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.

1/30/2009

Scrabble Refrigerator Magnets

I recently picked up a scrabble game on freecycle (yes I know I talk about freecycle a lot, especially this week it seems). We already have a scrabble game but I knew I wanted the kids to have the letters. I despise those plastic letters, the small magnets always end up falling out and then you are out of an "A" or else the dog eats them...magnets and dogs do not mix well.
So I used what I had on hand and that was business card magnets. But you could also use strip magnets if you have that. It took 6 business card magnets to complete this project. Both the boys are really excited to create words on the fridge. And it's even sparked Logan to create his first sentence for homework. He is suppose to write this is in homework book but to avoid tears over writing and to prove to his teacher that the kid is smart and knows what he is doing he is now allowed to do homework in other ways. Hence the picture below. Logan makes the sentence and then I hand him his camera and he takes the picture, I print it out and we tape it in his homework book. Wha-la..homework is fun again!

1/29/2009

Trash to Treasures: coffee table

The final little treasure I recently picked up on freecycle that I mentioned yesterday. It needs some TLC, but for right now it works as our coffee table. Kids are so hard on furniture that it's hard to really have "nice" stuff. Know what I mean? Each of the sides flip up, I haven't figured out why but it adds to the appeal for the kids. Doesn't take much to entertain them.

1/28/2009

The New and Improved Craft Table for the kids

The boys were outgrowing their arts and crafts table that I posted here, and when I saw a recent freecycle listing for a farm style kitchen table I had to snag it. I was not actually the person chosen and then the owner of the table posted a "free for all" style post which is not normally allowed on freecycle but it went through anyhow. I braved the snow and was lucky enough to be the first person to snag the table. I also picked up another little treasure but I'll save that for tomorrow. Keep you guessing! The added bonus of the table is that we now have a "kids table" for eating when company is over...gone are the days of 2 families of 4 crowding around our small dinner table. Zane has already broken the table in, as you can see, it's amazing what a new piece of furniture can do for your creativity!

1/27/2009

Trash to Treasures: My lamp facelift

I must once again shout out my LOVE of freecycle. Someone posted this Tiffany lampshade. It was a hanging lamp, and I've spent all day trying to get it to securely fit on my standing lamp base. Which I also got on freecycle a few months ago. :)
I am so in love with how it has turned out. Trash to treasures all this week..got some really awesome finds! Stay tuned!

1/26/2009

Peanut Sauce

I love, love peanut sauce. When I don't really know what to make for dinner or I'm not really feeling all that motivated I whip a batch of peanut sauce up...anything under it tastes divine.

1 cup peanut butter
1 small can of coconut milk (I always use the low fat version)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
dash of salt
dash of pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Put all items in a sauce pan and over medium heat whisk until it is creamy. It you want a thinner sauce add more milk, it's that simple. As you can see I served mine with green beans and leftover chicken breasts over rice. And if you have kids just skip the cayenne and I'm sure they will be members of the clean plate club tonight.

1/23/2009


We are attending a birthday party for the son and daughter of a very dear friend of mine tomorrow. Her son is also on the autism spectrum and I knew I wanted to make him something that I wish I knew about when Logan was 3. So I made him a picture book. It's another tag book style, can you tell I am in love with these? The point of the book is to help Luke with language and cognitive thinking. When looking at the pictures the idea is to ask him questions like "where does a sea horse live?" Some children will point to the picture and say "there". Instead you want to teach him to answer "in the water/ocean/fish tank" etc. Another way to use the book is to have the child make up stories about the image they see, this is a major challenge for kids on the spectrum. And of course after working with the child he will then remember what the word seahorse looks like and will begin identifying that word in other stories and books...the start of reading for some kids on the spectrum. I took all the photos in the book and printed them on matte photo paper, so finger prints will never show, and adhered it to card stock. It's held together with a binder clip and the ribbon adds a bit of flare. I hope Luke likes his special book and that it helps him and his parents navigate the spectrum.

1/22/2009

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies with hidden veggies!

Because both of my kids are such picky eaters I have become a master at hiding healthy things in other foods. Right before bed both kids claim they are hungry and we were allowing them to have a bar. But when our local store raised the prices of them I realized how much we were spending on the bars. So I went to work and created "Night time cookies", as they are called in our house. And hidden in the cookie dough are veggies!!! And guess what.. they are pretty darn tasty to boot. They also freeze well too.

