Road Tripping…with an Infant…

We recently took our first true family vacation. Some wonderful family friends loaned us their home in Seaside, Florida as a belated wedding gift. And I, in all of my naïve motherly wisdom, thought a 12 hour car trip to Seaside, with a pit stop in New Orleans, was the PERFECT thing to attempt with a fresh one year old. For the record it didn’t go nearly as poorly as people anticipated it would. I’ll walk you through our little adventure and somethings I learned along the way. Probably a lot of things I wish I had known before leaving as well. 

Going to the beach with a kid can be as daunting as the actual travel itself. How do you keep a one year old, with the attention span of a goldfish, occupied? Clearly that meant I needed to pack his entire toy collection for our 7 day journey. While that’s not entirely true, I did feel more comfortable driving with all of the gear I did bring than packing it up and hauling it around the airport.

The good news is leading up to the trip I was rehearsing for a little ballet recital, so I didn’t have time to panic. I made a packing list for me, a list for Bode bear, a list for the car, and a list for the beach. We won’t go into my list because it’s embarrassing. However, here is an idea of what I packed for the little one, the car, and for the beach itself:

Bode: Diapers, Wipes, Pack n’ play, Butt Paste, Baby Tylenol, two outfits for each day (OVERKILL), pajamas, swim diapers, swim trunks, rash guard, hat, spoons

Car: Toys, ipad, dvds, pouches, goldfish, nilla wafers, yogurt chips, sippy cups, wipes, diapers, easy to reach change of clothes, lovey

Beach: sunscreen (adult and baby), aloe, towels, sand toys, baby float

I tried hard not to over pack but…LOL. We didn’t pack chairs because there were some at the house for us to use. The first day we brought them down with us, but honestly, we just ended up renting chairs. To me, that was worth every penny. Not having to tote chairs on top of everything else, just made life easier. The chairs were set up for us in the morning and taken down at night. We had to do nothing but show up! #worthit

I had my recital Saturday night and we were set to leave Sunday morning. Also a smart move, start that drive totally exhausted. We woke up, walked the dogs to starbucks. Here I hopped my kid up on sugar in hopes he would crash in the car…Ethat decision was a success! Plus its #vacay so who doesn’t need to start the trip off with a treat? Here Bode is trying his first Vanilla Frapp

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When we got back home it was time to pack up the car. Talk about a way to test your relationship, this should be a test they offer at the engaged encounter weekends. In addition to our bags, the pack and play and the “stuff” we also had to grab my mom’s bags (she and my aunt flew and met us in New Orleans the next day). This detour to pick up the bag led to my parents informing us we are amateurs and totally mispacked the car. Delay number one…

So finally we get on the road. Things are going great! We are New Orleans bound, baby is sleeping, broadway show tunes pumping (my husband is a saint). Off we went. Things were great for approximately four hours and 28 minutes. That’s about how long it took to get to Alexandria, Louisiana. Here we proceeded to get off the highway for food. Turn left I said! This would take us into the downtown area. Delay number 2! we drove all over looking for open food places and they didn’t exist. We later discovered that had I turned right there would have been a multitude of options. At this point the baby is screaming bloody murder but we thought there would be food soon. We could not have been more wrong! Life lesson don’t assume anything!!!!

Bode rallied. We played at least an hours worth of peek a boo and I even resorted to using the bubble gun in the car. Two hours later we hit Baton Rouge, where we relived our law school restaurant of choice…Chili’s. #classic. This was followed by stopped traffic…delay numero tres. We finally made it to New Orleans around 10:45 p.m. Hooray! Good news, they didn’t have our crib ready and all of them were in use. Pack n’ play to the rescue. (Pro tip: don’t let a vacation be the first time you try to set that thing up). You’ll probably be shocked to hear that Bode didn’t want to go to bed at this point. After being packed In the car for 7+ hours who can blame him. My classical music Pandora station helped settle him down and we could finally rest.

Note: We found that getting him fresh milk and a snack any time we stopped (AND CHANGING HIS DIAPER!) were keys to our success that day.

Monday morning rolls around and we are off again to pick up the ladies. Hubs had never been to New Orleans so we couldn’t just pass through, and I certainly wasn’t going without a stop at Café Du Monde. Bode was super skeptical of the doughy greatness, but he caught on fast.

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I think my greatest parenting moment this trip was strolling Lil’ Dude down Bourbon Street. On a positive note, since it was only 10 a.m., he wasn’t exposed to all of the area’s glory. We hit Acme Oysters for lunch where Bode promptly melted down. Perfect timing because we were about to hit the road yet again.

So off we went, but armed with two additional entertainers. The stretch from New Orleans to Seaside was fairly short, only made longer by a surprise stop at the Dirt Cheap of Gulf Port. If you don’t know what the Dirt Cheap is you are missing out. I LOVE DEALS! and this place has the greatest ones. It deserves its own post at a later date.

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We made it to Seaside and naturally started our time there with food. But it was late and we had had a long 48 hours, so we did a little loop around the town and called it a night. Bode was definitely ready for that. He’s a pretty easy kid, but I soon realized I needed to be paying more attention to his cues (mommy lesson).

The weather in Seaside was beautiful! There was no rain the entire time, not much seaweed and almost NO Jellies! A perfect way for Bode to meet the ocean…aka the home of his people.

