Bring It On

Today is the last day of school. Today, no lunches to be made (or complained about). Today, no homework to remember (or forget). Backpacks and lunch sacks were brought home for the last time. This is how one backpack was found. Reading logs that never made it out of the backpack. Maybe never made it out of the desk until today. His winter coat came home this week too. Not sure how long that has been at the school and where – since it was a crumpled up mess of its former self. I also found the letter “warning” of the human reproduction lessons. From  month ago. Good thing he let me know ALL the details of this education. Still likes to bring it up. Oy.

Crumbled Papers

The last day of school still brings back memories of the excitement of leaving the school for the very last time until fall. The excitement of knowing summer is here and the days are filled with fun – doing only amazing and wondrous things (and a few naps). But then I bring back the memories of last year. While we did so many awesome things, it sure did seem like my kids were staying in a hotel while the housekeeper was cleaning around them. And they never left a tip. My fault. I LIKE to clean (not that you can tell somedays at my house). I LIKE to be organized (liking something and being successful at it are two very different concepts). The cleaning and organizing traits must be recessive genes because my minions do not like to do either of those things*.

That being said. I am going to HELP them this summer. We have always had family responsibilities, chore charts and to do lists; but this year I made it really (sort of) pretty! Look what I spent way too much time on yesterday (curse you, Pinterest)! We have a Summer Fun List of 95 things to do. We have a new menu plan and a new (and expanded!!) chore chart.

Command Central

Note Mom’s bumper sticker from Rebel Coast Winery. That’s a dose of reality most Command Centers on Pinterest DON’T have. Keepin’ it real for you folks….

The DREADED 5-15s (kids hate that one) is on the board too. I tend to hearken back to my old marketing days and come up with flashy catchphrases for our home life. Like a Peanut Butter Taco!! How fun!! How creative – it’s like fusion cooking!! It’s really just one slice of bread with peanut butter on it folded over. No plate to clean. Kid is happy. Momma is happy. All for a 10 second meal. Beat that Iron Chef.

The 5-15s is just 5 fifteen minute tasks that the kids have to complete to either earn electronics time or cash. It’s totally flexible because that is how I need to roll. Sometimes I make crap up on the fly (or fly on a crap…Ha! Killin’ myself here). They are getting wise to my ways, but I am holding out for as long as I can. The list contains 5 things they need to do each day. They still collapse on the floor in agony when I bring up the 5-15s, but really most tasks take less than the 15 minutes. That is only 75 minutes out of a long summer day. I think they can manage. And not every 15 is a CHORE!! Still not sure why they would complain. That must be a gene they get from their dad. 🙂

The 5-15s

  • Home Check – A quick spin around the house to find anything they left out. Straighten up any errant pillows on the sofa; collect small mammals, rocks, socks or ancient gum wrappers that may have been left out.
  • Chore A Day – ONE stinkin’ little chore. It’s extra to their regular home responsibilities. This one is the knife in the heart for them. Quite entertaining to listen to their moans. We should receive some Oscars or Tonys over here.
  • Reading – How bad of a mom is this? Find a book. Pretend to read. Just Put. The iPad/Phone/DS. Down.
  • Outdoor Time – Changing this from school work for the summer. Little buggers need to get outside once in a while. For vitamin D and such. It makes the house really quiet. It makes the minions really tired.
  • Pet Care – An awful repercussion of begging for furry critters to live with you in your abode. Sorry kids, we warned you! And you PROMISED to help take care of them. We used to rotate those chores (feed cats, feed dog, let dog out) but that led to lies and confusion. Everyone insisted that THEY were the ones that fed/watered/pooped the animal last. Now it’s simple. One has dog doody (a pun, I’m so funny today), one has dog feeding and one has cat feeding.
  • EXTRAS – The youngest minion (in his utter perfection of sunshine and happiness) added another star option of Extra/Happy and one for Bad Work. I love it! He knows I do not like a lack of effort (laziness). Neither does he. To get him riled up (yes, most parents do this to their offspring on occasion), I use the words EPIC FAIL. Drives him nuts. He still knows I love him.

Summer Boat

So on this gloomy June day, I say send them home, teacher. I got this.
BRING ON SUMMER!!

Extra Notes…
*To be fair, the youngest minion does love to be organized. He places (hundreds and hundreds, maybe millions) of stuffed animals on his bed with extreme precision. Makes changing sheets a sheer joy for mom. Ha.

Here’s another reality check. This is what the ‘command center’ looked like before.
If it were in an art museum, I would have entitled it, “Art in Life. Still No. 414”.

Wall of Mess

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Left Behind

There are days when a picture speaks louder than words. After the minions got on the bus a few weeks ago, I found these left behind on the coffee table. THEY ARE CLEAN. Left behind by the middle one when he changed into fresh clothes before school. Which means that the socks and underwear he went to school in are from the day before. A little mortified, but it is a classic boy move.

