Secrets of Mom Search Results

Monday, August 30, 2010

Food for Thought on Health Care Reform

As a nurse and just as a mom in general, I often get into conversations with people about health care reform. I've discussed it with doctors, nurses, parents and friends. I've yet to hear a magical solution. But there is not question that something must be done. I highly recommend watching these two fascinating mini-documentaries to anyone who cares about health care. (I find myself recommending them frequently and thought that it's about time that I put them up on my blog so I don't have to search for them anymore.) They were both done by PBS Frontline and are each about an hour long, but it is time well-spent. The first one surveys 5 health care systems around the world and talks about the pros and cons of each. The second one gives many examples of how the health care system has failed people in America.

Sick Around the World

Sick Around America

What did you think of these videos? Does anyone out there have any good solutions? What are your thoughts on health care in general? I'd love to hear your input.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Food Storage Friday: Hawaiian Haystacks

Food storage can make your life easier. One way to start out is to pick a recipe that your family enjoys that incorporates food storage and buy enough ingredients to make that meal 3 times. Once you have 30 recipes, multiplied by three, you will have a 3 month supply of food. Keep these ingredients where you will use them. Case in point: My family loves Hawaiian Haystacks so I purchased all the ingredients to make at least 3 meals worth (It's one of the few meals that everyone is willing to eat, anytime). One Sunday when I was at work my husband decided to make dinner and looked in the pantry. 'Ah-hah! Everything to make Hawaiian Haystacks in plain view.'  I came home to the pleasant surprise of finding not only that dinner was on the table, but that my husband had used food storage to make it. And this works not only for coaxing husbands to cook, but for helping you on those evenings when you're feeling uninspired in the kitchen. If you have a recipe that you're familiar with and you keep the ingredients on hand, you can get dinner on the table quickly without resorting to fast or instant food.

Hawaiian Haystacks
Food storage ingredients minus coconut
Food Storage Ingredients
3 cups of prepared rice
canned pineapple chunks or tidbits, drained
chicken gravy, prepared as directed
slivered almonds
chow mien noodles
shredded coconut
canned mandarin oranges,drained

Fresh Ingredients
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (canned chicken can be substituted in a pinch)
shredded cheddar
1 green onion, sliced

Optional Ingredients
golden raisins
sliced water chestnuts
shredded carrots
diced bell peppers

1. Prepare ingredients (gravy, chicken, etc.) 2. Assemble as desired.

For me, this is comfort food.
For my family, 2 cups of chicken & 3 cups of rice is sufficient for the four of us and even yields some leftovers. One package each of chow mien noodles, almonds and coconut is more than enough for three meals, but we always use an entire can each of the fruit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quest to Save the Planet: Backyard Composting

