Thursday, February 28, 2013 Etsy shop!

I have a little announcement!  I opened an etsy shop yesterday. :)  I'm excited and a little nervous to share my crocheting hobby with the rest of the world.  Or probably just a few people, lol.

I started crocheting not very long ago but it was something I took to right away.  I love crocheting cute little baby things most of all but since I don't have any cute little babies around here anymore (just cute, big, toddlers) I thought it might be fun to keep on making those cute little baby things and maybe try to sell a few of them too.

Since I'm just getting started there isn't a ton of stock in my store yet but I do have a few very cute Easter/Bunny items and I'm going to start working on some Spring hats.  I'd love for you to stop by and see what I've got!  If you are interested, have something you've been thinking about that I don't have listed...send me a message, I'm totally up for custom orders too!

So there you have it!  A new adventure.  Check me out at All4Pears on  

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Growing a Reader

Are you a reader?  I am.  Always have been.  I love books and I will finish almost any book I start, even if it is awful.  My favorite books to read are in series, I love getting wrapped up in the characters and following them in book after book.  I love science fiction and fantasy, but I'm will to try just about anything.

I used to own tons of books, at first I couldn't imagine giving up books to read on an e reader but it didn't take long for me to get the first generation Kindle and it has been true love ever since.

books in the living room

I read fast.  I can swallow a large book in just a few days but it does mean that I will zone out on the rest of the world and my other responsibilities.  Sometimes I have to make myself take a hiatus.  I vow not to start a new book until X gets done.  If not, I know I will get sucked in to that new book.

One thing about having only boys that makes me sort of sad is that I (probably) won't be able to share some of my girly favorite books with my children.  Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess?  I love those books.

I am looking forward, though, to the many many MANY books I can and will share with them though.  Right now we have Dr. Suess and Little Critter and Corduroy.  Soon there will be Bernstein Bears and Bread and Jam for Francis and Caps for Sale.  So much to look forward to!

books in the playroom

One of little Alex's favorites right now is The Napping House.  Such a sweet book that I remember loving the illustrations even as a very small child.  And there are those that are new to me too, like Aaron's current favorite The Little Blue Truck.

I love books and my little guys seem to love them too already.  But I like to keep working on fostering that love.

books in the kids' bedroom

The last time I went to the library I picked up a folder about the library's 1,000 books before Kindergarten.    The program invites parents to keep track of all the books they read with/to their children.

When you reach the first one hundred, you bring in the tracking sheet and your child gets a prize.  I don't know about your toddlers but my kids will be super excited to head to the library for their prize. After reading 500 books, your child gets a canvas book bag and after 1,000 they will receive a book.  Such a great and fun incentive program!

The program folder also included a list of 100 books you child should hear before Kindergarten but in lieu of typing it all our for you....Here's a great list of the Top 100 Children's Books that I found.  Happy Reading!

This post is linked to:
multiples monday with capri +3


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Paneer/Saag Paneer

Have you seen the March issue of Food Network Magazine?  It's all about cheese....I looove cheese.  I also looove Indian food.  When I eat Indian food I almost never eat meat.  There are so many amazing veggie and lentil dishes that I just don't think meat adds anything.  And along with those veggies and lentils you also have paneer (cheese!). Homemade fresh Indian cheese.

I've made paneer in the past using my favorite recipe for ricotta cheese.  Because that is basically what paneer is. A cheese very similar to ricotta but pressed to cut down on the moisture and cut into cubes.  I've always been happy with making paneer this way but decided I would give the recipe in Food Network Magazine a try anyway.

The only real difference between this recipe for paneer and the ricotta recipe is that the paneer recipe calls for greek yogurt instead of cream.  I'm glad I tried this version because this cheese really did firm up better than my pressed ricotta.  I'll be using this recipe for paneer going forward but I'm sticking to the ricotta recipe for, well, ricotta. :)

Don't be intimidated by the idea of making cheese, this recipe is easy!  Just boil, drain, press.  That's it! The only "special equipment" you need is cheesecloth, so grab some and let's go!  (oh God, did that sound like Jake and the Neverland Pirates to you?  No?  the toddler tv is obviously getting to me...ok, moving on)

Paneer, adapted very slightly from the recipe in Food Network Magazine, March 2013
6 cups whole milk
1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice (you can also use white vinegar)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
vegetable oil (for frying)

To make the cheese, first line a colander with a double layer of cheese cloth.  The cloth should hang over the sides of the colander so you have enough to wrap around the cheese and squeeze out the whey.

Now put your milk into a large non-reactive pot and bring it to a simmer on medium.  Stir it occasionally to make sure the milk doesn't scorch on the bottom.  Once the pot comes to a good simmer, turn the heat off and stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, and salt. Continue stirring for a minute or two until large curds form in the milk.  Once this happens, pour the contents of the pot over your cheesecloth in the colander.  Gather the ends of the cloth and twist them together to form a tight bundle and squeeze out the excess whey.  Leave it to drain for 10 minutes or so.

