family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday- Kid Packing

TTM_MHM

As I often mention on my blog, I’m big into teaching my sons to be independent in life. They are learning to cook, clean and do many other things on their own. Here is another life skill that they have been working on since they were young…. packing!

I always hear about mothers complaining about packing to go on trips. When the boys were little I used to dread this task. I knew I’d have to pack for 3 people, and the dog(s), and get the house ready to be left alone for as long as we were traveling. So as the boys got older I began teaching them to pack.

They are given a packing list! On the list they are given the number of each article of clothing they need to pack. They put the items on their bed in outfits and let me know when they are ready. Richard or I then go and check to see that they have the right items and if they need to switch things out because they don’t go, or are more play clothes then we want them to travel with at that time. Then the boys pack everything into their suitcase.

They are also allowed to bring their backpack with things to do on the drive/while we are there. They have to bring books, their tablets, some kind of learning something and headphones.

This means I only have to pack for myself and any times that we need as a family. The packing lists are catered to what we are doing and where we are going, but I’ll tell you that taking the 2 minutes to write out a packing list for them (and often times myself as well) will solve a lot of headaches and a ton of time for me now and on the trip!

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family · food · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– menu planning edition

TTM_MHM

Every week the night before I go to the grocery store I spend some time menu planning. I have done this for years. I want to go to the store once in a week. I don’t want to have to go back and get something. I also don’t want to limit my meal plans based on what I got on a whim, or what I have in my pantry.

Now don’t get me wrong there are times when I still make pantry meals. There are times when I have to go back to the store because I forgot something or I ran out of something I didn’t expect to run out of before shopping again.

So here is my must have Monday items for menu planning. First thing I grab is a pad of paper. I like the small/junior legal pads. They tend to be the perfect size for my list and then I can fold it up and put it in my pocket. Yes, I know that I could make the list on my phone, but doing it this way is the way I do it. Plus I can have others add to the list without them touching my phone.

I divide the paper down the middle on the left hand side I write all the items I am getting at the store. I even write the staples that I get each week. My list typically starts: milk, fruit, veggies, deli.

On the right hand list I write the days of the week and start picking out meals for dinner. i do not plan lunches or breakfasts. These meals are all fend for yourself at my house. If you want something for one of these meals that we don’t already have you need to put the item on the left side of the list or let me know so I can write it down.

I tend to make simpler meals for the week nights. There are many nights that Richard doesn’t get home from work until around 7pm. The boys and I do not wait until then to eat so the foods either need to be either easy to reheat or remake. The weekends (F, S, S) are the days I’ll put more energy into eating. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t cook during the week, they are just easier to put together.

The summer months mean more grilling and more simple meals. Who wants to put the oven on or slave over a stove when its in the 90s outside??

We purchase a good chunk of meats at Costco so I will go down and see what meats we have in the freezer before planning. That doesn’t mean I  am limited to those meats, but then I don’t have to buy new meats if we have them.

I always ask for meal suggestions. Blake typically says: quesadillas, pressed sandwiches, pizza or tacos. Colby typically asks for: burgers, steak, pancakes or pasta. Richard’s thoughts are a bit more random.

I typically make things we have had before, but I have an extensive Pinterest board with foods to try. Every now and then I will say… time for something new.

This week we are having:

  • grilled ham and pineapple
  • tacos
  • steak, grilled fries, and salad
  • chicken something (I pulled out chicken, but don’t know what we are having with it yet)

That’s as far as I got. I’m slacking this week! Oh well we will get there.

Do you menu plan? How do you go about menu planning each week?

family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday- Summer Break Edition

TTM_MHM

The boys started their summer break last week. Over the last few years I have learned a few things about summer break with my boys, so I thought I’d share these insights with you.

  1. Turn off the alarm clocks! But, do not let them sleep forever. I have one son who still wakes up around 6/6:30am and one who would sleep until noon if I let him. I do not have their alarm clocks on, but I won’t let them sleep past 9am.
  2. Shift bedtime, but not too far. My boys go to sleep at 7:45 in the school year. In the summer it typically is 8:15pm. There is fluidness of it depending on what is going on in life, but keeping a consistent bedtime helps too.
  3. Create loose routines that help them keep in check. Children are used to being at school where life is all about routines and procedures, and they need this to feel comfortable and content at home. Some children still need hard fast routines, but I feel that most children do well with loose routines. My boys know that they need to work in their workbooks every day. They need to make their own breakfast and lunch. Once camp is done we will get into more of a routine that includes outside time, inside time and technology time.
  4. Make mealtimes special. I get the boys involved in grocery shopping as well as making meals. This summer they will each make one meal a month from scratch.
  5. Continue to limit technology and don’t allow your day to be structures around the technology times.
  6. Being bored is cured by cleaning. When my sons tell me they are bored I tell them what they can clean.
  7. Outside time is not optional
  8. Trips to the library brings new books to read

The boys are off at camp this week, but next week we will get into our summer life routine. We will head to the gym. They will help with the household chores. We will get outside. We will cook, play games, read and so much more together. Summer life is slower than the school year, but it needs to have a loose structure to prevent the summer slump and boredom.

