We Made Settle Down Bottles!

My twins attend Pre-K in town and we are extremely fortunate that they have a wonderful teacher. Ms. O is enthusiastic, bubbly, and creative. The first time I met her I felt that she was born to be a pre-school teacher. Most importantly, the kids love her and look forward to going to class every day.

 

Last week was back-to-school night, and during her presentation Ms. O mentioned Settle Down Jars. She showed us a jar with glitter and colored liquid inside. She showed us a special corner of the room where the children could go if they were feeling upset or angry. In this place, they would take the settle down jar and shake it. After they shook the jar, they could hold it or put it on a shelf and watch the glitter and sparkles tumble around the water in the jar until they all reached the bottom. While the kids watched the the sparkles in the jar they could take some deep breaths and settle down too. The idea is that their behavior can mirror the sparkles in the jar and they will eventually calm down.

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Back-To-School S’moreos

Today was the first day of school for my brood. Since I have two in half day pre-K and one in second grade, it equaled two and a half hours of peace and quiet for mommy. Ha! Any of you who have children know that stay at home moms work at home moms don’t sit around every day getting pedicures and massages while the kids are at school. That would be awesome, but unfortunately it’s not part of the gig. I usually just use the morning to try to keep our house looking a little less “lived in”.

So since I didn’t have a full body massage planned for today, I wanted to come up with a very special dessert for the family. In my opinion, it’s always fun to have celebrations, and this time of year I can’t think of something better to celebrate than the first day of school. Why not make something as yummy as possible to ease those back to school jitters?

About a week ago, I started thinking, “what if there was a dessert that combined s’mores and Oreos? They could call them s’moreos!” I was so proud of myself for being such a clever fox. After a few minutes of dancing around and basking in my genius, I was soon brought back to Earth when I decided to do a Google search. What I realized then was that s’moreos, like all of my million dollar ideas, already exist. My search showed me s’moreo recipes out the wazoo, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for. For one thing, a lot of them included peanut butter. That sounds AMAZING to me, but would be tragic for my peanut allergic twins, so I created my own s’moreos dessert.  I served them with a big glass of milk, but I think topping them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (our nut allergic kids like Ben & Jerry’s) would really take it up a notch!

Enjoy!

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This is what makes it a “s’moreo” dessert instead of just an ordinary one

 

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Back-To-School S’moreos

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup plus ½ cup mini marshmallows
  • 12 oreos
  • 18 graham cracker squares

 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, blend the brown sugar, butter, and eggs.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, one cup of the chocolate chips and ½ cup of the mini marshmallows
  • Put the Oreos and graham cracker squares in a large Ziploc bag. Zip and crush the Oreos/graham crackers to a crumbly consistency (not too fine)
  • Remove half of the cookie crumbles and stir into the other ingredients already in the bowl until evenly mixed
  • Put the ¼ cup mini chocolate chips and ½ cup mini marshmallows into the Ziploc bag cookie crumble mixture for later.
  • Spread the contents into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
  • Sprinkle the cookie crumble/marshmallow/chocolate chip mixture on top.
  • Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cut into bars after cooled. They take a while to cool, and are a bit messy, but still delicious!

 

Let me know in the comments if you give these a try!

 

Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

I may be a little late to the party, but I refuse to start talking about the back to school season in early July. As a child, I always dreaded seeing the flyers advertising Trapper Keepers and #2 pencils in the middle of summer, and I can only assume that kids today feel the same way. However, now that we’re past the mid-point of August, back to school is fair game.

I love my children more than anything, but I’m looking forward to getting back to a somewhat more regimented routine. Let me rephrase the second part of that sentence. I’m looking forward to getting a sliver of time each weekday where I’m not refereeing screaming matches, stepping on Legos, repeating the same phrase fourteen times in a half hour, and reminding a hysterical 4 year-old that she can NOT drink an open glass of grape juice on the couch in the living room, even though the couch looks like it belongs in a fraternity house.

