Monday, August 31, 2015

Painless party planning

I used to be such a great mommy... I made birthday cakes for my boys. No really, I baked! I also used to plan big parties with cute themes and games and prizes. It was so fun! And all without pinterest or even Evite.

Then my boys grew out of it and running them around left me with little time or inclination to plan a big party (and clean up after). Aww. So now I don't go to all the elaborate homemade measures, but we still celebrate it up! Cakes taste just as good from the bakery at Kroger, probably better than mine - they are pros after all. And at $20-$25 it's so worth it.

The best invention for parties when you don't have time to do it yourself is to take them on the road. Let hired teens and young adults (who have a lot more energy than me!) be in charge and clean up after - especially clean up after! And the kids have a blast at these party places, for not too bad prices.

Here are a few great places to have a kids' party. We've done most of these with the kids and some with adults for a milestone party. Be a kid again - just be careful!

Pump It Up or Run, Jump, and Play- air filled slides and more
Lazer Kraze - laser tag
Full Throttle - car racing
Sky Zone - trampolines
Glow in the Dark putt-putt golf
Kids' First - Gym for kids
a Movie Party - we took a backstage tour before the movie (they had a party room for cake & presents after)
a Video Game arcade - one of our run-down malls converted some stores into an arcade party place.
a community pool or water park
an amusement park, if you live near one

And now there are party trucks that come to you, like the video game mobile.

Bonus Party Favor Tips - photos are a cherished memories. I try to get some good shots at the party, then send printouts to the party-goers with our thank yous. And the latest way to enhance photo ops is with photo props! I made some for my book parties, and it was easy!

Just print your chosen prop clipart picture - a giant mustache, a princess crown, a curly wig, a clown nose, horns, etc. Glue it to poster board, and attach a wood dowel (or even a pencil, and I use duct tape)

Party on!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Super Easy Banana Cake

Cake most certainly is part of the athlete's menu, especially when it includes muscle cramp alleviating, potassium-rich bananas!

                                               This tasty treat is a piece of cake- literally.

                                            Peel 4 bananas- ripe and and extra ripe is fine.

                              Blend together with a hand mixer until well blended and smooth. 

Pour in one box of yellow cake mix and stir. 

Pour into a greased cake pan

I added walnuts to half of the cake. The kids and I love them, the husband hates them, so I leave him some nut free. Marriage- it's all about compromise, right?

Bake for 40 minutes on 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Without the oil in the cake, it will dry out quicker than a regular mix.  For a moister cake, reduce cooking time by a few minutes. 

*By my ciphering, these are about 200 calories each if the cake is cut into 10 slices. A little more with the nuts. But they're high in protein and omega 3s, soo they shouldn't count. Come to think of it, neither should the vitamin-rich bananas. Or the incredible edible egg! Seems we're down to 160 calories a slice. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Body Fuel

Diet truly is a four letter word. Any time I go on a diet, I'm immediately obsessed with every cake and cookie in the cupboard.

It's insanity. I've dipped so low as to rip open bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips to appease a screaming sweet tooth.

Going on a diet never seems to work.

To me, athletes have a much better view of the body.

They're not as obsessed with how their body looks as they are concerned with how their body performs.

Food for them is fuel, not a reward or an obsession.

My kids are athletes, and they're also students. As such, they often have a long wait between lunch and dinner. To beat the afternoon slump and give them enough energy to carry them through practice, it's important to make every calorie in their bagged lunches count. I shoot for high protein/ healthy carb balance.

These wraps fit the protein bill nicely, but they can also add up on the grocery tab. At a dollar per wrap, that's not outrageous, but they're so easy to make- why not make them yourself?

the wraps
Mission makes a low carb, high fiber tortilla that is full of protein. Pair them with some cheese, ham, and pepperoni; roll them up; and you have a great lunch food.  I like to use the fat free cheese, lean ham, and turkey pepperoni. That way, I can make up a whole lot of them and eat them as my own guilt-free snack.