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Unfortunately, Bode did not agree that the circumstances were perfect. He was a GRUMPY GILLS from the moment we set foot on the sand. He wanted nothing to do with the sand and definitely nothing to do with the water. I was devastated!!! I suppose I had it in my head that this kid would take one look at it and fall in love. It’s easy to forget how big the world seems to them and how overwhelming and over stimulating it all can be. That’s one of the biggest lessons I took with me: to remember that this is new, big, and scary. I’ve seen it before and he is living it for the first time. It’s a lot to take in!

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No need to fear! Later on that day he was feeling better and by day two he was ready to take on the beach no sweat. We settled into a pretty nice routine that involved sleeping, breakfast, beach, lunch/snow cone, beach, nap, dinner bed. This is a little unlike me as I prefer to be on the go 24/7. But for Bode I think it helped him to be on a schedule the whole time.

Of all the toys we brought/bought the plastic sand shovels were by far the biggest hit. So our next step was to get him into the water, which (Spoiler alert!) he did NOT love either. Thankfully the water was fairly calm, but poor baby beluga was terrified, and it didn’t help the water was a tad cold. But one run through of our swim class song “The kids in the pool go…[insert splash, kicks, up and down, etc]” he did great! THANK YOU Jim Montgomery Swim School!!! We also found him a toddler float at the dirt cheap. The float worked great until he got pummeled by waves, it was HILARIOUS….he disagreed with that assessment and was officially done for the day.

(BTDubbs did y’all know about this infant float? I swear it didn’t exist last summer, but I’d keep it in mind for the baby babies. Infant Pool Float)

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Leading up to the trip I wondered what we would do at night. Bode’s bedtime is typically, though not always, between 7:30 and 8:00. That’s quite a bit earlier than parental bed time. On this trip, we were lucky enough to have my mom who allowed us to have “date night”. But I had done some research ahead of time and there are several agencies or locals who can recommend babysitters for you. I have found that this service is available in many locations around the U.S. It makes me a little nervous to leave my child with a stranger, but our local online yard sale, for instance, was full of recommendations for many areas. Check for that on your next trip because you and hubby deserve some time too!

The town of Seaside is beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our time eating and beaching, but as the end of the week neared I was dreading our trip back. The goal was to attempt the full 12 hour drive in one day so everyone had a day to recover. This stretch we had my mom and aunt the entire way, which we seriously could not have done without. We took turns rotating driving and entertaining the baby. He did sleep quite a bit, but this was length of time was significantly harder on him. We tried to give him breaks and stopped to eat twice. But by the time we hit Tyler, Texas and needed to stop for dinner he was D-O-N-E. He was feisty at dinner and did not want to get back in his car seat. Ultimately, I let him crawl around, yes on the ground, for awhile and that seemed to help to let him stretch his legs. I imagine this is easier on you if your kid can walk!!

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We made it home in one piece and all in all the driving wasn’t terrible. Bode had his moments, and there were stretches of screaming/crying that were almost unbearable. But I think It was worth it in the big picture. And now we have all of these memories to share! If you are thinking about road tripping with an infant don’t be afraid! But definitely be prepared emotionally and physically :). There will be tears, there will be giggles, there will be screams, but there will also be sleep. Take your cues from the baby and be prepared to be flexible. You’ll do great. From the pictures below you can tell the baby was really scarred from his time in the car 😉

Happy Summer and good luck on all your summer adventures! Do you have any tips for traveling with kids? We’d love to hear them!

xoxo, T

 

Key Lime Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s day is a mere two days away! You have probably noticed the shelves lined with Green, prepared for a day of debauchery, made plans for the Lower Greenville Parade (if you are a Dallas Resident), or maybe you just don’t care!

No matter how you feel about St. Patrick’s Day, this is a recipe that you can enjoy. If you are pro St. Patrick’s day use the green food coloring. If you are anti this Irish holiday you can omit that and you will get a white cupcake with just tiny green flakes.

T & M are allegedly a small percent Irish, so we MUST celebrate since it’s in our blood. What this likely means is that T will celebrate and M will pretend this holiday doesn’t exist.

As a parent, St. Patrick’s day is an interesting holiday because it covers two pretty big extremes. You have the children’s version involving leprechauns, pots of gold, and lucky charms and then you very quickly jump to the green beer shenanigans. There really isn’t much in between.

On the kids side, T remembers her mom taking them in the car to chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There wasn’t always a rainbow on St. Patrick’s day but we would go anytime we saw one. The kids would yell at her to “TURN RIGHT HERE!” “No! It’s getting away from us go faster!” Unfortunately, we never found that pot of gold, but there is always tomorrow.

On the adult side, green beer is disgusting. SO replace that with some delicious green key lime cupcakes that you can share with the whole family! We also added some lucky charms on top to really get in the spirit. Do you have any St. Patrick’s day traditions for the whole family you can share with us?

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  • 4 1/2 C. Cake Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1 1/2 C Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 C + 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 2 1/4 C. Sugar
  • 7 Large Egg Whites
  • 5 Limes or 9 Key Limes

For the buttercream

  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 Bag Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla
  • 2 Limes

Optional: green food coloring, lucky charms!

This recipe took about an hour to complete including icing and made 24 cupcakes.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your baking tins with the muffin cups.

Step 2: In a medium bowl whisk together the Cake Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt. In a separate bowl or measuring cup combine the Milk and Vanilla.

Step 3: Drop the butter into your mixer bowl. Beat on a high speed until the butter is creamy. Then slowly add in the sugar and continue to beat until the butter and sugar is combined and looks light and fluffy!

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Step 4: During this next step you are going to add your wet and dry ingredients one after the other. First add 1/3 of your flour mixture, then 1/2 of your milk mixture, 1/3 of your flour, 1/2 of your milk, and the last 1/3 of flour. Be sure to fully combine the ingredients into the batter before adding the next amount.