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups of quinoa flakes
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 potato starch flour
1/4 arrowroot flour
1 cup gluten free chocolate chips
2 cups pureed carrots

Blend the first 5 ingredients together with a hand mixer until creamy. Slowly add the other ingredients, mixing between each added item. Scoop small amounts onto a greased cookie sheet at bake for 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Allow to cool before serving.

ENJOY!

1/21/2009

Scrap Quilt

Before I even begin talking about the quilt I made..first of all...how stinkin' cute is my dog! That face!

So I went through my scrap fabric stash one day and with rotary cutter in hand I literally made a foot high stack of 4 1/2 inch squares. I was tired of looking at this fabric, knew that because I wasn't in love with any of it that it would just sit in that pile until the next yard sale. Keep in mind that I was in love with it at one point, used it for a project and these are the leftovers. Like many folks right now I am trying to be more resourceful. Some of the fabric is from one of my husband's stained button up shirts and the rest I got from a local freecycler giving up her fabric stash. I sewed the entire thing on the machine, even the binding. I didn't have any batting on hand and I thought it was silly to go out and spend money on this project so I headed to the bag of fabric that I recently picked up for free and found this really ugly fabic. I mean UGLY. But it was thick and warm. So I used that in place of the batting and the underside fabic is a thick bottomweight fabric with this super, soft side. All in all what was once scraps I no longer wanted is now a great quilt to curl up next to Dharma on the couch with.

1/19/2009

Savings at the Pet Store

I've decided to switch Dharma's (our dog) food. I'm going to be honest, she's been having an issue at the dog park...she's been eating poop. Yes I know it is totally gross! I've seen it! Anyway I asked the vet and the vet said dogs typically do that because they are lacking something in their diet. I've tried food with lamb and that makes her sick. So when I walked by the Eukanuba Wild Nature bag with a coonhound on the front it grabbed my eye and I began to reach for it. The number 1 ingredient is venison, and it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives . So I bought the small bag which happened to be on sale for $6.99 and slowly we began to ease her onto the new food. But when I first opened the new bag of food there was a coupon right on top for $5 off your next bag, no weight limits specified. Later I checked back at Petsmart and sure enough the small bag of food was still on sale. So I pulled 5 bags down from the shelf and opened 4 of them, pulled out the coupons, if only you could see the look embarrassment on my husband's face. "what I'm buying them all?!?!" I reply to his disdain. But when he saw the amount of money I saved us he was singing a very different tune. $12.05 for 5 bags of food is $2.50 a bag. For premium dog food! So if you know a coupon is in the bag and you are going to buy it anyway, why not use the coupon and save yourself some money. Don't open it though and leave it on the shelf...that's just tacky!

1/16/2009

CocktailMoms featured on The Key Bunch Today!

I am always so excited when another blog wants to feature something I made for my home or a craft item. Today Sharon from The Key Bunch featured the window I made into a scrapbook picture frame. Check out the blog and read the article here. Thanks Sharon!

Spreading the New Year Cheer!

When most people are baking for the holidays, I'm finishing last minute holiday crafting. And after a whirlwind of crafting I never, ever feel like baking during December. But once the world calms down a bit I begin to get the baking itch. I made a banana chocolate chip cake with a cream cheese frosting, I'll be honest I wasn't too pleased with the recipe. I mean it was good but not worth a blog post. Ah well. I'm sure there will be other baking itches in my future. One of the benefits of being a SAHM is that I was able to deliver them to my friends' doorsteps where they were greeted with a tasty surprise after a long day of work.

1/15/2009

Making a Cracker Spread out of Leftovers

There always comes a point when we will have all of these small amounts of leftovers, nothing that constitutes a meal. So I tried something new and combined what we had left over from a turkey and a small sweet potato with a small amount of feta cheese and processed it all in the food processor. A nice ball formed and was wonderful with pita chips for lunch. If you have a kid who loves dip this would be a great way to hide foods they normally won't eat. Just by adding plain yogurt slowly to the dip while in the food processor you can find the right consistency for your child. Protein, carbs and dairy and served with carrots (veggies) to dip...a nice well balanced meal that doesn't take much work.

