thus began a saga that cost me much more in time, effort and stress than I imagined it would when it began over a month ago.

And that’s as much as I was able to write 2 years ago. Read on for the rest of the story…


I emailed the owner of each website to inform them about the copyright infringement and ask that they either remove the infringing material or cite my website as the source. As an honest and ethical person I really thought that these emails would take care of things, but I should’ve known nothing is that easy.

The replies I received ranged from apologetic to offended to defiant. I’m not going to go into all of the details mainly because I’ve blocked out many of the details and don’t want to dredge up those unhappy memories but I will share a couple of situations that stuck in my mind.

There was the one who said that if I didn’t want stuff copied I shouldn’t have posted it online, and that I should be flattered to be copied.

There was the one who called me on the phone and told me that even though her webpage was word-for-word the same as mine, she wrote every word herself and I’D actually copied from HER. After 15 minutes on the phone I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her so I sent my own DMCA Takedown Notice to her hosting provider.

There was the one who said she’d be happy to remove the content as soon as she received a Cease and Desist notice from my lawyer.

There was the one who blocked my IP from her website so I couldn’t see that she hadn’t made any changes. Not so effective with the free Wifi all over the place.

I really wanted to resolve things peacefully, but if I didn’t receive a reply or the reply indicated that they weren’t going to do anything about the infringement I sent DMCA Takedown notices to the hosting company.

Some of the replies were so nasty that they upset me for days, but others were more positive.

Several people were horrified to discover that the people who created their website had copied material. They apologized and made the changes right away.

Other people had no idea that they’d done anything wrong and were happy to make the necessary changes.

I even became friends with a couple of the providers I’d contacted, and we’re still in touch today. Those relationships alone are worth the heartache and stress I went through.


So where do things stand now?

Well, I’ve added a copyright declaration to every page of my website as well as a separate Copyright Information page so no-one can say “I didn’t know.”

I’ve grown a thicker skin so I wasn’t nearly as devastated when I discovered more copyright infringement last summer. I sent emails, then DMCA Takedown Notices when needed without getting emotionally involved. At least, not as emotionally involved as the first time.

I’ve also had many providers contact me for permission to use information from my website or for advice with their programs. I love helping other providers and am so glad for the opportunity to “meet” new people.


What’s the moral of the story?

Well, I’ve learned that:
– It’s important to know copyright law and to follow it – not just to avoid getting in trouble, but because it’s the right thing to do.
– I can do the hard thing and I won’t shrivel up and die. Even though it felt like I would the first time around.
– “Mean” people aren’t worth getting upset over.
– There are many more kind people in the world, and they more than make up for the “mean” ones.

Hopefully this is the end of the story. I’m not afraid to defend my work against copyright infringement, but I’d rather help other providers create their own work to represent their own programs.

Oh yeah, and now that I’m over that trauma I’m going to finish what I started and post the other sections of my Parent Handbook.

Amy Sue

Photo credit: Horan Varlan on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe

Teacher loves trying new recipes and has several online sources for new recipes. One of his favorites is Iowa Girl Eats, which is where he found this Crock Pot Casserole Recipe. Of course, we put our own spin on it.

We made it for Christmas Day brunch and it was a huge hit with everyone, even Little Guy who HATES to try new recipes. Now THAT’S a recommendation! It’s also become a favorite go-to recipe when we need a quick supper, which is pretty often in our busy family.

Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe – in Pictures

The best part about this crock pot casserole recipe besides how incredibly yummy it is is that unlike some crock pot recipes that call for a lot of prep, this one is mostly dump-and-pour. In fact, it’s so easy I’ll bet your kids could do most of it by themselves! Maybe for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed… Hint-hint kids!


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - IngredientsThe basic ingredients are shredded hash browns, breakfast sausage, cheese, eggs, and milk. Which I forgot to include in the photo. Oops!

We put our own healthy twist on things with organic cheese, organic skim milk free range eggs, turkey sausage, and all-natural hash browns that have “potatoes” as the only ingredient. The switch to turkey sausage and skim milk saves 40 calories per serving!


