Easy Peasy Chili & Gluten-Free Cornbread

Okay, quick confession- I’m not good at “girl stuff”. This includes cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc. So, when my blogging friends decided we should have a Chili Party, I hesitated. But, I have a best friend who is a great cook and so I asked her for her chili recipe (which I love) and she obliged!!

The plan is for everyone to try these recipes and then come back and vote on their favorite. I know I can’t wait to try all of these- they look SO good!!

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained. Season meat with 1 TBL. Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic, 1 TBL. Tastefully Simple Onion Onion, and 2-3 TBL. Tastefully Simple Wahoo Chili powder
  • 2 cans 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans 15 oz. black beans
  • 2 cans 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 can 11 oz. Mexican-style corn
  • 2 cans 15.5 oz. mild chili beans

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. That’s it! Heck, even I could make this!

Cornbread (adapted from the Quaker Corn Meal container recipe)

  • 1 1/4 cups Pillsbury Best gluten-free flour blend
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. skim milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites or 1 egg beaten

Heat over to 400 degrees. Grease 8 or 9-inch pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Lightly cover with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Drizzle butter over the top. Serve warm. 9 servings.

5 Benefits of Baby Swim Lessons

I first went to a baby swim lesson to watch my friend’s son and I immediately fell in love! I was so impressed with all the babies in the pool and with the instructors working with them.
Needless to say, I enrolled my junior in swim lessons when he was 8 weeks old (some swim schools will take babies as soon as their umbilical cord falls off!)

I was a little nervous about my son’s first lesson, but he took to the water naturally. Other than the occasional bad mood, he seems to really enjoy swim lessons.

Many advocates for baby swim lessons promote the benefits of introducing your child to swimming at an early age so that they are not afraid of the water later on. There have been so many parents at the swim school who see junior and tell me that they wish they would have started their tot sooner!

Here are 5 benefits of baby swim lessons, some of which I have noticed already:

It’s Natural

After spending nine months in the womb, babies are comfortable getting back in the water. They are reminded of their cozy surroundings in utero.

Safety

A case-controlled study conducted by Ruth Brenner and her colleagues discovered that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged one to four years.
As a part of the swimming curriculum at WaterSafe Swim School, which is where I take junior, they have “survival” tests. As a part of these tests, the instructor will throw the child in the pool, fully clothed. The child’s objective is to roll to his back and reach the wall. This may sound really terrifying (because it kind of is), but there are 18-month-old babies who are able to pass the survival tests. It is quite amazing!

Bonding

Swimming with your baby can deepen your emotional bond with him or her since the water-resistance stimulates tactile receptors. Additionally, touch for a baby provides him or her with emotional nourishment and a feeling of connection.

Low-Stress Levels

Infant swim lessons are also very soothing so there is less stress. Although no studies have been done, many parents report that their children cry less and are more relaxed after swim lessons.
I can say that junior is very relaxed in the water, he even sleeps better after swim lessons!

Boosts Development

Researchers have reported that infant/toddler swimming lessons can and will increase physical, emotional, and social growth.
Also, cognitive development is increased due to the greater amount of stimulation uniquely offered through swim lessons. According to a study conducted at Griffith University, infants and toddlers who are in swim lessons routinely reach developmental milestones at younger ages and with greater proficiency than the national averages anticipate.
Overall, I have really enjoyed watching my son thrive in the pool and would recommend baby swim lessons to anyone!

3 Wooden Barrel Projects You Can Make Yourself

Here at Bestof2sisters, we’ve always known that crafters are passionate about DIY projects. What we are just finding out is that our readers are also passionate about barrels. You read that right. Wooden barrels are kind of a big deal right now. And why not? They offer a super cool vibe — both industrial and rustic — and lend themselves perfectly to creative upcycling projects.

Take this unique vanity for example. It’s made from an old oak wine barrel and looks phenomenal in this one-of-a-kind bathroom. Side note: This project is not for the DIY faint of heart, as the barrel will need to be prepped for use in humid conditions.

If you love the look of barrels and want to continue the wine theme further, try your hand at this wine barrel and bottle fountain. It’s a totally doable project that looks like a million bucks. What’s not to love?

Are you a fan of the classic barrel planter? I certainly am. It’s a look that feels simple, rustic, and crafty all at the same time. Plus, large barrels are great for trees and other plants that need plenty of room for roots. Learn how to make your own barrel planter here.

What’s On My Nightstand

Since catching the home improvement bug, the books I read, and the websites I frequent have drastically changed. What to Expect: The Toddler Years has been replaced by This Old House magazine. Evenings are no longer spent on parenting discussion boards but pages and pages of amazing DIY blogs.

I have to admit when I become interested in something I tend to over-study. I’ll gather every book, buy every magazine, scour the Internet and ask everyone I know about the subject. The problem is this: I wait for an unrealistic level of confidence to kick in because I want to feel perfectly ready to tackle a task.

It never happens.

Yes, it’s great to do research and learn as much as possible before taking on something new. But then comes the time to just ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND TRY IT! I’m happy to say that is what I have been doing, and I have several projects to share with you soon.

In the meantime, let me show you just a few sources of my current inspiration

This Home Depot book is like the bible of home improvement – if you want to learn how to do something – anything – in your home, it’s in there. I especially love the extensive use of pictures for every step.
I had a difficult time finding Home Improvement 1-2-3 in three local Home Depot stores. It’s quite popular and caters to the layperson homeowner.

When you think of This Old House, you may think of the old Bob Vila television shows. But the This Old House magazine has become more trendy and much more woman-friendly. There is a lot of focus on planning renovations and “Before and After” features. They have informative product selection guides and helpful Q&A’s. This Old House online has everything you’ll ever want to know about home projects, and their videos are the best I’ve seen (with fewer commercials).

The Gordons Tools Blog is a bit more tool-oriented and assumes that the reader has an extensive collection of equipment. It is still a great resource for beginners who can begin to envision the possibilities of where being handy can take them. Gordons Tools website is terrific – they have comprehensive tutorials on just about any project or task you may need help with.

I am obsessed with trim work and any type of molding. Whenever I walk into someone’s home it is the first thing I notice. I think many people would be surprised at how simple the necessary skills are to create the most basic of molding. This guide (and many other Sunset series books) does a great job using detailed pictures and easy step-by-step instructions for almost any molding job you can imagine.

The Better Homes and Gardens publication Do It Yourself is enjoyable to read but focuses mostly on craft and decor projects. I still subscribe, but to me, it doesn’t belong in the “Do It Yourself” realm.

Last, but certainly not least is a book called The Digital Mom Handbook co-written by a close friend who has taken the blogging world by storm: Colleen Padilla (aka ClassyMommy). If you are a mom who feels caught in between the worlds of caring for your children yet wanting to stay connected to the working world by being online, this book is for you.

Now it’s time to put down the books, turn off the computer and get moving on more projects!