Kid-Friendly Furniture Design!

Maylynn sleeping Note from Cathy: Our next guest post while I’m on vacation is from Ethan with a great article on how to pick kid friendly furniture.

That’s why we can’t have nice things!” Have you ever said, or heard, this phrase in regard to kids and furniture? For many, having small kids can put a damper on your home’s sense of style. It doesn’t have to though! Even though kids can be (well…they are) messy, accident-prone, and unappreciative of fine things, there are a few ways to decorate and furnish your home that are both stylish and incredibly child-friendly.

The first thing you want to consider is whether your furniture is safe for curious kids. Early childhood is a time when exploration and curiosity severely outpaces carefulness and wisdom! But we love our kids anyway! They will learn with age. So, in the meantime make room for their wild spirit.

Avoid pieces with sharp edges or corners. Metal is typically an undesirable material because of its density and propensity to be really sharp. On the other hand, steer clear from tall glass vases or table tops that can be knocked over and/or shattered.

If you have rooms or pieces that you just love and can’t change, kiddie gates help tons of parents who are trying to keep the kids’ roaming range to friendly rooms. Also, keep low hanging décor, or small collectables on higher shelves or in rooms that are off limits.

Carpet is probably the best type of flooring for safety concerns, but it’s sometimes very hard to clean! If you have wood or tile floors (actually, even if you have great carpet), try to make generous use of area rugs for play areas and main living spaces. These are slip-proof, easier to clean than carpets and are usually more ornate, hiding stains when they come.

Next, ensure that your walls and furniture are easy to clean as well. The best materials for easy clean-up are leather, microfiber, and acrylic.

Leather is typically more expensive, but totally dominates messes. Since good leather (or even waterproof varieties of faux leather) doesn’t absorb moisture and dirt like most other upholstery, it makes for quick wipe-ups and offers a sleek and classy look for the style conscious parent.

Microfiber (what I use), has the appearance of suede or leather depending on the color but is a breeze to clean using either a wet rag or a cleaning agent (depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation). Microfiber is plush, offering maximum padding and comfort. Kids are sure to love this kind of material!

Acrylic is mainly used in outdoor furniture but, as a type of plastic fiber, it can be utilized as a woven fabric for throw pillows and seat cushions. It’s completely water proof and can be cleaned with a moist rag.

Beside flooring and furniture, another potential mess area that needs to be addressed are walls. With young kids, the writing is very often on the wall. A co-worker of mine offered a suggestion today that I had never considered. He said his wife turned him on to matte finish, a glossy spray coat for kids room walls (or any walls for that matter) that provides water-proofing, easy wipe-off for messes, and reduces glare.

Finally, consider how much space you have. To amplify your room’s area, look into furniture pieces that offer multiple functions or have increased levels of storage. This is huge! Ottomans that double as storage trunks, and coffee tables that are designed to also serve as kiddie play stations (there are some that actually offer cushioned seating that can be stored underneath) are really handy. Storage is especially handy for quick pick-up.

Chances are, it’s hard to keep your house as clean as you would like, especially if you have guests coming over….in 5 minutes! Having plenty of attractive and multi-functional storage space allows you to quickly hide toys and other objects until you have the time put everything where it belongs!

Author Bio: Ethan S. writes on behalf of Design55, a UK-based designer furniture shop that offers sleek, kid-friendly living room furniture. Check out Design55 Living Rooms.

Make Dinner Easy with Freezer Friendly Meals

baked ziti

Here’s a yummy guest post from Diane. Okay, now I’m hungry!

If you are like most hard-working adults, when the evening comes and you finally get home from work the last thing you want to do is begin thinking about cooking dinner.

Unfortunately, this is when the endless supply of take-out menus on the refrigerator grow to be appealing, and pizza becomes the frontrunner, once again. Take control of your dinner menu by planning ahead with simple freezer friendly meals!

The first step to start planning freezer friendly meals is to think about dinner ahead of time—as in days ahead of time. Think about the type of meals you enjoy eating throughout the week, and organize a list of ingredients. Also, when grocery shopping over the weekend, think about the ways you will need to store the food in your freezer and grab a few freezer safe bags and disposable bins. Make sure the bins you find say “freezer safe” on them or they might let your food become too icy.

One great recipe to think about is baked ziti! This meal is ideal for a family of any size or for nights that you expect company. Baked ziti can easily be tailored to feed two, four—or more!

What you will need:
• Dried rigatoni noodles
• Ricotta cheese
• Mozzarella cheese
• Tomato Sauce
• Parmesan cheese

One great thing about baked ziti is that it is very easy to alter the recipe slightly to meet your needs. Feeding a family of 12? Great! Look on the box for the recommended serving amount, and incorporate as much noodles and cheese as you will need for your family. As a general rule, 1 pound of pasta is likely to feed 10 people.

As far as supplies, you will need a casserole dish and aluminum foil. To start, boil the ziti noodles until they are soft and then strain. Once your noodles are drained of all additional moisture, mix in the ricotta cheese. The amount of ricotta cheese will vary depending on the amount of noodles. Ideally, you will want the ricotta to cover the noodles, but not overwhelm them.

Place tomato sauce in the bottom of the casserole pan. You should put in just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. This will help the pasta to cook into the sauce, and will also help the pasta to not become stuck to the bottom of the pan! Follow the tomato sauce with a layer of the pasta and ricotta mixture, and then top that layer with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Repeat this process until all ingredients have been used. Once you finish putting the pasta, sauce and cheese in the casserole dish cover your pasta dish with aluminum foil and let the fresh pasta cool. Do not place it in the freezer right away; instead wait about an hour before freezing the meal. This will give the heat from the pasta a chance to mix with the sauce and cheese before freezing.