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Brown SausageBrown the breakfast sausage. This is the only step you may want to help your kids with; the rest they can probably do on their own.

We haven’t tried any other meat yet, but I’ll bet it would be great with bacon, Canadian bacon, sliced breakfast sausage links, pretty much anything you like with your eggs.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Shred CheeseShred the cheese.

This time I used mild cheddar and Monterey Jack, but we’ve also used sharp cheddar and mozzarella, and sharp and mild cheddar. So far we haven’t found a cheese combo that we didn’t like. Next time I make it I’m going to try using less cheese next time to help cut down on fat – shhh, don’t tell my family! I’ll let you know if my family notices, and if it’s as good.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Layer Hash BrownsDump about half the frozen hash browns into the bottom of the crock pot.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Add Sausage and CheeseLayer about half the sausage on top of the hash browns, then cover with about half the cheese.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Repeat LayersRepeat the hash brown, sausage, cheese layers.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - EggsWhisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until well combined.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Pour EggsPour over the top as evenly as possible.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Cover and CookNow it’s ready to cook!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s probably taken me longer to type out the recipe to this point than it took to assemble the breakfast casserole – it really is THAT fast! Especially if you save time by shredding the cheese and whisking the eggs while the sausage is browning.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Cover and CookCover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8.

Most of the time we’ve cooked at the higher temperature, but the last time I made the breakfast casserole I used the lower temperature for longer time, and everyone commented on how distinct the layers were. It may not have anything to do with cook temperature and time, but that’s the only thing I can think of that I did differently from previous times.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - KippyWe interrupt this Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe for a Kippy Break. Kippy loves cheese and eggs so whenever we use either in a recipe he gets to lick out the dishes. His mouse catching skills have earned him special privileges for life.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - CookingThe worst part of making breakfast casserole in the crock pot – or anything in the crock pot for that matter – is that it smells soooo good it drives me crazy all afternoon. Hurry up and get done so I can eat you!


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - DoneFinally, it’s done – time to eat!


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - DoneLook at those layers – obviously I used less hash browns in the first layer than the second, but it still tastes amazing.


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe - Supper Time!Add a little more pepper and a side salad, and you’ve got supper.

Now hurry up and eat – we’ve got to go!


Easy Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe – Official Recipe

Makes 12 servings.


  • 30 oz bag frozen hash browns
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • 16 oz cheese: two different kinds
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Brown breakfast sausage; drain and set aside. Shred cheese. Whisk eggs together with milk, salt, and pepper.
  2. Layer 1/2 of the hash browns in the bottom of a large crock pot. Cover with 1/2 the browned and drained breakfast sausage and 1/2 of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers.
  3. Pour egg mixture evenly over layered hash browns, sausage and cheese.
  4. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours or on Low for 8 hours.

Serving Suggestions:
Iowa Girl includes a layer of sliced green onions in her breakfast casserole recipe, but since our kids won’t eat green onions we omit them. She recommends serving it with additional green onions, salsa, and guacamole. My mom loves eggs with a Mexican flare; I’ll bet she’d love Iowa Girl’s suggestions.

For brunch we like to serve the breakfast casserole with fresh fruit and cinnamon rolls or muffins. For supper we serve it with salad or another veggie.

Nutrition: According to MyFitnessPal, the Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Recipe as listed above contains 340 calories per serving. That’s 42 fewer calories than the original recipe, again according to MyFitnessPal.

So far we’ve just made the basic recipe because we know everyone will like it but there’s tons of ways you can change the recipe to make it a little different or to suit your own family’s taste. I think pretty much anything you put into an omelet would be good in this breakfast casserole.

Sometime I want to try spinach and mushroom with Swiss, bacon and red pepper with cheddar, bacon and hamburger with cheddar and onion. Bacon cheeseburger breakfast casserole – yum! And I’ll bet a cheddar and broccoli version would be delish too. Or something with Pepper Jack cheese…

The possibilities are endless!

