Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer "Break" is over. Alleluia!

The Headlines:

Moms are busy.

Summers are busier.

Let's go back to school.

I think I have already written on this blog how absolutely crazy this Summer has been.  It was nuts.  I have barely been able to keep up with this blog.  In fact, I haven't.  I liked my old routine of writing every monday-wednesday-friday.  Then Summer came.  It was like I started in slow motion... standing on a hill watching an avalanche form and as it fell it reached me - swept me up and I tossed and turned like a wet towel in a dryer.  Finally, the heavy load is beginning to slow and eventually will stop at the bottom of the hill.  At that point, I can come out of the topsy turvy world I've been living in called Summer and get back to work!

Yes, Summer "break" (for who, by the way?) is about to end for me.  The children go back to school next week which means the real Mom "break" begins.  For some reason, in Arizona, our kids get out way early and go back way early.  It's odd to me since we're so cotton picken' hot at the beginning of August and so pleasant at the beginning of June.  Ending in mid June and going back in late August would seriously cut back on high electricity bills.  Ironically, no one ever claimed school boards were smart.

Anyways, bottom line, we're going back to school and  I can get a little peace and quiet!

When I first became a mom and I was still working I used to call some friends who stayed at home…  but they never answered their phone.  They were always "busy" - but I never understood why.  I thought, "What the heck could they be doing? They're at home!"  The answer is - everything.   Moms do everything.  If you're not a Mom who stays at home - you don't understand that.  I didn't.  I worked but had a nanny and a husband who helped me pull some of the weight.  Really, you need help when you're a working Mom.  You can NOT do it all.  But when you make the switch to stay home - things change.  Now, it's all on your plate.  As it should be.  This is now your full time job.  With that comes this:

Typical Stay at Home Mom Job Description:  get breakfast on the table, kids ready for the day, you ready for the day (make-up optional), make lunches (do your best not to feed them the same thing every day), drive places, research after school activities/sports, grocery shop, pick up the house, clean, get birthday gifts, wash cars, play with children, listen to children, help children, sanitize boo boos, clean diapers,  give kisses, do laundry, act like a tickle monster, breast feed (optional but preferred), referee, find healthy snacks, wipe noses, potty train, give hugs, cook dinner, make treats. You are to help other Moms, pick up kids who cry, do (help with) homework, wipe behinds, read, sing "you are my sunshine" - typically at night, act like a swim instructor, balance bikes, plan parties (18 per child), pick pre-schools, wake up in the middle of the night for (fill in the blank).  There will also be a certain amount of arranging parent/teacher conferences, baking cakes, play dates, arguing, wiping tears, cleaning throw up, keeping appliances/toilets/sinks/pools/heating and cooling systems in working condition, making doctor appointments, dentist appointments, participating in school classrooms, conducting time outs and of course listening intently to the Daddy at the end of each work day.  Patience is preferred. Love is expected.

Break time: 10 minutes at 10 pm.

Pay: nothing.

Note: Only the strong need apply.

Then of course, many Moms have additional duties, depending upon their own specific life.  For me, this Summer included a bathroom remodeling project and my Dad's serious health issues. It was a lot to handle.  I felt like I was running and gunning the whole time I was home (thank the
Lord for grandparents and a REAL vacation).  So all I can say is bring school on!  I'll still have the same job description - just a little more time to get it all done.

Thank God being a Mom is more than just a full time job - it's a full life.  Such a full life. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tips for Summer Vacation… w/ KIDS!

The Headlines:

Going on vacation with kids… is not always a vacation. 

10 Tips: how to make it easier.

Years ago, BP (my husband) had a boss from Boston come into town.  BP was living in Arizona at the time and the guy flew in and exclaimed, "how can anyone get anything done around here?  There's too much sunshine and too many palm trees!"  He was somewhat right.  Arizona does have this kind of "resort feel" wherever you go.  Including most homes.  So many are new and we all have pools!

