Monday, November 17, 2014

Spicing Up Our Dinner - Ranch Buffalo Shredded Chicken Recipe

Pumpkin LOVES spicy foods!  If you give her a choice for dinner, she is likely to pick buffalo wings. While I enjoy wings as much as the next person, I don't love that they are fried, and more skin than actual chicken.  I was searching for an easier and healthier way to serve her wings and I thought that there must be a way to make them in the slow cooker.   That is when I found this recipe on allrecipes.com.

Chicken, wing sauce, butter, and Hidden Valley Ranch - Can it get any easier?

This is now a family favorite in our house!  Everyone loves the combination of buffalo sauce and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  We've used bottled ranch as well as the seasoning packets, and love the way it turns out every time!








Monday, October 27, 2014

A Wake Up Call

This morning I went in to wake up my sweet Pumpkin so that she could get ready for school.  She was awake, but lying peacefully in her bed.  I sat next to her, rubbed her back, and whispered, "Good morning Sunshine!"

She looked at me, smiled the faintest smile, and said,  "What day is it?"

"Monday October 27, 2014" was my response.

"I wish it wasn't a Monday.  I just want to stay here in bed for a while."

I gave her a kiss on her forehead and said, "Mondays are tough.  What exciting things do you have on your schedule today?"

She talked a bit about which specials she has, an upcoming test, and getting ready for Halloween.  After a few minutes, she was ready to get up and start her day.

Walking from her room into the kitchen to begin breakfast making, lunch packing, etc.  I got a little teary eyed.  I missed a last.  I remember when every morning I would wake to the sound of one of my munchkins chatting happily, crying, or shouting "Mama!"  Each day, I would wish I could sleep just a little bit longer, wanting "to stay here in bed for a while".  Times have changed.  Roles have reversed. While I love and am proud of my girls and how much they've grown, I sometimes wish I could slow them down just a little bit.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear? - Train's Bulletproof Picasso



The weather is changing.  It feels like fall outside.  I've had to trade in my shorts and tank tops for jeans and sweaters.  With the new season comes new activities, new moods, and new experiences.  All of the music that we listened to on the boat or at the beach just doesn't seem appropriate for soccer practice, homework, "fall" cleaning, and running 5Ks.  Rather than listen to "feel good" music, I'm now in the mood for something with a bit more substance. 

Train has brought that substance in the Bulletproof Picasso album that will be released today, September 16, 2014.  Overall, an upbeat album with deeper emotional feeling than some our favorite summer songs, Bulletproof Picasso has songs that I can listen to on repeat.   To get a glimpse of the style and tone of the songs, take a listen to the title track, Bulletproof Picasso:



While I love the song, Bulletproof Picasso, the album is filled with even more songs that I can connect with on some level.   Don't Grow Up So Fast is a beautiful slower song that makes me think of my children and their race to be "older" than they already are.   Wonder What You're Doing For The Rest of Your Life is a very peppy pop-style song.  It is the kind of song I can dance to in my kitchen with the kiddos on dance-party evenings. In fact, I don't know that I could pick a song that I didn't enjoy on this album.

If you have previously enjoyed other songs by Train, like Hey Soul Sister,  Drops of Jupiter, and Drive By, then I am pretty confident that you'll love this new album too.  

If you want to order this album, head over to iTunes or Amazon.  (At the time of this posting it looks like the price is $7.99 at iTunes and $9.99 on Amazon.)

  * iTunes: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicasso
  * Amazon: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicassoAM

*Disclosure:  I participated in the Train Bulletproof Picasso album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Little Things



Sometimes it is the littlest things that make me happy.  When I was recently visiting my parents, my mom gave me this box of candy because she saw it and thought of me.  I'd never had it before.  It was good, but what made it even better was knowing that I was on someone's mind for no special reason.

So, if someone is on your mind today, let them know.  You don't have to find a candy that has their name in it.  Just send a text, write a letter, make a phone call, or do something else that you know will make them smile.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School with Mabel's Labels

Peanut and Pumpkin returned to school last week.  The return of school means the return of after school activities.  From soccer and running club to piano and guitar, we are now on the run!  I don't know about you, but for us, times of transition tend to result in more items lost and forgotten.

What can you do about all of these items that end up misplaced, left behind, or borrowed and accidentally taken home by the wrong person?  We used to just write them off as a loss.  No one knew who the pencil/shoe/lunchbox/sweatshirt belonged to, so people would take it with the best of intentions of finding the rightful owner.  More often than not, it wouldn't happen.  Even when an item ends up in the lost and found at school, it is rare for the owner to return to claim it.  Often, they'll check when they first lose it, and it won't be there yet.  Once it is returned, the child will have forgotten, gotten a replacement, or just got caught up in the craziness of life and neglect to check again.

The best way to make sure you get your items back is to have them clearly labeled with your name. A lost item with an unknown owner will result in minimal effort in creating a happy reunion.  People are just too busy to search long and hard, especially when there isn't really a huge benefit for them. However, if someone knows who something belongs to, the effort required is minimal to return it safely home. We used to just use a Sharpie to label our important items.  Unfortunately, Sharpie wears off.  It does it so subtly that you don't even realize that your label is unreadable until it is too late.  I knew there had to be a better way, but I was too busy to figure out what it was.

Then, several years ago, we discovered Mabel's Labels.  My grandmother was in a nursing home and many of her items seemed to disappear from her room or wouldn't come back from the laundry.  We looked online and found that Mabel's Labels makes Tag Mates labels.  Tag Mates are sticky labels for clothing. No ironing required!  We ordered some and loved them so much that we started to think about using them for school items as well.