What would YOU put into a breakfast casserole?

Amy Sue

Uncommonly Good Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and if you’re looking for unique Mother’s Day gift ideas that won’t break the bank, you’ve got to check out the Mother’s Day gift ideas at UncommonGoods.

First we need to take a little trip back in time.

Since I don’t have a DeLorean we’ll just have to imagine harp music and wiggly lines like you see on TV shows…

Mother's Day Gift Idea - It all started several years ago, when Uncle Jay gave our mom a “Whatever” clock like this one for her sewing room.

Since I have a “whatever” sense of time as in “Come over around 6:00, or whenever” I fell in love with it and wanted one for our kitchen. Teacher found one at UncommonGoods and ordered it as a surprise for me, but unfortunately the surprise was on both of us when it arrived damaged. Boo-hoo!

Teacher contacted customer service and they sent us a new one right away. Hooray! The new one arrived in perfect condition, and we were both impressed by the quality of the clock and the great customer service.

Fast forward to the present with more harps and wiggly lines…


With Mother’s Day coming up I was offered the opportunity to review some Mother’s Day gifts from UncommonGoods. Since my previous experience with the company was so positive I jumped at the chance.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Anything I rave about is because I want to share something amazing with you – not because I was paid to say it.” That’s my promise to you.

And while I’m being ethical and honest I have to admit that I did not purchase the Mother’s Day gift items I tested; I was invited to choose from a selection of Mother’s Day gifts, up to a certain amount. However, I stand by my promise – I’ll never promote something I don’t believe in or wouldn’t use myself.

My first challenge was deciding which of the Mother’s Day gift ideas to choose. There were so many lovely things that it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make! I decided to look for something useful, preferably for the whole family, and something special just for me.


Mother's Day Gift Idea - Three Tiered BowlThe something useful for the family was easy – when I saw the three-tiered bowl I knew that was the one. With the size of our family, a gathering of just my parents, my brothers and their families, our children and their families plus us is easily 25 people. Find enough counter space for all the food is always a challenge so a tiered bowl that expands up instead of out will be perfect!

When I took the box out of the package I was shocked at how small it was. Even though I knew it folded down I never imagined it would be so compact; at under 4″ deep and less than 12″ square it’ll be really easy to store.

Of course I couldn’t wait to check it out. Even though we had a great experience with UncommonGoods before, I was still a little skeptical about how great the tiered bowl would be “in real life” because I know how easy it is to make something look great in photos – even when it’s really not so great.

Mother's Day Gift Idea - Bowl Folded DownI discovered that I had no reason to be skeptical – it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

When it’s folded down it’s only about 3″ tall, but it pops up to about 15″. To open it you simply hold it in the center and twist gently counter-clockwise; it springs open like magic! To collapse it again you just twist clockwise.

Mother's Day Gift Idea - I was able to try the tiered bowl out at Princess’s baby shower and discovered that it holds a lot more than you’d think. I put an entire small watermelon in the bottom bowl, half a cantaloupe and whole bag of grapes in the middle bowl, and a quart of strawberries minus the ones Peanut ate when she thought I wasn’t looking in the top bowl.

Last but not least, in addition to all the coolness I’ve already mentioned, the three-tiered bowl is BPA free, and dishwasher safe; I put it in collapsed, and it came out squeaky-clean. What more could you ask for?

I can’t wait to use it at our next party – I’m thinking it’ll be perfect for two kinds of tortilla chips with salsas and guacamole on the top, or veggies down below with pickles, black and green olives on top, or desserts on all three levels – all chocolate, of course.


Mother's Day Gift Idea - Mug with LatteThe item I chose “just for me” is a gorgeous handmade Healing Stone mug. Everyone who knows me knows how much I like love need my morning coffee. Most days I use a travel mug because I’m klutzy and have knocked over my latte more times than I can count, plus it keeps my coffee warmer longer. But when I have a chance to sit down and relax with a hot drink and good book I like to use a pretty mug – it feels more indulgent that way.

