7/29/13

Perfect Parent Advice

{throwback, retro, bringing back a good thing}

If you’ve read my blog at all, you’d know that I am the mom of two perfect and wonderful girls. They are always clean-faced and well-behaved. Having been in this parenting game for almost five years now, I am obviously an expert. You will want to take copious notes on the pearls of wisdom I am about to pass along.

What’s that? 
You don’t want my perfect advice on raising you kids? 
But I’m so smart. 
I always do everything exactly right and perfectly. 
My kids are so cute. 

Well, expect the little one doesn’t have much hair, so she’s confused as a boy more often than not. And the older one can’t really smile, keep her eyes open and look at the camera all at the same time. And that whole clean face thing is *technically* only true after bath time. And I may have left our toddler unattended while standing in a cart at Lowes, only to fall and chip her tooth. And I am often worried that a stranger will mistake us for a kidnapper, not the parent dragging the screaming children through the parking lot. And so what if I let the baby fall off the bed not once, but twice in the same morning. And some days I tell the kids that the playground is “closed” because I don’t feel like putting shoes on and trucking down there. Sesame Street is on – that’s practically the same thing. 


A while back, I was at a happy hour with a newly pregnant girlfriend. She drank water, I drank wine, we both ate French fries – I only did it to support her, obviously. She asked a thousand questions and I was more than happy to offer honest answers.
Yes, your boobs will balloon up like a porn star. No, they won’t stay that big and perky. Yes, you will probably poop on the delivery table. Yes, your husband will see it. Yes, he will still want to have sex with you even AFTER seeing it.

I joked about things that she “shouldn’t” do – like breast feed until your kid is in the second grade. And before you start the hate mail, put a leash on it. I honestly don’t care what you do. I’m getting there, be patient!  She asked “but you’d tell me if I was being totally ridiculous?” And I answered a very definite “Hell no!” I did admit that if she did breast feed her 7-year old, I would make snarky comments behind her back, but who was I to tell her what she should do with her boobs, kids, family, husband, body, food, money, faith or otherwise?

My point is this: there are a lot of nosey, know-it-all moms out there. I hate them. I hate the women who think that they need to blow out someone else’s candle for theirs to burn brighter. We are not in a competition – because if we were, I would totally kick your ass. Even if I had to cheat to do it. I like to win. But parenting isn’t a game. There’s no finish line or score to be kept.

Here’s the only tidbit you should follow: Find a few GOOD moms out there that you trust. 

What does a “good mom” look like you ask? Here’s the test to finding one: When you share a hardship, they will say “Oh my god! ME TOO!” If they don’t immediately react like that they understand, they are A) lying and B) not worth it. And make sure you return the favor. If things are hard – tell someone. Share your woes, so other mommy friends don’t feel alone either.

Being a mom is one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done. It has pushed and tested me, and so far, despite all my fuck ups, my kids are still in one piece and thriving, no less! I promise you’re doing OK too, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. If it’s hard and if you’re worried, you’re doing it exactly right. 

7/24/13

So What Wednesday

It's been a long time.  I thought about doing my own weekly good thing, bad thing, but that didn't exactly work out (insert typical SO WHAT)  But that's doesn't mean I'm not excited to rant and rave you Shannon, and you.

So What Wednesday


  • I went for a run on Saturday and pulled a muscle in my calf.  It hurt so bad, I stopped dead in my tracks and Nate had to run ahead and come back to get me in the car. #whyidontlikerunning
  • My dad has chronic pain and thankfully shared one of his codeine pills with me so I could sleep on Saturday.  I took it and 3 minutes later, I couldn't even feel my face.  It was wonderful.
  • I am so, so excited that Project Runway is back!  I miss Michael Kohrs, but really glad to see more Tim Gunn (or Baileywick, as Liv calls him.)
  • My wardrobe Wednesday - Sunday consists of a swimsuit, cover-up and pony tail.  I shower more to wash chlorine from my skin rather than actual hygiene.
  • I was really excited to hear about the Royal Baby and was kinda surprised at the lack of American fanfare the night he was born.
  • Liv and I went shopping for her school supplies.  I'm going to have a Kindergartener and I am so not ready for that.
  • I am so unbelievably in love with the Olive + Birch custom print I had made for my friend's gonna-be-sometime-soon-when-the-right-birthmom-comes-along baby.  I'll share it next week, after I've given it to her!
  • I made a lazy parent dinner on Sunday.  They ate.  I relaxed.  I'm good with that.

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7/23/13

Honest Mom Makes Fun Dinner

I know there are a million moms out there who have taken a muffin tin and served their kids lunch or dinner that way.  Very clever, get them to eat a lot of different things, simple clean up, there's even a built in cup (or 6!) for dips!  I'm tempted to eat my own dinner this way some nights.

