Archives for August 2011

Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce

It’s the end of the summer and you are bbq’d out.  You’ve fired up that grill more times the past 2 months than you do all year round.  Wait! There is one more recipe you must try!  This one is light, fresh and vibrant.  The herbs in this recipe’s chimichurri sauce -mint, basil, and parsley- add tang to any grilled dish.  Add this delicious sauce to shrimp and you have a fabulous meal to share with family and friends.

Ingredients: Serves 8-10

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds large shrimp, peeled, tail left on if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • chimichurri sauce
  • grilled peppers and tomatoes (1 lb cherry tomatoes, 8-10 orange/red peppers)

Chimichurri sauce:

    • 1/3 cup chopped basil
    • 1/4 cup chives
    • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
    • 2 TB chopped dill
    • 2 TB chopped mint
    • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
    • zest of 1 lemon
    • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil.
    • salt pepper to taste.

Grilled Peppers and Tomatoes:

  • 1 TB Kosher salt
  • 10-20 Summer tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes


For Sauce:

  1. Mix together all ingredients in food processor until well combined.  Do not over mix (don’t let it become a paste).

For Grilled Peppers and Tomatoes: These can be made 1-3 days ahead of time.

  1. Boil a pot of water and add kosher salt. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes. Boil summer peppers (1 to 2 per skewer) until tender, 1 to 33 minutes. Drain. Thread onto skewers with cherry tomatoes (about 3 per skewer).
  2. Grill over high heat until charred and tomatoes just begin to burst, 6 to 8 minutes, turning often.

For Shrimp Skewers:

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes. Heat grill to high.
  2. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Thread onto skewers. Grill over high heat, turning once, until curled and opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Brush and serve with chimichurri and grilled peppers and tomatoes.



After Hurricane Irene…

Many throughout the eastern states have encountered issues from Hurricane Irene.  Some had their houses flooded, trees fell on many houses and cars, and even in some very sad cases people lost their lives.  I guess I can consider our problem of no power as a small issue compared to others.

The morning of the storm, we heard a loud crack, pop,  and then silence.  It was 7:40am and power was already out.  We were hoping this would be a problem for only a couple of hours, but when we went outside to look around the neighborhood we saw power lines snapped and laying in the street just s couple doors down from us.  We knew then we were in the “no power” stage for a while.  I called National Grid to report the incident.  They said they were unsure of when they could get out to fix it.  It could be days they said.







We decided to go and check in to a hotel just one exit down on the highway from our house.  They had power!  People were checking in like crazy!  Almost all the plates on cars in the parking lot were from our state.  We found out that almost 300,000 people were without power overnight, and for some power may be out for a week.

We are going back home today to clean out the refrigerator and freezer.  We probably lost about $400 or more worth of groceries.  I will learn not to “stock-up” before a storm with cold items next time!  There is also the cost of the hotel at over $100 a night (so far booked for three nights, but could be more)!  This is still a small price to pay looking at what some are dealing with.

My kids are finding Hurricane Irene to be a fun vacation!  They have been playing in the indoor pool, jumping on beds, and enjoying the “breakfast feast” as my daughter calls it.  Now we will have to see how the rest of the week turns out.  School was supposed to start on Wednesday, but since the school does not have power the school start has been moved to Thursday.  The Superintendent is taking it day-to-day and make decisions as power comes back.  I think we are looking at a tough start of the school year.  In fact, National Grid just called again and said, “Due to the extensive damage in areas people may not have power restored well into the weekend.”  School may start a few days late, and we are looking at a week stay here at the hotel!

How have you  dealt with the power issues and effects of Hurricane Irene?

Kristin Wheeler

An Allowance System That Teaches Earning AND Giving

Our brood

My eldest child is 12, so one could assume that I have been attempting to instill a good work ethic in my son for at least 10 years now.  He is the first child of our four who are 12, 10, 8 & 6 respectively, and by virtue of his birth order, the most prominent example of our parenting.  My husband and I want our kids to be achievers like most parents, but beyond that, we want them to be givers.  We don’t currently belong to a church, but when we did, it was usually a Unitarian congregation that suited our divergent backgrounds of former Catholic and Agnostic.  Until the new Unitarian church in town is re-opened, we are the sole stewards of our children’s moral compass, and that is a job to be taken very seriously.

My husband recently attended a sales conference in Miami that had some fascinating seminars.  One that impacted him greatly was the presentation on the “Entitled Generation Y”, that is, those kids who have been given everything without earning it, and feel that the world owes them.  It’s these kids that when asked what age they believe they are fully adults answered “thirty”!  When I was a child, Timothy Leary was quoted as saying “don’t trust anyone over thirty” which suggested to me that thirty was over the hill.  No wonder so many kids move back home after college – it’s not just the faltering economy, but the sense of entitlement.

