Friday, March 29, 2013

Pad Thai in No Time

Sick of my usual dinner fare, I picked up an Archer Farms Pad Thai kit from Target the other day. I've made it plenty of times homemade but decided to try it with a pre-made sauce. It totally hit the spot! The kit contained a generous serving of Pad Thai sauce and dry noodles. I was able to boil those in just five minutes while I cooked some chicken breast to go along with the meal. I added the sauce and a few peanuts for garnish and voila! Dinner was done! You can throw this together in literally ten minutes and add protein or not. Although a homemade sauce will trump store bought any day, this came so close it wasn't even worth bothering with homemade again. If you've never tried this dish, I strongly encourage you to. The flavors, while sweet and tangy, are still mild enough for even the pickiest of palates...and I know picky!!
What's for dinner tonight??

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Disneyland: A Review

We planned and saved for months for a day at Disneyland with our kids. We ended up going right at the start of Spring Break and though it was busy, it ended up better than I expected. In fact, it was nearly perfect! The weather was mild, we only waited a half-hour at the most for rides and were able to knock out a bunch of our favorites as well as those the kids requested.
We started off early as we had reservations for the Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn, totally a splurge but worth every penny. Not only was the buffet yummy, but the kids got to visit with character after character as they perused the restaurant. If you're going to splurge on one meal at the park, this is the one to go to. After a quick potty/sunblock application break, we were off to our first ride, the Jungle Cruise. We spent the morning in lines for The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean then headed over to Toontown in hopes of some more character sightings and lunch. Sure enough, there was a line to visit Goofy and after fueling up with hot dogs, we were ready to go. I have to say, although some snack items are steep, lunch seemed pretty reasonable. For $30, we all ate a hearty lunch and I was happy to see that the kid's meals came with apples and carrot slices. They gobbled them right up!

After Toontown, it was time to move on. Off to Fantasyland we went, hitching rides on the carousel, Pinocchio's Daring Adventure, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and the Teacups. We also waited to visit with Rapunzel. We decided it was time for an ice cream break, so off to Main St. we went.

Bellies full, we headed to our last ride of the day and the one we waited the longest for, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland. Yes, the line was long but it was one we all wanted to go on and though there were a few frustrating moments with the little ones, they were very patient overall. Once we finished that ride, which was totally worth the wait, by the way, we wandered the park a bit, stopping at Pixie Hollow for a few pics of Tinkerbell's house then grabbing a kid's meal in Tomorrowland before heading out.
While the kids happily munched dinner in their strollers, we navigated the streets and stopped just once more before leaving. Letting the kids choose one final treat, a Mickey-shaped rice krispie treat for Jovie and a giant sucker for Logan, was the grand finale. A shuttle ride later and we were heading to our car just before nine. The kids were exhausted and fell asleep in the car and mommy and daddy enjoyed a peaceful ride home.

Here are a few tips to make your visit a more pleasant one:
- Keep your expectations low. You will NOT do everything in one day, and things won't be perfect. You will get tired, you may feel like your legs are going to fall off and you will probably end up sunburned. The kids will misbehave at some point and you might get grouchy with your spouse (or maybe that's just us!) But having realistic expectations helps. Go with the flow!
- Take a look at the map before heading off for the day and pinpoint what you really want to do. Keep in mind at least three or four rides you want to go on and make it happen. It's surprising how you end up in a time warp at Disneyland. An hour feels like fifteen minutes and before you know it, it's meal time or potty time then time to go!
- Bring your own snacks and drinks! This will save you a ton of time and money and allow you to pull out what you need before any meltdowns occur.
- Bring strollers for the kids!! My daughter is five and hasn't used a stroller for a couple years but we were soooo grateful we brought an extra one for her. It made navigating the crowds easier and faster and prevented her little legs from getting too tired and more importantly, from us having to carry her!
- Choose your splurges. Maybe you really want to let your kids pick souvenirs or you want to get face painting or a caricature. Whatever it is, go for it and enjoy it.
- Take many, many potty breaks. Nothing's worse than being halfway through a line when a child announces they have to go. Luckily, that didn't happen to us because mommy happens to have a tiny bladder in addition to being four-months pregnant so I had to go anyway. But it's best to know where the nearest restroom is at all times!
- Lastly, be prepared!! Bring extra snacks, clothes, wipes...etc. Anything you even think you made need, bring it. You'll be happy you did and better to have a little too much than not enough. This is where the stroller thing comes in...load that puppy up!
I hope you have the chance to take a family day somewhere special like we did. It truly couldn't have been any better. The smiles on my children's faces and the memories we made were priceless! It's something we hope to do every couple of years.
Where are you headed??

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Freestyle Spring Wreath

I was on a mission to "spring up" my dreary front door and had great plans for a handmade wreath. As I sized up raw grapevine and foam wreaths at Michael's, I realized I would much rather spend that money on a meal out with my family, a new shirt or a movie with my honey. I'm frugal and it's just hard for me to spend money when I know I can do something for free! So I got home and got hunting. I have a lot of scrap fabric on hand from projects past and present and thought that would be a good place to start. I used a large piece of cardboard and cut a square to make a template. I planned to pad it with more fabric or Styrofoam but opted to take the lazy route and just decorate the cardboard! First, I cut long strips of beige fabric and wrapped the board. Then, I cut squares of fabric and made them into "flowers", hot-gluing those to the wreath randomly. One last piece of beige fabric was used to make a small bow to hang and voila! A handmade wreath in no time that was most importantly, completely free!!! I challenge you, use and repurpose items you have around the house to make something totally new!
What will you create??

