Fun Sensory Bag Ideas | Cute Beltz

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Sensory Bags are a great way for kids to expand their sense of touch, creativity, and adventure.  Giving your child the chance to play with different types of textures and objects helps them to build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp-pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves) or slippery with bubbles or cold and translucent when frozen or clear and still.  Squishy bags allow small children to experience the fun of “squishing” gel in their hands as well as exploring small objects and other items with their sense of touch.

Supplies

  • Bottle of clear hair gel
  • food coloring
  • Ziploc bag (quart size freezer bag works well)
  • beads
  • buttons
  • sequins

(You can easily switch up the trinkets that you put in the bag to keep sensory play interesting.)

Directions

1. Put all the hair gel into the bag.

2. Add one or two drops of food coloring.

3. Next, add the beads, sequins, buttons and other objects. Close the top of the Ziploc bag and make sure there is no air in the bag.

4. Finally, seal with a strip of duct tape across the top to prevent leaks and make it more secure for little fingers.

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How do you get your kids involved in sensory play?  – Cute Beltz

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5 Healthy Snacks For Kids | Cute Beltz

Serving healthy snacks to our kids is important not only for growth and development but also to support and encourage lifelong healthy eating habits.  Get your kids on board with healthy eating through these creative healthy snack choices your kids will love!

Peanut Butter

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This versatile childhood favorite has plenty of protein and fiber. For a change, try making silly PB&J sandwiches with toasted mini waffles or rice cakes instead of bread, or try it with yogurt and raspberries in a yummy frozen treat that’s super fun to eat.

Whole Grain Cereal

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With vitamins, calcium, and fiber, a bowl of enriched whole grain cereal with milk and fruit is a power-packed snack or healthy start to the day. For a fun and flavorful twist, try our cute clusters with yogurt-covered cereal and dried strawberries

Mini Waffle Cones

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Toast a frozen whole grain waffle and fill the waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with low-fat vanilla yogurt.

Cheese and Fruit Kabobs

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Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.  To add more variety add melon balls, berries, pineapple chunks, and cubed peaches for different creation every time.

Hummus

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Made from pureed chickpeas, hummus is an excellent dip for kids. It has an appealing nutty flavor, is thick enough not to be messy, and contains folate, vitamin B6, and iron. Serve hummus with cut-up vegetables or salt-free crackers for dipping, or use it to make a pita bread sandwich.

Smoothies

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Kids go crazy over these delicious sippable treats, and they’re packed with nutrients. Use nonfat vanilla yogurt, 100 percent orange juice, and a banana as the smoothie’s base, then experiment with a combination of cut-up fresh or frozen fruit. It’s a great way to sneak two or three servings of fruit and fiber into your child’s diet.

 What healthy snacks do you like serving your kids?   –Cute Beltz

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Delicious Mother’s Day Brunch Recipes

With Mother’s Day around the corner, it’s time to celebrate all the wonderful things moms do. A perfect gift is to give mom a break from cooking.  Treat Mom to a delicious brunch this Mother’s Day with some of our favorite recipes.

Whole-Grain Waffles with Cherry Sauce

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There’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by making your mom a delicious, healthy brunch. Take advantage of spring fruits and vegetables for a delicious Mother’s Day menu. Enjoy our Whole-Grain Waffles with Cherry Sauce for a sweet breakfast or our Chard & Feta Tart, a satisfying savory dish your mom will love.

Ingredients

Cherry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted cherries (10-ounce package)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Waffles

  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups low-fat or nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

1. To prepare cherry sauce: Combine cherries, water, honey, cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Set aside.

2. To prepare waffles: Preheat oven to 200°F; place a large baking sheet on the center rack.

3. Whisk whole-wheat flour (see Measuring Tip), cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Lightly beat eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

4. Preheat a Belgian-style waffle iron. Lightly coat it with cooking spray. Add enough batter to cover about two-thirds of the surface (about 2/3 cup); distribute evenly with a spatula. Close and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the waffles to the baking sheet to keep warm until ready to serve; do not stack. Repeat with the remaining batter, using more cooking spray as needed. Warm the cherry sauce over medium heat until hot and bubbling; serve with the waffles.

Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad

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Packed with protein and fiber, this tuna and bean salad is ready in a flash. For an extra kick, add a pinch of crushed red pepper or cayenne.

Ingredients

  • 1 15- to 19-ounce can beans, such as chickpeas, black-eyed peas or kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2  5- to 6-ounce cans water-packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked (see Note)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, divided
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens

Preparation

1. Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl.  Season with pepper and combine the remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil and salt in a large bowl. Add salad greens; toss to coat. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.

Savory Ricotta Pancakes with Tomato-Chard Sauce

Pancakes transcend breakfast when they’re made with savory ricotta cheese and topped with an Italian tomato and Swiss chard sauce.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of (8-ounce) Swiss chard, tough ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with press
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 can of (28-ounce) whole tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup of reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of margarine or butter, cut into three pieces
  • 1/4 cup of freshly shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation

1. Cut ribs and stems from Swiss chard leaves. Cut ribs and stems into 1-inch pieces; cut leaves into 2-inch pieces. Rinse Swiss chard thoroughly in large bowl of cold water; swish to remove any dirt. With hands, transfer chard to colander, leaving dirt in bottom of bowl. Repeat process, changing water, until all the dirt is removed.

2. Prepare Tomato-Chard Sauce: In 4-quart saucepan, heat olive oil on medium until hot. Add onion and garlic, and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring. Add tomatoes with their puree and 1/4 teaspoon salt; heat to boiling on medium-high. Stir in Swiss chard; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Remove cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes longer or until chard is tender and sauce is thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat; cover to keep sauce warm.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Prepare Savory Ricotta Pancakes: In blender or food processor with knife blade attached, blend egg yolks, ricotta, and milk until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and blend until smooth; transfer batter to 8-cup glass measure or medium bowl.

4. In small bowl, with mixer on high speed, beat egg whites just until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted. With rubber spatula, fold beaten whites into batter.

5. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1 piece of margarine on medium. Drop batter by 1/4 cups into skillet, making 4 to 5 pancakes at a time. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until the edges are dry and bottoms are browned. Turn pancakes over and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bottoms are browned. Transfer pancakes to platter; keep warm in oven.

6. Repeat with remaining margarine and batter to make about 16 pancakes in all. Serve pancakes with warm Tomato-Chard Sauce; sprinkle with shredded Romano.

Sunrise Bellini

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This slightly tart fruity Bellini recipe will zing you awake. It’s the prettiest color imaginable and it makes a brunch instantly fun! You can serve the Bellinis in champagne flutes or in simple Mason jars—be creative!

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe papaya, peeled, halved and seeded
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 12 fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 2 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (1/4 inch)
  • 2 cups fresh tangerine juice (from 6-7 tangerines) or orange-tangerine juice
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Honey to taste (optional)
  • 2 bottles (750-mL) Champagne or sparkling wine

Preparation

1. Puree papaya, pineapple, raspberries, lime zest, mint and ginger in a blender until completely smooth. Add juice and ice and blend until the ice is crushed. If the mixture is too tart for your taste, add 1 tablespoon honey at a time, blending after each addition, until it’s as sweet as you like. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

2. To serve, stir the Bellini mixture and divide among 8 glasses. Very slowly top each drink with wine. Gently stir, if necessary. (You’ll have about two-thirds of a bottle remaining; top off drinks as desired.)

 

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Traveling With Kids Simplified

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Whether you’re taking your first big trip with a newborn or you’re a seasoned traveler with a disaffected teen, these tips and tools can help make family vacations more fun and way less stressful for everyone. Check out how you can make traveling with kids a breeze!

Packing

Depending on the age of the kids, have each child bring a small backpack filled with their toys and goodies for the flight.  When possible, load their bags with some of the other things that you need, such as bottles, diapers and wipes. Even very young kids can carry a small backpack filled with their own diapers. This saves you space in your bag and makes the child feel like a “big” boy or girl.

To avoid lugging a heavy stroller, buy a lightweight or “umbrella” stroller for your trip. They are generally inexpensive (under $50) and easy to roll down the ramp and gate check.  If you bring a cumbersome stroller, the airline might have you check it as luggage. You also run the risk of an expensive stroller getting damaged in transit. Whichever you bring, wait to check it at the gate, right before boarding. It will be waiting for you when you land and you’ll be able to wheel junior to the baggage claim.

