Tuesday, September 30, 2014

EZ Halloween Invitation!

The Headlines:

I hate Halloween!

But I like decorating & I like parties.


Here's how to make an EZ invite.

Scary?


Yea, it's a bit frightening we're already thinking about Halloween on the last day of September.  But not really.  Planning ahead is the key to success.  Most of the time.

Oddly enough, I usually drag my heels a bit when it comes to this holiday.  I am not a fan of Halloween.  I'm really not.  As as kid, coming up with a costume was always very difficult.  As an adult it didn't get much easier.  All for one day.  Really?  SO much time, energy and effort for one quick night.  Then it's over.  Not only that but it's ugly.  I do not like ghosts, goblins, vampires and all the gory stuff that goes with it.  I know, I know…  I'm in the minority since Halloween is the holiday people spend the most $$$ on… second to Christmas... and it seems to get bigger every year!

Working in news never really helped the fact that I hated the holiday since it was always in "sweeps," which is the ratings period that advertisers really look at, and meant no one could have any time off.  So, unless Halloween was on a friday/saturday… it became hard to celebrate, go trick or treating, then turn around, sleep and get back up at 2am to work!  However, as you probably know - this year it IS on a friday, I no longer work nor have to dress up.  Plus, I have kids… it all adds up to one thing - let's get this party started! Yep, in my old age,  I am finding myself getting into the "spirit" much more… so much so that I am having my second Halloween Party.  That's right.  This Picky Chick has changed and grown.

It's never to early to start planning for a party.  Especially for a holiday that you hate.  You have to try even harder.  At least if you want it to be good.  And since it's about a month away you better get on it!  First things first, get that invite out.  The nice thing about invites these days is that anything goes.  You don't need to send it in the mail.  It can be emailed, texted… shoot, people even invite through Facebook.  But I like to do something, at least, kinda cool.  SO, I just started using something for this blog… it's an app that lets me write on pictures and add borders and stuff.  Well, for this case - I actually made it my "invitation"… see?


I started with a picture I took of a decor item I just bought for the house.  I took the picture up close...


I knew it would work because it was black and white and could make a nice background that wasn't too distracting!

After I took my picture I opened this -  A Beautiful Mess App - and went to work!  It walks you through the entire thing… I added the picture, changed the filter a bit so it even lessened the boldness of the black and white, chose and wrote the script, then saved it to my phone.  At that point, you could text it to people or what I did.. emailed it.  When they open the email the "invite" shows right up! 

Next up, I needed to make some plans.  What am I serving?  I love to put my menu together way ahead of time.  I haven't finalized it yet but I'm working on it.  What I do know, is my cocktail of choice…


It's a Cantaloupe Martini… but we serve it from this Crystal Head Vodka Bottle.  Have you heard of that?  It's Dan Aykroyd's (yes the actor) brand.  They filter the vodka 3 times through crystals known as Herkimer Diamonds.  Click  Crystal head Vodka   to learn more on their website.  Also, Costco is selling a bottle, with 2 shot glasses for 40 bucks.  At least in Arizona.  They have different buyers in different states so it could vary.  I use the shot glasses in my decorating too… 


 I put corn kernels in them and line them up on a ledge I have behind a buffet table in my dining room.


It's subtle but people always catch it!

Back to the cocktail - love love love it!  If you want the recipe… I put it on my blog last year… it is amazing and so super simple to make.  Only 4 ingredients: oj, lime juice, vodka (you can use Crystal Head) and a watermelon liqueur.  Tastes just like you're biting into a piece of cantaloupe but better! You and your guests will die!  Halloween pun.  See how I did that… awful, I know!  Obviously, I AM getting into this!!!  Too much?

Anyways, get the recipe Here 

Now, for the food items.  I think I'm going to do a different version of chili dogs, something involving carrots and a treat.  I'll give you a cool cupcake recipe perfect for Halloween soon.  For now, just go get those invites done… or better yet… have a cantaloupe cocktail!  That always makes me hate Halloween a little less...




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Only Child = Lonely Child?

The Headlines:

Have an only child?


No worries.

I'm an Only Child.

It's really not that bad.




