Monday, October 31, 2011

mmmmm mondays: leftover halloween candy bar meltaways

looking for something to do with all of the leftover halloween candy you will have? with all of the candy that your kiddos collected? this is the perfect recipe for you. it is not only easy, but delicious. enjoy!

14 ounces refrigerated cookie dough (chocolate chip (shown), sugar cookies, etc.--pick one)
13 (18 g) fun size candy bars
1/2 cup crushed golden grahams cereal
1/2 cup pecans, (or favorite nuts) chopped (optional)


heat oven to 375°
break up cookie dough into ungreased 9 x 13" baking pan.
press in bottom to form crust.
bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
remove partially baked crust from oven.
arrange candy evenly over crust.
return to oven -- bake an additional 3-4 minutes or until candy softens.
meanwhile in small bowl, mix cereal and pecans.
remove pan from oven, with spatula or knife, quickly spread candy evenly over crust.
sprinkle evenly with cereal mixture pressing in slightly.
cool 30 minutes or completely cooled.
cut into bars.

**do you have any other recipe favorites that involve leftover halloween candy? please share with us in our comments! **

Thursday, October 27, 2011

coming out of the closet

we spent the past weekend surrounded by an amazing group of women (and one lone man) at bloggy boot camp in atlanta. aside from having a fabulous time, we learned a lot. no, really. a ton. (if you are a blogger, don't hesitate and go!) one of the things we learned is that our readers probably would love to see who we are. for various reasons, we have chosen to go through this blogging journey with anonymity......but here it goes; we are coming out of the closet and showing our faces to the big, scary world. we are chach and nellie. nice to meet you. 
chach (left) and nellie (right)
i'm heather (aka chach). i am a 30-something old southern california mommy to two little boys (one and three) and 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 mom, friend, daughter and person 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 true, 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 daughter, 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 four amazing kids and the coolest husband ever. my four kids and one on the way (boy-8, girl-5, boy-4, boy-2, and boy-in utero) 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

preparing for armageddon

i recently went away for the weekend to attend an amazing blogging conference, bloggy boot camp. while i have tons i could share from the conference itself, i find i am drawn to the experience of actually getting out the door for such a weekend with the hubby in charge...and the fun involved in returning after three days.

when my husband leaves for a business trip, he literally packs ten minutes from departure time. he tells everyone goodbye and heads out...not a care in the world. when preparing to leave for the weekend, i'm pretty sure we would have been prepared for any sort of natural or supernatural disaster and the fam would have survived. i spent hours schlepping through the grocery store, buying non-perishables that my husband could cook. our pantry was stocked with cans of soup, pancake mix, cereal, macaroni-n-cheese and other five minute prep/fail proof foods. the cats were stocked with food, there were diapers a plenty and the laundry bins were miraculously empty. i decided to prepare for success in the hopes that these times away can become more of a regular occurrence. little was i prepared for how easy he would have it.

for some reason, when my husband is left alone with the kids, lovely people feel sympathy and offer to help him out. too much work to take your son to a birthday party? no problem, we'll just pick him up on our way. need to lay down for a rest with your youngest? no problem...just send the older kids over to play for a while. what? you have to cook meals on your own for three days? why don't we bring by a lasagna? are you kidding me? when i'm on my own, the best i usually do is to coordinate pizza with another mom who is on her own. what is it about a man staying home that encourages such outpourings of help?

still, i managed to come home to more loads of laundry, pretty much the entire sandbox on my kitchen floor and a few ruined shirts thanks to a painting expedition gone wrong. i'm not sure i get it but i'm going to be grateful for what i was given...three days of hot meals, sitting for more than five minutes at a time, and an escape from the work that seems to endlessly surround me. i'll be thankful for the small things...and maybe prepare a little less the next trip. something about the idea of seeing my husband trying to make it through the grocery store with four kids brings a twisted smile to my face.

what about you? how do you prepare for a moment away?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

travel with toddlers--step 2: packing for onboard the plane (guest blogger: beth from cloud surfing kids)

travel with toddlers--step 2: packing for onboard the plane (guest blogger: beth from cloud surfing with kids)

expect to actively entertain your toddler during the flight. toddlers have short attention spans and need near-constant engagement to stay happy. if you're lucky your child will sleep for part of the trip. i wasn't lucky, "e" very rarely slept. (well, i was lucky because she was always very good. but she refused to sleep.) as i advised with packing for infants, packing minimally is not really the best thing. pack everything you might need but keep it as small and light as possible. try to keep everything easily accessible so you don't have to search for things when your child is getting impatient.

