Friday, June 29, 2012

friday fun finds: summer reads

if you are looking for a good new summer read i think we have you covered with this post. we have included some fabulous fiction as well as some amazing non-fiction reads. some we have read and *love* and there are a couple that are on our kindles as we speak just waiting to be read this summer. what did we leave out? what are *your* top picks for summer reads? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

honesty, emotion and trust.

i have alluded in the recent past to my life being far less than perfect at the moment. i  have a laundry list of things that have happened in the past 2 years or so that i have been trying to stay positive in spite of. i am not good at showing emotion. i am not sure if emotion simply makes me uncomfortable or if i feel weak when i am vulnerable and showing emotion. (i think it is the latter but i am not sure if i am able to fully admit that at the moment). i feel very alone in this isolation i have created. not opening up to people because i feel badly about burdening them with the chaos and drama of my life has catapulted me into a pit of emotion that is currently busy expanding to the point that i feel that if i were to start to talk about it all i would either have complete diarrhea of the mouth and not be able to stop talking, open up a river of tears that may drown me or show that i am weak. that i am human. that i cry too. that i am far from perfect. that i am real.

over the past couple months i have been working on humbling myself to talk more about how i am feeling to those closest to me. it doesn't come easily.....however, an incredible thing has happened every time that i have: i have learned that i am not alone. every person has something going on in their life that they are struggling with. no matter how large or small of a challenge, i am not alone. there are other people struggling too. while i am not ready to share every detail of what i am going through with the big bad world.....i *am* going to try to open up, be more vulnerable and *trust* the people around me.

wouldn't the world be a better place if we all simply (or not so simply) opened up and trusted each other more? well......maybe not the whole world, but for now, my little corner of it. 

xoxo- chach

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

have kids, will travel

on friday the entire "nellie" clan will be boarding a plane for the west coast. that's right people, if you have plans to travel on friday and you're living in charlotte, atlanta or san francisco, you might seriously want to consider changing your ticket. we are "that" family traveling. as if it's not enough showing up at the airport with five kids in tow, one is a two year old...a real two year old...with everything that implies. 

i can just see the expressions on everyone's faces now. they first look in shock and then in horror at the thought of sharing a combined space with all of the children for an extended period of time. people who have never believed in god before will suddenly find themselves whispering repeated prayers that we be seated as far from them as possible. we are the communicable disease of the travel world. 

i get it. i've traveled before. i've even whispered those same prayers on those rare moments when i'm without my children. i can understand the sheer panic that the sight of so many children on a plane can ignite. i am with you.

i am seriously stressing in anticipation. i don't want to be "that" family. i have worked, planned, and strategized for weeks in preparation for this outing. i've purchased new books, charged every electronic device possible, prepared snacks, packed changes of clothes, books, crayons, everything i can possibly think of to make the journey across the country as pain free as possible. 

i know it's easy to look at the traveling families and annoyingly wish they hadn't bothered your travel bliss. you have to trust me on this one, no matter how much you may want to be elsewhere when you are seated next to my family, i will have that desire trumped by ten fold. the last thing i want to do as i'm beginning a family vacation is endure a full day in cramped quarters with my irritable children. i'm dreading the looks of exasperation, the sighs of discontentment and the comments of annoyance from my children and fellow passengers alike. it promises to be a very long day.

so, i am officially retracting my previous statement. don't change your tickets. lend a hand. if it's not the "nellie" clan you befriend, find another poor family in need. smile and, if nothing else, wish them luck. it certainly can't make your plane ride any worse...and it just might go a long way to make someone else's plane ride just a little bit better.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

mmmmm...dry jello salad

okay, the name of this one might scare you off but it's really delicious and soooo easy to make. i love cool treats in the summer. i could pretty much live off of things out of the fridge and freezer. this recipe is perfect for a cool summer snack.

dry jello salad

1 small can crushed pineapple

1 can mandarine oranges, cut in half

1 large package orange jello

1 (8 oz.) package cool whip (you can use the low-fat variety if you like)

1 pt. cottage cheese

put the fruit in a strainer and let fruit drain for at least one hour. pour the fruit into a bowl and sprinkle dry jello over the fruit. mix well. add the cottage cheese and mix until smooth. lastly, add the cool whip and blend well. place in a large dish and refrigerate until ready to serve. enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

diy chore chart

everyone seems to have their own take on chore charts. i was looking for something that somehow motivated my children to work and still looked nice in my home. this is what I came up with. it's pretty easy and inexpensive to make and, so far (it's only been used for two weeks) the kids are pretty happy with it.

head to a home improvement store and pick up a two foot square piece of plywood. try to find one in relatively good condition without a bunch of wood splits.

in the paint department, search for a primer that creates a magnetic surface. paint the board with several coats of this primer. the more coats, the more magnetic the board seemed to be.

once the primer has dried well, apply a coat of colored spray paint. or takes a few coats for the best coverage.
purchase some wood moulding at the home improvement store. paint the moulding in a contrasting color. once paint is dry, cut the moulding to form a frame around the board.
attach the moulding using a nail gun or very small finishing nails. touch up paint.
find a fun coordinating paper. cut it into half inch strips and attach to the wood using a decoupage medium. allow to dry.

purchase empty buttons you can fill yourself. remove the pins and attach magnets using a glue gun.

fill the buttons with coordinating paper and your chore assignments.

if you are hanging your chart, attach ribbons with a glue and nail gun.

i hung mine using a wreath holder to make the buttons within reach of the kiddos...

happy choring!

