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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tip Tuesdays: Sausage and Cream Cheese Rolls Recipe

This old recipe popped in my head as I wondered what I would take to my latest playdate. It's simple, fast, and tastes so good!

Sausage and Cream Cheese Rolls

You'll Need:
1lb of your favorite breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean, Owens, etc.)
8oz cream cheese, softened
2 cans crescent rolls

Pre-heat oven according to crescent rolls packaging.
Brown sausage in pan. Drain fat.
Lightly grease cookie sheet.
Mix cooked sausage and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Drop mixture by rounded tablespoon onto wide end of each triangle, rolling from the wide end to the small.
Bake in oven according to crescent packaging, or until golden brown.


Next time try...
Maple flavored sausage if you can find it in your local grocery store (maple flavor blends well with the cream cheese);
Making it as a casserole, with one layer of crescents rolled out on top of mixture, and one on bottom;
Whipped cream cheese (makes mixing a little easier);
3/4lb sausage and just one can of rolls for a lower yield if you won't be serving many people (you'll still use 8oz cream cheese, though).

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tip Tuesdays: Dance Classes

Ok, I know it's Wednesday- almost Thursday- but just go with it.
I've had several conversations with girlfriends in the past few months about dance classes for both children and adults. It seems that most people are largely unaware of the many considerations that go into choosing a dancing school and what they should be paying for classes. So I thought I might offer some assistance by providing info about pricing and offerings/expectations, along with some general definitions.
Dance schools offer classes for both youth and adults, with rates based on tuition scales and/or class cards. Youth classes are always offered on a tuition scale, with few schools allowing youth to try new classes on a card.
Tuition scale rates are usually about $45-$60 for each 45-60 minute class, then count on adding an average of $28 for each additional class. Some schools may discount each additional class by 10%-30% and may also offer a 10% discount for siblings or families.
You should be aware of schools that bill one class as two. For example, one 90-minute ballet class counts as two 45-minute classes at one particular Garland school.
At schools where both rate methods are offered, adults are usually given the choice of being billed on either the tuition scale or for a class card. Class cards can be great because they allow the adult the opportunity to try multiple genres and take those classes whenever their schedule allows. These cards are purchased in advance, usually costing $16 for one class, $70/5 classes, $115/10 classes. These costs are averages of what you'll find at many schools. Each time you attend a facility, one use is deducted from your card.
A class card should be more convenient and monetarily efficient than the tuition scale should you choose to use it. For example, one Dallas dance school requires adults to use class cards only, but you'll end up spending more if you're wanting to take more than one class a week on a regular basis. So make sure you do the math and/or call the school to confirm costs. Some schools charge a "drop-in" fee, instead of offering class cards. You can expect to pay about $15 per class.
If the classes are much more expensive than listed, consider exactly what you're getting for the extra expense. This is may be the most important factor, as the cumulative gain from each school will most likely be reflected in the costs. Specialty schools such as Dallas Power House and Studio C Dance Arts Center (just two of the many places offering Competitive/Performing Teams) may charge monthly flat rates of $95-$250 for these teams in addition to tuition for regular classes. On the other hand, Park Cities Dance (ran by a Broadway vet) and School of CBD (Contemporary Ballet) have higher monthly tuition primarily because of their specialties, in addition to class size, instuctors' experience, and location. Dance Institute of Dallas (specializes in Classical Ballet Training) offers upper level classes for $144-$188 per class per month, but the class will meet anywhere from three to five times a week.
Why are you looking into dancing school? Just for fun? Want to gain a basic dance foundation? Long-term growth or a career? If you're just testing your child's interests, dancing schools provide combo classes for children ages 3-6. These can be any 2- or 3-class combination of ballet, tap, jazz, or movement and will cost the same as regular tuition. Alot of moms ask me about the availability of classes for their kids under the age of 3. These are usually provided as "Mommy and Me" movement and music classes, and may cost about $50 per 5-week session. Recreation centers and churches also offer basic dance classes for much cheaper. Rec centers usually cost $25 for a 5-week session.
If the classes are for you, are you dancing for exercise and something fun/different to do? Or are you dancing for growth with the possibility of joining a company or performance group? Would you like to perform in the year-end recital (yes, the adult classes are encouraged to perform in most cases).
The Continuing Education department of some community colleges offers non-credit classes for around $35 per 4-week session if your aim is more for recreation.
General Policies
Anywhere you go, you should expect to pay fees for registration, performance, and costumes.
Registration fees run about $30 a student (on average), and can go down $10 or $15 with each additional student. If you're lucky, you'll find a school that charges $35-$50 per family!
Performance fees cost $50 per student on average, but can also go down $10 or $15 with each additional student. These fees take care of the recital venue, and usually allow spectators to attend for free. One particular studio has a $75 performance fee per family, but it only allows for five recital guests- any more than that will require additional fees. So again, check with your prospective school beforehand.
Costumes average $65 per class or dance. With adult classes, you might have the option of just fashioning something from your closet. Sometimes the school will try to find easy, cheap costumes for adults, which is always a plus.
Most schools will (and should) offer payment installments for tuition. This might be a necessity for those who have a kid(s) taking multiple classes.
Also, most schools will have rules/policies concerning conduct and attendance and strictly enforce them. Most policies will also include dress codes. Thankfully, more and more schools have taken the initiative of coordinating with local dance shops for easier purchase of attire.
There are some other questions to consider for either the young or adult student. Does the school offer workshops, intensives, or master classes? Do they allow parents to observe their children in class periodically? Do they have their own company or one they are affiliated with for future growth? Do they offer exams in the provided teaching methods or quizzes in dance theory?