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Step 5: Zest three of your limes and drop the zest into your batter. Cut all 5 limes in half and squeeze the juice into your batter. Beat until combined. Remove this bowl from the mixer stand. (If you want your cupcakes to be green add green food coloring during this stage. The more drops you add the darker it will get).

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Step 6: Drop your 7 egg whites into a clean bowl. Using the whisk attachment for your mixer beat the egg whites until they are light and fluffy. If you stick a toothpick in and pull it out a stiff peak should form. If so you know you are done. You will then gently FOLD these egg whites into your batter. To fold egg whites into the batter you don’t stir. You use your spatula to pull the batter from the bottom and flip it over the batter on top. Continue doing this until the egg whites are fully combined with the batter.

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Step 7: pour batter into cups and fill about 3/4 of the way. Then bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. You can tell they are done when the rims are golden brown and there is no jiggling in the center of the cupcake. Take out and let cool completely.

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Step 8: While your cupcakes are baking you can make your buttercream. Add the two sticks of butter to the mixer and beat until creamy. Add about half of the powdered sugar along with the vanilla and juice from two limes. Beat until combined. Continue adding powdered sugar until you reach your desired thickness. Ideally, you want a thick icing that is still easy enough to spread with a knife.

Step 9: Add food coloring if desired and beat until combined. When you are ready to go put the icing in a piping bag, a zip lock bag with the corner cut, or just leave to ice with a knife.

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Step 10: After the cupcakes have COMPLETELY cooled you can ice them and add your lucky charms!

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Voila!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

xoxo, T&M

Kids Birthday Party Gifts

With Bode’s 1st birthday right around the corner. T has had many questions surrounding birthday parties, gifts, etc. This is likely going to lead to several posts, but we decided to start with the birthday party gifts. Or as M likes to say……….

Stuff, Stuff, and More Stuff.

M: I’m sure you have figured out by now that I am generally a party pooper.  This is pervasive in all aspects of my life.  Probably comes (in part) from the fact that I am pretty much exhausted all the time and, yet, always adding more to my schedule.  In any event, here is another area in which I could be perceived as a party pooper – birthday party presents.

T: For somebody who consistently tells me I am from the “grouchy family” M can sure be Oscar the Grouch.

M: *eye roll* This post isn’t mean to be about family birthday presents –  we are talking about presents at a birthday party.  I have often been at Target looking for a reasonable gift for a child I do not know at all (and do not know the parents either).  I’ve gone to birthday parties with my child only to see 40 – no joke – birthday presents for the 2 or 3 year old.  Seriously, who wants that much stuff?????  Even when they are 5 and in school, do you really want your child to get so many new things at once?  Do you want that stuff in your house?

M: So what should you do? We have dealt with this in a few different ways.  First of all, we don’t have birthday parties until they are in school and actually KNOW some of their friends.  Even when one daughter turned 4, we had one special friend go to one special place with us.  It was much more meaningful and fun.

T: I feel like most of my birthday parties were limited in the number of guests invited. But now it is so common to invite the kids entire class to the party: a) that’s a lot of gifts and b) what do you buy for a kid your kid doesn’t know or play with often. At that point you end up having to buy something totally random and hope for the best. I know it shouldn’t be about the gift but the thought, but that’s part of the problem. There is NO thought going into these gifts.

M: Exactly! For us, we often give the kids a choice of a big birthday party with lots of friends and no gifts or a smaller party with close friends and gifts are acceptable.  Once they have good friends, buying gifts makes a lot more sense.  Your child has an idea of what their friends like or want and they WANT to give them something that’s picked just for them.  I will sometimes “bribe” my kid with an extra gift from us (the parents) in exchange for a bunch of gifts from friends (when they want a bigger party).

T: Lately I have seen a lot of parties where the kids donate the toys or ask for donations to something in particular. That may be more of the parents forcing that issue but it’s a great lesson for the kids! In the alternative, prior to a birthday you could ask your kids to find toys that they no longer play with to donate. For instance, if your kid is turning 7 they have to find 7 things they no longer play with that can be donated.

M: We have definitely gone this route. We have had parties where people bring a book to be donated to a charity – and, of course, the donation is optional because I don’t want people to stress out before our parties.

T: I think that’s a great alternative

M: Here is another problem with so many gifts, thank-you notes. We are thank-you note writers.  (OK, so I am and I force my children to be because I believe in holding on to some semblance of etiquette, though I know it’s waning.)

T: Me too!

M: Either my kids dictate the note to me and I write, or they painstakingly write the note themselves.  We are not doing those pre-printed ones either.  To me, if someone spent their money on a gift for me or my child, the least we can do is acknowledge it in writing.*

(*footnote – I have a child who is the world’s worst speller and I do allow him to type his thank you notes.)

T: For me I would expect Bode to hand write them, but honestly I would just be happy they got sent no matter what form they were in. Birthday parties, presents, and thank you notes are overwhelming to think about! I want Bode to have that fun experience and get the chance to open presents and stuff like that. But I also just think it’s a lot and I’m worried that it hurts people’s feelings who want to do something nice.

M: Hmmm….I have never worried about people’s feelings getting hurt because I say no gifts. In fact, some people bring a gift anyway and I’m totally fine with that. (Though my kids HAVE complained when they have to write a thank you note after saying no gifts!) I personally love unexpected gifts from people and love to give unexpected gifts – especially when you find that perfect gift or you lift someone’s spirits with something small.  I just think the gift giving at parties can be meaningless and excessive which isn’t good for the gift-giver or gift-receiver.