When I meet parents these days who have only children, though still fairly rare (according to the U.S Census, in 2010, it's about 20% of all kids), they always ask me: "How was it?" I see the concern in their eyes.  They wonder if their child will grow up isolated or antisocial or worse yet, both!  I always assure them, they will be fine.  Just look at me!  In that same breath I give them a little run down of what to expect: they will be independent, dependable, talkative… yep, there are certain things that only children will, inevitably have in common, to a degree.  What lies ahead is the down and dirty info on life as an only.

Wait, was my best friend a bear statue? 


As a little girl I always wanted a sister.  Wouldn't that be great?  A constant friend to be by your side forever.  Unfortunately, I never got one.  I never got a brother either.  I just had me.  My Mom and Dad had a plan, so they said, to have one child and adopt the other sex.   But my Mom later told me that they were having way to much fun raising me and just kind of forgot.  I personally think my Mom would have gone insane with a second child.  But in any case, the fact remained it was me alone.

So began my long road as an only… it's a windy, long, exciting trip.  Let's preview the ride.

First things first, Which Only Are You?
To this day, when I come across an only I instantly bond with them.  I know what they went through, I went through it too.  But if you have any extended interaction with an only child you will first realize there are different classifications of them.  3 "types" if you will… due directly to the way they were raised.  Inevitably an only child will be spoiled - but the question is how?


love
things
or 
both

Only children who are spoiled with things are obvious.  They get what they want, when they want it.  They get stuff.  Lots of it.  They grow up never wanting and perhaps never giving much.  Their lives are very self serving.  It's clear why.  Now, the only spoiled with love gets mostly attention.  They constantly have a type of spotlight shined on them.  The parents think their child can almost walk on water.   They grow up believing in themselves and feeling very valued.  They yearn to be taken care of but will take care of their person or people right back.  This is the only child who sometimes will not, obviously, appear as an only.  Finally, the third and most potentially disastrous of the bunch is the only child who is spoiled with both things and love.  These onlies truly grow up thinking the world completely revolves around them.  Because, it does.  When they find out it doesn't, they can break.  It is devastating because their parents made them think the sun rose and set on them and when they find out otherwise, it's earth shattering because now they have to completely realign the way the world truly works.

**Keep in mind, this "disaster" only happens when the love and things are in complete excess.  True overkill.  Otherwise, both - in small and distinct doses - can be a kind of magical combination.  A true golden child.

Now, if you know me, you are very aware that I was spoiled with love.  My parents didn't have a lot of money but they gave me lots of undivided attention.  Many of my friends were surprised by how much focus I received.  Their parents were always much more self involved.  My parents, always put my games, my friends and my life first.  Perhaps a bit too much for their own good but it is what they did.  Which leads me to my first reason...
Being an Only Child Rocks:

Reason #1
It's All About Love (and Confidence).
An only child knows they deserve to be loved because they got it so much growing up.  In turn, often times they can also be love-able.  I remember when I liked a boy in high school and he wasn't necessarily returning the "love" whole heartedly, I was stunned.  Plus, annoyed.  Ultimately, I knew I could never actually be with a man long term who didn't adore me.  I was used to being adored by my father.  I believe that helped me pick a healthy, good relationship with my eventual husband.  Isn't that the goal?  To be adored by the one you marry?  An only child will be.

Also, and this could be a whole separate reason if I wanted it to be… but being an only child will give him or her self confidence.  Because they had the full attention of their parents constantly.  They don't have to share or compete for it.  This makes them feel worthy and deserving which feeds their inner ego and they will carry that with them forever.  In a good way.


Reason #2
Great Social Skills.
Onlies can talk to anyone.  As an only child, you go where your parents go.  All the time.  You, therefore, interact with your parents and their friends.  A lot.  It makes the only mature faster and talk better than other children.  That person gets more practice.  The skill stays with them forever and comes in handy when meeting new people for the rest of their lives.  Plus, it never hurts in business either.  Usually, only children get along with anyone.

Reason #3
Incredible Friend Network.
An only child does not have brothers or sisters to rely on so they must develop a good bunch of friends.  Friends are the family they choose and they mean a lot to them.  I had a friend as a young girl who had mass amounts of siblings at home.  I loved her.  We looked alike.  In my mind, she was the sister I never had.  Being friends with her was mega important to me.  Not so much for her.  With her at-home "friend" network - she didn't need me the way I needed her.  We remain friends to this day.  In fact, I have a lot of friends.  I was in lots of weddings in my 20's.  I always tried and still try to develop them wherever I go.  Today, we have a big party Christmas Eve where we invite bunches of friends… because family - we have not.

