Archive | November, 2012

Go Elf Yourself!

26 Nov

1…2…3…4…FOUR!  That is the number of days it took for us to forget to move the elf! 

Our elf was purchased by a very well-meaning grandfather, who trudged out in the pouring rain to be one of the first to procure the Elf on the Shelf when he learned the author would be at a local book store.   The kids were so young at the time; we didn’t even open the box until the following year.  This is our third year “hosting” the elf in our home, and we still can’t get used to the nightly ritual of moving the elf around the house. 

Now, because of the elf, we have become big, fat liars!  On nights when we have forgotten to make the move, one or the other of us will remember in the morning and move the elf before the kids get downstairs…but not this morning!  Our tiny tornado (the middle-little) made it downstairs first and pointed out that the elf was still in the same spot.  Quick thinking Daddy reminded her that she was especially naughty the day before, and perhaps our elf was giving her another chance before he reports back to Santa.  Thankfully, Mommy and Daddy are on the same page with these white lies even without conversing, because my oldest came to report on the non-movement of the elf, and I fed him the exact story.  Kids believed it…crisis averted.

I often speak of the craziness that occurs on Pinterest, and the elf is no different!  People seem to go to all lengths to find new things to do with their elf.  Not us.  We are lucky just to remember to move the darn thing!  We did, however, start this tradition, the kids love it and we are stuck with it.  So, in the interest of the craziness with all things elf…here is what we’ve got!  I fully admit our inspiration was Dr. Seuss.  For whatever reason, when I think of the elf, all conversation happens as though it is part of Green Eggs & Ham!

Little-Shelf-Elf

I am Mom
Dad is He
Together we made three mini-MEs

Those mini-MEs
Those little selves
They sure do love those silly elves…
Those elves made to perch up on the shelf

For one whole month we join the craze
It seems to go on and on for days

We wrack our brains to hide this elf
But more often than not just use the shelf

We cannot, will not make you fly
On a zip-line way up high

The neighbor’s elf might bake a pie
While we’re content just placing you high…
High on a shelf, by your little elf self
That is enough!
Just on a shelf!

We will not pretend you know how to cook
We are lucky just to remember to dangle you from a hook!

No powdered sugar snow angels for you
Or cracker fishing in a toilet turned blue

We will not let you drink syrup or honey
You couldn’t possibly pay us enough money!

Some people really go to town
Isn’t it time they dial this down?
Isn’t he supposed to be Santa’s eyes?
A lookout… a scout…a spy…
How do they explain his reports to Santa?
“Had tea today with a toy panda…”
“Fishing was great…tasted kind of funny”
“Wanted to bake Baklava…forgot I already drank all the honey!”

Sometimes we think you are more trouble than you’re worth
A glorified snitch from birth
Late night and early morning relocation thoughts
Half asleep and in a haze, that shelf looks like a good spot!

Little elf!
Little elf!
For 30 days you keep us busy
Dizzy, really, keeping up

We’ll find simple hide-outs
Perhaps in a cup
But that’s all we’ve got
We give up!
We give up!

Little elf!
Little elf!
When did the shelf lose its luster?
We’ve given all the effort we can muster

Little elf!
Little elf!
You’re pushing us to the brink

You’re driving us crazy
And to drink, we think!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

22 Nov

In addition to being thankful for my family and friends, I am so thankful to be part of the heart community!  We have met so many wonderful friends who have greatly impacted our lives.  One organization we are honored to be a part of is Whole Hearts Foundation.  If you are looking for an organization to support this holiday season, please consider donating to Whole Hearts!  You can also follow them on Facebook.  As a very proud mamma of a child with a CHD, I have to point out that you can see his sweet, smiling face on their website.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family, to you and yours!!

Cookies…It’s what’s for breakfast!

20 Nov

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are great eaters, but sometimes it’s helpful to make something sound more exciting than it really is.  I discovered this when my middle-little was about a year or so old.  That is when I started serving waffle cookies.  What are these little treats?  Absolutely nothing more than plain and simple, regular whole wheat waffles.  Because she heard cookie, she was hooked!  She will often eat them without syrup or any other topping, just holding and eating it…like a cookie.

