Happy Thanksgiving

Little Brother: “momma, you want to make chocolate cupcakes now”
Me: No bud, I already
LB: “You already ate them all!” (eyes are really big)
M: Yes, I ate 24 cupcakes last night after you went to bed
LB: “But I wanted to eat one, two, three, four, five, six.”

So that’s how I started my Thanksgiving. Actually, it’s not, this was the first conversation I had with my kids this morning, while still in my pajamas tucked too warmly into my bed. And to avoid confusion, my son likes to start every conversation with the word ‘but’.

Little Brother: But I need to ask you a question.
Me: Okay, ask me a question
LB: We need to go three places today.
Me: Okay, what three places do we need to go today.
LB: We need to go to Sissy’s school and then the doctor and then to Auntie C’s birthday
Me: Auntie C’s birthday, huh. We bud Sissy doesn’t have school today, nobody has school today.

[Enter the Sissy in question who, hearing our conversation, runs from the room declaring]

Sissy: Let’s check the map and see where Auntie C lives. Oh NO! Auntie C is in Texas, we wont be able to decorate the Christmas tree tomorrow, maybe we could just call her.

Family is so far away today, my family is all over Florida, my husband’s scattered throughout California, with exception of his brother who is in Texas on a PCS.  The love of my life is alone in a foreign land. Traditions will be broken simply because the person who participates isn’t here to do so. My husband loves turkey sandwiches, on toast, with avocado on Black Friday. Have one for him, keep our tradition alive while he cannot.

As tradition, we don’t shop on Black Friday. We don’t even leave the house. We instead, take the time to decorate our Christmas tree, together, as a family. My husband’s ornaments are delayed in the mail and he wont be able to participate in this one either I’m afraid. But he has the movie White Christmas with him, and that is always something we watch on Thanksgiving night. A tradition started long before we were married within his family and carried into our own.

The holidays are coming, let’s not lose sight of the important things. With the economy getting tougher on a lot of families, it’s easy to feel disheartened that the amount of presents under your tree is less than in years past. It’s easy to feel upset that the doll your daughter wants, you just can’t afford to get her. The toys, the noise, the wrappings all pass.

Don’t focus on the presents, focus on the presence. Be grateful that you have each other. Today, I am most thankful for a husband who serves selflessly for his country and for friends who are taking my kids and I in today, so that we don’t have to eat macaroni and cheese alone.

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Family Fitness, Pt 1

I want to start this blog by saying, I am in NO way as “fit” as I would like to be. I am a working in progress on the get healthy boat.
BUT, I am also a stay-at-home mom to two very physically active children with special needs. My son has speech issues and my daughter is autistic. I, myself, have Aspergers. I know how hard it is to stay fit while chasing children and you don’t always feel like working out and certainly, I don’t have time for a gym membership, or the money for that matter and I’m sure as a busy parent, you don’t either.

Being busy doesn’t have to mean lazy though. As always, you should consult your doctor before starting any strenuous exercise or diet program. Making sure you start healthy is the best way to determine your future health and if there is anything you should stay away from in terms of impact aerobics. That being said, there are plenty of simple ways to increase your calorie burning effectiveness without going to the gym or really making huge life changes all at once and most parents can do this stuff easily!

The first thing I started to do when I decided to use my current deployment to get my family healthy was to stop buying junk food. If I want my kids to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, to drink juice and water instead of kool-aid, then I need to realize I am in control of the shopping list. I am the one buying the groceries. If the junk food isn’t in the house, we can’t eat junk. My kids already love fruits and vegetables (some fruits and vegetables), but they want to eat them more often and will choose them over cookies and junk if they see ME eating them more often. I went to the commissary last Friday (today is Thursday). I spent $112, mostly on produce and dairy! I did buy one package of Halloween Oreo’s for the kids to have as desert a few nights a week. By the way, a serving size of Oreo cookies is TWO COOKIES! Get a paper towel, eat your two cookies and leave the rest of them in the kitchen. I recently read a blog about junk food and she wrote that just 3 extra cookies a day can lead to 100 extra pounds over eight years! That may seem like forever, but look at all you’ve done in the past 8 years, would you have been able to do that weighing 100lbs more? What would you be doing today if over the past 8 years you have gained 100lbs? That’s three times the average weight of a three year old! Could you imagine living life while carrying around three preschoolers?

YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR GROCERY LIST!

Stop making excuses and start making a list. To be precise, and a bit of a smart ass, I actually inventoried and emailed my husband a list (and photos) of everything I bought at the commissary last week:
Fresh Mushrooms
Blueberries
3 Avocados
2, 3lb bags of apples (one green, one red)
8 bananas
2 cucumbers
2lb of carrots
1 bag black grapes
1 bag green grapes
1 bag of spinach
honey ham lunch meat
2 gallons of milk
6 bottles of V8 juice
2 containers of yogurt
2 loaves of bread
Club crackers
Kix cereal
Cheerios cereal
Pretzels (for Sissy’s lunch)
2 large cans of tuna
great big box of goldfish colors
craisins trail mix (to put in oatmeal :D)
Trail Mix bars
– cranberry and pomegranate
– fruit and nut
muffin mix:
– 2 blueberry
– 2 Apple cinnamon
– 2 banana nut
– wildberry
– strawberry cheesecake
– chocolate chip
Halloween Oreo’s
100ct Ziploc sandwich bags
20ct dish washer tablets
A cream soda…

Last weeks trip to the Commissary!

And to be honest, the cream soda sucked! I had a coke the other day for the first time in three weeks and got sick to my stomach. It was so disgusting. Stop buying things that make you sick. Stop buying things that will make your children sick. Be the grown-up!

You might be thinking, “but my kids really like (insert random junk food here)” or “My kids wont eat vegetables when I serve them.” Mine didn’t either. In the past week, alone, my daughter has tried oatmeal AND created her own (dry) spinach leaf and shaved carrot salad! This is a child that took six months of one on one work before she would eat macaroni and cheese! If she’s eating the fruits and vegetables, you’re kids will too. Not all kids like the same things. Did you notice my list includes two types of apples AND two types of grapes? My daughter wont eat green apples, my son wont eat red ones. They are both eating apples though. My son will eat any color grape, but my daughter only eats green ones. They are, again, both eating grapes! Make it work for your family, have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and your kids will eat them. Use dipping sauces if that keeps your kids entertained. My kids don’t particularly like them, but do what works for your family. And don’t worry about Organic. It’s more expensive, but doesn’t have any proven benefits over “regular” produce. If it’s pesticides and chemicals on the food your worried about, WASH THEM! For heaven’s sake, you’re supposed to rinse and scrub your veggies before you eat them anyway!
The key to family fitness and health starts with YOU!
You are the parent!
You are the grown-up!
You are the example your kids will turn to for this kind of stuff. Be the right kind of example. Your kids will thank you later in life. When they are in their 60s and have few risk factors for high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, they may not actively say “Thanks ma, for making me eat spinach when I was three.”, but getting the chance to live a full and healthy life well into their golden years will speak volumes for future generations!
Think about that one! Making your kids healthy eaters now, will help shape the health of your future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Next Time:
Using your children and their never ending mess to your beef your workout.

30 Day Drawing Challenge, Day 10

Day 10: Favorite Candy

This is the day that had me thumping my head against a wall on Day 3.

Candy?

Food?

Aren’t they the same thing?

Not according to the maker of this list (who is that by the way?).

Anyway, candy.

Yes, candy.

I love candy! All kinds of candy, mostly dark chocolate, but all candy.

One of my favorite candies is Candy Corn.

The right way!
via Wikipedia

Yes, I’m one of those people who keep this seasonal treat on the shelves each Halloween. I love it! I can’t get enough of it! I buy no less than 3lbs of it every year. I really can’t explain why I love it so much, but I do. And it’s not just the “corn”, but the little pumpkins too! I love the candy itself, not the shape of the items.

Although, I must add a disclaimer here: I do not like the corn that is not the traditional colors.

Wait? What?!?!
via Groovy Candies

It seems better fitted to be vampire fangs than Cupid’s “love candy”
via Bulk Candy Store

No. Just, no.
via The Happy Whisk

This is just wrong!
via TLC

Sorry. I just don’t.

White, Orange, Yellow! That’s the way it is and that’s the way it should be.