Even though the start of school is providing me with the luxury of some uninterrupted bathroom time (along with time for a few other things, I hope!), there is still a price to pay. The price I am speaking of is an actual monetary price, because back to school, like all other “holidays” worthy of sales flyers in our society, costs money. Hopefully, I can help ease a little of the pain with some strategies on how to get into the back to school season without going broke.

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Get Your Greens On

I’m in a post-vacation slump; the kind you get when you just spent a few days away at the sweetest place on earth. I guess you could say I’m experiencing a supreme sugar crash after thinking that peanut butter and chocolate could be considered a food group. And that’s cool, it was vacation. But now that a) I’m back home, b) I still have the rest of the summer ahead of me, and c) some of my dresses have decided that they don’t want to zip, I’ve decided to make some better choices, starting with today’s lunch.

I’ve always enjoyed vegetables, especially in a fresh salad, but I’m not going to lie. I’m not one of those people whose eyes go straight for the salad section of most menus I encounter. Very frequently you’ll find me ordering a burger or a sandwich with a side of…dare I say it…fries. However, I do find that if I make the right salad, I can enjoy it just as much, if not more than any of the heavier or fried foods I usually choose.

Making the “right” salad, in my opinion, all comes down to variety. I found for a while that I was getting sick of eating salad, and I realized it was basically because I was dumping salad greens on a plate, adding a bit of dressing, and considering that a meal. Obviously, I was hungry about 25 minutes later and hardly getting any nutrition. My favorite thing to do now is to start with greens (of which there are so many varieties) and add anything my heart desires (chocolate and peanut butter notwithstanding). Continue reading

What’s Weighing Me Down

I’m starting to get some pain in my right shoulder that makes me think I have a purse problem. I’ve always liked the look and feel of a smaller purse, but I can’t seem to break away from all the things I need (and want) to keep with me when I’m away from home. I refuse to carry a fanny pack (I’d rather have a bum shoulder) but I feel like something’s gotta give. Here’s what I keep in my daily handbag.

 

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Definitely a necessity

EpiPens & children’s allergy medicine (4) – Twins with food allergies call for me to carry EpiPens (there are two in each pack so I technically carry four.)  I’m sure there are some people out there who are thinking I could get away with just one set of two, but I’m a worst case scenario type of woman who imagines a giant peanut butter monster sliding into our restaurant booth infecting both my PB allergic kids. Regardless, the peace of mind is worth the extra weight. The chewable allergy tablets are in case we have a reaction that only requires medication. Fortunately, that’s all we’ve ever needed.

Baby wipes – Second only to the allergy medications/EpiPens in importance as far as I’m concerned. Pre-kids, I never carried baby wipes, and I can only imagine my life must have been far more difficult and messy. I recommend them as a staple for mama and non-mama purses!

Cell Phone – A modern day need that doubles as a real time suck. It has eliminated the need to make small talk in waiting rooms, which is inevitably stunting us all socially. However, I won’t be giving mine up anytime soon.

Keys – No explanation necessary. I’ve lightened up on my key chain load of late, at the request of my father-in-law who feared I’d do damage to my ignition. Not sure if that’s a thing, but I took his advice and haven’t looked back since.

Wallets (2) – The old one and the really old one – I kind of like to hope I’m a minimalist, but I seem to need two wallets. The old one (my go-to) is like a change purse with room for cards. In that one I keep cash, frequently used credit cards, my driver’s license, and health insurance card. The really old one has a broken zipper (but the snap is still in tact!) It holds my rarely used credit cards and customer rewards cards dating back to the late 90’s. (you never know when you might need your Charlie Brown’s Handshake Club or Blockbuster Video card!)

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Great for on-the-go doodling

A bag of crayons – For anywhere with the kids. These come in extremely handy since lots of restaurants don’t provide them, and my kids are still in the coloring age range. With the popularity of adult coloring books, I may be hanging on to this for a long time. However, I think I’ll probably need to upgrade to a nicer bag; something out of the “Ziploc” realm.