T: And it’s not to say that they can’t give a gift if they want to, you’re really just asking them not to feel obligated true?

M: Haha i mean when I say no gifts I mean no gifts ;). But true, I would never make my kid turn down a gift because I had written no gifts on the invitation.

 

Sensory Bottles

There are so many toys and gadgets out there that promote “learning” or “skills development” in infants. On top of that is all of the advice, “If you don’t do x by his first birthday you might as well quit now!” We don’t really need to go into examples; you all know what we are talking about.

With the excess of information it can be hard to sort through it all to figure out what works for you, but T decided to try one she’d read about – a sensory bottle. (M said – “a what???”) You may ask- Why make a sensory bottle when my kid is just as happy with the empty potato chip bag? It’s a good question. T’s son loves an empty chip bag, and it’s a super cheap toy. But she also wants to expose him to other sensory items and she loves to craft so why not.

After countless hours of googling and reading advice, T finally decided to give these sensory bottles a try. Mostly because she had all of the equipment at home and didn’t need to go to the store. M, for her part, doesn’t really “get” the sensory bottles. She understands the concept behind them, and admittedly thinks they are very pretty. But she disagrees with some of the advice that comes with them – “You must have your kids play with sensory bottles or they will never graduate from preschool!” M thinks sensory bottles might just be a new invention to stress out/guilt parents. Particularly working parents and/or parents with multiple kids. 🙂

So we give you this craft with our own advice: Do it because you like crafting, or because it’s fun, or because you wanted something to do with your kids. Don’t do it just because someone told you your kid would fall behind if he or she was not exposed to sensory bottles at a young age.

We are actually going to show you two slightly different bottles. The first one creates a “galaxy effect”. The second one is more of a traditional sensory bottle in that you can shake it and the items in the center float around like a lava lamp.

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Easy Basic Sensory Bottle

  • Glitter*
  • Clear Glue
  • Water
  • Plastic Bottle
  • Items to float (I used jewels, marbles, and purple mesh tubing

*M: Good Lord, Tanner, who wants glitter in their house???)

Step 1: Fill bottle about half way with water. Then pour in your entire bottle of clear glue. Close the cap on the bottle and shake until combined.

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Step 2: Add some glitter and your objects to the bottle. Top off with water if needed.

Step 3: Seal the cap back on tight. (You can tape this down or glue it if needed.) Shake until glue and water are combined and Tah Dah!

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Galaxy Bottle

  • Plastic Bottle
  • Baby Oil*
  • Glitter
  • Purple and blue food coloring
  • Cotton balls
  • Straw
  • Water

*I used sunflower oil because that’s what I had. I think baby oil would be better.

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Step 1: Fill a measuring cup with about 1 1/2 C. of water. Drop blue and purple drops of food coloring in until you get a nice indigo color (or whatever color makes you happy!) I used about 6 drops of purple and 4 drops of blue.

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Step 2: Fill your plastic bottle about half way with oil. Add your water so the plastic bottle is now about 3/4 of the way full. Secure the lid and shake until the water and oil have mixed some.

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Step 3: Open it back up. Slightly unravel your cotton balls and start stuffing them in. I used the straw to push them to the bottom. I used about 1/3 of the bag of cotton balls.

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Step 4: Put your lid back on and shake until combined.

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** You can add other items to your galaxy if you want. Just use a little less water and oil so there is room. I added silver mesh tubing as something my son can find when playing with it.

Happy Crafting!

xoxo, T&M

 

Valentine’s Cookies

Likely you know Valentine’s Day is next week? Some people look forward to the holiday while others dread it. Many of you tout it as a Hallmark holiday. Regardless of your feelings, it is here to stay, so you might as well embrace it instead of being a curmudgeon (M will continue to be a curmudgeon about it).

For several years now T has hosted Friendsentine’s Dinner. It started almost a decade ago to make sure everyone felt included on Valentine’s day, much like it was back in elementary school. Really that’s the way it should be! Celebrate all the love in your life not just the romantic one. Typically, our group of friends goes to dinner at a new or “hot” restaurant around town. This year we are headed to Public School 214. Braden and I have been before and we love their bacon cheddar tater tots! T is super excited about dinner, and she always brings a treat with her for all the guests. She had been looking for a fun treat to attach to her Llama themed valentines and went with the recipe below!

Meanwhile, M is melting down upstairs because the valentines her kids picked can no longer get here in time for Valentines day. Amazon get it together! You are supposed to be the most amazing shopping center. I guess that’s what happens when every mom in America has that Prime membership.

So now we both need valentines and/or treats. SO dun dun dunnah! Enter these delicious Valentines Cookies. This is a recipe idea adapted from a Pinterest find. This sugar cookie recipe is the one T uses for Christmas cookies. It takes NO time to chill, which is amazing. and produces great dough for cookie cutting.

So here you go! For all of your Valentine’s needs next week. PSA…be careful. T ate the entire batch…by herself, which was NOT Weight Watchers friendly!

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Valentines Day Cookies

1 C Unsalted butter, softened

1 C granulated sugar

1 Large egg, room temperature

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp Salt

2 tsp Baking Powder

3 C all purpose Flour

Pink Gel Food Coloring (or red or purple!)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until combined. Mixture should be light and fluffy!

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Step 2: Beat the egg, vanilla, and almond extract into the mixture. Be sure to scrape the sides if needed to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl combine the salt, baking powder, and flour.

