Friday, August 30, 2013

N-1 Children = Easy

It's a simple formula, really. No matter how many children you have, if you take away 1, it gets WAY easier.

We have 3 kids, the two older boys are my nephews who visited a while back:)


Son stays home sick, I take 2 girls to Safeway: Magically I can grocery shop with darling princess practically dancing in the aisles.

Big sister is at school: Now I'm in happy stay-at-home-mommy land with my baby and preschooler, doing educational crafts, playing with dolls, baking from scratch...

Baby is at a grandparents for a sleepover: We are a functional family! Look how easy and normal it is with two kids? We can even do things like go to Disneyland (tips here), or stay out all day, because no one naps!

Then if you take away 2.. watch out! It's a party!

Recently we took our 6 year old daughter out for a fancy dinner. White tablecloths, amuse bouche, everything. She totally rocked it, sitting in her chair for 2+ hours, not complaining, joining in adult conversation etc. I can't even explain how different this is than our normal 5-10 minutes of shoving in food while cleaning up spills and reminding kids to stay seated already!

Clearly, as my Hogwarts sorting hat post points out, when the two big ones are gone, the baby takes over and we feel freedom like never before. 1 baby who naps? Time to talk to each other? Amazing.

Plus, when it's just our 4 year old son, we dream of taking him on vacation all alone. Unlike the other two (ahem) he is an amazing traveler, making plane travel with kids seem easy. Don't worry, my tips include ideas about what to do for other kids (ahem, talking to my two girls here).

Obviously when all 3 are gone, we are on a real vacation, like our recent trip to Israel. But that's just pretending we don't have kids and trying to come up with non-kid-or-house related things to talk about for 2 weeks:)

So those are my thoughts, this Family Friday*.


*Good name right? Thinking it might make it easier for me if I "theme" my post days. Thoughts? Good to know, or super cheesy and annoying? Pin It

Monday, August 26, 2013

Making my own Pickled Vegetables

The best part of this dish is that it goes sooo nicely over a bbq brisket sandwich. I mean, salty, and sweet, and tangy, hot and cold, crunchy and soft...

Pickled vegeatble salad over a bbq brisket sandwich with a corn salad on the side, summer heaven!

The second best part was that I got to buy a new kitchen tool for this:) I'm a new addict. The Zyliss Julienne Peeler makes julienning things a breeze. I've already made a cucumber-mango salad with peanuts and mint that was restaurant worthy (or so said my husband).

Pickled carrots, cucumbers, and peppers- the perfect slaw

The third best part, was that once I put everything in the fridge, I could effectively "set it and forget it". It pickles in an hour, and lasts at least a week. Perfect for make-ahead, or make and eat right now meals, whichever you prefer.

Today is my daughter's first day of 1st grade, so follow me on Instagram for photo updates:)


I totally recipe copy-catted (is that a word?) from Smitten Kitchen, so here is the link to her actual recipe. Pin It

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rosh Hashana Menu Ideas

You can also find my new things to try with apples and honey post here.

Rosh Hashanah menu ideas with apples and honey

Back to menu planning:

and yes, I realize this is mostly for me. But how awesome will it be next year when I can just go back and repeat my menu?

Corn and Avocado Soup with balsamic reduction and basil garnish

Salad with figs, walnuts, butternut squash and apples
Julienned salad of cucumber and mango with peanuts and mint (if it's hot)

Roast Chicken with Apples, onions and a Honey-Dijon glaze. Similar to my engagement chicken recipe

Brussels Sprouts roasted on the stalk with dried cranberries and maple syrup

Fruitcake Cookies- perfect because they have spices and dried fruits in them
Apple, Pear Crumble

Apple cider served in apple cups

I promise, I wrote that down without realizing that I've made most of it before. So I'm linking to those recipes and posts, but it also shows that while I might do something a little new with a garnish or glaze, I mostly stick to the same things I know how to cook and make actually taste good:)

What are you making this year?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hannukah in August

Or some other title that explains why I was rummaging around our storage room in search of our dreidel collection when it was 75 degrees outside:)

You see, Lamps Plus and Hometalk partnered together to create a blogger holiday challenge. they offered bloggers a Lamps Plus fillable glass gourd lamp, like this:

and asked us how we would fill it for the "holidays".

