Outdoor Movie Night :: Hotel Transylvania.

30 September 2013 | 4 Comments

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We wanted to get at least one more backyard movie night in before the weather turns cold.  Since fall is definitely in the air already, we asked everyone to bring a blanket and we bundled up to watch the movie Hotel Transylvania in the backyard.  It was a cute, non-scary monster movie that everyone could enjoy, perfect choice to put us all in the Halloween spirit.  

We brought out the Keurig and provided hot apple cider K-cups along with monster juice and eyeball water for the kids.  We filled a witches cauldron full of hard cider for the adults and thanks to your fantastic suggestions, had a few bottles for adding a shot to hot cider. 

I like to have a few themed choices in addition to movie candy and of course, popcorn.  This time we made white chocolate covered Candy Corn Oreos look like mummies.  Then we made chocolate covered Halloween Oreos with sea salt and with the leftover mummy white chocolate, I made glasses to add for the Invisible Man since that is all you see of him for most of the movie.  I used the same technique that I did with these cute spider web cupcake toppers, you make the design on waxed paper and then it peels right off and you can do what you’d like with them.   We also made some ‘scream cheese’ jalapeno poppers and scary spinach dip.

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Want to see more of our backyard movies?  Ferris Bueller, The Sandlot, Wreck it Ralph, Old School

Sources: {contains Amazon Affiliate Links} 

  • Zombie Head boxes :: Bird Doodle
  • Gummy rats, vampire paper bags, pink pumpkin :: Target
  • Eyeball Lights :: super easy DIY on a strand of white lights with plain ping pong balls, Sharpie markers, and an Xacto knife
  • Screen :: two plain white king sized sheets hung on a fence
  • Projector :: similar 
  • Sound :: We use Dave’s old amp, you can also use computer speakers or wireless speakers

I Definitely Need to Punctuate Something.

25 September 2013 | 1 Comments

Yesterday was National Punctuation Day.  I think it’s worth mentioning that I probably should have known this, but I didn’t.  {Thanks Sarah.}  I would have punctuated the hell out of something.

Tonight, I’m going to be on The Spill with Gigi Ross.  We’re talking about gender disappointment during pregnancy.  It’s one of those touchy subjects you don’t even want to admit to yourself let alone talking about it for the whole world to see.  Maybe you’ll relate? 

Just so you all know, I’m probably going to wear pajama pants and pretend that I am a professional.  Let’s just keep that between us, ok?  If you’ve ever wondered what I am like live and in person {hint: still a socially awkward giant freak… you will soon realize why I hide behind a laptop screen} hop over to the Google+ On Air Hangout at 9pm Eastern tonight!  And if you miss it, you can always check it out on YouTube later. 

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Here is some great stuff elsewhere:

>>> This is the best Where the Wild Things Are party I have ever seen.  No joke, it is perfection, go see for yourself.

>>> A million years ago I wrote this post on how weird it is when people tell you that they read your blog.  AWK-ward.  My friend Emily posted about this very subject from a different perspective.  If you’re a blogger, how do you feel about it?  Do you want someone to say ‘hey, I read your blog’ or do you not want to know?

>>> DIY Chewbacca Costume.

Meme's Beef Stew.

24 September 2013 | 5 Comments

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My Meme is a good cook.  I remember watching her throw a handful of things in wondering how she knew it would taste good, she rarely measures anything.  She has this intuition and even more than that, a knack for using what she has on hand, making substitutions and experimenting.  That is probably both the result of growing up during the depression and having six children of her own to feed.  She still cooks for all of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, though now, at 89 years old, she’s more than willing to pass along the tasks to others. 

Lasagna is her signature dish, she always makes one with meat, the other vegetarian, but that isn’t the dish I love the most.  My favorite is her beef stew.  On the best fall or winter days, we would come home from grade school and it would be waiting in the crockpot.  Lyndsey was always banned from getting her own because she’d pick out all of the potatoes and the meat, leaving veggies for everyone else.