Now, I have fallen victim to a few Pinterest-fails.  When I tried the individual baked oatmeal, it wasn’t a total disaster, but I had a heck of a time peeling them out of the muffin papers.  The other day my niece said she was eating 2-ingredient cookies; just quick oats and bananas.  I thought – c-o-o-k-i-e-s!  I won’t have to peel the wrappers off and what kid wouldn’t like breakfast cookies?!

I didn’t use quick oats and I also like to add flax seed meal to these types of recipes, so I fiddled around and came up with these, which turned out to be VERY kid-approved!

Keep in mind, these are not going to taste like the oatmeal cookie recipe that comes on the oatmeal container, but you can eat these knowing they are a guilt-free, healthy breakfast and are even good on-the-go.

Please don’t hate on my ingredients; in a perfect world everything would be organic, maybe even grown at home, free of any controversy, totally perfect for the world brands.  I don’t know if there are any specific issues with these brands, but feel free to use whatever brands you care to.  The only thing I would say is, make sure not to use quick oats, in my opinion, things turn out a little too gummy with them. 

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup oats

2 very ripe bananas, smashed

¼ cup flax seed meal

A big handful of raisins

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup milk (I use regular, but use almond, soy, etc., if that’s what you use)

Mix all ingredients together and spoon out on a cookie sheet.  Because there is no oil in the cookies, I placed them on a piece of parchment that I spritzed with vegetable oil.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, flip the cookies and bake for an additional 7 minutes.   

Makes 12 cookies

Note:  If you need to hide veggies in order to get your kids (or you) to eat them, I would add shredded carrot or zucchini to this recipe.  I’ll update this page once I try it.  My guess at this point would be to add about ¾ cup of either shredded carrot or shredded zucchini.

Fear not, my Twinkie loving friends…

17 Nov

I am a huge lover of books.  Actual books.  Though I adore my Kindle and Kindle Fire, I still can’t let go of the huge bookcase full of books in the garage.  When I can see how many pages I’ve read and pace myself as I read the remaining pages, I feel like I read faster.  I do the same thing with mileage when we take long car trips – it drives my husband crazy!

Many, many years ago, I purchased a cookbook; not odd, since I love cooking and will actually read through every single page of a cookbook as soon as I get it home.  However, this was not a cookbook that would have normally appealed to my tastes.  It was a cookbook with recipes that emulate “America’s Favorite Foods”, as quoted on their website.  I am not a huge fan of fast-food, but I was so intrigued by this book, that I had to have a copy!  Lucky for my Twinkie-loving friends, I remembered this book and can share it with you now.

Unless you are living under a rock, you have likely heard that the Hostess shutdown has prompted a run on Twinkies across America.  In this age of Pinterest, DIY and everything about homemade anything, it should be no problem for the crafty, cooking folk to whip up a batch of homemade Twinkies!

I have not tried this recipe myself, but with all the talk about Twinkies in the last 24 hours or so, I may give it a go.  If you are like me and need to have the book, it is sold on the author’s website and on Amazon.

This recipe is from Todd Wilbur’s book, Top Secret Recipes.

Top Secret Recipe’s Version of Hostess Twinkie 

You will need a spice bottle, approximately the size of a Twinkie, ten 12×14-inch pieces of aluminum foil, a cake decorator or pastry bag, and a chopstick.

*It should be noted that the author has updated the crème filling recipe, here is the link.

I imagine you could also make these in a muffin tin, and save some of the time of setting up the forms – but if you are a die-hard, classic Twinkie eater…knock yourself out!  If you end up making these, let me know how they turn out!

We Just Ate the Great Pumpkin

13 Nov

Photo credit: Urban Farmer

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t all that big of a pumpkin.  It was a sugar pumpkin.  The kids didn’t want big pumpkins this year, so we picked out some sugar pumpkins.  Instead of carving them into jack-o-lanterns, they were just as happy painting them with non-toxic, water based paint (I knew I would be cooking them after Halloween).  When they decided to go with the smaller pumpkins, I instantly started scrolling through my pumpkin recipes.

