Tuesday, July 30, 2013

diy: making your own jams/jellies - the prep

i grew up with two amazing grandmothers. they would spend hours each summer and fall canning fruits, making homemade jams and jellies, and using every last inch of their gardens before the winter weather set in. i can rememer staring at them in awe as they worked with their canning jars, poured hot wax over the top to seal them all, and set them aside to cool before we could enjoy them. those are sweet memories of a time long since past. 

the whole canning process seemed like a science project to me at the time and, i have to admit, i was very intimidated to start the adventure on my own. still, i wanted to have those types of moments to share with my own kiddos and those memories to cement in their little brains. not only is this great process a piece of their heritage, but it also teaches them the importance of using everything we grow. i don't want to waste my fruits and vegetables. i can't eat them all so, after sharing them with friends, it's time to preserve them for later. besides the practicalities of it all, it is amazing to see my kids spreading the homemade jams and jellies i make on their toast or pb&j's. i like knowing what goes into what i'm making for them and i love knowing they enjoy what i make. 

so, here is how you can join these adventures in canning...one step at a time.

before you get started: you'll need to purchase some canning essentials. here are the basics:

a huge pot - you may have a pot large enough but i purchased a new canning one. it has a special tray inside that can be raised and lowered to make putting your jars of jellies and such into and out of boiling water a little bit easier. i highly recommend the canning pot!

canning tongs - as i said before, you'll be putting your jars of jelly, fruit, veggies, etc, into a boiling water bath for extended periods of time. these tongs help you get the jars and and out.

a canning funnel - this funnel is specifically sized to fit into the mouth of your canning jars. 

canning jars - these jars are typically sold in packs of 6 or 12. i have seen several packs at target, walmart, hobby lobby, etc. they have removable lids and rims. the rims can be used time and time again but the lids have to be replaced after each use. lids can be purchased separately each year.

pectin - this is what turns makes your jams and jellies into, well, jams and jellies. there are a couple different brands and different sizes of this product. i like to purchase a larger container because i know i will use it. (if i'm going to get out the canning products, i'm going to make a ton of it all at once.) you will use several tablespoons for one batch of jam or jelly.

this is all you will really need to get started. once you have your products in place, you are ready to begin. check out diy: making your own jams and jellies - the process for simple recipes to start cooking.

Friday, July 26, 2013

friday fun finds: the circus is coming to town! the greatest show on earth®. ringling bros. and barnum & bailey® presents built to amaze

the greatest show on earth® is coming to san diego!

many moons ago i remember my parents taking my sister and me to our first circus---it was a magical experience and i can't wait to share that feeling with my first born and my nephew when i take them.

the greatest show on earth®. ringling bros. and barnum & bailey® presents built to amaze will be performing at the valley view casino center (formerly known as the san diego sports arena) from august 8-11. 

i can't wait to arrive early for several exciting interactive elements they have before the show starts! opening 90 minutes prior to each performance, *all* ticket holders are invited to tour the animal open house to get up-close with their amazing animals. as if that isn't enough, one hour before show time, families can step onto the arena floor to meet the circus performers and animals at the interactive all access pre-show, *free* admission to all ticket holders. how wonderful is that?!

when: thursday, august 8th – sunday, august 11th

•thursday, august 8th at 7:00 pm

•friday, august 9th at 11:00 am & 7:00 pm

•saturday, august 10th at 11:00 am, 3:00 pm & 7:00 pm

•sunday, august 11th 1:30 pm & 5:30 pm

where: valley view casino center (formerly san diego sports arena)

3500 sports arena boulevard, san diego, CA 92110

*free parking* in all official arena parking lots; visit arena website for more info

tickets: ticket prices are $20, $25, $40 (vip), $55 (front row) and $90 (circus celebrity)*

special discounted opening night tickets for only $10 each (select seating only; not valid on vip/premium levels)

all seats are reserved; tickets available for purchase online through ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the valley view casino center box office.

*tickets may be subject to service charges, facility and handling fees.

hope to see you there!