Eeeek!  This must not happen to my kids.  What to do?  What to do? The first lesson out of the gate: electronics (tv, computer, x-Box, cell phone) are a priviledge, not a right.  They must be earned through other activities such as playing outside, practicing an instrument, or doing a chore.

wooden chore chartAh, chores.  The bane of my existence.  I can’t even count on my fingers the many different chore charts I’ve used over these past 10 years!  I even tried to design an innovative system myself using colored magnets and an intricate reward system that I never could make function just the way I wanted.  Don’t even get me started on the ‘enforcement’ of the charts.  What I have learned from all my efforts is that I end up being the ‘nudge’ or ‘irritant’ who hounds the kids into reluctant capitulation.  Ugh.

One thing that has made a great deal of impact on this effort was the acquisition of our chickens.  We already have 2 Beagles, 2 cats, 2 hermit crabs and a Beta fish who miraculously get fed daily, but chickens require more care.  I am not interested in doing it, so I made clear to the family that if they want to keep their beloved hens then they must care for them.  That worked.  It’s the ultimate in “natural consequences” – living domesticated creatures rely on us to stay alive.  The kids get that.

Now, how about those beds that need making, the laundry that needs to be put away, the rooms that need tidying?  We’ve also just moved into the realm of lawn mowing with my eldest, and the garage is an area in constant need of attention.

I have tried allowances to act as a ‘carrot’, but they often forget to collect it from me.  I recently found an online solution to my over 10-year quest for a system that works, and what I like about it is that it involves “giving”, which I mentioned earlier as a goal I would like my children to embrace.  It’s called ThreeJars.  One jar is for ‘spending’, one is for ‘saving’, and the third is for ‘sharing’.  Fabulous concept, don’t you think?!

3 jars allowance

Here’s how ThreeJars briefly defines itself: “ThreeJars makes allowance fun and easy for 5 to 13 year old
kids and their parents. Kids learn to manage their “money” through savingspending, and charitable giving jars – with guidance from Mom and Dad.”  The system is on an IOU basis from which the parents can add and subtract.  The allowance amount is decided together, but % of that amount to go to ‘share’ and ‘save’ is their decision to make.  Over time, the kids may make requests for ‘spending’ or ‘sharing’ through emails to their parent, and the parent responds “yea” or “nay” as they see fit.  ThreeJars’ service costs $30 a year for unlimited children, but the actual paying of monies to the kids happens at home per the adult’s prerogative.  The chore section is helpful if your family bases allowance on chore completion.  Often, looking to garner more funds, my 10-year-old son will make offers of chores with a value attached to it such as: Wash the Car – $3.00. It is up to me whether I accept or decline his offer.  It’s not all greed driven, though.  Yesterday that same son asked if he could donate $7.00 of his ‘share’ money to the ASPCA.  I said yes, and because ThreeJars has a direct relationship with about 21 reputable charitable organizations including the ASPCA, $7.00 was deducted from his ‘share’ fund and charged to my Visa on file.  If he had chosen to donate elsewhere, I would deduct the sum myself and write a check.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, not to mention, warm and fuzzy.

My kids love computers, so this online solution is so much better than a white board that can be altered either on purpose or by a shoulder coming too close in passing. It’s all there in black and white until I, or they, decide what changes.  Boy, do they love seeing how much allowance they are accruing each week, too.

Hallelujah!  Peace has been restored, chores are getting done, and giving is, well, “a given”.  Oh, how I love Three Jars!

Disclosure: I received a free year’s family membership valued at $30 to facilitate this review, but that only buys my honest opinions.


Preparing for Hurricane Irene

I think by now everyone is fully aware a hurricane is coming right up the Eastern Seaboard.  The 95 corridor could be in some trouble.  Things are still unclear as to what the impact will be with power outages predicted, flooding, damage to houses and roads, and issues with oil refineries.  As a precaution, I prepared tonight the best I could.

