Friday, December 8, 2017

Winter Weekend Fun Ideas

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

I am soooooooooo excited there is snow in the forecast for this weekend!

Here is a quick list of some of the plans we have for the weekend :) Weather permitting!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Education beyond books

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

I believe that education starts at home.

In a few short months, my daughter will be 3 years old and my son is 17 months old. So clearly, we aren't solving algebra equations together (not excited for that day) but we do our own type of homework. 

When I was pregnant, I heard about the "Mozart Effect." This is a theory that having your baby in your belly listen to classical music will in fact make them smarter. I never did this. However, once my daughter was born, we spent every single morning listening to all different types of music together. I would sit on the couch just holding her, looking at her and we would listen for as long as we wanted. To this day it is obvious she has a real connection with music. 

At home, my kids and I practice our colors together. We do and make activities to practice our matching. We do puzzles together. We are working on our letters and numbers. We do a lottttt of arts and crafts :) This is the easiest way to interest both of my kids at the same time.

P.S - There are shapes and colors inside of the egg carton that my son is so focused on. Great homemade craft for matching!
I try to read to my kids as often as possible. Busy days turn into busy nights and we don't always get to read as much as we should. We even started a challenge. We keep a log of what books we have read, and of course we have some favorites. But our goal is to reach 1,000 books for each kid before they start kindergarten. I heard of a local library doing this. My library doesn't offer this program, so we decided to do it on our own.

As much as I encourage reading, education is beyond books. Education lies in the experiences we have and the places we go. Some things just can't be learned or found in books. 

My kids are very young. So our field trips consist mainly of farms, zoos and aquariums.

Recently, we visited The Children's Museum of Manhattan. We even went for free...thanks to our local library!
                                                         Read about our trip here.

My greatest goal for the future in helping to educate my children is to travel. I wish to take them to as many different states, countries and continents as I can. Growing up, I was fortunate to take many trips. We weren't rich but travelling ALWAYS took precedent over material things in our household. By the time I had finished college, my list of foreign countries included Japan (3 times), Italy (2 times), Greece, Ireland, England, France, Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Bahamas, Hawaii, Canada and almost every state on the East Coast of the United States.  The best way to learn about the world is through the eyes of other cultures. Experience it first hand. 

Being a tourist is beautiful too. I will never forget the way I felt when I first walked into the Sistine Chapel. How amazed and overwhelmed I was.

But if you are lucky enough to have family or friends, you can live like a local. You can see a totally new perspective this way. It is more than just being a tourist. On the same trip to Italy, we visited my grandfather's cousin and his family. They owned and lived on an olive farm. Staying at their house, going to their favorite places, having a homemade dinner without being able to speak the other's language but fully enjoying each other's company anyway. There is just nothing like it. 

I hope I am able to give my children these trips. These are the experiences that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. There is nothing like learning in the moment and some places you will never forget no matter how many years go by. 

This post was inspired by Groza Learning Center.
Find out more about by clicking on Groza Learning Center.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tips to make baking with kids EASY! (mini tart recipe)

The holidays are coming :)

In our house, baking and decorating is a really fun activity that we can all get together and enjoy. Of course everyone likes the taste testing but it is really nice working together as a team!

Don't get me wrong. Baking with the kids can be challenging. It can be hard to keep them engaged long enough to get the actual baking done. Unless you are willing to sacrifice your kitchen being completely coated in flour which works great and has definitely happened in our house. Let's be honest, it seemed like a good idea at the was not!

So here is a special recipe my daughter and I made together. Mini blackberry cream and chocolate tarts with homemade crust.

And of course a list of my tips and tricks of how we got it done.

I know, I know I said the whole flour explosion thing. But if you don't let them get hands on and feel included in what you are doing, they will lose all interest. Everyone knows it's no fun to just watch.

I measured a portion of the flour and put it into a small cup. I gave my daughter a spoon and had her spoon by spoon add the flour into the mixer. This kept her occupied long enough for me to prepare the blackberry cream filling and the chocolate pudding while she was happily doing her job.

I used instant chocolate pudding and the blackberry cream filling is only a few ingredients. Very easy and fast to make. Again, my little ones are only going to remain engaged for a short period of time so make sure to pick something that is relatively fast and not too involved. If you have older kids you can definitely go for something more elaborate.

My daughter really loves baking. She gets very serious and concentrates so hard on what she is doing. If you know your kids realllllly aren't interested at all...don't torture them. Throw on a movie, give them a snack, and enjoy the peaceful alone time.

Homemade Crust - makes about 24 mini pies

2 1/2 cup of flour
1 1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup of butter
6 to 8 tablespoons of cold water

1. Mix the flour and the salt.
2. Chop the butter into small pieces. Add gradually to mixer.
(You will have to scrap the sides of the bowl from time to time. Mixture should appear crumbly.)
3. Slowly, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. (When dough just about comes together, it is ready.)
4. Grease muffin tin. Using fingers, mold the dough inside each muffin tin to make mini tarts. Poke with fork to avoid air pockets.

5. Bake tarts for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
(Halfway through use a fork to push and mold and pop air bubbles.)

After tarts have cooled for a few minutes use a very thin utensil and carefully pop them out of the tins.

I put them in cups after they baked just to keep them a little nicer. 

*Let cool completely before trying to fill them*

Blackberry cream filling - Just combine all ingredients.

4 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp of lemon juice
5 blackberries

Chocolate instant pudding filling - Just make according to directions. (Usually just adding 2 cups of milk)

Another "kid" tip. I couldn't find any of my baking tools to make the filling look prettier. I actually used the medicine syringe that comes with infants Tylenol. No seriously, it worked great.