 

 

Hair ties – A few of these usually find their way to the bottom of the purse, but they can never seem to be found when they’re needed most.

Too many receipts – These are always hanging around inside my purse and my go-to wallet. They don’t end up in the trash right away because for some reason I feel like I should keep them for a few weeks to make sure they show up on my credit card correctly (thanks, Mom!). In addition to that I prefer recycling them to throwing them in the trash (see Landfill OCD). I could clean my purse of receipts every week and still have a huge pile when I do, but that might have something to do with my love for take-out food and coffee.

Lipsticks/lip glosses (4) – These don’t take up a lot of room so I keep 4 but they probably only get used a few times per month. 

Coupons – Since I consider myself thrifty, I often take the time to save or clip coupons. Eighty percent of the time I find them after I need them or after they’ve expired. I have to work on bringing that percentage down because when I find them too late, I sometimes get in a funk that’s a little darker than it should be.

Small notebook – For jotting down blog post ideas (like this one!) or the license plates of erratic drivers in case I want to report them to the police. Most people use their phones for these kind of things but I do enjoy jotting notes down on an old-school piece of paper. I like to think it makes me look smart although it probably just makes me look odd.

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Spare me the bells and whistles of a fancy first aid kit. I just need band-aids!

First aid kit – I keep a first aid kit in the zipper compartment. Of course the band-aids get used first and I’m left with alcohol wipes that when wiped on a child’s boo-boo cause screams that will wake the dead. Solution: restock the band-aids, put them in something that takes up less room, and ditch the evil alcohol wipes and first aid kit box.

Checkbook – Not sure if people still use these but I do. My purse just seems like the smartest place to keep it.

Ear buds – For the one time every 2 or 3 years that I fly on a plane and don’t want to pay for airline ear buds.

Miscellaneous – Everything else in there: mirror, foldable brush, tissues, mints, sunglasses, hand sanitizer

 

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Goodbye old friends

After reviewing the contents of my purse, I realize that some things have to go. I’m making the conscious decision to downsize the first aid kit and get rid of my really old (larger) wallet (Blockbuster Video card be damned!) It doesn’t seem like much, but hopefully it’ll move me towards getting rid of bigger and heavier things. Can anyone relate?

 

Can Princesses Be Role Models?

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Before my children’s current obsession with superheroes, I was asked the question “Who’s your favorite princess?” more times than I needed to hear. Growing up, I’d never really given the question any thought. Lucky for me (and my parents), the Disney Princess franchise wasn’t really a thing in the 70’s. Looking back, I thought there was only one princess: Cinderella.  I must have repeatedly viewed Disney’s 1950 version of the fairy tale because my memories of it are vivid. I’m assuming the other two princess movies available at that time weren’t part of my repertoire. Watching them now, I think I know why. Sleeping Beauty never grabbed my attention, and the ending when Maleficent turns into a dragon is too much for me to handle (or it probably was the one time I watched it as a child). Don’t even get me started with her names. Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora, Briar Rose…just pick a name and stick with it!  Snow White was a classic story but I have a hard time enjoying it because it seems too old timey and out of touch. And that prince…I’m still not sure what the attraction is with him.

 

Times have changed, and princesses have evolved. I’d like to hope it’s for the better, as it’s important to have positive on screen role models for our children (girls & boys alike).  I know Disney Princess allegiances are strong, so hopefully I won’t hurt any feelings as I give you my Top 4 Disney Princesses!

 

4. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

I feel a camaraderie with Belle right from the start. Anyone who has felt out of place in their lives (hello, high school!) can relate to Belle as she yearns to get out of the poor provincial town where no one seems to understand her. Plus she likes to read so she gets points for that. In addition, she shows bravery and an undying devotion to her father as she takes his place as a prisoner in the Beast’s castle. Beauty and the Beast is one of those movies that, embarrassingly brings the hopeless romantic in me to tears as Belle learns to love the Beast despite his brutish appearance.

