Tuesday, May 31, 2011

birthday in a blog: army party - part 1

my oldest turns 8 in a couple of weeks. he doesn't love having a summer birthday as his birthday parties usually revolve around when the neighborhood pool is available. this year we decided to try something different. he wanted an army party so i scoured the internet looking for great ideas and here's what i found. if you have a boy or a girl that is interested in a military themed birthday party, feel free to copy and paste away.

invitations: in keeping with the military theme, we did induction letters. just stick them in a mailing envelope and you'll be ready to go without spending a dime (well, maybe a dime, but you get the idea). i used the army emblem at the top of each invitation to make it look official.




MAY 17, 2011







the boys had to complete a series of missions. there were nine missions in all and they were a ton of fun for me to plan and get together. some of them were harder on the boys but i had several boys come and tell me how much fun they were having. this is nothing short of miraculous for an eight year old.


here's the timeline for the evening. ours was a slumber party but it could easily be changed to an afternoon party as well.

8th Birthday Timeline

Before arrival day of: hide equipment at Neighbors, set up targets in back yard, have obstacle course prepared and directions written out, fill up water balloons, Find place for pinata with rope, hide treasure instructions in backyard,

· 5:00-5:15 - Arrival & Face Painting

· 5:15-5:30 - Photos (Hide the army men in the front yard)

· 5:30-5:45 - Arm Men hunt

· 5:45-5:50 - Team Break Up

· 5:50-6:00 - March To Neighbors

· 6:00-6:30 - Equipment Scavenger Hunt

· 6:30-7:00 - March back, wash hands, serve pizza, clean up

· 7:15-7:30 - Target Practice

· 7:30 - 7:50 - Obstacle Course

· 7:50 - 8:05 - Bomb Diffusal

· 8:05-8:20 - Piñata

· 8:20 - 8:35 - Wounded Soldier

· 8:35- 8:55 - Cake (hide treasures)

· 8:55 - 9:15 - Treasure Hunt (prepare for smores)

· 9:15 - wash hands & get ready for smores

· 9:20 - Smores

· 9:50 - Showers

· 10:00- Bed

remarkably, we stayed pretty close to schedule and the boys were so busy that by the time they went to bed, they were out!

items you will need:

  • birthday cake (any kind is fine and it's way cheaper to make your own.)

  • plates and cups (we found camo plates and the kids loved this)

  • about 300 little army men (i found these in the dollar section of target)

  • military face paint (this is optional but the boys thought it was so cool!)

  • two different colors of ribbon, cut into 18 inch strips (to mark the different teams)

  • two different colors of duct tape (these can be found at target or walmart)

  • water balloons (we found grenade balloons at walmart)

  • two bags of marshmallows, (2) two-foot long pieces of 1/2 inch pvc pipe with a 1-inch connector for each one (you'll have to hit home depot for this)

  • two to four good water guns

  • two buckets for water

  • targets (you can make your own out of cardboard or you could go to a shooting range to see if they have any cardboard targets they'd be willing to give away. cardboard works really well.)

  • paint

  • piñata (i found a tank piñata at www.birthdayexpress.com)

  • two beach towels

  • four rolls of toilet paper

  • flashlights and pencils for each child

  • two clipboards

  • manilla envelopes

tomorrow i'll post all of the missions the boys accomplished and give you any tips i may have. i've done the work for you so all you'll have to do is copy and paste to create your own. like i said, birthday in a blog.

are you overwhelmed yet? i know it seems like a lot but you won't be disappointed. the items you'll need are really inexpensive and it makes for a great birthday. besides, how often do we get to call ourselves "commander so and so" and get to dole out push-ups if anyone talks back? maybe it should be my son's birthday everyday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: bruschetta pasta

this is the standard go-to recipe in my home. it is easy to make, everyone likes it and it makes for fantastic left-overs. try it--you won't be disappointed.

i have two ways that i make it: one is lightening fast (i pretty much just throw together a bunch of pre-made goodies) and the other one takes a little more time, but is 30 minutes. tops.

here are the directions for both:



5 fresh, small vine tomatoes, diced

1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 cloves mashed garlic (depends on how much you like garlic)

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. your favorite pasta

1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese packed in water, cut into small cubes OR 2 tubs of the small mozzarella balls (i like to cut them into halves or quarters, but you don't need to)

1 container fresh basil leaves, finely shredded

we are having some people over, so i am using 2 bags of penne (plus, i love having leftovers)


cut the tomatoes into a small dice. drain them in a colander (you don't want all of the guts/seeds).

in a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and 3/4 of the chipped basil.

season with salt + pepper to taste.

let sit for 15 minutes to marry the flavors....or leave in the fridge overnight.

cook the pasta (as directed on the box/bag)

right before you serve it, add the pasta to the cheese and the basil to the tomato mixture and toss gently.


lightening fast:


1 box/bag of pasta (you pick).

