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Monday, May 31, 2010

Simpler entertaining

We host 4 birthday parties a year in our home from Jan-May with 20+ adult guests, and countless kids...well, not really "countless"...don't want anyone to think I don't keep tabs on their kiddos! ;P

With 4 kid we've hosted 36 birthday parties to date so I've learned by trial and error. Maybe some of my tips will help save your sanity when you host your next event!

We used to buy everything we needed the day before the party. That usually meant me sending my husband out on party day for a last minute shopping trip because I forgot something. We used to prep things the day of the party, and even bake the cakes the morning of.

I found that if I make a list of everything I will need for the party and buy a little at a time it sems like a much less daunting task, plus it enables me to search for deals! If I find 2 liters of pop on sale 2 weeks before the party I can stock up and store them in the garage until party day. Check! One less item (or 10) off the list!

The day before the party I evaluate the list, double check my pantry to ensure I have it all covered, and then make one last trip for any odds and ends that were not purchased ahead.

I made a list a few weeks before the party of what foods we wanted, and every day that I went to the store for something I picked up one or two items. Instead of letting the long list overwhelm me I just checked it off a few things at a time. It was so much easier!

We cut up all the veggies for a veggie tray the night before. We put our pork loin in the crock pot at midnight the night before (for pulled Italian Pork). We lined up the 2 liters and layed out the serving trays, much like I would set the table for dinner. We did all the prep work the night before just 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. It was easy, and I was more relaxed knowing that if something didn't turn out right I had time to replace/fix the item!

We baked the cake the day before, and iced it just before we went to bed. I stored it in the fridge, and pulled it out an hour before the guests arrived and it tasted just as fresh as if I would have made it that morning!
I go to the party store a few days before the party, pick out a balloon bouquet, rder it to be picked up a few hours before the party starts on party day. This way there is no waiting in line, and the balloons are paid for in advance so I can escape the house just before the party to pick up the balloons and take a few deep breaths before we are knee deep in kids and toys!
We buy all of the plates, napkins, and decor a few weeks ahead of time too. This gives us time to find what the kids want, as well as time to watch for sales. We also then have time to order online if the kids are wanting something that is hard to find locally, or if it's cheaper online!
The day of the party we just have to set out the veggie tray, condiments, cake, and other food items. No real perp work is needed, and that gives us time to just get ready and enjoy the birthday child before they are consumed by friends and relatives. It makes it nicer to entertain when the day doesn't start out with chaos!
Happy celebrating!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

They are their mothers child

For the past 9 years I have watched my 13, 11, & 8 y/o work their way through grade school. I've been so proud of their achievements. I marvel at their ability to achieve so much. Academically, and socially my daughter is a much different young lady than I were at her age.

I have had my share of mommy guilt for not being able to be that cool mom that can take her child and her child's friends to concerts, museum trips, and out of town for the weekend. While her childhood has certainly been more social than I could have ever hoped mine would have been, I have at times felt like I wish I could do more for my daughter.  She is much more social than her older brother.

A friend recently said something to me that really made me think about things in a different light.

I realize today how lucky I am. My daughter has many friends, and they love her for her. They aren't her friend because she gives them nice gifts, or takes them to cool places. They love her because she is a good friend. She is kind, and empathetic, and has more compassion than I did in one finger at her age.

What I didn't really allow myself to believe is that she is this way because of me. She goes out of her way to include a left out child because she hurts to see him/her sitting at the sidelines while the cool kids play. She shares with the child who cannot afford something she has in abundance. She wants for her friends much like a mother wants for her own child.

I don't give myself enough credit for the way I am raising these kids. I don't give them enough credit for being the amazing spirits they are. I spend too much time worrying about what I cannot give them instead of enjoying what is within our means, and their true needs.

I'm lucky, because at the end of the day my kids know how to do for themselves. I don't have to push them to be the highest seller, to be in the advanced classes, to be the most popular. They do it well enough on their own. They don't need me to hold their hand all the time, or do for them. They are very capable, and they seem to have a great balance of friends, academics, and community involvement all on their own.

From now on I am going to work harder at enjoying watching them accomplish great things, and worry less about helping them to have more...because I know in my heart they already have everything they need.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sex & the City 2!