On the flip side, your only child will be completely comfortable without any friends.  They grow up super independent so they don't feel the need to always be surrounded by friends.  For some, being alone is difficult and taboo.  Not for the only.  There can actually be some comfort in it.

Reason#4
High Achiever.  Sometimes Over achiever.
Only children want to please.  They are their parents only hope.  For me, disappointing my parents was not an option.  If I did, in my mind at least, their whole lives were for nothing since they put so much into me.  If I became a loser… what a waste of time those 18 years were.  No.  I needed to show them.  I had to do well, not at every single thing, but at enough things.  That continues to this day by the way…  I realized that at one point several years ago when my parents were out of the country, I had good news, but I couldn't reach them.  I kinda felt like, telling them, made the news real.  Not telling them, made me disinterested in the news all together.

My friends mom was an only child.  Let, me tell you, that woman has been on fire for a long time.  First she was a super mom, birthing like 6 kids.  Then she was a Real Estate tycoon - writing books and speaking all over the country.  Now, at around age 70, she's an actress.  Seriously.  Like moving-to- Columbia-to-star-in-some-new-Netflix-drug-series or something like that actress.  I would call her a definite over-achiever.  And I know where it came from.  Or at least where it started - being an only child.  Therefore, only children can be leads in plays, captains of the football teams, presidents of clubs,  super academics.  They will do what it takes to stand out somewhere.  If for nothing else but to make mom and dad proud.

Reason #5
Ultimately, You Get What You Want.
It has to be said. Probably the least popular but also most truthful reason Being an Only Child Rocks. While I was not spoiled with money - I undoubtedly got more than I would have if there was a sibling.  I was able to join the cheerleading squad when I made it at 14.  My parents bought me a car when I as 16.  I went to a private University when I was 17.  Those things cost money.  Quite a bit of money.  My parents sacrificed what they needed to, to make sure I got those things.  If I would have had sisters or brothers… all of those things would have been impossible.  It just could not have happened.  Because I was an only, it did.

So now the downside.  It's simple.

Reason #1
You're an Only Child
Pretty straight forward, huh?  You may have all of those things above but you don't have a brother or a sister.  In some cases, not all, but for some people a brother or sister can be the most rewarding relationship you will ever have in your life.  One that I will never get the chance to experience.  Those are the people who you will be with you through everything.  They will protect you in elementary school, stand by your side at your wedding, spend time with you on the holidays, argue with you over your parents elderly care and eventually talk to you on the phone when no one else will because you can barely hear.  How special is that?


This is what I know.
Not what I studied.  Not what I read.  It is not the outcome of a sociological experiment.  Nor the notions of a psychological genius.  I am just me.  I had the experience and I was a student of life as it was dealt to me.  I will not say that your child, or you, will inevitably and completely fall into one of the above categories.  Every person, every only, every situation is different.  But I will say, I believe, there is a good chance the above rings true to most.  It's not bad or good… it just is.

So there it is… all laid out.  Though I was somewhat distraught by the loneliness of being an only… and am still reminded of it from time to time today. It also taught me so much.  It made me lighter.  It forced me to shine brighter.  I am who I am because I was an only.  I'm convinced if I had siblings I would be a fairly, not completely, but fairly different person than I am today.  I like who I am.  And you will love who you or your child grows to be.  I… only... promise. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Appreciate Mom.

The Headlines:


Sometimes Moms (& kids) need
 to know they're appreciated.

Here's how my husband showed us.

Even when he's an ocean away.






There are so many up sides to being a parent.  The smiles you get when you look in the rear view mirror.  The kisses at bed time.  The joy their loud voices bring you when you walk in the door after a long, hard day at work.  There is, however, an occasional down side that shows itself from time to time.        

LIKE VACATIONS.  
Being a parent makes it hard to escape on adult vacations!

Let's face it, for most of us… it doesn't happen.. that often.  You either have to pay someone through the nose to watch your children day and night or have a family member come over and do the job for free.  You think, they probably want to watch my adorable kids, right?  They're just silently begging for time with them… I'll do them the honor and grant it!  Yea, right.  Newsflash.  They don't.  But they will... if you ask nice enough.