Being Jewish, I immediately thought of the High Holidays which are right around the corner in September, but filling a lamp with apples and honey seemed really messy. Anyhow, they meant December holidays, of course. So I jumped on board with my desire to ring in Hannukah early this year, at least in terms of decoration. They will chose 3 winners to be featured in their holiday catalogue and potentially win a $500 gift card, so yay!

Note the metallic garland, sparkle dreidel garland, and collection of dreidels inside.

It tried my very best to keep our Curious George dreidel out, but that's what you get with a 4 year old helper:)

The process was so easy I'm thinking about doing this seasonally (oh, the big dreams I have when all the kids are asleep). Seriously, you just unscrew a nut from the bottom, slide the bottom stand off and fill. Re-screw and you are done.

Ignore all carpet stains, we do:)

When the 6 year old saw it she was super excited, although requests for a singing Hannukah stuffed animal that I only let out for the 8 nights, were quickly put down. There will be I Have a Little Dreidel stuck in my head for 4 months, no siree...

A beautiful lamp full of dreidels, good thing I didn't use chocolate gelt:)

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Monday, August 19, 2013

My Favorite School Lunches

This post could also be titled, "What I learned from packing a year's worth of school lunches... for a picky eater... who went gluten free a school with a zero waste lunch policy... at a dairy-only Jewish day school, so no meat... and no leftovers.... and and and and...."

But that might not fit in your reader, right?

So here's my top 5 things I've learned:

1. Only have 1 lunchbox. I know that seems simple, but but son switched between two and it drove me insane, one box out, one box home. That's the new policy.

2. Pre-pack a week's worth of lunches at once. If you need to, you can always freeze Wednesday-Friday's sandwiches, and move them to the fridge Tuesday night. But believe me, you might grumble Sunday night or Monday morning, but by Friday, you will be singing your own praises:)

3. Don't feel like you need to change it up Nope. If your kid is happy, they can eat a yogurt every day for the entire year. Of course, then they won't eat yogurt again for 7 more years (that was me growing up), so be careful what you choose.

4. The "one time exception" will become the rule. So DO NOT pack treats, candy, a "special something", because every other day that they get pb&j, a pear and trail mix will feel like a let down. The caveat to this are notes. You can put one in on the first day, birthday, and last day. Maybe Valentine's Day, but that's it. Growing up my parents would pack lunch with notes, and a decorated brown paper bag (I know, how did we not know we were killing the earth with those things!?!). I don't even try to replicate that.

5. Ask you child what they want. Does a friend have something that looks good? In my daughter's class there was a lot of avocado, gluten-free bread, cheese sticks, tofu hot dogs, and pretzels. None of those were appealing, so i had to wing it.

Check out my favorite back-to-school lunch ideas from last year: Just click on the photo to get to the post.

How to pack a zero waste lunch.

A week's worth of school lunches

Simple back to school lables


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Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School Shopping

This year I took the stress of back to school shopping out of my hands and placed it firmly in the hands of my now-6 year old daughter.

Make Back to School Shopping easy with these simple tips. Hint- get your kid involved with planning, budgeting and shopping.

Except for her, the idea of choosing new clothes for 1st grade was exciting, rather than fear inspiring as it is for me.

She has gotten more and more clear about clothes that she "likes, but won't ever wear". So a few outfits like that later, and it's all up to her.

Here was our game plan:

  • Discuss what the appropriate amount of money is that I have budgeted for her fall clothing
  • Talk about what types of clothes she needs, dress code, weekend, etc.
  • Together create a rough list of how many of each item she needed
  • Shop catalogues/online first
  • Attack stores in person with no siblings in tow (special time)

Our list of needs:

  • 1 pair winter boots
  • 1 pair "nice" school shoes (maybe mary janes?)
  • 1 pair dress shoes
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 sweatshirt/fleece
  • 2 pairs pants (NO jeans as per her request)
  • 6-8 shirts/tops
  • 2 skirts
  • 2-6 dresses
  • 2 leggings
  • 2-4 pairs of tights
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 8 new pairs of underwear

In the end she only spent 2/3 of her budget (yay, I've never been so proud!), and we accomlished everything in 1 online order and 1 in-person day.

