Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry (1)Here’s an easy weeknight meal of protein, veggies and rice. You can use frozen veggies to speed up preparation even further. Feel free to add more veggies to the mix, too, like corn, onions, or water chestnuts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Gardein chick’n strips
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 2 cups bell pepper strips
  • Cooked brown rice
  1. Cook the chick’n strips in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes, until lightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the garlic, agave, soy sauce, orange juice, ginger, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Add the garlic mixture to the skillet and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the vegetables to the sauce and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Serve the chick’n and veggies over cooked brown rice.

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Halloween Countdown Day 1: Scream Halloween in the Kitchen

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The kids won’t be trick-or-treating this year, no thanks to coronavirus, but there is still so much we can do to make Halloween feel special. In fact, knowing things won’t culminate in a neighborhood trick-or-treat, I find myself determined to make this the best Halloween yet.

To wit, we started a Halloween Countdown today, and will continue to add a “spooky” activity each day between now and the 31st. So follow along for dozens of ways to make your kids’ Halloween full of haunted magic.

Today’s activity was really just to get into the Halloween spirit (heh) of course, and that meant going Halloween crazy in our kitchen. We kept most of these decorations fairly simple, the most complicated being spider web window clings.

I knew Veronika would be excited when I dumped out a big bag of Halloween supplies. But I hadn’t anticipated how thrilled Travis would be, too!

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Immediately, he began using markers to make faces on felt ghost shapes and foam pumpkin shapes and Veronika joined in.

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I had Halloween stampers from the drugstore and the kids used these to stamp all over some of the foam pumpkins.

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A line of skeleton stickers soon marched across our kitchen cabinets.

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We added a fake spiderweb above the kitchen table, dotted with spider rings from last year.

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Halloween stickers were fun to put all over orange and black construction paper and then tape to the wall. I also had Halloween cupcake liners which made quick window decorations.

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And the ghosts were soon haunting the doorway.

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I had intended to only decorate the kitchen, but Travis insisted we continue outside. So soon we had a bush covered with webs and spiders.

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And some fearsome faces on the front door!

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So here’s to kicking off what is surely going to be a very different but very awesome Halloween. Please add your suggestions in the comments for making this year extra spook-tacular!

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Halloween Shaving Cream Sensory Activity

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To get in the mood for all things orange this month, I turned the color into a sensory experience for Veronika today!

To start, I filled a shallow tray with a thick layer of foamy shaving cream. You can use orange food coloring for the next step, but I preferred to drizzle on some red and some yellow.

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This way, Veronika could see it “magically” turn orange as we mixed it all together.

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She wasn’t hesitant about getting her hands in it, but she quickly decided she didn’t like being goopy.

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Instead, I passed over a paintbrush. Now, she loved stirring through! So we pulled out orange and black construction paper and soon she was smearing the pages with the mixture. To make it more like puffy paint, add a little glue and stir to combine.

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As a final messy element (since, heck, we were already a mess!), sprinkle a little glitter on before the puffy paint dries. Once dry, scrape off any excess shaving cream.

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This is great way to have Halloween-themed sensory play with one- and two-year-olds, even before they’re old enough to understand the holiday!

Mansion of Mystery

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We’re kicking off Halloween with a big BOO around here! This project is definitely a complicated one, but so worth the effort when your kids see not just a dollhouse but a haunted dollhouse… that includes its very own witch!

To assemble the house, start collecting cardboard boxes, empty paper towel tubes, and empty toilet paper rolls, and wait until you have a good assortment. Paint all of the cardboard pieces with black acrylic paint and let dry. I recommend two coats of paint for maximum spookiness.

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The next day, I mixed and matched the boxes and tubes until I liked the arrangement, and then used hot glue to attach everything together.

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On the third day, I added adornments. Cut squares of yellow construction paper to be window panes and arrange in groups of 4 around your boxes. I also had one arched window for added spookiness.

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For tower tops, cut circles from black construction paper and cut one notch in toward the center of each, then fold into cones and use tape or glue to attach atop each paper towel tube

For doors, cut shapes from brown construction paper, either rectangular or arched. One door couldn’t actually open, and had a red bead glued on as a handle.

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Because Travis requested we actually be able to put figures inside the house, I cut one box so it was open in the back and added doors that could swing open and closed.

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You can get a lot crazier with decoration, using construction paper for a fence or shutters, or adding additional boxes cut on the diagonal for a roof. But I reined in the haunted-housiness there.

All we needed now was a witch! Paint a toilet paper tube black. Once completely dry, paint a green square on the top for the face. You’ll need several coats of green to hide the black. Cut a rectangle from black felt and fringe the bottom with scissors, then glue on for hair.

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Add facial details with marker. So as not to spook the kids, we had a happy witch.