Then, when you do get a sitter squared away, there's so much prep in leaving.  You write out a schedule, buy a bunch of food, plan stuff to do, gather emergency numbers.  The list goes on.  And on.   And on.  Bottom line, it's not easy.  Therefore, leaving can become too much of a chore to do.  Especially for Mom!  So the trip doesn't happen.  Sigh.  Such has been the case for me OVER and OVER and OVER.

It does not deter BP (that's the husband).  He is a busy man.  He works hard, travels some, goes out to dinner a lot, he golfs, hunts, fishes, tries to run or play a sport very occasionally.  He's got a lot going on.  This year, in summary, he's gone to the Masters, fished in Alaska, played the U.S. Open course in one of the Carolina states, traveled to Ireland and Scotland, England and more... whew.  I'm tired now.  Yes, he's very busy.  But he can do all those trips, because I stay home and hold down the fort.  Proudly so.  The unfortunate truth is that WE have been invited multiple times for couple trips and I mostly stay home.  We went to Sedona together this year.  That's it.  Other trips I attended included the kiddos.  But like I said, it's just easier when he goes on his own.

Does it make me mad or envious?  My Mother in law recently asked me if it bothers me that he does so much and I, well, don't.  I answered her honestly.  No.  I really don't mind.  Some or most of the trips are for his work and really he's a guy who needs to do that stuff.  For his sanity.  Don't get me wrong - I'd love to go with him more but I'm not angry when he leaves.  I'm a Mom who loves her job at home.  Truly.  But I'm also a Mom who needs one thing.  Appreciation.  I need and do feel like a valued part of his team.  All year long.

That, my friends, is key.  BP tells me, often times through cards, sometimes through a spa treat or gift card… that he appreciates me.   This last trip, where he was gone over the span of 3 weeks… he did this:


What IS that, you say?  They're prizes.  One for each family member.  The kids and I got to wake up everyday when he was away and be reminded that he loved and missed us.  It was sweet.  It was kind.  It didn't take too much time or too much money but it took a lot of thought.  And it meant the world.

Each day he wrote a small note.  The prize corresponded with it.  For the kids, he pretty much just hit Toys R Us and bought everything from books to battery powered water guns...

Even a little candy.
It was pure delight for the kids.  They missed their Dad a bunch but this made it a lot easier.
For me,

He gave me everything from gift cards to magazines to a thoughtful card.  And his best attempt - booking a babysitter, a friend and some cash to pay for it all.  Super cool.  Of course, full disclosure, I canceled the sitter and just made dinner at home.  The kids and the friend stayed but since I was seriously so tired from constant motion all Summer long - I didn't want to go out!

Bottom line, what he did worked.  He wanted his family to know… that we're his priority.  We do.

Let's face it, almost all Moms are overworked and under appreciated.  That's the job for many of us but maybe it doesn't have to be.  Perhaps we need to remind our husbands: show us we mean the world  because we'll give you the world - right back.

Oh and if you think it may be too hard to "remind them" on your own - you can forward this link. No worries, I'll just do it for you.  :)



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Fall" for this Apple Salsa

The Headlines:

Fall is upon us (almost)...

Try this twist on a Summer favorite.




Ahhhhh Fall.  When it comes up each year I kind of mourn the end of Summer.  Many, in Arizona, do not share my school of thought.  Most can NOT wait to say "See ya!" to the seemingly endless heat we endure here.  Not me.  I may not appreciate the high temps but I so love pool days with margarita's in hand, kids laughter and grilled dinners that seem to bridge us from afternoon to evening in the blink of an eye.  To me, it's part of what life's all about.  Like a vacation in your backyard.

So when September comes around I remind myself… there is fun to be had in Fall too.  Yes, it indicates the beginning of the holiday season.  But we have time before we get too deep into that.  For now,  if possible, I will ease out of the pool season and into the next season with a few more weeks of BBQ's and fun side dishes like this…
Sweet/Spicy Apple Salsa
Apples just say fall to me and this salsa is the perfect usher in… BP (the husband) made it for my daughters "Sea" Birthday Party… and it was a hit.  With the adults.  Not the children.  They stuck to all the good, junky food I served that day!


The salsa was termed "Seaweed" to stick with the theme.  Anyways, super easy to do, just some chopping needed.

