January 21, 2015

14 Traditions for Valentine’s Day

IMG_4762I think cupid shot me with an arrow because I am all about Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know what it is, I just think it is the greatest holiday.  What’s not to love about love?  Last year, I experimented with all sorts of ideas to see what sort of traditions I wanted to start doing and keep doing with my family.  These are the things I will do again this year:

1)      Celebrate Feb 1 – Feb 14:  It is more fun, yummier, and provides more memories to celebrate the holiday for the first half of February.

2)      Get Individual Mail Boxes for Your Family Members: Bring these out no earlier than February 1st.  Your kids just won’t be able to resist them once they are out.

3)      Provide Stationary for Valentines: This can be as simple as cutting out square pieces of paper to as fancy as providing colored envelopes, stickers, and doilies. This really increases your chances of getting a sweet note–and then come the water works.

4)      Make Daily Valentines For Your Family Members Before February: I did this for the first time last year and my kid’s really looked forward to them every day.  They were REALLY cheesy and I loved it! They had some sort of candy or knick-knack as a sort of play-on-words.  For example, “You’re a Star!” (and leave 1 or 2 Starbursts).  My husband did not necessarily need the Valentine note, but he did like a little daily treat.  I would suggest doing this before February and hiding them in a shoebox some place.  It becomes more of a stress than something enjoyable if you have to think them up every day.

5)      Enjoy Some Family Dates & Activities: One day we picked up small Slurpee’s and some Kid movies from Redbox and had a movie night.  Another day I took my girl to a sing-along version of the movie Frozen. Other ideas are to have a dance party at home, or play “Cupid Says” instead of “Simon Says.”

6)      Buy or Make Valentine’s for Classmates & Teachers:  This is my number one memory of Valentine’s Day.

7)      Make and Send Valentines to Extended Family:  You can’t forget Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, Aunties, and Uncles.  This is also something you need to do earlier in the month to make sure they get in the mail on time.

8)      Make Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies:  This is just a must.  We decorated these with friends and also gave some to neighbors.  It’s a fun way to share the love.

9)      Make a Valentine Craft to Display Throughout the Years: This does not need to happen every year but is something I want to do because I will enjoy placing them on my mantel as decoration.

10)   Have a Special Valentine-Making Family Night:  My 9-year-old daughter organized this and it turned out to be very special.  She gathered all the card making supplies, and wrote everyone’s name and put them in a bowl.  We each choose a name, and spent our time making just one Valentine for that person.  She was so cute; she even gave us examples of sweet things we could write in the cards.  She would not let us read them until Valentine’s Day.  It made the morning of Valentine’s Day that much more special.

11)   Have Heart Shaped Red Themed Food on Valentine’s Day: We had a creamy tomato basil soup that was delicious, but I think I’ll probably make different things through the years for our Valentine’s meal.  But our drink and dessert will probably always be #12 and #13.

12)   Make Shirley Temples: This drink is a crowd pleaser.  It is fancy and red the kids can help make it.  You basically just fill your cup with ice, sprite or ginger ale, a few maraschino cherries, and 1 teaspoon or so of grenadine syrup.

13)   Make Chocolate Fondue: We had this for dessert on Valentine’s day and it went over well.  I am still on a hunt to find the right recipe, but it is hard to not enjoy any form of melted chocolate.  Our favorite thing to dip was cream puffs and strawberries.

14)   Do Something Special for your Spouse: Now what exactly you do is up to you.  But definitely take time to celebrate each other.

March 18, 2014

Balsamic Maple Dressing and Salad

IMG_4543A friend of mine and his wife are very dedicated to good health and nutrition.  He often takes a picture of the salad he is having for lunch and posts it on Facebook.  They always look delicious!  One day I asked him about the dressing on his salad, and his wife was kind enough to give me the recipe.  Months later I finally made it, and it is really great and so completely easy to make and remember.

Balsamic Maple Dressing

The main thing to remember is it is equal parts maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  The following recipe is perfect for a bag of spinach:

1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of salt and pepper

Blend by hand or with a blender.

I initially thought it was too heavy on the balsamic flavor, but when I mixed it with the sweet ingredients, it was perfect.  Here is how I made my salad:

1 bag of spinach
2 chopped apples
1 small container goat cheese
3/4 cup candied pecans (to do this check out the instructions in this post)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of Craisins
You can really do anything you want though.  Here are some other ideas of what to add to your salad:

  • walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds
  • Havarti cheese or blue cheese
  • pears or peaches
  • baby kale, purple cabbage, or other greens
  • bacon, chicken, or steak

As you can see, the options are really endless.  Just toast or candy any nut, pick a cheese, a fruit, maybe even a dried fruit as well, add some greens and maybe even some meat, pour on this amazing dressing, and you have yourself a delicious salad!

