If You Give a Pumpkin a Bath and Leftover Halloween Candy

The adventures of Fall continue in our home.  Our recent favorite activity is giving pumpkins baths in our kitchen sink.  Seriously, thirty-three minutes of pure bliss.  I believe the bubbles make the experience.  We scrub the pumpkin, rinse the pumpkin, dry off the pumpkin and then start all over.

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It has been heartwarming to see how this little pumpkin is cared for and how I hear my voice through my child.  After the final part of the bath, we take our pumpkin for a “magic carpet ride” (a tradition started by my husband to persuade our child out of the bathtub- Seriously, he gets on the towel and we pull him around the house.  Magic carpet ride and a little cardio workout) We rock our pumpkin and read a book to this sweet little pumpkin.  He becomes a true caregiver over this pumpkin.

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And then Halloween fell on the worst day of the week- MONDAY!!  We need to look at this concept.  It has truly threw us into a complete holiday hangover.  And then all the candy.  I’m not complaining about the amount of quality candy that entered my home but what do you do with it all.

We created a little chocolate treat with leftover candy to share with friends.  Very easy and I think it reduces the calorie intake if more chocolate is added. (whatever, I do!)

Candy Bark

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt a complete package of chocolate or almond bark. Your package will have microwave directions.  Feel free to use your double boiler if you want to get fancy.

Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper, and using a rubber spatula, spread it into an even layer about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle your favorite chopped candy and pretzels on top of the chocolate then place the baking sheet in the refrigerator.  Chill for one hour or until the chocolate has fully hardened.

Remove the bark from the refrigerator.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the bark into irregularly shaped pieces. You can serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in a cool place.

You can get creative with this and use whatever candy makes you happy.

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Enjoy the beginning of November!

Looking Forward,

Amanda

 

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Every Where

We are right on the edge.  Pumpkins are every where.  We are carving them, decorating them, cooking them, and drinking them if you have an addiction to PSL like I do.  There are several items that scream “Fall is here and I’m wearing my favorite boots and sweaters every day.”

Wanted to share a few of my favorite pumpkin creations.  All of these goodies are perfect to surprise neighbors or coworkers.  Enjoy the cool air and the wonderful smells of fall.
-Amanda

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Just Stop It- Pumpkin Oat Filled  Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Toffee Pumpkin Cookies

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Pumpkin Pie

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Pumpkin Bread

My (I mean) Their Hopes and Dreams

Like with the beginning of any school year, you get all geared up with the hopes and dreams of what the year will hold.  As a teacher, my students would always illustrate their hopes and dreams for the year.  We would hang their drawings in the classroom and refer to them throughout the year.  I would ask questions about their hopes and dreams and as their teacher, I became a navigator for those hopes and dreams.  “My hope and dream is to learn to read a chapter book.”  “My hope and dream is to learn how to multiply.”  These were their thoughts and as their teacher I wanted to make sure they achieved their goals.

As a mom of two boys, I am constantly checking into their hopes and dreams.  Of course I have my own for them but it is important I know what they are wanting to achieve.  With my ten eleven year old, it is easy, “I want to score goals at my lacrosse game.”
“I want to raise my math grade.” “I want to be a leader at school.” 

And then there is my 2 1/2 year old son.  He has lots of words, actions, and ideas but they don’t come out the same way.  We began this school year with our second year of Mother’s Morning Out.  Whitaker loved it last year.  He loved his classmates, adored his teachers, and came home singing about Jesus and about wheels on a bus.  Life was good.  When it came time to sign up again, there was no question that he would move from two days to three days.  Wow, three days a week, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and I can finally get some things done.

I quickly planned out MY “Hopes and Dreams” on these three days a week.  Oh I would get some much accomplished.  Grocery shopping, volunteering, cleaning my house, the gym, doctors appointments, so many things I can take care of. 

The first week of Mother’s Morning Out was rough like most first weeks with little ones.  There were tears, extra hugs and kisses, and prying a child off of me.  He would get the hang out it.  It’s a new room, new teachers, new classmates, but it will all work out.  The first week, I accomplished so much.  The report each day was that Whit had a hard time with transitions and was sad most of the time.  It was very easy for him to tell me that “I just miss my Mommy.”  “I’m sad at school.”   I would reassure him that he was big and brave and Mommy would come back.  (Mommy had things to do!)

So the pattern should be that each week gets a little easier.  I have a degree in Early Childhood, I know what is supposed to happen.  But this was not the case for Whitaker.  He would greet me each morning with “No School Today!” Each week became harder and harder.  Phone calls with him crying in the background because they could not get him to calm down.  They/We tried everything :extra cuddles, a special place in the room to cry when he needed it, extra cookie in his lunch box, prizes when I picked him up…..  And continually, he was saying “I need my Mommy.” “I need to cry for a minute.” “I need to be with my Mommy!”  “I want to go home.”

These phone calls and early pick-up were beginning to weigh on me.  Thoughts like-  What is going on up there?  Why is he the only one doing this?  He is completely fine. I have things I need to do. 

It was a call on a Monday.  It had only been one hour.  I could hear him in the background.  They had tried everything and he was completely inconsolable.  I drove to the school wondering what I was going to face.  Praying the whole way to the school.  I wanted clarity and an understanding of what was going on.