You'll need:
4 granny smith apples, chopped
2-4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
4 tblspns chopped mint
2 tspns lime zest
6 tblspns fresh lime juice
2 tblspns honey
salt to taste
Tabasco to taste (which is the key here, it gives it that zing to balance the sweet)

Here's what you do:
Put it all together, stir and chill before serving… at least an hour.  That helps all the flavors really gel together!

We served this with our halibut sandwiches and it went really well together.  I also used it again the next day with some steak soft tacos with melted white cheese… totally worked too.

So get into Fall with your special apple dish.  Because… it's time.  Sigh.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Preparing Kids for Social Media

The Headlines:

I am scared to death of this topic.

So I'm writing about it.

I want to be prepared.  If it's possible.



There is not a topic that scares me more.  Not one.

My son, at age 3, knows fully and completely how to operate I-Phones, I-Pads (which he so cutely pronounces Ah-Pad) and I-Pods possibly better than me.  I'm sure your child does too. But while he plays on them with such enthusiasm, he has no idea of the real power they hold.  He won't for a while.  My 8 year old daughter, on the other hand, is discovering it.  Slowly but surely.


Social Media is a beast.  A beast that is so very untamed.  Sure, things can change in the next few years.  Before she really gets into it.  Perhaps for the better.  More likely for the worse.  During that time, I can prepare her and me.

Good vs. EVIL
I will say this for Social Media.  In my mind, it can be compared to a Superhero or an evil villain.  Like Batman.  He can use his power for good or evil.  He chooses good.  When people hop on Social Media, especially young, growing minds… they need to make a conscious decision whether they become Wonder Woman or Cat Woman that day.  It can be an incredible tool or in some cases it can be as harmful as a handgun.  That's a lot for a child to handle, don't you think?  Too much.  They need our help.

Yet so many parents, very good, super conscientious, concerned and loving parents are absent from that part of their lives.  In the words of Julia Roberts as "Pretty Woman" back in the 80s': "Big mistake.  Huge."

No Privacy Please
Let's go back a bit… when social media came on the scene I was dumbfounded.  We were such a private world before.  As a reporter, I remember my News Director at the time didn't put our email addresses on the screen as we spoke on camera - I was told he was trying to protect us from mean/negative/degrading comments people would send.   Most people said good things but I heard plenty of cruel things too.  I always figured, it went with the job.  But back in the day, we were used to staying kind of "arms length" from the viewer.  Facebook and Twitter… blew that up!  Suddenly, it was like nothing was a secret.  Everything was fair game.  Celebrities, reporters, sports figures, politicians and regular people were telling everyone their every move.  Huh?  It baffled me.  It still does to this day.  I was required, by my job, to get in on the action.  So I did.  Although reluctantly.  Plus, I kept it completely work related.  Others did not.  I still am not a big poster.  All things considered, I'm rather private.  Yes, I get the irony of the blog for sure.


Love/Hate Relationship
It's a love/hate, right?  I love love love that Social Media can bring people together who live worlds a part.  I appreciate what it does for business and lost friends.  I think it makes our world seem so much more cohesive.  On the other hand, I hate that it can separate good friends with one, off handed comment.  I despise the fact that it can destroy a person's self worth, that it isolates those who let it.  It's awful that many of us now type more and talk less - that some of us live for the camera and not for actual life.  Social Media can expose people when they should remain hidden.  In very simple terms: it brings out the best and the worst in human kind.

Now imagine that in the hands of a 13 year old.  Or younger.  It's too powerful.  It's like giving your child a bomb to carry in their bac pac and telling them - be careful - don't let it hit the ground.

BooM!

Lately, I've been talking to parents of older children and I hate what I'm hearing.  Think about it.  If Social Media can wreak such havoc on adults… what will it do to our children?  Or shall I say - what won't it do?  So I pose these questions.  Have you thought about your answers?  Even if you haven't joined the party yet… your kids invitation is coming soon.  Prepare now.

When is the right age to get a child a phone?  
Answer: That depends on the circumstances.  My friend won't give her 7th grader one yet and the little girl is DYING.  But her Mom knows it will open a huge can of worms and she can no longer "protect" her.  Another Mom I know had to get her son a phone in 5th grade because he was at the golf course all the time and needed one for protection and convenience.  I will try to hold off on a phone as long as possible.