So yes, I kind of always feel somewhat on vacation here - it's one reason I love it - but really leaving on vacation is even better!  Especially in July.  July in Arizona is hot.  Monsoon season starts.  It's stormy.  It's humid. It's the main month to get out.  Most everyone does at one point or another.   That's one of the reasons I quit my job - to be able to join the mass exodus!  It really is wonderful.  Yep, vacation is dreamy.  It looks just like this…

Then I woke up.  Right… when you have kids - vacation isn't like it used to be! It's very very different.  For Moms, it's more like a working vacation because you're never really off, right?  When my son was 5 months old we went across the country to spend a vacation with my sister in law and her kids at the beach.  It sucked.  It truly was so stinking difficult I wished we hadn't gone.  But we did.  And we went on other vacations the next couple of years… they gradually got better.  This year is the first year, he's 3, I can begin to see light at the end of the Summer vacation tunnel.  Here are a few ways that happened.

10 Summer Vacation - with kids - Tips 
  1. Invite one set of grandparents to come with you.  This tip is number one because it's the most important.  Key, really. 
  2. Leave strict bed time rules at home and sleep in.  This seems crazy for the scheduled parent (me) but when you leave your home all bets are off anyways.  Let them go with the flow more than usual.  Granted, this is the first year my son has let me "sleep in…" last year he was still waking me up at 5:30am.
  3. Indulge in treats.  Not all day three times a day but at least once a day - splurge!  It will really help put your kids in the mood.  You like that glass of wine, they love their ice cream!
  4. Invite the other set of grandparents to meet you after the first ones leave.  I am not joking.  This tip is just as important as #1.
  5. Give your kids a set amount of money they get to spend.  Peroid.  If they want 1 zillion things it's, "sorry, you have --- amount of money and then your bank is closed."
  6. This one may be corny but I saw it at an amusement park this weekend and loved it.  Wear the same shoes if you go some place busy for easy ID purposes.
    This family of 5 had Dad down to baby 2 year old girl in the same blue converse shoes.  It was ADORABLE.  All I could think as I took pictures of their feet was - "how sweet this cute family is, I wonder if their real home is as harmonic as their shoes!??"
  7. Have a plan but don't over schedule.  At home, we are so busy all the time.  Until "vacation..." Summer is filled with camps, dance, swim lessons, BBQ's, it's one thing after another.  Kids need to just play while on vacation.  I bought my kids these bug houses (pictured below by my daughter's leg and in my son's hands - look - it promotes total bliss ).  They're from the Dollar Tree (that store is AWESOME by the way) and they provided HOURS of entertainment.  Seriously, HOURS.     
  8. If you go to an amusement park of any kind, be careful over spending for your children on dumb trinkets they'll never use.  Instead look for one of these machines.
    It's one of those penny machines that flattens and defaces American money by putting a picture on it.  You give them a penny plus 50 cents.  Worth it, I promise.  See.
    My kids can be flipping out about wanting XYZ but turn them on to this money machine and all is forgotten.  Works every time.
  9. Find other kids.  Kids make friends easy.  They don't have to worry about grown up stuff.  Kids don't care about things that doesn't matter (like adults) they just want to have fun.  Playing is always more fun with new friends.  You can find them anywhere… the beach, the lake, next store to Grandma's house, the park.  They're there - just look for them.      
  10. Finally, if I haven't made myself clear on this - make sure you get the grandparents to take part in your Summer vacation.  It really works for everyone involved.  You get some time to rest, they get some time with your kids, kids get to con their grandparents into buying the ice cream.  Everyone is happy.  For a little while at least.

Now, let me be very clear: I am not saying this Summer vacation was without error.  Oh no.  There are still the fights of 2 siblings.  That will never change.  Until one day, they will slow down, perhaps stop entirely the year they decide they no longer want to speak to each other.  Then, ironically, I will probably miss the bickering.  Yes, I'm convinced the things that drive us nuts about the ones we love are what we'll miss most when they're gone.  The fighting will end and peaceful vacations will return.  But I bet I'll wish the chaos was back.  

I can see that blog post already...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Melt Ice Cream Sandwiches

The Headlines:

These ice cream sandwiches are so yummy.

