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?

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?

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?

 

All About Dinosaurs!

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I have a dinosaur obsessed little boy. It all started when he discovered Dinosaur Train on PBS. He loved watching and naming the dinosaurs, so I started brainstorming hands-on ways I could teach him more.

I started off by buying him a few things from Amazon.

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I love, love, love the National Geographic Kids line of products. They are so well made, easy to understand, and very educational products. I purchased the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. The text is very easy to read (beginning readers could read to themselves) and is written in a way that even the youngest readers can understand.

51dxaxoaNVLI also purchased the Animal Planet Big Tub of Dinosaurs. It’s a 40 piece set that comes in a storage tub. It contains a variety of dinosaurs, a printed mat, trees, rocks, and volcanoes.

Cooper was really happy with this, as you can see!

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IMG_5821After reading some reviews, I also ordered the My First Dino Kit.

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This kit encourages hand and eye coordination and observation skills as kids become paleontologists. It comes with a fossil block and excavation tools. I also loved that it came with a booklet of discussion questions and activities.

After we got these items and started to play with them, it dawned on me that I could make my own All About Dinosaurs! DIY Dino Dig at home.

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You’ll need the following supplies:

  • 3 boxes of cornstarch ($1 per box at the grocery store)
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Plastic dinosaurs (I used the Assorted Dinosaur Fossil Skeleton from Amazon but after I ordered them I discovered dinosaur fossils at The Dollar Tree) (Cost = $3-$8) (If buying at The Dollar Tree, you will need multiple packages)
  • Plastic container ($1 at The Dollar Tree)
  • Excavation supplies – I used a paintbrush, magnifying glass, and a Popsicle stick

dinodigDirections:

  1. Pour the three boxes of cornstarch into your container. Add an 2.5 cups of water and stir vigorously to remove clumps. Add more water as needed until the cornstarch is a smooth, thin consistency.
  2. Add in your dinosaur fossils.
  3. Set it outside to dry (or in your garage if you are expecting rain). It will take 24-48 hours to fully dry.
  4. As the cornstarch dries, it will shrink, and water will pool at the top. Check the container every 8 hours or so and pour off any excess water.

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When your DIY Dino Dig is fully dry, you are ready to excavate! I did this outside as it is super messy. I laid down paper on our outdoor table and carefully popped the block out of the container. I laid out a few supplies – a paintbrush, a Popsicle stick, and a magnifying glass. Then I told Cooper to go to town. He broke up the block with the wooden stick and then started chipping away at the dinosaur fossils. Once they were free, he brushed them off with the paintbrush.

This was a fun activity for a dinosaur loving child!

I would say this activity is best for ages 3-7. The younger the child, the more assistance they will need in this project.

Lately

Lately….

(Both the title of this post and a rather awesome slow Jodeci slow jam from my high school days…)

I’ve found it quite hard to get back in the swing of things lately. I’ve just been off and not myself. It’s a little PPD, a little of the summer doldrums, and a lot of loss.

On August 11th my grandmother went into the hospital for what we thought was a routine procedure. She’d been having shortness of breath and chest pains so her cardiologist wanted to perform a cardiac catheterization. Basically, it is procedure where they shoot dye into your arteries to see if there are any blockages. My mom called me around 10:00 a.m. to say one artery was 98% blocked and they had to do immediate open heart surgery. One oh-so-helpful hospital aide actually said to my mom “I can’t believe she hasn’t died in her sleep!” Thanks for that visual, dude.

She made it through surgery and we expected a long, tough recovery. I went to see her that night and the following days. While she was definitely not herself and was in quite a lot of pain and a little loopy, I was still able to talk to her and tell her I loved her.

The following Monday, she started hallucinating, seeing and talking to family members who had passed away. She wouldn’t sleep and my mom, who was staying with her in ICU, reported she was extremely agitated. She finally fell asleep after being up about 24 hours early Tuesday morning. She never woke up again.

When she couldn’t be roused a CT scan was ordered and was performed Wednesday. The news was not good, but they wanted us to wait and consult with a neurologist before making any decisions or really making a ruling on her condition. I took the kids up to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and waited on the neurologist to arrive.