What we bought:

  • Winter boots from Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
  • "nice" school shoes from Clarks (also on sale!)
  • dress shoes (on sale, can you detect a trend?) from Lands End
  • 8 dresses (2 from Lands End, 6 from Gymboree)
  • 2 leggings from Lands End
  • 2 skirts from Lands End
  • 1 sweatshirt we bought on vacation
  • 1 sweater from Gymboree
  • 6 shirts (all cotton, from Gymboree)
  • 2 pairs of tights from Gymboree
  • 3 pairs of socks and underwear from Gymboree

And now I don't need to get her any more clothes until spring!

By the way- I work the Gymboree GymBucks system, plus sales, so I usually get things for 30-40% off on average. Plus those are the items that actually last to pass down to our toddler:)

How did your back-to-school shopping go?


Trying out these link parties this week: Serenity Now, House of Hepworths, Tatertots and Jello

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Making a Family Vacation Easier in 5 Simple Steps

Summer is almost over, but until every drop is gone, I'm happy to share a guest post from Kendra of ThorntonTravel.

5 Easy ways to make summer travel easier!
 Photo Credit: marcovdz via Compfight cc

It’s Time for a Family Vacation!

Although summer is slowly fading away, it is certainly not too late to plan a trip for your whole family before school starts. Take advantage of the warm weather and escape to that destination you’ve been dreaming about. Below I’ve listed some tips that will help you have a stress free, enjoyable family vacation.

1. Think Outside of the Box.

This summer, try something new and travel somewhere different! Your kids will be much more excited about vacationing somewhere new, and it may even inspire some adventure within them. Family vacations are the best way to create new memories and lift everyone’s spirit with a heavy dose of excitement. So, instead of going to that same old beach, switch things up a bit and perhaps try a trip into the mountains!

2. Breeze Through Airport Security.

If you are traveling with a baby, getting through airport security can consume a large amount of your travel time. Rememberto check to see what you can and can’t bring through airport security. One thing that is easily allowed through security is baby food, as long as it is in the original container. Baby foods that come in squeeze packs can also be transported easily, and is a popular choice for airports.

3. Finding the Best Deal

Whether you are booking a hotel or a flight, make sure you do it as early as you can. As we all know, the closer the vacation gets, the higher the prices are going to get. Take a week or two to plan in advance about where you should stay and which flight is best. If you are unsure of what the best options would be, using a review site can really help sort through the options available. I used Gogobot to find a family friendly Orlando hotel that even offered a free continental breakfast!

4. Pack Like a Pro!

In the week leading up to your trip, make a list of everything that needs to be done before you leave. Items on this list can include (but are not limited to): putting a stop on the mail, packing your kid’s bathing suits and towels, buying extra sunscreen, and snacks for the car. This will help prevent you from having that gut wrenching feeling when arriving at your destination because you forgot something at home. If you are like me and prone to losing lists, try downloading this packingapp where you can create a list right there on your mobile device.

5. Portable DVD Player

Whether you are going on a road trip or flying internationally, having a DVD player (or iPad) is great for entertaining your little ones. It is an easy way to calm down anxious kids who are nervous about flying. Although it does require an investment, the purchase will be more than worth it as it last for years to come. You can find them at your local Walmart, or search for a great deal online.

I hope these tips help you in planning a summer vacation! Remember, there is still time, so don’t wait any longer and start planning today! 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

I have a confession to make...

I don't know how to ride a bike.

"Of course you do", you say, because everyone knows how. That's why there is a saying "it's like riding a bike".

Except, that whie I will freely admit that I did at one time know how, it's been the relearning that hasbeen problematic. I tried in Florida with Gigi, my husband's grandmother. That was pre-kids, possibly even pre-wedding, and I made it around her friend's cul-de-sac once. Then gave up.

I tried in Lake Tahoe, (twice!) on my mom's mountain bike, and hated it each time.