It’s really one of those recipes that is so forgiving that it’s virtually impossible to screw up and you can really tailor it to your own family.  Once you get the basics down, feel free to experiment as much as you’d like.  For this one, I’m using all fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market since everything is in season right now, but you can use frozen with great results.

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You will need:

  • 1 – 2 pounds of stew meat, cut into chunks
  • 1 – 2 small white onions
  • 2 carrots {you can use baby carrots or the pre-sliced carrot chips if you like, or you can also use parsnip}
  • 2 – 3 cups potatoes {use any kind here or substitute in sweet potatoes, turnips, or Hubbard squash if you like}
  • salt, black pepper, and about 1 – 1.5 Tablespoons of herbs {I like thyme, rosemary, garlic powder and usually a pinch of nutmeg.  You can also use oregano, cayenne, or bay leaves.}
  • dash or two of Worchester sauce, optional
  • 1 cup of red wine {or a stout like Guiness, you don’t have to measure, just dump in the whole bottle}
  • large carton of beef broth {or homemade stock if you have it}
  • 2 –3 cups of veggies {corn, peas, green beans, lima beans, mushrooms, zucchini, even broccoli or cauliflower}
  • corn starch and water – or – a roux

First, you will want to brown your stew meat, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.  Heat a heavy pot to medium high and sauté the meat in batches with a little olive oil so that all sides get browned.  You won’t need to make sure it’s completely cooked through at this point, you just need to get a great sear.  I use tongs to turn each piece and pull it out when all sides are browned.  Hint:  You’ll know when to flip when the meat releases from the pan, if it’s still sticking as you go to turn, wait a bit and try again.  If you’re wanting to be lazy, just throw all the meat in and brown it up a bit… doing small batches is best, but you’re not going to ruin it if you do it the lazy way.

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After the meat is seared and set aside, you will sauté your onion and carrots.  They will release liquid when cooking, to help deglaze the pan.  That just means it will loosen all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan when you seared the beef.  You can use a wooden spoon at this point to help scrape those off the bottom.  Cook for about 2 minutes, just enough to get the raw out of the onion.  Add some salt, black pepper, herbs, and a couple dashes of Worchester sauce if you have it. 

Add the meat back in and add your potatoes.  You will want to keep the potatoes slightly larger than bite sized.  If you cut them too small, they’ll fall apart and dissolve into the stew.  I used small white potatoes and just cut them in half after scrubbing them.  You can use a big potato and peel it, baby reds with the skins on or off, fingerlings, or really any potato you like.

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Then you will cover everything with a cup of red wine {or substitute a stout like Guiness} and the stock.  I used homemade turkey stock today because it’s what I had on hand, but beef stock is fantastic here.  Canned or carton is just fine, just try to get a low sodium version.  You can even add a little water if the stock doesn’t cover everything.

Cover and cook for one hour {or longer if you want} at a low simmer.  Next, add your veggies and cook for another half hour to 45 minutes on medium low.  When I’m using frozen, I usually just leave them out on the counter when the beef is cooking to thaw slightly.  You can also just throw them in frozen.  

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After everything has cooked, stick a fork into a potato and try one of the veggies to make sure everything is done.  TASTE the broth here to see if you need to add any seasoning.  Is it flavorful enough?  Does it need something?  Add a bit at a time, stir and re-taste until you’re sure the flavor is there.  The potatoes are tricky because they absorb a lot of the seasoning during cooking, I almost always need to add seasoning.

Once the flavor is good, turn up the heat slightly to keep it at a simmer.  Then, you’ll make your slurry of cornstarch and cold water.  {You can also make a roux instead, but it’s more involved and I am lazy.}  To make the slurry, in a coffee cup, put 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of corn starch, add cold water and stir frantically until all of the cornstarch is combined, making sure to scrape the bottom.  You will feel like you screwed something up, just keep stirring until it combines and looks like milk.  Pour about half into the stew, stirring continuously.  I usually use a whisk here, but you can use a wooden spoon too, just make sure to keep stirring.  You will see the stew start to thicken, add more of the slurry if you need to, I usually have a big enough pot that I use all of it.  If your stew gets overly thick, you can always add more stock or hot water to thin it down a bit, just stir and it will loosen up.  If it’s not thick enough, let it bubble for a minute or two, it will likely thicken up.

