Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

9/30/2008

My food challenge

Food is always our biggest expense so I decided today after going to the grocery store...I went in to get bread and walked out with 40 bucks of stuff. Why does this happen to me every time??
And the funny thing is, my friend Erin and I were just talking about this mere minutes before when we parted ways at the playground.
So my new challenge is that I am not going to buy anymore food except milk and eggs until we have nothing left to eat in our fridge, in our pantry or freezer. This challenge is really only for my hubby and I because the kids are very picky about food that they would never be able to participate. I'm going to make a list of everything we eat to later share with you and to see how long we can actually go without running to the grocery store. Now if you are a loyal reader you would know that I've said this before. The mistake I made last time was starting when the freezer was already looking bare and also right before we had guests visiting. You can't have guests visiting and have them on board for scrambled eggs for dinner, that just won't do.
So this time I am really giving it my all...should be interesting. Anyone want to join me?

Fine Motor Skills

Thank you all for your wonderful comments from my previous post about Logan and the handwriting struggle, it really meant a lot to me. Handwriting is such a chore for him and he emotionally gets so upset that it's hard to make him do additional practicing besides the homework assignment. We've started working on embroidery projects and he is loving it. His hoop is always out on the table and ready for him to work. His imagination soars when it is in his hand, he creates these stories about what he is making like rocket ship marks in the sky or robot poop (the crafty mama is so proud...haaahaaa). Also we are getting a sandbox to work on writing in the sand with a stick. Please leave a comment in you have any other suggestions of activities we could try to help develop his fine motor.
Also try putting a hoop in your child's hands...it's really a lot of fun to see what they come up with. I bought plastic needles and burlap fabric and yarn and a hoop. All of it can be picked up at your local fabric shop, I've also added it all to the CocktailMoms Shop, and it's really cheap. Happy sewing.

9/29/2008

It all starts with a light...

It all starts with a light fixture that I hate. The hunt to find something unique-looking and affordable. I'm not in love with anything at my local Home Depot, Lowes or Ikea. I searched at the Community Forklift and still left empty handed. And then one Friday I went to the forklift and found this light cover in the free pile. Now I'm not in love with it but I do like it more than what we originally had up there. For now it will do.
It was a little larger than the original shade so I used some strong wire to attach it to the base and then put some fun wooden beads around it to cover the wire.
For now it will do...until I find that vintage, totally funky chandelier at a flea market that needs a face lift for dirt cheap.

9/27/2008

Embroidered Handkerchiefs

My hubby has asked for some handkerchiefs before the running nose season begins. So I made him some funky ones for his birthday using an old sheet. The high thread count sheets tend to rip over time, they sure do feel nice but don't last as long. So I cut out 16x16" squares and did an overcast stitch around them and then used embroidery designs from the Sublime Stitching Craft Pad. Bring on the sniffles-Jon is ready!

9/25/2008

Potty Chart


I know you can print out a ton of free potty charts online but instead I thought it would be cool to make my own. For 12 stickers he can then pick out "cool underwear", so far...2. It's not looking good. Please share any ideas, including bribery.

9/24/2008

Museum Day : Smithsonian Magazine


Grab a friend or the kids and head to a museum for free admission this Saturday Sept 27, 2008.
Here are the details where you also download the free pass. Locations are nationwide.
The picture of Z is from the College Park Aviation Museum and it is included in the free pass day if you find yourself in the general DC area and need a cool venue for kids.
Hmmm...now what to do on Sunday.

9/23/2008

Reusable Sandwich Bags / Placemats

Now that I'm back in school, I've got to pack a lunch to take to school. Unlike when I go to the office which has a fridge and microwave, I have to take something that can stay in my backpack until my break between classes. I need it to be compact and be able to be unrefrigerated for a couple of hours. So of course, I've been taking various sandwiches - from hummus and veggies to left over turkey. I hate using a plastic baggie but glass or even Tupperware is too clunky so I did a Google search for patterns so that I can make a reusable sandwich bag.

Thanks DIY community! There were tons of great ideas out there to solve this problem. My favorite was blogged at The Small Object Steno Pad. Great instructions. I can't wait till I'm caught up on my math homework so that I have time to make one these!

These pictures are from the website: The Small Object Steno Pad.