I chose a blue mug, but they come in four colors, each with a different crystal in the handle. The card that came with my mug says “Clear Quartz: This popular healing crystal is considered the master healer aiding many areas of the body. It stimulates the immune system, soothe burns and harmonizes all the body chakras. Quartz also channels universal energy and clears negative energy.”

I’m not sure that crystals can really heal, but at the same time I’m not sure that they can’t. I figure it can’t hurt to have the healing energy in it, and at the very least it’s a gorgeous mug.

Mother's Day Gift Idea - Another View of the MugAgain, I was a little skeptical about whether the “real-life” mug would hold up to the description and photos, but again I had no reason to doubt – the mug is fantastic! It’s hefty enough that you don’t worry about banging it against something and chipping or cracking it, but light enough that it’s easy to lift even when filled to the brim. The shape is perfect for holding between your two hands on cold days or when you’re feeling down and need a little comforting. The handle is sturdy and generously sized and the gem on top is perfect for resting your thumb on. It’s dishwasher safe I’ve run mine through multiple times already and holds 16oz, which I think is the perfect size for a latte or hot chocolate.

I’ve been too busy lately to indulge in a latte-and-book session, but love the mug so much I’ve been using it for water. I’m not a huge fan of water, but somehow a pretty mug can make even plain water enjoyable.


If all of this hasn’t convinced you to check out the Mother’s Day gift ideas at UncommonGoods, maybe these facts about the company will sway you:

  • UncommonGoods strives to offer unique and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harming animals or people.
  • The lowest-paid seasonal worker at UncommonGoods starts at 50% above the minimum wage.
  • UncommonGoods supports and provides a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what they sell is made by hand.
  • Most of the products UncommonGoods carries are created in the USA; about one-third of the collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials.

Last but not least, speaking as a mom and grandma, I’ll bet your mom or grandma would LOVE a Mother’s Day gift from UncommonGoods – I know I would! Hint-hint, kids!


If you could pick any Mother’s Day gift from UncommonGoods, what would it be and why?

Amy Sue

Children Are…

Amazing: acknowledge them.

Believable: trust them.

Childlike: allow them.

Divine: honor them.

Energetic: nourish them.

Fallible: embrace them.

Gifts: treasure them.

Here Now: be with them.

Innocent: delight with them.

Joyful: appreciate them.

Kindhearted: learn from them.

Lovable: cherish them.

Magical: fly with them.

Noble: esteem them.

Open-Minded: respect them.

Precious: value them.

Questioners: encourage them.

Resourceful: support them.

Spontaneous: enjoy them.

Talented: believe in them.

Unique: affirm them.

Vulnerable: protect them.

Whole: recognize them.

“X”traspecial: celebrate them.

Yearning: notice them.

Zany: laugh with them.

Children Are Amazing

Source: Puddledancer Press

Amy Sue

How to Extend the Life of Toys

Toys are Learning ToolsToys are often called the “learning tools” of children, but children seem to get bored with their toys quickly, yet never want to put them away.

What’s a parent to do?

If there are toys overflowing the toy box, falling off the shelves, and constantly underfoot it’s time to for a change. Children become overwhelmed with too many choices, and rather than become engaged with a few toys for a long time they often play the “dump and leave” game.

Since young children are often very attached to their toys it’s usually best to find a time when your child isn’t around to go through their toys. Older children may be able to help, but don’t be surprised if your child refuses to give up something you consider junk. My children freak out if I try to get rid of Happy Meal toys – go figure.


Try the “4 R’s” of Toys

1. Remove. Go through your child’s toys and remove toys that are broken, outgrown, or no longer played with. Toss broken toys into the trash. We both know that we’ll never really get around to fixing them, so why have them laying around?

2. Recycle. Outgrown toys can be packed away for a future sibling or donated to charity. Older children may be interested in selling their outgrown toys at a rummage sale.

3. Rotate. Sort through the remaining toys and choose some to stay out and some to be packed away for a while. Rotating toys is especially beneficial for young children; when the stored toys come back out they’re fresh and exciting. Consider swapping toys with a friend for the benefits of twice as many toys at half the cost.