dvd player, headphones, and blanket = happy toddler...for at least 10 minutes.

most airlines' inflight policies state that when using devices with audio (dvd players, ipod touch) you are required to use headsets or turn off the volume. please remember that not everyone wants to listen to toddler shows. get headsets for your toddler. if he refuses to wear them let him watch the shows with no volume. when he's interested enough in hearing it he will wear the headsets. when "e" first started wearing the headsets she would wear them for about 10 minutes at a time. then on to the next activity!

what to pack in the backpack:

toddler change of clothes; adult change of clothes; 6-10 OVERNIGHT diapers; diaper wipes; changing pad; antibacterial wipes; tissues; quart-size ziploc bag with: play-doh, fever reducing medicine, prescription meds (if needed), hand sanitizer; orajel swabs; thermometer; water wow doodle book; crayola color wonder book and markers; stickers; small stuffed animal; littlest pet shop toys; blanket; adult sweater; toddler sweater; 4-6 plastic grocery bags (for trash, etc.); ipod touch or dvd player; headphones for toddler; ipod and ear buds for me; power adapter or back up battery; charger for phone;
(not pictured: purse or billfold--don't forget them!)

overnight diapers are a must. sometimes you are unable to change a diaper when you would like to due to turbulence and the seat belt sign. whenever I was unable to change E's diaper in the last hour of the flight her diaper leaked on descent. it must be the change in air pressure. an overnight diaper usually solves the leaking problem.

two milk boxes; two juice boxes; cookies; luna or balance Bars; lollipops; fruit strips; fruit snacks; M&M's; squeezable applesauce; grammy sammy; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; cheese sticks; plate; toddler utensils; bib; antibacterial wipes; diaper wipes

the trade off for the convenience of bringing your own milk/juice boxes from home is having to separate those at security and step aside for additional screening on them. i felt it was usually worth it. otherwise bring a sippy cup to fill with beverages you purchase in the airport. many airlines do not cater milk on their flights that depart after 10am so plan to provide your own.

if you follow these lists you should have practically everything you need. i usually bring even more food and small toys but probably only end up using half of them. it's always better to pack more than you need than to be in need of something. again, just keep items small so you can manage your bags and your potentially squirmy toddler.

our guest blogger, beth is a flight attendant for a major airline and mom to a
curious explorer, "e".  "e" earned elite status at the airline at 20 months. in her blog, "cloud surfing kids", beth gives helpful tips and insight based on her experiences.

in case you missed her first two post in this series on traveling with infants, you can find them here and here. also, don't miss her other post on traveling with toddlers!

follow beth on twitter at @CloudSurfingMom

Monday, October 24, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: pumpkin pie pancakes

i can't take the credit for this one. this amazing recipe comes from a great friend of mine. she's a fabulous mother of five who still takes time to cook pancakes from scratch. can you say superhero?

try these anytime this fall and you will be in love.

pumpkin pie pancakes

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

2 large eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, salt and sugar. wisk in buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla. pour batter in 1/3 cup fulls. enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

20,000 feet, music, friendship, atlanta and a bloggy boot camp

as you read this nellie and i are probably in route to atlanta, georgia. why, you ask? well....aside from the fact that we can't wait to have a girlfriends get-away (sans the hubbys and kiddos).....AND the fact that we haven't seen each other in over *two* years (insane).......we are going to our very first blogging conference--bloggy boot camp! we are giddy with excitement for oh, so many reasons and will be updating you with tales of our adventures when we return. 

as i make the journey from california to georgia at 20,000 feet these will be the tunes i will be singing along to (better hope you are not sitting next to me). welcome to my crazy head via music. enjoy!

long time traveller by the wailin' jennys
tonight tonight by hot chelle rae
lollipop by mika
marry you (glee cast version)
tighten up by the black keys brothers
fix you (the voice performance) by  javier colon
the lazy song by bruno mars
love song by sara bareilles
stereo hearts (feat. adam levine) by gym class heroes
i do by  colbie caillat
grace kelly by mika
loser like me (glee cast version)
moves like jagger [feat. christina aguilera] by maroon 5
marry me by train
say by john mayer
stay the night by james blunt
stuck like glue by sugarland
home by edward sharpe & the magnetic zeros