February 28, 2014

Our Favorite Musicals for Families

Rain girl 2 November and Early Dec 2005 183Watching musicals is such an enjoyable thing to do with your family. They are culturally enriching and expose your children to various forms of art (music, singing, dancing, stage production, etc.). I’ve made a list of our favorite musicals. It will be no shock which musical is first on my list, seeing as the name of my blog is Spoonful of Sugar Mom.

For All Ages:

  • Mary Poppins (1964)
  • Sound of Music (1965)
  • Singing in the Rain (1952)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Hello Dolly (1969)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
  • Calamity Jane (1953)
  • Easter Parade (1948)
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
  • The Music Man (1962)
  • Pete’s Dragon (1977)

For Older Children

  • High Society (1956)
  • Oliver (1968)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  • Annie (1982)
  • Fiddler On the Roof (1971)
  • April Love (1957)
  • Oklahoma! (1955)
  • Brigadoon (1954)
  • Kiss Me, Kate (1953)
  • 1776 (1972)
  • Enchanted (2007)
  • Into the Woods (2015)
February 24, 2014

Parenting is a lot Like Going to Disneyland…

Come on Mom - CopyToday I realized something. I realized that parenting is a lot like going to Disneyland with your children.  You think that you are going for you kids’ enjoyment.  But at the end of the day (if you go on a non-busy day), you realize you had just as much fun, if not more fun, than your kids did.

Children will never fully realize what you have done for them.  Even though I am a parent now, I still don’t fully grasp or give credit or even ample gratitude for what my parents have done for me.  I just know it comes down to, “They love me and I love them back.”

As a parent it can be a little daunting to think, “Why should I toil and sacrifice for these little ones if they are never going to fully appreciate what I have done for them?”  But then I realized that raising my children is not just for them, it is for me too.

February 2, 2014

Thanks for Being a “Piece”-Maker

IMG_4600Being a peacemaker is something we talk a lot about in our home.  My husband and I are trying to teach our kids how to lower their voices, apologize to end a fight, not moan or make a fuss when asked to do something, and the list goes on and on.  You know, all of those things you work on daily to maintain or bring peace to your home.  I was thinking about Valentine’s Day coming up and trying to come up with a way to bring more love into our home, and this play on words popped into my mind.  I’ve tried it out a few days and the kids love it.  They really feel good when I have caught them being a peacemaker and ask them to please help themselves to a piece of candy.  I think I’ll pull this jar out at other holidays as well.  Heaven knows, peace is something worth striving for all year long.

January 24, 2014

Perfect Steel Cut Oats

IMG_4631Steel cut oats and I have a love/hate relationship.  I absolutely love them whenever anybody cooks them but me.  For some reason, whenever I cook them they are gluey and pretty much subpar.  I have tried probably 5 recipes over the last 5 years and thought I would just give up and stick with my beloved oat bran.  Which, as a side note, I think everybody should try–it is faster to cook, has the same amount of protein, and has more fiber than steel cut oats.  But I digress…I have discovered that steel cut oats have a nutty flavor and a wonderful texture if cooked correctly.  Since all of my previous attempts involved a crock pot, I wanted to try something else.  I knew I wanted an overnight option because I would never find the time to cook them in the morning since they take roughly 30 minutes to cook.  Then I found this recipe at christinasadventures.com and my heart is all aflutter.  I am in love with this recipe!  You actually toast the steel cut oats in coconut oil before adding water!

I did, however, add a few ingredients that I think really add to this recipe.  I have a dear friend who grew up in Guyana and ate ‘porridge’ almost every day.  She was kind enough to let me try her recipe, and it was delicious.  She adds dried fruit.  That day she had dried apricots and raisins in her porridge.  It was wonderful!  I added those to this recipe as well, but you can add any dried fruit that sounds good to you.  Also, I toasted some nuts in just a little bit of maple syrup before serving.  This recipe makes a big batch, but it stays good for a week and is a great option for packing your breakfast for work.

2 cups steel cut oats
2 T coconut oil
5 cups water
1 t cinnamon
1-1.5 cups dried fruit (I added raisins and chopped dried apricots; other options are Craisins, dried apples, dried mango, currants, prunes, etc.)
1-2 cups milk

Nuts, maple syrup, and fresh fruit (optional)

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot or skillet that has a tight-fitting lid.  Once it has melted, add the steel cut oats and stir them around until they are toasted.  This will take a few minutes and they will look and smell, you guessed it, toasted.  As you are stirring, make sure to get the 5 cups of water ready to add.   That way you can quickly add the water when the oats are toasted to avoid having burning them.  Once you add the water, bring it all to a boil.  Then add the cinnamon and dried fruit.  Stir it all around.  Place the lid on the skillet or pot and leave until morning.  Turn off the heat. Your house will smell heavenly.