 

3. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

Tiana has determination, which is why she’s in my top 4. Everything looks hopeless for her at the beginning of the movie, but her hard work pays off and she comes out a winner in the end. She’s a mold-breaking princess who puts her dream of owning a restaurant in front of landing a man. In the end, in true fairytale fashion, she winds up with both. Watching Prince Naveen’s transformation from a carefree, lazy playboy to a man (or a frog) with a good heart as he falls in love with Tiana is also a testament to her charm.

 

2. Merida (Brave)

The only princess in a Pixar film, Merida is definitely a badass. From the opening sequence as she rides through the forest with her bow and arrow, you can tell that she’s not your typical damsel in distress, and she proves that as she defies her parents’ wishes that she marry one of their allies’ sons. She breaks the Disney princess mold by realizing she doesn’t need a prince to be complete. She also has a really fun Scottish accent (which I believe is called a burr). When my kids watch this one, I just hope none of them decide to give me a cake with a spell attached, as I’d prefer not to turn into a bear.

 

1. Cinderella (Cinderella)

The only princess in my top 4 who was so special they named the movie after her. That has to count for something. This girl has been through it all: both her parents have died, there’s evil all around the house (stepmother, stepsisters, and the aptly named Lucifer), cleaning said house day and night, and her only friends are either feathered or furry. Throughout it all, she keeps a smile on her face and a sunny disposition, clinging to the understanding that someday her prince will come. It’s a little sad, and a little sappy, but when you’re a prisoner in your own home, I guess that’s what gets you through the day. In the end, she finds true love (we can only assume, as the courting period is rather quick) and exacts her revenge by living well. Well played, Cinderella.
Time to sound off!  Who are your favorites & why?

Chilling out at the Library

IMG_1144The heat’s been pretty uncomfortable this week in the northeastern United States. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn that my range of temperature comfort exists between the degrees of about 60 – 82, and only with low humidity. In other words, I’m kind of a pain with the weather. The good news is, when I love it, I really love it, and if you’re near me on one of those picture perfect days, you’ll probably hear me say “Could it BE any nicer out?” at least 12 times an hour. (I guess if you’re near me, that might not exactly be good news because I can imagine it gets a bit annoying.) So since we’re currently not in my ideal temperature comfort zone, I decided I needed to spend some time in the great (air conditioned) indoors.

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Books can take you anywhere!

As I child I loved to read. I devoured books like they were chocolate covered pretzels. (I really love chocolate covered pretzels.) I still adore reading, but unfortunately don’t have the time that I used to. However, whenever I pick up a book, I truly feel like a child again. The fact that I can be instantly transported to wherever the author wants to take me is amazing, and I can sit and read, engrossed for hours. I would love for my children to find the joy and adventure in books like I have, but I don’t know if they will. They’re still young, so I don’t want to push too hard or make reading seem like a chore. I could have headed to the bookstore to buy them a stack of books, but that didn’t seem like a wise idea. So in the end it was my thriftiness, wish for comfort, and love of books that helped make my decision to visit our town library a no-brainer.

To me, libraries are treasures. Where else can you get your hands on so many books (including ebooks & audiobooks), CDs, DVDs and magazines for absolutely no cost? Our library also has a delightful children’s room with daily story time for the little ones, book clubs, a few computers, crafts, toys, games and puzzles. The large basement area is decorated with whimsical paintings on the walls and fluffy pillows for sitting on the floor. There are Thomas trains to play with, and small tables where kids can color with crayons and coloring books that are provided. Of course my kids usually find their way to the computers, but they’re loaded with educational games and each child gets a time limit. After their allotted computer time today, I made sure we made our way to the books and chose a few to take home. I was even able to make my way upstairs to the adult section of the library so I could pick up something for myself. If I’m lucky, I might even get to read it!

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A place to hang out and read

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Story time & crafts room for little ones

 

I feel fortunate to have such a great library in my town, but believe me, any library can be a treasure because of what’s inside. It’s the perfect destination, even if the weather isn’t unbearable.