So here I am in my little corner of the world, trying to make it a better place, and I have started composting. Here are reasons I think that the average person should compost.
  1. Composting reduces waste.  It's good for the planet. Food waste and yard trimmings currently make up 23% of waste in the US. Wouldn't that be great if we could easily reduced the number of landfills by 1/4?
  2. Composting returns micro-nutrients from food waste to the soil to help plants grow.
  3. Composting can reduce diseases and pests.
  4. Composting reduces the needs for chemical fertilizers.
  5. Composting saves money when it comes to gardening. It can eliminate the need to purchase soil and fertilizer.
Here are a few more reasons why I compost.
  1. I live in St George, where I like most of my neighbors have mostly red clay in my yard instead of your typical garden-variety dirt. It's not exactly conducive to growing a garden. And I have been advised by life-long St. Geezy residents that this is the most effective way to make your garden grow.
  2. Between composting and recycling, we actually make very little garbage. This means that I don't have to drag our outside garbage can to the street very often (and when I say I, I mean ask my husband to do it), or when I do, it's not as heavy and awkward to drag through gravel to the street. If it weren't for the fact that diapers get really smelly in the sun, I could go a couple months between taking my cans to the street. One good chore saves another. (When you actually start recycling, you'll be amazed at how much is reusable in some way or another.)
  3. Composting justifies my deep seeded personality flaw of being a hoarder. I try to get rid of things, but I can always think of a reason why it could be useful someday. If I bury it in my backyard, even my garbage can be of use to me.
Now that you're motivated to compost, here are a list of things that you can and can't compost:
  • Animal manure
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Yard trimmings
 CAN'T and why:
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    • Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    • Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    • Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
    • Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    • Might kill beneficial composting organisms
There are many products and methods out there for composting (most of them overpriced.)  Good compost should be a mix of three elements  1. brown matter (shredded newspaper, cardboard, hay, leaves, saw dust, some kitchen scrap, etc.) and 2. green matter (weeds, lawn clippings and some kitchen scraps) and 3. water. Here's what I do:
  1. I have an old laundry detergent bucket in my garage where I throw my kitchen scraps. When it gets more than half full I throw in a bunch of sawdust and some crab grass. (There's always some to be found.)
  2. Then I dig a hole big enough to hide the mix and cover it with dirt (clay in my case) and then pour water over it.
This morning I got up early to dig a hole before the day got too hot. My son decided to come out and watch me. As I was digging a hole and pulling crab grass my son wanted to help and I realized this is something that I should be involving my kids in. This is simple enough that they can help me do and I can teach them responsibility for the world around them and how we can help plants grow. Apparently even my two-year-old can effectively pull weeds. As I was digging, I dug up a previously buried compost pile. It was  nice to see some proof that my methods are working. What was previously a bunch of garbage was now some rich dirt when a few decaying orange peels mixed in.
Here's the area that hopefully next year will provide me with fresh veggies (and my husband in his pj's.)
For more ways to save money and help the environment at the same time look here, here and here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler and a Giveaway

Right now we are planning a extended family camping trip. Camping means cooking in a Dutch oven. :) And I thought I would share my favorite super easy dutch oven dessert recipe. I believed I learned this back at girl's camp...awhile ago.

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler
1 large (20 oz) can of peaches (don't drain)
1  (12 oz) can of Sprite/ 7-Up/ Sierra Mist (just make sure it isn't diet.)
1 box yellow cake mix
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Prepare charcoals (10 for the bottom and 14 for the top). 2. Spray inside of dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray. 3. Dump peaches with juice into dutch oven. 4. Sprinkle cake mix over peaches. 5. Cut butter into small chunks and distribute over cake mix. 6. Pour lemon-lime carbonated beverage of choice over cake mix. Don't stir! 7. Sprinkle with cinnamon. 8. Place lid over cake, cover with coals and allow to cook until cake is lightly browned on top and the sides pull away from oven (About 30-35 minutes) Test center with a toothpick. Cold leftovers make a great breakfast, if there are any.

And it's giveaway time! This month's giveaway is another $40 CSN gift certificate that you can use towards anything you please from one of their more than two hundred stores! Here's how to enter: 1. You must follow SecretsofMom and leave a comment telling me how (RSS, blogger, etc). For additional entries you can 2. Share your favorite dutch oven recipe in a comment below. 3. Share a great camping tip that you have. 4. Follow me on twitter. 5. Follow me on Facebook. This giveaway is open until August 31st, 2010. The winner will be announced Sept 1st. The winner will be selected using a random number generator. Only open to residents of the US and Canada. Canadian residents must pay international shipping rates at CSN stores.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food Storage Friday: Pepper Steak

I Dare You to Eat ItAfter reading I Dare You To Eat It: Designing Food Storage You Would Actually Want To Eat by Liesa Card, (who btw is awesome, really she's my hero) I was inspired to make my own book of food storage recipes, which I would share with the internet in a free download form, to encourage anyone who needs ideas on making their food storage work for them. I've started this project almost a year ago, but between work, vacations and just life in general, it hasn't happened yet. The solution: Food Storage Friday. Every Friday I will post a new food storage recipe with a picture and any hints that I found helpful. When I have forty successful recipes, I'll compile them into one document for your easy downloading pleasure.  (Because what good is a food storage recipe if  no one is willing to eat it?) Plus this way you can see pictures for each one.