So I was happy to just carry on as a non-bike rider. Except for one problem, I had promised my husband that I would learn to ride a bike before our kids (imaginary at the poitn this promise was given) were old enough to realize I couldn't ride a bike.

Needless to say, our almost 6 year old caught on to the fact that I didn't own a bike, while our garage is full of tricycles, scooters, a balance bike, and two-wheelers with training wheels...

So it was time to learn.

I told my husband I would learn if we bought a bike of my very own that:

  1. was aqua or pink
  2. had a low enough seat for me to reach the ground while riding
  3. had a bell
  4. had a kickstand so it wouldn't fall over (this elicited a *lot* of laughter)
  5. had giant can't-fall-over wheels
  6. and had a matching helmet

So sure, that this mythical bike was just that, mythical, and didn't actually exist, off we headed to a bike shop.

The perfect learn-to-ride bike for an adult, and so pretty!

Yup, it's everything I asked for.

Except for the part where I didn't even want it; it's perfect. Even my daughter approves.

So far, I can ride it in laps up and down our street, up and down, up and down. It took a few days for me to be able to turn around at our end, where the street narrows, but I think I can do it now. One of our elderly neighbors is often out gardening and gives me lots of encouragement:)

I'm not street-ready yet, but I think by the end of the summer, I should be able to manage a flat, paved, no intersections, no other bikes, no cars, no one watching, bike path:)


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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Infused Strawberry Mint Water

Infused Strawberry Mint Water

Do you really need instructions for this?

I didn't think so.

I'm just your friendly blogger reminding you to take advantage of summer, and make something that tastes like summer, with no alcohol (for a change), and just brightens your spirits.

But for those of you who want to know....

I put 1 cup of strawberries and a handful of mint in a Target drink dispenser.

My kids thought this was "fancy spa water", which made my day!

Happy almost-but-it's-too-soon-yet-I-want-school-to-start end of summer!


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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Sorting Hat- if my kids were at Hogwarts

Clearly my mind has been in an odd place since 2 of my 3 went off on a vacation without me (but with my mom and step-dad), so I had time to be extra focused on our 1 child remaining at home.

And I have to say, if the sorting hat were here, sending each of my children to a house at Hogwarts (only you Harry Potter fans will really appreciate this), the baby would be in Slytherin.

Not like Draco Malfoy type Slytherin where she actually turns evil, more of a tow-head, potential for evil, type. I know she doesn't look *evil* per se, but there is some special twinkle in her eye...

My oldest, would be in Gryffindor. Since she is smart, questions authority, has a great sense of right and wrong, and is willing to go off on her own to stand up for what she believes in.

My son, would be in Hufflepuff. Not because I have any clear sense of who a Hufflepuff is in a Harry Potter way, but more because they sound so cuddly and fluffy and lovey, and that is my middle one to the core. But he can still stand up for himself when needed against he-who-shall-not-be-named, which in our house translates to his big sis:)

Clearly, this also means if perchance we ever had a 4th kid, they would be a Ravenclaw, which is awesome, because if the sorting hat, by which I mean God, sent me another Slytherin I don't think I could take it.

Do you ever think of your kids in an unconventional yet still judgmental way? I'd love to hear.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

A Surprise Disneyland Trip, Take 2

A few more "tricks", and a whole lot of photos of our trip to Disneyland (see my Disney Tips and Tricks here).

I realized that I left out one of the best parts of this trip, it was a surprise! The morning of, we sat them down on the couch and announced, "you aren't going to school today, you are going to Disneyland"!!!



and faces that looked like this:

Finally, after we put down the camera and explained that in fact, we were *actually* going to Disneyland, they seemed happy, but not thrilled. So I coached them on the appropriate reaction.

and got this:

"that" I told them, "is what normal kids do when their parents tell them they are going to Disneyland".

Trick 1: Realize this trip was 90% for me, and 10% for the kids. Husband was going along with it all in a good-sport kind of way.

Trick 2: If you are going to go on a water ride, wear fast-drying clothes. Somehow, when it hit 90 at 10am on our last day, our kids agreed to go on the rapids ride, and they were so wet we had to go back and change! I wore a hiking skirt from Athleta that was dry in 2 seconds, totally amazing!