A blurry shot of the ingedients
 Another great protein add to the lunch is a cheese stick and a carton of milk. Toss in a banana for some potassium, and you have a great lunch for an athlete.

Then, before practice, they can enjoy a snack before breaking a sweat. Here's a tasty, energy maintaining treat that isn't several dollars per bar!

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Mold a Mouthpiece

As the mother of four boys (well, two are technically men now, but since they still don't know where to find their own clothes, I feel comfortable calling them boys), I have clocked A LOT of hours at ball fields. My boys' sport of choice was football.

Football is a very gear intensive sport. From cleats to helmets and everything in between, it's a bag full of stuff. And with football, you do need to sweat the small stuff- like the mouth piece. It protects not only the teeth, but it also reduces the risk of concussion. So, a good fitting mouth piece (or mouth guard) is essential.

And it's relatively easy!

(I can say that now because my husband has been doing them for twenty years. Some of those early attempts looked like Picasso masterpieces- especially when the kids were young and not so eager to stick something in their mouths that was freshly pulled out of boiling water!)

So, here are some tips for easy mouth piece creation and care:

In the beginning...

We always start with two or three mouth pieces, so we have a back-up if they are messed up or aren't a good fit. If they're all good, we keep them. My sons always carry at least one reserve mouthpiece in their travel bag. It's a violation to play without one (not to mention not smart!) and the last thing we want is for our kids to have to "borrow" one from a sideline player because theirs was lost in the mud after breaking off the helmet.

The creation...

1. Boil a pot of water on the stove.
2. Have a cup of cold water and a timer ready. Once the water is at full boil, drop the mouth piece in, holding it by its stem. Make sure to have a butter knife handy. The plastic piece is buoyant, so you may need to hold it under.
3. Boil mouthpiece for 30 seconds.
4. Quickly remove mouthpiece and dip in the cold water for just a second. The butter knife comes in handy here too. It helps stabilize the now soft piece.
5. Pull out of the water and quickly put it in the mouth:
      - Bite down gently, yet firmly on the mouth piece, so not to put holes in it.
      - While biting down, have your player suck in on the mouthpiece and press the top of it against the roof of his mouth. At the same time, you should press the mouthpiece into his teeth with your thumbs to get the best fit.

In the End...

Best way to keep a mouth piece clean and fresh? Soak it in Listerine when not in use. Not only will this reduce bacteria, but it will be much tastier than a soap and water wash.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Survival in a Tub

This is our last post on those end of summer blues, but sometimes those blues are brought only by the overwhelmingness of the looming school year. So hear is how you kick it. You get prepared to tackle the school year. This task made simple by Tupperware.

Technically, this isn't Tupperware. This is a store brand, but you get the idea.

Make sandwiches and wrap them tightly in cling wrap. Cut, chop, and bag fruits and veggis as needed/desired. If you send your kids with other snacks, chips, or pretzels, bag these babies too. Color code if it will help. Put sandwiches and snacks in a bin with a blue lid and fruits and veggis in a bin of a different color. Let the kids grab one of each item and put it in their lunch box. They can make their own lunch and the only time you put in is on Sunday. Having all the baggies contained to a bin saves room in the fridge as well, and my family uses this for after school snacks too. I paid $10 for two bins last year when I started this, so there may be an initial investment but it saves money in the long run because it makes it easier to buy family sized items or fresh produce that hasn't been pre-bagged. And knowing that lunch is made for the entire week, made me feel much better about tackling the school year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy, Sweet And Super Easy

Everyone is suffering from the end of summer blues because of the end of summer crunch. Parents night is this week at a lot of places. School supplies don't buy themselves. The kids need clothes. Some of them refuse to try anything on (because they won't be standing in line to return it when it doesn't fit), and you're trying to soak in the those last moments of summer before you shuffle the kids off for 10 more months.