Food storage is more than just storing grains. You have to know what to do with it. You have to incorporate it into your diet on a fairly regular basis, so if/when you have to use it, it's not a shock to your system. You have to have a repertoire of recipes that you can easily refer to and use often so that you can rotate through it. If you can do these things eating food storage can improve your diet, save you time and dramatically decrease the amount you are spending on groceries.

On a recent trip to the grocery store I noticed that there was an amazing deal on both steaks and bell peppers, which inspired me to make this meal for dinner. The recipe I found and modified said that it serves 4. Is that four Sumo wrestlers? I got more like 8-10 servings out of this recipe and I didn't change it that much.

Pepper Steak Stir-fry and Rice
Food Storage Ingredients
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4 oz) can of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 (8 oz) can of sliced water chestnuts, drained (optional)

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 catchup
1/2 cup water
4 cups of prepared rice (I prefer brown)

Fresh Ingredients
1 lb steak, sliced into 1/4" strips
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large bell peppers, diced (I used red & yellow)
1 cup green onion, sliced

Combine soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Add beef. Mix and set aside while preparing vegetables. Heat oil in large frying pan or wok. Add beef and stir-fry over high heat until browned. Turn heat up and add  fresh vegetables. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp, about 10 minutes. Mix cornstarch with water. Add to pan; stir and cook until thickened. Add tomatoes & catchup and heat through.

Because this recipe yields such a large quantity, I froze half of it.
Here we are, frozen & reheated, still good, although the yellow peppers look less appealing.

Here are a few other successful food storage recipes that I have already done:
Fat Free Pumpkin Apple Muffins
BBQ Chicken and Wheat Salad
Beef and Bean Burritos
BBQ Baked Beans
Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Favorite Places to Visit in St George Part 1: Pioneer Park

I love living in St. George. It is beautiful and the weather is actually rather pleasant for nine months out of the year. However, as with many small communities, a little investigating must be done to find things to do with the kids, so here I'll share some my family's favorites and any available discounts that I have found.

Pioneer Park- Red Hills Parkway-No admission charge
Pioneer Park is a must-see for anyone new to St. George. It provides a fantastic view of the city of St George, and parts of Arizona and Zion's National Park can also be seen from the park.
St George from the cliffs above the city.
Pioneer Park has some great climbing for all skill levels. The first time we brought my two-year-old there you would have thought it was Christmas. He yelled "Whoa! Climb on that!" It has trails and rocks that are on my kids' level, as well as rocks and cliffs that my husband finds challenging.
Me and my fam
 Pioneer Park is so called because it contains a few original houses that the pioneers built out of caves while they were in the process of building something more permanent.
Pioneer cave dwelling with brick face.

This park is a great place to see local wildlife. Every time we go we see at least a few different varieties of lizards and birds and this last time we saw a tortoise climbing around the rocks. The park has been turned into a reserve for the Mojave desert tortoise.
If you touch them they can get scared, urinate and die of dehydration. No touchie. Big fines.

The park contains 2 barbeques, a fire ring, and several picnic tables. If you're in town around July 4th, it's the best place to watch the fireworks.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Be A Hero, Be The Match

Saturday night after being at work for more than 13 hours I hauled my family to the county fair. And no, it's not because I was aching for that special smell that can only be found at the fair, the smell that is a combo of cheap cigarettes, swine, cooking grease, pickles and who knows what else, or because I wanted to blow 85% of my weekly grocery budget on one meal. We went because it was the last night of the fair and the mother of one of our cancer kids was running a booth there to raise awareness about the national bone marrow registration program. Her child has a donor, but so many people are not that lucky.

On many occasions people have asked me 'how in the world I can take care of sick kids?' 'It seems cruel to stick them with needles and hold them down for procedures'. It generally doesn't bother me. (Yes, I would rather not do it if it can possibly be avoided, but I won't hesitate to do it when I know that's what needs to be done.) I would much rather hold kids down for an IV start than contemplate the possible outcomes if we didn't take the measures that we do. I know that the things I do will make them better.  That's not always the case with our patients with cancer. The cancer kids tear me up inside. It's just not fair that someone so innocent should suffer so very much. And their poor families. Having a child with cancer can turn your world upside down and rip your heart out. That is why I am challenging everyone who is able, to join the national bone marrow registry. Take the chance to save a life.

