Back from a Break

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, but I’m ready to try to jump back into blogging after a longer than intended break here with the start of summer. I’m going to kick things off with a few pictures from my kids on their first summer break trip of the year. I drove them down to Hilton Head and spent a couple days packing in some fun in the sun (and heat) with them.

This group was very happy to hit the beach first thing Saturday morning.

Hilton Head Island

And I just decided to focus on pictures of my funny boy instead of my girls in bathing suits for the rest of this welcome back post. I’ll just say the girls (and their friend and their cousin) had lots of fun. And Brinky gets more and more settled into beach life every time he visits Hilton Head. He started out uncertain at the beach.

Hilton Head

But then he realized it was fun to play with his toys. And his hair started curling up in the sweetest way.

Hilton Head

But he also liked to just sit on my legs and watch everything happening around him.

Hilton Head

I’m glad I had a chance to spend a couple days at the beach with my kids at the beginning of their summer break. I don’t often head there with them, but it was a nice break for me – and fun to see all three of my kiddos having fun!

Kids Room Signs from Minted

I’ve shared my love for Minted here before. The quality of everything I’ve ordered from Minted – from calendars to journals to holiday cards – has been exactly what I expected, or even better! So when I was searching for some type of signs for my kids’ rooms to help them celebrate having their own rooms, I immediately turned to Minted. And I was in luck – they have so many great kids room signs, great for various ages!

I wanted to wait and share my choices once they were hanging on their doors.

First up, Jenny. My 12 year old likes things, in the words of her sister, “simple and sophisticated.” So it’s no surprise that the Willow room sign is her choice, and it coordinates well with her room. For hers, we chose to tie the ribbon in a pretty bow visible when the sign is hanging on the door.

tween room decor

Reagan had a couple choices in mind, but the Buzzing Bees sign best fit the colors of her room.

tween room decor

And since Brinkley isn’t making his own decor decisions at age three, I got to have the fun of making his choice myself. Because he’s amazing, I thought the Amazing Circus room sign would be perfect – and isn’t it so cute?

toddler boy decor

Minted has so many great choices to add a special touch to kids rooms with art prints, and I swear kids love anything that can be customized – like all the customizable children’s prints. In addition to all the great choices for kids, there are so many prints that I love too. My next choice for myself might be this fun print because Life Is Sweet!

Minted Prints

Disclosure: I was provided with credit from Minted, and some links included in this post are affiliate links, but of course all opinions are my own and these are products I love!

A Week of Icky Moments

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Clorox.

I mentioned my sweet boy’s obsession with pouring liquids between cups recently. When I was thinking about sharing some fun – and icky – stories that turn into Clorox moments, I immediately thought of some of the moments from the past week that make me both want to scream and laugh. And run for the Clorox before the ickiness is stuck or spreads all around.

I know it’s hard to believe that this sweet boy is frequently the cause of a lot of household ickies, but…it’s true.

Clorox Ickies

So what are some icky examples from the last week?

Icky #1: Brinkley was pretty consistently focusing his fun game of cups (pouring water or any other liquids from one cup – or cup-like – object to another) on…cups. This weekend, he realized it was really fun to pour his cups of juice other places. The first place he decided to pour his cup of bright red juice was into the silverware drawer, which was of course full of silverware. Of course I had to then wash all the silverware. Thank goodness for the Clorox wipes I had to use to clean out the oh so icky drawer! It’s so much easier to handle thee sorts of spills on the easy to clean table!

Clorox Ickies

Icky #2: Even after being sent to timeout for the silverware drawer incident, Brinkley wasn’t quite convinced that perhaps he should quit pouring his drinks in random locations. And I was dumb enough to still give him an open cup. Any guesses on where this next cup was poured? If you guessed in a very large container full of at least one million Legos, you are correct! And I pulled those Legos out and washed the icky juice off every. single. one. in a sink full of water and Clorox bleach and kindly patted them dry. Over the span of quite a bit of time. It was fun. #sarcasm

Icky #3: We’ve limited the open cups of juice since this weekend’s pouring incidents. One of the main things we’ve done is left all other cups in the cabinet so he doesn’t have any others to pour his drinks into. But we have been giving him just the one cup of juice when he’s really this morning. One more guess on where he decided to pour his whole cup of juice next! This morning he was sitting so comfortably on the couch, leaned back, relaxing. And he just poured that drink right on the couch beside him. Right. On. The. Couch. At least he looked cute while making a giant mess. And I can pull off the slipcover from the couch and toss it in the washer.