Once the 10 minutes is up give the bundle a few more squeezes to try and get out as much moisture as you can. Next put the cheese into a small rectangular (or square) container and using plastic wrap press it down flat into the container.  Leave the plastic wrap laying directly on the surface of the cheese then cover the container with a lid and put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to cook with it, loosen the edges of the cheese in the container with a knife and it should just fall right out.

Cut the cheese into cubes.  Now, heat a large frying pan with about a half inch of vegetable oil on medium-high.  Coat your cheese cubes in the flour and then put them into the hot oil.  Fry them for about 4-5 minutes, turning them to give each side a nice golden color.

Stir the fried paneer into any favorite Indian sauce or dish.  Aarti's Saag Paneer and Tikka Masala are both good choices.  We did the Saag Paneer this time and it was fantastic.  Enjoy!

This post is linked to:

Daisy Cottage Designs

Friday, February 15, 2013

Play School: Valentine's Day

Whew!  We have been covered in hearts around here all week and it has been a lot of fun.  I've never been a big Valentine's Day kind of girl;  I think the holiday is sort of cheesy but I know I am really lucky to have a husband who makes me feel loved all year long.  (awwww.)

But Valentine's with kids!  Super fun.  The boys, surprisingly, really got into it.  Especially yesterday.  I started Play School on Monday and spread the activities out all week due to one of my little guys having a yucky stomach bug.  We did one or two things a day and the boys really enjoyed everything.  Yesterday morning I woke them up and told them it was Valentine's Day and they both said "Yay!"  Very cute.  They loved getting their cards and they loved the little "Cars" stamp and sticker set we got them (from the dollar store!)  Grammy and Grandpa hooked them each up with a heart filled with M&M's so they weren't completely deprived of candy either.

But on to our Play School activities....

Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse by Laura Numeroff
Happy Valentine's Day, Little Critter by Mercer Mayer
Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McGratney

This was our first "Little Critter" book; I loved them as a kid myself so I am looking to reading many more of them with my boys!


Heart Hunt- I originally saw the idea here....but we did our heart hunt a little differently.  While the kiddos were napping I cut out 10 hearts from construction paper, labeled them one through ten, and then taped them around the play room.  When they woke up I explained we were going looking for hearts and they were off and running! We used this game to work on number recognition and counting.  The boys are starting to recognize and identify some numbers but they aren't counting yet of course.  They loved searching out the hearts!

H is for Heart- we decorated large letter H's with hearts to put in our alphabet books

Pink Heart Sugar Cookies- The boys love cooking with Mommy so they were happy to help me make some sugar cookie dough; they were so excited when I dyed it pink!

Heart Stamping with toilet paper rolls- For this little art project I just saved two empty toilet paper rolls and creased one end of each to look like a heart.  I gave each boy a "stamp", a paper plate with pink and red paint, and a large piece of paper and let them go to town!

As I sit here and type this it just occurred to me that this is really the first time I have done a paint project with the boys without laying down a sheet or newspaper or something.  They are really doing a great job now of keeping (most) of their paint to just the paper. :)

Valentine's Day Cards- I set out some materials on Wednesday for the boys to make cards for their Grammy and Grandpa (that live with us) and Daddy.  I wish I had though to do this sooner so we could have sent cards to our other Grandparents but it didn't occur to me in time.

Valentine's Sensory Box- So I finally sprung for some rice to do sensory boxes with.  My boys have always loved any kind of sensory box and I knew rice would be a great base but just never bought any.  So this past weekend I went out and bought two 25lb bags of rice....whaat???  Yeah.  A little overkill.  Turns out I didn't even really need one 25lb bag to fill up our large tub for the boys to share.  People out there looking to create a large sensory tub with rice?  15lbs should be plenty.

Anyway....  I added some foam heart stickers and some other heart stuff from the dollar store, some plastic measuring scoops and bowls.  The boys loved their box and played for almost an hour!

See what I mean?  Lot's of hearts and lots of fun.  Happy (belated) Valentine's Day from me and my little lovies to you and yours.

This post is linked to:
Artsy Play Wednesday with Capri +3

Monday, February 11, 2013

Peanut Butter and Banana Granola Bars

One of my goals is to start making more pantry items.  We already make our own peanut butter and jelly (when the fruit is in season), we only eat oatmeal from real oats, no boxed mashed potatoes (gross)....a lot of things. But I know we can do better and granola bars are one item we always buy.

I've been thinking about making my own granola bars for sometime now but just finally found a recipe that looked like something we'd really like.  I'm glad I tried this one because it was definitely a success.  It is amazing to hit a home run on the first shot but I really think these are great. They are delicious and even sort of sweet without any added sugar.  They were also really easy to make and they didn't stick to the pan or anything, yay! And I really love that I made them with all organic ingredients.  All real whole ingredients!  It is so nice knowing just exactly what is going in to my food.