Here's how it works:
  1. Go to You can either request a donor registration kit to be mailed to you, or you can locate a donor drive that is taking place in your area.
  2. If you are between the ages of 18-60 and are in general good health, you will probably qualify to donate. Go here to see more details about conditions that do and do not limit you from donating.
  3. Once you have filled out the appropriate paper work and have the donor kit in front of you, you will take the four cotton swaps and wipe them, one at a time, on the inside of your cheek. That's it! You're registered and the genetic material in your cheek cells will be analyzed and archived so that doctors from around the world can look for potential matches to help save their patients.
  4. If you are a match to someone in need there is no cost to you. One of two things will happen, depending on what your match needs. 1) You will receive a few injections (5 days in advance) of a medication that stimulates your body to make more blood stem cells. When it is time to donate your blood will be removed, the blood stem cells separated and your blood returned to you. No surgery required and most donations are done this way. 2) Your bone marrow will be removed from your hip bone with a needle, while you are under general anesthesia. It is an outpatient procedure and your body will replace the bone marrow that is removed.
 If you have questions the National Marrow Donor Program has the answers. So yes, there are some needles and discomfort involved, but isn't that worth being a true hero?

Friday, August 13, 2010

More than stretching your dollar

There is a lot to be said for living within your means, using what you have and being a great bargain hunter, and there are a lot of people who say a lot about it. However, it seems that there are fewer people giving suggestions on how to increase your means. I know that for many the ideal is that dad works and mom stays home with the kids, but often that just doesn't cut it. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to increase your income, here are a few suggestions to help you out.

  1. Be persistent and be present- Last summer when my husband got a job here in St George as a school teacher, I thought I could easily find a job. I'm an RN. I have a bachelor's degree. I have experience. I have additional certifications. I knew that my boss will say good things about me. I was currently working for the company that owned the only hospital in the area. Yeah, well none of that matters if there are not jobs to apply for. After getting no where online, I drove the four hours one way to visit the human resources office, twice, only to have them tell me that I needed to look online and they couldn't help me. Then I did a little research. I started with Pediatrics, which is the department I was previously working in and was where I wanted to continue. I found out who the manager was and where she had worked before, so I had an idea of her experience. Then I drove down to St George again, bypassed HR and went straight to her office. She told me that that morning she had just gotten approval to hire someone one day a week and I could have the position if I liked. Victory!
  2. Network- Let people know that you are looking. Ask your friends and family to be on the lookout for you. At a neighborhood party a few days ago a friend asked me if I knew of any positions for nurses' aids at the hospital. A friend of her relative had been looking, but there weren't any jobs to apply for. I told her to tell her friend to move it fast, because I knew of a couple of positions that had just opened up and weren't posted yet and if she acted she had a descent chance.
  3. Be creative- Look at the talents you have and try to think of a way for them to help you out. I have a friend with four kids who wanted to increase her income. Going to work and paying for daycare didn't make it worth her time. So she went to nail school. Now she has a small business in her home that she enjoys and she can still be there for her kids. (PS If you live in Southern Utah and want her number I'll give it to you. She give a fantastic pedicure at the best price I've ever seen.) Another friend of mine give piano lessons, another voice lessons, another a small daycare out of her home. I have one friend who used to teach kindergarten, but now runs a small preschool out of her home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perneid Meteor Shower and a Mini Giveaway

Announcement: August 11-13th there is a large meteor shower, with the peak being early in the morning of August 13th. If you possibly can, it's a great free activity for you and your family. As comets get closer to the sun they shed ice and dust, and if the earth is traveling through the comet's orbit you get a meteor shower or falling stars. To get the best view of this show, look after 11 pm and get away from city lights if you can. Prepare like you would for a July fireworks display. For more info about this and other meteor showers throughout the year go here.