Happy Birthday Little Sis!

My little sister turns 30 in 3 days, so this past Saturday her husband planned a surprise party for her. The weather couldn’t have been better, so we were all able to celebrate in the backyard with pepperoni bread, cocktail meatballs, ceviche, & scrumptious empanadas (and of course friends & family!) I mention the food, because today is Tasty Tuesday, and because I’m kind of obsessed with yummy things.   

After the food was served, we had dessert for everyone and birthday cake shots for the adults.  The shots are super easy to make and add a fun and festive touch to any celebration, so I’ve included the recipe below. I bought disposable (or reusable if you’re being eco-conscious) shot glasses at the party store since I was making a large quantity.

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Birthday Cake Shots

  • 1 oz. Irish cream liqueur (Bailey’s or any other)
  • 0.5 oz. vanilla vodka
  • Whipped cream (the kind in a squirt can)
  • Multi-colored sprinkles

Mix Irish cream and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Strain into shot glasses.

Add whipped cream and top with sprinkles.

**Recipe can be multiplied depending on how many shots you want to make**

 

Let me know if you give them a try!

Landfill OCD – Being a saver (not a hoarder!)

stickersMy husband likes to tease me all the time about the amount of stuff that I save. On the rare occasions we watch those hoarding shows he jokes that I’ll be having the same conversation with one of our kids one day where they’re trying to get me to throw things away and I just won’t budge. I’d never tell him, but I agree to an extent. I definitely form attachments to things that should probably be passed on (partially due to OCD, partially due to laziness). However, I am more than willing to pass things on if I can find a good home for them. I’ll call what I have “Landfill OCD”. I have a problem actually throwing things out (actual trash notwithstanding) as I can picture them sitting in a landfill and it bothers me. Of all my friends, I’m probably one of the greener ones but I don’t exactly consider myself a trailblazer of the eco-friendly path. I’m surprised that more people don’t think like I do. Why on Earth (no pun intended) would anyone want to throw away things that they may have a use for one day? I’m in no means trying to encourage hoarding, but here’s a list of things that I’ve found useful in my quest to be a conscious saver.

  1. Stickers – This one comes in especially handy if you have kids. Over the years I’ve collected stickers from goody bags, doctors’ visits, charity mailings, supermarkets, calendars, Christmas stockings, Easter baskets and a host of other places. I keep the stickers in a plastic take-out container (something else I have way too many of, but that’s for another time) and whenever the little ones need something to keep them busy at the kitchen table or on a long car ride, they can just sit down with some scrap paper and stick away! Since most of the stickers were free, they can use as many as they want and it doesn’t seem like a waste. They also love giving them to their friends and decorating homemade or store bought birthday cards.
  1. Take out sauces – You know the ones I’m talking about. Ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, duck sauce, Chinese mustard, sometimes a BBQ sauce or Italian dressing makes its way in as well. Call me wacky for hanging on to these, (also in a plastic take-out container) but there’s been many a time when we’ve run out of ketchup for our burgers or I have a recipe that calls for soy sauce and the bottle is just about empty, and who’s the smart one then?
  1. Cosmetics – Now this may be where I lose a bunch of you if I haven’t already. I know there are expiration dates on cosmetics for good reason but sometimes I feel like they set those dates too early. 3 months for mascara? Really? As a WAHM, there are times when I probably use my mascara once a month and there’s no way I’m going to throw it after using it three times. In addition to my regular cosmetics kept in a makeup case/tackle box, I also hang on to all the cosmetic freebies and samples I get. Just like the sauce packets, you never know when you might find yourself out of shampoo or conditioner and the little bottle you got at the Hilton last year comes in super handy. In addition to that, I also find these small items very helpful for packing on weekend getaways (rather than bringing an entire bottle of shampoo).

I probably shouldn’t be asking this (as I really don’t need to save anything else) but are there any other conscious savers out there? What do you save?