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Luck O' the Irish

Happy St. Paddy's Day!! Today, do something silly, wear something green and eat something soda bread or Irish nachos. Or, just drink some green beer! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm Bringing Fish Sticks Back

At the grocery store recently, I came upon a box of frozen fish sticks. I remember eating them as a kid and loving them! Now, the phrase "frozen fish sticks" just sounds plain gross but guess what? They were yummy and a hit with my kids! Both of them! My picky daughter happily munched along with her brother, my token "good eater" and eagerly requested more and more. Sure, you could certainly come up with a healthier option, like grilled salmon, for example but you could also do much worse. The fish sticks were made with whole cod fillets and once baked, were super crisp and tasty. We take baby steps around here so perhaps next we'll try the grilled salmon but for the moment, fish sticks rule. I served them with baked fries and green beans and everyone gobbled that dinner up!
What meals remind you of childhood???

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March Madness

Normally, the term "March Madness" would have basketball fans cheering but in this house, it just means more chaos! Normally, we are a bit of a train wreck, barely keeping things together. Sure, the laundry gets done and we get out the door on time, arriving to play dates and appointments looking like we've got it together. But I've got some news to share...we don't! And you know something? I've come to realize it's ok. I mean, you can't have it all together all the time. You have to pick and choose. And it looks like we're set to have another crazy month. With Easter, St. Paddy's day and a little family trip in the works, it's sure to be nuts and that's just the way I like it!
How do you keep it all together???

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

With Easter quickly approaching, I've got crafting and activities on the brain. There are countless goodies, crafts and activities you can do with your kids to celebrate spring and Jesus' resurrection. Like what? You ask...well, here are my favorites for ringing in springtime!

First thing's favorite thing to do when a holiday is approaching is to display an appropriately themed wreath on my front door. Since my Valentine's day heart-covered wreath is still hanging, I'd say it's time to switch it up. Here are a few I spotted in Pinterest and that are easy to whip up:

Spring Wreath          DIY Spring Wreath Tutorial               Spring wreath (Friday Fun Party- Craftionary)
So...may I state the obvious?? These are all adorable choices and are ridiculously easy to make! Sure, you can buy a pre-made wreath but you will not only save money with a DIY version, it's also a fun way to include your kids and create something you can proudly hang, even personalizing if you'd like! The first and second are foam based wreaths wrapped in fabric and decorated with fabric and button flowers. The third is a grapevine wreath covered in silk flowers and tied in a bow. So easy, it's silly!!

Next up...crafts! There are so many fun crafts you can make with and for your kids to hand out to friends at school or include in Easter baskets. I always think simple is best and for little ones, as choosing something too complicated can be overwhelming so here are a few kid-friendly crafting ideas:

Peeps topiary  cute easter crafts  easter
A Peep topiary livens a dark space. You can use a can, jar or clay pot for the base. Fill it with newspaper then the top with moss or Easter basket grass and use a wooden dowel and circle template to place the Peeps. The second is a construction paper bunny fashioned with a stapler, like an envelope then filled with candy. The last one uses fabric swatches tied with ribbon to house candy and small toys. Be creative!

Of course, I saved the best for last...goodies!!! No holiday (or party, or meeting...) is complete without the snacks!! Here are a few I intend to try:

Easter snack     Easter cake pops!     Easter cupcake recipe
These look amazing and let's not forget...easy! The first is a bird's nest made with Chinese noodles coated in melted chocolate and decorate with speckled chocolate eggs (my absolute FAVORITE Easter candy!) The second is an egg-shaped cake pop which requires a little time and patience but is worth the outcome. Simply prepare a boxed cake mix according to the package directions, let cool then crumble and mix with a can of frosting. Shape into eggs and refrigerate until firm. Pop a stick in each one and dunk in melted chocolate and decorate. The last is an Easter cupcake (whatever recipe you like best) covered in icing, toasted coconut and a chocolate bunny. Yummy!!
I hope I gave you some ideas that you'll have fun with this year. Happy Easter!
What are your favorites???

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

The other night, as my hubby and I were enjoying some couch-potato time, we happened upon a KFC commercial featuring a chicken pot pie. As we watched (and drooled...) I said..."Let's go to KFC this week! I need that!!!" Oooops. What I meant was "I'm going to make that this week!!" And I did. It's no surprise that these days, with little ones, I'm short on time, patience and creativity. It took this commercial to give me a little motivation. After perusing my favorite mealtime site, Pinterest, I decided the easiest way to tackle this dish would be a semi-homemade version. (as if there's any other way, come on!) So I headed to my favorite shopping paradise, Target, and loaded up on ingredients. I decided I would use chicken, peas, carrots, corn and potatoes. Other great add-ins would be onions, green beans or squash. This is a great way to use up leftovers and/or to sneak veggies in for otherwise picky eaters...not that I know anything about this...
I also bought a two-pack of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, which you could do homemade instead but please, someone tell me the point in that!! (By the way, I found that the double-crust was a little could totally just do one on top...) What's going to bind this together is a can of cream of chicken soup. Yes, there are healthier ways to do it such as a homemade gravy or sauce and if that's in your agenda, more power to you! I'm sticking with the can. So here it reason to hit the drive-thru tonight!

Chicken Pot Pie
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts- comes with two
1 pound cooked, chopped chicken breasts
1 cup each peeled and cooked potatoes, carrots, corn and peas
1 can cream of chicken soup

Cook chicken, carrots and potatoes. I used frozen corn and peas and tossed everything in a bowl, coating with the soup. Pour into a pie pan with one crust on bottom and one on top, pinching edges closed and cutting top to vent. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until evenly browned. Remember, everything is cooked inside so were just baking the crust and heating through. So easy and quick!!! As usual, I suggest doubling and freezing a pie for later or even just freezing the filling...makes it a breeze next time. This bad boy is so hearty you won't even need a side. Enjoy!!

                                                     The filling....very freezer friendly!!
                                                                  Ready to bake!!!