I can't help with most of that, so I'll help with dinner instead. We can make this healthy and easy. You need 2-5 ingredients. The essentials are: a medium to large sweet potato for every member of your family and enough Wolf Turkey Chili with Beans to go around.
Here is how to make this complicated meal.
  1. Line an oven rack with aluminum foil. (We don't want to clean).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  3. Poke holes in your sweet potatoes. 
  4. Set a timer for 45 minutes and go wash your hair, do the dishes, or peel a kid off of something.
  5. Remove the potatoes and set them to cool.
  6. Heat the chili on the stove top.
  7. Cut the center of the potatoes and stuff with chili.
Now here is your chance for those optional ingredients. We've done chopped onions, shredded cheese, and low fat sour cream on top of these potatoes. The first time I made these, I thought it couldn't possibly be enough food for my husband so I paired it with a salad. The salad wasn't needed. This is very filling and looks pretty on a plate. The potato is sweet and the chili can be spicy, so it's an awesome dish. This is 11-12 weight watcher points depending on the toppings you add. And if you took my advice on Monday and got away, this is something easy to make away from home. Wrap the potatoes up in aluminum foil and cook them on a grill. You can use an out door cooking pot to heat the chili over the grill as well. (It's already cooked, so you could eat it cold but it won't taste as good).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Savor The Last Days of Sumer

This time of the year, a lot of us have those end of summer blues. Kids going back to school means the return of early mornings, am battles (Isn't it funny how they can be up before 7 They don't have school but can't be woken by a tornado as soon as school starts), and more work for Mom. And if you think school is more work for you, believe me I'm feeling it too. When you drop your kids at the curb next week, I'll be there to meet them.

No use complaining though. It's either those 7 am mornings or home school, and I'd rather be trapped with 26 of your kids than attempt to tell mine something else she isn't going to listen to. LOL.
Since we can't avoid, let's make the most of it. Slip in an end of summer trip. That place you've always wanted to go, wanted your kids to see? Pack up and go there.

Not an option? Limited time or money? We can work with this. Do an end of summer day trip. Think of things that might be two hours from you in any direction, use Google if you have to. They can be corny. It's okay to do something kind of cheesy or touristy. The point is to do something you're about not to have time for, right? And if you can't find anything in that radius from you that you think might be interesting, find a nice lake, beach or state park area and head up. If you want to be frugal pack an ice chest with snacks and lunches. But I plan to accidentally "forget" the cooler. There is no excuse not to cook like a Monday.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Easy as A, B, C

Get into a routine right away!

We get a jillion forms to sign during the first week - Emergency Medical forms, rules and procedure forms, permission slips, PTA forms, volunteering, handbooks, pictures, etc!!

This is great time to get your kids into the habit of emptying their backpack as soon as they get home! Have a special place for them to dump their info for you - then when homework starts, they're in the habit and there it will be - no more, "Oh, I forgot about that!"

Bonus Tip:
I keep a copy of a "generic" Emergency Medical form with all those phone numbers I have to look up... That way, I just fill in the names and dates for each kid!

Happy first day of school!!

(sorry I was late today, had a change of heart for my post)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Going Old School

School lunches are the beginning of the end of nutrition for our kids. Once they start eating at school, we have less control of what they eat. The government tries to help with required side dishes and limiting calories and whatever else they're trying to do, thinking they're helping. But kids will eat what they want to eat. Healthy choices start at home.

These old sayings and quotes are honest to goodness truths...

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

You are what you eat.

If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington (source)

Eat to live, not live to eat. - Socrates (source)

Garbage in garbage out. - George Fuechsel (source)

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not. - Mark Twain  (from brainy quotes)

In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires. - Ben Franklin  (from brainy quotes)

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition. - Thomas Edison (source)

Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise. - Mike Adams (source)

To get our kids to eat better in life, we must do it ourselves at home first with as much natural foods as possible and keep the artificial, processed foods to a minimum. I'm totally guilty of taking advantage of time-saving pre-packaged goodies to pack lunches with. But I try to balance those with more healthy options.