Perfect for a hot Summer day.

Because they don't melt.

Huh?  Am I just talking crazy now?   Has the Summer heat gone to my head?  What's that saying?  If it's too good to be true…?  No no no it sounds too good to be true but it is not.  Just check these babies out.  Rich, yummy, cold goodness that make virtually no mess down the faces of children everywhere.

Rest your eyes on the pieces of magic below!

Fudge Cream Sandwiches
I've been making these guys for several years now.  Here's the deal with where I live… it's hot!  In Arizona, it can easily get up to 110 degrees.  It's been known to get up to 115, 116 even 117.  It's a seriously hot place.  So ice cream sandwiches, outside during the Summer, is really not an option.  It's just not.  Until I made these.  Kids can take these outside in 110 degree weather and they WILL NOT MELT.  Well, not significantly anyways.  Leave one sitting on a plate for 10 minutes and it won't stay completely intact - a little meting will definitely occur.    

The secret is this: while you freeze it, there's actually no ice cream in the frozen treat.  Uh-huh!  That's how I get away with it.  It's made, instead of melted chocolate, marshmallows and whipping creme!  Tah-dah.

As with all of my stuff, it's really easy to make so it will take you like a whole 5 minutes.  Carve out the time, you can find it. 

You will need:
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
50 large marshmallows
24 ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips
3 cups of heavy cream
graham crackers

You will do this:
Take a 9x13 inch pan and line it with foil.  It should spill out over the top.  Heat the milk and marshmallows in a large pan over low heat.  Stir a lot to avoid burning.  

When it's smoother than the picture above, it's done.  Pull it off and add the chocolate chips, stir, until all of the chips are melted into the mixture.  No white spots.  Once it's semi cooled off, put it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes until fully cooled.  Then, make the whipping cream.  Use a large bowl and, with an electric mixer, on medium high beat the heavy cream until peaks form.  Then, fold it into the cooled, chocolate mixture.  It will look much like a chocolate mousse.

But don't stop there, now spoon it into that tin foiled pan.  Cover and  place it in the freezer for at least 3 hours.  While that's freezing up take the graham crackers and break them in half so you have some ready to make the ice cream sandwiches.  When it comes out it will be a big chunk of chocolate goodness but you still have a bit more work to do. Lay a graham on top of the chocolate chunk to basically measure the filling size you need to cut.  Then slice it like pictured below.

Now assemble your sandwiches.  Stick in the freezer inside a covered container until you eat.

Three side notes:

1 - you can half the recipe above, use a smaller pan and make a smaller batch.

2 - I never make enough.  That's why the pictures on this post have a second, lighter layer on it. That's not supposed to be there.  But since I made too little again when I did this, I just added some marshmallows and milk to the remaining cholocate left in the pan, made some extra whipping cream and mixed together for a second layer (below).  It worked.  They were yummy but I have since adjusted my recipe so that you won't have that problem!

3 - These are super rich and for adults and some young kids I will make cut them even smaller.  They cut easily after being frozen as sandwiches.

Whatever the road traveled, if your end destination looks something like this... you're good!  Everyone at that hot Summer backyard BBQ will be happy!  Including you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Celebrate Friends - with a FRocktail!

The Headlines:

We all need friends.

Especially Moms (we have lots to talk about).

Carve some time out to celebrate them.

Make a FRocktail.

More than anything this post is about friends.  We all need them.  They matter. Especially to Moms.  The reason is simple: sometimes I think being a Mom can seem isolating.  You're with your kids all day.  Taking care of their needs way before yours.  Exploring ways to best help them reach their full potential, as well you should.  The selfish years are over.  We've talked about that before.  But the self still needs people.  Preferably other Moms going through the same thing.

For most Moms,  escaping is either impossible or costly.  So forget that and invite them over for a FRocktail.

