Halloween Themed Food

As I said in yesterday’s post, I really can’t turn down an opportunity to turn an everyday occasion into a special occasion. I’ve learned with my family that it doesn’t have to be perfect or expensive to make something ordinary extraordinary! Themed food is an easy way to make a weeknight or weekend dinner fun.

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For our Boo To You Halloween Dinner, I made quite a few Halloween themed food items.

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Zombie meatballs – I used frozen meatballs and placed them in the slow cooker with a bottle of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce. These were delicious, and they were not spicy at all.

Pumpkins – these were just peeled mandarin oranges with celery sticks stuck in the center.

I made boxed mac and cheese and served them in clear cups with jack o lantern faces.

Monster rice crispy treats – I made rice crispy treats, and cut them out into rectangle shapes. I dipped the tops into colored chocolate and stuck on edible eyeballs.

Mummy dogs – These were made using crescent rolls. Roll out the crescent rolls so that it is a solid sheet (or buy the full sheet crescent rolls). I used a pizza cutter to cut the crescents into strips and just wrapped around the hot dogs. Create eyes with ketchup.

I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice.

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Another night we had mummy pizzas – these are super easy as well! I use french bread as the dough, and I top with pizza sauce and whatever toppings my family desires. Instead of using shredded cheese, I used mozzarella slices that I again cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Black olives make great eyes.

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Last year I made these fun pudding cups. I used clear cups and filled with chocolate pudding. Then I topped the pudding with crushed oreos, a tombstone peep, and gummy worms. If you cant find the tombstone peeps, you can make a tombstone using Milano cookies and icing.

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Don’t forget school lunches can be themed too! I have a pumpkin, bat, and ghost cookie cutter that get heavy rotation during October.

For Halloween night, I always serve Buffalo Chicken Chili and cornbread, and I made this pumpkin cake that is to die for.

What have you been cooking this October?

Boo To You Halloween Dinner

If you know me well, you know it is no secret that I love celebrations. I love taking seemingly ordinary days and turning them into special parties for my kids. Life is too short not to grab a little fun when and where you can. Cooper in particular gets so excited about our celebrations which is why I continue to do it.

This year was our first annual Boo To You Halloween Dinner and I wanted to share in case you wanted to plan a Halloween dinner for your family! It isn’t too late and you probably have most of what you need already on hand.

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First – decorations! I can’t throw any party without fun decorations. Thank goodness for Target’s one dollar spot, right?! The tablecloth, spiderweb chargers, tree and ornaments, pumpkins, and aliens are from Target. The plates are from Kroger.

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Each child got a Halloween pajamas (except Cooper – he’s unfortunately out of child pajamas and into the big boy sizes now) and a Halloween book.

I themed our food as well.

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We had pumpkin oranges, mac and cheese in jack o lantern cups, vampire doughnuts, monster rice crispy treats, zombie brains (meatballs), and mummy dogs. I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice to drink.

Do you do any special themed meals to celebrate Halloween? Share your ideas in the comments.

Check back tomorrow for recipes and more ideas for Halloween food!

Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice

Well hey there friends! I’ve decided to make my way back to blogging (more on that decision later) and what better way to start than to share a delicious recipe?

One of my very favorite fall drinks at Starbucks is the Caramel Apple Spice. I’m not a huge Pumpkin Spice Latte fan – but a Caramel Apple Spice? Yes please. Something about this amazing blend of warm apple juice, caramel, and spicy goodness is heaven in a cup.

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Here’s what you will need:

Now – I purchased my Cinnamon Dolce Syrup at Starbucks for $13. I got a huge container and if all I use it for is Caramel Apple Spice, I guesstimate that it will last for about 10 crockpots full. (Full of Caramel Apple Spice, that is.) (Super technical, huh?) You can order a more expensive, although larger, container on Amazon.

I also used my crockpot and let it simmer all day, but you could easily use a saucepan or even your microwave.

Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice

  1. Pour entire jug of apple juice or cider into the crockpot.
  2. Add 1 cup of Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce syrup.
  3. Cook on low for several hours.
  4. When you are ready to serve, pour in glass and top with whipped cream and caramel sauce!

This really couldn’t be easier and it would be PERFECT for a fall gathering or party.

Let me know what you think if you make it!

Advent Calendars & Activities for Preschoolers

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Hello friends! Thanks for coming by today. I wanted to discuss Advent Calendars & Activities for Your Preschooler today. I’m going to be sharing what I personally do to count down the Christmas season, and I’d love to hear what you family does as well!