First of all, my family had plans to see our friends from Peoria, IL that we had not seen in three years!  Our kids are the same ages and same genders.  Our families just seem to line up perfectly.  We had been excited for the past few weeks to meet up with them in Long Island where they are vacationing.  We ended up being very lucky that we had booked the Long Island ferry out of New London, CT on Friday instead of on Saturday or Sunday.  We were JUST able to make our trip in to meet with them.  It was a great day of catching up, and we almost forgot about the looming storm.  Then reality hit once again as the streets of the small quaint town of Greenport, Long Island began to become more vacant, and t-shirts saying “Hurricane Irene Go Away” were hanging in the windows.  We tried to take the kids to the Maritime Museum, but no such luck.  It was closed for Hurricane Irene.  We also learned parking bans and possibly evacuations were taking place just hours after we were planning on leaving.  Luckily, we were able to get our ferry ride back to RI with moderate tides in time to plan for ourselves here in Rhode Island.  Ferry schedules are already being cancelled for this weekend.

So, home and preparing…….  I found Stop-N-Shop to be out of water completely, and I got the last decent loaf of bread.  I also went to Shell to fill up just to find signs on the pumps saying “OUT OF GAS!”  I guess people were here getting ready as we were having fun in Long Island.  We are prepared enough though.  We have food, water, and hopefully I can dig up a flashlight or two.  Two good things to remember: Fill up your tub with water (you can use it for the toilet for flushing if need be and cleaning things), and turn your refrigerator up to the highest level to help keep food longer when the power goes out.

Be safe everyone!  Prepare!  Evacuate if need be!  Take things seriously.


Kristin Wheeler

A Gift Both Baby and Mom Will Love (Giveaway)

Personalized CD


Years ago, while working as a news anchor in Arizona, I was turned on to a company called Name Your Tune.  If memory serves me correctly, the year was 2003 and Name Your Tune was just coming out with its first CD.  Name Your Tune is a compilation of classic children’s songs transformed to feature your child’s name in every song.  Brilliant.  The company was kind enough to send me a free CD with the name of my choice.  I had it made for my nephew, and it was an instant hit with both mom and baby. I have to admit, before I gave it to him, I listened to it…about 50 times.  These tunes are catchy!  No surprise, the CDs quickly became a staple in children’s music collections around the world.  As an added bonus, I’ve become quite friendly with the company’s owner, who is an absolute doll!  I will buy again and again from a company that not only has a great product, but also has amazing people behind their product….and so I have.  As my friends and siblings had children, I would buy the kids personalized CDs from Name Your Tune and was always asked,”Where did you find this?”

When, after 12 years of marriage, I finally had a baby, guess what showed up in the mail?  Yup, a personalized Name Your Tune CD for Paige.  To say that Paige loves this CD is an understatement.  She squeals with delight when we play it and sings along with the songs.  Adorable!  Each song says her name multiple times and the end of the CD has slower songs, so she can wind down.  In November of 2010, Name Your Tune came out with its second CD and I can’t wait to hear it.  You can catch a sample here.  Name Your Tune also has a ton of other personalized products, which look adorable, but I only have experience with their CDs.  It’s totally worth a visit to their website, though.

Here’s where it gets good.  The fine folks at Name Your Tune have agreed to put together a personalized package for YOU!!

  • The mandatory entry requires you leave a comment below saying why you would like your own copy of a Name Your Tune CD.
  • For an additional entry follow @aMomKnowsBest on twitter and let me know in a SEPARATE comment below that you did
  • For an additional entry “like” aMomKnowsBest on Facebook and let me know in a SEPARATE comment below that you did.
  • For an additional entry tweet this message: Win a personalized Name Your Tune CD  on #giveaway (put a link to your tweet in a SEPARATE comment below)

**We will pick the winner September 7th, using Good Luck, I know you will enjoy this as much as my family has : )

BLT Pasta Salad: A Summer Favorite

I’ve been on a salad kick this entire summer.  Not because I am trying to lose weight, but because salads are all my pregnancy hormones crave.  There are only so many “green” salads this pregnant woman can take, so I have begun to try any recipe my heart desires.  This week’s favorite: BLT Pasta Salad.  My children are not salad eaters, but,  this they ate! I cut the lettuce really small and mixed it in with the pasta. They barely noticed!  I hope this is as successful in your home as it was in mine.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

  • 12 ounces corkscrew-shaped pasta
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 ounces lean bacon
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons chopped chives or scallion greens
  • 5 heads Bibb lettuce quartered, or 5 cups chopped romaine hearts


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as the label directs. Drain and toss with the milk in a large bowl; set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 3 tablespoons drippings from the pan. Add the tomatoes, thyme and garlic to the pan and toss until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces; set aside 1/4 cup for garnish.  Toss the remaining bacon and the tomato mixture with the pasta.

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tablespoons chives with the pasta until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lettuce; toss again to coat. Garnish with the reserved bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Serve at room temperature.