Trick 3: The best pictures of your kids will be on the teacups. Be prepared.

Their favorite ride was Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.

And more pictures:

 Until next time!


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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Backyard A-List: Creating Celebrity Inspired Parties in Your Own Home!

While I'm at the Haven blog conference in Atlanta (no kids, only blog friends!!!), I'd like to bring you a super fun guest post. I've been doing fewer of these, trying to find my own voice, and keep this blog a true reflection of me, but Arianna is hysterical and I absolutely adore her take on summer. Who doesn't want a celebrity-gossip-loving blog friend?

The Backyard A-List: Creating Celebrity Inspired Parties in Your Own Home!

The rising temperatures and the longer hours in the day signify the start of the most social season of the year. With summer comes the million calorie barbeques, little sundresses and “50 best and worst beach bodies” headlining the cover of every tabloid in the supermarket. While most of us will never have crazed paparazzi chasing us down the street and snapping shots of us looking like drowned rats after spin class, we can actually take inspiration from the not-so-annoying aspects of celebrity life! So read up on a few of these tips on how to have a celebrity inspired summer!

CELEBRITY SUMMER: BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE PREMIERES – The warmer weather of summer acts as a gateway for movie studios to release their big budget blockbusters to the masses! Flying via a pricey, chartered private jet to New York City or Los Angeles is a fantasy of any avid traveler; it is just another day of work for one of Hollywood’s stars. With highly anticipated releases, such as “World War Z” and “300: Rise of an Empire”, everyone's favorite stars will be strutting down more than a few red carpets this season!


REALITY SUMMER: FAMILY TRIP TO THE MOVIES – 3D glasses, Twizzlers, and popcorn? Count me in! While you may not be jet from country to country for movie premieres, you can still create your own movie magic at your local theater! Many theaters now offer rewardsprograms that exchange dollars for points that can eventually earn free popcorn or free movie tickets. With several family friendly sequels being released this summer such as, "The Smurfs 2", "Despicable Me 2", and "Monsters University", it'll be easy to have a laughter filled afternoon with your family!

CELEBRITY SUMMER: COACHELLA MUSIC FESTIVAL – Coachella has become an annual start to the summer, with a consistent celebrity following in the past few years. The original crowds of Coachella concertgoers were an indie following in search of new and unique bands. In recent years, it has become somewhat of a fashion show, with magazines highlighting the boho chic outfit choices of regulars like Alessandria Ambrosio and Vanessa Hudgens. The grassy fields of Coachella are now more known as a runway for summerfashion than for the music!

REALITY SUMMER: BACKYARD BONFIRE – Strike a match and light up that fire pit! A great way to celebrate the warm nights of summer is with a bonfire in your own backyard. Instruct guests to bring a mix cd or playlist of their favorite songs of summer. Fun camping inspired foods/drinks such as hamburgers, s'mores, or your own version of "bug juice" can really give your party that outdoorsy, camping feel!)

CELEBRITY SUMMER: SPONSORED BRIDAL SHOWER -- The alcohol beverage brand, Hypnotiq, was a big contributor to Vanessa (Minnillo) Lachey ‘s bridal shower and promoted their newest product, Hynotiq Harmonie.  The violet color of the liquor was used as inspiration for the color palette, from the favors to the centerpieces! Guests were also treated to decorating mini wedding cakes with the guidance of Amazing Wedding Cakes star, Marc Gravelle. Cocktails and cakes and surrounded by your best friends? What a great way to start off married life!


REALITY SUMMER: GARDEN BRIDAL SHOWER -- A garden themed bridal shower is a classic yet beautiful and girly way to celebrate your transition from a Miss to a Mrs.! For decorations, fragrant floral centerpieces can double as souvenirs for guests or special helpers of the event. Another unique favor would be to set up a perfume bar and allow guests to create a personalized fragrance that will be a special and useful reminder of your special day!

Arianna is a full-time mom and a fashion-lover, world traveler, animal lover, and family woman extraordinaire. She loves to cook and bake, travel to new places, share great fashion finds, and spend time doing crafts and projects at home with her kids. She’s got a crazy busy life, but she wouldn’t have it any other way! Follow her blog at!
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