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

working girl moccasins

i have some of the coolest friends ever. one of my favorite friends has been close to me since childhood. i can't remember a time in my life when she wasn't somewhere in the picture. she is the most faithful of friends and, regardless of where our lives take us, she remains constant.

she is also a poetically brilliant writer and the coolest librarian i have ever met. if you are are in a major metropolitan library, check out the head children's librarian. if she's a five foot tall pocket of sunshine, then you may have just hit the mother load. get to know her, you won't be sorry.

she is also the most amazing writer of a blog of her own. when you have a chance, get to know her at "along this beautiful path." in my opinion, she has the ability to put most writers to shame. this post is one of my favorites and puts my "stay at home mommy" title in perspective. i hope you enjoy it as much as i did...and that you don't take for granted the "mommy" title you wear.

Some days, I'm good at what I do. At least, each month when I receive another paycheck, I allow myself to conclude this. And there is professional respect to be gained by what I do. Thinks like the director asking me to stand at a large staff meeting and share how I handled a particular customer interaction. A reporter for a national publication coming to one of my events for his article research. A note left on my desk by my immediate manager with words of kindest praise and appreciation. And of course, the patrons...who give me thanks, respect and even little notes to say they are grateful we could work together.

With all this wonderful affirmation, and even confirmation that I AM good at what I do, I still feel a wheel of discontent that turns inside me daily. Sometimes so squeaky and loud, it is quite distracting. Other times, frantic and rapid, and I get anxious and restless. And sometimes with a slow and heavy ache that I cannot shake or rationalize away.

I work at a place that attracts over 100 applications for nearly every position it hires for. My own job had 150 applicants. You would think that by beating out that kind of competition, I would be nothing but grateful. Nothing but pleased and delighted to be handed the keys of the kingdom and to have been told, "This is your world. You are in charge." of a children's section much larger than most libraries I have worked at or visited. My library is on the rise, in national papers, winning national awards, and led by a woman who just won a state Librarian of the Year. It is a happening place to be. You would think.

There is another job that no one but me was clamoring for. It didn't come with awards, or recognition, and my constituents certainly aren't in the habit of writing thank you notes or writing about the work in any paper. The title isn't fancy, and I didn't get gorgeous new business cards when I started, but I was proud and thrilled (and nervous and excited) all at the same: Landon's mom.

I am Landon's mom. When he was 13 months old, I took on another job. An amazing not-to-be-missed, shoot-for-the-stars opportunity with tons of responsibility, creative license, and room for professional growth. I went through two interviews totaling three hours and was offered the next step up in my career. I felt like I had been tested and tried and found worthy.

I have watched dear friends shed tears about the question of who are they outside of mother and homemaker. I've read blogs of women who long for something more--more than the full time task of mothering their children. I've watched them struggle with the boredom, monotony, and everyday tediousness that can come with raising small children. I hear the sound of that same squeaky wheel in them, that I constantly contend with in me.

Most times I can remember that no one can truly know another's path until they've walked a mile in her moccasins. But sometimes I am frustrated and jealous and thinking that for all their angst, these women wouldn't really want to trade places with me if they could.

Let me say a few things about how it feels to wear these working-girl moccasins:

I've painfully wondered if my dearest baby knew who mommy was. My heart cracked when I heard that my little one cried to leave his childcare provider--bitter, wrenching cries to be apart from HER, not me. Sometimes I feel like a fringe member in my child's life, coming in at inopportune moments of early morning crabbiness, or end of the day grouchiness. I juggle the guilt of needing a few minutes to decompress after a long workday, with the knowledge that there are only 60 minutes left before my buggy's bedtime. I have let my growing toddler stay up past his bedtime because I miss him so much and just want to have one more story, one more snuggle. And once, I went up to his room on the pretense of "checking" on him, but did it in such a way that he woke up. I missed my baby so much I woke him up in the middle of the night just to be with him. When he cried to be put back in his crib, I felt the pang of being such a selfish mom.