I may not be the first to do this, but I am the first to admit that while this is fun for my kids, it's super easy for me.  Basically, I'm owning up to being lazy when it has come to some lunch and dinners these days and my kids are none the wiser.

I have neither the time, nor desire, to cut up cute little sandwich animals, adorned with shredded carrot and raisins.  Yes, they look fun, and yes, I probably have a dozen ideas pinned to boards on Pinterest, but will I actually ever do it?  No.  And am I bad mom because I leave the crusts on my kids PB&J?  Hell no.

Some cold peas, cut up hot dog and a squirt of ketchup, toss on some raspberries for good measure.  They've never had a better picnic dinner.  And it doesn't hurt that I have Beauty and the Beast on TV (we missed our typical Friday Family Movie Night!)



Honesty and happy kids.
Win win.

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7/22/13

Grilled Bacon-Jalepeno Pizza

We are keeping our grill working overtime this summer.  I turned on the oven for the first time in weeks to make a batch of S'mores Banana Bread only because we had so many bananas in the freezer, they were threatening an uprising!

I've grilled pizza before.  It was actually super easy, and while cooking dough on the grill directly is intimidating (as opposed to on foil or something else) it turned out really well and was delicious!  In fact, I've done this a few times and come up with some tips and tricks to help you get more comfortable with the tongs and technique!

This is a recipe that is a work-in-progress for my family's taste buds.  I am working to tweak the spicy for the young mouths I am trying to feed (but Liv loves Thai chile wings and Spicy Sweet Doritoes, so I'm not working with plain-Jane-white-rice taste buds here.)

I'm going for the salty-spicy-love you have with many pizzas.  You can tweak the ingredients to your taste buds (i.e. adding Siracha, red pepper flake, substituting bacon for some other meat - but why would you do that?!)




Bacon-Jalepeno Pizza
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, sliced and seeded to your spice preferences
  • favorite pizza dough (I use Rhodes frozen dough, thawed)
  • 1/3 c pizza sauce
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or whatever cheese mix you love/have on hand)
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet and add bacon.  Toss and cook until browned and crisp.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on a towel-lined plate.  
  2. In same pan with bacon grease, add you jalepenos and cook at minute or two to cut some of the bite and heat.  ** This step can be skipped for those heat seekers out there **  Removed from pan and drain on towel-lined plate.
  3. Preheat grill to a high heat.  Brush remaining olive oil onto one side of dough.  Flip this oiled side onto your hot grill.  Cook about 5 minutes, watching carefully.  It's ready to flip when the dough lifts easily with tongues and is marked.
  4. Spread sauce, bacon, jalepeno and cheese evenly onto dough and cover grill.  Cook about 3-5 minutes until the cheese has melted.  Carefully remove with spatula to cookie sheet or cutting board.  Allow to cook a few minutes before cutting.




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7/15/13

How to Make the Best Grilled Pizza




Much to the hub's chagrin, I've taken over the grill this season.  He works, I'm home, it's just easier for me to prep dinner and have it cooking and ready by the time he comes home.

Don't mistake this as me being the good little housewife.
I'm hungry.
I want to eat,
do bath time
and get these monsters in bed.

But grilling is super easy in the summer.  The oven makes our house super hot, and it gives the girls extra play time outside while I get things together and cooking.  Win win win.

When it comes to grilling pizza, the hardest part is getting your raw dough onto the grill.  Once you've made the transfer, the rest is basic watch-and-don't-burn-anything.  Master that move and you're golden (so to speak) but here are some more tricks that I've picked up along the way.

Tips for grilling:

  • Don't try to make your pizza too big.  The dough I used was cut into two "smaller" pizzas, each giving a good 6 pieces.  The move is much easier that trying to stretch a 14" pizza dough onto a hot grill without it falling through the grates or severely burning your hands.
    • The split also allows for multiple pizza options, only further promoting your pizza making skills and wowing your diners.
  • Use toppings sparingly.  The more moisture and weight you add, the soggier things will be and you won't get that crispy, doughy crust you're looking for.  Go for big, bold flavors to get the most impact.  If you do go the cheese and pepperoni route (and it's delicious) use your sauce and cheese lightly so the rest of your hard work isn't smothered.
  • The grill needs to be really hot, which means you need to stay alert and be ready to work.  Grilling pizza isn't exactly the 40-minute BBQ chicken you may make.  The whole thing will take 10 minutes tops.  Have your V&T ready, don't stop in the middle of the process to get your cocktail ready for dinner.
  • Have your topping ready.  When the underside is marked and ready to turn, be ready with your sauce, cheese and other things so you're not left with cooked dough and unmelted cheese.  This is a sin in pizza.
  • Oil is your friend.  Oil the side of your dough that's going to hit the grill first.  Don't be shy.  It keeps it from sticking and makes you a happy flipper.
  • The dough will bubble and brown.  Don't be afraid, this is supposed to happen.  With a grill, you're looking for awesome marks.  The bubbles will fix themselves when you flip your dough.  And if the underside gets a little ahead of you, you're just going to put toppings on it, thus hiding any slight imperfections.  It's over the grill, it's supposed to taste smokey!