I learned a few years ago that you could just bake the pumpkin whole!  I thought this was the neatest idea and after trying it, realized how super simple it is!  Just place the pumpkin on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Let it cool for a bit before you cut it in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy parts with a spoon.  After peeling it, run the pumpkin through the food processor  or a blender and use it in place of canned pumpkin in your recipes.We strayed a little from the original recipe this time around.  In addition to using fresh pumpkin, you can use your own chicken stock.  We also did not have the pear nectar, so we used our juicer and juiced some apples and carrots instead.  With grilled cheese sandwiches, it was the perfect fall meal!

Ginger-Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

2 can(s) (15-ounce) pumpkin puree

3 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth 1 can(s) (11 1/2-ounce) pear nectar

1/3 cup(s) creamy peanut butter

2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoon(s) grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped green onion

1 tablespoon(s) fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon(s) salt

1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cayenne pepper

Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Chopped chives (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a 6-quart saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onion, lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Divide soup among soup plates and garnish with pumpkin seeds and chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

Wear Your Scar with Pride!

8 Nov

When I was 15, I had surgery on my left wrist, via the top of my hand.  For whatever reason, I was always very self-conscious of this s-shaped, two inch scar.  I remember worrying (years before I was ever even engaged, mind you), what my wedding pictures would look like with this scar on the hand that would one day carry my wedding ring.  I look back now and realize what a waste of time and energy it was to worry about such a trivial thing!  I must admit, I was made to feel even sillier, as I tried to take a picture to display here, and couldn’t even get a shot that showed this thing that bothered me for so many years.

I thought about my scar today, when I watched the video of Brooke Burke-Charvet on her ModernMom blog, as she relayed that she has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and described where her scar would be.  I’ve always admired her as a mother and a businesswoman, and think she is doing a tremendous job meeting this challenge head on.  In my opinion, no matter what scar she is left with, she will still be just as beautiful as she is today!

I thought about the ‘vanity of a scar’ and when my ideals changed.  Yes, vanity; you should celebrate your scars!  There is a story behind every single one.

van-i-ty  Noun: Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

I honestly have to say, my view changed when I became a mother.  Don’t get me wrong, I can still be vain from time to time, but being a mom has literally caused me to lay my own life on the line.  Just prior to being 23 weeks pregnant with my first baby, my sweet boy, I flew to Boston for him to have fetal surgery on his tiny heart.  After the surgery I was left with three small scars, but had given the doctors permission to make a large incision, similar to a cesarean section, if they could not adequately access him during the procedure.  I could write an entire book with just that time in my life, but that is not the reason for my post; this post is about scars.  I have since learned to embrace and even celebrate scars.

My sweet boy has had 16 surgeries so far; seven of those surgeries have cut into his tiny chest.  These scars have always been a reminder of what he’s been through and proof of how truly strong he is!  He laughs when I tell him he is stronger than I will ever be.  His reply, with his big smile, is always “you’re joking me!”  One day he will understand!  In the meantime, we remind him that his scar is cool and “chicks dig scars” and that we are so proud to watch him with each new day and every new experience.

When I told him that there was a lady that I heard about who was going to have surgery and was a little worried about the scar she would be left with, he jumped right at the chance to share his scar and to show, yet again, that scars are cool!  I don’t know Brooke, and she may never see this, but if it helps even one person – then what we are doing does make a difference!

My Happy Little Heart-Hero!

A Morning for Me

7 Nov

I mentioned in a previous post that I finally admitted to myself that I need to plan for some time for me, a time to recharge.  Day one of this new focus began on Saturday morning.  Everyone was awake; the little ones were being fed and were to be left in the capable hands of my wonderful hubby.  I took a quick shower, put on some comfortable clothes, pulled my hair back and headed out for MY morning.  I was on the way to Total Woman Gym and Day Spa in Mission Valley for a massage.  It has been quite a while since I had a massage, thinking back, I think it was shortly after my son was born…and he just turned 6!  Since that time I have had two more babies and I’ve acquired a very bad case of what I call mommy-back.  I’m constantly hunkering over to nurse the baby, carry the baby, change the baby, you get the idea; I carry a lot of stress in my neck and shoulders.