Tears of Frustration


Logan is in an inclusion Kindergarten at our local elementary school and he comes home with homework every night. Last night was rough. Tears, many tears. It was hard for Jon and I to not wrap our arms around him and tell him "don't worry it will be ok", because it won't. He has to learn how to write. We have to force him to sit at the creative station in our house and practice with us right by his side whooping and hollering and giving high fives for every (almost) perfect letter S or T. The homework is working on handwriting and his fine motor is very delayed compared to his peers. He's beginning to notice that he does things differently than the other kids in class and I wish I could be there to help him navigate this neuro-typical world. I wish he had computer every day and he could wow his peers with his skills playing education games and his ability to maneuver on the keyboard and the mouse at same time.

Everyday that I drop him off at school, tears well up in my eyes as Z and I make our way back home. I worry about his day...are the kids being nice to him, is he making friends, is he crawling under the lunch table because of the noise, is he being punished because the teachers look at his behavior as inappropriate (covering his ears at music class because his sensory is heightened and the music is too loud).

It's hard for this Mama to release and let go. It's very hard. Especially when there are tears of frustration and I know that in my heart of hearts that there will always be. He will always have to struggle to fit into this non austistic world.

At least he has us to give high-fives along the way.

Hulu

I have no idea why I am just learning about Hulu.com , but I am. Forgive me if you've known about this for months...just skip ahead. For those of you in the dark like me...you can watch cable tv shows and regular tv and MOVIES online for FREE! I may cut back on our netflix dvds to save some money. I have no idea how often everything is updated but right now I'm totally digging it. And I swear Lauren, I'll watch Arrested Development.

9/22/2008

Amazon Fresh


I loved the 5 years we spent in Seattle. The grayness during the winter never really got to me. I did get testy the year we had 29 days of rain in a row..but other than that I really liked living in Seattle. The only problem was that is was on the other coast from almost all of our friends and family. And the cost of airplane flights to NYC or DC was increasing, as was our family. But here's the deal, Seattle is just ahead of the game in many respects. Recycling: the second apt we lived in in Seattle the garbage company would fine you if they found recyclables in your trash bag. And yes they did fine, my neighbor got one and had a hissy fit about cleaning out a peanut butter jar. And now here is another one. Amazon Fresh! I am so jealous that Seattle folks have this. Basically you shop on amazon for fresh groceries and they are delivered to your door. Now before folks start commenting saying...oh but safeway/giant do that! Let me finish. They have all the specialty stuff. Like sugar free, kosher, and the big one for me...gluten free! They have all the products that I drive to 3 stores to get. And to make matters worse..it's cheaper on Amazon Fresh! I am so jealous.
Please Amazon please...a mom of a GF/CF picky eater begs you...please add the greater DC area to your delivery area. PLEASE!!!

http://fresh.amazon.com/Gateway

9/21/2008

Craft Magazine Video Podcasts

I'm a huge fan of Craft magazine. FYI: It's worth the price of the subscription. If you don't have the funds add it to your wish list for the holiday season. Well I recently found out that they have online video podcasts. Check it out here.

9/19/2008

Hats for Mommy, Daddy, and Baby

An old college friend of mine just became a proud daddy for the first time. He requested I make him and his new son matching hats. Well, I took it one step farther and made nearly matching hats for the whole family.

One of the first things I crocheted successfully was a simple hat. No pattern. No plan. Just start crocheting and see how they come out. That's how I made all of these hats and I enjoyed every stitch.

Not only were they quick to make but I forgot how much fun it is to just crochet away without a pattern or stitch count to keep track of.

I hope the new family enjoys wearing them as much I enjoyed making them.

Tattoos for Tots

My kids hate temporary tattoos. But every other kid we see has them on, legs and arms covered. It's a little sad really for Jon and I since we both proudly display our tatts and plan for more. Ah well, I guess they will become bankers after all.

But the reason for the post...sorry I get distracted when excited...or all the time really. So I came across this cool company Tattoos for Tots. 2 mamas, one use to be a teacher and the other a graphic designer, combined their talent and came up with educational temporary tattoos! Yes you read that right. Educational! Love it! So for all you mamas and papas out there that cringe every time your sweet child wants another Disney princess applied to her arm, pick up some of these tatts and she will be reading and spelling in no time. And they even have princess and pirate tattoos!
Aunties and Uncles...bookmark this page because these are the types of gifts that will make you the cool Auntie, well to every kid but mine.

9/18/2008

Dog Parks

I take Dharma to the dog park every night. I swear I could walk her 20 miles and she would still not be tired. So in order to have her in a zen state, in the evening while Jon and I are trying to get work done while the kids are asleep, we have to go to the dog park. It's really not an option. We both now have our favorite owners and dogs to see and socialize with. I enjoy it as much as Dharma, I think, because it allows me to have adult conversations about things other than potty training and kid stuff. The other night I actually had a conversation about politics! I've also picked out some other crafty chicks and we've become great friends. So if you have a dog go to Dog Park USA and see if there is a dog park near you.