Monday, July 22, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: texas sheet cake

i'm not from texas but my grandparents were. we were raised hearing that everything is better in texas. this cake is proof of that. it is so decadent and, oh, so good. it's a crowd pleaser and there is definitely enough cake to share...though i'm telling you right now, you won't want to.

texas sheet cake

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 sticks of butter

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

preheat oven to 400 degrees. mix flour and sugar in a large bowl and set aside. 

in a saucepan, heat the butter, cocoa and water until boiling. pour the boiled mixture over the flour and sugar mixture and mix well. add the eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla. mix well. pour the ingredients into a greased sheet cake pan. bake for 20-25 minutes.

cake icing

1 cup butter

8 tablespoons cocoa powder

12 tablespoons milk

4-6 cups of powdered sugar (this is approximate)

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

heat the butter, cocoa and milk in a saucepan until well blended. add the powdered sugar to the melted mixture until smooth and creamy. when the cake is removed from the oven, pour the icing mixture over the cake while the cake is still hot. top with the nuts. cool, slice and serve. amazing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

simple solutions: quick way to remove beach day sand from your body

i love going to the beach. i am a southern california gal and the beach is just in my blood, i guess. going is fun....but the worst part of a beach trip is the *sand*. anyone else with me? it's awful.

after we have hiked back to the car and are ready to go home we have to start the process of removing the sand. it seems to stick everywhere. 

the easiest solution i have found is.....baby powder. no joke. i simply pat my littles dry and then sprinkle on baby powder and the sand easily wipes away. no more itchy sand of their bodies and even better is no sand in the car! 

sometimes the best solutions are the easiest. give it a try the next time to are beach bound and let me know what you think! enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

my sparkling truth: confessions, a single mama and the road trip

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this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of glaceau fruitwater®.

to say that life has thrown me a few curve balls in the past couple years would be an understatement. since our sites popularity has grown, i struggle with how much of my private life i am willing to talk about. it scares me a little lot to open myself up to criticism or simple opinions. when glaceau approached me to write about my "sparkling truth" (
a moment when you sparkle through unexpected challenges, brushing yourself off in a bubbly style) , i knew i would have to be brave and let you all into more of the reality of my life. 

let's just say that i am not where i thought i would be in my life at 38. i never thought i would be a single mama. just saying the words makes me want to cringe. don't get me wrong, i always admired single moms....i just never was going to be one. i remember seeing a single mother and thinking "wow---i could never do that".....and then that is exactly where i found myself. alone with two little boys. i would have thought i would be more bitter than i am...even angry perhaps. that's not to say that i haven't had my moments, but my natural instinct was one that i didn't expect. i put a smile on my face and make life seem as "normal" as i can for my two boys (now 3 and 5). my "i could never do that" turned into a reality and the awesome news/silver lining/ sparkling truth is that i found out that i am a whole lot stronger than i thought i was.

a week ago was my wedding anniversary. not the first since our separation, but it was the first since the divorce became final. i didn't know how much it would affect me-- what a painful reminder it would be to me of the failure of our marriage. it hit me like a ton of bricks.

i decided to do something i *never* thought i could do and i packed up the boys and headed out on a road trip to visit my sister and her family. 8+ hours in a car. alone with the littles. the idea was daunting, but i didn't allow myself much time to think about it. we made it from san diego to sacramento and then i practically held my breath for a week hoping that we would survive the return trip. we did. the boys were truly amazing and i returned feeling like i could take on the world. i, for a moment, allowed myself to acknowledge this very big accomplishment and give myself a pat on the back. i did it. 

life may have thrown me a few curve balls, but i now know what my sparkling truth is: not only will i survive, i will thrive. i really *can* do this! it may not have been my "dream"---- this life i have now is not one that is tied up with a big red bow and a white picket fence....but i am so very thankful for it. i am blessed with two unbelievable boys and have also learned that i have some pretty amazing friends and family that i can depend on and trust in more than i ever knew. dare i say that in spite of all the heartache i am actually happy? maybe not as happy as i could be....but i am finding the blessings in each day and know that life is only going to get better from here. i have my days that are hard, but overall i am now a happier, healthier and stronger version of myself.

the awesome people at glaceau were kind enough to send me some of their fruitwater. glaceau fruitwater® is a great tasting, naturally flavored sparkling water beverage that contains no juice. i brought them with me on the trip and the sweet, sparkling water gave me all the energy i needed to make the voyage there and back. my favorite is the orange mango, with the lemon lime a close second. glaceau fruitwater® is available in the following flavors: black raspberry + other natural flavors, orange mango flavored + other natural flavors, strawberry kiwi flavored + other natural flavors, lemon-lime flavored + other natural flavors and watermelon punch flavored + other natural flavors.

glaceau fruitwater® is a great tasting, naturally flavored sparkling water beverage that contains no juice.

now that you’ve read about my “sparkling truth”, it’s time to share yours! a sparkling truth is a moment when you sparkle through unexpected challenges, brushing yourself off in a bubbly style. how do you sparkle on when life throws you a curve ball? leave a comment on this post or jump in the conversation on social media by tagging your amplification with the hashtag, #sparklingtruth.

visit http://fruitwater.com for more information and to help you discover your favorite sparkling truths.