Step 3: While mixing, gradually add your flour mixture a little bit at a time until flour is fully combined. (*I usually dump about 1/2 c. at a time)

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Step 4: Gather your dough into a ball. Break off half of it and set aside in a bowl. Leave the other half in the mixer. Add your gel food coloring. YOU DON’T NEED MUCH. Add a few drops at a time and mix until fully combined. Add additional drops as needed to get your desired color. (Keep in mind that the final product will be slightly lighter than the color of the dough, so you might go a little darker than you think you need).

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Step 5: Make alternating balls of dough on your work space. Once all the dough is out. Gently knead the balls together to mix the color. DO NOT OVER KNEAD! T definitely over kneaded and got more pink than swirl cookies.

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Step 6: Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. On your workspace roll out the dough to your desired thickness (1/4″ typically works the best). Cut out your shapes and place them on the tray.

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Step 7: Bake for 6-8 minutes and enjoy!!! (M says how do you know if it’s 6 or 8 minutes? Well, that’s really hard to say because everyone’s oven cooks slightly differently. You can usually tell by the smell. But the cookie itself should looked cooked and not gooey. If you give the pan a little shake nothing should jiggle. T doesn’t like to wait for the edges to brown because it can detract from the cookie if you aren’t icing it. She advises you start checking at 6 minutes and take out when the cookies appear cooked through and are no longer shiny from the moisture in the batter.)

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This was a great, super easy, recipe that produces absolutely stunning cookies. You don’t need to add anything to it but you could sprinkle with sugar crystals to give them a little oomph.

Happy Eating!

xoxo, T&M

P.S. did you know that if you store cookies with a piece of bread they stay fresher longer? Who knew!

P.P.S. You can even ADD bread to the cookie container once the cookies have gone a little hard and it will soften them right up. Amazing!

 

Humble Parenting

M: I feel extremely lucky to have already had numerous nieces and nephews before I had kids.  I got to see my siblings’ struggles with parenting and some of their successes and failures.  We all still laugh with my sibling over their decision to say “it’s best that we not” instead of “no” to their kids.  That lasted about 2 weeks. One child reaching for an electrical socket with a paper clip?  Yeah, “it’s best that we not” didn’t have quite the effect of screaming “NO!!!”

One of the biggest things I gained from watching my siblings with their kids was to realize that there is a lot of luck involved.  Sure, we have an influence over our kids – I am not arguing that you don’t – but each kid is different and a decent part of it is just the luck of the draw.

T: I have to agree with this. Although I am the first of my generation (in my family) to get married and have kids, I have 16 first cousins on M’s side alone and am the oldest of 4 kids. I am certainly no expert but I do feel I have been exposed to way more than most first time moms have.

M: If I hadn’t had the experience with my nieces and nephews, I would have thought I was mom of the year with my first born – and possibly with my second as well.  I would have been preaching all kinds of advice for other people.  We are amazing parents! Look at us!  This parenting thing is not so hard at all!

T: Wait….I’m not mom of the year? 😉

M: Luckily, we both know better.  Some kids are easy, some kids are more challenging, some kids have more “personality” (I’m being nice here), some kids are more difficult from the day they are born.  We can help to try to sway them and we can certainly help by using rules, discipline, etc. (a free-for-all rarely turns out well when it comes to raising kids).  But if you have a difficult kid, it’s likely not your parenting that is making them that way.

T: Not going to lie I am absolutely terrified of having a second. I know that the second child could be great, but the second in my family was a terror. And my dad is the second….also a terror. But my 9 month old has been such a chill baby that it can’t possibly be this easy a second time around.

M: Well hold on! None of this is not to say that you just throw in the towel.  It’s important to pay attention to the different needs of each child. I have found that each of my kids needs a different type of parenting.  My first born is a rule follower.  There is no need to yell, no need to harp on mistakes, no need to be overly strict.  She listens to advice (so far), believes in moderation in all respects, and worries about her future.  (When my daughter was about 8 years old, she asked her brother why he didn’t save his money.  She asked “aren’t you worried about things like taxes, insurance, and other expenses?”  Where do kids come up with this stuff?)  Others of my kids are not affected by yelling, are ready to push the rules, and need to have emotional breakdowns.  I don’t have them all figured out and don’t know what to do with each one – I just know that they are different, they each need different things from me, and when they are being more difficult, it’s likely not my fault.  I’m just trying to do my best for each one.  I also know that I’m likely messing up some of the times.  That’s OK. There is no perfect way to parent and no one way to parent.  Do your best and take the pressure off yourself.

T: You always make me feel so much better about messing up. I think one of the best things I’ve learned from you and the other moms in our family is to not sweat the small stuff. I’m still getting to know my son and he’s getting to know me and there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. And knowing those bumps will be continuing for the foreseeable future…probably more like ever…helps keep me humble. But it does also make me feel good to know when I get things right and can say “Man I #crushed parenting today.”

M: And that’s great! All this is really to say, enjoy your successes – you need them to feel better about the failures.  Just don’t get cocky.  When things are going well, be humble because you never know when another kid will be ready to knock you off your parenting pedestal.  We are all in this together and almost all of us will have our issues with our kids at some point.

T: I also think this is really important to keep in mind as you look at the moms around you. Everyone is in the SAME boat. That meltdown at Target is not their idea of fun and they aren’t letting their kid cry on the plane just because it’s fun. They are trying to figure it all out as much as we are. When my angel baby smiles, waves, and flirts with all of the girls at the restaurant I enjoy it…and also privately brace for a meltdown that could occur literally at any moment…with no notice…because I didn’t serve him bean dip fast enough (#truestory).