To grill:

  • Preheat the grill to at least 400 degrees.  450 is better.  Remember, hot is good, but you're also going for an even heat, so if you've got multiple burners on your grill, adjust accordingly.\
  • Oil one side of your dough and move quickly to flip that side DOWN on the grill.  You may need an extra set of hands to hold your pan near the grill so you can flip is one swift moment.  This is the hardest, most intimidating part.  No pizza is worth scaring your hands, so be safe.
  • After about 5 minutes, your dough will be stiff and marked, ready to flip.  The decision to close the grill during this time is your own.  I like to keep an eye on things so they don't burn, so the cooking process may take an extra minute or two, but I'm able to keep track of things
How the dough will lift when it's ready to be flipped.
Notice the marking, visible, but not overwhelming the entire surface!
  • Once you've flipped, add your sauce and toppings.  Remember, have them ready.  Working over the grill will be hot, so again, be safe.  It's just cheese, not worth a finger!
  • After you add toppings, I would suggest now you close the lid.  Helps melt the cheese.  Your dough is ALMOST cooked by the time you flip it, so you're safe.  Just remember, keep an eye on things.
  • Remove to cutting board or cookie sheet with the help of a spatula and perhaps, another set of hands and let cool slightly before cutting.



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7/11/13

Good and Evil

The idea of evil in our world can fit into all manners and sorts.  Surely there's the obvious biblical sense.  There's the wicked person who murders, or even the wicked who just cuts you off in traffic without so much as a wave into the rear view.

I'm talking about the evil we have in our home right now.

The two-year old kind.
The kind that is so sweet and lovable, and so awful you wonder how ANY of us made it to our third birthday.
Nate jokes that if you ask a kid how old they are, and they answer two, you should shout "Wrong!  The correct answer is jerk!  You are not two, you are a jerk!"
Don't kid yourself, you were a dick too.  Any grandparent right now is reading this and laughing because grandchildren are their own reward for not killing their own offspring.

But there is a flip side.
There must be balance in the force, so with evil, there must be good.
And I don't mean from said 2-year old.
She they are still an asshole.
This is where some of that grandparent wisdom can come in, because if you have one two-year old who survives, you've seen they can make it to three, and four and maybe even five (some days are still hit or miss.)
They can make it past the jerk stage.
They can be the good against the evil in the house.
Because let's face it.
If you have an older sibling in the house, they pull a lot more weight and respect than you do in the eyes of your tiny toddler.

In our home, the time-out spot is starting to get more action these days.
Avery struggles with being two,
hearing the word "no,"
having the wait,
not being able to keep up with her bigger, older sister.
Hitting is often a reaction to frustration.

Hit:
Time out.
Two minutes.
Go.
There's usually a lot of fighting to get her there, but with the help of the {chill out jar} she gets there,  calms the tears, catches her breath and is ready to rejoin normal society.

I try to do the eye-contact, this is why you were on time-out, let's say we're sorry and not do it again (or not do it for the next 7 minutes.)
The good, big sister then takes her cue and swoops in.
Liv asks Avery to come wipe her tears and come sit down with her so they can "talk."
Sometimes it's to "have a meeting" depending on how formal she wants to make things.

"I need to talk to you about some things," she'll say.
This isn't her first rodeo, she's been on that dreaded spot before too.
She'll say, "you have to be nice and use your words.  Don't hit me anymore, or you'll be back on timeout again, OK?
Hug me.
I love you.
You're the best sister I could ever have."

And my heart melts.
I have a kid who hits and one who loves.
And they both love each other {to the tip of their toes.}

Good does always overpower evil.



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7/10/13

Maple-Chipotle Corn

Make sure you hop over {here} and enter this week's giveaway for a nursing scarf!

Welcome to summer!  Or first, I should explain why the maple addition to this classic summer fare.  My dad went out to help his buddy who has a maple syrup "farm" in the spring and came back with CASES of maple syrup.  He unloaded about 20 bottles onto us, some of which I've been able to share, and others that are sitting neatly in our chest freezer in the garage.

What do with all of this sweet gold?  A person can only eat so many pancakes.

Then, my monthly Food Network magazine hit my coffee table!  This month, all about dishes with corn, including grilled corn on the cob, topped with delicious things like cheese and flavored butter (some even better than the ones I made last summer like {Italian corn} and {Mexican corn})  I give you the tastiest butter you may ever use on corn.  We've even started scheming sautéing pork chops in it and even using it to grease the pan to fry bacon.