Peanut Butter and Banana Granola Bars, recipe from My Kitchen Affair  (check out the blog for some really great pictures of these granola bars. As usual, my camera "skills" don't do them justice)

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 bananas, sliced
2 oz dates, roughly chopped
2 oz raisins, roughly chopped
2 oz dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, etc...)
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.  Spray top of paper too.

Put the bananas in a small saucepan and gently mash them.  Add the peanut butter and turn the pan on to medium low and heat until melted and combined.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl then spread it evenly into the prepared pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Let these cool completely until slicing into 9 bars.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crocheted Mickey Mouse Hats

So were are full on Disney people all of a sudden here at 4 Pears.   The boys are in to Disney Jr (Handy Manny and Jake) and I've seen the movie Cars more times than I can to think about.

We made the decision to get annual passes to Disneyland last month.  (Under 3 are free, woo hoo!) The boys are over 38 inches tall so they are able to ride all of the kiddie rides and there is just so much for them to do!  At their age (28 months), we sometimes find it hard to find age appropriate ways to entertain them.  Everything seems so geared towards bigger kids so we were so happy to find that Disneyland really is great for toddlers.  We are planning to take them once a month for a day and a half each time, last month we had a blast.  The kids did really well waiting in lines and were so excited to see their favorite characters and ride all the rides.  They loved the rides so much, the faster and higher up the better.  Adventurous little guys already.

The weather in Anaheim is beautiful during the day but as soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops fast. Which is why, when I say a Minnie Mouse crocheted hat on Pinterest, I knew what I was going to be doing this past weekend in anticipation of our next trip, which is tomorrow...or today rather, lol)

Most of these cutesy hat patterns are written for newborn girls so I just sort of whipped up my own Mickey version based on the size of the boys' monster hats.  I sewed on some ears and added some earflaps to keep their (real) ears warm. :)

The final product

on my handsome model Alex

I literally just finished Aaron's hat so no picture of him yet.  Hopefully he enjoys his warm new Mickey Ears as much as his brother.  :)

This post is linked to:

Daisy Cottage Designs

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Bowl!

Have I ever mentioned that I'm originally a Baltimore girl?  :)  And a Ravens fan too, of course.  In all honesty, I don't watch a whole lot of football but I am happy my hometown team made it to the big game.  And I am looking forward to eating some yummy "football" food.

I plan on making a big pot of chili Sunday morning so everyone can feel free to eat whenever they want to.  (And when I say everyone I just mean the six of us, no football party this year).  I'm also planning on making some guacamole and having plenty of chips and salsa on hand as well.  But what I'm looking foward to most, (besides these brownies) is trying out this new recipe for jalapeno popper wontons.

I'm going to adapt this original recipe to use fresh ingredients and definitely add a few things, but I'm really looking foward to trying them out.  I'll repost if they are any good!

For now though, I'll leave you with a repost of the recipe I usually use for homemade jalapeno poppers. These things are the real deal and just perfect for your Super Bowl Party munching needs.  Go Ravens! :)

originally posted September 8, 2011

I probably haven't had a jalapeno popper in years.  You may not have noticed but we (mostly Alex) have a vendetta against prepared foods here in the 4 Pears household.  So when my husband suggested we have jalapeno poppers with our pizza the other night, I was pretty sure he didn't mean the kind that came out of the box in the freezer section.

Who makes homemade jalapeno poppers?  This girl.  They were awesome and actually quite easy.  The peppers had a bit of a crunch and the creamy filling was delicious.  I may have thought he was crazy, but they came out great and we'll definitely be making them again soon.

Jalapeno Poppers, adapted from Emeril Lagasse
8 large fresh jalapeno peppers
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pepper jack (or another spicy) cheese
1/4 teaspoon of Essence (Emeril's spice blend, you can buy it in the grocery store or make it yourself)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus 3 tablespoons, divided
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (the panko makes these crispy so I wouldn't recommend substituting the regular stuff)

First prepare the filling by mixing the cheeses together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Next work on cleaning the peppers.  You might want to wear some rubber gloves for this!  If not your hands will be covered in the spicy oils from the peppers and it is hard to get off!!  With a paring knife make a T in each pepper cutting under the stem (but not cutting it off) and then down the length of the pepper.  This creates a nice pocket.

Remove as much of the seeds and ribs as you would like.  I removed most of the seeds and ribs and my pepper were still pretty spicy.  Now stuff the filling into the pocket and squeeze to close them back up.

Heat a deep fryer or pot of vegetable oil to 370 F.  If you are using a pot you'll need to fill it about 1/3 of the way.

While it is heating make up your batter and breading.  First mix 1/2 cup of flour with the milk and the egg.  Then on a plate combine the 3 tablespoons of flour, the panko and the Essence.

Dip each of the peppers into the batter then carefully coat them with the breading.  Once the oil is ready slide them in (in two batches so you don't crowd them) and fry for 2 minutes.  Remove them from the oil to a plate lined with paper towels and salt them.  Dig in!