Today at Smith's I received two certificates for Box Tops for Education, and they'll expire long before my kids are old enough to care about such things, so I'm having a mini-giveaway. The first two new followers to my blog will each get a certificate for 25 boxtops. Just follow me through google friend connect and leave a comment to this post. Someone might as well use them. :)  Also if you are of the persuasion who collects boxtops for your munchkins, you can get a certificate for 25 boxtops with a purchase of Progresso soup at Smith's or 50 boxtops with the purchase of any 10 General Mills products at Albertson's.

Chicago- Part 4: The Shedd Aquarium

Our last stop in Chicago was the Shedd Aquarium, which is also located on the Museum Campus. I have to say that the Shedd was the best aquarium that I have visited thus far. It has over 25,000 fish and for a long period of time was the world's largest aquarium. It's kind of like the aquarium meets Sea World. Admission at the door is $32.50 for adults and children. Tickets online are $26.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. If you present a valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch ATM, credit or debit card, along with photo ID, you can receive one free all-access admission ticket on the first full weekend of each month.Certain Mondays and Tuesdays are free admission days. We used CityPasses, and as I mentioned previously this place was my favorite thing about the Chicago CityPasses. (We waited about fifteen minutes to get in, while the line for those without CityPasses looked like it would take at least three hours. And no, I not exaggerating, when I saw the first line I was ready to bag it. I'm so glad that we didn't.) I believe that there is also a BOGO in the Chicago entertainment book as well. (Here are a list of places that I read had Shedd Aquarium  printable coupons, but don't actually, so don't bother, if anything they just direct you back to the original Shedd website:,,,,, If anyone finds any real coupons, please let me know.) Parking is $16 cash in the Adler lot. (We went to the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd in one day, so we only had to pay the parking fee once.) For lunch we had some tasty Chicago dogs from a stand in front of the aquarium, 3 dogs, drinks and chips for $11. So yes, visiting this place can be very pricey, but I thought that it was worth it. (Also I like that their website has stories and information about the different animals there, since reading about exhibits generally isn't on the agenda when we take our kids places.) Also if you go in the morning you can beat most of the crowds making it easier to see the fish.
Black-tipped sharks
Peengos! (As they are known in our house.)
Baby Beluugaaa! (Does anyone else remember singing that song?)
My kids spent a long time watching the dolphins.
I will freely admit that I didn't take most of these pictures, because there are signs everywhere asking us not to take pictures of the animals. These came from the Shedd website.
My daughter sliding in the penguin playplace.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Family Funbook

Family FunbookI came across this book when browsing on Amazon and bought it because I remember my mother enjoying several books written by this author when I was growing up. Family Funbook: More than 400 Amazing, Amusing and All-Around Awesome Activities for the Entire Family! by Joni Hilton is full of fun and creative ideas to do with your kids. I love this book (even though I probably wouldn't pick it up if I were basing my purchase just on the cover). I am definitely going to refer to this book the next time my kids are bored and I need a new idea. This book has many, many inexpensive ways to keep the kids entertained and learning year round.  Some of them I have heard of before, but there are many that I haven't and had never occurred to me. I highly recommend it. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Take a week long trip at home. Pick a destination and have an activity each day that relates to that place. Some suggestions she gives are Asia, Africa, South America and Polynesia. Each day do something related to your destination. Find books related to your vacation spot. Make crafts related to the area.Try foods and activities that are typical of the region. Her book offers dozens of ideas. There is a lot of fun and learning that could be had here.
  • Make an alphabet video. Have your child point to things that start with each letter of the alphabet or make letters out of sticks or stones. Then have them pose in the shape of each letter at the end as a review. Your child will love to watch it when you're done and s/he will love that they are the star.
  • Go on a nature walk. Find different kinds of spider webs. Make up stories about animals that you might find. Have a scavenger hunt. Bring crayons and paper to make rubbings.
  • Play hose soccer. Give each team a hose and have them try to spray and kick a beach ball the opposing side of a given line. Good summer time fun.
  • Watch falling stars- Mid-August is a good time for this.
  • Record the things the funny things that your children say- I do this on my personal blog and it's the grandparents favorite part. It also reveals more of their personalities than photographs often do.
  • Have a treasure hunt- Have one child hide a treasure and make a map for the others to find it. This can be repeated many times with a variety of "treasures".
  • Make a sundial. Teach your children about time using a stick and 12 stones
  • Ice cream muffins- Easiest muffin recipe ever. Equal parts softened ice cream and self-rising flour. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. (Give or take depending on how many muffins you make.) These were perfect. Quick, easy, delicious and my picky children even loved them.We made peach ice cream muffins and topped them with raspberry jam. 2 cups of ice cream & 2 cups of flour made nine muffins
  • Draw with your toes.- See if you are right-footed or left-footed.
  • Declare a Whipped Cream War- Have everyone dress in their swimsuits and equip them with a can of whipped cream.
  • Ease Separation Anxiety- School is starting and to make it a little easier for you child, laminate a family picture and tape it to the inside of their lunch box to remind them that they are loved when they are away.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I have a secret...