I’m a little advent calendar obsessed. What can I say? Candy and countdowns are two of my favorite things. Last year I did some reflecting and I realized two things: 1) Christmas was flying by, and I felt like our family wasn’t taking advantage of all the fun things there is to do during the season and 2) I felt like I wasn’t focusing enough on the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I decided to incorporate both of these things into our daily activities and calendars as a way to be intentional and really reflect on the true reason for the season.

First up: teaching my children the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

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Reason for the Seasons: A Jesse Tree Advent Journey is a 25 day guided devotional for young children aimed towards teaching the true meaning of Christmas. It has two options: the Jesus Storybook Bible or the Big Picture Story Bible. It has 24 reading passages, 48 crafts that correspond to the passages, 27 activity ideas, 24 food ideas, and coloring pages for each day. I’m so excited about delving into the Christmas story with my kids! I love that this includes craft templates and all the activities are simple, short, and inexpensive.

Last year we did Truth in the Tinsel but I thought it was geared towards older children, and some of the crafts were quite complicated. I think it is a great option for school aged children, however.

Both devotionals are available as instant downloads and you can either print out at home like I did or you can use an iPad or iPhone to read.

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We also own The Story of Christmas, which is a story book set and advent calendar. Each day has a mini book that tells the story of Jesus’s birth, and each mini book is an ornament. Each day we read the book and add it to our playroom tree.

I’ll be talking about this is more detail tomorrow, but our Elf on the Shelf also incorporates both kindness and being a servant into his daily visits. Each day I have a task for Cooper to do that will help him focus on showing kindness and love to other people, just as Jesus did.

Second: incorporating Christmas activities and traditions into our daily routines

Every single year it seems like December just flies by. It wasn’t as much of a big deal before I had children, but as soon as I got pregnant I started dreaming of all things I would do with my kids during Christmas. I wanted to decorate the tree, bake books, wrap presents, look at lights… the list went on and on. However, every December it seemed like less and less got crossed off my list. I have found that I have to be very intentional and plan things out so that I do not get overwhelmed, stressed out, or miss out on precious memories with my children.

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Every year I sit down and make a list of things I want to do during the Christmas season. I also look at my calendar and plan out our December activities – parades, parties, visiting Santa, etc. Then I make a list of 25 things to do during December. Each day I write a task down on a piece of paper and put it into our advent calendar, and we do one activity a day. I’ve learned from past experience that if I pack in too many places to go or complicated projects that I get stressed out, so I make sure to add lots of simple activities and things we can do at home.

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Make hot chocolate
  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Go look at lights
  • Make reindeer food
  • Make snow
  • Write a letter to Santa
  • Make cookies
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Make Christmas munch
  • Go see Santa
  • Ride the Polar Express
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Make a Christmas ornament
  • Make a Christmas card for someone you love
  • Do a Christmas craft
  • Go sing Christmas carols to a neighbor
  • Drop off a surprise gift to our friends
  • Decorate a felt Christmas tree
  • Have a picnic in front of the tree
  • String popcorn
  • See a live nativity
  • Have a PJ day and watch Christmas movies
  • Make oven smores and fudge
  • Make cookies for Santa
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus
  • Read the story of Jesus’s birth
  • Kiss every time you walk under the mistletoe
  • Check out Christmas books at the library

The second piece of paper you see is a prayer list. Every day we pray for one person. I write a name down on a piece of paper and place it in the calendar, and then we spend some time praying for that person throughout the day.

The daily boxes also have a piece of candy as well. 🙂

christmas booksWe also do another type of advent – 25 days of Christmas books! I have 25 Christmas books that I wrap, and we unwrap one book and read it before bedtime.

I know this one can be expensive, but if it is something you want to do don’t be discouraged. I purchased books inexpensively at library sales, consignment shops, Amazon, and on sale at Barnes and Noble after Christmas. You can also utilize your library!

Do you use advent calendars in your home?

Welcome Back & a Podcast!

Hello friends! I’m sorry it has been so long since my last post. I’m looking forward to diving back into to regular posting here at Tickled Peach!

To kick off this month’s content, I wanted to share a recent interview that I did over at Me Being Crafty. Tess is a good friend of mine from my submarine wife days. It was so fun to do this interview – there’s lots of laughter and memories, but I also touched on my recent struggles with depression and anxiety (the main reason for my recent absence, which I’ll be discussing in length a little later). I talk about my attempt to find balance and creative time in my life, and my holiday decorating, party planning, and crafting with my children.

My interview is actually available as a podcast on iTunes HERE (free!) or you can access Me Being Crafty directly and download or listen on the website.

Please visit Me Being Crafty and take a look around. Tess is a phenomenally talented quilter and sewer. She’s currently living in France and her blog is dedicated to the creative journey of crafting. Find Me Being Crafty on Stitcher HERE.