That said, I did not draw my candy corn in any respectable colors. It’s really hard to find a yellow Sharpie pen considering they don’t make one.

She’s just as cute as the Day3 Cupcake, but don’t let her fool you. She’s as ornery as they come.

Behold the Power of Breakfast

Okay, so I don’t usually write about food (cake isn’t really food, is it?) but I think we can all agree that breakfast tends to get skipped more often than any other meal of the day. Some people call it the “Most Important Meal of the Day”. I don’t know if I agree with that, but I do know that some breakfasts can be made much faster than others.

Recently, I have discovered the joy behind making smoothies. Green smoothies to be exact. They are quick, simple, filling, and delicious (if you find a recipe you really like).

So, this morning after I took Sissy to school, I decided to use our last banana to make a smoothie. This banana was going to used for bread or smoothie and it was already too warm to want to bake. Plus I haven’t been feeling well and don’t want to get everyone sick (again) should they eat my baked banana germs.

For me, these smoothies are a great way to get nutrients that I know I’m missing out on. It takes less than five minutes to make and can be done while making lunch for a lunchbox or while pouring cereal for the kiddos.

Image
Ingredients:

One banana (mine was over ripe)
3/4 cup yogurt (I used what was left of my Strawberry and Honey Greek Yogurt)
1/2-1 cup of spinach (I just threw in a handful or two)
1/2 an orange, peeled and unseeded
(Can you tell I’m not big on measuring when I just want my smoothie?)

1. I put the spinach, orange, banana and yogurt in the blender (in that order, putting heavier items on top of the lighter spinach allows the spinach to stay closer to the blades and tends to blend better). Turn blender on. My blender has a setting for smoothies, so I don’t know what setting other than that. You can pretty much turn on the blender and walk away until it’s smooth.

2. Shake the blender a bit, while on, if anything gets stuck to the sides of it. OR you could turn off the blender and scoop it down to the bottom. Make sure it’s smooth. My orange got failed to blend entirely resulting in a single mass of orange near the bottom, but wasn’t too bad.

Garnish with a spinach leaf (if desired, could also use orange slices to bring in a bit more color) and serve. I served my Green Breakfast Smoothie in a wine glass… My husband is about to deploy, I think I deserve a wine glass in the morning 😉

Let them eat cake!

I bake.

Have I told you that?

No? Well I do.

I bake for fun. I bake for something to do. I bake to relax. I bake to stress myself out right before a really big party with all the upper level Officers in my husband Squadron. But for nothing else, I bake for myself. It’s a hobby I enjoy, and I’m quite talented for having no training at all. I admit to watching a lot of Cake Boss, and making comments like “That’s not as hard as he makes it look. Watch this!”

I bake mostly birthday cakes for my kids, myself, and my husband. I always seem to outdo myself and even my “simple” cakes look a lot less simple than I give credit for. In honor of my son turning three this week, I decided to release a few images of some of my favorite cakes that I have done. I wont be making this year’s birthday cake until tomorrow, but I’ll edit the post later with that image.

So sit down with me and have a slice of cake:

1. Decapitated Tinker Bell
This is a favorite simply because it was the first time I had ever piped a cake. I did the whole cake using a sandwich baggie filled with icing and the tip cut off of it. The shaped cake pan came with coloring directions which is like using a paint-by-number, only with icing. My daughter turned four that year and I wanted to do something for her, though she wasn’t having a party. It’s a little weird that she’s disembodied, but we had a full bodied Tink holding the number 4 as a candle. I think that makes it better, right?

Not too shabby for piping from a Ziploc baggie.

2. The Reece Cup of Cakes
My daughter, as many of you readers has figured out, has autism. This is no secret, neither is the difficulty it causes when it comes to making sure she gets the right balance of nutrients. Peanut butter, from very early on, has been a staple source of protein for her. She loves peanut butter… A lot… When we were discussing cake ideas for her 5th birthday, she again wasn’t having a party, so we just made a simple something. She requested a chocolate chip, peanut butter cake. I said she could have whatever she wanted and she pushed me to the limits on this one. A double layer Devil’s Food cake, filled with a rich layer of peanut butter and chocolate chips, was exactly what she got. It was a really rich cake. It tasted just like a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, and was a huge hit with the whole family. I have had requests for this one a few times since.