Today was an old friends birthday. We've nown each other for over 20 years and I haven't seen her since her last birthday. Shame, shame!

We started the eveing with a group going to see Sex & the City 2. With the crap reviews I'd been hearing I surely thought that I'd hate it. I loved the show, and the 1st movie was good. I was certain that this would be a dissapointment. The movie was really good!

They had great messages about marriage, and friendship, commitment, and love. It had humor, and excitment, and a little drama. What more do you people want? I enjoyed it very much with all the outlandish fashion, and unrealistic sex scenes. :)

After the movie we headed to the Cadillac Ranch. I'd heard this place was the "It" place, and thought that the birthday girl could enjoy a ride on the bull. We had reservations for the birthday party complete with champagne and bull rides!

The service as so completely unacceptable that we bailed. After 20 minutes we had not even recieved our first round of drinks. Our server seemed to have good dish to gossip about behind the bar and despite the lack of customers at 9:20pm, she didn't seem to concerened about our money,or her tip.

I could have walked acrossed the street, bought a drink, drank it, and came back in the time we waited for service. We were hungry and crabby old people so we decided to leave.

We ended up at Ikes down the street where it was jam packed from hip to him, and we were able to get service within 2 minutes-drink in hand, and loads of good dance songs to boot!

It was a fun night with some old friends, and I enjoyed meeting a few new ones. I hope to see my dear friend Laura again soon, preferably before her NEXT birthday!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And so it begins...

or does it really? It really began over a year ago. The clicks started forming, and these kids started labeling each other. I cannot stand grade school politics. It's such a raw, and painful emotion to deal with as a mother. I hurt for my children at times more than I think they hurt. Often times I get worked up over things that are just such a non-issue.

I don't understand why more parents don't encourage empathy and compassion from their children, and why they don't have it themselves when it's needed the most.

I am so grateful to have children who are empathetic. Who don't wish to be friends with just one small group of people. Who wish to include everyone, even when that is sometimes impossible. My children inspire me to be a better person every day. The way they live life, still so new and unburdened, it just makes me realize how precious these little ones lives are.

I hate to see the look of disappointment on their faces, especially when there is something I feel I could have done, or should have done to make it right.

This parenting stuff is like a million joys with a million little heartbreaks in between, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fish Tacos

Prep Time:20 min
Inactive Prep Time:15 min
Cook Time:15 min
Serves:6 to 8 servings


Beer Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dark Mexican beer* (I use Corona, but I am sure dark beer is good too)

Cream Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Mexican crema** or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fish Tacos:

  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 pounds skinned halibut cut into 5 by 1/2-inch strips
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups tomatillo salsa (store-bought or homemade) for garnish, optional
  • Pickled jalapenos, for garnish, optional


For the Beer Batter:
Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add in the beer while whisking. Set aside and let the batter rest for 15 minutes before using.

For Cream Sauce:
Add the mayonnaise and crema to a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice and water. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper (can be made 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated).

For the Fish:
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1-inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F or when the end of a wooden spoon sizzles when inserted into the oil.
On a large plate, combine the flour and salt. Season the fish pieces all over with salt and pepper and coat with the flour. Working in batches, dip the fillets in the beer batter and coat on both sides. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Make tacos with the tortillas and fish and top each with cream, shredded cabbage, tomatillo salsa and pickled jalapenos, if desired.

Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid, 2009

Goodbye school, hello chocolate!

Today is the last day of school for my grader school kids. Our oldest has been home for a week now. It's hard to believe that he will be in 8th grade this fall.

This is the hardest part about having 4 children. They gang up on you! I'm totally, kinda, sort of kidding here. Once they started school and we got on schedule things ran like a well oiled machine, and every summer the gears get squeaky and things just don't want to run like they should.

I always plan to keep them busy, and I always have the best intentions of working nights and weekends because paying for child care for 4, even for just 2 months, would surely send us to poverty.

Time to stock up on Moms fave chocolates, and find a new hiding place since they sniffed out my old treat stash. Ha!