Hang in there mamas. Without the bad days you wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. And when you are really at a breaking point just know that it’s a moment and it’s not forever. Do what you can, hope for the best, and try to enjoy the ride!

Happy Parenting

Xoxo, T&M

Pepperoni Pizza Pasta

It’s that time of year again…SUPERBOWL SUNDAY! Since our beloved Cowboys are not in it (surprise, surprise…) we will mostly be watching for the commercials. BUT there is still an element of excitement surrounding that night whether your team is in it or not.

All weekend you see people at the store buying the staples: salsa, chips, beer, burgers, slabs of meat to smoke. The smells from all of the different foods are amazing and everyone is in the spirit.

T normally cooks Chili for the big game, but this year wanted to try something a little different. She found a great recipe for Pepperoni Pizza combined with…wait for it… PASTA! WHAT AN AMAZING COMBINATION. The original inventor of this mashup is genius. T would love to give credit to the original inventor but she has no clue where the recipe came from. Regardless, this recipe is actually an adaptation making it a little spicier.

Even with its spiciness, the pasta also has an element of “comfort food” style too it. That makes this an extra good recipe for this year. Do we have any This Is Us fans? If so the big episode premiere’s on NBC right after the Superbowl (BE SURE TO RECORD EXTRA TIME because it always runs late) Wouldn’t want you to miss the big reveal of Jack’s fate. You will find T on her sofa eating her comfort pasta and bawling. #Jackforever

But back to the food. Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how fast and easy it was, which also makes it a great option for a weeknight family recipe. T made this version a little spicy, you can reduce that by substituting the Arrabbiata* sauce for regular marinara and replacing the spicy italian sausage for mild or medium.

*Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy pasta sauce with a tomato base that can be found along with the other pasta sauces at the store.

Pepperoni Pizza Pasta Bake

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1 Box of Penne Pasta

1/2 Red onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 lb Spicy Italian sausage

12 slices of large pepperoni

15 oz jar of Arrabbiata sauce

1 C shredded Mozzarella

Basil, chopped

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil a pot of salted water and cook the penne. While that is going, use a cast iron skillet (or other oven safe pot) to brown the sausage.

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Step 2: Add the green bell pepper, garlic, and red onion and sautee until vegetables are tender. 2-3 minutes

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Step 3: Take 8 of the pepperoni and chop them up. Drop them into the skillet with the Arrabbiata sauce. Stir till combined. Let simmer for 5-8 minutes allowing the flavors to mix.img_1522

Step 4: When the pasta is done add it into your sauce and until well  combined. Cover with Mozzarella and the remaining pepperoni. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and the pepperoni is crispy.

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Step 5: Take it out, top with your chopped basil, and enjoy!

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You can also use your broiler if you prefer!

Happy Eating!

XOXO T&M

Organized Chaos

M is constantly being asked how she does it. How could she possibly manage her house with 5 very involved kids. T isn’t quite there yet, but her schedule is far from empty. Both of us use a calendar through Cozi . We both love it so much we wanted to share this gem with you.

Scheduling is a constant challenge.  M often says that it is her least favorite activity of the year. Figuring out the fall after school activity scheduling is exhuasting.

M: I have 5 kids, all of whom do too much, and one driver (my husband and I both work).  We are also at 4 different schools right now, which just doubles the fun.  I use Excel quite a bit, but my favorite scheduling app – hands down – is Cozi.

T: M got me hooked on Cozi and it has already helped keep everything on track! Especially because it allows me to let my husband know about doctor’s appointments, plans, etc. When he looks at it that is….

So why is Cozi so great? Cozi is an app for your phone or tablet as well as a website.  You can use a free version, which gives you all of the basics, or you can pay $29.99/year to get upgraded features like contacts and birthdays. Once you decide to join, you create a family password and anyone you invite can create their own login to the family calendar. As individuals add events, all of your devices sync together.

The app itself has a ton of features! Some highlights (and our most used features) include:

  • Calendar
  • Shopping Lists
  • Meal Planning
  • To Do Lists

Calendar: Let’s focus on why the Calendar is so fantastic for a moment. Each member of your household can be assigned a color. When you click to add an activity, all of the colors come up.  You then select who is involved with the activity, the date and time (including the option for recurring activities), location (if you want), and any notes that might pertain.  You can set up reminders and email notifications, though both of us are looking at our calendars so frequently that there is little need for reminders. Another great feature is that single events, or events that are out of the norm, are marked in bold so you know something is different that day (for example, early release from school).  You can view the calendar in daily mode (with color coding), monthly mode, or a scrolling weekly mode.

M cozi schedule

M: I prefer using the calendar in weekly scrolling mode. On top of all of this, I absolutely love that my calendar is emailed to me weekly (you can also print it out at any point).  I print the week for my caregiver, so she can keep track of any changes to the schedule.  It also gives the kids something to look at if they want to see activities.

T: Most of my calendar is in bold because We don’t have as many of the weekly recurring activities. But for me the best feature is the syncing of the calendars. Whenever my husband asks what’s going on I immediately ask if he checked Cozi…he usually hasn’t. BUT I have now said it so many times that he has started to look! AND he even adds his own stuff so I know when he’s not available. It is super helpful to me to know when he can’t be around or if he’s going out of town, etc.

Neither of us have used Google Calendar, so it’s hard for us to say how Cozi differs from that. We just find Cozi to be very user friendly and very intuitive.

M: I’m a GIGANTIC fan and consider to the key to our making it to (most) events and activities on time (OK – well, close to on time, sort of).