When you wake up in the morning, add 1-2 cups of milk as you warm the oats until they are the consistency you like.  Don’t be alarmed if the oats are stuck together as you pour in the milk.  Just break them up with a wooden spoon.  As you are warming the oats, you can toast some nuts (I prefer pecans or walnuts) in a skillet with a drizzle of maple syrup to coat them.  You can dump some directly on your perfect steel cut oats, and cool the rest on parchment paper.  Once they have cooled, put them in an airtight container and you will have them to serve on your oats for future breakfasts that week.  If you like, you can also add a little more milk, fresh berries of fruit, brown sugar, or more maple syrup.

January 6, 2014

Making Enjoyable New Year’s Resolutions

Parker 11 cropI think I am old enough and have seen enough New Year’s resolutions come and go to realize they simply don’t work.  I’m taking a different spin on things this year.  I could easily make workout goals, eating goals, and goals for dealing with poor behavior in my children.  And I’m not saying I should not work on all those things, but I just don’t think the New Year is the time to do that.  I think the New Year is about celebrating the past year and looking forward to the year to come.

Instead of asking myself what I need to do better, I’m asking what I enjoyed doing and should do more of.  And this is what I came up with.  For my baby boy, I want to make sure that I read a book to him every day.  For my six-year-old who really loves to be cuddled,  I want to take time to put her on my lap and cuddle her each day.  For my nine-year-old who is bursting with thoughts and ideas, I want to make sure and stop what I am doing and really listen to her at least once each day.  For my husband who is taking on more hours each day so that he can have an extra day off every other week, I want to really enjoy that day with him with a date.  And for me, I want to allow myself to have a treat whenever I darn well feel like it.  And that, my friends, is how I think one should make a New Year’s Resolution.  Let’s enjoy more of the good things.

Have a blessed and enjoyable 2014!

December 31, 2013

Easy New Year’s Eve Traditions for Families

photoI realized the night before New Year’s Eve that we have absolutely no traditions except of course a toast of sparkling cider. I looked on Pinterest and there are some really wonderful ideas out there from some really amazing and creative Moms. But after the Christmas holiday, I am pooped, and I want and easy and enjoyable New Year’s Eve. I talked it over with my husband and this is what we came up with:

  • Takeout Chinese Food
  • Hooking the computer up to our TV and doing a slideshow of all of our 2013 pictures
  • Filling out a Happy New Year – family form to take some time to reflect on ourselves, what we enjoy, and what we look forward to doing next year. I developed this based on various ideas I saw on the internet and implementing some ideas of my own. Feel free to take it and print it off. If you make it any better or more cute, I would love a copy! This will be fun to look at as the years go by.
  • Game night with our board games.
  • We will never stray from our tradition of toasting with the some sparkling cider and ringing in the New Year. However we will celebrate EST at 9:00 p.m.

Happy New Year everyone!

December 11, 2013

My Daughter’s Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipe

IMG_4336I really don’t think an adult could come up with this concoction; I actually thought my daughter was crazy at first.  I thought that peppermint candy cane and cinnamon Red Hots belong in separate categories, and never the two shall meet.  But I was wrong.  Together they produce the taste of Christmas in your mouth, and I dare you to try it.

1 serving of your favorite mint cocoa, prepared*
1 t crushed peppermint candy cane
5-10 Red Hots
1 dollop whip cream
Mix and enjoy.

* We like Stephen’s Candycane Cocoa and in second place comes Stephen’s Chocolate Mint Truffle.

December 5, 2013

Apricot Pecan Oat Bran

I came up with this recipe completely by accident.  I bought some unsweetened canned apricots for my baby that he did not care for.  Somehow, the opened can in the fridge inspired this breakfast recipe that I have now made 3 times.  It is good hot, cold, and even a few days old. My husband likes it when I send this for his breakfast at work.  I really feel that apricots and pecans were meant to be together; I’m just happy to be a part of uniting them into this romance of deliciousness.  (To learn more about the health benefits of Oat Bran, check out my post here.)

To Cook the Oat Bran:

1 can unsweetened apricot halves
¾ – 1 cup oat bran (depending if you like it soupy or firm)

Blend one can of apricots in your blender until smooth, pour in a microwave safe dish. Mix in the oat bran. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Let it sit until it the pecans are ready to be mixed in.

To Make the Candied Pecans:photo

1 T butter
¾ cup chopped pecans
2 T brown sugar
1 T maple syrup

While the oat bran is cooking, get out a small non-stick skillet and heat to medium-high.  Warm the butter and the pecans until the nuts are coated.  Sprinkle on the brown sugar and maple syrup.  Mix until the liquid dissipates a bit.  You do not have to stir them all the time, but you do need to watch, because they can go from yummy to burned in just seconds. When they start to look coated and candied, pour them directly onto the cooked apricot oat bran.  Stir and enjoy.  If you will not be finishing this in one meal, you may want to store the pecans separately.  To do this, spread pecans on tin foil and cool. Then, store them in a container and you can sprinkle them on the oat bran before eating.  Separate storage will help keep them crunchy.