Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mermaid Project

Lily and I made this fun project last year and she wanted to do it again this year. It's really simple and you can adapt it to any character.

  1. Draw a mermaid onto a large piece of kraft paper. Cut it out.

  2. Trace just the tail onto a piece of aluminum foil (shiny side up) and cut it out.

  3. Turn the foil over so that the shiny side is down and draw scales with a pen on the matte side. (The impression will show on the reverse side.)

  4. Glue the tail onto the kraft mermaid.

  5. Mix tempera or acrylic paint with a tiny bit of white school glue and paint a random pattern onto the scales.

  6. Paint the mermaids hair and bikini top.

  7. To make a boy character, try Sponge-Bob Square Pants, or a boy with a big hat. Any modification will do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sweet Country Ribs

We love a good rib sandwich in the hot summer months. This is one of my all-time favorite summer crockpot recipes. You can make it your own by adding your favorite BBQ sauce as a topping.

Sweet Country Ribs
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder (use chipotle chili powder for a little kick)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce
4 lbs. pork country ribs (I prefer boneless so I can cook them in the crockpot and not have to pick out bones)

Combine all in a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6 hours or high for 3.5 hours. Shred with two forks when finished. Serve on crusty rolls and top with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Being a Good Mom

I saw this on a blog the other day and thought it was so sweet. I wanted to share. Enjoy!

Squash Side Casserole

This delicious side dish is actually filling enough to be a summer main course, if you don't have any Meat and Potatoes men living in your home! Squash Side Casserole
2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup sliced zucchini
3/4 cup sliced squash
3/4 cup reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Stacy's pita chips, crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare rice according to directions (substitute 1 3/4 cups chicken broth or stock for water).

  2. When rice is finished add remaining 1/4 cup stock, sour cream, green onions, 1/2 tsp garlic salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, stirring well.

  3. Pour rice mixture into a 1.5 quart baking dish. Top evenly with two layers of zucchini and squash, overlapping slices. Sprinkle with remaining garlic salt and pepper. Cover with foil.

  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Top evenly with crushed pita crumbs. Bake 5 m inutes longer or until cheese melts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mini-strawberry tarts

This recipe make a dozen tarts. I think they'd be really cute for a summer luncheon or picnic. I think there may be an easier way to make them too. (I'll explain below).

Mini-strawberry tarts

1 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries

2 cups heavy whipping cream ( I wonder if you could substitute lite Cool whip and omit the sugar below)

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 pkg. Keebler mini-graham cracker pie crusts

Garnish: 12 strawberries, cut into quarters and fresh mint leaves (which my kids thought were sooo gross! LOL)

  1. In a blender, puree strawberries until smooth.

  2. In medium bowl, combine cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup strawberry puree. Beat until stiffer peaks form.

  3. Spoon mixture into crusts. Drizzle remaining puree over tarts. Garnish as desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Steak and Vegetable Panzanella

I've seen lots of different versions of this hearty, Italian summer salad. The basics are usually the same: crusty bread, steak, veggies and some sort of leafy lettuce or herbs, all tossed with a vinegar-based dressing. I prefer this recipe, but you can add or delete items that don't appeal to you. I think this is a super light summer time treat. 6 oz. French bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp canola oil
1 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1/2 cup torn fresh basil
1/4 cup torn or chopped fresh parsley
1/2 head torn romaine (or arugula)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup EVOO

  1. Preheat oven to 350*. Place torn bread on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

  2. Heat canola oil in medium skillet. Sprinkle both sides of steak with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Add steak to skillet; cook 3 minutes on each side. Bake for 7 minutes or until desired doneness. Let stand on cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing.

  3. In large bowl combine bread, steak, cucumber, carrots, radishes, basil, parsley and romaine.

  4. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and EVOO. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Drizzle over salad. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dance Recital 2011

This past week was a blur of last chance dance classes, dress rehearsals and the grand finale...the 2011 Dance Recital.

Lily was the picture - perfect, poised ballerina! These pictures are a mixture of the rehearsal and the recital. In the rehearsal pics you will notice girls wearing different costumes. Some of the girls in Lil's ballet class are also in other dance classes and they chose just one outfit to wear for the rehearsal.

This was taken backstage, just moments before they went on stage at the university for the recital. The song was "Rainbow Connection" (NO, not the Kermit version. The Sarah McLauglin version. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful). There were two girls in purple (Lily was one of them), two in peach, two yellow and three pink.