What are your summer break hints and tips??

life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– Must Have Monday edition

TTM_MHM

Today is Must Have Monday and I’m slacking. It was the boys last Monday of school, I sent off my resumes yesterday and I had a long list of things to clean today. Oh and the fact that the power went off at 3:15am or something like that this morning and we were awake until it came back on could have something to do with me being slightly distracted today.

Typically I decide on my Must Have Monday topic over the weekend, but this was a crazy weekend of fighting over finishing homework. Completing science projects and other parenting things that are not always enjoyable. So I didn’t think about Must Have Monday.

So what must you I have in order to write a Must Have Monday post?

  1. You need sleep. I don’t know about you, but I never function correctly without a full night sleep. I need a good 6 hours, but really I need 8 to function.
  2. You must have a topic to write about and plan it before you sit down to write it. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t blog the whole thing in my head, I just typically have an idea of what I’m going to talk about and a few of the must have items to list.
  3. You must remember that it is Monday and that you write Must Have Monday on Monday.

Hopefully I can remember these steps next week, but I don’t make any promises since it is a holiday. Anyone have a Must Have Monday topic for me to write about????

 

Must Have Monday · reviews

Must Have Monday- Water

TTM_MHM

If you ask my kids what I drink they will probably say Coke or Coffee, but the funny thing about that is I don’t drink either of those very often. I have had one cup of coffee every morning, or almost every morning since we got our Keurig. I don’t drink Coke very often either. Richard and I will split a Coke when we go out to eat. I do drink Coke whenever I have a headache. Whenever I get a headache I first drink a coke, then I grab Excedrin (which also has caffeine in it). This works almost every time for me now. I started that when I was having migraines and was trying to avoid taking the prescription medications. The doctor I had at the time suggested Excedrin and said just get extra strength, it has the same ingredients as the migraine version.

Ok…. back on topic. So the what do I actually drink the most of… WATER! I drink water all day long. So over the years I have has a large variety of different water containment devices. Here are a few of my favorites.

At home, I love having my BEAST!  BEAST 30oz Stainless Steel Tumbler Vacuum Insulated Rambler Coffee Cup Double Wall Travel Flask Mug with Splash Proof Lid, 2 Straws, Pipe Brush & Gift Box Bundle By Greens Steel. This double walled medal water cup, with straw works perfectly for me as I spend my day around the house. I fill it up with ice and water first thing in the morning. Then as the day goes on I only need to add more water to the cup. This stays ice cold all day long. There are many days when the ice is still there the next morning. I also like the size. Think about it, three fills equals 90oz of water! I don’t like to travel with this cup because of the size and if you knock it over by mistake the water will spill.

For traveling about, and going to the gym I use my Brita 20 Ounce Sport Water Bottle with 2 Filters – BPA Free – Twin Pack, Blue and Orange. We purchased these originally before our first Disney Cruise. The thought behind it was that we could always create filtered water no matter where we were going.  On that trip we got off the ship in Nassau and didn’t want to drink the water when we were on that island. After that, the boys and I began taking these to school because we could refill them in the school sinks and not drink school sink water. Anyone who has been to an elementary school knows the sinks have a level of funk no matter what you do. I take mine with me when I hike and go to the gym. Now I typically do not put ice in this because it is not insulated and will sweat. But, as I mentioned it has a filter that I like, but it also is spill proof which is why send it with the boys to school. It has a pop up top which is pretty easy to open and close, but for the most part you need to squeeze it to get the water out.

As I mentioned last week, we have two types of water containment devices for biking. All four of us have CamelBak Rogue Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Graphite, 2.5 L/85 oz as well as CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle, Periwinkle, 21 oz Fill the pack up with ice and then add in the water. It will stay cold while you drink and bike or hike. I have often seen people have these at Disney as well. The water bottle is contoured to fit safely into the cage on the bike and not slip and slide while you ride. The ones I just got for the boys are insulated and which will help them stay cold longer. One thing to be aware of when using the pack is when you aren’t wearing it make sure the pack it NOT sitting on it’s bite valve. I can not tell you how many times we have put the down and found a puddle later (in the car, in the truck, on the ground, or even the kitchen counter). The water bottle has a twist close top, but just like the Brita bottles they don’t really leak even when open since you need to squeeze it.