If you are a mom who has figured out how to make staying at home work for your family, here is the note I'd leave on your desk: You have been tested, tried, and found worthy. You hold the keys to your children's hearts, you are their world, you are in charge. You have an amazing, not-to-be-missed, shoot-for-the-stars opportunity with tons of responsibility, creative license, and room for personal growth. You ARE more, and you offer so much more than you know. And though I don't know what you may have given up, set aside, put on hold, or said goodbye forever to, I do know that I admire and respect everything you've taken up, put first, not left waiting, and said hello to. While we might look across the fence at each other's greener pastures, I just wanted to let you know that when you look my way, what may look "greener" is probably just astro turf I've laid out for moments of comparison. You, my sweet sister, are making real wishes come true with the dandelion fluff that grows in your grass--grass I hope you see as green, so very green.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

travel with toddlers--step 1: getting to the aircraft (guest blogger: beth from cloud surfing kids)

traveling with toddlers can be a challenge. they want to explore and be independent and they don't understand all the sights and sounds around them. it might be useful to have some practice "flights" at home. walk through a doorway pretending it's the security checkpoint; set up some chairs to be the airplane. talk through as many details as you can think of. when my niece was 2.5 and getting ready to take her first flight she said, "i won't be scared...i'll just hold on really tight." it turns out she thought she would be holding onto the wing.

try to describe the details of everything you're doing while at the airport. taking the time to do this may prevent a tantrum. you'll feel rushed and frazzled no matter how experienced you are with flying (toddlers will do this to you); but showing calm patience to your child will keep things much more sane. if your child has a special toy or blanket that he likes to carry with him, be sure to let him know that it gets to go for a ride through the scanner and you'll pick it up on the other side. let him feel he has control by allowing him to place the item in the bucket by himself.

good news! the TSA has recently updated its shoe policy and children 12 and under no longer have to remove their shoes. this is one less step for you and every bit helps! when walking through the checkpoint most airports allow you to carry your toddler. if permitted, do this. the "door" can be intimidating to a toddler who isn't familiar with all the machines and gadgets.

when traveling with a toddler i bring a backpack and a cooler. essentials in the backpack, snacks in the cooler. check your luggage even if there is a fee. you need your hands free to attend to your child.
although it's one more step at security, i liked bringing 2 milk boxes and 2 juice boxes. it may be simpler to just bring a sippy cup and buy milk or juice once inside security. many airlines do not cater milk after 10am, so don't rely on them having milk on the plane. if you bring liquids you'll need to put them in a separate bin and will be asked to step aside with the TSA agent as they scan the milk/juice boxes by hand.

we love our go-gokidz travelmate and it allows you to easily get the car seat to the aircraft for the safest way for your toddler to travel on the plane. otherwise, consider and umbrella stroller. if you have to make a run for a connection flight you need something to help get your toddler there in a hurry. wheels of some sort also help when your toddler falls asleep at the end of the flight and has to be carried a mile to baggage claim. many airlines are now restricting the size of stroller you are permitted to gate check. don't bring your deluxe stroller to the gate.

our guest blogger, beth is a flight attendant for a major airline and mom to a
curious explorer, "e".  "e" earned elite status at the airline at 20 months. in her blog, "cloud surfing kids", beth gives helpful tips and insight based on her experiences.

in case you missed her first two post in this series on traveling with infants, you can find them here and here

stay tuned next week as she continues to provide us with invaluable advise for airline travel with toddlers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

mmmmm mondays, toasted pumpkin seeds

fall is one of my favorite times of year (not that we get to experience it much in southern california). i love going to the pumpkin patch and picking out pumpkins, deciding on the *perfect* face to carve on my pumpkin.....and best of all is toasting the pumpkin seeds. alright, i will admit it. i am not a big fan of digging through all of the goop and slime to harvest the seeds....but the end product puts a smile on my face every year. heaven. 

toasted pumpkin seeds

  1. preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (this is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.)
  3. spread the pumpkin seeds on a medium baking sheet. drizzle with oil. sprinkle with salt.
  4. bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted.
  5. let cool and store in an air-tight container.

above is for the "classic" toasted pumpkin seeds. they are my favorites.....but below are some fun variations on the classic that are super tasty as well--enjoy!

ginger soy
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

brown sugar and spice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

pumpkin pie

  • 6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

cinnamon sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar, divided