1 container of the trader joe's fresh bruschetta sauce, drained (you can find it in the refrigerated section near the cheeses and hummus).

2 containers of small mozzarella balls (use only one, if you are not a cheese fan).

1/2 container of fresh basil, slivered

salt + pepper to taste


boil water and add some salt to flavor the pasta. then add the pasta and cook as directed.

open mozzarella containers up, drain and set aside. cut up the basil, and set aside. drain the oil out of the bruschetta, and set aside.

as soon as you drain the pasta, add all the ingredients and serve immediately. the heat of the pasta will heat the sauce and cheese. add salt and pepper to taste.

**note: you can add grilled chicken or shrimp and it is yummy, too!**

hope this ends up to be one of your family's favorites too!

check out these fun cookbooks that use trader joe's items in their recipes:

Friday, May 27, 2011

friday fun finds: peacock madness

i have a slight obsession for everything peacock this week....and who knew that there were so many fabulous things to chose from? who else loves this fine-feathered friend?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

quilted, oh no they didn't!

i don't know about you, but when i actually get to sit and watch something on television, it is like a little mini vacation. time watching tv means the kids are in bed, the house is manageable until tomorrow and i actually did it all with a few moments to spare. as far as i'm concerned, tivo and dvrs are little gifts to mommies so we won't have to waste time on commercials when we actually get a moment to spare.

unfortunately for me, the other day i didn't get a show recorded and actually had to watch live tv. to my dismay, not only did i have to watch commercials, but this one is the one that was playing. have you seen it?

really? do we want to get real about what happens in the bathroom? i can think of about a million things i'd rather do than to listen to some stranger talk about getting herself clean after she's been on the toilet. what's worse is the flashing words along the bottom saying, "when wet". then, just when i thought i'd seen it all, they started to mention "break through." so much for my bowl of rocky road ice cream and my glass of lemonade.

when did we become okay with discussing our post toilet cleanliness on television...and why was it all females in the commercial? after cleaning the underpants of multiple males in this house, i can tell you one thing, it should have been men talking about needing to be clean and not the females. and what about those poor women who have that commercial on their resumes? if i was an actress, i think it would be right up there with having to list my commerical appearances for hemorroid cream or erectile disfunction medication. there are just some paychecks we should say no to, ladies.

beyond all of that, who was the genius that decided that the best way to promote toilet paper to their target audience was to talk about "what really happens in the bathroom?" don't they know that we moms have a first hand knowledge of what happens in the bathroom and we really don't want to talk about it when we finally get to sit and watch tv? i for one have enough of changing diapers, scrubbing toilets, wiping bottoms, and washing underwear during the day. at the end of the day, can we please not bring in images of breakthrough to ruin my evening snack? i don't think it's too much to ask to keep the potty talk off of the tv and in the potty. anyone?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

superhero mommy

my seven year old came home from school yesterday with a fever. this might not seem odd to most people but the boy has missed only one day of school this year and that was because he threw up on school bus on his way home one afternoon and i made him miss the next day. he was mad i made him miss it. the kid is hard core.

yesterday was different. his fever was low grade, only 100.4 but he had a sore throat, a stomach ache and a headache. i have friends who have shared their knowledge with me so i tried to pool from my storehouse of sick-kid information. those four symptoms, fever, sore throat, headache and stomach ache are all signs of strep. i felt ridiculously like the over protective mother as i brought him to the doctor and asked for a strep test. a sore throat for one day and i'm already in the office? i was sure they were going to think i was neurotic. the thing is, i was right. he has strep. i'm not going to lie, i felt like a rock star. one throat swab and one round of antibiotics and he'll be as good as new without having to suffer for days and days in the process. there are some mommy moments where i just want to raise my hands in victory. where's that dress-up superhero cape? i may just need to wear it for a while.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

mommy wars

does anyone else feel it, or is it just me? you know what i mean....the crazy competition that begins the moment that you conceive, really.