How do you monitor it?
Answer:  Any way you want.  You're the parent.  I know a Mom who takes her son's phone every night and inspects it top to bottom.  She looks at FB, Twitter, Instagram… wherever he goes so does she… he can not hide and he knows it.  Some may say it's an invasion of privacy, I would counter no one has privacy when they are on the internet.  If your kid wants privacy - write in an old fashioned journal.  Or pick up the phone to have a conversation with an actual friend.

How do you protect kids from social media?
Answer: The simple answer is you don't.  You can't.  It's impossible.  I may fully trust my daughter or son but they may not be the problem.  It's the other guy.  A friend of mine told me a story the other day:  her daughter is now a freshman at a private school.  She went to a local public school for junior high but switched for high school.  She had a phone.  One day, recently, when she went to her new school an old friend started a group text.  By the end of the day there were 300 texts/pictures on it.  They were raunchy, inappropriate and down right sickening.  She said "Mom, make it stop."  The Mom wrote an email to the text creator that said, "stop texting my daughter." The boy replied something like, "you're not the boss of me and I can do what I want, my Mom knows what I do!"  She replied, "give me her number!"  Her daughter then proceeded to receive HATE texts.  Things like "such a baby," and "boo-who," to "you going to commit suicide now?" It went that far.  Hateful, mean words from people who were supposed to be her friends.  Fortunately this girl didn't care very much since she was going to a new school… but what if she did care?  Those words can be devastating. Words like that can ruin lives.  And she did nothing wrong.  She wasn't the problem.  It makes my stomach turn inside out.  Because in cases like that, what's a parent to do?  Protecting your children is almost not an option.  You can't police other peoples kids.

What Can You DO?
Answer:  You can't fully protect your children from the beast… but you can make sure they're not gobbled up by it.  Understand the newest, coolest app and decide if it's okay to use.  No means no.  If you don't approve it - they don't use it.  That SnapChat thing where you post something that disappears in 6 seconds is nothing but trouble.  What good could come from something that someone sees for 6 seconds and then "never" appears again (yea right, by the way)!  Also, limit the amount of time kids can be on the phone.  It's not to use all day and all night.  There's probably an app for that.

Does FaceTime replace face time?
Answer:  Absolutely not!  Do everything you can to get kids in front of actual people.  Invite friends over, plan outings, do things!!!  Conversing, seeing, interacting with 3 dimensional bodies make people care more about others.  Hiding behind a screen interacting with, at best, a face through a camera can cause kids to almost feel as if what they do isn't reality.  Almost like they're living in a game.  But it's far from a game and can have real life consequences.

In full disclosure here, I'm not a psychologist.  BP (the husband) calls me Dr. Nicole because I think about all this stuff a lot and out loud.  But I am a woman who has children and cares about those precious little beings more than anything in the world.  I want to protect them just enough so that they can effectively grow and become productive, amazing, educated, conscientious, empathetic, strong working fixtures in society.  If you're reading this,  I'm pretty sure that's what you want too… good luck to us all.




  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baked Tomatoes.

The Headlines:

Say goodbye to Summer.

Ease into Fall with this recipe.



As you may know by now, I like to make food appropriate to the season.  Meaning, I don't put out a guacamole in November.  Something with apples or blue cheese just seems much more appropriate.  So, I love tomatoes.  But they're a pretty Summery food to me.  Fortunately, we've done some wonderful things with them during the Summer.  Which I've never shared here actually, ooops my bad, next Summer.  But come Fall, which is right around the corner by the way (September 22nd), I start to change the way I use tomatoes.  And, baking them is a perfect way to transition the fruit (which seems like a veggie) into the next season!

Here is one of my favorite ways to do it!

Baked Tomato
Baking a tomato… or at least baking this tomato is like biting into a melty, juicy type of pizza.  But way more healthy!  Plus, it's not your usual side dish.  That's the way I like to do things.  Different but fabulous!

Anyways, you will not be disappointed.  Here's how it's done.  Have I mentioned… it's easy. Like always!

You'll need:
6 beeksteak tomatoes
1 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup plus a smidge more of Italian Style bread crumbs
1 1/1 cup grated or torn provolone (or another good, white melty cheese that you love)
1/4 tspn pepper
1/2 tspn salt
3 tblspns EVOO
butter or spray for pan

You'll do:
Preheat oven to 375.