Though I've danced at a few different studios around DFW and thoroughly enjoyed myself, my dance school of choice is Forcher's Dance Center in Irving. The pricing is competitive, the instructors are great, they offer a nice variety of adult classes each session, and there is a company (Momentum Dance Company) that I can aspire to join should I decide to work hard enough!
My dancewear shop of choice is Capezio Dance Theatre Shop in Dallas. I've been wearing their attire (even outside of the studio) since I was three years old. But some other reliable sources are Sandy's Dancewear, Discount Dance Supply, and Dancewear Solutions.
If you're currently shopping for a dancing school or will be in the near future, the Dance Council of North Texas has a map/tool that will assist you in finding a studio near you. The Council also provides a calendar of events including dance workshops, festivals and shows.
Feel free to email me with any further questions- I may have already done the research!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where I Am Wednesdays: Piano Lessons

So I'm on the road, on my way back to Texas, when I hear David Benoit's version of Linus and Lucy- a song I could never master on the piano when I was young. And now that I think about it, I may never master it- along with Henry Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk- as an adult, either. For whatever reason, my mind only allows my hands to play Waltzes with grace and ease...weird, I know. So, needless to say, I spend my piano time playing anything but Mancini or Guaraldi. But I digress...
All of this got me to thinking about providing piano lessons, a thought I had entertained a few times before, but never took any steps to actually find students or even prepare a lesson plan. Well, fairly recently, I've been approached by a few parents wanting lessons for their children. Now I'm truly faced with having to create a lesson plan. So, for the next three weeks (when my first student starts) I'll be doing exactly that.
My lessons will include: exercises in technique including scales, runs, and phrases; theory (essential if one is truly interested in musical growth!) including vocabulary and music appreciation; repertoire; and how to practice at home. Now it's just a matter of format!
For those of you who might actually take note, no matter where your lessons come from the aforementioned music subjects are equally important to learn. Just like at school, oral & practical applications are just as essential to our minds' growth as written ones, and vice versa. Hope your teacher feels the same way.  Also, it's important that your teacher understands each student is an individual, and will most likely learn differently than the student before.
I can't imagine how hard the following 10 years of playing instruments would have been, had my teacher not laid such a strong foundation for me that first year!
I'm so excited to get started!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Where I'm Going Fridays: 4th of July Trip Home to KC!

We're headed to Kansas City in the morning to be with my side for the 4th (as we always do).
It'll just be the boy and I on this trip, which I dare to believe should be somewhat easier than normal since we'll be sans the needy dog and an extra adult. We'll see if I eat those words later :)
As far as packing goes, I'm also daring to believe I can get it all done today- yet here I sit, blogging.
I've gone from packing a day before (pre-baby), to a week early (post-baby), to three days before (as I started better getting the hang of it), and back to a day before (as tire and carelessness have set in).
No matter how motivated I am to pack, though, I am always very thorough- except for the time I forgot my husband's underwear, about which I will never hear the end of. I always go through a checklist, which used to be hand-written until I came across a website created by a mom who could never find tips and/or advice about best practices while traveling with children...
Travel Mamas
Now, I print out the pages before each trip and go through them several times (a little OCD, I know).
I do the same thing when I cook- read each recipe in its entirety over and over. I'm always just sure I'll leave an ingredient/step out or leave an item behind. I like to think of Monica and Ross when I go through my lists- "Check!"
Here is the list I use, but Travel Mama provides others and many other tips for traveling with kids.
Travel Mamas - Packing List for Babies and Toddlers

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Themed Thursdays: Recipes

The 4th of July holiday is closing in so I thought it would be nice to share some festive recipes in case you're throwing or attending a potluck holiday party.
One of the recipes I am sharing (and have tried) can be found in the July issue of Women's Day. The other can be found on the Food Network (will try this weekend)...

This recipe has you make Everything from scratch- from the cake to the frosting. I didn't have time for this on my first attempt so I had no shame in purchasing cake from a box and frosting in a can. Tasted quite good, if I do say so myself!
For the jelly beans, I got mine from Target, which has a great bulk candy/snacks section. You'll need about a pound of beans to cover every inch of cake, though I only used about a half-pound and just spaced them out (if you don't want to eat the beans then buying fewer and spacing them out will make it easier to pick them all off). Don't worry about getting perfectly yellow or white beans, as long as they're yellowish and whitish shades they'll look good on the cake. Also, don't worry about the flavors, they'll all be good on the cake!
Now I wasn't able to find any black sugar crystals so I just opted out of the "salt and pepper" look. Don't have any corn-on-the-cob holders? Your local dollar store will have them!
Here's a link to the official recipe and a picture of my first attempt (keep in mind I did this in about a hurried hour, please :)
Women's Day Corny Cupcakes

Since I haven't actually tried this recipe yet, I'll just provide the link and a pic.
I'm so excited about this one because it's perfect to share- I don't like berries but my son does, he doesn't need the cake or sugar...well I don't either, actually. Oh well!
Food Network (Sunny Anderson) Patriotic Berry Trifle

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where I Am: A little lesson in self control

At 15 months, my son repeats the "S" word yesterday. There's no doubt where he heard it, as I had just shouted it out 30 seconds before he said it.
Now, anyone who knows me very well is aware that I've been known to curse like a sailor- maybe even worse. But since the birth of my son I've done very well to think half a second longer before I "shout out." But apparently I haven't done well enough- or I thought I had more time before I had to work harder at it :)
So where I am now- beating it into my brain that I have a toddler and MUST do more than Practice self-control over my mouth!