9/17/2008

These Days I'm Crafting School Projects...


At 33 I never thought I'd been busting out the poster board to make an old fashion school project, but then again, I thought I was done with Algebra too. One of the two classes I am enrolled in at community college is Algebra for Liberal Arts Majors. I am finding it a big challenge. Luckily, for every test we have the instructor assigns a 'take home project' of equal value points. So, if you bomb the test you can still pass by getting good marks on the projects.

The project pictured above required us to take one of the three ways to solve a system of linear equations and promote it in an advertising campaign. All I have to say is that I wish I'd had Powerpoint when I was in school the first time!

I truly love being back in school. The business world does nothing for me. I've been working non-theatre related jobs for over a year now and I hate them. Yes, I'm aware that hate is a strong word but I am prepared to use it. I don't like the pettiness of office work and the older I get the harder it is for me to stomach sales jobs. There was a time when I could sell anything to anyone...and well I think that time is past. I'm too nice. I like meeting people and making friends but can't do that bottom line sales thing like I used to be able to do. (Don't get me wrong...the current office job I have is the best office job of all time. It is the business part that I am realizing I am not cut out for. It not business, it's me. I'm a polygon peg trying to fit into a square hole.) But school...oh school...I love the students and teachers. I love the classrooms and computers. I change my mind as quickly as the weather changes in Boulder, so I know to wait awhile to make sure this is the place for me - but right now school and I are in the early stages of love and all is great.

Well, except for me and math itself. I don't dislike the class - just math. I don't even dislike the concepts of algebra, my problem is that I can not reliably consistently add, subtract, multiply, and divide. For example, on my last test (which I got a B on) the teacher put a little question mark by my formulas with a note that said, "Where do you get this number?" Which was a valid question, seeing as how I had done everything right except adding the decimals correctly.

Once this math class is done it will be a huge relief. The other credits I need before I can enter the Masters of Education Program are mostly English classes and a few Science classes which my mind is more suited to comprehend. Until then I be making the best of Take Home Projects!

A Free Burger at Red Robin

If you live or work near a Red Robin they also have a birthday club and guess what you get for your birthday?!?! A FREE burger!! Of course you still have to pay taxes, gratuity and you can only use it the week of your birthday but in the end it can make for a very inexpensive night out. And that also includes the veggie burgers or chicken burgers for the no meat or no beef types out there.

9/16/2008

Making Magnets on Monday


There's nothing like starting your week with a craft project! Zane and I went to work creating new magnets for the fridge. The fridge was getting overrun with those free magnets, the ones that get thrust in your direction at festivals or sent in the mail from the newspaper. As if a magnet is going to entice you to subscribe.
So instead of the chaos I picked up some of these flat wooden stars and Zane and I painted them and then I attached 3/4 round super strong circle magnets (sold at Michael's craft store). Regardless of whether you have kids to make this craft with or not, take a few minutes and give your fridge a face lift. If you can paint a wall you can do this craft. And the added bonus is that it doesn't take long to do!

9/14/2008

Plastic Bag Pooper Scooper Solution

I saw someone using this nifty re-purposed invention in the pocket park next door to my house.

The dog owner had a stash of plastic bags stored in a toilet paper roll. He was using the plastic bags to pick up puppy poo.

I thought it was a pretty neat idea to keep a stash of plastic bags in the cardboard roll. I'm sure that dog owner always has enough baggies with him when its walk time.

9/13/2008

Always go Pink

No matter what the salesperson tells you...ALWAYS...and I mean always buy the ceiling paint that goes on pink and dries white. The Glidden guy told me that I'd be fine with the regular ceiling paint, as if this guy knows me or something and what is even sadder is that he had me...I nodded my head and thought to myself "yeah he's right I'll know what to do"
YEAH RIGHT!
I think parts of my ceiling have 4 coats of paints and parts have none.
Whatever you do always go pink.

9/12/2008

Easy Dinner


Here is a reminder that dinner doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to be about how pretty it looks or how many ingredients are used. It can be only about eating a healthy meal that doesn't take long to make. And that you cooked, not take out.
Easy. We all need easy every once in awhile. Here is my easy dinner.
Cous cous with peas and chicken sausage with feta cheese crumbled over it and seasoned with salt and pepper. Easy. Doesn't take long to make and tastes great.
Go easy on yourself and whip up something simple and easy tonight for dinner.