The icky moments that are part of life with a three year old come a little more often than I’d like! I’m so grateful for the Clorox products that help me not lose my mind when my three year old – acts like a three year old. And makes it easier for me to laugh at these incidents that are just part of everyday life.

Share one of your favorite icky moments with your children in the comments. I love fun stories like these – especially when they don’t involve messes in my own house.

Clorox Ick Awards

This evening if you share one of your own funny icky stories on Twitter between 6 and 10 p.m. eastern time, you have a chance to win one of the $2,500 in prizes that are up for grabs! Follow Clorox on Twitter and share your moment using the hashtag #ickies for a chance to win.

The Ick Awards are clearly going to be SO much fun. Clorox is teaming up with the famous Chicago improv troupe The Second City Communications for Wednesday night’s Clorox Ick Awards. You might have heard of them? There are some pretty famous Second City alumni, like, you know, just Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The Second City troupe will be turning funny tweets into even funnier skits. Then you help pick the winners by voting for your favorites.

If you already have a hilariously icky moment in mind, you can share it on Twitter before the party starts using the hashtag #ickies and then join the party during the first hour to see if your icky is part of the opening number, featuring a surprise celebrity guest.

Learn more – and laugh more – at the Clorox website!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Clorox.
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Awesome Packed Lunches with Fruitshoot

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Fruitshoot.

I have a secret to admit. My girls pack their own lunches every day. I have always told them they would be fine eating school lunches, but I’m willing to let them pack lunches instead – if they pack them themselves. I do however require that we pick out some healthy items for their lunches. One of the areas we really struggle is choosing a healthy drink for their lunchboxes. Recently we had a chance to try a drink my girls have seen in the store and wanted to try – Fruitshoot. Fruitshoot contains real fruit juice, with no high-fructose corn syrup and no added sugar, so it seemed like a healthier choice than some of the other juice products available.

My girls’ different personalities are so clear when you see their packed lunchboxes. Jenny uses a more sophisticated lunch box, and at age 12, she has recently decided she wants healthier lunches and has been packing salads in her lunch.  She was very excited about adding a Fruitshoot to her lunch last week.

Packed Lunches

Reagan’s lunches are a little more fun – especially her lunchbox. While I ask the girls to pack their own lunches, I do try to add a fun note each day on the chalkboard in the lid of her lunchbox. The Fruitshoot really made her lunch fun and colorful. And delicious!

Fruitshoot Lunch Box

Both girls said their friends were so jealous of their drinks because they were so good. One more person in my household who REALLY loved Fruitshoot?

Fruitshoot

Brinky LOVED the Fruitshoot so much. And one of my absolute favorite things about these drinks is the no-spill cap that’s actually perfect for a toddler. We’ve been having some slight issues with Brinky pouring and spilling drinks, so it was wonderful to have a choice that was no-spill. And he liked it because he felt more grown up drinking a drink just like his sisters – and he was excited about the taste.

My girls now want to have Fruitshoot in their lunches every day! Do you pack your child’s lunch? What are your tips for making kids’ lunches fun?

Visit the Fruitshoot facebook page to share your lunch ideas!

Toddler Antics #iPPP

The toddler antics of a three year old can really keep you on your toes, you know? I mentioned a couple things in my catch-up post on Monday, like the banshee screams.  But really he has two goals in life these days.  He has several more things he still loves – like playing with his blocks and watching Dora – but he’s pretty focused on these two particular things.

First, he just wants to get his clothes off. All of them.

why won't he keep his clothes on?

This is the reason he spends almost all of his time in sleepers these days. He hasn’t figured out to remove them. (I’m sure I never should have typed that sentence!)  But if we actually put him in a separate shirt and pants, he just wants to take them off. Right away. It’s not too bad at home – I don’t care if he runs around in just his diaper for a little bit, and I’m fine with him wearing a sleeper with the feet cut out. But we’re out in public, say at a PTA meeting, and he’s standing there and suddenly pulls his pants down…well, at least most people laugh.  And his joy when he removes all of his clothes? So cute.

Quite a leap!