Photo credit:


Starbucks Bistro Boxes

starbucks latte

Why is it that going to Starbucks always seems to make me happier? Whether it’s a latte, an egg salad sandwhich, a reduced-fat coffee cake, or just a plain ole’ cup of joe, something about that place puts a little spring in my step.  Maybe it’s because I consider it a well-deserved “treat,” or perhaps it’s because I’ve been known to spend hours there gabbing with a girlfriend (pre-baby, of course!).  Starbucks is a success because they have masterfully created an “experience” for the customer.  As an aside, the last time I was at a Starbucks, a customer was rude to me.  I didn’t say anything, but the person I was with did.  The barista later came over and gave me a free drink coupon for the next time I come in.  How sweet is THAT?  But, I digress…

starbucks bistro boxes

I’ve been eyeing the new Bistro Boxes at Starbucks.  Those of you who know me personally know you can usually find me by the food; I’m a grazer.  I would rather eat smaller portions all day long, than big meals that leave me feeling sluggish.  The fact that that these portions in the Bistro Boxes aren’t huge, yet look satisfying are a huge bonus.  I had trouble deciding which one to try because, with options like the Chipotle Chicken Wraps, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Cheese & Fruit Bistro Box & the Protein Bistro Box, all of them looked good.   I finally settled on the Chipotle Chicken Wraps (BTW, does anyone else think it’s funny when people say chuh-POLE-tee?)

Starbucks Bistro Box

Chipotle Chicken Wrap

The Chipotle Chicken Wrap contains seasoned grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese (my fave!), and  whole wheat tortillas.  It’s served with lime-cilantro slaw and avocado & roasted tomato salsa. For dessert, a piece of dark chocolate.  Not too big, not too small.  Perfect!  Nutritional info: 380 calories, 15 grams of fat, 26 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbs.  I should note that I ate this at Starbucks.  This is not a meal you can easily prepare while driving, but it’s great to take to a meeting, to work, to playgroup (while the kiddos are playing).

On the way out the door, I grabbed the Cheese & Fruit Bistro Box for my 19 month old daughter because, like a dope, I forgot to bring her snack cup and the Chipotle Chicken Wrap was too spicy for her.  I opened it for her in the car and she was able to snack on the apples, crackers, dried cranberries and cheese while we were out running errands.  Nice.  Happy baby=happy mama!



Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Starbucks Bistro Boxes and received a gift card to facilitate my review and thank me for taking the time to participate.





Back-to-School Anxiety

As a parent, I have a mixed bag of emotions about the start of the new school year.  It’s sad that summer is coming to an end.  No more being lazy around the house until 10am if we are so inclined.  No more hanging out at the pool for five hours straight.  No more doing whatever we feel like that day!  We will now be back to a strict schedule of school, after-school activities, PTG meetings, homework assignments, etc.  Not to mention it just shows me how big my babies are getting (and in turn how old I am getting).  Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy for their healthy progress in school and proud of their accomplishments;  I just miss those days when they were young!  It really is important to cherish your kids at each age.  They truly are that young ONLY once!

There are positives about heading back to school  as well.  For one, my kids are young and therefore are still in love with going to school.  They are both very excited to start back and meet their teachers!  I have a 2nd grader and one in his last year of preschool.  Having them go back to school will make it so I have a little more time for myself (although preschool hours are fairly short).  I can hopefully get to the gym on a regular schedule without feeling bad about putting them in the kid room, and I will also have more time for the part-time job I picked up this summer as a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer.  Lastly, it is nice to have a little space from the kids.  It does make me miss them, and it makes me want to spend more  “quality time” with them.  Oh, and make sure you still do those last minute things before school starts. Most schools around the country have about two weeks!

Good luck with the start of the new school year!  Are you ready to see your kids go back to school already?

Kristin Wheeler

When a Loved One Suffers from Dementia

grandma in nursing home


It goes without saying I have an immense amount of guilt for living so far away from my family. I’m in New York.  Most of them are in Arizona.  I miss a lot. I obviously can’t make all the birthday parties, family BBQs and most of all I am missing spending quality time with my Grandma. I grew up spending a lot of time at Grandma’s house. Unlike most kids who dreaded going to Grandma’s … I looked forward to it. I was my Grandma’s only grandchild,  meaning… I was spoiled. Not just spoiled with toys, my own room at her house,  but lots and lots of love. I would spend hours playing with my paper dolls, watching classic movies like White Christmas or Easter Parade or just snuggling on the couch with my Grandma. She always made me a special omelet in the morning. Bottom line, I had it made with Grandma.