Since I pulled into the parking lot a bit early, I decided to take a non-rushed moment to check emails and take a quick peek at my news feed; after all, this was MY morning!  I was not about to rush this brief hiatus from my normal responsibilities.  A moment later, I got out of my car and thought, no one can see the mess of crumbled fish crackers, kids’ shoes, toys and any other number of junk items now floating around my car – I’m on a “me” day (or morning, at least)!  I walked into the lobby and asked for directions to the spa, they pointed me toward the elevator and I thought; no one knows I’m a crazy, stressed out mom of three…I may be able to pull off just being a normal person on the way to the spa!  Then, I looked into my purse, only to discover a diaper.  Yes, that’s my reality!!  Thankfully, it was clean!

I really was able to leave all of my normal stress aside as soon as I entered the building.  Though Total Woman Gym and Day Spa is also a gym, the entire facility has a very spa-like feel.  The lobby is very well appointed and one of the first things you see is the grand, sweeping staircase that leads to the gym.  This trip, I wasn’t there to work out, I was ready to be pampered; so I headed straight to the day spa!  I checked in at the spa reception desk and went into the locker room to change into the robe and sandals that were waiting for me in my locker, before heading over to the client room to wait for my massage therapist.  My therapist, Rebekah, came to greet me and asked if there was any particular spot that was bothering me.  I mentioned that I tend to carry stress in my shoulders, and she did a wonderful job utilizing trigger point release to alleviate the tension.  It was an amazingly relaxing massage and I was truly pampered!  As the massage was ending, I was already looking forward to my next visit!

In addition to the great staff, a HUGE plus for me was how spotless the entire facility was!  I’m a bit of a germ-freak, and this place scored big in that regard!  Also, when I was booking my appointment, they inquired if I would need to utilize their Kids Club.  I had already made plans to have hubby take care of the kids this time around, but it’s great to know that they offer a safe place for my kiddos while I get a bit of pampering!

Use of the gym does require a membership, but the full service day spa is open to the public.  If you are interested in trying the gym, sign up for a one day VIP pass and give it a try!  If some pampering is what you need, call the spa and schedule a treatment; you’ll be glad you did!  It really was an exceptional way to start my weekend!

*Total Woman Gym and Day Spa provided my massage complimentary. Opinions are my own.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

3 Nov

He clearly didn’t know my slow cooker was on the other side!  With the unseasonably hot weather, roasting a chicken in the oven was not happening!  We scored a great price on a roasting chicken, so into the slow cooker it went.  We pretty much followed this recipe from food.com, but to be honest, next time I will follow their cooking time (hubby cooked it on high for 3 hours and low for 1 hour), I would definitely cook on low!  The flavor was great, but it seemed a bit dry to me.  No one else complained,  but I’m certain I can get it right!

Spice Rub

Ingredients:

4 tsp salt (per recipe reviews, 2 tsp is better)  – I went with 2 tsp.

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper – I used chili powder, because it’s what I had.

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp thyme – This invoked an entire “whose on 1st” scenario in my house.

1 tsp white pepper – Didn’t have it, didn’t use it.

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp black pepper

1 large roasting chicken

1 cup chopped onion (optional) I opted to use it.

Ready to cook.

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the spices.
  2. Remove any giblets from chicken and clean chicken. (I didn’t dry the chicken enough prior to putting on the rub.)
  3. Rub spice mixture onto the chicken.
  4. Place in resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. I skipped this step.
  5. When ready to cook, put chopped onion in bottom of crock pot.  I used the onion.
  6. Add chicken. No liquid is needed, the chicken will make it’s own juices.
  7. Cook on low 4-8 hours.

The original recipe recommends a pop-up timer.  I didn’t use a pop-up timer, but will cook on low next time.

Slow Cooker Chicken

This easily fed all five of us and we had leftovers for the next night.

Leftover Chicken

I boiled pasta and chopped the leftover chicken.

In a pan with about a ½ cup of olive oil, heat the following until warm:

Leftover chicken

1 lb of pasta (prepared)

Steamed broccoli

A handful or two of toasted pine nuts

Juice from 1 lemon

A handful of seasoned breadcrumbs – I use garlic powder, salt, oregano, basil and parsley in mine.  No one ever likes the heels of the loaves of bread, so I save them in a Ziploc in the freezer until I’m ready to make breadcrumbs.

Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Add more olive oil if necessary

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