Take your butter or a cooking spray and coat the pan you'll be using to bake the tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes at the top (almost like you're creating a "lid"), then use a spoon to get the "guts" out.  Save the the insides, chop up tiny and put into a bowl but trash the seeds.  Be careful, you don't want to poke the outside.  You basically want the tomato to resemble a bowl.


Mix the tomato insides with the bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper.  Then stuff it into the tomatoes.  Use all of it.  Even if you think they're a little over-stuffed because the insides settle a bit with cooking.

Drizzle the EVOO over the stuffed tomatoes and put them in the oven.


 Bake for about 22 minutes (maybe a couple more - you'll be able to tell).  Remove and serve.


We recently had ours with a big, juicy, medium rare cooked steak and some stupendous wine!  Tres magnifique! Seriously, like way better than the super over-priced and very unimpressive steak house we recently visited.  Blah!

This Picky Chick loves it and I know you will too.  Plus it's inexpensive to make and takes like 5 minutes of your time.  Definitely on to something here...


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

SEA My Birthday Party!

The Headlines:


My daughter turned 8.

She deserved a party.




The theme of this party came to me because my daughter wanted to do a mermaid party.  But, so as not to limit it at all, we opened it up to a SEA theme!

Mermaid Cake
Yep, that's a mermaid.  And so it was.  Here's how we did it.  Brace yourself.

Let's start with the invitations.  For some reason I almost always make my invitations.  I can control it that way.  I just got colored cards at Michael's (which is by far my favorite craft store by the way) and I put stickers on the front which made each one totally unique.  Then I glued a string on it and a NERD to look like a fishing line and bait.


 The inside read:
Come SEA friends… take the bait
Savy is finally turning 8!
Dock: At our "beach house" and it described where we live
Shore Up: Date and time
Pack: Towel and bathing suit
Tickets:  Call Captain Nicole 

That was printed on normal computer paper and taped on with glitter tape so it looked cool!
18 RSVP's… we invited 21 girls.  It was a lot... so I went to work!

First the food.  The good thing about kid parties as they get older is that parents don't really stay anymore!  That makes it a bit easier on me since I no longer have to feed adults.  Let's face it, 5 and under - the parties are sometimes more for the parents than the kids!  Anyways, it takes a lot of pressure off.

SEA FOOD: 
Of course, everything needed to fit the theme!  So we started with a kind of "Sea Food Bar"… 

Food "Bar"
"Bait" was first up.
"Bait"
See, we went fishing a few weeks ago and I realized bait can be very colorful so fruity pebbles worked great!  Next, of course,  was a giant jar of Goldfish… followed by some "Bobbers"… which is something else you use to fish.
"Bobbers"
The kids loved being able to scoop stuff out by themselves using these cool, striped containers they have everywhere now.


Then, I took some pretzel sticks and tied licorice laces on the end…
"Fishing Poles"
to make "Fishing Poles!"  All of the food was practically wiped out by the end of the party so it must have been a hit.

I also made "Ocean Blues"...
"Ocean Blues"/Jello Cups

which was jello placed in dixie cups… with their tops cut off and some blue sugar sprinkled on top. 

We had "Fish & Chips" which was my Halibut sandwich recipe - you can find here - rolled up in flat bread, along with sun chips. Because kids will eat ANYTHING ROLLED!  It's just more fun!

Halibut Sandwiches
We did have some "Seaweed"…
"Seaweed"

which was made for adults.  A few did stay.  It's an awesome green salsa made with apples and Tabasco so it was a sweet/spicy combo people liked!  Plus it went well with the Halibut Roll Up's!  Recipe to follow another time.  

Finally, to drink…

"Sea Water"

we had "Sea Water!"  Which was simply lemonade with some blue food coloring in it!

SEA GAMES:
As I stated before, I wanted to make this party more special than a swim party which all of these girls have been doing all Summer so I decided to do games & activities too.  It started the moment the girls walked in the door.

I had 2 sit down to play a typical Memory Game but with Shells.  Those are actually shells with whistles attached from Oriental Trading.  They all look the same from the top.  

SHELL We Make Memories?
See it closer...

 But what you don't see is that underneath the shells are stickers...


2 of the same underneath each shell belly.  So 12 pairs - 24 shells in all.  To play, all the shells are turned so that no one can see the stickers.  The first player turns over 2 shells and if they match, she keeps them.  If they don't, she turns them back over and the other person goes.  The person who collects the most shells, wins and then goes on to play the next girl.  Whoever won the most games got the prize.   