Well, wish me luck. We've got trips to Ohio, Museums, Zoo, and lots of other local events to attend. I'm sure I'll come out of the summer with a nice tan, and mostly unscathed. ;P

I cannot believe how much they've grown since August! Check them out:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

I sat out on the deck this morning with my morning cup of coffee and there were birds all around the deck. Big birds, and small birds, and all sizes in between. I remembered that we had a package of stale crackers in the house so I decided to put them out for the birds and had the idea that I'd see how many different birds I could attract an photograph.

I lined the crackers up on the deck rail. Our dogs didn't like this too much. They thought they were getting a treat, as they always do when they hear the crinkle of any sort of food wrapper. I gave the big boy, Ansel, a treat first. If you give the small fry, Max, a treat first he will come back and steal Ansel's. See how he is biting Ansel's ear because he wants to be first? Mean little dog! He's only mean when it comes to food.

The dogs enjoyed their treat and went on about their merry way, doing dog like things in the yard. Rolling and frolicking and all of that, but the birds would not come. Seems these birds have street smarts, and weren't so sure they could trust me. I don't blame them. I look a bit sketchy in the morning.

I was just about to go inside and get to work on the dishes when this little teeny tiny sweat bee decided to drop by on some flowers I have growing in a pot on the deck next to my chair. He didn't seem to care about my presence so I took his picture instead.

I thought it comical that I was looking for the birds and got a bee instead. Have a great day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cleaning your dishwasher

This is an old post that I decided to share since I am fresh out of material! It's an oldie, but goodie!

I had heard lots of moms swear that Lemishine was the best product ever. For years I never tried it. I figured our 20 year old dishwasher was beyond saving and it was the next item on our "big list" to be replaced. I decided to try it out because our dishes were so cloudy with white calcium build up that I was embarrased to serve drinks to my guests in the hand blown glasses we bought in Mexico that I feared were ruined.

Well, I was at Wal-mart last night buying some Lime away for my pots and pans and a friend said "That's so toxic, try LemiShine." It was under $4 for the bottle (which made me even more skeptical) and I thought oh well, what's $4...I'll try it.

Ladies, my plastic kid cups from IKEA are years old...and now they look like brand new! This is one of those things I would have donated and replaced this summer. My hand blown glass goblets from Mexico were so very cloudy....again, sparkle like new! Even my flatwear looks so shiney!

So...for those who have hard water build up, and especially those who are on the clean-up bandwagon like me for the new years purge....try this stuff. It's soooo worth it!

I knew my dish washing machine was "gunked up", but it's old and I thought it would die soon. I couldn't believe how much build up was really there! After running 2 cycles with the Lemishine the inside looks awsome...almost like new (minus a few rust pit spottiness)!

On the right, the before...and on the left after 1 cycle of washing with Lemishine!
It's the little things in life people ;)

Next time you are out shopping and have $4 to sare pick up a bottle and give it a try. It works great on sink faucets, pots & pans, shower heads, and tons of other applications in your home, RV, car, etc!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

5th grade graduation dinner

It's hard to believe my only daughter, my 2nd born, is graduating elementary school. Tonight was her graduation ceremony...can I just say how over rated this stuff is? I mean...this graduation ceremony was nearly as long as the 8th grade ones, if not longer!

It was 3 hours long! I'm glad that the school takes the time to recognize the kids efforts, but some of these rewards were a bit much. Just sayin'!

We had dinner at 5:45, Chicken w/mashed pits and corn, lemonade and cake. It was nice, but definetly "ate up" a lot of time. *wah wah wahhh* bad pun, I know!

We had a great time, and I really enjoyed seeing the photos of the kids from age 5 to 5th grade. It was amazing how much they've all grown and changed!

Nadine went up on stage to receive her certificates and sadly the stage lighting made getting a good photo impossible. : /

Nadine and her friend, Kalah, enjoyed watching their friends go up on stage and "graduate".

After the ceremony I snapped a pic (or tried to) of sis in front of the stage

Isn't she just so sassy? I have NO idea where she gets it! ;P

Gosh my baby girl sure is growing up fast these days!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Herb Garden!

It started out as an odd little spot in our deck that the previous owners may have had veggies in. It was filled with pea gravel and became home to our toddlers sandbox and outdoor toys. We fenced in the side yard to house his growing collection of outdoor goodness and relocated the pea gravel.