..but I can't tell yet. I know that's not very fair, but I'm really excited about this. I'll let you know as soon as I am able. It's something that may save you money, include fun things for your family and is helping others at the same time. Stay tuned.


Search & Win

 This is for my friend who asked me to write this and everyone else out there who is wondering 'What in the world is a Swagbuck?'
So there are a lot of survey and freebie sites out there and for those most part I feel like my time is better spent elsewhere. But Swagbucks on the otherhand...I like Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a search engine that give you points, or "swagbucks" for using it. It only takes a few seconds, and really is there a day that goes by that you aren't searching on the internet for something? Why not get rewards for it? They certainly add up over time. Swagbucks uses search results from Google and to help you find what you're looking for. An awarded search can give you anywhere from 5 to 100 swagbucks. Sometimes you can earn even more than that. Then you can cash your swagbucks in for prizes. My favorite prize is the Amazon giftcard, because you can get anything at Amazon. I could easily do all of my Christmas shopping at Amazon every year and be happy. (In fact for the most part I do.) You can get a $5 giftcard for 450 swagbucks, but there is a large selection of other prizes too. Here are all of the ways that you get swagbucks. And if you're new to swagbucks and use the code BackToSchool, you'll get an extra 40 swagbucks.
  1. Search- I have found that about one in five searches results in a reward. (That's not an official stat, that's just my experience.) You are also more likely to get a reward if you are looking for a specific website like "secretsofmomblog" vs. money saving. Fridays are MegaSwagbucks Day and you can win more often and the prizes are bigger. Supposedly you can win hundreds of swagbucks for a search, but the most I've ever gotten for one search is 47. Still, I'll take it.
  2. Toolbar The toolbar makes searching more convenient. Instead of directing to the SB site first, and then searching I just use the SB toolbar. And sometimes it will notify you of swagcodes that are available. Also you get 1 Swagbuck a day just for using it.
  3. Daily Polls- Every day there is a quick poll that awards you one Swagbuck.
  4. Trusted Surveys- Everyday you can click on this link and be awarded a Swagbuck. If there are surveys you are interested in taking, that's another way to win swagbucks. I've found that more often than not I don't qualify for the surveys, and usually the award is something like 175 Swagbucks for a twenty minute survey. I feel like twenty minutes of my time is worth more than essentially $1.75. But I have taken a few that had a better payoff, like 200 Swagbucks for a five minute survey. I'm down with that.
  5. Special Offers-Once a day you can get a Swagbuck for viewing their no obligation offers.
  6. Swagcodes-Every so often there are codes floating around the internet. I don't spend a lot of time searching for them. You can find them on the SB toolbar, Facebook, the SB blog and various other places. Enter them into the appropriate box on the SB homepage and press the Gimme! button.
  7. Shopping Online- Supposedly you can earn swagbucks for shopping through their site, but the one time I tried I never earned my swagbucks. You earn 2 SB for every dollar spent, which is more or less 2% back. Upromise and Ebates generally have better rebate rates. However, sometimes there are great swag bonuses.
  8. Trade In- You can recycle old cell phones in return for swagbucks.
  9. Offers- If you scroll down towards the bottom there are bigger reward offers for trying out services, like DirectTV and Book of the Month clubs.
  10. Refer friends- When your friends start earning, you do too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicago- Part 3: The Adler Planetarium