When it is time to eat your pre-made baked ziti take it out of the freezer and remove the tin foil. This is when to use the Parmesan! Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the ziti, put the tin foil back on the disk and then stick it in your oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Leave the tin foil on for the first 20 minutes, this will help contain the heat and help the ziti bake all the way through. To attain that yummy crust of cheese on the top layer of your meal take the foil off for the last five to ten minutes. You will know that your ziti is ready when it is warm the entire way through.

Baked ziti is a great freezer friendly meal because it is fully cooked before being frozen. This means that when you are heating it up later on there is no risk of undercooked meat. For a great dinner night pair baked ziti with a ready to go caesar salad kit and a few freshly cooked ready-to-bake dinner rolls!


Author Bio: Diane Johnson writes about a number of her interests including cooking, online schooling, and traveling.


Ranting About Food Chemicals

ranting woman I have a personal rant here. I am so sick of all the chemicals in food!

I haven’t always felt that way. When I was younger, I really didn’t care that much one way or the other.

But as I am getting older, I am finding that I am having more and more problems with different chemicals.

Let me first state that despite being overweight and having a thyroid problem, I have been very healthy.

But several years ago, I started to have breathing problems. I was coughing and felt like my lungs were constantly congested. It was worse at night. I actually ignored it for awhile. But then over this past winter, it got so bad, I couldn’t sleep and there were several times I almost called for an ambulance. It was that bad. I thought I might die. But I calmed myself down enough that I got my breathing somewhat more in control. And no, I have never smoked.

The reason why I didn’t call an ambulance or go see a doctor about this? Simple. No insurance.

But I was really getting scared about all of this. Then my son did some research and thought it might be an allergic reaction to the synthetic sweetener Aspartame. I scoffed. I mean really. How can an artificial sweetener cause breathing problems? But at his insistence, I went off my beloved Diet Cherry Pepsi and started reading labels to make sure I didn’t buy anything with Aspartame in it.

Unfortunately Aspartame is in many diet foods and other foods too. I found it in almost all diet soft drinks. I also found it in gum, yogurt, and pudding among other things.

It took a week before I noticed any difference at all. I think I must have had quite a build of it in my system. But I was a diet cherry pepsi addict and drank quite a bit of it. Way more than was good for me.

I did notice a difference. Gradually my breathing improved and after 3 weeks I was completely back to normal.

I mourned the loss of my beloved diet cherry pepsi but I was so happy to figure out what was causing the breathing problem and to be able to fix it so easily. I was also grateful to my son who loved me enough to really research it.

For a few months every thing was fine. Then slowly but surely, the breathing problem came back. Along with a lovely case of eczema on both hands.

I figured the eczema was just caused by stress. I have had it before but usually only on one or two fingers on one hand. Now it was on both palms and 4 fingers of each hand. I have always prided myself on having pretty hands. Now they were ugly, red, and scaly. Along with quite painful.

I really didn’t think the two problems were related but something sure was going on in my body. I rechecked all my foods to be sure I wasn’t consuming any Aspartame. I couldn’t find any.

The breathing is starting to get bad again too. Still not bad enough to keep me up at night and to scare me like it did last winter, but it’s bad.

I think I may have found the cause and guess what, it’s another chemical. Although this one is derived from a natural source.

I found this quite by accident while reading the newspaper today, which I rarely do anymore. In Dr. Gott’s column, someone was thanking him for telling them about the seaweed that is added to dairy products. She cut out the cream in her coffee and now her eczema is gone.  Apparently the seaweed can cause eczema in people who are sensitive to it. A long with breathing problems, digestive problems and more.

Come on! Seaweed in dairy products? What next, dog poo in cake mixes?

The seaweed in question is called Carrageenan and it is used as a thickener in many products. Dairy products such as yogurt, cottage cheese, creamers, ice cream, and cream cheese. It’s also in many other products such as condiments (mustard, ketchup, salad dressings, relish, and barbecue sauce) also in jelly, jam, canned foods and so many other products, it’s unreal.

I went to my pantry and fridge and found it in several products I eat on a regular basis. Most notably the yummy Bailey’s creamer I have been using for the last 5 months several times a day in my coffee.

Is this the cause of my symptoms? I’m not sure but it does look like this seaweed may be the culprit. The only way to know for sure is to cut it out of my diet and see if things improve. Unfortunately this chemical is in so many foods, it may hard to cut it out completely.

All this brings me to my rant. Since when did our foods suddenly become possessed with all these chemicals? Has it always been this way and I was just clueless because it didn’t affect me?

It seems more and more today, our kids are developing weird allergies and medical conditions that generations before never had. Is it because all these chemicals we are eating? Are we poisoning ourselves?

How long are we, as a people going to allow all of this until we make food companies stop with the over loading of chemicals in our foods.

And I realize it’s a two edged sword. Without some of the chemicals, the food will not last very long. And without others, the cost will go way up for that particular food. But it may be a price we need to pay to keep ourselves from developing illnesses and to keep our kids from being born with them.

I don’t know what the answer is. I guess in my case, since I am developing more and more allergies to processed food, I should try to eat as natural and organic as possible. Although I sure don’t relish having to make my own mustard, ketchup, etc.