Summer is Over…..A New Year Begins

It is hard enough that the pool is now closed, but pumpkins and Halloween candy out at the grocery stores?  That is just crazy!  It is sad to see summer go, especially if you live somewhere with only half the year with nice weather.  Well, whether we like it or not, back-to-school is here!

Here are some things I enjoyed most about this summer:

1.  Traveling with My Husband – Sometimes it’s nice to get away and be a “couple” again once in a while.

 

 

 

2.  Meeting Up with Old Friends – We were lucky enough to meet our old friends from IL, AZ & CA, and I also reconnected with a sorority sister I had not seen in 15 years!  It was so great to see everyone this summer!

 

 

3.  The Pool – Joining the local pool was great!  We got to see our friends often.  You never needed to make a playdate, because someone would be there to play with  the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Town Events – We live in a town with many events to attend.  We enjoyed almost all of them this year!  We did the strolls on Main Street, the Summer Concert series, and Arts Festivals.  It was a wonderful summer of events.  Love our town!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Hanging out with “The Girls” – It was fun to just go out with the girls to dance and have fun.  I had not done that in a while, and we were able to get out more than once this summer.  Loved it!

Things that are coming this fall:

1.  School is in session!  I have a 2nd grader and a preschooler.  I will see how the schedules work out.  I am now a part-time working mom (which is a change), so I need to find a balance.  I LOVE my new job, but this is the last year with my preschooler too!

2.  I have learned to say NO a little this year.  No major PTG positions or New Neighbor’s Club positions.  I will still be active in my clubs, but not in charge.  I  have to say,  learning to say NO was quite an accomplishment for me.  It was hard.

3.  Things I am doing: Brownie Leader for my daughter’s troop, participating in two book club, running my new site MamaLuvsBooks, and writing for AMKB, GalTime Providence, and of course working for my new job as a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer for Patch.

It’s going to be a busy school year!!!  Good luck to all you SAHMs and Working Moms out there!  I know both are tough (and now I am doing a little of both)!  What are your challenges this year?  Doing anything new?

 

Kristin Wheeler

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

Directions:

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.

Enjoy!

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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

Banana Split with a (Watermelon) Twist

Here I come again with another watermelon recipe!  If you missed last week’s watermelon cupcakes, you should click on over and try them.  They are really good!  Since we are still in the middle of summer, the heat is plentiful and watermelon is our favorite light dessert… here is a light twist on the banana split.

Ingredients:

  • Bananas (1 per person)
  • Watermelon
  • Toppings: granola, whipped cream or whipped topping, berries, chocolate syrup to drizzle.
Instructions:
  1. Cut bananas in half lengthwise and place the halves on plates.
  2. Top with watermelon balls formed with an ice-cream scoop.
  3. Add dollops of whipped cream, then sprinkle on berries and chopped nuts or granola.

 

Serve and enjoy!

 

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Photo credit: Disney Family Fun

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How to Plan a Memorable Family Reunion

My mother-in-law and a cousin

My husband’s extended family meets every year in June for a Family Reunion on my mother-in-law’s beautiful property in Litchfield County, CT. It’s been a week since the most recent one, and we are all still basking in the glow of it. Even though we have one every year, we never know who will make it, if the weather is going to cooperate, or which families will stay over in tents. These unknowns keep it fresh and unpredictable, and therefore each year we look forward to what some might see as a great big hassle, but we have come to view as heaven. I’ve learned so much from my husband’s side of the family about their simple, yet well thought out approaches to bringing a lot of people together. They have spent years fine-tuning this event, so I am hopeful that you will find this information useful if you‘re considering throwing one yourself.
The first step is to pick a date that will work for the majority. We have found that late June, just after public school ends, tends to be the best time to achieve the greatest turnout. Email blasts have been an amazing method for the quick dissemination of information, starting with a “Save the Date” message in the late winter.
Once the date is set, my mother-in-law crafts a reminder email to give the details of our gathering. This goes out twice: once in the spring, and then again just before we meet. It’s been mostly the same format for years, but occasionally an improvement is made, so this is very helpful. It includes the basic info such as:
“People are welcome to come to the property as early as 10am with their own picnic lunch, chairs, blankets, etc. We provide soft drinks and beer, and at 4:00 we will have finished the roasting of the pig. Please bring a dish to share for that evening’s meal. Anyone wishing to camp out may do so. There will be a breakfast served on Sunday morning for those who stay.” The camping component is new, and usually includes about 4 families, allowing for some extended shared moments making s’mores around the fire. That’s it! It’s pretty simple and straightforward stuff.  To accommodate the sometimes 70-100 people, a nice port-a-potty is rented and placed in the orchard. That cost, as well as the pig, the beer, and maybe some new shuttlecocks and water balloons, is pretty minimal considering the large number of people who attend.

The two families who live on the property have the important tasks of beautification and the main course, which includes lots of gardening and a mowing before the event, getting the float on the pond, and starting the roasting of the pig. They do an incredible job, and the place always looks breathtaking and inviting, not to mention, smells yummy upon one’s arrival. My task in recent years is to make the soft drinks on that day: lemonade, iced tea, Tang, etc. My husband’s is to get the badminton net up, the slip-and-slide out, spruce up the horseshoe pits, and rake the pond beach. After that, we wait for people to start coming.

