Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili

Nothing beats a warm bowl of chili in the winter. It's comfort food at its finest, but sometimes it's nice to have something a little different. This Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili is not only vegetarian, but it's vegan and gluten free. Talk about a major win.

Supplies needed:

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion diced
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili pepper (only if you want spice)
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomato
2-3 medium sweet potatoes (peeled)
1 cup quinoa
32 ounces vegetable broth
Garnish with Avocados and cilantro

Step 1: Put the oil in a dutch oven or similar pot on medium heat. Add the diced onions and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Add the chopped garlic for about 2 minutes
Step 3: Add the tomato paste, oregano, chili powder and mix together for about 4 minutes
Step 4: Add the black beans, and diced tomatoes and mix together
Step 5: Add the sweet potatoes and then the vegetable broth
Step 6: Add 1 cup of quinoa and mix together (Note: Don't the let quinoa fool you it will expand)
Step 7: Let this sit, covered, for about 20-30 minutes.
Step 8: Garnish with Avocado, and if you like cilantro throw some of that as well.

This chili is tasty, filling, and easy to make. I love to make it for new neighbors or just as healthy meal for the family.

So give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

10 Ideas for a Snow Day

There's something about a snow day that turns you into a kid. Maybe it's because you remember listening to the radio for school closings, yes I said radio, or getting that special treat of Snow Cream. Either way there was something special about those days.

Now that we have kids snow days don't hold the same excitement. It holds a small panic of "What will we do all day"? The work to get young ones in snow gear is a serious workout, and they spend less time outside playing than it took to get them dressed. So I've pulled together some ideas on how to make the snow day a little easier.

1. Make them work and play outside: This year I bought the kids their own snow shovels. They think they're having fun, but really we're preparing them for the future of having to shovel the driveway and sidewalk. When the "work" is done there's snow angels, snowmen and snowball fights. Followed by some warm cocoa ready when they come in.

2. Photo Shoot: Pull out your camera and snap some photos. Maybe it's the kids playing outside, or you play dress-up and take some shots inside. I know E likes to snaps pictures so give the kids a camera (not the nice one) and see what they can do. My 2 year old takes some great shots and it's on a totally different level keeping my eyes open to ideas.

3. Indoor Picnic: This is the time to throw the rules out. Have a picnic in the living room, or maybe a luau with some hula dancing. 

4. Games & Puzzles: This is a big one for us. We are playing games and putting puzzles together throughout the day.

5. Surprises: I like to collect things at goodwill, yard sales or on clearance throughout the year. It could be a book, game, puzzle or toys. I save them for days like this or if the kids have been really good.

6. Little Chefs & Bakers: It's time to cook. Maybe you make homemade pizzas, granola treats, or snowflake cupcakes. No matter what you're passing the time and teaching the kids a life skill.

7. Build a fort: We have Crazy Forts, but a snow day means we go all out. Pull off the couch cushions, bring out the blankets and everyone get into the fun.

8. Craft time: It could be coloring together or maybe you have a craft kit you bought at Target or Michaels. I have plans for some glitter, constructions paper and glue (AKA: Homemade Valentines).

9. Clean-up: While the day is about fun, why not put some chores on the list. Laundry is loading up and the little ones can match socks or help sort. Don't forget about running the vacuum or maybe you do some dusting. Many hands make light work and my kids are always eager to help.

10. Netflix: Yep, we all know you'll hit that point where you can't go anymore and it's fine to put that subscription to work. Try to find a movie that fits with the day or let them watch something new. They have some great new series that are worth checking out!

Overall a snow day is a blessing, it's quality time together and while it may be really hard you'll look back and think about the laughs and giggles and know these memories are what it's all about.

What do you like to do on snow days?


Friday, January 23, 2015

Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour

I love walking through a theater. The history, the stories, the traditions; it's all sacred and special. So when I had the opportunity to go on the Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour I knew I couldn't pass it up.

One of the reasons I love NYC so much is because it's got the most live theaters per capita, and there's one that stands out from the rest. A staple for both the city and artists. Radio City Music Hall is a historic landmark with so much history and star power that even the 60-minute tour didn't cover everything, but it did come close!

I must confess this is not my 1st time taking the Stage Door Tour. Mike and I did it as a date back in 2010, so this time I decided to take my Mom and Eleanor for a girls day.

The halls were lines with movie posters that premiered at Radio City. Photos of artists and framed memorabilia were all throughout the building reminding you of the great people who have passed through the same rooms.

I really enjoyed getting to walk through the screening booth. Not only do you see the birds eye view of the theater, but our guide, Kevin, told us so many fun facts about the architecture, design, and that there really isn't a bad seat in the house.

As we walked through the maze of halls peeking in the different rooms it was nice to sit and watch a short movie on the history. Sitting in the original seats from 1932 and learning about the theater and famed Rockettes was so fascinating to all 3 of us. The photo of the Rockettes in the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers above spans from the 30's to today.

The highlight for all of us was when we met a Rockette. They have a photographer on hand to take photos of you and her together and once the group is done we got some history on The Rockettes. Kristin, our Rockette, had so many fun facts to share about her life as one of the precision dancers. She was 5'8 and explained that all the dancers work very hard during the holiday season performing up to 5 shows a day. When they opened the floor to ask her questions I asked what her favorite snack was to keep them energized. She said she, and a lot of the other dancers, like to eat PB&J, which Eleanor really liked since she LOVES PB&J as well.