With a baby under age 2, bring an FAA approved car seat onto the plane with you. If there is an extra seat you will be given the extra seat for the baby. If not, then they will take it from you and put it underneath. This is a great option if you need a car seat where you are going. If not, it is probably not worth it.

Booking and Checking In

When selecting a flight, try to book nonstop flights during off-peak hours, either early or late, when kids are likely to sleep through more of the trip.

Check in for your flight online as early as possible (24 hours before).  If you are traveling with an infant consider asking for a seat in the back of the plane. If there are any empty seats left on the flight, chances are they will be there, and you might have extra room to stretch out. In addition, you are closer to the bathrooms, will have extra standing space and will have flight attendants close at hand, if you need them. Bulkhead seats have a little extra leg room, and remember that you’ll need to avoid exit-row seats with kids.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

How early you need to arrive depends upon a variety of factors, including your airline, airport, plans for parking, flight time and whether or not you are checking baggage. If you’re traveling during school vacations, chances are good the airport will be crowded with other families doing the same. We recommend arriving at least ninety minutes ahead of your scheduled departure. Keep in mind that some destinations (such as international flights and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have earlier check-in times than others and if you miss the plane, it can be very difficult for you to find enough seats or seats together on a later flight.  Because of the new security regulations, make sure you and the children are in shoes that are easy to get on and off. Before taking off the children’s shoes, double check with security if it is necessary, since depending on the type of shoe, often it is not

Keep Kids Entertained

Try to pack a few surprises for the kids in your carry-on. Go to a discount store, and pick up a couple of small inexpensive items like stickers, small toys or action figures for younger kids and music, books or handheld games for older kids.   Pack toys that do not have pieces and do not require numerous things to work. Better even than a coloring book and crayons is a doodle pad with the coloring stick attached that can erase and start over.

During takeoff and landing, make sure to have kids drink or chew gum. Make sure the baby is either nursing or drinking a bottle. Explain to them what is happening, and if they are too small to see out the window, play a game where they have to tell you when you are finally in the air or when you have finally touched ground.

Have fun! –Cute Beltz

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5 Easy and Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas

It’s the thought behind the gift that counts, but when that gift arrives in a beautifully hand wrapped package it’s a bit more special. Receiving a fabulously wrapped gift doesn’t just build up anticipation for the gift inside, it adds to the gift as a whole.  You can do something simple, like wrapping your gift in kraft paper and decorating it with washi tape, or get your hands dirty and make some yarn pom-poms. However you decide to decorate your gift, you can always find something lying around the house to use.  If you’re looking for some easy and creative gift wrapping ideas for your next birthday party or holiday, take a look at our roundup of DIY gift wrap ideas.

Have Spare Tissue?

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Do you ever find yourself with packs of tissue paper but not gift bags? Here’s a way to use all of that spare tissue paper in a fun, creative, DIY way.  Try layering different colors of tissue paper for a simple yet eye-catching look.

Boxed Treasures

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For an assortment of smaller gifts, keep them all together in a wooden box like this one.  These cases are usually only a few dollars from a craft store. Fill it up with filler grass and organize the individual gifts for a completely aesthetic presentation.

Make It a Piece of Art

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If you’re ithe creative type, share something special by designing original art and showcasing it on top of the wrapped gift like this one. It’ll be a present to remember, and hopefully the person receiving the gift will want to keep it as a way to remember that special day.

Rolls of Fun

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For odd-shaped or tubular presents, try the Tootsie Roll twist. Depending on the fabric you choose, you can make this gift fit any occasion and stand out, too. Then, with two short strings, you can tie simple bows around the ends and voila!

Thinking Outside the Box (or Bag)

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You can find many interesting alternatives to the traditional wrapped gift or gift tote at any  container Store – just use your creativity! Look for a container that goes with the theme of your gift, add a ribbon and bow, and presto! You’ve created a one of a kind gift presentation, and a gift within a gift!

Do you have a gift wrapping idea? Share it with us! – Cute Beltz

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