There is a ‘cheat sheet’ on the table outside next to the blank name tags that lists those families who are planning to attend that year. My mother-in-law so wonderfully supplies the names and ages of all the children, so we can have a prayer of figuring our who’s who in the sea of 40 kids who keep growing and changing every year to spite us. Of course, the nametags help a great deal, too.  Sometimes I think we should all wear them every day (!), but that’s just me.
Because we are a ‘green group’, we use recyclable cups that people put their name on with a Sharpie so they can reuse them all day, and we serve the meal buffet-style with real plates and silverware. Not everyone can do this, but my sister-in-law has amassed a large amount of these items over the years from various sources, and it makes such a difference in the amount of garbage we create, or, rather, don’t.
For some reason, the weather has always been kind to us (some say it’s the ancestors smiling down), and the children have such fun cooling off in the pond or chasing each other with water balloons. The adults play games as well, or have a swim, but a lot of emphasis is placed on catching up on each other’s lives.  The crowning moment of the afternoon is a traditional, but humorous song that one family, with five grown sons, leads us in every year.  It’s priceless to see all the young ones join in as they come to know the words.  All in all, it really is heavenly .
So there you have it – the easy recipe for creating great family connections and memories.  Now, go ahead, pick a date and make it happen.

Please share any ideas you’ve enjoyed when your family gets together. We are always interested in tweaking and improving the experience.

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Summer Dessert: Watermelon Cupcakes

Living in the South, I’ve become a big fan of cool desserts in the summer.  After attending many summer barbecues and picnics, I’ve noticed that someone always brings the famous frozen watermelon to alleviate some of the heat.

Here is my spin on a classic summer dessert that will satisfy the entire family.  I urge you to make these ahead of time and place them in the freezer inside a cupcake tin for at least 2hrs.  Although not necessary, they will become that much more refreshing!

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 Cupcake Liners
  • 8 Cupcake sized pieces of seedless watermelon (see below)
  • 2 Cups Cool Whip
  • Sprinkles for decoration

Directions:

Place the liners in an 8-cup cupcake tin. Cut 3-inch thick slices of seedless watermelon. Cut round cupcake sized pieces from the slices. Put a watermelon ‘cupcake’ in each liner. Place a dollop of Cool Whip on each cupcake. Decorate as desired with sprinkles. Makes 8 cupcakes.

NOTE: freezing them makes them more portable and cooler for dessert, specially if they are being transported or going to be left outdoors for an extended period of time.

Enjoy!


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Walking on the Wedge

Playing on the summer trends of neutral palettes, animal prints and fun texture – shoes can make an outfit!  Shoes are a huge weakness of mine and this season the wedges are stealing my heart!  A 4ish inch heel is an instant confidence booster – provided you can walk without falling! 
Remember when you used to play dress up?  The list included lipstick, hair accessories, a glam outfit and heels that were too big? It started in childhood and continues on.  We all feel special in a pair of heels! 
This season’s designers have added some fun.  Look at these Marc Jacobs!  Pair these with a Maxi dress or a simple silky white tee and jean shorts, big hoop earrings and a pony tail…you get the picture!  And how sophisticated are the Via Spiga’s!  You can find these in fine department stores, but I stumbled across this exact pair called ‘epic’ in a free standing Via Spiga store in SoHo in NYC last month.  LOVE THEM!  How about the JRenee’s?  These aren’t your mom’s flip flops!  What a brilliant design team for Seychelles – a cool casual tribal wedge and fun flirty floral print wedge!  Who can ever top Tory Burch….she is always one of my top 5 shoe and handbag designers – classic, yet on trend fun stuff!
In case you are more of a classic shoe girl…..here are just a few more I’m loving this summer! One for every budget…come to mama!  Now…..I just need a bigger closet!
Do you dare walk on the wedge?  Who are your favorite shoe designers this summer?

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Turkey Mini Sandwiches: Quick & Easy Dinner!

I’ve been testing recipes with my kids for weeks.  As you can imagine, some of them are a bigger hit than others.  We haven’t eaten the same thing twice in a while; mostly due to me working on developing next year’s lunch menus for MOMables.  I have every kid’s lunch book and toddler friendly cookbook available; and yet, I sometimes find the best recipes from other bloggers or on the internet.

This next one is a winner.  I’ve made it twice in two weeks (with different ingredients) and rarely we have left overs.  Although they are called “mini sandwiches,” I like to think of them as Kid-licious triangles.  I usually make them for dinner.  You can also make a big batch, freeze the leftovers and thaw and microwave when ready to use!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Bisquick Mix
  • 1/2 Cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 TB yellow mustard
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 6oz package thinly sliced smoked turkey, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4oz bag)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, cranberries, milk, mustard and egg until blended. Pour half of batter into baking dish
  2. Top with half of the turkey and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese to within 1/4 inch of edges of baking dish. Top with remaining turkey. Pour remaining batter over turkey.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and set. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Cut into 9 squares; cut each square in half diagonally. Enjoy!

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Summertime Treat: Chocolate Pudding Pops

You can say that my kids are chocolate-aholics, especially my daughter.  One of their favorite store bought treats are fudge pops.  They are a nice cold treat that always hit the spot on our hot summer days.  My local groceries don’t sell any fudge pops that do not have high fructose corn syrup and Whole Foods is 50 min away!  Sure, you can buy frozen treats at your store, but these easy-to-make pops taste even better because they’re semi-homemade.

Ingredients:
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups milk
Instructions:
  1. With a wire whisk, blend together 1 package of instant chocolate pudding, 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup cream, and 1/2 cup sugar.
  2. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds. Or, pour it into small plastic cups, cover each with aluminum foil, and insert a craft stick through the foil.
  3. Freeze and eat.

 

*Photo Source: Family Fun Magazine

 

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