 The Adler Planetarium is the oldest in existence today and is located on the Chicago Museum Campus near the Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum. The Adler Planetarium is a great place for kids to do some hands-on learning about astronomy. My kids (2&4) had a fantastic time here. There were also many things that my husband and I found interesting. If we're ever in the Chicago area again, we'll definitely go back. In the summer hours are from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. For regular and holiday hours and special events go here. Admission is $25 for adults and $21 for kids. This includes unlimited shows and a tour. If you want to just see the exhibits, admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids. We saw one of the shows, and yes it was impressive and I think it was very educational for my kids, but I wouldn't say that it was worth $15 per person. Perhaps if you have older kids who can sit through more than one show. But it was included in our whole CityPass package. The parking situation is the same as The Field Museum, $16 (cash only) for all day. Here is a list of free admission days.
 Ok, I know this picture turned out super blurry for some reason, but here is my daughter displaying the craft that she made that shows day and night and the rotation of the earth.
My husband and daughter controlling land rovers on "Mars".
My favorite thing about this place is that it wasn't crowded, unlike the other Chicago attractions we visited, which really surprised me. (We went on a Saturday morning and we weren't there first thing either.) My kids had a chance to play and learn and there were plenty of staff that were excited to teach and assist them. There were rockets for them to launch, small learning crafts, remote control land rovers, short educational videos, interactive models, and scale planetary models that they enjoyed. There were also many science artifacts that my husband and I found interesting. I highly recommend this place.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: 101 Things To Do With Zucchini

It's late summer in Utah, and that means that you can probably find someone to give you excess zucchini, that is unless you're trying to give it away yourself. And not only is zucchini good for you, there many, many things that you can do with it. 101 Things To Do With Zucchini by Cyndi Duncan and Georgie Patrick gives many enlightening recipes as well as several helpful hints for this versatile vegetable. Another great book to help you make use of what you have.
  1. Zucchini can be substituted for many vegetables in your favorite recipes. It works well in soups, salads, sauces and egg dishes. It works especially well in Italian dishes.
  2. For most recipes it is not necessary to peel zucchini. The peel is where you get most of your vitamins.
  3. Yellow straight neck squash is often referred to as yellow zucchini.
  4. Zucchini can be eaten raw or cooked, with or without peel. It can be fried, boiled, baked, steamed, sliced, diced, shredded, stuffed or grilled.
  5. Zucchini is about 95% water and low in calories. 1 cup yields 25 calories.
  6. Shredded zucchini can be added to soups and sauces without draining, but if using for cakes or breads, the liquid must be squeezed from the pulp.
  7. Zucchini is bland in taste and usually takes on the flavor of other ingredients. It is commonly seasoned with oregano, basil, tarragon, garlic or dill.
  8. Approximate measurements: 1 pound=3 cups sliced=4 small or 2-3 medium; 1 medium shredded= 1 1/2 cups; 1 large=2 pounds
  9. Small to medium zucchini have the best flavor. Overgrown zucchini are best for breads and soups.
  10. If zucchini is to be used in 1-2 days, store at room temperature. It can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Here's my version of one of the recipes I tried. I started making it as a side dish, but it is enough to be a meal in it of itself.

Skillet Tomatoes and Zucchini
2 small zucchini sliced
1 medium onion thinly sliced
1 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
dash pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup grated mozzarella
1/8 cup grated parmesean
1 cup seasoned croutons (I used Caesar with good results)

In a large skillet, saute zucchini and onion in butter until tender. Add tomatoes and seasonings. Cover and simmer 3-5 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender. Remove from heat and sprinkle with croutons and cheese. Cover 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Serves 4