 everyone seems to have an opinion on the "right" way to do things.... the debate between working mommies vs. the stay-at-home mommies, store bought baby food vs. homemade, organic vs. not, breastfed vs formula, epidural vs natural birth.....don't even get me started on the kid milestones (who is walking, talking, crawling, etc.).

 why does everyone care so much about what everyone else is doing? why do we feel the need sometimes to be "right" about the way that we are raising our kids? is it because we are all afraid to admit that we are all just figuring it out as we go along, that we know we will make countless mistakes by the time our children are raised and we just need to know that we are not screwing it up in the beginning? mommies with older kids, does this crazy competition thing with other moms continue as your children grow?

this video is funny. seriously funny....and sort of sad at the same time, don't ya think?

come on. we all know one mom like this, right? maybe you can even admit that you are "that mom". has anyone had an encounter like this?

why can't we all just respect that everyone has different needs, every child is different and that we all make our own individual choices based on what works for us or what is important for us. is there really a "right" way to do things?

 i think we should all take a moment to stop.

 go on (yes, you).

 now take a really big breath.


now give yourself the permission to accept that the choices you have made for you and your family are wonderful for you.....and equally fantastic are the choices someone else has made for themselves.

it's okay.

nothing more to see here. move along.

after all, wouldn't this world be a pretty boring place if we were all the same?

Monday, May 23, 2011

what's for dinner?

about a year ago i decided that i was tired of the usual recipe pool. with so many kids, my life sometimes feels like i'm a hamster running on a wheel. the days are all full of activity and there is never a dull moment but it can sometimes seem like i'm just moving through the routine of it all. i needed something new and in came rachael ray.

i somehow landed on the food network on our tv. it is pretty close to nick jr. so i'm sure the kids just stepped on the remote at some point and i came upon the happy accident. there was peppy, little rachael convincing me i could prepare a fabulous meal for my family in 30 minutes. i was inspired and dug through my collection of cookbooks that sit like a shrine to good food in my kitchen. there it was, a cookbook i purchased at some point three years before that i had yet to crack open. this was it. it was time to open the book and venture into the world of new and exciting food choices.

i took an evening to read through a ton of the recipies and chose a few beginners and i was off. i soon discovered that:
1) i'm not as fast as rachael and what takes her 30 minutes will take me 45 minutes.
2) i don't have her ingredients conveniently stocked in my refrigerator so i actually have to go shopping and find new things (which proved to be a bit more expensive)
3) i could alter the recipies slightly to make them friendlier to my family
4) my family actually loves these new food adventures. it helps that i tell then in advance that they love it and then compare it all to meals they have already eaten. anything pasta and it's "just like maceroni and cheese" or "spaghetti." anything that in anyway resembles a hamburger is compared to mcdonalds. you get the picture.

so, now i have a recipe book that is full of notes and the dates i first cooked them. i've spread the word and my friends who have been guinea pigs to my rachael cooking have purchased the book too and copied all my notes for themselves. so here you go world. here's the book you can purchase and the first of my favorites for your own enjoyment. if you're up for an adventure, buy the book for yourself and try these things out. you won't be disappointed.

saltimboca burgers (abreviated and with nellie's tips)

1 and 1/2 pounds of ground veal or chicken (i always use chicken)

3-4 large garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped (i use jarred minced garlic)

15-16 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced (plant a little herb garden for sage...saves you a ton!)

4 tablespoons evoo (extra-virgin olive oil - don't you just love her?)

2 cups baby romaine leaves or 6 to 8 leaves from the center of a romaine heart, chopped

juice of 1/2 lemon (i buy the lemon juice from the store)

8 1-inch-thick slices good-quality semolina bread cut on an angle (this is delicious but my kids couldn't get their mouths around the bread and the burger so we just did whole wheat hamburger buns. it's not as flavorful but it is a lot easier to eat for the kiddos.)

8 slices prosciutto di parma (if you get the deli counter to cut this, you'll save money)

8 thin slices italian fontina cheese (easy to find, harder to cut thinly...but what's a little extra cheese?)

•preheat the broiler

•in a bowl, mix the ground meat with the garlic, sage, salt and pepper. form into patties. pour 2 tablespoons of evoo in an ovenproof skillet or indoor grill pan. (if your skillet does not have an ovenproof handle, cover it with two layers of aluminum foil) heat over medium-high heat. cook the patties for about 5 minutes on each side. leave the burgers in the skillet.

