Monday, July 22, 2013

Concert in the Park & Kid Friendly Pasta Salad

During the summer our town has concerts in the park each Tuesday night. They're a lot of fun and remind me of home. The kids get to run around and dance, while the parents catch up and try to relax. This year they took place in the new amphitheater and it's pretty amazing. 

I finally got my act together and rallied the troops and we went to see my favorite local band, Dave and Rae. We got there pretty early to stake out our spot. Lucky for us we found a tiny sliver of shade.
Someone REALLY liked the pre-concert music...

...and the cantaloupe...
GG LOVED the music and won the award for The Best Behaved Murray Child. He bobbed his head and danced the whole time. 

Of course it was one of the hottest, humid-est days ever and the girls were pretty cranky AND Nate was traveling so I was flying solo, but I was determined to go! I decided that a cold pasta salad was the way to go. I literally googled "kid friendly pasta salad" and what do you know, my good friend PW had a recipe by that very name! It really was "kid friendly" too! Lo loved it all, minus the basil, and ate 3 helpings! Noa, who was extremely feisty and cranky, claimed she didn't like it but still ate two servings of the pasta she didn't like!

Kid Friendly Pasta Salad 
Source: The Food Network, The Pioneer Woman

  • 12oz fun-shaped pasta, such as radiator
  • 8 slices thin bacon
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash sugar, optional
  • 1/2 cut grape tomatoes (yellow and red), halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound Cheddar, cut into small cubes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ground black pepper
  • 24 whole basil leaves, chiffonade
Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Then drain and rinse in cold water until cool. Set aside.

Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and throw into a large skillet. Saute until slightly crisp, and then remove to a paper-towel-lined-plate.

For the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt and sugar, if using, in a small bowl.

Stir together the pasta, dressing, tomatoes, bacon, Cheddar and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Stir in the basil at the end.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Favorites-Dawn's Thumb Guards

For the past 2 1/2 years we have been waging war against thumb sucking and losing miserably. When I say we've tried everything I mean it. Rewarding good behavior, making the girls wear gloves, taping socks to their hands, finger splints, bandaids, taping their thumb to their pointer finger, constant reminders and this DISGUSTING stuff you paint on their fingers, but alas NOTHING WORKED! I have never felt so defeated!!! 

At the girls last dentist appointment he sat them both down and had a heart-to-heart and told them they MUST stop sucking their thumbs. I always thought that the thumb sucking caused the teeth to stick out, which it does, but our dentist said long-term thumb sucking can also move the bone and when the bone is involved it can't be fixed. I don't know if it scared the girls, but it sure worked on me!!!

In a desperate Google search I found Dawn's Thumb Guards. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how 2 scraps of fabric could stop my girls from sucking their thumbs when nail poish that tastes like paint thinner didn't slow them down one bit, but OMG IT'S WORKING!!!
(Oh my...she has been as feisty as ever this week and driving her Mama INSANE!)
The guards are custom made to fit your child and come in a variety of fabrics. They wrap around their wrists and attach with velcro. I let the girls pick their fabric. Lo chose horses (big surprise) and NoJo butterflies. They arrived in a few days and the girls were so excited to put them on! Our rule is that they stay on all the time. The only time they can come off is when they are bathing. I don't care if they get sticky with peanut butter or covered in glitter glue, they must stay one and yes, they even sleep with them on. We did end up ordering a second set so that we could have a back-up when one is in the wash .

The girl are really doing a great job keeping them on. We've had them for about 3 weeks and they still like to wear them. I thought they would be a little self-conscious when wearing them to camps and activities, but they're not. They see them as a fashion accessory and if someone asks what it is they happily tell them, "That's my thumb guard!"

I think there is a glimmer of light at the end of this long tunnel!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keeping Basil Fresh

Fresh herbs in summer always make me smile! There's nothing better than picking them from your very own garden. They make any dish taste crisp, fresh and delicious!

One of my favorite herbs to grow is basil. It's so easy and it grows so well, almost too well sometimes! The thing with basil is that you have to "pinch" it before it flowers or the leaves will start to taste bitter. But what do you do if you need to pick your basil and you're not ready for it? Of course you can make some wonderful pesto, but I found a way to keep your picked basil "just picked fresh" for several days. 