Some tarts are all chocolate pudding filling. The ones with the pink swirl are all chocolate filling with just a swirl of the blackberry cream on top. The pink flowers on top are mostly blackberry cream but have a small layer of chocolate underneath as well.

I love making the mini and personal size desserts for the holidays. Serving is so much easier. If the guests are already stuffed from all the other eating and drinking, the whole pie doesn't have to go to waste.

I always need my professional taste tester to make sure the dessert is delicious enough to serve.

Enjoy! We sure did! 

Friday, November 17, 2017

To the sweetest boy I have ever known

My one year old boy. (16 months)
Sweet sweet boy. 
Who loves to take a running start just to give me a hug. 
Who pinches my arm when he's mad. 
Who loves to be around his sister more than anything. 
Who's always the first one to greet his dad coming home. 
The boy who chases the cats and shrieks with excitement. 

The boy who smiles smiles smiles. But, when he's ready for bed he can't be bothered with anything else.

My favorite thing is hearing him awake and getting him out of the crib. Almost always, I'm greeted with smiles and giggles. Jumping up and down, waiting to get into his mama's arms. It's the best feeling in the world. 

My little baby who has turned into a little cuddle bug as he climbs into my lap and looks back up at me with a huge smile. 

He is the most loving. When I sit on the floor, he sneaks behind me so he can surprise me with a hug.

Always ready to model for a picture!

My picky eater. Still a pain in the ass to change his diaper. 

He loves to be funny. He does this weird squat walk and I just can't stop laughing. He makes sure that I am watching and laughing. He genuinely loves to make other people happy at just one year's old.  
His laugh is pure joy.

He throws himself on the floor when he is mad. He can be a little faker. Hanging onto my legs for dear life. With his pouty face.  Bad over actor. And I don't care. I let him think I fall for it. I pick him up and squeeze him. I ask him what's wrong and he just lays his head on my shoulder thinking victory! I got her! And he does. 
I love him more each day.

The funny thing about kids. You wonder how you ever lived without them. Completely exhausted, completely unorganized, completely in love and completely whole all at the same time. I have never felt so complete.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bonding with my babies with MUSIC

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Music is so good for the soul. I have always depended on music to get me out of a bad mood. I love to listen to music while I am cooking dinner. I love love love to shamelessly jam out in the car and scream at the top of my lungs. Of course if I pull up to a red light, I try to contain myself for a few seconds and act like the normal human being that I most definitely am NOT.  And forgive me for admitting this, but you COULD NOT pregame in college without a crazy playlist! HA!

And now it is no surprise that my most favorite thing to do with my kids is to jam out, sing and dance with them. Just take some moments to act completely silly and fun. There is nothing better. Believe me.

My son loves when we dance together. He is my little koala who is attached to my hip. He holds my hand and we spin around and around. He laughs and shrieks and it is pure happiness. Now he runs around in circles on his own and it is one of the cutest things in my world.

"You make me wanna shout! Put my hands up and shout!"

My daughter is not a big talker. Some days she talks nonstop and other days it seems like she barely says a word. BUT. Play the "Trolls" soundtrack and she knows almost every word. Sometimes I have to stop driving because I literally have to pull over so I can watch her sing. It is the sweetest thing you will ever see. She gets so into it, in her sweet (deep) perfect little voice. I can not handle it.

"Playing" the drums in her infamous earmuffs...get the full story here

We just got the "SING" soundtrack. She is getting a little older so she is starting to really act movies out and dance a lot more. Now we really have to stop in the driveway or any parking lot if we are in the middle of our favorite song. The other day we made it to the park but we were dancing and acting out the movie. We just continued in the parking lot for a few minutes and it was awesome.

I love that we bond over music. It is one of those things that you don't have to explain. You just feel it. And sometimes that can be the best thing. Not having to say a word to each other. But just live in the moment and totally enjoy yourselves by letting go completely.

This post was inspired by John Jesensky.

Find out more about John Ross Jesensky by clicking his name.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How we went for free...Children's Museum of Manhattan

I know in today's day and age, you can find everything and anything on the internet. And you can do so in a matter of seconds.

Let me tell you what you need to do. Go old school.

Go to your local LIBRARY!!!
In my case, Pearl River Public Library.

This is exactly where we got our free passes to the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
(Free pass for 2 adults and 2 kids. Also, can choose 1 adult and 3 kids.)

This museum was 5 floors of awesome. There was sooooo much to do!!! Ride on fire trucks, building blocks, mini playgrounds, grocery store, sand area, tumble mats, learning about the body... I can't even name it all! There was never any waiting because there was so much to choose from. The kids even got to make a special craft.

We could have stayed all day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Brownie Bottom Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

So this is a semi homemade recipe. Wahoo!
The hardest part of this recipe is all the waiting before indulging.

What we need:
Box of brownie mix
2 blocks of cream cheese (8 ounce)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 ounce)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cups of mini chocolate chips (a little extra for topping)

Step 1
Make brownies according to directions on box. I split into 2 pies.
Bake at 350 for only 30 minutes or until mostly set.

Step 2
Add cream cheese (room temperature) to stand mixer and beat until fluffy and light.
Next, gradually add sweetened condensed milk.
Then add eggs and vanilla extract.
Last, add the chocolate chips.

A stand mixer makes this much easier but if not you can use a regular mixer.

Step 3
Layer the cheesecake mix on top of the brownie bottom. 
Bake at 300 degrees for an hour.
Do not open the door while baking!!!

Let cool for an hour with oven door open just a crack.
Top with more chocolate chips.

We must wait for this deliciousness to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours but it is best to wait overnight... I know, torture, sorry!

BUT the good news... it's the perfect excuse to eat this dessert for breakfast :)