4. Reorganize: Replace a large toy box with smaller boxes or baskets on low shelves. Use crates to store stuffed animals and dress up clothes, or turn them on their sides for books and large vehicles. Be sure to label each container with a photo of the contents to help your child put toys away where they belong. Print the words under each photo to promote literacy!


What strategies do you use to extend the life of your child’s toys?
Amy Sue

Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table

I know this may stir up some drama, but I can’t tell a lie: I put food items in my sensory table.

Ducks and covers.

Some early childhood teachers don’t have a problem with food in the sensory table, while others think that playing with food is disrespectful, irresponsible, even harmful to children’s psyches.

I can understand both sides of the issue, and while I respect people who won’t use food in the sensory table, I’ve decided that in my program the benefits of using edible materials outweigh the drawbacks.

Peeks head out…

To me it’s a matter of safety; no matter how closely I monitor the children or how carefully I clean up and vacuum, there’s still a chance that one of the little ones will find and eat some of whatever was in the table. I’d rather have them eating flaxseed, rice, flour, or even rock salt the kind for making ice cream, not for driveways instead of aquarium gravel, sand, beads, etc. Besides, children are smart and most won’t really think that playing with raw ingredients in a sensory table means it’s OK to play with the food on their plates.


Anyway, that brings me to the real topic for today:
How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table.

Doesn’t it look all important and title-like in bold with uppercase letters? Oooh, impressive.

I’ve wanted to make colored rice in the sensory table for a long time, but all the directions I found used watercolor paint, rubbing alcohol, dry tempera paint, or other things I wouldn’t want my littles to ingest. Of course all of my paints are non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean I want the kiddos to eat them!

Then – EUREKA! – I found directions for making colored rice with food coloring and vinegar.

All edible materials, woo hoo! Happy dance time!

I couldn’t wait to try it so I whipped up a batch of rice for our February sensory table. It was super-easy and fun too! I did this trial batch myself, but now that I know how easy it is I’ll invite the kiddos to help from now on.


How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table in Pictures

Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - IngredientsTo make edible colored rice you need rice, vinegar, food coloring, a covered container, and cookie sheets.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Mix Vinegar and Food Coloring with RicePour some rice into a container with a cover. Mix food coloring and vinegar, then pour over rice.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Shake Until ColoredCover and shake until rice is evenly colored.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Darker RiceUse more food coloring for darker rice.

It really is darker in real life, cross my heart and hope to die. My camera just doesn’t like to photograph reds. Dumb camera.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Lighter RiceOr less food coloring for lighter rice.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Rice DryingSpread on cookie sheets to dry overnight.


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - Protect SurfaceYou may want to protect your countertops from the food coloring, since it stains. Oops!


Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table - PlayingWhen the rice is dry dump it in the sensory table then stand back to watch the fun.


Edible Colored Rice - Still PlayingThis time I put out plastic snack cups and scoops from formula cans, but an endless variety of tools and toys can be used to enhance and support the children’s play. The children LOVE the sensory table and can spend literally a full hour in it. Who says today’s kids have no attention span?


How to Make Edible Colored Rice for the Sensory Table
Step by Step Directions

Materials needed:

  • Plain rice
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Container with a lid
  • Cookie sheets or other protected surface for drying the rice



  1. Pour 1 cup of rice into the container.
  2. Mix several drops of food coloring into 1/2 tsp vinegar.
  3. Pour over the rice.
  4. Shake until rice is evenly covered.
  5. Pour out onto cookie sheet or protected surface. Let dry several hours or overnight.
  6. Wipe out container and start again.


My container was fairly large and I don’t have patience to dye 8-10 cups of rice one cup at a time so I did 2 cups of rice at once with 1 tsp vinegar. Next time I’m going to try a bigger container and see how much rice I can do at once before it’s too hard to shake.


What’s your favorite thing to put in the sensory table?
Amy Sue