I'd been using this space for a planting area to prep my seedlings, and store random gardening stuff since be built the new play area. Upon completing the veg garden I grew weary of staring at the ugly dirt and decided I'd try my hand at herb gardening.
Once I removed all the stuff I had this hole of dirt and thought I should add some more to it. There's a landscaping jungle at the poolside that we plan to remove this summer so I decided to get a head start on destruction and dig out one of the raised beds to steal some dirt.

I filled it in and a friend gave me some starts from many varieties of herbs from her and her mothers garden. I added some pavers that we had just removed from the front landscaping bed and this is what it looks like now. I'm sure I'll add to it here, and there, but for now I am excited to see things grow in this previously dead space of dirt!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Butterfly garden!

We've decided to plant a butterfly garden this week. We've had a few friends talking about theirs and I thought this would be a wonderful garden the kids would enjoy. We had a bare spot around the tree out front that needed some attention. This seemed like the intended spot for the butterflies. No dogs, less foot traffic of kids from the back door to the play area, good drainage, and a spot we'd see every time we hustle in and out to run from here to there.
Today is my day off, so I loaded up my tot and headed out to a few nurseries to find some plants, specifically milk weed, which we've found to be a challenge.
After several stops we ended up at Dammanns, a local nursery with a large selection of just about everything. We scored the very last Butterfly milk weed, as well as some cone flowers, Lantana, Asters, and a beautiful and unique shaped red flower that the master gardener said was enjoyed by humming birds.

It was raining for the 37th day in a row...or so it felt, so we decided to place the plants on the patio and wait for tomorrow to see if we could plant them.

The day was perfect for planting so we got started bright an early, to beat the storm front that was coming our way. It's amazing to me that we actually have any landscaping left. I'd have thought most of it would have washed away with the ark by now.
So, here is the planted butterfly garden. We look forward to adding some stepping stones, and garden stakes to the area to finish the look.

All in all I spent $40 on plants, and that was on the very high end since Dammanns is usually priced high compared to other garden centers, but they offer specialty plants, like the ones that I
needed, that other garden centers just didn't have in stock.

Happy gardening!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a new day!

I was thinking of the story of The little red hen today as I stood with my morning cup of coffee, scanning the mess that was left behind from yesterdays birthday party.

Once upon a time, a little red hen lived in a small cottage. She
worked hard to keep her family fed. One day, when the little red hen
was out walking with her friends, the goose, the cat, and the pig, she
found a few grains of wheat.

“Who will help me plant this wheat?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I,” said the goose, “I’d rather swim in the pond.”
“Not I,” said the cat, “I’d rather sleep on the hay.”
“Not I,” said the pig, “I’d rather lie in the mud.”
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red hen. And she did.

Time went by and the wheat grew, but so did the weeds.

“Who will help me pull the weeds?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I,” said the goose, “I’d rather swim in the pond.”
“Not I,” said the cat, “I’d rather sleep on the hay.”
“Not I,” said the pig, “I’d rather lie in the mud.”
“Then I’ll do it myself”, said the little red hen. And she did.

All summer the wheat grew taller and taller. It turned from brown
to golden amber. And, at last, it was time to harvest the wheat.

“Who will help me harvest the wheat?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I,” said the goose, “I’d rather swim in the pond.”
“Not I,” said the cat, “I’d rather sleep on the hay.”
“Not I,” said the pig, “I’d rather lie in the mud.”
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red hen. And she did.

At last, the wheat was harvested and put into a large sack, ready
to be taken to the mill to be ground into flour.

“Who will help me take the wheat to the mill?” asked the little
red hen.

“Not I,” said the goose, “I’d rather swim in the pond.”
“Not I,” said the cat, “I’d rather sleep on the hay.”
“Not I,” said the pig, “I’d rather lie in the mud.”
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red hen. And she did.
The next day came and the little red hen was hungry.
“Who will help me bake this flour into bread?” asked the little
red hen.

“Not I,” said the goose, “I’d rather swim in the pond.”
“Not I,” said the cat, “I’d rather sleep on the hay.”
“Not I,” said the pig, “I’d rather lie in the mud.”
“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red hen. And she did.