I’m so excited about the blog post I have coming up this month. Take a look at what you can look forward to in December:

  • Advent Calendars and Activities for Preschoolers
  • Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Lazy Parent
  • Christmas Decor
  • Christmas recipes
  • The Kindness Project for Young Children

I hope you’ll follow along! Thank you for reading!

Salisbury Steak & Roasted Broccoli

Today’s recipe is a delicious and frequently requested recipe in our house. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Salisbury Steak & Roasted Broccoli

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Salisbury Steak

Credit: Moms by Heart

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, and egg. Form into 4 patties and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter.
  3. Add the patties and cook until desired doneness.
  4. Remove patties from pan. Cover with aluminum foil and set to the side.
  5. Using the same skillet (don’t drain the drippings!), add 2 tablespoons butter, mushrooms, and onions. Cook until mushrooms are soft and onions are translucent.
  6. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (1 minute).
  7. Add heavy cream. Bring to a boil and reduce to low until sauce thickens.
  8. Plate the patties and cover with cream sauce.

Roasted Broccoli with Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds broccoli, trimmed and stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine broccoli, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
  3. Spread broccoli out on a baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until soft.
  4. While broccoli is cooking, start on the cheese sauce.
  5. Add butter to saucepan and allow butter to melt. (Use medium heat.)
  6. Add flour and whisk constantly, until mixture turns brown (2 minutes).
  7. Add milk, whisking vigorously, until no lumps remain.
  8. Add cheese and whisk until melted. Turn heat to low.
  9. Drizzle cheese sauce over broccoli.

What’s on your menu this week?

Lonely

It’s that time of year. Our kids are headed back to school, some of them for the first time. They may be nervous, scared, excited, or worried – or maybe a combination of all the above. Maybe you’ve heard a few of their fears: will my classmates like me? will she be my friend? will he talk to me?

I know how they feel.

I was a working mom for four years before I quit my job to stay at home. In a lot of ways, it is wonderful and rewarding. In many other ways, it is isolating and lonely. Funny, huh? I am surrounded by my children 24/7 yet I am lonely.

It wasn’t like I was a social butterfly when I was working. I wasn’t meeting up with friends daily for lunch or going out with the girls once a week. But I was busy. I worked 40 hours a week, some of those nights, and when I was home I wanted to spend what little time I had with my family. So friendships were often put on the back burner, unfortunately. I didn’t realize how much I missed and needed female friendships in my life until I was at home all day and had no one to talk to but my children.

In truth, I have one person in my life that I consider a “best friend.” She’s been in my life for 12 years now, and even though we’ve drifted away from each other recently, I will always consider her to be my bestie. She probably knows me the best of anyone on this earth, and that’s a bond neither time nor distance can destroy.

I do have friends, don’t get me wrong. I have a group of girls I get together with once a month. I have girls I socialize with from church. I have women I am friendly with from my son’s sports teams, Mom’s Club, and my neighborhood. Any of those women would most likely be there if I said I needed to talk. They would probably say yes if I asked them to hang out. The problem is that I never do.

This weekend I had some girlfriends over (see, I do have friends) and we were discussing life and friendships. I mentioned how hard I find it to make friends, and one of the girls said “really? I never would have guessed that about you.”

But it is true. Making friends does not come easy to me. I’m always worried about what other people think of me. Will they like me? Will they judge me? Are they going to talk about me behind my back? And while I KNOW that is ridiculous and completely unimportant, I still let those thoughts get in my head and paralyze me. I’m the girl sitting in the back row, smiling and hoping someone will talk to me. I’m the girl standing on the edge of the group, nodding but not participating in the conversation. I’m the girl sitting at home, lonely.

In addition to suffering from social anxiety, I also am proud. I’m too proud to reach out to people and tell them I need help. To admit I’m having a hard time and could really use a shoulder. To admit my kids are driving me absolutely crazy, I fear for my sanity, and could you help me, pleasepleaseplease? To admit I really need prayer.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this, or if it is just me. I will tell you – if you are like me – that most of what we fear is all in our head. No one is going to laugh at us. Most women will say yes if you ask them to lunch or invite them over for a play date. If you’re hanging at the park and you strike up a conversation with a mom that you really click with, I promise she won’t think you’re crazy if you give her your number. She probably was trying to figure out the least non-stalkerish way to give you hers.

Last week my friend Diana invited me to be a part of her Bunco group. I walked into a house of a woman I didn’t know and was faced with 10 women I had never met before.

I immediately wanted to walk back out. I had a total panic moment and contemplated making an excuse so I could leave. But I stuck it out. And you know what? I had a great time. It is never as bad as I think it will be, this making friends. It’s all in my head.