Mabel's Labels has labels for just about anything you'd want to keep track of.  You can buy items individually (if you only need shoe labels, for example), or you can buy them in bundles.  Personally, I love the Tween Pack and the Stylish Scholars Combo.  The Stylish Scholars Combo has over 100 labels in various sizes and shapes that are most practical for labeling your every day school items.  The designs are attractive and fun, and would work for any age.  We ordered a Stylish Scholars Combo with our last name so that the girls could share one pack.  There are more than enough labels for them to share, and we still have some for items that need to be labeled throughout the year.  We may even have enough for next year.  The Tween Pack only has 25 labels, but they are so much fun, that they make a great back to school gift for your child that wants to express his/her unique personality with their labels.   We ordered a Tween Pack a couple years ago.  Because these labels are so unique, the girls use them sparingly.   They place these labels on items like a binder that will be used all year, and can be used again in the future.   Items like pencils or pens get a Skinny Mini label from the Stylish Scholars Combo.

Since we've started using Mabel's Labels, I'm buying fewer replacement items for Peanut and Pumpkin. I think they may end up paying for themselves over the course of a school year.  (I know they did last year!) They also definitely decrease our stress over misplaced and stolen items.  We love our Mabel's Labels for keeping track of all our stuff!




















*I was sent a Stylish Scholars Combo in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Blues (and Hopes)

Today is a day I've been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  It is the first day of school for Peanut and Pumpkin.

I am sitting here feeling a bit morose, yet hopeful.  I miss my girls - my reading buddies, my house cleaning helpers, my background musicians, my constant sources of surprise and amusement.  I miss our amazing and sometimes profound conversations.  I love our time together where we can create our own schedule, rules, and fun.  I already miss the random hugs throughout the day for no reason at all.  I miss listening to them play together (even when they argue).  I even miss the constant interruptions when I'm trying to get something done.  (I feel like I should probably accomplish more when they are back at school, but somehow, I don't.)

While there is so much that I miss when my girls are at school, I send them because I have hope.  I hope that they will learn more than I would be able to teach them. I hope that they will develop friendships that will help them through the difficult tween/teen years. I hope to expose them to people that are different than they are.  I want my children to be kind, compassionate, and open-minded.  I hope that school provides them with unique perspectives so that they can make well informed decisions about what they think, feel and believe.  I hope that they will find their voices, their passions, their paths in life that will make them the most content.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Avoiding Summer Slide (And Beyond) - #3 Financial Awareness

Several summers ago, when I was growing tired of Peanut and Pumpkin asking me for snacks, treats, etc every time we went into a store or past an ice cream shop, I decided that I needed to give my kids more financial responsibility.  I was tired of saying "No", but I certainly wasn't about to start saying "Yes" to all of these extravagances.  I took several steps to increase their financial awareness.

1)  More responsibility at home.  
My girls have been doing chores since they were tiny.  Before they could even speak in complete sentences I would have them find all of the socks in the laundry.  That was their only job - find socks. Then we moved on to finding socks and matching them.  Eventually they found, matched, folded and put socks away in the appropriate drawers.  Now they can pretty much do their own laundry from start to finish.  While we prefer to do it all together - we've had some amazing conversations over the laundry basket - the girls can handle it if I ask them to do it.   This is just one of their "required" chores. Just as no one pays me to cook dinner or drive the girls to practices and events, Peanut and Pumpkin do not get paid for required chores.  (Each year I reevaluate what the girls are capable of doing and modify their chore list.  During the summer they are able to do more than they are during the school year.)

2)  An opportunity to earn their own money.  
While the girls don't get paid for required chores like laundry, wiping down the bathroom sink, sweeping and vacuuming the kitchen floor (essentially cleaning up after themselves), they do have the opportunity to earn money by doing other chores.  The paid chores are listed in the kitchen pantry with the job, the frequency with which it can be done, and the pay rate.   If Peanut and/or Pumpkin are saving up for something, if they are bored, or if they just want to earn a little spending money, they can look at the list and choose something to do.  (FYI - My pay rate is pretty low.  The girls don't really need an overabundance of spending money.  If they have too much, then they don't really have to think too hard before making financial decisions.)

3)  Keeping track of their money.  
Since the girls are earning money, I think it is also important for them to keep track of it.  Peanut and Pumpkin have a checkbook that has a record of the money they've earned and the money they've spent. When they earn money by doing a chore, they add it to their checkbook (which I keep in my purse). This works well for us for a couple reasons.  1 - I don't always have to have cash to pay them for their chores.  2 - They are learning to balance a checkbook.

4) Making their own financial decisions.
Now, when the girls ask for some item that I think is silly or frivolous, I don't have to say "No".  I simply tell them that they can buy it if they have enough money in their checkbook and decide that they want to.  The change in their desire to spend money is amazing.  They are so much more aware of how much things cost.   For example, Peanut loves ICEEs.  Every time we would see a place that sells ICEEs she would ask to buy one.  Now, she asks how much it costs.  Before, she didn't realize that the same item can vary in price from $6.00 at a theme park, to $3.00 at the mall, to just over $1.00 at Sam's Club. This new appreciation for the value of products is refreshing.   I've found that both girls check prices even when we're shopping for items that they need and know that I intend to buy for them.

So far, these four steps have worked really well to make Peanut and Pumpkin more financially aware and more financially responsible.  Do you have any tips that you use with your kids?