Monday, June 18, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: green salad with candied pecans and goat cheese croutons

i love summer salads. i'm kind of on a crazy kick right now...just can't get enough of them. when it's hot outside, who really wants to cook up a hot, hearty meal. so, salads are my go-to meal or side of choice. here's one of my new favorites. it is so, so good!

green salad with candied pecans and goat cheese croutons

one package organic red lettuce leaves (i like organic best and i love the pretty red color of the butter lettuce)

one can mandarin oranges, drained 

candied pecans (recipe follows)

goat cheese croutons (recipe follows)

lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

layer the ingredients together and top with the dressing. this one is fabulous!~

candied pecans: 

one large egg white

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package pecans, shelled and halved

2-3 tablespoons of melted butter

beat the egg white well. add spices, salt and sugar and mix well. stir in pecans until thoroughly coated. coat a rimmed baking dish with the melted butter. using a fork, transfer the pecans to the baking dish. bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. allow to cool and, if the pecans have stuck together, break apart and put in a storage container. these can be made several days in advance. store at room temperature.

goat cheese croutons:

one package goat cheese, cut into walnut sized portions and formed into balls

panko bread crumbs mixed with a pinch of ground black pepper

1 egg, well beaten

1 teaspoon milk

oil or butter for frying

once the balls have been formed, place in the freezer for about an hour to make firm. mix the beaten egg and the milk in a small bowl. take the balls of cheese and roll them first in the egg/milk mixture and then in the break crumbs to coat. place the cheese in a hot frying pan with oil and cook until lightly browned on all sides. remove from fry pan and serve immediately.

lemon vinaigrette

3/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon herb seasoning

1 teaspoon pepper

whisk ingredients well together. store in a spill proof container until ready to serve. mix well immediately before serving.


Friday, June 15, 2012

friday fun finds: 4th of july patriotic decorations and goodies

ready for the 4th? we are loving all of this patriotic inspired goodness..... enjoy! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

summer survival kit

i don't know about you, but when the first day of summer vacation comes for my kids, i am filled with mixed emotions. i love the freedom of no schedules, no game practices, no waking up early (not that summer vacations means my kids will sleep in even a little). i love having a little extra time to spend with my kids.

then the first few days of summer arrive and i am hit over the head with the reality that i have to keep five kids occupied for three long months. my first instinct was, "it's summer...go outside and play like i used to." that lasted for about 10 minutes until one of them came in crying.

then, to top off my summer frustration came a comment from my oldest. after a day filled with seven hours of playtime, he declared, "this was the worst day ever. i didn't get to do anything i wanted to do."

no, son, the worst day will be tomorrow...when you really won't get to do anything you want to do.

so began my ideas for summer survival...both my own survival and my kids...because, so help me, i was about to just lock the bunch outdoors and let them figure things out "lord of the flies" style. some of these may work for you, some may not but they have been a life saver. it does take a little time, money and preparation but i think you'll be surprised at the outcome.
isn't a "given" anymore. it is a privilege the kids have to earn. pretty much anything they consider "fun" has to be earned. can't you just hear the cries of "worst mommy ever" exploding from my kitchen? really, it doesn't go down like that but it's more fun to think i overcame that kind of adversity.

here's what you'll need:
  • plenty of school supplies: i purchased new crayons and markers for each kid, several new pencils, some 3x5 cards to make flashcards and some store bought flashcards. we had some computer programs for learning spanish as well as some educational software.
  • workbooks that are age appropriate for each child (hint: get a book big enough to last the summer)
  • three little buckets: these can be found just about anywhere and they don't need to be big or expensive.
  • craft sticks: i found mine at target
  • something to store all your materials in: you only need this if you're a neat freak like i. the random clutter makes me crazy.
  • books, games, coloring books, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc. for "fun time"
  • some sort of a reward system: i purchased little reward papers and some stickers. when all of the kids have a page filled (three filled pages) we have a movie night.
the school supplies

the work books

the buckets

here's where your preparation comes. the craft sticks need to be divided by bucket. one bucket will be filled with school work titles, one with chores, and one with "fun" ideas. i started with the school work and on each stick, i wrote things like "workbook," "computer," "spanish," "flash cards," "reading." these need to be written for each child. i put stickers on the top of each stick so each child would grab a stick labeled with his or her sticker. i doubled up certain tasks like "workbook" so there was more of a probability that one or more children would be working on the workbook at a time. this just simplified things.