We also did a 

"Fish Feast" in another part of the house.  One girl sat down at a time, was blindfolded and fed different Goldfish flavors.  There were 6.  Then they had to pick the flavor.  It was a little hard so my Mother in Law gave hints.  The girl(s) who got the most right… won a prize.  It was a super hit!


Then we sent the kids swimming.   But while they were out there I grabbed 3 at a time and took them on a Flip Flop Treasure Hunt called


This one was tough (for me) so follow me here!  While the kids were swimming in the back yard - I hid new pairs of flip flops in the front yard.  So I set the girls up in groups of 3, labeled their shoes


and gave them a clue as to where they could "Find their Flip."  For instance this one says:

FLIP FLOP TREASURE HUNT CLUE #1
Flips like me love the open air…
Unless I feel like hiding in a chair.
Where am I?


Then they would find their 1st flip in the chair, behind a pillow and it would have another clue as to where the 2nd one was… Or it would lead to the mailbox, where another clue would also be waiting with the flip flop.  That clue by the way was:
I love to walk, skip and hop… 
but when I come to you I'm in a box.  
Where am I?

Then they would find their final flip and they had a pair of flip flops from Old Navy to keep.  They were stoked.  It was the perfect age to do it.  Not too young and not too old.  They got it.  I only had to help a few girls!  The clues were hard to come up with since my yard doesn't have a lot of hiding spots.  I basically could only think of 6: mailbox, chair, bush, tree, golf cart and on a rock!  Hence, the reason only 3 girls could do it at a time.  1 girl, 2 clues.  I re-hid and re-used the same clues and hiding places each time I brought out 3 more girls.

The last thing we did was this…

"Make Your Own Sea!"
We basically used Waiwera (which is a water) plastic bottles… but any brand could work.  Do your homework though… some labels don't come off very easily.  Waiwera was perfect because they're tinted a sea green.  Otherwise you have to color your water.

You'll need: the bottle, water, blue and green food coloring, sand, sliver glitter, shells, baby oil and a hot glue gun.

SO EASY…. here's what you do:  put some sand in the bottle, about 10 shells (we added tiny star fish which looked really cool), a pinch of glitter and then fill the bottle with water over half way up.  Next, fill the bottle with the baby oil almost to the very top.  Get your glue gun and glue the top on (for obvious reasons)… your Sea is made.  It's super cool and takes just about 5 minutes.  You can also glue a tiny star fish on outside like above if you wish.  When the sand settles, you can see everything inside like below.

When all the activities and games were over - relief!  It was a lot of work but it kept everyone busy!  I got all the girls out of the pool and ready for cake!

SEA CAKE:
I did what I always do… I fake make my cake!  I barely made it in time but it worked!  First, I ordered my cake from our local grocer.  A half sheet vanilla and a quarter sheet chocolate.  Then I cut the vanilla cake in the form of a Mermaid tail.


I shoved a new Barbie, that my daughter chose, at the top.  Then, frosted the center and placed the chocolate cake on top so the middle would have some girth.  There are no more pictures of me making it because I was in such a hurry I never thought I would get it done! 

I colored the white butter cream frosting (which I also bought from Albertson's) a light blue and frosted the "crumb layer" which becomes a complete mess.  I stuck it in the fridge for like 45 minutes and then brought it out again for another frosting layer which smooths it out!  Then I took a color frosting spray to make her "scales"… threw on some edible glitter, added some brown sugar at the bottom (sand) - done! 


Just as the party started.  Like, no kidding, moments before the doorbell rang.  Phew.  It was really close.  But, as you can see… worth it!


My daughter was pleased as punch… er Sea Water!  
When the kids left the got little goody bags:


It's Swedish fish and some more fruity pebbles/bait - the card says:  

Thanks - SEA friends… it was great.
Celebrating Savy's number 8!
Until we have another date -
Please enjoy this fish & bait!

Lastly, I have to mention - it wasn't very expensive.  Fake making your cake is a bargain!  I found flip flops for $3 each.  The shells and paper products all came from Oriental Trading (it was less than $70)!  It was unlike any party the girls had been to which was why it was so well received!

To think just yesterday she was this old...


Yep, she deserves the Sea… and beyond.
Bon voyage!