The neurologist came late that afternoon, around 6pm, and spoke to my mom, aunt, and grandfather privately. My mom called us all back into a private room shortly after to share the news – my grandmother had had a major stroke and was, for all intents and purpose, brain dead. She would not wake up and was expected to live just a few days.

That was hard. I mean, of course it was hard but it was even harder because it was so unexpected. I kept thinking – you’re kidding me, right? Of all surviving three grandparents, my Mama Betty seemed to be in the best of health. She’d been walking around, shopping it up, just two weeks prior. She’d survived open heart surgery and the insertion of a pacemaker just to die of a stroke?

But our plans are not God’s plan – I know that.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, for sure. It’s hard to lose a grandparent. It’s hard to see your grandfather and mother grieve. Loss of any type is hard. I know my Mama Betty, had she been able to talk to us, would have said she was excited to go to Heaven. I know she’s not in pain and she’s rejoicing and celebrating with our other family members.

Death isn’t hard on the one who dies; it is hard on the ones that are left behind.

I keep thinking of all these things I wish I had asked her. You always think you will have more time, and even though I am sure most of us say that we live by a “seize the day!” attitude, do we? Do we really? There are so many things I want to know. What it was like being a working woman in the 1940’s? How did she live on her salary of $10 a week? What was it like to get married at 16? What are her secrets to a successful 64 year marriage?

I never asked, because I thought I had time.

Friends, do you have time? Do any of us? You just never know. Ask your questions now. Let your loved ones know your feelings. Hug them tight.

You just never know.

Great Expectations

Expectation: the act of state of looking forward or anticipating

Expectations. We all have them.

I expect that the bagger at Publix will offer to help me out with my food.I expect that my friends and family will call me and wish me a Happy Birthday. I expect that I will have fun when I get together with my girlfriends.

Expectations are a great thing when the thing we expect is true. The problem, however, is when our expectations don’t match up to our reality.

I’ll use myself and my husband as an example of what I’m talking about.

Just weeks after my husband and I got married, he disappeared under the ocean for a 3 month deployment. The entire time he was gone, I built up what homecoming would look like in my head. I just knew we would lock eyes with each other across the pier, we’d run to one another, and we’d passionately kiss and profess our love for one another. I built up that moment in my head for months.

I expected. And I was disappointed.

My husband had been in a submarine for 3 months. He’d seen sunshine just a handful of times. He hadn’t shaved. He smelled of boat (a smell which I cannot adequately describe – it is a cross between diesel fuel, smelly socks, and the odor of 100 men). He had work he had to do before he could greet me, and he had to stay on the boat for the night before he could come home.

I waited for an hour before he made his way over to me. He strolled over; he did not run. At this point my sexy outfit had wrinkled and wilted in the heat. I had a sunburn and my heels were giving me blisters. Still, I held out hope for that romantic moment I had dreamed of in my head.

I expected. And I was disappointed.

Reality: my husband strolled over, quickly hugged me, gave me a peck of a kiss, and told me he wouldn’t be coming home with me that night because he had duty. He chatted about something incredibly banal while I silently argued with him in my head.

Why didn’t you kiss me? Do you not love me anymore? I don’t CARE about what so-and-so did at halfway night. DO YOU NOT SEE MY PRETTY OUTFIT? Do you not want to scoop me up and twirl me around? WHERE IS MY PERFECT MOVIE MOMENT?!

In no time at all, my husband was called back to work and I headed home. Disappointed. Let down. Feeling like my marriage was failing and something was wrong with me. All because I had expectations, and my reality did not meet them.

The next day my husband came home. He professed his love. We passionately kissed. He gifted me a journal where he had written me letters while he was underway. I had my romantic moment; it just didn’t look like the moment I had created in my head.

My poor husband. That wouldn’t be the last time I put the weight of my expectations on his shoulders.

I have talked before about how my husband isn’t the greatest gift giver. My husband is great at so many other things, but he isn’t by nature a thoughtful person. I love to give gifts; it is my love language. I also love to receive gifts. It makes me feel special and appreciated. Unfortunately my husband does not love to buy gifts.