All you need is a cooling rack and Tupperware bowl filled with water.
Sure you can put your stems in a glass, but the cooling rack keeps just the ends in the water. No soggy leaves here! The key is to have them in the water right after you pick them. If that's not possible just trim the ends again before you put them in the water.

Here's what my basil looks like 6 days after it was picked. The leaves are still perky and crisp and look and feel like the leaves still in the garden. As an added bonus, my kitchen smells wonderful!
I haven't tried it with store bought herbs, but I think I'm going to give it a try. I hate when I buy them and then they go bad a day or two later. So frustrating!

Do you have any tips or tricks you use to keep your herbs just-picked-fresh? Shout them out! We'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Firsts and Lasts-GG's First Birthday

Today I'm wrapping up our "Firsts and Lasts" recap with a very special event...

Despite my best efforts to keep it from happening, last month our little GG turned one! (*sniff, sniff*) His smile melts my heart and I can listen to his giggles all day long. He is in love with his sisters (although he is starting to let them know when they invade his personal space) and doesn't like to be too far from Mommy and Daddy. He's walking all over the place and his new favorite game is "run away" and he giggles the entire time he is running away from you. Despite having lots of fun toys that make all sorts of noise, his favorite things to play with are the tupperware lids and he spends most of his days rearranging the two cupboards in our kitchen that are without child locks. He's not saying too much, but loves to wave at everyone, even himself in the mirror, and is starting to make some sounds that could be actual words..."da" for dog, "ha" for hat and "haaaaa" for hiiiiiiii. He's generally good natured,  LOVES to eat (hard to believe he was a premie!) and is a pretty awesome sleeper. This year has flown way too fast, but I've really tried to enjoy every minute of it!

GG and I share a birthday. Most of you know how awful I am at sharing, but I REALLY tried to be good! I think I only whined once or twice...
At home we let GG have his very own cake, but he was just interested in the frosting. He kept dumping the cake part on the floor. I guess he takes after his Mama, I don't really like cake either!
I look forward to what the next year will bring. Both girls will be in school all day, every day so GG and I are going to have lots of time together and I can't think of anything better!

Happy birthday my lil' pterodactyl! Mama loves you VERY much!!! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hoisin Chicken Legs

Last month after a year-long maternity-leave sabbatical, I went back to work part-time. While I was super excited that I could go back, it took us a while to get back into the swing of things. I had gotten used to having the afternoon to get dinner ready and we could eat at a reasonable hour. Going back to work meant digging out the crock pot and finding new fun recipes to try. The first place I looked was on my friend Kathie's Blog. She is a wonderful cook, and as a mom of two, she has lots of delicious recipes that don't require spending all day in the kitchen.

Her Hoisin Chicken was the first thing we tried and it didn't disappoint. The first time I made it I went for a run before dinner. I told Nate and the girls to start without me. When I got back there was one tiny leg left. To say it was a hit is putting it mildly. GG ate two whole chicken legs on his own and would have had more if we didn't cut him off! The girls have asked to have it added to the "Make Again" list and it will definitely be in our regular meal rotation.

(Adapted from Katie Cooks)
  • 2-3 chicken wings or drumettes 
  • 1/2c prepared Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4c honey
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 T sesame oil
Put the chicken in a crock pot. Mix the Hoisin Sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and sesame oil together in a small bowl (I doubled the sauce ingredients since we had close to 4lbs of chicken). Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. Stir before serving.

We served ours with rice and it was fab-u-lous!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Firsts and Lasts-Lo's Last Day of 1st Grade

This week we've been reminiscing the firsts and lasts our family experienced the past few months. Even though the start of school is about 4 weeks away, today I am sharing Lo's last day of first grade.