As I grew up, there was less spending the weekend with Grandma but we had dinner at least once a week together. While at college, I would drop my laundry off and she would do it for me. When I moved out of Arizona, I would still talk to her on the phone almost daily. Even if it was a short conversation, it was always nice to hear her voice. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, Grandma has gotten older and she was diagnosed with dementia. She is now living in a nursing home and my phone calls now consist of my Mom putting the phone to her ear and pretty much telling my Grandma what to say. I know when my Mom tells my Grandma to tell me she loves me, my Grandma means it. But it is hard not to be able to carry on a conversation with her. While at home at Christmas, I tried to spend as much time visiting her as possible. One day, I wheeled her wheelchair out by the Christmas tree and we were sitting and chatting. It wasn’t until my Grandma started talking about Katrina that I realized she didn’t know who I was. I tried telling her I was Katrina to only have her tell me… No, you aren’t. Or that I didn’t look like Katrina. But still the sassy spitfire who is my Grandma wasn’t holding back on the kisses! For being a stranger to her, she was pretty affectionate! I told my Mom later that I believed Grandma was giving kisses to strangers! Grandma has days when she doesn’t know who my Mom is or days when she is flat out mean to people, it comes with the disease. But we know deep down, my lovable Grandma is in there. Not a day goes by I don’t think about her or wish I could see her. My Grandma is lucky to have excellent care, a wonderful daughter (my Mom) who visits her daily, sometimes twice a day and lots of love all around. Not many people get to have such a great relationship with their Grandma like I do… I just hope my future kids will have the same thing with my Mom. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

Does your parent or grandparent have dementia?  How has that changed the family dynamic or your experiences with them?


Dreaming of Nantucket

Thirteen years ago in a farmhouse in Madaket, Nantucket that coruscated with magical candlelight, we celebrated the wedding of our close friends Jeff and Lisa.    Between moves and babies, and budget, we had not been back to the enchanted island since.  This summer, when my husband and I convinced his Northern Virginia residing, Outer Banks loving,  family to vacation in New England, I knew we needed a plan.    Another friend, Linda, has been to Nantucket every year with her family, and gave me a list of her favorite things to do.  Each suggestion turned out to be better than the last, and her list quickly became our guidebook.

We rented a house in the Tom Nevers area that did not allow dogs.  But Nantucket is such a dog friendly island that we decided to board our dog there so that we could take him out to play during the week.  The Nantucket MSPCA where he stayed, is located just across from the gorgeous Tupancy  Links dog park, and close to dog friendly beaches where he could swim.  This worked out perfectly. Surprisingly, the cost would have been comparable had we boarded him back home.

Vacation began when we stepped on to the ferry,  since we brought our car we made reservations months in advance to secure a spot.  Our week was filled with incredible experiences, not the least of which was just relaxing in adirondack chairs with family,  but here are some recommendations to get you started if you go.

1. Our first night we celebrated my husband’s birthday at The Jetties restaurant, situated at the edge of Jetties Beach.  Live music complemented the delicious food, and my toes were dug in the powdery sand. Heaven. We washed dinner down with sangria full of fruit, which we took over to beach chairs when we were done with our meal.  The children played at the adjacent playground while we soaked in the fabulous setting.

2. ‘Sconsett is an idyllic village by the sea with cottages covered in flowering vines.   We spent the day at the beach, visited the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, and had an excellent dinner at the ‘Sconsett Café.

3. On your way to the beautiful beaches in Madaket, on the far west end of the island, you must stop at the dock near Second bridge, and spend some time catching snapping turtles with your kids. You will need to bring string and some chicken legs from the supermarket. To watch your kids dangle a chicken leg over the dock and pull up a big turtle is extraordinary!

4. On your way back into town stop and have lunch at Something Natural, for yummy sandwiches to be eaten outside at picnic benches in a park like setting. Tucked away at 50 Cliff Rd.

5. The Whaling Museum gives a great overview of the fascinating history of the island, and a few of us early risers took a walking tour around town that further detailed its rich historic past.

6. I think the highlight for us all was chartering a sailboat (the Endeavor) for an evening cruise. It was a spectacular setting, and a great way to view the harbor and the sound.

There were things we had wanted to do, but never got around to, like biking along the extensive paths that criss-crossed the island.  Of course we did manage to squeeze in some shopping at the fabulous boutiques, and have an exquisite grown up meal at The Pearl in town. We love having the opportunity to be all together as a family for a vacation every year, and cherish our time together. If anyone has recommendations for our next visit to Nantucket, please let me know, because after our fantastic experience there, I think we will be able to convince our mid-Atlantic family members to come back.



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