How to Make Homemade Refried Beans

A few months ago I was invited to Mexican-native, Marta’s home, early one morning where she spent all day teaching a few friends and me how to make traditional Mexican dishes such as chicken and pork tamales, and refried beans. She spoke only a few words of English, and I speak even less Spanish, however–food has a way of bridging cultural gaps and our communication never lacked.

Later that night we had a Mexican Fiesta at our church. The food was impressive and tasted AMAZING, the entertainment kept us laughing all night, and the hand-made piñatas were a smashing success ;).

Before Marta taught me how to make refried beans, canned beans were always a cheap staple in my pantry. But now that I know how EASY (and inexpensive) making refried beans can be, I’ve been making my own.

If you come visit me at Once a Month Mom today, I’m sharing my healthified recipe, and freezer tips! YES, these beans freeze well! And a bag of dried beans (which costs about the same as a can of refried beans!) makes a huge batch, so you can freeze them in portions. It’s super handy to be able to grab the beans out of the freezer and just reheat a portion for a quick side dish, burrito filling, nacho dip, etc. In fact, yesterday I got together with a couple of friends for a big freezer cooking day and one of the meals our menu was freezer burritos stuffed with homemade refried beans, taco meat, and cheese. They are individually wrapped so I can easily grab one (or more) out of the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Love having “convenience” foods on hand!

See you at Once a Month Mom!

How to Build a Children’s Book Collection {tip one}

How to Build a Children’s Book Collection: Tip One

(Alternatively titled: Avoiding the Grocery Store Variety)

When I was studying to become an elementary teacher my favorite college professor taught how to spot quality children’s lit and encouraged us to avoid the “grocery store garbage.” “Grocery store garbage,” she defined, are those books (usually containing popular cartoon characters) you can buy at the grocery store checkout.

Now I can’t say I 100% keep to this advice, especially since I have kids who love cartoons as much as anyone, however–I do strictly limit them.

Why avoid these books? I mean, a book is a book, right?

Unfortunately, not all children’s books are created equally, and I can honestly say from observing my own kids and their reading habits, after one reading–those cartoon characters typically end with the dust under the bed, while the books with strong literary elements (characters, plot), fun illustrations, or humor are the tattered, re-read books I find tucked in their beds at night.

While I don’t think there’s any harm in humoring the love of Dora or Thomas the Tank Engine a bit, overall, my tip {number one} in building a children’s book collection, is to stick to good stories rather than grocery store checkout selections.

Building the Book collection

My favorite class in college was Children’s Literature. I grew up loving to read, but taking that class sealed the deal for me and even before our kids were born I’d collected a huge stash of children’s books. When we had a few extra dollars, Jared (my studdly English major) and I used to take breaks from our homework to go to the local thrift store and browse the books. He often came away with 2-3 classic novels, and I came away with a stack of picture books.

My enthusiasm must have rubbed off as the book section is the first place my kids want to search when we go thrifting. We’ve built quite a collection!

Tomorrow I’ll share some tips and suggestions on what to add when building a children’s book collection, but for now, an Etsy print I’m LOVING.

Have a great Tuesday!

Permission to Draw on the Wall

Since my little artists seem to think the wall is the best canvas anyway, and since I’m about to lose my mind with these flat painted walls that drawings do not come off of . . .

I went a bit bold and repainted this weekend.

I sometimes struggle with the balance between fostering my kids’ creativity and setting limits, and so I hesitated for a minute, wondering if chalkboard paint would encourage more drawing on other walls, or if it would contain it. In the end I decided to just set some boundaries, go for it, and see how it goes. I mean, it’s JUST paint, nothing permanent. (Quite a surprise to Jared when he came home from work though! Turns out he LOVES it and went right to work adding his own bit of wisdom to the wall.)

Naptime is golden around here and I was able to get the wall painted in just under two hours thanks to an edger. How I’ve never known about this blessed tool I’ll never know. Best $5 I spent though and I see more painting in my near future. (Some of you may be wondering what’s up with me painting the walls of my rental house. . .yes, we did get permission and our landlords curse the flat paint just as much as we do.)

(Ok, I kind of like doodling on the wall too!)

My kids love, love, love the new kitchen wall and I think it’s going to be a good thing, especially  at the evil dinner hour, because (are your kids like this?) they want to be wherever I am, so they follow me around the kitchen, but then they tend to get bored and whiny while I’m doing dinner, dishes, etc. This way they can still be where I am, but will be busy doing their own thing.

(Best part about this for me is that he’s wearing a raccoon hat!)

Creativity Captured: Jenni Price Illustration

Play with your food? Pretty sure you’ll want to after meeting Jenni of Jenni Price Illustration. I recently discovered Jenni’s blog and after picking my jaw up off the rug and wiping the drool off the keyboard, sent her an e-mail asking if I could feature her and her adorable food art in my new “series,” Creativity Captured. And was thrilled when she said yes!

See why?!!!!? (Hang on, there’s WAY more!)

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a wife and a stay-at-home mom and when my kids are in school, I love making them art pancakes for an after school snack. My college degree is in animation so with that as my art background, I especially enjoy creating colorful, whimsical characters for them. I usually try to have a Biblical theme each week and I really love being able to use my art pancakes as a way to teach my children about the Lord. What started out as something fun for them has become a super fun and creative outlet for me too.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m most inspired by artwork for animation, children’s books, anything colorful, and whimsical characters. I keep a sketchbook in/or nearby the kitchen so that I can draw ideas when they come to me. My creativity works best though when I’m actively doing something (such as cooking, folding laundry, talking to my kids…etc).
Describe a typical lunch or snack time at your house.
If my kids know that I made them art pancakes for snack, we generally race each other inside the house. They run because they’re excited to see them and I run because I don’t want to miss their reaction. Sometimes they play a little with them if they look like animals or something and my daughter (who loves art) occasionally draws a picture of her pancake.
Do you have picky eaters and if so, how do you introduce new foods to them?
My son is a very picky eater and pancakes are one of his favorite foods. When he was younger (before I started making art pancakes), I would hide fruit in his pancakes. I made them for him every day and one time I got carried away and put pineapple in them. Well, he realized it and was not happy about it! It took awhile for him to forget about that. So now I just started putting fruit in my art pancakes and we’ll see if he figures it out. I just won’t put pineapple in them!
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Speed for sure! If I was faster at everything, then I could get my chores done quickly, pick up the house immediately after the kids mess it up and have more time for fun things!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When my grandma (who was a great watercolor artist) passed away, I was given her art books. Tucked inside one of them was a note in her handwriting which is very special to me. It says, “Don’t think in terms of being better than someone else, but think in terms of being the best that you can be.”

THANK YOU so much Jenni! I absolutely adore you and your art, love, love, love that you keep a sketchpad nearby, and the advice your grandma left is priceless. I think you truly have “creativity captured” and I want to be a mom like you!

Find more of Jenni on her blog or Etsy store.