Next year she wants to go back to Hip-Hop, Jazz and Ballet I'm not sure if I'll be able to juggle all of those classes, but I don't want to stifle her creativity either. We will try to make it work.

Congrats to my perfect ballerina!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The B Book

Remember that book? I think it may have been a Dr. Seuss book, or at least it looked like one. The B Book - Big Brown Bear, Blue Bull, Beautiful Baboon, Blowing Bubbles, Biking Backwards, Bump! Etc.... Everytime we blow bubbles, it reminds me of that book. LOL

Zoey and I had an impromptu bubble blowing session the other day when it was about 90* outside. I caught a few cute pics of her in action...

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Congrats to my sweet little Girl Scout who made the big transition from a Daisy to a Brownie! I am so glad you decided to join Girl Scouts. It is a wonderful way to teach you about being a respectable, honorable person, as well as a fun way to make new friends! I hope you stay involved for a long time!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome Home - Day Ten

We got up around 7, ate some continental breakfast at the hotel and hit the road for home.

The first hour was peaceful. We played a trivia game called, “Beat the Parents.” The kids did great!

After an hour, Lily and Zoey started fighting over the pink Nintendo DS. Jack and I decided that Zoey will have to get her own DS for her next birthday. In fact, we probably should have gotten her one before the trip.

1:58pm 74* We just stopped for lunch at Steak N Shake outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Most people who eat at SNS are obese and I can see why. There were really very few healthy options on the menu. Lily was begging for money for the “claw” game. She is obsessed with those. We stood our ground and did not give her any money. Mostly because I’m done to $11 cash on me and I don’t want to go to a cash station until we get home, but also because she doesn’t need any more stuffed animals or junk!

Jack has been dealing with a head cold since the first day on the ship. Every time he sneezes in the car, I pray the rest of us don’t get it.

Matt is napping now. Lily is looking out the window. Zoey just finished reading her Disney Look & Find book and is now drawing on her Magna doodle.

My dad just called to invite us out to dinner on Friday for my mom’s 61st birthday at Texas Roadhouse.

Zoey’s new cranky word is “Nofing!” When she is crabby, tired and irritable, she will yell, “Nofing!” (aka Nothing!) at us. It’s actually a little funny.

It’s 4:50 pm and the temps have dropped to 63*. We are definitely close to home. The kids are restless and acting silly because they’re anxious to be home. I’m anxious too. We have about one hour left in the car. I’m hoping it goes by quickly. I’m thinking about all of the laundry and chores that need to get done as soon as I get home. Sigh

Five minutes from home and Matt just puked all over the backseat. I can’t believe he couldn’t hold it five more minutes. Guess I’ll be spending the rest of the day cleaning up the mess.

Welcome Home!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Going Home ....Day Nine

We set the alarm for 6:30 am, so we could get to the Breakfast with the Characters as soon as it opened. We thought it was going to be packed, but it wasn’t. We got to have pics taken with Pluto and Minnie.

Then we got on the road around 9am. All of us were very cranky today. Nobody got a good night’s sleep and emotions were running high.

We stopped for gas in Florida and paid $4.60 per gallon. Outrageous! The worst part is that gas is cheaper in FL than it is at home! :(

Around noon we stopped at McDonald’s so the kids could stretch their legs. I’m so sick of eating horrible, disgusting, junk food. I’m craving healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve probably gained at least ten pounds on this 10-day vacation. I’m gonna start the 30-day shred again as soon as I get home.

Zoey is really fussy today - almost unbearable. Nothing is comforting her and she won’t stop whining in the car (about everything)!!

We’ve already pulled over twice to try to make her more comfortable by getting her food and drinks, changing her diaper, getting toys and books for her. We set up the computer so the kids can watch Garfield, but Zoey was not interested.

I just wrote down some conversations overheard in the car:

Lily: I forgot to ask for a turtle for my birthday. Can I have a turtle please?
Me: Your birthday is over. You already got all of your presents. You celebrated at the roller rink, at home and on the cruise.
Lily: Screaming, crying, kicking the back of my seat

Lily: Dad, when were you born?
Jack: July 3, 1972 - almost 39 years ago
Lily: When was mom born?
Me: Not that long ago

Zoey: Say “me,” Mom
Me: meeee
Zoey: Say “me,” Lily
Lily: meee

Total miles traveled so far: 1,500

2:59pm We stopped at a rest area in Vienna, Georgia. It’s 90 degrees out and there are these little gnats swarming us. They were everywhere. It was so annoying. Zoey had a diaper explosion. It got over everything. There was no changing station in the women’s bathroom, so we had to change her in the grass. We even had to change her clothes. She’s in a better mood now, but Lily is freaked out by the bugs and Matt is just being a disrespectful brat! Feels like everyone needs a nap!