So here are my tips for packing healthy lunches:
  • nature has plenty of pre-packaged, serving-size foods, take advantage of them!
  • and for the bigger or harder to manage fruits and veg, pre-cut and prepackage them yourself - this is also great for grabbing a quick snack!
  • try to keep a ratio of at least 4 out of 5 healthy choices
    • the main dish - pbj or pbb(anana) sandwiches on white wheat bread are my boys' staples
    • at least one fresh fruit or veg - my bigger boys need more food, so they get two or three
    • a healthy side - nuts, granola bars, pretzels, whole grain crackers
    • a low-cal drink - they make low-cal juice pouches, and sometimes water is what they choose - everyone should drink more water!
    • a sweet - this is my clinker, but as long as you have all the rest and you don't go overboard, everyone deserves a little dessert, and there are healthy choices here too.
Bon appetit!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ready to get schooled?

It's already that time of year? Nooo! It's still summer!

But I do love school supplies. I savor the smell of fresh paper, erasers, and pencils. Notebooks, scissors, and crayons - oh my! I picture a musical where kids and moms are dancing around the aisles, swirling carts, and waving colorful folders and rulers in synchronized formations...

School Shopping Tips:
  • Wait! Before you shop, did you save any supplies from last year? Check your list. My kids never use all their paper and we have become good at recycling some items - especially backpacks. Don't worry, I'll remind you at the end of the year for next time!
  • Most of the off/store brand products work just as well as the big name brands, except for dry erase markers, EXPO is still the tops for that.
  • If you can't find it in the special school supply section - check the store's regular office supply aisle. Not as many people and you might get lucky.
  • And pay attention to TAX FREE SHOPPING days. Many states do this toward the end of summer each year and includes it clothes and shoes. Many were this past weekend, Aug 7-9, but some states aren't done yet. Here's a good list of dates.

Go get your school supplies on!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cheap and Easy Beach Craft

It's Friday!!! Can I get a woop woop?

On Friday, anything goes- as long as it's fun.

And today, I'm sharing a fun craft.

I'm going to be honest. I am NOT the least bit crafty. All those cool ideas from Pinterest? I am the Nailed It lady, every time. Sure, it looks so easy...until my two left hands start working on it.

Find more hilarious Pinterest Fails at
Just Something (Creative) 

So, when I say, "This is easy." I mean, it is easy. No art degree or June Cleaver status needed.

Last year at the beach, I stopped at the Dollar Tree. I bought a picture frame, three bottles of school glue, and a play bucket. I poured all the glue in the bucket and mixed it with sand from the beach. I smeared it on the frame and let it dry in the sun.

When I got home, I hot glued seashells my kids found on the beach.

I half expected the sand to dry out and crumble off, but it's been a year and it's good as ever.

The trick, I think, was to have much more glue than sand,

My guys from this year's trip in last year's craft, 
You need:
1 cheap frame
3 bottles of glue
1 sand bucket
hot glue and gun

Oh, and be sure to find us Really Real Housewives over on Pinterest. We're there- screwing up crafts one fluffy bunny at a time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let's Make This Beach Easy

Vacations are great for energizing the soul, but the getting ready for vacations? Not so much....

Like I said on Monday, I just came back from the beach. Two weeks of fun with the family. Visits to lighthouses and the spot where pirates are said to gather- all exciting stuff! And most of which went pretty much undocumented because I forgot to pack the freaking camera! 

Yes, we had iPhones and got some good shots, but that Nikon I forked out a fortune for? The one with the crisp zoom that would have gotten me pictures of my family of ocean swimmers from my comfy spot on the beach? It sat at home.

That wouldn't have happened if I had better execution. And planning. 

On the ride home, as I moped about coming home reflected fondly on our trip, I came up with a solution- I need to put an end to harried, haphazard packing.

I decided to make a master packing list. One I can keep on my hard drive and print out when I’m ready to start tossing stuff in the trunk.

Now, next year, when I pack, I’ll print one out and I’ll check it twice. (And I’ll print one for the man and each kiddo, so they don’t have to keep asking me what to bring!) 

Print one for this trip...

Save one for later...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Life's a Beach!