1/14/2009

A fresh start in the pantry

Many people clean and organize their homes around this time of year. Something about the new year and fresh beginnings gets people moving and cleaning and trying to make this year more productive than the madness of last year. I love and I am totally serious when I say this...I love to organize things. Nothing makes me happier than going up in the attic and organizing the space. It's a sickness, I know. My husband barely tolerates it and my kids well as you can see from the picture... the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Mark Bittman recently wrote a great article in the NY times about getting a fresh start in your pantry. He gives wonderful suggestions on what you should have in stock and what you should just get rid of. I will admit I have the bouillon cubes in my pantry! But I am willing to try his suggestion, "Simmer a carrot, a celery stalk and half an onion in a couple of cups of water for 10 minutes and you’re better off." Ok Mark if you say so, you are The Minimalist after all. Give the article a read here, it's totally worth it.

1/13/2009

Hand Appliqued Flower Quilt



I'm new to the whole quilting scene, a total beginner teaching myself. I am very happy with how this quilt turned out, it's not perfect but it's a good job for quilt number 2. I recently gave it to my niece for her birthday but Zane had to make sure it was cozy enough first. The flowers are appliqued by hand but the rest of the quilt was done on the sewing machine. I think I've officially been bitten by the quilting bug!

1/12/2009

Just cast on...

After the madness of making all my Christmas gifts I like to pull out the knitting needles, grab some yarn and cast on. Never following a pattern, just allowing the yarn to flow through my fingers freely. Sometimes I make a scarf, other times a blanket. Simple and thoughtless is what I want. My mother in law always sends me her leftover yarn from knitting blankets. Like me she wants something simple and thoughtless to do with her hands after a long day of work, she is a therapist. From her leftovers (1 full skein and a random ball) I made this wrap for myself.
And Zane only 3 years old took the picture for me.

1/09/2009

National Aquairum in Washington DC

On one of our outings over winter break we headed to the never talked about National Aquarium in Washington DC. And now I know why, it's really not that great. It's a hell of a lot more affordable than the National Aquarium in Baltimore but doesn't have nearly as many exhibits. Think dark basement with lit fish tanks. The biggest thing that they have are 4 foot alligators. My main complaint is the height of the tanks. My hubby and I were constantly lifting the kids up (ages 3 and 5) for them to see what was inside. And what was that fish called? Who knows! Because most of the tanks were missing name plates and descriptions. $20 bucks for our family of 4 for only 30 minutes of viewing is quite an expensive outing in my opinion. So if you happen to find yourself a tourist in DC and looking for something to do with the kids, only hit the aquarium if it's pouring down raining and you have absolutely nothing else to do.

1/08/2009

TICKETplace by Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington

This recently came on my radar so I had to share it with the local greater Washington DC folks who read the blog. TICKETplace reminds me of the TKTS Discount Booths in NYC...basically every day they post online half-price tickets to the theatre, dance, music, opera for "day of" only. Advance sales only take place at the actual booth on 7th Street NW. Great opportunity to catch a deal and support the local arts scene.

1/07/2009

Fabric Balls

One of the last minute Christmas crafts that I made for Zane were these fabric balls. I've banned ball throwing in our house after a soccer ball went whizzing by my head and upturned a coffee cup. But on cold, rainy weather days my kids, especially, need to run around and be active. So I grabbed my fabric scrap stash and went to work. I didn't follow a pattern I just made it up as I went along. Some balls have 6 pieces of fabric, some have 8. I stuffed them with fiberfil and some I added a bell. I found this yellow basket in the attic (it's amazing what you find up there!) that fits all the balls perfectly. My kids will be ready for the next carnival as we try and master throwing the balls in the basket, also dodge ball is a lot safer too.

1/06/2009

Dip Night for Dinner: Sweet Pea and Curry Dip

Around twice a month we have dip night for dinner. It's a fast way to get dinner on the table on those nights when I don't even have time to boil noodles. Typically I get the dips ready earlier in the day so I can pull them out of the fridge and be ready to serve. We serve our dip with fresh bread, slices of cheese, hard boiled eggs and veggies. And we always have dip leftover that we then use later in the week as sandwich spreads. YUM! Here is the recipe for the green dip in the middle.

Sweet Pea and Curry Dip
3 cups frozen peas thawed or one can of peas drained
1 garlic clove chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon curry powder.
Place everything in the food processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil until smooth.