9/11/2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA!!!

Today is many things to many people...but before the day was a remembrance it was a birthday. And as Jon and I sat last night talking about our memories of living in NYC during 9/11, I reminded him that tomorrow is also Jabby's b-day. And Jabby you deserve to be honored too! So I wanted to share a bit of me and Jabby's past (A.K.A Jessica, to some) . This photo was taken in NYC in April of 2001 at the opening night party of Roundabout Theatre's production of Follies. This picture still cracks me up when I see it. The girl next to me (I'm the one in the cowboy hat) is CeCe and I think she was a security guard at the main offices of Roundabout. Anyway she kept hitting on me and Maryanne Finnamore (who is the girl on the far right), CeCe was really aggressive with her flirtation, would follow me into the bathroom even though she brought a date with her who is the girl in the center front. Eventually when Cece would not let up I made Jesscia be my girlfriend so that she would leave me alone. I have no idea why Jon didn't come to party but it came to the point where I quietly yelled at Jabby (you know that "yell" while you clench you teeth, your mom probably did it a few times) , "kiss me dammit so she'll leave me the fuck alone!" I added tongue just to make it more believable.
It's nice to have a best friend who also stands in as your lesbian partner when needed. Someone to walk down the street with holding hands, someone who will always laugh the loudest at your jokes, someone you can always show your true self too.
And I am so grateful I have that in Jabby. Happy Birthday Jabby! Here's a big smooch from me!

9/10/2008

Feist on Sesame Street

This clip made my day. I love Feist and I love Sesame Street...and I love them even more together! I know this isn't about a craft, cocktail, or green living but it is awesome.

GUEST BLOGGER: Wendi Putzke



When I taught elementary school I used a chart or schedule for everything. Every day my students knew what happened and in what order. I found that it helped them feel more comfortable throughout the day and transition better between subjects and activities.

A few months ago I realized that I was doing way too much work and having far too much difficulty transitioning my kids through their bedtime routine. I realized I needed to do something to take myself out of the equation and put the power back in my kids' hands (yep, that's my parenting style- less work makes for a happy mom and independent kid!).

The "Ah Ha!" moment came when I thought about ways I used to transition 30+ exuberant 5th and 6th graders from reading to math or recess to SSR... "Oh yeah, I had a system!" So, I created a bedtime and morning chart with pictures and words that tell my kids what they need to do and in what order. They move their pointer (each one has their first initial on it) through the chart and take care of what they need. My 5 yr old does this with almost no assistance and I help my 2 yr old move from one step to the other.

Also, now that my 5 yr old is in Kindergarten I knew we needed something to keep track of which days he needs to return library books, wear tennis shoes for PE or make sure he wears "Art Friendly" clothes. Plus, I knew he would do better if he knew what was on his schedule for the day. So, I made yet another chart. This one hangs on our back door (the one through which we exit most days) and says which activity/class he has on what day. We move the pointer down to the correct day. Then, as we exit Evan makes sure he has the right things on or in his backpack.

Making the chart is easy. I used cardstock and Word to make a table. Use clipboard images (you could also take pictures of your kid with their library books, or brushing their teeth, etc.) and pasted them into the correct spot on the table. I used clear contact paper to "laminate" them, but you can also laminate them with your own machine or at your local copy place. Then, I punched a hole in the top and attached the extra large binder clip and hung it around the doorknob. For the morning and evening job charts, I simply hung it on a hook in the kids' bedroom. Or, you can skip all the laminating and just pop your chart into a page protector, slip the binder clip through the top hole on the left and hang it on your doorknob or on a hook.

Once it's up, walk your kids through the chart for a day or two... after that you can sit back, enjoy your morning coffee and paper while you gently remind your kid to "follow the chart." Well, mostly.

9/09/2008

Here is where it all began!


My mother and father don't throw anything away. It's a blessing and a curse. We attempted to have a yard sale on Saturday but the tropical storm had other ideas. While digging through the items that have been in the attic for over 30 years, my mom came across my first craft project. Here is where it all began! The first picture is a "baby mobile" for my favorite doll. Very clever, eh? Using a hanger and attaching bangle 80's bracelets and the bottom picture is a doll I made for my doll. :) Now I can honestly say I've been crafting most of my life.