So reach out. Set up a play date. Invite some friends over for a girl’s night. Ask for prayer, or tell a friend you are struggling. I promise you’ll benefit, and so will your friends. We are all in the same boat, fighting the same battles. Remember that when you feel lonely.

Currently

Currently I am…

Loving

Game of Thrones. I mean what planet have we been living on that we just discovered GoT? We recently resubscribed to HBO (every summer we subscribe just for True Blood and then unsubscribe once the season is over) and discovered that the entire season of GoT was on demand. I struggled to get into the series at first (mainly because HBO carried every single episode EXCEPT THE FIRST – kind of crucial, HBO) but we were quickly hooked. We binged watched the entire four seasons in three weeks and I kind of feel lost now. Especially since Jason told me last week it doesn’t come back until April. APRIL. For the love of Pete, HBO.

Reading

Our small group at church is currently reading Growing Kids God’s Way. It’s been pretty life changing, actually. I’m excited about the changes we’ve been making in our house. I’m also reading Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be as my daily devotional and it is pretty darn good as well.

Waiting For

Game of Thrones? My baby to sleep through the night? Football season? This dang Georgia heat to simmer down into bearable temperatures?

All of the above.

Excited About

I’m ready for fall television to resume! Are you? I am missing New Girl, About a Boy, Glee, Dancing with the Stars, and some Bachelor drama.

Trying To

I feel like I should write “lose weight” here but that would require me actually going to the gym and changing my eating habits and well… that ain’t happening.

Working On

I’m currently putting together 4K curriculum. Yep, you read that right. I’ve decided to homeschool Cooper for 4K. More on that later!

Enjoying

Summertime with my boys. I was worried about how we would fill our time this summer, but we’ve been busy bees! I love seeing Cooper make friends every time we go to the pool or the park. The boy doesn’t know a stranger! Sullivan is getting bigger every day and all he wants to do is explore his surroundings.

Using

International Delight White Chocolate Raspberry Creamer. SO GOOD.

 

Wearing

I’m sort of obsessed with my Old Navy boyfriend distressed jeans. I wear them pretty much every day. My close friends probably think I’m a hobo with only one thing in my closet.

How about you?

Quick & Easy Feta Dip Appetizer

Happy Tuesday! Are you hungry? I hope so!

Today’s recipe is something that is cheap, easy, and super filling. I call it an appetizer but you could easily serve this with a salad and have a meal for 3-4 people.

Ready? Here we go!

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Quick & Easy Feta Dip Appetizer

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the base of a plate.
  2. Top with feta cheese crumbles and chopped roma tomatoes
  3. Sprinkle Cavender’s Greek Seasoning generously over the mixture
  4. Eat by topping the bread with the mixture.

SO GOOD! Jason and I ate this for dinner two days in a row. Let me know what you think if you try it!

I can’t take credit for this – this is a recipe that’s floated around amongst my Twitter/IG friends since last summer. Meredith, Rachel, Mimi – thanks for sharing!

Lately

Happy Monday, friends! I’m sorry for my unexpected absence of late. I’ve had a horrid cough I just can’t get rid of.

First off, I want to announce the winner of the Wiggle Worms Boutique giveaway! Thank you so much to Sarah for hosting. Ellen Bowles Fortier, you are the winner of a $50 credit to Wiggle Worms Boutique!

So, what have we been up to lately? Well, to be honest, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. I feel like I’m downplaying it by saying rough – brutal would be better – but I really don’t want to focus on that. Yes, we’re going through one of those “if it can possibly happen, it will, and all in a matter of weeks” but I’m confident that like anything else… this too shall pass. Hopefully soon.

In the midst of storms there are always rainbows, right? I am trying to focus on those.

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Jason and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on July 26th. Eleven years! It’s strange to look back and think about the young, clueless kids we were when we got married. I’m lucky to have this supportive, hardworking man in my life.

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Sullivan is into everything. Everything! He’s a path of destruction that follows me around the house, undoing anything I dare to put away or clean. I really don’t remember Cooper being this way. I told Jason the other day that I quite literally spend the majority of my day picking up the messes that he makes.

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It’s been a crazy busy summer. I was worried about how we’d fill our time once school got out, but we have been running around all summer! Cooper has had swim lessons once a week, and he’s taking indoor t-ball (best thing ever in the hot Georgia summer)!

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We’ve also stayed busy by hanging out with friends from Moms Club of Grovetown. Last week we went pony riding and toured the stables the ponies live in!

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I love that my boys are becoming friends and are learning to play together.

What have you been up to lately?