Her she is all ready to start first grade!
...and the last day of 1st grade...
Of course Izzy was there too! She made a few trips to the bus stop before school got out this year!
She's changed in so many ways! First she has just sprouted up! She grew 4 inches in the past year! No wonder all her pants are now capris! She can reached the sink so we have a future dishwasher (daddy is so excited!). She's also relaxed quite a bit on her attire. The girl who used to only wear dresses or skirts has moved on to T-shirts and jeans. She still love, love, LOVES art and reading and spends all her time doing one or the other. Most nights I find her sneaking her books way after bedtime! I love that she loves her books so much!

Before first grade I interviewed her, I asked her the same few questions the night before her last day. Her beginning of the year answers are in the ( )

Favorite color: Red (white)
Favorite TV show: My Little Pony (Doc McStuffins)
What do you want to be when you grow up: Vet (vet, zoo keeper)
Favorite Food: Spaghetti (Nutella with bread)
Best thing about 1st grade: Having a fun teacher
What are you looking forward to the most this summer: Family vacation in Cabo
She has a full summer of fun planned. Swimming at the pool, a family vacation in Cabo, pottery camp, horseback riding camp, Girl Scout Camp and her most favorite thing ever, the summer reading program at the library! She is a self proclaimed book worm and most days you'll find her with a book in her face and Izzy on her lap! I love that she loves school and loves to learn. Leaving school for the summer was bittersweet for her, she was glad for the break, but sad to leave her teacher and her friends. Lucky for her the first day of 2nd grade will be here before she knows it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Firsts and Last-Lo's First Pet

When you're 7 you spend most of your time wishing and dreaming for your own pet. Something that you can love, snuggle and call your very own.

You spend A LOT of time thinking about what kind of pet you'll get. Something small you can carry around? A big fluffy pet that you can take for a walk? Perhaps you want something that lives in an aquarium that you can watch all day. You ask a lot of people about their pets and read lots of books about different animals. You want to get the very best pet ever. So many choices make it so hard to decide! And don't even get me started on names. You can spend all night dreaming of the perfect name for your perfect pet!

You beg your parents. Write letters to Santa AND the Tooth Fairy. You promise you'll take care of it every day and you'll even use your own money to buy it. You simple CANNOT stop thinking about your "someday pet."

You may think it's NEVER going to happen so you make your own.
Paper ones are so boring so you try other materials... old socks, fleece, fabric..whatever you can get your hands on. You even take your sock animals for walks around the house.

And then one day it happens. All your shooting star, dandelion and pennies-in-the-fountain wishes come true! Out of the blue your neighbor actually walks up to you, YOU, not your mom or dad, and asks you if you would like a guinea pig!!! You actually kind of laugh. Is she serious? Does she not know how badly you want a pet?!?! You must have been really extra good too, because to your surprise your parents actually say YES! 

You love her so much! She's fluffy, smart, cuddly and yours! You are pretty much inseparable, you'd do everything with her by your side if your mom would let you. Even still, you can't believe she's yours! Your very own pet. WOW.

Meet Izzy. The newest and sweetest member of our family. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Firsts and Lasts-Noa's Last Day of Pre-K

It's hard to believe in less than a year this sweet little baby face turned from this...
Into this...
It amazes me how they can grow up right before your eyes and you don't even realize it!
I am going to miss our days together very much next year, but there is no one more excited to start kindergarten than my little Monkey! I think being the younger sister she just appreciates and looks forward to things so much more than Lo. She cannot wait to meet her teacher, ride the bus and she has already decided that she is going to buy lunch on her very first day ("as long as it's something that I like."). She has such a positive outlook in life and is genuinely excited about all the little things that mean so much! I love seeing the world through her eyes. She is truly grateful for everything life has given her and reminds me daily to be thankful for all that we have.

For our very last Noa-Mommy Day I told her I'd take her out to lunch anywhere she wanted and she picked Costco. That's my girl! She doesn't need anything fancy, just a hot dog, berry sundae, all the samples she can carry and quality time with her Mama!
This picture cost me $0.80. She was not loving the camera that day and refused to look at me. She told me it would be $0.50 for each picture of her, but a full $0.80 if I wanted her to smile and look at the camera! It was worth every penny!
I look forward to all the fun she is going to have next year in kindergarten. She is more than ready!

Hopefully kindergarten is ready for her!