His other favorite thing to do right now is something we’ve been calling cups.  He wants all of the cups in the house.  And he wants to pour liquids between them.  Any liquids.  So you have to be on guard at dinner, or there’s a chance he’ll take his cup of juice and pour it into your cup of milk (if you’re his sister).  And he’s not the greatest at pouring, so there’s often quite a bit left on the table.  Or the floor.  Wherever he’s decided to play this game.  A couple nights ago, I decided to give in to the cups game, but redirect it.  So I put a dish bin on the floor, added a little bit of soapy dish water and four cups, with a towel underneath the whole thing and let him go at it.

Clean Cups

He played for SO long.  And the cups were clean!  There was of course a little (or a lot) of water on the floor, even with the towels, but it was easy to clean up and really kept him occupied.  Next I’m hoping to get him to play this game in the bath because it might keep him in there a little longer than usual!

Linking up with Greta and the Angelas for #iPPP:

GFunkified

Monday Minutes

So I guess I skipped my Monday Minutes post last week. And any other posts. It’s okay to take a break every once in a while, you know? I had two excellent excuses though.

First, I got a new phone! Which is so exciting because I hated mine SO much, and it mostly wasn’t working anymore. So I got a new one and I can and will take a million pictures because it has a better camera than my old one.  So a quick recap of the last couple weeks in pictures.

Brinky enjoying his bath – with his Mega Blocks.  The only issue with my new camera phone is that the pictures are VERY long, so bath pictures all include private parts and have to be cropped or Reagan would be highly offended.

Mega Blocks in the Bath

 

And Brinky having fun at the children’s museum in Raleigh, looking at himself (and his mommy) in all the mirrors.

Marbles Kids Museum Raleigh

 

Jenny being forced to smile for a quick picture if she wants to go see Divergent.

 

Happy Jenny

 

And Divergent is the second reason I never got around to posting last week. I continued my tradition of late night movie premieres with my girls – allowed if they have read the books first. I must admit that I love that the Divergent premiere, like the Catching Fire premiere a few months ago, was at 8:00 PM, much more manageable than a midnight premiere and work and school the following day.  Jenny went to her first late night movie when she was 10 and had finished all the Harry Potter books (her first was the last Harry Potter movie), so Reagan was allowed to go to Divergent since she’d read the books.

We started building the excitement with Reagan’s lunch box note from her dorky mom that day.

Divergent premiere

 

And she was mesmerized (and full of candy and soda) before the movie even started. (Sorry about the dark movie theater red eye that I’m too lazy to edit.)

Divergent movie

 

And after we all enjoyed the movie, the girls were still punchy. And we realized we were all in love with Theo James.

Theo James

 

They’re so silly.

Silly Girls

 

Reagan crashed shortly afterwards.  I’m so glad that I have these fun movie experiences with my girls though.

One more funny picture of Brinky. He’s taken to shrieking like a banshee lately.  It can be piercing and annoying, but it’s also hilarious. And I caught him on camera shrieking at Reagan the other day.  (Please excuse the dirty old mattress they like to play on.)

Toddler Scream

 

And while I won’t take advantage of it often because a closeup view of my face is not something anyone needs to see very often, I’m also excited to finally have a phone that also has a forward facing camera. So I celebrated with one picture as soon as I got it.

New Camera Selfie

Sweet and Spicy Chicken with Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

I’ve been making this chicken recipe for probably 15 years – it’s a slightly sweet and spicy chicken (thanks to the mixture of brown sugar with chili powder and a dash of hot sauce) that is always SO good.  I haven’t made it in quite some time, but had the urge to make it again this weekend and was reminded that it is so easy and so tasty.  And I decided I could make it even better/healthier with the addition of some spiralized zucchini and onions instead of my usual pasta.  I must say that I love our new spiralizer so much.  And guess what?  The addition of the zucchini and onion pasta just made this the BEST MEAL EVER.  I may be slightly exaggerating, but I don’t think so.  Luckily for you, I realized while I was cooking that I haven’t shared a recipe here in a bit and decided to start taking pictures so I could share.

So a quick walkthrough of this oh-so-easy and tasty dish that seems just a touch fancy – so perfect for serving to others!

I started out by lightly coating the chicken in a flour/salt/pepper mixture.  We sliced our giant chicken breasts into more reasonably sized pieces for more even – and less time-consuming – cooking.  They’re just very lightly coated and then browned in a mixture of butter and olive oil until nicely browned.  The chicken will continue to cook in the sauce so you don’t have to worry about it being cooked through at this point.