Richard has two different water cups that he likes to use. He has a Tervis 1228352 UCF Knights Pregame Prep Tumbler with Wrap and Black Lid 16oz, ClearHe takes water with him to drink on his drive into work every day and then refills the cup with bottle water from work to drink on his drive home. The Tervis Tumbler he uses during the cooler months. He also has a YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler w/ MagSlider Lid, Black. This one he is using now because the water will stay colder and the ice will last beyond his morning drive. These fit perfectly into the cup holders in the truck.

Here you go… my must have for drinking water. Well I need to go refill “The BEAST” and keep drinking water. Do share… what is your favorite water containment device? You never know when I need to find another one.

** post contains product links. please read my disclosure statement.**

family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– Mountain Biking

TTM_MHM

The boys start mountain biking lessons today. They have got pretty good at riding their bikes and are decent off the road too, but we wanted them to get some instruction on how to safely hit the trails. So here are our must haves for mountain biking.

First thing obviously is the bike. A mountain bike had much bigger wheels and different suspension than a street bike. They need to be able to go up, down, and over pretty much anything. The boys and Richard have Trek Mountain Bikes and Richard and I have Specialized Mountain Bikes. Yes, I meant to type Richard’s name twice, he has two bikes. His Trek bike is newer and “beefier” than his Specialized that he used in FL.

The next key item you need is a properly fitting helmet. All of us wear helmets and always will. My children learned when they were young that anytime they rode things with wheels they wear helmets. We also showed them how to wear it correctly. The helmet should sit flat on your head and the brim should sit just above your eyebrows. The straps need to be affixed below your chin and prevent the helmet from moving. The helmet should not be able to rock back and forth on your head more than an inch. It should also not be able to lift off your head. One reason the boys know that helmets is not an option is based on this story. When I was pregnant with Colby, Richard when mountain biking with some guys he knew. I received a phone call from him telling me he as on the way to the hospital. He had shattered his collarbone. The crash was bad. When we looked at his helmet when I picked up his bike and gear that one of the guys had collected from him, I noticed a dent in his helmet. I’m not sure Richard even realized that he had hit his head that hard. There wasn’t just a dent, there was a crack in the helmet and the foam on the inside was damaged. BUTTT, Richard’s head was not. If he had not been wearing his helmet that would have been his head, and the shattered collarbone may have seemed minor compared to him smashing his head on that rock instead of his helmet.

Ok enough of my pubic service message about helmets…

This weekend we went out and got the boys new hydration gear for them to use while biking. When we purchased their bikes we had Planet Bike Aluminum water bottle cage – black put on their bikes, this is one way they can tell their bikes apart (Blake’s cage is green and Colby’s is blue). We decided they needed bike specific water bottles (Camelbak Products Big Chill Water Bottle, Carbon, 25-Ounce) These water bottle fit perfectly into the bike water cage and will not slip. They need to have the indents in the top quarter to keep it from rolling out of the cage. We also decided to purchase them hydration packs. These will come in handy once they get more comfortable biking as you don’t have to stop to drink out of them. Richard and I both use them all the time when we bike and I use mine when I hike too. The boys have never had one before and are excited to have their CamelBak HydroBak Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Graphite, 1.5 L/50 oz.

Now if you ask Richard what he needs there are a few other items. Richard has egg beater pedals which means he has to have Cycling Shoes. Richard and I both also have  Mountain Bike Biking Shorts, and Cycling Gloves . We both carry  Multitools Bicycle Repair Tool in our hydration packs. This tool pretty much can fix most anything on your bike or at least help someone who knows how to fix bikes help you fix it enough to get back to your vehicle.

The last big thing that we have for mountain biking is our Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack. This rack is right now mounted on the hitch on my car. The nice thing about this bike rack compared to many racks is the bike sits on the rack at the tires. There is an arm that brings a “hook” down over the front tire and a strap that holds the bottom of the back tire. So many of the bike racks have the bikes hang on their frame. This isn’t good for the frame of the bike and you have to make sure to balance it perfectly on the hook. With the Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack, you don’t have anything touching your frame and you can’t put the bike in wrong (for the most part).

So, when it’s time to go, I just need to the Camelbak Products Big Chill Water Bottle, Carbon, 25-Ounce filled. The we can load the bikes into the Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack. The boys will then bring their helmets with them and they will be good to go. Hopefully they enjoy this mountain biking class. I know Richard is ready for them to be able to hit the trails with more confidence. Me… today I’m going to walk and/or read while they are in their class and we will go from there.

**Please read my disclosure statement**

food · Must Have Monday · reviews

Must Have Monday– the cookie baking edition

TTM_MHM

I have decided that I want to have a weekly post on Mondays. I have been debating on this for a bit and decided that Must Have Monday works. One of the big things this does for me is makes it so I don’t have to think about what to blog about on Monday mornings!