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You can make a whole witch family if you have enough cardboard tubes. Want to get really crafty? Add brooms! Just glue fringed brown construction paper around the bottom of a short stick.

Needless to say, I think the kids will find ways to play with this house all October.

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Not-So-Spooky Spider Handprint Window Cling

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It’s October which means it’s officially time for all things spooky! For this particular decoration, we started the night before to give the paint time to dry. In the morning, we then could quickly assemble a few spiders in the window.

Tape a piece of contact paper onto a table, with the backing still on. Paint your child’s hand with black washable paint, making sure to paint only the palm and 4 fingers, but not the thumb.

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Press onto the contact paper, then immediately repaint the hand and press again so the palms overlap and the 4 fingers stick out in the opposite direction. An 8-legged spider!

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Veronika loves getting paint all over hands, so I didn’t have to sell her on this project one bit. We made two baby spiders and then she giggled as I painted my own hand for a mommy spider. We invited big brother Travis to contribute a medium spider, but he didn’t want his hand painted.

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Once the paint dried, we added wiggle eyes for decoration. You can add smiles or other accessories to your spiders, too, if desired!

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For the web, use white glue to create a web design in the corner of a windowpane. The internet tells me that this will peel off easily when the time comes, and I sure hope so!

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In the meantime, peel the backing off the contact paper spiders, and simply stick to the window. They look just spooky enough up there.

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Feel with Me Panda Crate

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Veronika’s latest from Panda Crate was all about those big toddler emotions trapped inside little bodies. I loved that this was the toddler version of the Feelings Crate Travis did with the Koala line over three years ago. The package includes great ways to get your toddler talking about those big feelings… hopefully before the next tantrum hits!

One: Huggable Poppy

Veronika has a new best friend!

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She was smitten the moment I showed her the first item in the crate, a stuffed version of the line’s mascot panda. Poppy comes with her very own lovey blanket, so it was like a nesting doll equivalent of a hug. Veronika hugged Poppy, and Poppy hugged her lovey. Everyone gets comfort!

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Of course little ones learn empathy and caring skills through stuffed animals, and we emphasized that by helping tuck Poppy under her blanket, or talking about what Poppy was feeling.

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She’s fantastic for taking along on car rides, too!

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Two: Mood Puzzles

Veronika was equally smitten with the next item in the crate, two wooden blocks that are printed with 6 emotions on baby faces, in the eyes and lips. Mix and match to talk about what the baby is feeling!

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She could stack them up like regular blocks of course, which is always great for fine motor development.

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But even better was lying them on the ground. We talked through the emotions, naming each one and a scenario in which she has felt it. It was fun to ask her to copy the babies, too. Could she stick out her tongue like playful baby? Yes!

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I also did the reverse; if we mixed up the cubes, could she find me a frown? “Frown” was a new vocabulary word, though we’ve talked plenty about smiles. In fact, she seemed particularly drawn to the frowning or sad images, which makes sense since these emotions can be scary for a toddler.

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Three: Emotion Stacker

The next toy continued the theme of babies and expressions. For fine motor skills, it’s a stacking frame almost like the game Connect 4, and Veronika quickly mastered the skill of slotting the circles inside.

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As she popped in each one, I named the emotion.

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We then lined up the babies in order from happiest to saddest.

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Panda also suggests using this toy for a color match, but it wasn’t intuitive for Veronika since there were three shades of blue, but no orange, green, etc. For a better color toy, I would have preferred rainbow colors.

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Four: Emotions Place Mat

The fourth item was a food-grade silicone place mat with the outline of panda’s face but no emotions. We used food to add features! An apple wedge could be a smile, and we added blushing red tomato cheeks.

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Then we lined up o-shaped cereal, first in a smile, and then in a frown.

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Veronika giggled when I said she was eating the panda’s mouth! So the mat is not only practical (we’ll keep using this at meal time!), but also fun for food play and for more serious emotional learning.

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I also placed the mat against the window so I could trace panda’s face onto paper. Now Veronika could draw on the features. Again, she seemed very focused on the sad frown.

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She definitely was feeling empathy, so I quickly turned that frown upside down!

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Six: Board Book

The book this month was Poppy’s Feelings. I was again underwhelmed by the book, feeling that the company could have done more to make it interactive, but Veronika enjoyed the pictures.

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We then played one of the Beyond the Crate suggestions, an old favorite of practicing emotions in front of the mirror. While you’re there, test whether your child is fully aware of the mirror by placing a toy next to him or her. Veronika reached for the real toy, not the mirror version, so she’s got it!

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We also watched a sing-along of “If You’re Happy And You Know It”, pretty much the perfect song about emotions.

Finally, we checked out the following 3 books at the library:

  • Today I Feel Silly, by Jamie Lee Curtis
  • In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, by Jo Witek
  • The Feelings Book, by Todd Parr

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