9/08/2008

Eye Candy

I felt like I couldn't come up with anything crafty to make. When ever I feel this way I spend a few moments at the library and I just grab a bunch of books. "Filling the creative well", I'd call it with eye candy from books. I highly suggest it the next time you are feeling blah about crafting. I know some folks like to surf the net but there is something about sitting down with a book in your lap and being right there and allowing your mind to wonder. Instead of clicking, pop ads flashing at you, and finding yourself 20 websites from where you started. In my recent search I read a book about pot holders, yup there is an entire book about them. Well it got me thinking about potholders (duh!) and how we have the ugliest ones and I'm often thankful I never put food on the table for serving because they are so ugly. All that has changed. I went to work and created some super cute ones. Also the books sparked ideas of crafts to make as gifts for Christmas. Now I'm super excited to get to work and create!

9/05/2008

Mini Recipe Book


My son, Logan, is on a GF/CF diet and because of that I make a lot of his food from scratch. I can honestly say it never varies, he will only eat a handful of things. So instead of pulling out a recipe book each time I need to make bread, pancakes or cookies I decided to make a mini version of a recipe book. All of the recipes we make on a weekly basis conveniently located in one easy to use book. It will also be easier for me to ask my hubby to take a turn making pancakes one morning and he can just grab the recipe cards and find it. Instead of asking me a million questions on where to find the recipe, which recipe is it again, what flour do I substitute for corn, do we have corn flour yet? Does this sound familiar?

I hand wrote each recipe on an index card. I only wrote out the ingredients and oven temperature, if applicable, because by now I know the cooking process of my recipes. Each index card I put on a piece of printed paper to add a bit of pizazz. I put a circle hole punch in the upper left hand corner and used a binder ring to hold it all together. Also the binder ring is great for hanging in your kitchen. If you find yourself using the same recipes each week, take 10 minutes and make an easy mini version of your recipe book. It will save you time in the long run.

9/04/2008

Tastes like Take-Out Curry


America's Test Kitchen is one of my favorite TV cooking shows. If you've never seen this PBS cooking show, you are really missing out on some great information. In addition to demonstrating a variety of recipes in each episode, they review a kitchen tool or item, for example crock pots, and then review major food products, for example can crushed tomatoes.

I've been trying to make a decent curry for about 2 years now. The following recipe was demonstrated on a recent America's Test Kitchen episode. I decided to give it a try and was completely satisfied. My search for a good curry recipe is over.

Indian-Style Curry with Potatoes, Cauliflower, Peas, and Chickpeas


from the Episode: America's Test Kitchen's Indian Favorites, Simplified

This curry is moderately spicy when made with one chile. For more heat, use an additional half chile. For a mild curry, remove the chile's ribs and seeds before mincing. Onions can be pulsed in a food processor. You can substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the garam masala. Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or mild)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (see note above)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
12 ounces Red Bliss potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
(about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press
(about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 - 1 1/2 serrano chiles , ribs, seeds, and flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 medium head cauliflower , trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch
florets (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , pulsed in food processor
until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
1 1/4 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
Table salt
8 ounces frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk

1. Toast curry powder and garam masala in small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove spices from skillet and set aside.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and potatoes are golden brown on edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium if onions darken too quickly.)

3. Reduce heat to medium. Clear center of pan and add remaining tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add cauliflower and
cook, stirring constantly, until spices coat florets, about 2 minutes longer.

4. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are
tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cream or coconut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve immediately, passing condiments separately.

Pretty Pots and Pans

I'm Sold! My mom bought me this set of Rachel Ray pots and pans as a housewarming gift. And I have fallen in love with them. They make cooking easier, food cooks evenly in the pan, and more fun. Since our kitchen is small I didn't want to occupy an entire cabinet with pots and pans so I hung them on the wall, using rods from Ikea. They also add a nice punch of color.

9/02/2008

I am an Iron Girl!



Well some of you may recall me mentioning months ago that I was going to compete in my 2nd triathlon. (previous post here)
Well I did it!
I am extremely proud of my time and my ability to finish the race. I didn't get as much training in as I would have liked but I showed up and did my best. First swam 1 mile in a lake and then rode 17 miles on bicycle and then ran 3.4 miles. And yes that .4 of a mile does matter! The experience was amazing. The energy is contagious and the sense of accomplishment in the end is worth the sore legs I had for 2 days after. I highly recommend it to any woman. No matter how old you are or what size you are. I met a woman racing that was 77 years old and I met another woman who had her first baby 8 weeks ago and while putting on my bike helmet, I spotted her putting nursing pads in her tri suit. "Do you think anyone else here is wearing nursing pads?", she asked me with laughter in her voice. "nope", I replied with a smile. And then a woman 6 months pregnant ran by us to start the bike. It takes all kinds and for that I am so grateful.

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