Each Monday I will post about some must have items. I have found over the years that many items that I didn’t know I needed later became must haves or at least must use once I’ve had the product.

Since I’m baking cookies, Amish Sugar Cookies, today to take to the boys’ school for their teacher appreciation lunch tomorrow, I figured I’d blog about my cookie baking must haves!

When I was engaged and planning my wedding registry one of the first things I knew I was putting on my list was a stand mixer! I had a decent hand mixer and I still use this at times, but one knows that every good baker needs a stand mixer… right??

I have had my KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 5-Quart, Empire Red (mine is white not red) for almost 14 years now and it has seen a lot of use! It sits in the end of my island right below where I keep my laptop. Since moving into our new house, I think I’ve used it at least once a week. Whenever I bake cookies it is the first item I pull out and get ready. So let me get it out so I can start making the Amish Sugar Cookies for tomorrow.

While my butter, oil and sugar cream together, let me tell you a few tips that I’ve learned. I keep my granulated sugar in a food storage container like the one pictured. I do that so it stays fresh and there is no chance of sugar falling all over the floor if the bag tips in the pantry. I keep my flours, as well as, powdered and brown sugars in the freezer. This keeps the flour fresh and bug free, after living in the heat and humidity of Florida I appreciate this knowledge a bit more. Not that I’m using nuts today, but keep your nuts in the freezer too, they won’t spoil as quickly.

Time to check on my batter. When using a stand mixer, you need to make sure you do a good job scraping the bowl. Let me grab my spatula and get the mixer ready for the next step. I have this set of spatulas and I like the variety of sizes and styles. I use the “spoonula” when I’m baking since it has a decent size curved spatula and can get in there and get all the good stuff off the bottom.

A few food must haves when baking cookies (well at least in my book they are must haves)… you must have real butter. I typically buy salted butter even though most recipes call for unsalted, and I still add the salt to the recipe. I love the taste the salt brings out in sweet recipes. I also believe that you MUST use pure vanilla extract. I try very very hard not to use artificial flavors in any of my cooking/baking. I also only use real sugars. Ok so the recipes aren’t going to win any healthy eating contest, but they will taste good and, in my opinion, as long as you have it in moderation… why waste calories on fake food?

Time to whisk together the dry ingredients.  I pulled out my OXO Good Grips 3-Quart Mixing Bowl, White/Black. This is the bowl I always pull out when my boys were helping in the kitchen when they were little. It had a very sturdy base and didn’t tip when they used it. I like the fact that it has a wide lip and spout which helps when transferring the dry ingredients into the mixer. Make sure you have the mixer on low and you do this is small doses or you will we sweeping up your dry ingredients off the floor.

I’m tossing this dough into the fridge so it can chill out for about 30 minutes. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but this recipe reminds me of snickerdoodles and snickerdoodles dough gets chilled… so off to the fridge I go with the dough!

While it’s chilling I’ll clean up the prep mess and get out the next items I need. Let me grab my cookie sheets. Ok so mine aren’t really cookie sheets they are actually Calphalon Classic Bakeware Special Value 12-by-17-Inch Rectangular Nonstick Jelly Roll Pans, Set of 2. I like the size of the jelly roll pans better than the cookie sheets. I can typically fit a dozen cookies on each sheet and I have 4 sheets (2 sets). I have this so I’m not having to wait for a sheet to cool before I can prep the next pan. I just prep them all and toss them in the ovens. On top of my “cookie sheets” I have Silpat AE420295-07 Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size, 11-5/8″ x 16-1/2″. This is one of those I didn’t know I needed it until I had it items. I do not have to spray my pans, the clean up is sooo easy and the cookies almost never burn (if they do, they don’t stick).

Another item I didn’t know was a must have until I had one, or three, is OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoop, Small, Stainless Steel. I have three different sizes of these scoops. I love that using them helps with the consistency of the size of the cookie or other item I’m making.

Once I have dished out all the dough onto the cookie sheets using the cookie scoop I’ll bake them off. I need to bring 2 dozen to the boys school and if I have extra I’ll send them into work with Richard. If not, maybe I’ll just have to bake again later in the week. Seems like I’ve been baking a lot on Thursdays.

I’ll be sure to share pictures of the finished cookies. I have made these before and I know they are yummy! Last time I froze half the batch to pull out at a later date, you can do this with cookie dough before or after baking. Such a versatile product, don’t you think.

Well you will have to let me know what you think of the first installment of Must Have Monday.  Do you have any of these products or something similar? What are your must haves for baking cookies? What other must have ideas would you like me to blog about? Share you thoughts, click on the links, join the fun… and please read my disclosure statement since this post contains links. Remember that if you purchase items through these links it doesn’t cost you any more money and helps me out too. Thanks!