some of the sticks for my 8 year old

some of the sticks for my 5 year old
"read a book" instead of "read for 30 minutes"

to earn some "fun time", the kids have to do 30 minutes of school work. they get to pick a stick from the bucket and get busy! at the end of 30 minutes, they can either pick a stick from the "fun" bucket or they can have free time. you can decide how long free time lasts. i usually count on it for 30 minutes. if they can last longer without fighting or complaining, i may let them keep going. if they come in's time for another bucket!

the "fun" bucket can be filled with summertime activities. these are generally activities the kids can do around the house that don't involve a trip to the pool or some other big family activity. those are rewards. these "fun" things can last for about 30 minutes and the bucket is my answer to, "i don't have anything to do." i figure they can pick from the "fun" bucket and make it happen or they can pick from one of the other buckets. their choice.

the "fun" bucket

the "chore" bucket is my personal favorite. during the school year, the kids have chores but they are more limited with what they can accomplish then they are in the summer. during the school year, after homework and some limited play time, the time for chores is limited as well. during the summer, all bets are off! this is my time to teach my kids how to do certain things around the house. don't know how to load the dishwasher? here, let me show you. if i can get some of these skills mastered by my kids during the summer when i have time to sit down and work with them on the tasks, by the time the school year rolls around, they will be experts.

i know there are people out there who think that kids should be kids and enjoy playtime. here's my take on that. kids learn all the time. they learn how to read and write. they learn what they can get away with. they learn what work is and they learn what lazy is. i have no problem teaching my kids the value of hard work. i also want them to understand that being a part of a family means everyone has to do their part. i'm not raising any dead beat dads or lazy husbands. i'm raising independent, hard working, responsible boys (and girl). the earlier they can learn some of those traits, the better. so, to that end, my kids do chores. we all work together; we all get the jobs done; we all take care of one another. in my opinion, that's just what families do.

to that end, we have the "chore" bucket. you can put any chores on these sticks that your family does. my kids know how to do dishes, empty the dishwasher, sort laundry, dust, vacuum, put clothes away, clean base boards, pull weeds, etc. my kids are responsible for making their beds and keeping their rooms clean regardless. the bucket chores are extra chores. so, here you go, the chore bucket. you can modify it as needed to suit your needs but i would challenge you to stretch yourself and your kids over the summer. teach them how to do something new while you have them at home and have the time. when they're out on their own, they'll be happy to know that you don't wash red socks with white t-shirts. trust me.

the "chore" bucket

i expected to be fighting these buckets everyday. the truth is, however, that the kids seem to like it. they know what is expected of them and they rise to the occasion. adding the buckets makes things more fun for them as they never know what a day is going to hold.

happy kids, happy mom, happy summer. what do you think? is mission summer survival the thing for you? is there anything i should add?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the last day of school

it has either already happened or is quickly looming. the end of the school year comes each may or june and brings with it a deluge of emotions to mothers everywhere. facebook posts show kids traipsing off to school for their last class of the year and some moms mention how much they have cried that day as their baby has grown another year older. some mothers talk about how excited they are about having two and a half months with no schedule. some are sentimentally anticipating great bonding time with their children.

i have to admit. i made no such posts. i have been in denial that school is over for the last few weeks. i posted no sentimental pictures. the only tears that i cried was the single one that fell down my cheek as i realized that i would have five kids, all day, every day, for the next two and a half months. i have no delusions of bonding. i'm aware that my kids will get tired of having me with them all day, everyday within the first week. i'm pretty realistic about what the summer will involve...and it's generally not pretty.

i've found that my life with kids functions better with a schedule. too much "free" time means more fighting, more "i'm bored", more "he's looking at me" comments than i care to deal with. so, in order to keep my sanity and to preserve some semblance of working family dynamics, here's what has worked for me.
  • create summer buckets. i posted this last summer and am going to update it for tomorrow. check it out. if the kids say they have nothing to do, by golly, i will find something for them.
  • update a summer chore chart. summer is a great time to teach kids how to do household work. never dusted the living room before? well, it just so happens i have some spare time to teach you. i figure every moment that i spend instructing my kids how to clean can be translated into years of never having to dust that living room again. i'm trying to work myself out of a job. 
  • create a daily check off list for each of your older children. for my kids, this involves reading 30 minutes a day, doing chores, exercising, doing some school work, etc. "free" time is earned when things are checked off. kids are much happier with what "free" time they can have if it is limited or earned.
  • plan little treats for you and your kids. you'll need a break too. love a certain type of tea? teach one of your kids how to make it and bring it to you. think your kids deserve a treat? make homemade ice cream or cookies. little rewards can go a long way to encourage jobs well done. 
what about you? how do you survive summer? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: crock-pot southwestern chicken

we love crockpot recipes...can't get enough of them! here's one of the easiest one's we have found. it's so good and is really good for you (except for the chips part, and maybe the sour cream...) enjoy!

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
1 can black beans
1 can of corn (or equivalent of frozen corn kernels)
1 jar of salsa
sour cream
tortilla chips

in a crock-pot, add: chicken, beans, corn and salsa. 
cook on low all day, about 8 hours. 
serve over cooked rice, with sour cream and tortilla chips. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

friday fun finds: sensational sangria recipes

summer + sangria = one sensational summer. enjoy!