this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of glaceau fruitwater® but all opinions are all my own.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

surviving summer vacation: netflix for families

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while all the opinions are my own, i am honored to be writing a sponsored post on behalf of netflix.

rainy day movie time...

the nellie clan is traveling. we took a thirteen hour road trip (more stories about his later) with the five kids to connecticut to visit with some friends of ours. these are friends i have known for 30+ years so our memories and our friendships go way back. the kids have playmates and we have great adult conversation. it's a win-win all the way around. 

there is one key difference between the home we are visiting and the home that is our own. our friends have made the choice to not have a television in their house. they do have a computer and a lot of books but no television entertainment. i applaud and respect their choice completely but it is a huge transition for my own children. with the five of my kids at home all summer long, TV time and movie time become a break in all the *quality* interaction that summer vacation can bring. my kids spend time together, play together, swim together and do things individually but they sometimes need time to unwind. that time is often our family movie time. when the youngest two are napping, the big kids will curl up and watch their favorite disney shows together. they seem to need these breaks as well and it gives me a small bit of time in the afternoons to detox from all the summertime activities. 

transitioning to a house without tv has been a difficult switch for my kiddos. there are now eight kids playing all the time and, occasionally, i will find that one or more of the kids need a general "time out" away from all the business that all those kids create. 

add to these dynamics a very sick three year old who has wheezed and coughed horribly since our arrival and we have been extremely thankful that we thought to bring my computer, an ipod and my iphone along for the journey. we have been able to pull up shows on netflix families in various locations around the house and give the kids a small amount of alone time to relax in the midst of vacation chaos.

so sad!

my kiddos are huge disney fans and they love the fact they can rewatch their favorite "handy manny" and "good luck charlie" episodes on netflix. netflix families even has new categories on their website fit for summer like "family movie night", "tv for curious kids", "are we there yet" and more. 

my favorite part of their netflix time? there are no commercials...ever. i love commercial free viewing for my children (and myself). i can allow the kids to watch a show i know and trust and i do not have to worry they will see some commercial content of which i do not approve. 

so, while we are here visiting our friends, we are happily coexisting...her children without tv and mine with. they are having the best time interacting and playing with one another. there times full of battleship and hullabaloo but there are also times for my kids when they can sit quietly and come down from it all. they seem to need that and, frankly, so do i. netflix families lets us have that, easily and on various devices for various kids. that extra little bit of happiness is more than i could ask for. 

Netflix.com/Families is a new destination designed to meet your family’s summertime entertainment needs. On Netflix.com/Families, parents can find lists of movies and TV shows for all kinds of special summer moments.

Visit www.Netflix.com/Families for more information on the best ways to stream as well as videos from families using Netflix.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Netflix.

Monday, July 8, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: mexican rice

the nellie family is on vacation this week, visiting some friends in lovely connecticut. while we are here, we cooked dinner for our hosts to help with the meal making load (that's what you do when there are eight children involved). last night was mexican night. there are a few recipes that are my favorites for every mexican night. this one is one of them...amazing mexican rice to accompany all your favorite mexican meals. the best part? if you have a rice cooker, you can cook this right in your cooker. if not, it works just as well on the stove. enjoy!

mexican rice (rice cooker or stove)

2 cups white rice

1/2 chopped onion (or one bag frozen chopped onions)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (if you like rice spicy, keep in the seeds. if you like your rice mild or you have kids to feed, take out all the seeds.)

1 tablespoon bacon grease or cooking oil (totally depends on if you are going for healthy or upping the delicious factor)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup salsa (again, choose mild or hot salsa based on how spicy you want it to be)

1/2 can green chilies

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups chicken broth

on the stove:

saute the onion, garlic and peppers in bacon grease or oil until soft. add all the remaining ingredients. bring to boil. reduce heat and cover until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

in the rice cooker:

saute the onion, garlic and peppers in bacon grease or oil until soft. add all the ingredients in the rice cooker. put on the regular rice cooking setting.


Monday, July 1, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: homemade granola bars

i have a great friend who is a master at all things homemade. she makes her own bread, does everything from scratch and makes the best meals for her family. she is a rock star. i had her granola bars and had to have the recipe for myself. it is a huge hit in this household.

homemade granola bars

4 1/2 cups oats

1/2 cup coconut oil or melted butter

3/4 cup honey

1 cup whole wheat flour

Optional add ins:

chia seeds

chopped pecans

wheat germ

chocolate chips

mix the oats, oil/butter, honey and whole wheat flour until all the ingredients are mixed well and completely coated. add whichever add ins you would like. my family loves the pecans and chocolate chips. mix well.

press into a 9 x 13 pan. bake at 320 degrees for 18-20 minutes. cool and cut into bars. enjoy!