Left behind

But as the end of the school year approaches, I begin to care a little less each day. No more perfect parenting. The skills be gone. As evidenced in the Great Scrapbooking Event. Every third grade class has the wonderful opportunity to create a wonderful scrapbook of their wonderful school year. I. Cannot. Stand. This. I have to spend $10 on the disposable camera and $15 on developing the pictures! Yes, if I were a put together kind of mom, I would whip a coupon out of my Thirty-One brand organizer that coordinates with my Thirty-One brand tote that matches my Thirty-One brand trunk storage bag. And little birds and happy mice would sing a little song for me as I whistled while I worked.

All of that time and money to get pictures like this.Great pic

Great memories…

After receiving those priceless (pricey) photos, the kids get to plaster them all over a ($20 plus a trip to Michael’s JUST for this) 12” x 12” scrapbook. Why so freakin’ LARGE? I don’t even have a wedding album of that size!

This year, I rebelled. I took parenting love to a new low. I did this.

Scrapbook

That’s right; I took out my middle son’s scrapbook pages and gave the final minion his brother’s scrapbook from last year. It had a little glue on it, but Elmer’s washes right off. Done and done! I think he will survive. And I am looking forward to seeing his year in pictures. Really!

And I am really looking forward to summer. Really! But check back with me in August on that one…

 

The Coco Loco

Day one of our cruise took us to Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. We spent the day soaking up the Bahamian sun and chasing sting rays in the beautiful blue water. With the VERY convenient All-You-Can-Drink beverage package offered by the cruise line, we happily tried out many of the tasty tropical drinks the many happily obliging bartenders served up.

Coco Cay

This is one of our favorites. I was able to find the original recipe from Oceans Potions: Royal Caribbean Cocktail Recipe Book. This post is for my good friends, Joy and Patty. They inspired the search for this recipe (and I stole Joy’s very nice photo, xoxo). Thanks for all of the fun memories, my wonderful friends!!

Coco Loco

Ingredients
3/4 oz dark rum
3/4 oz coconut rum
1/2 oz cream of coconut
1/2 oz papaya nectar (optional)
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1⁄4 oz grenadine
1⁄2 banana (optional)

To Do:
Blend ingredients together in a blender. Add 1/2 c ice and blend for a few seconds more. Garnish with a pineapple slice and a maraschino cherry.

Want to see how the calories add up for this drink? This nutrition calculator can be found on the MyFitnessPal’s website.

Coco Loco Cals

 

 

On The Road Again

The past few weeks have been wonderful. The fam did the traditional Midwest Migration (as in road trip) to Florida for spring break. The kids were amazingly good spirited for such long days of travel and Mr C drove The. Whole. Way. There (and back!). The only reason for his gallantry is that he HATES my driving. I am a 10 and 2 on the wheel / check my blind spots / speed up, slow down kind of driver. Such a shame I had to nap thru six of our glorious states… I guess the only downfall was that Mr C was then in charge of the music selections. It was a road trip thru the 80’s. That’s Night Ranger on the radio…

Radio

We spent a lot of time at rest stops and zero time at Waffle House. The sheer number of those restaurants intrigued me. Why are there so many? Are they good? Why do so many people just hang out outside of Waffle House? Never seemed to see a wait for a table…

Once we made it to our lovely beachfront condo, we were able to unwind and enjoy the sunny days and beautiful nights. We did all of the fun things that Florida and warm weather offer up: beach days, fishing, aquariums and sun burn relief. photo (72)
When we made it back, I realized we had neglected to do ANY of the assignments given to the minions for spring break. Oops. We were able to get all of the math and science done, but there wasn’t any way we would be able to read the number of days or minutes required. After some thoughtful introspection, I decided to come clean to one of the minion’s teachers. This is what I wrote:

Dear Mrs. Curtis,

Our family is going to be completely honest with you. We could have made up times, dates, and books read, but instead we want to clearly state that our son DID NOT PICK UP A SINGLE BOOK OVER BREAK.

The reading log was left at home and then promptly forgotten about. We spent our spring break surfing the waves, learning about sea creatures, and walking and talking along the shore. We saw Winter and Hope (the dolphins) and read about marine life and how we impact their environments. We spent time with a fishing guide who explained the details on the six species of fish the kids caught. We saw Fort Knox and walked the ruins of a Civil War fort. I may have shirked my reading responsibilities as a mom for a week, but promise we will make up for it. In fact, my minion probably already has – he is a reader – much like his mom.

My apologies.
Mrs C

After that quick week home, I was personally able to sneak away from all adulting for a quick cruise to the Bahamas. Just a few girlfriends and a whole bunch of laughs. I get so excited for days in the sun and nights on the dance floor that I go crazy with my packing. It is the only time I truly get into accessorizing my outfits. Probably the only time I actually have ON matching articles of clothing… Despite waaay over packing, I still managed to get it all in one carry on suitcase. All about the tuck and roll, baby!

photo (78)

photo (76)

 

And now, those Pina Coladas in the sun are just a memory and I am back to the rain at the ball park. Spring/Summer baseball has begun.

Hoping for warmer weather soon – those tropical breezes need to visit me here!!