T: For what it’s worth, I have friends who have used Google Calendar and, when I referred them to Cozi, said they were happy they switched.

The Shopping Lists: We use the shopping lists almost as much as the calendars.  In this section you have the ability to create multiple lists:

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M: We have lists for groceries, Target, wholesale, drugstore, pet store, etc.  (My husband created many of these and I’ve gone with it since at least he is using it!) It’s easy for any of us to add items when we run out.  If my husband goes to the grocery store, I can be at the house adding items to the list as he drives and shops.  It syncs that quickly!  If I happen to be near a store, I can pull up my list at any time and figure out if we need an item.  It’s a lifesaver.

T: I love lists! We have a grocery list, Target list, Lowe’s list, Buy Buy Baby list, a Pets list and an “other” list. It’s so helpful because nothing gets forgotten, and I don’t hear this “UGHHH I wish I had known you were going because I need x, y, z” upon my return.

Meal Planning: M uses this more than T does, so T will defer to her. M: I am not a huge cook, but with our big family and lots of activities, I’ve found that I need to have a plan for the week.  You can store recipes on Cozi (which is helpful, though I don’t have many I’ve put on) and you can list your meals for each day.  One of the best features is that it will pull up your calendar as you do this so you can figure out which days you can cook a “nice” meal (one that doesn’t necessarily involve the crockpot), when you need to order pizza, and when chicken nuggets will have to do.

To Do List: T uses this more than M, so she’ll talk about that one. T: I LOVE THE TO DO LISTS!!! I have to do lists written everywhere. It is literally the only way I will remember to do anything at all (is that sad?). Much like the shopping lists you can have multiple To Do lists. I have a personal to do list, a shared to do list, and a “Honeydo” list for Braden. I put all kinds of stuff on there, even if it doesn’t need to be done immediately, so I don’t forget to do it. When I’m out of town and I KNOW Braden wants to do all of the chores, I can kindly refer him to his list :). It is an excellent tool to keep track of what needs to be done.

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Cozi has additional features including: a journal option, contact list, and birthday calendar.  We have only briefly, if at all, ventured into these realms, though we are confident they are well done!

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In case it’s not clear, we are HUGE fans of Cozi and recommend it for any busy household.

M: For me, I can’t imagine life without it – and that’s no exaggeration!

T: Ditto what she said!

xoxo happy organizing!

T&M

 

 

Christmas Gift Strategy

We are closing in on the final moments of the Christmas shopping season and the last hours of the miracle that is Amazon Prime. As we see the boxes and boxes of things being delivered to our home and offices it makes you wonder if it’s all just too much? But then you think of how magical the season is and how you actually WANT to give your child the toys they have spent the last 364 days begging for. So T&M decided to take a look at their own habits and also looked at what some other moms have done.

We will start with what we do.

M: Christmas and gift-giving.  Always a challenge for me even after buying for kids for 14 years now.  We still go overboard (compared to some) but I’ve definitely pared down over the years.  Every year, I try to figure out what is enough and what is too much.  Many years, while the kids are opening presents, I hit a point where I think – I wish we could just stop right now.  I could put these wrapped presents away and return them, save them for birthdays, donate them, anything – they just don’t need any more!!

This starts when the kids are little and toys are fairly cheap and easy to buy.  And it’s all so cute!  I would pore through all the catalogs that came in the mail, dog ear pages, rip them out and carry them around, and then buy way too much.  These days, for the most part, I just throw the catalogs out and buy more classic gifts and, with older kids, a few pricier items instead.

T: This is my son’s first Christmas and I am SO excited to share it with him. But I have to remind myself that while he is learning more and more every day he has no concept of Christmas….or toys…or Santa. So I tried really hard not to buy too much (and I was moderately successful!) But as an avid Target aisle walker I struggled. The boxes scream at you to BUY ME BUY ME!!! I’m not sure how I am going to manage when he is older, but it’s something I’d like to think about now.

M: The truth is, when the kids are little, they don’t need that many gifts.  It’s the honest to goodness truth that they will likely enjoy the box more. (T: or an empty chip bag). Once they get a little older and understand “toys” they also will want to play with each gift the minute they open it.  The adults have to pry the toy away and shove the next present in their hands to be opened – all the while the kid is crying because they want to play with the one toy they just opened.

M: I remember many years ago when my niece (who is now 21) was around 3 years old.  My sister had told me to buy her a ball.  That’s it – just a ball.  I saw my niece open a much nicer gift and get so excited.  I was concerned about my gift and wishing I’d gotten something nicer.  Soon enough, it was time for my gift.  Well, my niece’s face lit up just as much over the ball as it did over the expensive gift.  Worry for nothing! And, chances are good that the ball was played with more than the expensive gift.

Now that I have five kids, I can’t go too crazy for Christmas.  It’s too expensive, too much time, too much stuff, and too unnecessary.  But I still worry about it and try to find a system.  I worry about their expectations as well, since I have overbought in the past.  But really, when I look at some of their lists, they aren’t looking for big ticket items.  I’M the one worried about it and they are just happy to get some new things! I’m also focusing more on “experience” gifts when I can. For example, when the grandparents have asked about gifts, I’ve suggested Medieval Times tickets or a similar experience that the family can enjoy. The kids love it and we get to have more family time. Bonus that it doesn’t take up any more space!

T&M: So what’s the answer? Quality over quantity? Stick to the basics? Just one gift? We aren’t really sure there is a right answer other than to do what is right for you. That being said you should take some time to think about what you and your kids really need, what you have storage space for, and what will make them truly happy.