It’s become a bone of contention in our marriage, unfortunately.

Every single birthday, Christmas, and Mother’s Day I expect something from my husband. I expect that he is going to put a lot of thought into a gift. I expect that he is going to really think about me, the things I enjoy, and what is important to me. He’s going to go shopping and select the one item that will sum up his love for me.

I expect. And I’m disappointed.

Because that is just not who my husband is. It isn’t. It hasn’t been him in the 10 years we’ve been married. I can almost guarantee that my husband will do one of two things: 1) he will forgot the occasion completely or 2) he will run out the night before or the day of and buy me the first thing he sees.

Every Mother’s Day, every birthday, every Christmas I am disappointed. I’m mad. I’m bratty. And why? Why? Because I didn’t get the perfect imaginary gift that I am perfectly capable of buying for myself? Because I have somehow linked the ability to give gifts and feel love for someone together? Because my expectations are too high?

My expectations will never match up to my reality because my expectations are too big.

The problem with expectations is that you cannot control other people, how they act, or how they react. It is fine to have expectations for yourself. Great! Expectations can push us to work hard or achieve. Think about it: we expect to lose 2 pounds this week, so we work out 5 times at the gym. We make a to-do list each morning, and we work to achieve what we have written. We want to make an A in our graduate class, so we do our best work.

I think it is OK to have expectations as long as our expectations are realistic. My husband expects a certain level of cleanliness when he comes home for the day. He expects dinner to be served. He expects that I will pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, and that our kids will be alive at the end of the day.

He expects, but his expectations are realistic. He also is able to adjust when his expectations are not met. He understands if I’ve had a rough day with the kids and was not able to pick up the house. He understands if I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. He understands if I didn’t get to go to the grocery store because things popped up during the day.

My problem is that I have always had unrealistic expectations of people. I project my expectations onto them, and then my feelings are hurt or disappointed because my expectations did not match reality. I expect the perfect gift from my husband. I expect that my girlfriend will drop what she is doing to listen to my latest meltdown. I expect that when I take my kids to see Santa that I will get the magical moment on camera.

Do you struggle with your expectations?

Welcome to Summer! Fun Ideas for the Kids

Preschool ended for my three year old last Thursday, and if you are like me you are both excited and nervous regarding summer break. I’m excited that we don’t have a set schedule. We don’t have anywhere we absolutely must go and no time we must be there by. I’m looking forward to days at the pool, going for walks, picnics, and playtime outside.

However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the tiniest bit apprehensive about keeping my preschooler out of trouble. Cooper does not do downtime well. If he isn’t engaged, he’s getting himself into trouble. In fact, as I write this I am attempting to calm myself after finding that he decided to “experiment” and see what would happen when he poured nail polish remover on my hope chest. Deep breaths, deep breaths…. In case you are wondering the results of that experiment: nail polish eats away at the varnish on your furniture, leaving your treasured future hand-me-down in desperate need of refinishing.

Deep breaths, deep breaths….

Before all this happened, I decided to put together a “Welcome to Summer” basket for my boy. (I will be holding on to this basket until his behavior improves.) It is no secret that I love celebrations, and what better way to welcome summer than with a gift basket? I scoured dollar spots and clearance aisles for some fun summer gifts.

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The basket is from the Target Dollar Spot ($3), as are the shovels, water gun, water balloon, Jake & the Neverland Pirates puzzle, squishy critter, Crazy 8 card game, bath finger paints, and bug magnifying glass. I also purchased a beach towel, a pool toy (the Mickey weeble wobble thingamajig), and the Spiderman sprinkler.

If you decide to put together a basket, here are some other ideas of things you can include:

  • Water shoes
  • A new bathing suit or coverup
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses or a hat
  • Floaties or a life jacket
  • Pool toys, floats, or noodles
  • Water balloons
  • Water guns
  • Football or frisbee
  • Croquet set
  • Sand toys
  • Beach ball

One thing that I do for birthdays that would also be perfect for celebrating summer vacation is door streamers! How fun would it be for your child to wake up and see this when he or she opens their door?