 

 

Coffee au Awesome

Today has not started out that great. Lots of little annoyances and three big ones. As in the three HUGE poops that Samson the Giant Dog left in the front hall. Yes, I know this is the recipe section of the blog and I really shouldn’t talk about gross things, but as a mom, this kind of dialogue is a daily occurrence and it seems completely normal to me to discuss within a food conversation.

So on these kinds of days, I need a mini escape. A small attempt to gather up my former self of stylish grace and loveliness and composure (at least that is what I remember, sticking to my guns on that one, ha!). A small attempt to forget the current self of messy kitchens, yoga pants and pony tails, and missing homework. Just a few moments to catch my breath. It is easy to do with this coffee.

Coffee

Coffee au Awesome

6-8 oz hot coffee (I use my French Press; makes me feel fancy)
1 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs grass fed butter* OR coconut or almond milk (vanilla would be a swell choice)
Optional additions: Whatever you like in your coffee. Vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa…rum…

How To:
Brew coffee. Pour in blender with oil and butter and blend. Find a quiet spot in the house and enjoy!

*Don’t freak out about the butter – that is what cream is anyhow! Remember, I am a vegetarian (no meat) so I need a little fat here and there (a little more HERE on my body (points to boobs) but definitely not THERE on my body (points to thighs).

This is a great way to make those expensive Starbucks type drinks at home. Save those gift cards for your “getaways”… Getaways as in hiding in the bathroom or those “necessary” trips to the grocery store. A friend of mine once told me (when her kids were really little), she would leave the minions at home with her husband on a Saturday morning. She would grab her shopping list, give them all a kiss and head off to Starbucks for her favorite drink. During her visit to the grocery store, she would slowly make her way down Every. Single. Aisle. I remember her saying that she would even walk down the pet food aisle while acknowledging to us the fact that she didn’t even have any pets. Gotta love what moms do to get away. Enjoy your moments!

Emmett Awesome

 

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Fresh is best. I am so looking forward to spring and the chance to grow a few herbs out on the patio. I usually kill any form of plant life, but I still try every year! I have been trying to eat greens as much as possible. This pesto has cilantro in it (good health benefits from what I read). I also added the traditional basil to the pesto. And drizzled a little olive oil over the whole bowl right before serving.

Pesto Prep

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Ingredients
16 oz shell pasta
3 avocados, diced
2 c fresh cilantro
1 c fresh basil
1/4 c lemon juice or 1 lemon
1/2 c whole raw almonds
1 T garlic, minced
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

How To:
Cook pasta according to directions on box.
While the pasta cooks, in a food processor or blender add all the ingredients, process or blend until wellincorporate.
After the pasta is done, mix in the pesto. Drizzle the olive oil over the pasta. Serve.

Avocado Pesto Pasta

Adapted from basicndelicious.com

 

Lemon Garlic Tofu/Chicken & Asparagus

Asian inspired food is a happy place in our home. Chicken is an easy go to, but I often get the short end of the chopstick with a plate full of veggies and rice. Not. This. Time. After buying a block of tofu, I knew I had to think of a quick meal that I would like but I could also serve to the meat eating crew. Since I am the MOM, i.e. Queen Bee, here  is my tofu recipe first. Enjoy!

Garlic Lemon Tofu

My little cat pitcher came from a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco. Too cute not to add into a picture. The plate came from the minions. One Christmas, Mr C brought the little ones to a dollar store to let them each pick out a gift for me. I received two different plates and a candle that year. I cherish these plates and smile every time I use them.

Lemon Garlic Tofu & Asparagus

2 T olive oil
1 pkg firm tofu
1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
3 T minced garlic
1 T soy sauce
1 T lemon juice
1 t rice vinegar (or white vinegar, in a pinch)
1/2 t brown sugar
1 T paprika
Dash or two of cayenne pepper
Flax seeds and chopped scallions for garnish

One bunch asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces

3 c cooked brown rice

How To:
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add minced garlic and cook a few minutes more.

Cube the tofu into chucks and add to skillet. Drizzle soy sauce, vinegar and lemon juice over the tofu. Gently stir.

Sprinkle paprika, cayenne and brown sugar over the tofu. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the tofu is cooking, steam the asparagus until tender. Splash a bit of lemon juice on the asparagus and salt, if desired.

Place the cooked brown rice on a serving platter. Top with tofu mixture and add the asparagus.

Toss some flax seeds and scallions over everything. Serve hot.

Protein Option:
Cut up 1-2 pounds of chicken breast into 2″ cubes. In a large bowl, mix soy sauce and vinegar together. Add garlic and chicken. Let marinate for 15-30 minutes (more or less if you have the time, no judging here!). Add some vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the cubed chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. Add any remaining soy sauce mixture to the pan; cook about 1-1/2 minutes more. Add lemon juice and cayenne and stir for 2 minutes. Toss in the steamed asparagus, giving it a whirl through the sauce. Remove from heat and serve over brown rice. Add flax seeds and chopped scallions for extra crunch!

Empty Plate