T: I’ve been reading a lot about other people’s traditions trying to find some version that works for me. Here are some interesting traditions I have found:

  1. The Big 4

These families focus on 4 areas for their kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great system for minimizing all of the “stuff”. T struggles with the idea of getting her son just 1 toy, but that’s sort of the point! This would greatly cut back on your stress and you can put your time and energy on something your child really wants. With that you can still modify it how you want. You could do this as what you get from family members and then they would of course receive another special gift from the big man in red 😉 (we can talk about him in another post)

  1. The 3 Wise Men

This one is SUPER interesting. My favorite phrase was if it is good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for you! In this method the families are scaling back on the gift giving and also reinforcing the point that Jesus is the reason for the season. In this method the child receives 3 gifts, and each one represents the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus. First, the gift of gold. This gift is something of value to the child or something precious to them. It can be a high dollar item or just something that they want more than anything. Second, the gift of Frankincense. This gift is meant to be something spiritual or healing. This could be religious based or not. Perhaps a book, or a class, or something that helps them on the road to better themselves. Third, the gift of Myrrh. This gift is something for the body. It can be something physical such as sports equipment or work out clothes or it could be something like bath salts, make up, etc. An interesting twist on this was that Mommy and Daddy each brought the kids 3 gifts and Santa brings 3 gifts. So each child got 6 gifts 2 of each. This allows you to do a little more while also keeping it within reason.

  1. Donating before Christmas

This suggestion has less to do with managing the gifts given at Christmas and more to do with teaching your kids the spirit of giving and decluttering BEFORE Christmas. These families spend some time helping their kids go through the toys they have and pick out a few (or many) items that they don’t play with anymore to give to other children. Of course this kindness definitely puts you on the nice list, but it’s more than that. Teaching your kids now about the spirit of giving will hopefully instill a lesson that will stay with them for many years to come. The Patriarch of our family is one of the most giving people we know, and that has been passed down through the family. We hope that our kids learn that as well.

For both T&M, the holidays will continue to be a struggle of determining how to gift give, but we hope that some of these ideas resonate with you and help you determine your own method of gifting at Christmas. Do you have any other methods? We would love to hear them!

Merry Christmas!

T&M

 

Gingerbread Houses

We would have liked to post this weeks ago, but true to mom fashion, the holidays have been, well….chaotic. With an assortment of Christmas parties, Christmas programs, baking, shopping, school work, and adult work, it can be hard to fit it all in.

One tradition that many families try to squeeze in is the decorating of a gingerbread house. T loves the smell of freshly baked gingerbread in her home, but unfortunately hasn’t had the time to bake it. M has 5 kids and that would be a lot of houses to build. SO we decided to make our own spin on the gingerbread house (and by our own spin we mean we saw it on Pintrest and gave it a try!)

Graham Cracker “Gingerbread” Houses for the win!!!!!!!!!! These were SUPER easy, and took hardly any time at all. That is, of course, if you don’t count the clean up time. It took very little time and effort to get this set up though! T went to the store to buy the necessary elements, but she was profoundly disappointed in the lack of decorating materials this year. WHERE ARE THE GUMDROPS? WHERE ARE THE SNO CAPS?? So she was forced to improvise.

Need roof shingles? How about using some gum! Siding for your house? Wheaties do the trick! How about a beautiful walk way up to your front door? Give cereal a try! Most of the items T decorated with can be found in your home, but she did purchase things like: pull apart Twizzlers, Sweet tart balls, and candy canes.

Here is a list of your supplies:

  • Graham Crackers
  • Powdered Sugar (1 bag should produce enough for 3-4 houses)
  • 2 egg whites per bag of powdered sugar used
  • 1/8 C. of water
  • Zip lock bags
  • Decorating materials: cereal, gum drops, candy canes, twizzlers, jelly bellys, gum, white chocolate morsels, nerds, waffle cones (for a tree) just to name a few
  • Paper/plastic bowls and plates

First, you’ll want to go ahead and get all of your decorating supplies ready to go. We used little plastic cups to divide up the supplies. Then we used paper plates to build the houses on.

Second, break up those graham crackers the way you want them. We just broke our rectangles in half (bonus points for you if you can find the ones already in squares). Each house needs 6 squares. (Note: you can modify your design by leaving them as rectangles. You would need 4 rectangles and 2 squares. You can also use a knife to cut the graham cracker to a point on one side so there are not holes in the roof like ours)

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Third, make the icing! Using a mixer combine your powdered sugar and egg whites together. If it is too thick, slowly add the 1/8 C of water to thin out the consistency. If you accidentally make your icing too runny just add more sugar to help thicken it back up. You want the icing to be thick, but workable. This particular icing will harden quickly once used, which is great for these houses!

Fourth, divide the icing among your zip lock bags. Seal the bags. Then cut a TINY hole in the corner of the bag. (For you pros feel free to use an icing bag and tip, but the zip lock bags work great for kids, and you can just throw them out when you are done.

Fifth, time to get building! You will want to use the icing to make a square on the plate, then stick your graham cracker pieces in the icing. Be sure to ice up the edges of each graham cracker piece so they are glued to the plate and to each other. The roof is attached with icing on 2 of the top edges of your square and then with icing on the edges that connect in a point. Let it sit for 2 minutes to harden.

NOW THE GOOD STUFF! Decorate your house however you like! M’s kids seem to prefer creating houses suffering from natural candy disasters. Other people, like T, prefer more symmetrical houses.

All that really matters is that you have fun doing it.

Merry Christmas!

T&M