•while the burgers cook, dress the romaine with lemon juice, 2 tablespoons evoo and salt and pepper. if you are using the semolina bread, toast it.

•top each burger with a couple slices of prosciutto and fontina cheese. slide the pan under the broiler to melt the cheese.

•serve the burgers on the buns or bread with the dressed romaine. i usually serve it with chips and some fresh fruit. enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

pancake saturday

tomorrow is "pancake saturday" in our home.

mr. a wakes up early and makes pancakes for breakfast with the kiddos....and mommy gets to wake up when they are ready (ah, to sleep until 7am....it's the little things, really).

what are your family traditions? do you have a weekly "event" in your home?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

crock-pot baked potatoes?

have you ever made baked potatoes in your crock-pot?

i never have, but this post at the crock-pot blog has me ready to try it.

what a fantastic idea!

something we love: design-her gals + 40% off

if you haven't heard of design-her gals yet, you are missing out. we (chach+nellie) are obsessed. you get to go online and create your own likeness (or someone else's) including super fun accessories and then have them put onto notecards, invitations, business cards and even email avatars. the website is crazy addictive and i KNOW that you will find something you love. how cute are the gals they created for us above?!

i am thinking that it will make for fun teacher gifts for the end of the school year......or for your favorite dad or grad. the best part (in my opinion) is that the proceeds from design-her gals sales go to the gal to gal foundation to benefit women diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and breast cancer survivors. so there you go. do some fun shopping AND support a fabulous cause. what could be better?

right now they are offering 40% off on all of their stationary and paper products, but it expires the end of day tomorrow (thursday 5/19)  so get to work and start designing! use promo code: 40THISWEEK


ball pump fail

note to self: when teaching the kids how to pump up a ball that has gone flat, tell them to stop pumping before they hear seams ripping. apparently i failed to pass that little bit of information along to my four year old. oh well, some days are more successful than others...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the third boob: the story that started it all...

the third boob. there has to be a story there. well, here it is in all its lengthy glory. there has been no other mommyhood story to top it. so, here is the story that started it all.

the first pregnancy is the most exciting. that's not to say that other pregnancies aren't full of wonder but the first one is full of all things new. every change is a new experience and the unknown helps to add to the thrill of it all. i was like a lot of first time pregnant moms. i enjoyed that first pregnancy...until i noticed a kiwi sized lump growing in my armpit. the worst of scenarios raced through my mind. did i have cancer? was this a tumor? when the doctor ordered an ultrasound of the lump, i was thinking the worst.

sitting in the office of the ultrasound technician, i stared at the monitor trying to figure out what she was seeing on that little screen. "what is it?" "all i can see is breast tissue. i'll send the results to your doctor." i felt a sense of relief. no tumor, just breast tissue...in my armpit. i had no idea why that would be and my ob-gyn was actually of very little help in that department. i was told it was just breast tissue. breasts swell during pregnancy and that it should go back to normal after giving birth. this was a great theory but, after looking around, no other pregnant women seemed to be walking around with a kiwi in one pit.

finally a lactation consultant friend of mine told me it could be an extra mammary gland. this was confirmed in the hospital after i gave birth to my first son. a second lactation consultant came in to check on the nursing situation and i blurted out, "i think i have a third boob." to this, in the tradition of lactation consultants getting all up in your boob business, she peeled back my hospital gown to examine the said appendage. here's where it gets good. this lady had all the good intel. apparently, your milk lines run from your armpit all the way down your abdomen (think a cat or a dog with a litter of puppies). you can be born with extra mammary glands or extra nipples anywhere along your milk line and, unless you have a visible nipple, you may not know it's even there until your breasts swell during pregnancy. the consultant then proceeded to tell me that there was a woman in the hospital the day before with eight boobs. (i can hear the collective gasps through the computer.) i all of a sudden felt pretty happy just to have the one. she then continued by saying that it would go away after nursing and that, because there was no visible nipple, it would dry up and shrink back to its former undetectable size.

here is where she got it wrong. my milk finally came in for my first born and while i was nursing him, i asked my husband if he'd turn up the air conditioning because i felt like i was sweating profusely. i then looked down to see that no, i wasn't sweating. what i thought had been the tiniest of brown freckles was instead a nipple that was currently dripping milk down into a puddle on my shirt. yep...sign me up for the circus people. not only do i have a third boob but it lactates. doesn't get much better than that.