We decided to eat dinner in Atlanta which ended up being a bit of a mistake. We tried to google restaurants in Atlanta, hoping we’d find a Paula Deen (nope, Savannah) or Bobby Flay restaurant. It came up with Hard Rock Cafe, so we decided to go there. We had to drive around looking for a parking garage (much like Chicago), parked and walked a couple blocks only to find out that it was prom night and it was packed. They quoted us an hour and a half wait, so we walked down the street to a little Greek family cafe. There was no wait, but the kids were so overtired and restless that Matt and Lily ended up in time out at the restaurant, and Zoey was throwing a fit. I’m so done with eating at restaurants. I just want to eat a home-cooked meal at home, but that will require me to shop and cook.

We finally arrived at the Holiday Inn Express around 9pm, so we all just crashed!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom - Days 7 & 8

We had to be at breakfast by 6:45 this morning, which we didn’t make because Lily didn’t feel well. However, we did get there in time to eat and say goodbye to our table-mates: John, Mary and Annie. They invited us to visit them in Naples, Florida or at their summer lake home in North Carolina.

Check out and disembarkation went smoothly.

It’s now 7:40 CST (8:40 FL time? - I forget if they’re one or two hours ahead of us), and we are on the road headed towards our hotel - the Wyndam Disney Resort (formerly Disney’s Regal Sun Resort) where we stayed last year. It’s 80 degrees out and partly sunny.

We checked into our hotel early and took the hotel shuttle to Magic Kingdom. It was sooooo hot and humid. It turned out to be a record-breaking 95 degrees, but with the humidity it felt way over 100*. There were so many little girls wearing heavy princess dresses and outfits, that looked sweltering. I felt sorry for them. It was very crowded too! I think it was the most crowded I’ve ever seen the park. (Yes, I think I say that every year, but we usually go during Spring Break, along with the rest of the free world!) Luckily, we had a special access pass for Lily, that we got by showing her diagnosis letter from her doctor, so we didn’t have to wait in lines for rides. Most rides had a one hour or more stand-by wait time. We rarely waited more than 5-10 minutes, which is about Lil’s max.

Our first ride was, “It’s a Small World.” (our family tradition). Zoey loved it. She was frightened on “Snow White’s Scary Adventure,” so we decided not to take her on “Peter Pan’s Flight,” but she did like, “Winnie the Pooh.”

We ate lunch at the Pinocchio restaurant and continued on to Tommorowland. Matt was chomping at the bit to go on Space Mountain. I took Matt and Lil on it. It was much rougher than I remembered. It really whipped my neck around.

We also hit the Transit Authority and Buzz Lightyear Ride. Zoey even got to dance with Chip and Dale (decked out in space suits)!

It rained for about 5 minutes - just enough to drench us, but didn’t cool us off much. We stopped for some ice cream and then headed over to Frontierland. The kids went on Splash Mountain with Jack and then again with me. And then he took them on Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Jack also took M & L on the Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately, the Pirates of the Caribbean was shut down and we didn’t get to go on it this visit. M & L did go on Aladdin’s Magic Flying Carpet Ride. Matt wanted to go on the Jungle Cruise, but we were all hot and crabby, and didn’t want to go on that “hokey” ride.

There weren’t very many characters out and about in Magic Kingdom today, or maybe we were just always in the wrong place at the wrong time. We did happen upon Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Woody and Jessie, and Chip & Dale, but didn’t want to wait in lines for photos with them.

We left around dinner time, because we were all sweaty and tired. By the time our shuttle got us back to our hotel, it was late, so Jack picked up some Quizno’s sandwiches and we ate in the hotel room, then packed up for bed.

Our day began with breakfast and McDonald’s. Then we hopped on the hotel shuttle to Animal Kingdom. We originally considered going to Universal’s Islands of Adventure to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we had heard the lines were really long and we weren’t sure if we could get the special needs pass there, so the kids said they’d rather go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (They love the Expedition Everest ride there too, so it wasn’t hard convincing them!)