I grilled this batch, but you could put this on boiled corn as well.  Obviously, any corn on the cob needs butter, doesn't matter how you cook it!

To grill:  shuck each ear and remove all silks.  Wrap individually in foil and place over medium-high heat on the grill (ours was reading about 400-450).  Turn about every 5-10 minutes for 20-25 minutes.  We've found that this method is fairly forgiving and even going longer than you think is usually a better bet (that's what she said.)

For the butter:
4 Tbsp room temperature butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground smoked chipotle seasoning (or your favorite non-taco packet seasoning)
1 tsp salt

Mix well until everything is super incorporated and creamy.
Obviously four tablespoons is MORE than enough, which is why we have leftovers which is why the brainstorming is happening on other ways to use this spicy-sweet spread.  You could easily cut this in half if you wanted.  Or double.  Whatever blows your hair back!

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7/8/13

Stella Bella Designs {giveaway}

I hinted at this giveaway last week on my Facebook page, but now it's here!

And now, let's squash any questions on whether or not I'm interested in Sondra's scarves because I myself would need one some day soon.
No babies in this belly.
Just Summer Shandy, chips and the occasional cheddar dog.

That being cleared up, I do have a lot of new babies in my world this summer, so I'm really excited to host this giveaway!  Taking a look at the adorable colors and prints Sondra's shop has, I know that you'll (at least!) one you love!



Here's more on how this clever accessory/mommy-must-have came about:
The Hold Me Close Nursing Scarf was my solution to help me feel more comfortable about nursing in public. I couldn't find anything out there that covered not only baby and me but my back and sides as I nursed too! Thus the creation of the Hold Me Close Nursing Scarf.  Our Nursing Scarves are made from high-quality jersey knit that drapes gently on mommy as a scarf and feels incredibly soft and light against baby while nursing. They are so stylish you can wear it long after (or before!) little one arrives.



While I wasn't ever a boobie-mom, I know many women are and see this as a FANTASTIC alternative to the big tent, drape thing.  Plus it's a scarf - hello style.  And chevron?  Yes please!  Excited yet??  Well enter with the Rafflecopter wigit below!  If you're not in need of one, but know a mom who is, please share this with her!

Good luck!







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7/2/13

4th of July Handprint T-Shirts

This year marks the fifth year that Nate and I have ventured north and invaded the cabin of our good friends.  These are no ordinary friends - the girls refer to "auntie and uncle" and even the "parents" that are there have become Grandma and Grandpa.  This is easily the best weekend our family has all summer = Fourth of July at the Cabin.

Previous years are highlighted {here} and {here}
And even the first time I used this super smart packing tip with baggies {here}.  Genius.


This year is the first year that all three littles are "old" enough to kinda get in on the fun.  Liv's first trip was in 2010, so she's been around a time or two, but now Avery and Sidney are going to get into the fun more this summer.  More swimming, more boating, more glow sticks at night. And definitely more red, white and blue fashion!

We gathered the girls and put together these super cute tanks with a little fabric paint, a foam brush and some waxed paper.


This isn't exactly a tutorial because I take it most of my readers are pretty smart.  You take your kid's hand, dip it in the paint, press.


Paint the lines.


Embellish as you want.  Done.

However, I do have tips!

Choosing your "lining" carefully when it comes to painting a shirt.  With the little girls' shirts, I used waxed paper because the fabric was more of a knit and didn't stretch much (read: more forgiving).  Liv's "kid" shirt was ribbed so I did my best to have a "natural wear" over cardboard and used clothespins to hold it in place for painting.  The ribbing obviously stretches when she puts it on and off, but the holding-in-place-while-painitng helps prevent the crazy placement that could otherwise occur.

Read the label.  I know I'm not the first to say this, but hello, it always helps to read ALL directions before you start a project.  My paint suggested washing fabric ahead of time.  A good thing to know so you don't have a 20-month old over to paint and realize that her shirt isn't quite ready!

Fabric paint is designed to be permanent.  It is.  Trust me.  During the bottle opening ceremony, I had a opening-a-carton-of-yogurt experience.  It landed on our carpet.  I hate our carpet and want to replace it.  Luckily for me, Nate is on the same page.  Now if only our bank account would jump on board.  But I digress -- treat this stuff like permanent marker.  It washed off the kiddos' hands easily enough with warm water and soap, but assume that all other materials are fair game to make a lasting impression.

Have fun.  Even if it's permanent, this project is designed to be playful.  And especially when you're dealing with a holiday theme, I imagine these shirts are going to get about a day's worth of wear.  If the handprint isn't perfect, who cares?  If they want to put a bunch of glitter on one-square inch, who cares?  Sure, a perfect design makes for pretty pictures, but you had this idea because you wanted it to be a fun memory for THEm right?  Let them be little (but watch out for your carpet!)




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