At last, the bread was baked and the little red hen called to her
friends once more.

“Who will help me eat this bread?” asked the little red hen.

“I will,” said the goose.
“I will,” said the cat.
“I will,” said the pig.

“Oh, no you won’t!” said the little red hen. “I found the wheat, I
planted it, I weeded it, and when it was time to harvest it, I did
that too. I took it to the mill to be ground into flour and at last, I
baked it into bread.

“Now,” said the little red hen, “I’m going to eat it with my
family.” And she did.

I think that all moms feel like The little red hen from time to time, some more frequently than others, but today was my "on" day to be the red hen, and it inspired me to start my new blog.

Simplify Your Kitchen!

I thought I'd share a few of our kitchen storage ideas! Sometimes it takes some creative storage solutions to make our small kitchens work. When looking at containers it helps if you think outside the container! Think about what would fit in it, not it's intended use.

I had this old wood fruit crate that used to live on the top of the cabinets just for looks because I cannot part with one of DH's family heirlooms and beyond that I just think it's a really neat box!

I cleaned it up, and put my more regularly used cookbooks in it. Now the cookbooks stay neat & tidy, and if water gets onto the counters the cookbooks don't get wet and ruined.

We only access the chip bags on average once a week. We're not big chip eaters, and the chips never stand up well in the pantry to store. I placed ours in a large wicker basket, and it used to live on top of my fridge, and it worked well there, but I moved it today to the top of the pantry. I figured having the space on the fridge for other items was worth having to pull out a step stool once a week!

On top of the fridge I have 4 baskets. 1 is for the kids meds, because the medicine cabinet in the bath is not 3 y/o proof (LOL). Another basket is for hand towels. A smaller basket holds wash cloths. The smallest basket holds special candies (ie: M & Ms) that are only for potty rewards.

Everyday items, like coffee items (if you are a coffee drinker) may be better to store on the surface. Why have a mixer on your counter every day that you use once a month when you could have your everyday used items within arms reach? We are big coffee drinkers, so I purchased these biscuit jars (Sold at Target & Wal-mart) and I use them for Coffee, Sugar, and tea bags. It free'd up much needed space in the cabinets and pantry, and makes the morning a bit easier as well!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

4th time for 4

Today is my dear, sweet, all-boy toddler Aidens 4th birthday. This child is very special to me...of course all of my children are special to me, but he is in a special way.
He came into my life, kicking and screaming, on May 15th, 2006. Here's the funny thing...all of his life I have told everyone that he was 9lbs even. As I reviewed the photos of his last 4 years of life I discovered that the blissful state I was in on the day of his birth must have altered my memory...as it seems the evidence from the hospital birthing wall shows he was 8 lbs, 9oz. How funny is that?
He was the smallest baby out of all 4, this much I knew. He was so much smaller than the others that I was almost afraid to hold him!
Those who know this wild child will tell you that his small size has never kept him from doing anything. He has a determination in his spirit like no other! Here is Aiden on his 1st birthday!

This punk has been climbing since before he could effectively walk! (16 mos)

He was so squirmy that he was impossible to photograph!

2 months after his 2nd birthday mommy allowed him a 2nd chance at swimming in the pool. Dad wasn't allowed to leave his side, and he had to wear a life jacket...just to be on the stairs. What can I say...one scare of a lifetime is enough!
By his 3rd birthday I had all but given up on taming the wild...so I let him start dating a girl down the street. She seemed sweet enough, and honestly I wasn't sure I could make it another year with him!

At age 3 years 3 mos old mommy finally decided to take the plunge. After about an hour of "swimming" with a death grip on Sissy my Aiden showed an interest in swimming solo. He had never been past the stairs alone since his 1st birthday. I wouldn't hear of it. You'd have had to knock me out before I'd even consider it. In that moment it just felt right, and with dozens of family standing by dad encouraged him to jump in. I didn't think he'd do it. He did, and we survived!

...and then he turned 4. I've shared more heart ache, and joy, and sorrow, and laughter with this child than I ever knew was possible. I can't wait to see what Aidens 4th year brings...kind of.

I only ask that it is a safe, and fun adventure!