Also, my first time with lettering and the flowers are done in her favorite colors. What’s a good mom for, after all?

3. Tonka
My son turned two last year (obviously since he’s turning three this year), and what kind of boy would he be if he wasn’t into trucks? I don’t know the answer to that question, but he is REALLY into cars, trucks, pretty much anything with wheels on the bottom (this includes chairs, rolling desks and strollers). I was inspired by his love of cars and this adorable idea I saw in one of my cookbooks. It was a “Figure Eight Racetrack Cake”… I didn’t like that, so I built my own. This was a 12 inch round with a 6 inch round stacked in the center. I had to pie this thing in the fridge on my spinning cake stand because the heat was melting the icing off the cake faster than I could pipe it on. I piped EVERYTHING! Every blade of grass added to my carpal tunnel. Every line in the “pavement”, but it was worth it. This cake was awesome!

The trucks I got at Walmart for, like, $3 a piece. He loves his trucks and they go with the set he already had.

4. Halloween with Squadron
My husband had an event we had to attend with his Squadron last October. I had made cupcakes for a fundraiser and offered my kitchen up, yet again, for this event. I was given complete control over what was done, it just had to serve 80 people! Yes, you read that right. We had been with this Squadron exactly 2 months, when I was asked to make a cake to feed 80 people! Problem #1: My kitchen is the same size as yours. It’s not grand by any stretch of the imagination. Problem #2: I had never worked with fondant before (and haven’t since either). Problem #3: Where on earth was I going to store my family groceries while this thing was taking up space in my fridge and freezer? All of these problems got solved when I decided to make two cakes instead of one. I used the same model for my son’s second birthday cake, a 12 inch round bottom and a six inch round top tier. Instead of using one layer of cake per level, I used two and I studied, at length, how to cut a cake that large to feed that many people. The final results were a hit. I used yellow cake, chocolate icing/filling, and homemade marshmallow fondant (Much thanks to my husband for rolling that stuff out for me, it’s a pain without a sheeter). I went above and beyond by putting Rice Crispy Treat “Torii” on top of the cake.

I alternated the colors to pull the cake concept together and keep with the theme. I hand drew the spider webs on the fondant with food coloring pens.

5. Lalaloopsy Party Time
My daughter turned six this year. Lalaloopsy have become all the rage at our house. Our son has some of the boy dolls, my daughter has girl dolls. They have large dolls, Littles, Mini’s. They have furniture and feris wheels and school buses. It amazes me. These dolls are so CUTE too. It’s easy to see why kids love them. They are brightly colored. Have funky little names and their back stories are just darling. For example: “Bea Spells-A-Lot was sewn from a school girl’s uniform. She is a real smartypants, who always follows the rules and loves to talk…A LOT!!! She has a pet owl.” When my daughter wanted a Lalaloopsy themed birthday party, I knew I was in trouble. You see, at the time, they didn’t have Lalaloopsy themed party supplies. On top of making the cake, I had to make decorations that would flow with the idea of rag dolls coming to life. It was a lot of fun. The cake was half chocolate (the left) and half yellow (the right). I used a variety of techniques to complete this cake and if you look closely, you might even see the toothpicks I used to make the dolls stand up. This cake was SO MUCH FUN to make! The “button” marshmallow boarder took the longest, but most of this was done in a day. The cake is a double layer and sits about 4 inches high. My daughter and her friends loved it! It will be hard to top this cake. I guarantee it!

I used graham crackers and royal icing to make the house in the back. The “trees and bushes” are mini marshmallows with green food coloring spray paint (my stove was green for a week). The beach is crushed graham crackers.

 

 

EDITED: Little Brother’s Third Birthday Cake:
This was a single layer chocolate cake. Covered with chocolate icing and I used Green Apple, Pull-n-Peel Twizzlers for the stripes. The top tier was a two layer, chocolate filled, chocolate cake. I used Fruit-by-the-Foot candy for the bow and ribbon. Iced in blue to contrast the chocolate tier below it. This was a really simple cake. 9×14 base stacked with a 6 inch round, 4″ high. What more could a boy ask for than a stack of presents on his birthday!

Not the best, but certainly adorable in it’s own right. The first time I’ve worked with “gifts”.