Saturday, June 29, 2013

Three's a Crowd

For the last year or so, I have had nightly interruptions, usually ending with a child in my bed. Yes, every night. It's exhausting getting up night after night with whiny children, then trying to reason with them, only to have them end up in bed with me. Again. My daughter is five and so much easier to deal with. If she has a bad dream, has to go potty, or needs a drink, I can get her what she needs, walk her back to bed and she drifts back to sleep. My son is a different story. For some reason, he had become extra picky about his bedtime routine. Not only did I have to rock my almost-three-year-old to sleep but then he'd awaken in the middle of the night, wanting to bunk with me and daddy. I've obliged this long until recently, he stopped. Just like that, on his own. Cold turkey. I had debated the different methods....let him cry it out? Rock him back to sleep? But ultimately, I needed to sleep too and so a (bad) habit was formed. I'm lucky he has grown out of it because a rested mommy is a happy mommy. I'm glad I let go and let him figure it out on his own. Sometimes the power struggle is just not worth the fight...especially when sleep is involved! Whatever your issue with your children, just remember...this too, shall pass.
What are you fighting for?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tie Dye: Hit or Miss??

I decided, on a whim at Michael's, that I was going to tie dye with my kids. It was either going to be an epic failure, with kids, furniture and floor covered in dye, or something we'd love and want to do again and again. I could see it going either way. Well, I'm happy to report that the results were better than I hoped and we had lots of (mostly clean) fun doing it. I'll admit that with little ones, you will end up doing most of the work though my kids didn't seem to mind. They were totally interested and curious about the process and eager for the end result. You'll need just a few items before getting started:

T-shirts or other items you plan to dye
Dye- (I recommend buying a kit which includes various colors, bottles, gloves and rubber bands)
Plastic trash bags, a couple old towels or other material to cover work surface

So to get started, grab your t-shirts or item to be dyed and twist, securing with rubber bands along the way. I used about four rubber bands per shirt, just randomly twisting and banding. Then, fill your dye bottles with water according to directions and squeeze color onto your items. I let the kids choose two colors each. More than that, and it will blend together too much to distinguish the colors. Then let sit in a plastic bag for about an hour to absorb the dye. I just did the whole thing in the plastic bag then tied the top and let sit on my table. After an hour, cut rubber bands and rinse your shirt carefully so as not to get dye on everything around! I did this in my bathtub but an outdoor hose would be perfect too. Rinse until the water runs clear then wash and dry your items. Be sure your tie-dyed items are the only thing in there. The color will run! Once they are dried, they are good to go. I put the shirts in with my regular laundry the next time and nothing bled but you might want to keep them separate the first few washes. Like I said, it takes a little time but the shirts came out so pretty and my kids LOVE wearing them!! This is also perfect if you have something with a stain on it but you can't bear to throw the item out! Try this project today!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Twist on Chicken

Want to create a meal that is delicious, healthy and will impress your family? Try stuffed chicken! It's super simple to prepare and with the addition of a couple yummy sides, is a complete meal. It's easy enough to throw together during the week so there's no excuse not to have a fantastic dinner ready in no time! This recipe is really more of a suggestion because let me tell you, there are endless ways to try this dish. Start out with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them about half way, leaving a little pocket to stuff with your favorite ingredients. Next, fill the chicken with your favorite cheese and veggie or other item. I chose ricotta with red peppers. You can have so much fun with this and make everyone their favorite combos, even enlisting the kids to help come up with new flavors: ham and swiss, eggplant with parmesan or mozzarella and pepperoni! Just get filling! You can close the open side with a toothpick but I found that was unnecessary. Once your chicken is ready, saute in a hot pan for about five minutes on each side, being careful not to move the chicken around too much. I served mine with some steam-in-bag green beans and homemade mashed potatoes. This is a great meal because you can throw it together in a snap and make it as simple or as gourmet as you want. You can have a lovely, nutritious meal on the table in just a half hour!
What flavors will you try??

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

For the Love of Cheesecake

After watching an episode of Master Chef and drooling over the cheesecakes that were made, I knew I had to try it for myself. I've attempted to make cheesecake over the years, but it's just never quite hit the spot. After sampling The Cheesecake Factory's extensive list of yummy confections over time, I have all but given up on the idea of making anything as good at home. But alas, I was up for a challenge. I knew my recipe had to be easy and quick or it just wouldn't happen. I settled on a Philadelphia cream cheese recipe with strawberries, my hubby's favorite. Here is my recipe, try it for yourself!