Serve with buttermilk biscuits, dinner rolls, or a good, crusty bread.

It’s even better the next day.

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Finnisms.

23 September 2013 | 4 Comments

Finnisms, the toothless edition.  Lost while eating toast.

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Finn:  The windmill just broke.

Me:  That’s the windshield wiper and it’s not broken.

Finn:  It’s a windmill, trust me.

>>>----------------------------------------------<<<

My dress went aloft again, this time in the parking lot of Fresh Market.

You should not wear dresses in the summer Mom.  Now, I think you’ve learned your lesson.  You need to check the weather forecast to see if it is windy first.

>>>----------------------------------------------<<<

Midway through the Phantom Menace, his first Star Wars movie:

So mom… the same person who plays Grover, plays Yoda?

>>>----------------------------------------------<<<

Finn: Tate!  In thirty years you'll be a parent.  Then you can say that.

Me:   Maybe you will be a parent.  Tate, will you be a mama?

Tate:  You mama and Mi - chelle.

Me:  That's right.  And maybe Finn, you'll want to be a dad in thirty years.

Finn:  I'll be a grandparent.

Me: In thirty years, you'll be my age Finn!  I hope you’re not a grandparent at my age!

Finn:  But, I'm older than her.

Me:  What started this conversation anyway?

Finn:  She told ME to calm down!  She's telling me what to do, but she's not the mom.

Fair Trade, Green Mountain Coffee, + A Giveaway!

19 September 2013 | 205 Comments

Keurig Green Mountain
I would call our household moderately socially and environmentally conscious.  We’re probably a little more so than most Americans, but there are definitely areas that we could improve.  We recycle, we compost though we aren’t fanatical about it, and we shop at our local farmer’s market whenever possible.  We also try to support companies that make good choices with our purchasing dollars wherever we can.  I think there are lots of ways to do simple, easy things to make a difference.  Even if it doesn’t feel like a monumental contribution to remember to take the reusable bags to the store with you, just think what would happen if everyone made those small changes. 

One of those little things is purchasing Fair Trade Certified™ coffee.
We are daily coffee drinkers at our house.  Throughout the year, that makes for a lot of coffee beans.  I like knowing when I buy coffee and consciously choose Fair Trade Certified that we’re using our purchasing power to make sure that people in farming communities are getting a fair wage for their hard work.  Fair Trade, in essence, eliminates the middleman who often would pay a fraction of its value, and puts coffee farmers in direct contact with the roasters that are buying their product.  These roasters, in turn, are also building sustainable relationships with farmers to ensure that they are using the land in an environmentally sound way, enabling them to develop the best product possible.
In 2000, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., owner of Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee®, was one of the first roasters in the United States to offer Fair Trade Certified coffee to consumers.  They sent us the Platinum Brewing System and a whole lot of Fair Trade Certified Green Mountain Coffee to try.  I was a little hesitant to make the leap to a Keurig after being a traditional brew girl all these years.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use and how much I like being able to freshly brew a single cup throughout the day.  Since the K-Cup packs are only partially recyclable, I am also going to take the suggestion of a friend and buy their re-usable K-Cup!  
Green Mountain Coffee is celebrating Fair Trade Month in October and confirming their commitment to Fair Trade with their new, Extra Bold blend, Fair Trade Certified™ Three Continent Blend.  They teamed up with Kelly Clarkson who was sent on an adventure to visit a coffee farm in Peru.  You can share in her experiences and learn more at Choose Fair Trade.
Are you a coffee drinker, and if so, would you consider buying fair trade coffee?