We continued on with the tour looking at more photos, costumes and learning about the top secret stage hydraulics. So many details right down to the carpet pattern being "musical" and the reason behind the diamond shapes in the lobby was because it was said to be calming and keep people quieter.

This tour is something for a history, theater, art deco, architect and anyone who loves NYC. Even though I have done the tour before I learned different things and enjoyed the experience with my mom and daughter.

If you're planning a trip to NYC add the Stage Door Tour to your list of things to do and if you're a NYC native take a morning and play tourist you'll walk out with a whole new perspective and really see how lucky we are to still have this theater standing.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, but was given press tickets in exchange for my review. As always all opinions are my own.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CVS Gold Emblem Snacks Review

It's a New Year, and a lot of people start off with goals of eating healthier and/or maintaining a budget. I know these are on my list and I've got a secret that will help you tackle both: CVS!

When I learned about CVS having a Gold Emblem Abound line that focuses on healthier options I was excited to check it out. I have one close to home and my office and since I already shop for those quick things (re: Milk, eggs, children's medicine etc.) an extra moment down the snack aisle isn't a big deal time wise.

They have so many different types of snacks it's hard to pick a favorite. I mean their slogan kind of says is all "We're gold Emblem: Our standard is delicious." I really love snacking on almonds at my desk (my co-workers love it too) so it's become a staple for me, but I'm adding the probiotic mix for a little something special and it makes me feel like I'm getting a special treat.

The kids like the rice crisp and I'm a fan of the resealable top, a great car trip snack. I also love the superfruit snack bars. It's the perfect afternoon snack of sweet and yummy to get me through the day.

They have so many different and great things.  It's perfect to keep it in the pantry as fun snacks and to pack for lunches, or to add to a table when guest pop over, or if you're hosting a party. Whats better is if you use your CVS Extra Care card you can get a discount sometimes. Saving money and eating healthy; it's much easier than you think!

What snack do you like to pick up at your local CVS?

Note: I was provided samples in exchange for my review. As always all opinions are my own.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Early Intervention 6 Month Update

It's hard to believe we've been a part of NJ's Early Intervention program for 6 months. Of course with 6 months comes a check-in/evaluation of how Camden is doing in the program and what, if any, changes should be made.

We decided to have our evaluation last month since the holidays were fast approaching. We filled out a few different questionnaires on what he's doing and what he still needs help with. After this we sat down with our service coordinator and therapists to talk about our goals and changes that need to happen.

Our week consisted of 2 Occupational Therapy (OT) sessions and 1 Development session with a Speech Therapist visiting once a month.

Our Occupational Therapist has really seen a major improvement in Camden and thought it would be best to cut him back to 1 session a week, as he's pretty on target. He still has a lot of things to work on, but we all agreed the Speech needed to be increased and focused on more.

He's talking so much better than before, but he's not very clear and needs to work on putting the whole sentence together. We're excited about this because while I do speak "Toddler" it will be nice to have others understand what he's asking for, or laugh at his fun sense of humor.

We even got a new Speech Therapist who has really had us focus on the shapes he makes with his mouth. I wouldn't have thought that drinking out of a straw can help, but it does so we're having Silly Straw Saturday everyday! Mike and I are also working on making him say the full sentence. "I want cheese please." or "Can I play downstairs?"

It's hard to believe that he's turning 3 in early March and will be no longer be in this part of the Early Intervention program. I can not recommend it enough and the positive changes it's had for our whole family.

I'm excited to see his growth over these next 2 months as we finish our the program and figure out our next steps.


Monday, January 5, 2015

DIY- Snowflake Decoration

The holiday season has come to end. The decorations have come down, and if you're like me you've picked up some fun things after Christmas for the next year and/or to get crafty with.

One of the things I wanted to do was focus on some winter decor and when I saw tons of blue, silver and white bows on clearance for 90% off I knew what I needed to do. Make a snowflake or should I say "Bowflake" for the front door. In fact this whole project was under $5.

Supplies needed:
Bows (I had a bag of 50 and didn't use them all)
Craft Sticks - Dollar Tree
Duck Tape
Hot Glue Gun
Scissors or Razor knife (this is to cut the duck tape to shape)

Step 1: Lay the crafts stick out in your snowflake shape.
Step 2: Use the Duck Tape to connect it all together. I picked a beautiful blue.
Step 3: Creative you bow pattern. Take your time to figure out what you like.
Step 4: Use the Hot Glue Gun to glue down the bows
Step 5: Tape a strip of duck tape and make a loop on the back so you can hang your snowflake

That's it. It's a project you can do in about a half hour and so simple a 4 year old can help. E helped to make the shape of our snowflake and the pattern of the bows. It was a great project for us to work on together.

Did you pick up any bows after the holiday? I would love to see what you're making with yours.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's a new year and I've got plans!

I'm happy to say that I've spent from Christmas to today not doing anything for the blog. I took this time to be present with my family, watch way to many Hallmark Channel holiday movies, and even attempt to get organized (Hallmark movie won out on this one).

Our holiday was focused on "family and love" per E's request and while I may have lost my temper more than I like it was great to remember that these people hold my heart and for that the past year was wonderful.

We brought the New Year in as a family with a living room dance party and tons of snuggles, hugs and kisses.

Now as we get ready to head back to work and school I'm putting some time into getting organized (this means Hallmark Holiday movies aren't on anymore).

I have a lot of goals for the 2015 year personally, professionally and blog wise. I'm hoping to really push myself in all these areas, but to make a big effort to explore with the kids and see family as much as we can.

I hope you had a great holiday and look forward to sharing our adventures and ideas in the new year!