Chicken with Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Side note: I think one of the reasons this was my best batch ever of this chicken was because it was the first time I made it in my cast iron skillet, my favorite kitchen pan EVER.  While the chicken was browning, I went ahead and spiralized my zucchini and onion.  I’ve had the spiralizer for about a month and it is now my favorite way to make zucchini.  The spiralizer is so easy to use (and clean) and the spiralized veggies are so quick and easy to cook.  (I’ll also say my kids think it’s so much fun – and have even spiralized apples!)  I used about half of a very large zucchini and one medium sized onion.  I could have used more, but I knew that I’d probably be the only one in the house eating it.

Spiralized Zucchini

Back to the chicken preparation…I removed the brown chicken and added the sauce ingredients to the skillet, starting with the stewed tomatoes, brown sugar, water, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Once the sauce started bubbling, I added the spices.  I’ll admit that for this recipe that I’ve made for so many years, I’m more of a shake-the-spices-directly-into-the-skillet kind of girl.  I think I use approximately equal amounts of each spice: chili powder, mustard powder, celery seed, garlic powder, and then a dash of hot pepper sauce for a little kick (or more if you’d like).

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I then stirred up all that goodness and added the chicken back to the skillet, reduced to a simmer and covered, so that it could cook all the way through.  While the chicken was simmering, I brought some water to boil for the regular angel hair pasta (for my children I love and don’t force to eat all the zucchini, though I make them try a little at least).  And I started cooking the spiralized zucchini and onion.  I heated olive oil in a skillet, tossed in all the veggies, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little lemon pepper seasoning – more because the lemon pepper seasoning is my favorite to use on zucchini than because I thought it would work well with this particular dish.  Once it’s cooked down quite a bit and is mostly translucent, I also add some Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.  I just think it makes the dish taste a little like fried zucchini, but at least a little healthier!

Spiralized Zucchini and Onion Pasta

The angel hair pasta and zucchini pasta cook up very quickly!  I checked on the doneness of my chicken using my tried-and-true method of seeing whether or not I can cut it with my plastic serving spoon.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

And that’s it!  All ready to move it to my plate and eat up.  My plate was strictly the zucchini and onion pasta with the delicious chicken and sauce, but the kids had angel hair pasta with theirs too.  I’m thinking I need to remember to make this recipe more often because as I said, it was the BEST MEAL EVER!

Sweet and Spicy Chicken with Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Sweet and Spicy Chicken with Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients:

2 lbs. chicken breasts, sliced into pieces
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper to season flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
A couple dashes of hot sauce
2 additional tablespoons olive oil for cooking zucchini and onion
1/2 large zucchini
1 medium onion
Seasoning for vegetables – salt, lemon pepper
2 tablespoons Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Instructions:

1.  Preheat skillet to medium heat.  Melt butter in olive oil.  Season flour with a bit of salt and pepper and then dredge chicken in flour.  Cook in skillet until browned.

2.  Remove browned chicken from skillet and prepare sauce.  Add can of stewed tomatoes (with juice), brown sugar, water, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to skillet.  Stir to combine.  Add seasonings to sauce and stir again.  Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and add chicken back to sauce.  Cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes until chicken is done.

3.  While chicken is cooking, spiralize zucchini and onion.  If you do not have a spiralizer, you can slice zucchini and onion into strips.  Heat more olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in another skillet on medium heat and add zucchini and onion.  Season with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper to taste.  Stir frequently and cook until almost translucent (this is how I prefer my zucchini – if you like yours to be crisper, you can cook for a little less time).  Add breadcrumbs and mix before removing from heat.

Linking up with Totally Talented Tuesdays.

Monday Minutes #4

I skipped my Monday Minutes weekly recap post last week because it got snowed our.  Or rather, I got snowed in.  Again.  I was fine with one decent snow this winter, but last week’s ice was not pleasant.  The kids had an early dismissal from school on Monday, no school Tuesday, and no school again on Friday.  They’re over it too!

Because we were mostly snowed in last week, I don’t have much news to report.  But I’m sure I can come up with a couple things!

We started the week with the fun of watching the Oscars – at least the Red Carpet since that happens before our bedtime.  I LOVE live-tweeting during awards shows, and this one didn’t disappoint.

We received Jenny’s official SAT scores from her January test, and she did really well – for her age, obviously, but even when compared to high school kids.  We are so proud of our smart girl, and her middle school SAT scores mean she has the option to participate in some really cool summer programs some time in the future.