Tell me and one So Wonderful, So Marvelous reader will receive a Keurig® Brewing System and a Green Mountain Coffee® gift basket!

Sweepstakes Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 09/18/13-10/31/13.

Very Important, Grown Up Things.

18 September 2013 | 10 Comments

I do loads of very important, grown up things.

I make lunches every weekday morning and sometimes I even remember to tuck a note inside.  I tell two little people that I helped make and carried inside my very own body, to clean their room.  I am the one that Tate comes running to when she needs bumps and bruises kissed or to just give a cuddle when she’s upset about something in her two year old little world. 

Plus, I have retirement accounts.  Like actual money, not game of Life money, saved in an account for when I am old, which incidentally is not as far away as I’d like to imagine.  Grown ups totally have retirement accounts.

My name is on a mortgage.  For a house.  And while it is tiny, it isn’t doll sized.

And someone calls me Mom and another someone calls me “Mama, um Mi—chelle.”  Another person calls me his wife when making introductions to his work colleagues.  And the children get fed and the animals get fed and I even keep plants alive.  Mostly. 

These are all terribly grown up things and I do them.  I do them every single day. 

But last night.

Last night, I ran downstairs to throw a load of laundry in so Finn had clean uniforms for tomorrow morning.  I am very much winning the land of grown up things, but I apparently haven’t mastered the land of last minute doing of things. 

And I grabbed this stain stick thingy that someone gave me a sample of and has been sitting on my laundry table for like a year probably.  I grab the thing and I pull the white shirt out of the hamper because Finn mysteriously came home with an inexplicable giant blue dot right there in the center of his white shirt yesterday.

Where do these things come from?

I start scrubbing with the stain stick thingy and the blue dot starts to fade and right there, bam!  Smack in the face, it was that.  I’m not sure why it was that, but it was the thing.  THE thing. 

You know who gets stains out of clothes? 

Grown ups, that’s who.  And I’m one of them.

Shit.

Cedar Point HalloWeekends For Families.

17 September 2013 | 8 Comments

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Cedar Point invited us to spend the day with them at the HalloWeekends opening weekend.  {Disclosure: Cedar Point provided the tickets + parking for this event, all of the fun having, travel costs, smiles and opinions are our own.}  The cooler weather, shorter lines, fun Halloween décor, and all kinds of spooky entertainment make fall my absolute favorite time of year to visit the park.

If you’re taking small children, I highly recommend going on Saturday when you’ll find all of the children’s areas and Trick or Treat with the Dinosaurs open.  We intended on going during the day and leaving the park when it got dark as the spooky haunted houses and scare zones were open, but we stayed way past bedtime.  We spent the earlier part of the day toward the back of the park and moved up front to Planet Snoopy, the Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, Ocean Motion, and the Sky Ride after dark.  Cedar Point has done an excellent job of having loads of options for families.

Dave and I are going to try to sneak back without the kids on a Friday night to experience all of the haunted houses, scare zones, and Gate Keeper!  The scary areas looked really fantastic this year.  They are open every weekend through October. 

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Cedar Point Iron Dragon

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Raptor Cedar Point

Our favorite addition for kids this year is Trick or Treat with the Dinosaurs.  There were trick or treat stations set up throughout Dinosaurs Alive and some of the dinosaurs were dressed in silly costumes.  I want to high-five the Cedar Point genius in charge of this idea, everything was brilliant.  I absolutely LOVED that in addition to a few candy treats handed out by the costumed staff, they also gave out apples and mini pumpkins, Halloween cups, and little toys.  At the end, they also had hay bales and pumpkins and scarecrows set up so you could take fall photos… even if your children are punks who are WAY more interested in watching the animatronic T-Rex family and looking at mini pumpkins than smiling adorably for their mother.

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Halloweekends Decorations

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I leave you with Finn’s interpretation of being ‘scared’ of the gargoyle looming in the background.

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