The weather was beautiful - in the 80’s, and much less humid. It was so much more comfortable than yesterday. It also seemed much less crowded than Magic Kingdom yesterday. We rented a double stroller for the girls, which made it easier for traveling.

There were lots of animals out. Animal Kingdom is a certified zoo too. It closes earlier than the other parks (5pm) so they can tend to all of the animals after hours. We saw many animals up close on the Jungle Safari and at Rafiki’s Petting Zoo.

Lily picked out a Baby Giraffe and Simba lion as souvenirs. She also got a baby Simba for her best friend, Maddy.

We ate lunch @ the Flame Tree BBQ, which is where Aunt Pat works, but she doesn’t work weekends, so she wasn’t there. The bbq is really good there.

The rides we enjoyed today included: the Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, Rafiki’s train, Jungle safari and Dinosaur (which is so loud and scary!)

As I was waiting for J, M and L to come back from the Kali River Rapids, I sat next to a woman on a bench, while Zoey ate some snacks in the stroller. The woman and I struck up a conversation about the shuttle launch. The very last ever NASA Endeavor Space Shuttle was supposed to launch today. When we got off the cruise ship in Port Canaveral, the Disney employees were telling us that over 750,000 people were in Florida to see the launch, including President and Mrs. Obama, and their daughters. Congresswoman Gifford, who was shot in the head a few months back by some terrorist in Arizona, was there to see her husband, an astronaut on the shuttle. However, the woman sitting next to me on the bench told me that the shuttle launch had been postponed due to mechanical difficulties.

Even though the park closed early today, we felt like we had the perfect amount of time to explore it.

We went back to the hotel (through rush hour traffic, so it was a long trip), and we ate Quizno’s again. (It was a healthier alternative to the other fast food restaurants around, and the kids like the turkey subs). Jack’s phone rang at the hotel. It was Mom and Dad checking to see if we were okay because some devastating tornadoes ripped through the southeast part of the country. I caught a couple minutes of the weather channel on the hotel TV and it looked like Alabama got hit with over 100 tornadoes. At the end of my conversation with Dad he said that he wants to come with us to Disney next year.

Aunt Pat and Uncle Vince brought my cousin Lisa’s two sons: Alex and PJ to our hotel pool to swim with the kids. The pool water was warm. I swam around with Zoey for a while. She had so much fun pretending to swim. She didn’t like kicking her feet, but she is still small. She’ll learn. When the sun went down it got really breezy and cool at night.

The hotel projected the movie, “Up,” onto one of the pool concession stand walls, and the kids swam and watched the movie. We had some drinks with Pat and Vince. Pat told me about the Royal Wedding (Prince William and Kate Middleton). I’m sure I’ll catch up on pics of the wedding when I get home.

We got to bed kind of late, but the kids fell asleep quickly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Disney Vacation Day Six - 2011

After breakfast this morn, the kids wanted to go swimming again! It was really crowded since today was a sea day and everyone was stuck on the ship. We stayed by the pool for a short time, then I took Zoey to see Mickey and Minnie in the atrium.

Don't you love the Mickey shaped pool?

Our suite on the ship was really spacious...

Enough room to get silly...

We just happen to pass by Tiana and Belle talking in the hallway about going to a ball. Those girls really stayed in character the ENTIRE time!!

This restaurant was called the Animator's Palate. We ate at a different restaurant each night...

This is where we saw Crush and Nemo and friends on the huge screens scattered throughout the restaurant... Matt loved the napkin folded to look like a candle...

More mini-golf...

Matt and Lily went to the clubs for awhile. There was so much for them to do in the clubs. They had a whole room that looked like Pixie Hollow with dress-up clothes. One room looked like a giant version of Andy’s room from Toy Story. There was a submarine filled with computers, an interactive dance floor, a cafeteria for cooking classes and science projects, an entire computer lab with Wiis and Game Boys and DSs. There were dance parties and lots of activities going on for the kids. They were never bored! Jack took Zoey to lay her down for a nap and I explored the ship, checked out the theaters and shops. I bought a 12x12 scrapbook with a picture of the ship and the title “Inaugural Cruise 2011” on it.

I picked up Lily and we went to check out the new movie African Cats. She liked the comfy seats and popcorn, but it was a little slow for Lily, so we left after about a half hour. Matt stayed at the club because he was having so much fun, and Zoey kept napping.