More important than SAT scores (in Jenny’s mind at least) was the release of Catching Fire on DVD last Friday.  She wrote me a letter asking me to buy it for her on Friday (along with pre-ordering tickets to the Divergent premiere in a couple weeks).  I bought the Divergent tickets, but the bad weather on Friday made it difficult to try to get the movie then, which of course didn’t stop Jenny from asking for it repeatedly, making me want to never buy it.  She also worked on some Catching Fire art to persuade me when the power was out on Friday.

Catching Fire obsessed

Reagan and Brinkley also did a little drawing when we were without power for a few hours, which of course annoyed Jenny because her art was more important than theirs.

no power art

Reagan also enjoyed an exciting accomplishment last week.  She’s been practicing for her school’s Battle of the Books academic competition for several months now.  The school competition was last Wednesday.

Battle of the Books

Of the 36 fourth and fifth graders competing, 12 were chosen after the school competition to move on to the district competition.  And Reagan made it!  She was very happy that her hard work studying her books has paid off.

Our other exciting news from last week? Or really, mine? When we were deciding what Reagan’s treat should be (comparable to the Catching Fire DVD for Jenny, which I finally purchased on Saturday), she really wanted to get Frozen.  It’s not out on DVD yet, but we were able to buy it on Amazon On Demand – which is really better anyway because we destroy discs too quickly.  And I have to say – I’m so glad I took the time to relax with the kids and watch that movie Saturday afternoon because I loved it!  I haven’t sat and watched a Disney movie in a few years, really since my girls were little, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it that much.  But I really, really loved it.  And now I want to watch it over and over again and sing all the songs!

What was going on in your life last week?  Stupid snow or ice?

Why I Should Buy My Tween the Catching Fire DVD

Jenny conveniently emailed me a letter last night to explain to me why I need to buy her the Catching Fire DVD when it’s released this Friday. While I haven’t agreed to buy her the movie, I immediately determined this letter needed to be shared on my blog!

Dear Mom,

This is a letter begging you to buy me Catching Fire on disc.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. I only saw it 3 times in theatres
  2. I love Catching Fire more than anyone else in the whole wide world.
  3. Peeta Mellark Catching Fire
  4. Josh Hutcherson Catching Fire
  5. It’s CATCHING FIRE. Duh
  6. I will love you forever and ever if you do buy it for me.
  7. This is me if you don’t buy it for me.
  8. Catching Fire
  9. This is me if you do. Catching Fire
  10. I have no real reason but please please please please buy it for me on Friday!!!!  Catching Fire Cast

So…do you think I should buy it for her?  She also asked me in the body of the email to go ahead and pre-order tickets for Divergent’s premiere later this month. She’s a demanding girl!  Who I would say works hard enough at school that she probably deserves some of these treats.

Fresh BREWED Hot Chocolate: A Crio Bru Review

I am a participating Influencer at The Entertainment New Media Network. I have received free product for review to facilitate this post. I was not compensated for this review and all expressed opinions are strictly my own.

I love hot chocolate. I love it so much. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, mostly because I’ve never liked the taste. Well, actually completely because I’ve never liked the taste. But it is rare for a day to go by without enjoying some hot chocolate. So of course I was thrilled to review Crio Bru hot chocolate.

brewed coffee review

Crio Bru is unique – made of 100% roasted and ground cocoa beans and prepared by brewing in a coffee pot. My girls were so excited about trying it out with me.

Crio Bru review

Jenny tells me some of her 12 and 13 year old friends have started drinking coffee, but she’s not really into it, and I don’t think she needs to start down that path yet. I’m happy to have her stick with hot chocolate and enjoy it.

We all decided to treat the hot chocolate like a cup of coffee, and we added a little milk and sugar for extra tastiness.

Crio Bru Review

We received two flavors to try – Maya, a blend of cinnamon, vanilla and cayenne, and Cavalla, a blend of coconut and cinnamon. We tried Maya first because I’m not a fan of coconut, and I was surprised that my girls ended up preferring Maya, which had a bit of a spicy flavor, to the milder Cavalla cocoa. We all enjoyed the experience and flavor of Crio Bru. Reagan is normally a tea drinker in the evening, but she was happy to enjoy a cup of Crio Bru instead.

Crio Bru review

She really makes me smile with her little old lady evening ritual, a cup of a hot beverage in her robe while she reads (an excellent issue of Us Weekly in this case).

We’re looking forward to brewing the rest of our Crio Bru. For more information and to order your own, check out Crio Bru’s website.