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (made with one sleeve graham crackers.)
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tbs. sugar
4 packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature (very important!)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chopped strawberries, for top
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tbs. corn starch plus 3 tbs. water

Combine crust ingredients and press mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cheesecake ingredients, except strawberries, until smooth and pour into pan, baking for an hour. (It will set as it cools so don't worry if it seems under-cooked.) Meanwhile, combine one cup strawberries, sugar and water in small saucepan and bring to simmer, letting the mixture cook for ten minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve to remove seeds and pulp then return to pan.  Keep heat on low and add the cornstarch/water mixture and allow to come to a boil for about three minutes or until thickened. Let cool. When cheesecake is cooled, combine glaze with about two cups strawberries for top and chill overnight. This would be perfect for Fourth of July with a few blueberries thrown in...just sayin'...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Father's Day Note

I know what it's like raising the kids with the daily demands and struggles of life but it's hard to imagine what it's like for a man. There is a lot of pressure to provide for their families, keep them safe and create a loving and stable environment. For my hubby and me, we have only grown more patient, loving, and conscientious since having children. Being with them day in, day out, makes us realize that there is more to life than work, chores and the daily grind. It forces us to stop and see the wonder in the small things: a rolly polly crawling on the sidewalk, a pretty flower and the joy of savoring a Popsicle, one drip at a time. They make us slow way down.
I've seen my husband grow in his faith, in patience and in integrity and I couldn't be prouder. Not only does he work a full day and then come home to more side jobs so we can enjoy fun family extras, but he always makes time for the kids. Whether it's playing a little Mario Bros. with them or snuggling before bed, he takes time to show his love. Oh, and he shows that he loves and respects their mommy too, being the best role model for them both. My daughter will never have to wonder how she should be treated, holding a high standard for the suitors to come. And my son will, God willing, follow Daddy's footsteps and be a kind, hard-working and honest man. With so many men out there who leave their families, mistreat their wives and abuse their children, I feel blessed to be living such a privileged and sweet life. I'm so grateful I chose Mike to be my husband and never take my blessings for granted. I was fortunate enough to have the same foundation my daughter does, with a clued-in father who is to this day, one of my biggest confidantes, supporters and fans. He is one of the first people I call when a crisis arises, when I need advice or when I just need to vent. He encourages me to follow my passions, cheering on my latest hair brained scheme and has never once allowed me to doubt myself. I'd say I got pretty lucky!
So on this Father's Day, show that special dad in your life how much you care. Our good men need to be appreciated!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day Gift Guide

With Father's Day quickly approaching, I'm sure you are considering what to do for Dad! Maybe you've already got it all figured out (good for you!) but if you need a few ideas, here you go! My kids and I plan to whisk Daddy away for the weekend so he can indulge in some much-needed relaxation, extra sleep (his request...) and a little fun in the sun. Whatever your hubby or dad is into, you are sure to find something to make him happy and feel appreciated on his special day!

- Breakfast in bed. This is a classic for a reason! Who doesn't like to sleep in a little while the kids and mommy prepare a nice, hot breakfast, maybe with the newspaper or his favorite magazine included in the spread. Donuts and coffee work too!
- For the reader, a new book with a coffee gift card tucked in is perfect.
- For the snacker, and I happen to know a few, how about an assortment of cheeses and crackers or chocolates? Throw in a six-pack of his favorite beer or a bottle of wine and you've got it made.
- Bake something! This is my answer to everything and for good reason! It's easy, inexpensive and a personal way to show your love. This year, thanks to a wealth of bananas from a neighbor, I baked homemade banana nut bread for the fellas in my life and wrapped them to gift.
- For the guy who spends most time in the garage (my hubby, of course!) a gift card to Sears, Matco or Snap-On are great options because they WILL get used. Or, listen extra carefully for a tool he needs and get it for him. This takes some paying attention because for me, most of that stuff goes over my head!
- For the man with the creative side, think about getting him a set of Lincoln Logs, K'Nex, a model car kit or some other item he can create with the kids. They will all have fun making something together (and bonus, give you some quiet time!)
I hope these suggestions were helpful! It's always fun to have a reason to shop, bake and craft so get moving!
What are you getting that special guy?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happiness at Home

Being a stay-home mom isn't always easy. Yes, I can stay in my pajamas til noon if I want, go to the park or other adventures on a whim, get my errands done before dinner and there is not much pressure as far as our schedule goes. But on the other hand...I'm with my kids all day, must entertain them, keep them fed, keep dinners on the table, food in the cupboards and there is more pressure to keep a tidy home because...what else am I doing all day? Ha! I have the lovely task of scheduling all the doctors appointments, dental check-ups and getting the oil changed, the car washed..etc. So although there are perks to it, being home with my kiddos all day, every day can definitely be draining. For the first year or so of having two kids, I hit the ground running, constantly staying busy, meeting up with friends and taking my kids on field trips until it hit life is just a series of play dates. And who the heck am I putting all this effort out for anyway? Me...or my kids? To beat my boredom or their's? So I'm trying to slow down, savor the morning, prepare for the day leisurely, have a cup of coffee and let the day take us where it may. After all, life is not a race and if the kids end up making a huge mess out of blankets, pillows and sheets all for the sake of creating a secret hideout, then by all means, I let them go for it. The grocery store can wait. Being happier does not equal being busier. Being happier at home just means being more content with my juncture in life, taking things as they come and holding myself to my own standard, not comparing myself to what other mothers out there are doing. And I think I'm doing a pretty good job.
What's your secret to being happy at home??