What in the world is a FRocktail?  I just made it up.  It is a no frills cocktail with a friend.  A FRiend cOCKTAIL.  Let me explain.  I have my children all the time.  I do not have a nanny.  I have a few sitters that I use when BP (the husband) and I go out.  But he works a lot.  He has to attend dinners after work all the time.  Therefore, escaping with friends to a bar or restaurant during the evening is very rare.  But friend time needs to happen.  I started inviting them to come to me.  Sometimes they bring their children to play with mine, other times it's just us Moms… with MY children.  I feed them and offer them a little wine.  Everyone is happy.

Every once in a while, I break out the bubbles to spruce things up a bit and other times, I'll make a FRocktail.  Just one.  But like I said, the no frills friend cocktail, or FRocktail, takes the "party" up a notch.  It makes the night feel just a little more special.  Like you put in extra time for your special buddy.

On this particular night, I hadn't seen my friend in any "adult" way for quite a while.  Let's face it, we're all really busy.  She has 4 children and lives about a half hour away from me.  We see each other for a few play dates a year - Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring… but time gets away from us easily.  Then, all of the sudden you realize you haven't had a friend "date" in forever!  So on this occasion,  I turned it up a notch because I had the simple ingredients needed to make a kind of strawberry martini.  So away we went!

I found:
Stawberry Vodka
Fresh Strawberries
A Cranberry, Coconut juice

I thought:  this works.

I muddled up some strawberries in a shaker.  Added 3 shots of the Strawberry Vodka and maybe a cup and a half of the juice… shook, added ice and a strawberry to the rim of the fun glass - then poured! I'll tell ya, the glass adds a lot.  It just looks so much cooler than, I don't know,what are those red… oh SOLO cups!!!  Yea, those - not the same thing.  Totally different kind of party.  One I'd rather not attend after age 25.

Anyways, my friend stayed with her daughter for hours and we had a talkative, fun, celebratory time. She only had a couple sips of the FRocktail but that didn't matter.  We said "cheers", gabbed, commiserated and laughed like we didn't have to wake up when the first child's eyes fluttered open the next day!    

All kicked off by the FRocktail.  Look at all that mushed up strawberry down below!

Good stuff.  I need to start planning another friend night soon.  Maybe I'll go big and find some extra papaya in the fridge and flavored sugar in the drawer!  But, whatever I find won't matter… it's the person I invite that will!       

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Red White & GREEN Salad!

The Headlines:

4th of July is approaching.

BBQ any meat.

But make this salad.  

It's almost patriotic.

Every year for the 4th of July we grill.  It's what everyone does, I know.  So add this to your meat...

Red, White & Green Salad
The Red, White and Green Salad is one of my favs… it's different and catches the attention of everyone who eats it.  Because they've never had anything like it before.

First of all, you use a bunch of colorful tomatoes and basil... second there's so much going on, flavors darting all over your mouth - it's kind of like fireworks on - well - you know - The 4th of July...

Here's what you need:
1 lb of Asparagus
6 cups of cut cherry tomatoes (all colors would be nice, prettier)
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola
1 ripe, chopped Avocado
1 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 EVOO
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
 salt and pepper to taste

Here's What you do:
Cut asparagus and boil in a pot of salted water… only about 2 minutes.  It will be a pretty bright green.  Drain and rinse.  Take a large bowl and put all the cut tomatoes in it.

When your cut the tomatoes, make sure you leave most of the disgusting seeds on the cutting board.  Keeping them in is a great way to ruin the salad!

Next add the avocado, asparagus (when it cools), gorgonzola and basil.  In a small bowl, whisk the EVOO, lemon juice, dijon and salt and pepper together.  Then pour the dressing over the vegetable mixture and gently stir all together.  Note, most likely when you do this the avocado won't stay in cubes (if it's ripe enough) but basically kind of coat the whole salad which adds to the creaminess of it.  Use more salt and pepper to taste if needed. Store in fridge but take out at least 10 minutes before serving to get it to room temperature for serving.  Throw on a few more gorgozola crumbles too.  Mmmmmmm. Serves 6.

Pretty, festive and totally yum.  Easy to take with you if you're headed to a BBQ instead of hosting one.  Everyone will love it.  Look at those colors!  Friends may even salute YOU right along with the good ol' US of A.

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