Awhile later Jack took the kids swimming again. Then we went to dinner and the show, “Believe.” The show was fantastic! It had lots of Disney magical characters and songs from Mary Poppins, Tinkerbell, the old, blind lady from Princess and the Frog, Weeping Willow from Pocahontas and Genie from Aladdin, plus more. It was really funny too. They incorporated a lot of jokes about current events like Lindsay Lohan’s shoplifting trial, Charlie Sheen and the Royal Wedding.

The kids went to sleep and I picked up our professional photos and paid out the stateroom bill.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Disney Vacation 2011 Day Five

We woke up around 7 - had breakfast and went to the pool. Matt and Lily went on the Aquaduck (water slide that goes around and off the ship) a couple of times and then we headed to the beach on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (pronounced Key).

We swam in the ocean for a little bit. Lily was afraid of the rocks and Zoey didn’t like the cool salt water temps. Matt had fun building sand castles on the beach with some boys he met. We ate some barbecue and then took the tram back to the ship.

The girls napped in our room while the boys went to the Arr-cade, played basketball, table tennis and mini-golf.

Next Zoey went to the nursery. On our way to dinner, we saw Tiana and Belle, Pirate Mickey and Minnie and Captain Hook.

Dinner was pirate themed. I guess every Disney cruise has a pirate night. They gave us Pirate Mickey tattoos, pirate bandanas and they were selling swords and hooks and other pirate stuff around the ship. All of the ship’s employees were dressed as pirates too. Lots of guests on the ship brought their own elaborate pirate costumes. It was neat to see how people got creative with pirate looks.

The crew sang Happy Birthday to Lily and Annie. It was Annie's actual birthday, but they knew that Lily's birthday had just passed, so both girl's got chocolate cakes and serenades!

After dinner, the kids wanted to go swimming, so they changed into their suits, but the pool was closed to make room for a massive Pirate Party later in the evening. So, Matt and Lily went on the Aquaduck about 4 times in a row (there was usually a long line, so this was rare). I took Zoey mini-golfing. It was a little scary on the top deck in the pitch darkness of the middle of the ocean, but it didn’t seem to bother Zoey. We took the kids to the Eye Scream station, then split up again. Jack took Matt golfing and I took the girls shopping. Lily picked out a Lotso Hugging Bear from Toy Story 3. He really does smell like strawberries. Zoey picked out a Baby Pluto doll.

We all met back at the room. Zoey and Matt got ready for bed, but Jack took Lily to the pirate party. I was able to see the fireworks show from our room’s veranda. Jack said the party was a little dark and scary, with pirate villains and skeletons and stuff like that, but Lily said it was fun. She came back with a pirate hook on her hand. LOL

Click on the collage for a larger view.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day Four of Disney Vacation 2011

We all woke up really early this morning. I’m not sure what time it was because the clock on the ship said 4:30 am and Jack’s phone said 6:30 am. Either way - it was early.

We ate breakfast and then headed out for our excursion to Atlantis. Before we left, the kids stopped to play some games in the arcade. The bus rides to and from Atlantis showed us some of the poorer sections of the Bahamas. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of the island though.

Atlantis was amazing. I’d consider coming back to the Bahamas and staying at Atlantis for the entire trip. It was enormous and we only saw a small part of the resort. The kids loved the water park. At one point in the day, Lily got separated from us on the lazy river. She was missing for about 30 minutes. I was so panicked. She went to an employee and told them she was lost. Jack checked out the Lost and Found center and she was there! Zoey napped on a folding chair. We covered her with Jack’s shirt to keep her from burning. I put an SPF 50 on all of us several times throughout the day, but each of us got sunburn on a different part of our body. Not sure how fun going to the beach tomorrow will be.

The kids didn’t want to leave Atlantis. Matt had fun on the giant slide that takes you through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks. I was with Zoey, so I didn’t get a chance to see him on it. He and Lily made friends and played Monkey in the Middle with some kids.

When we returned from Atlantis, we freshened up, took naps, and then dropped all 3 kids off at their kid clubs. Then Jack and I went for a quiet dinner.

After dinner, we picked up the kids, took them out for ice cream and watched the musical production, “Villains.” The show was good and even
Zoey was entertained!

We called it a night around 10pm and hope to have good weather for tomorrow’s adventure to Castaway Cay, Bahamas.


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