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My child loves balloons – how about sneaking in their room with some helium balloons? You could also greet them at the car line or bus stop with a character balloon!

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My friend Rebecca from R We There Yet Mom? greets her kids with a special surprise when they get off the bus on the last day of school. One year it was a water gun fight, another a water balloon fight… Click on the picture to see Rebecca’s other ideas on how to welcome summer!

Welcome Summer

How do you celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer?

The Quest for Perfect

Some might say I’m a bit neurotic. I’m not neurotic; I’m… particular. I like things done a certain way, and I think that way is my way. My way = the right way. (My husband does not agree.)

A shrink would tell me that this stems from my childhood. My father is also… particular. He, too, likes thing done his way. So much so that he would rather do something on his own than accept help from someone who might do things differently. Example: when I was growing up and I would make my bed, he would go behind me and re-make it because he liked the way his method looked better.

And while that drove me absolutely crazy growing up, I have found that I am more like my father than I’d like to admit.

My quest for perfection has caused me to do some over the top things.

  • When I was in college, I would tear up my notes and start over if I didn’t like my handwriting.
  • I color code my calendar. I use 6 different color sharpies for different categories. I can’t just scratch things out if they get cancelled. I have to use white out.
  • I find it impossible to “pick up” or “lightly clean” my house. Every time I clean I am dusting baseboards, scrubbing the floor, steam mopping, etc.

Frankly, it is exhausting. It is exhausting to me and I know it is exhausting to my family. I can’t do things halfway; I always have to take the more difficult, more time consuming road. And that road comes with its own consequences.

I am stressed more than I should be. I stress about keeping a clean house. I stress about hosting parties and play dates. I stress about Christmas decorations and planting the garden. It’s quite ridiculous, really.

Here’s a perfect example of my crazy: I clean my house like a mad woman before company comes over. I know most of us do this, but I do it to an extreme. Scrubbing toilets the guests won’t use. Cleaning rooms they won’t step foot in. Steam cleaning the carpet and wiping down the baseboards. By the time the party happens or the visitor arrives, I’m so tired that I find I don’t enjoy myself.

There are consequences for my family, as well. My husband won’t load the dishwasher anymore because he says “you’ll just go behind me and do it over.” (I will.) He doesn’t help me with some things around the house because he feels like I am critical of how he gets things done. He will fold clothes, for example, but he will not put them away because he says I am too particular about exactly where the clothes should hang in the closet. (To that I say – long sleeves go together, short sleeves go together, pants go together…)

There was a point recently when I knew I had to change. I had to let go of my quest for perfection because it was negatively impacting my family.

A few weeks ago, I told my son he needed to clean up his playroom. He hemmed and hawed and made up a million reasons why he couldn’t put his toys away. I finally lost my temper and demanded to know why he wouldn’t clean up. “Because, Mommy, I will put them in the wrong place and then you will be mad at me.”

Ouch.

It was like a slap in the face. What was I doing to my child? Sure, I like things to be organized but was I being so over the top that my child feared me? Did it truly matter? Would the world end if Buzz Lightyear ended up in the same bin as the red Angry Bird? No! What was I teaching my child? Did I want him to end up like me? Stressed and overwhelmed by things that frankly are not that difficult or important in the grand scheme of things?

The answer was no. The world wouldn’t end if the toys weren’t put in the right place. The world wouldn’t end if my husband loaded the dishwasher his way instead of my way. The world wouldn’t end if pants and short sleeves got together and had a party in my closet.

The world wouldn’t even end if I made up my bed my way instead of my Dad’s way.

I’m a work in progress, of course. I still clean obsessively before people come over. I just stop short of cleaning the baseboards because really – who notices baseboards? I still have a place for everything, but if someone puts something in the wrong place I either let it be or I move it if it really bothers me. I even scratched something out on my calendar a few days ago and I didn’t use white out. Madness!

Perfection is over-rated. Sometimes “good enough” is just fine.

 

Coming Soon!

Tickled Peach is coming soon! The estimated launch date is currently May 1st, 2014. Please keep checking back with us. We can’t wait for you to see what we have to offer!