Life’s busy. Kids, work, chores- even Fido can be a time sucker. No other day of the week feels more pinched and chaotic than Monday. That’s why the Really Real Housewives are devoting every single scattered, yet to be fried brain cell to bringing you quick tips we hope makes your life a little easier....even on a Monday. 

Summer is closing fast, but I'm not ready to let it go. Still got a vacation coming up? Maybe an end of season trip to the beach? Here's a few tips that make beach travel a bit more simple. 

1.       Foil. We stay at vacation cottages that come equipped with kitchen essentials, but they never have food storage containers. Foil or a roll of plastic wrap turns every bowl into storage.

2.       Baggies. Gallon size and sandwich size. These are handy when traveling for everything from left overs to packing shampoos, lotions, or other items you don’t want to leak. Also great for dropping your phone in so it doesn’t pick up any sand at the beach.

3.       Plastic cups. My kids are snacking travelers. Instead of giving them access to entire bags of chips or boxes of cookies, I add a serving to a cup and send it back. The cups fit in the holders, so there are less spills and less mess. (And it’s much cheaper to separate large bags into servings than buying serving sized containers!)

4.       Clothes pins. Not only are these great for hanging wet suits and towels on the line, but they’re great for sealing bags of chips, cereal, or other dry goods. Just roll down the top and clip. Much cheaper and smaller to haul than regular chip clips.

5.       Sheets. I’m lazy. I hate lugging chairs and stuff to the beach. I throw a few sheets in my beach bag and I’m good to go. I can dig a “seat” in the sand, cover it with my sheet, and I’m comfy. Then when I’m ready to go- sand whips off a sheet much easier than a towel or blanket. No more gallons of sand going in the washer! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Really Real Housewives of America

Hello mult-tasking, multi-talented, multi-faceted friends!

We are the Really Real Housewives of America, Liz, Tara, and Beth. We are ready to share tips, listen to you vent, answer questions, and have fun doing it!

New definition:
Housewives are working women, they are married to their home because they love and take care of it and everyone who lives there!

So why should you pay any attention to what we have to say? Shrewd question. I like you already! Well, here's a brief intro to each of us girls. We're not only gorgeous, entertaining, and full of on-the-job advice, we're also knowledgeable and experienced! I know you'll find ways you can relate to one or all three of us.

Liz Seckman - The Creative Housewife

Liz (AKA Elizabeth Seckman- Author of women’s fiction and daydreamer of all things not related to housekeeping) is a busy mom of four boys- who are too quickly becoming men! They range in age from 21 years to 15, so she considers herself a seasoned pro since two of her offspring have reached adulthood with only a few scars and no criminal records.

Liz is a former social worker with a degree from Marshall University in Counseling and Rehabilitation. She was born in Ohio, but moved to West Virginia before she was a month old, so she’s been a Mountaineer most of her life. She’s The Creative Housewife- not because she’s overly crafty, but because she devotes a lot of creative energy to figuring out how to work less and play more.

You can check out Liz's books on her blog.

Tara Tyler Robinson - The Lazy Housewife

Tara is constantly picking up after her three active, stinky boys ages 12, 15, and 16. She's not afraid of the boos and hisses she hears when she tells people she's a math teacher. And in her spare time she does what she loves the most, (besides spending time with family) she writes as a published author (see Tara's blog for info on her books)

This adventurous woman has lived all over the US. From Plymouth, Mass to West Palm Beach, Florida. From Arkansas to Atlanta and South Carolina to Detroit, finally taking root in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her other title is The Lazy Housewife, posting tons of tips and articles on how to economize time and money to enjoy the more important parts of life. Down with chores!

Beth Fred - The Sassy Housewife

Meet Beth Fred! That's me! I'm keeper of the ELF, a writer, and a writing instructor/teacher.  I like my tea hot, my romance sweet, and my guys chivalrous. Real men hold open doors, refer to you as ma'am, make promises they keep, and aren't afraid to profess their undying love. It's not breakfast if there aren't carbs (at least, not in the South). Fajitas, carnitas, and churros are just few of my favorite things. Bet you can't guess where I'm from ;) To learn more about Beth Fred and her books, check out her website.

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