1/05/2009

Cafe Au Lait Coffee Mix

This is a really easy, fast gift. It makes a great hostess gift, a gift to give a co-worker, neighbors etc. I made this jar for Logan's principle for Christmas. A little bribery never hurts. I think I'll be using this idea a lot in the coming year. Keep in mind if you buy all of the ingredients at Costco you could make enough for everyone on your gift list or office for dirt cheap!

Cafe Au Lait Coffee Mix
1 1/2 cup nondairy creamer
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup instant coffee
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor; blend until powder consistency. Put mixture into an attractive glass jar with a lid. Include a gift card with the following instructions:

To make Cafe Au Lait Coffee, mix 1/3 cup mix with 2/3 cup boiling water for individual servings
.

1/03/2009

Handmade Toys Illegal : CPSIA

Save Handmade Toys I'm nervous about the CPSIA passing because for me it will mean switching gears on the items I sell on my website, AuntArt.com . I won't shut down but I wouldn't be able to offer toys and many children's items any longer, items that have been the backbone of my business. Think for a moment about how many crafts people will be closing, and also the small boutique stores that carry my products will close because the artists won't be able to afford the 3rd party lead testing. I'm a parent and I agree that we need to protect our children but there is a difference between the man in VT who makes wooden toys out of his garage and sells them on etsy.com and the factory in china who is producing plastic toys with high levels of lead. The CPSIA does not just affect toys--it regulates all products for children under 12. Clothing, school supplies, cloth diapers, car seats, boy scout patches, bicycles, sippy cups--everything.

Here is the deal... (copied from Charm City Craft Mafia)
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which will go into effect on February 10th, 2009, puts forth much more stringent safety measures for products intended for children under the age of 12. Under the very important auspices of child safety, the Act may have grave unintended consequences: fewer choices for families who are looking for handcrafted alternatives. Many of your favorite local artists and craftspeople have expressed fears that they won’t be able stay in business due to the burdensome cost of testing and certification pursuant to the proposed legislation. The Handmade Toy Alliance is urging Congress to rewrite the CPSIA so that toys made in batches of less than 5,000 units per year or manufactured within the USA and trusted countries with established toy safety regimes such as Canada and the European Union be held exempt from third party testing requirements. Such toys could still be subject to random auditing by the CPSC but they are also asking that if testing should still be required, the CPSC should be made to offer free testing services for USA toymakers and importers from Europe or Canada with revenues less than one million dollars.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.

If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.

Visit the Handmade Toy Alliance to learn more about the issues and how you can help by just sending a letter to your Representative or Senator. The Storque also has drafted an open letter regarding the CPSIA. As a venue for handcrafted and vintage items from small entrepreneurs, Etsy has invited the Ombudsman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to join the community in a webchat in their Virtual Lab.

1/02/2009

Foam Food Game


I recently read a blog post from Kate on her blog, Gardening Without Skills.
She created this fun game to teach her children about the things that grow in the garden and healthy food choices. Wonderful idea! I just had to make one for my boys. I saved it for a Christmas gift. I took the idea a bit further and made cards, so that it is more of a game and hopefully will keep their interest a bit longer. Kate has some wonderful directions on how to make the foam pieces and magnet wand. The cards are made out of card stock. I put a letter, shape or color so that the boys will have to take turns finding the food that starts with a "C" or is orange etc. I've stored all the foam food pieces and cards in a recycled, plastic peanut butter jar. And the best part is I attached a ribbon on the lid to the jar so that the lid will never get lost! I can't take credit for that idea. I picked it up from Plum Pudding blog.

1/01/2009

Quiet Waters Park- Happy New Year!

For the first time in 8 years we enjoyed Christmas and New Years in our home this year. I'm totally sold on the no-traveling during the holidays thing. Jon (my hubby) and I have been enjoying the time he has had off of work and trying to discover new places in and around Washington DC, where we live. This picture was taken at Quiet Waters Park. We heard great things about this place from fellow dog owners, they do have a really awesome fenced in dog park area. And a beach where only dogs are allowed to swim. The boys enjoyed building sandcastles and watching the few brave dogs swimming in the water, Dharma wanted absolutely nothing to do with the water. There is also a playground that is great for kids of many ages, even the new wee walkers. And 6 miles of paved trails so it's perfect for strollers or wheelchairs. All in all a fantastic way to spend the day with the whole family, even the furry four legged ones. Happy New Year!!

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