i had to nurse with a towel in my armpit and while most nursing moms got to walk around with just absorbent breast pads in their nursing bras, i got to do that and wear a huge band-aid on my armpit. just so we're all aware here, my son was born in june...tank top weather. it was fabulous.

between baby one and two, i had the boob surgically removed. there's still breast tissue in there and with each pregnancy, it swells up to say hello. at least there isn't a nipple. i'm fine with the third boob thing...just not the wet clothing every time i need to nurse or hear a baby crying.

so, there you have it. i think the third boob can give everyone a brighter outlook on life and on their after-baby bodies. your stomach may look like a venetian blind from the stretch marks you earned or you may have skin that now somehow resembles an elephant's trunk. still, looking in the mirror at yourself you can always say, "at least it doesn't lactate." so, here's to you, third boob. thanks for making most of the world feel a little bit better about themselves...and for giving us a great story to tell. cheers!

Monday, May 16, 2011

nice to meet you.


i'm chach. i am a 30-something old mommy to two little boys (one
and three), happy wife to mr. a and caregiver to a crazy, sweet and
spunky weimaraner.

what you should know about me: i exercise so i can eat. i love to eat.
i think peanut butter and chocolate is the most perfect duo. i think a
girl should eat dessert, and never order a salad on a date. i like a
family-friendly decor with fun surprises found in pops of color or
something re-purposed in a new way. i don't like to cook, but i do
love the feeling that putting a meal on the table for my family gives
me. i am perfectly imperfect and am learning to embrace my flaws and
imperfections for what makes me who i am. i strive to be happy and
content every day and try to be the best wife, mom, friend and
daughter that i can be.

i believe in pedicures. i believe in green, the color not the
lifestyle (although, more power to the people living the lifestyle. i
admire you. truly. it's just not for me. don't judge.) i believe in
slurpees, a great glass of red wine shared with a good friend and
great, honest conversation. i believe in resolving conflict whenever
possible and in keeping the peace. i believe in miracles, in a really
good cheeseburger, giving back more than i take and in the quality of
a good education. i love travel and long to see every little corner of
this big, amazing world & to give my children the gift of perspective.
i try to look for the good in every situation. i believe that taking
time for me makes me a better wife, friend and mommy....and i
whole-heatedly believe in saying "i love you" enough that the people i
cherish will not have any doubts that i do.


i'm nellie, a 30-something woman with five amazing kids and the coolest husband ever. my five kids (boy-9, girl-7, boy-5, boy-3, and boy-infant) keep me insanely busy and test my patience daily and i wouldn't have it any other way.

what you should know about me: i sing...all the time, everywhere, i sing. i'm one of those annoying shoppers that sings through target, can't seem to help myself. i love good food. i love to cook it and love to eat it. cooking has become my creative outlet and like it or hate it, my kids eat it. i'm not a short order cook. i actually enjoy going to the gym, partially because there is free childcare and partially because it means i can purchase a chai tea latte from starbucks on my way home guilt-free. i have a kid friendly, child-proofed home that still manages to be grown-up enough for me to enjoy. i have come to accept that at this stage in my life, i will never have all the rooms completely clean at one time. i'm okay with that.

i love learning new things. i love to garden and i'm trying to love eating the vegetables i'm growing. i love projects. i think pedicures and hair cuts are necessities. i love to travel and live in new places. i can't wait to open the world up to my kids. i believe in laughing really loud. i believe in consistent discipline. i believe that everyone should learn a foreign language. i believe in big hugs and kisses. i believe i was made just they way that i am for a reason. i love long phone conversations with great friends, tomato-basil soup, good books and seeing how much i saved at the end of each shopping transaction. i try to remember that in this season with small kids, the days are long but the years are short. i believe in enjoying my kids and my husband. i believe these years are going to fly by and i don't want to miss a minute of it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

hello world.

welcome. this is "the third boob" where we talk about motherhood, love, decorating, cooking, friendship and family. we (chach + nellie) are two gals that met in a college summer school class one day and became roommates the next (literally). we live on different coasts now, are married and have a combined total of 6 kids, 1 dog and two cats..... and, yes. one of us did grow a third boob during pregnancy. it's true. crazy, right? stay tuned and we will tell you all about it.