The minute he saw me “I’m happy now.  There is my Mommy.  I need my Mommy.  Mommy, let’s go home.”  It was discussed that maybe we should take a couple of days off with Whitaker.  Maybe he would reset and be ready to try it again. 

“Are you serious?”  I have things I need to do.  My husband is hosting his coworkers at our home. I have company coming in. I have responsibilities at Will’s school.  I can’t have him home ALL day with me. 

I went home that afternoon with my sweet two-year old and tried to rationalize this all out.  Then that clarity I had prayed for came and karate chopped me in the face. 

‘What were Whitaker’s Hopes and Dreams for this school year?’ He loves life, people, activities, and his Mommy. 

This was my first time to stay at home.  With Will, he was with a caregiver at twelve weeks.  That became the norm for Will.  Now with moves, changes, and circumstances, I have the blessing of staying at home.  I had wanted this before and now I have it.  So, why am I chasing my two-year old off so I can get to my agenda.  He is my agenda.  I get to be Mom.  I get have someone miss me and want to spend time playing with me. 

That week, I put on some new lenses with Whitaker.  It was obvious as we drove anywhere near the school his adrenaline began to rise.  He wanted reassurance that we were staying together for the day.  I began to plan activities for him.  He sat a little bit longer in the morning.  No rushing to get out the door to school and to my agenda.  We had a combined plan of what we needed to accomplish for the day. 

We are on week two of “No School Today.”  The teacher in me has been planning activities complete with learning targets. (you can take me out of the classroom but it will still creep out of me).  I have been blessed by this time with Whitaker that I thought I so badly wanted to myself.  There has been quick reminders that this time is very short.  This season will not last long.  He will be going into a classroom and not turning back before I know it. 

So, I’m going to soak it all up for now.  God is still working on me.  I’m growing and learning as a mom everyday.  I get to do this.  And it is a blessing.   It is my agenda.

Looking Forward, (and open for play dates and crafts)

Amanda, work in progress

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And We Say, “No School Today!”

That was not the plan of how that sign would be used but I’m so glad we get to begin again.

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And of course an outtake to make life real.

And the class lists are posted….

I was born wanting to be a teacher.  By second grade, it was clear that I would teach elementary children. I taught my Cabbage Patch Kids every day after school.  That Christmas I asked Santa for a chalkboard, a lesson plan book, real workbooks, and a stool to sit on. (My favorite teacher, Mrs. Thornton, had a stool.)

It was not that long ago, I waited in anticipation for my class list.  All of these names with no faces yet.  I wrote their sweet names over thirty times all over our classroom.  Would they like me?  Would I be enough for them?  Was I prepared to teach them everything they needed to know? 

I had worked all summer preparing our classroom.  Spent so much of my own money to get all the final touches my room needed.  I wanted my students to love it.  This was their home away from home.  This is where we were going to learn, make memories, laugh, and cry.  

Family members helped me get it all together.  My Mom-Mom made curtains with the most precious ABC fabric you have ever laid eyes on.  My husband assembled furniture.  My mom laminated and cut out all my handmade decor and posters.  This was a team project. 

After college, extra training, spending my whole summer preparing, I remember worrying about my first impression on my students and their parents.  They didn’t know that I had already been praying for them each by name.  They didn’t know that I shopped all day for the perfect outfit for our first time to meet.  They didn’t know the hours I spent at the school making sure everything was perfect for their children to learn and grow.

Wow, I can think back and remember it all so clear.  And you know, I felt the same way year.  Sure it got a little bit easier.  But beginnings can always be a little scary.  

There are teachers all over this country picking up last minute items for their students. They are eating dinner at 9 pm in their classrooms because their sweet husband said they had to eat.  Their bags are full of stuff they take home to work on but fall asleep on the couch as soon as they sit down because they are exhausted.  There is no tired like a “beginning of the year” tired and “end of the year” tired.  Just ask any teacher.  

So, as I sit on the other end of this whole process.  My son has been waiting (dying) to know who his fifth grade teacher is going to be.  We will walk up to see his class list tonight.  There will a teacher’s name without a face tonight.  (Sure we will run home to look it up in the yearbook.)  And tomorrow we will meet her.  Will she see my sweet boy the way I see him?  Will he meet her expectations?  Will she noticed he spent twenty minutes on his hair?  Will she understand his humor?  Does she know we have been praying for her all summer and will continue to as the year goes on?  

She will because I will notice how her room is ready for him.  I will see her new haircut, manicure, and outfit.  I know she attended countless professional learning sessions this summer.  She is just as nervous as I am and underneath it all, we get it!  

She will lose sleep the right before the first day of school.  I know she will wake up at least four times worried she will miss her alarm.  Of course she will leave her house an extra thirty minutes early just in case there is an accident or unexpected traffic.  She will turn on the lights to her classroom and realize it will be filled with eager students in just a few minutes.  With her lipgloss perfect, she will smile as they all enter the room and assure parents it will all be okay.  The bell will ring and she will close the door.  As turns to look at all the precious faces looking back at her, she will feel her heart grow just a little more.  Because this was all she had dreamed about since she was eight years old. 

Happy New School Year to all the millions of teachers who love our children and have more demands put on them every year!  I get you!  I have your back!

Looking Forward,

Amanda

Lettuce Wraps in a Slow Cooker (WHAT?!?)

Welcome to Summer Break! I love not setting alarm clocks, hanging with my boys, and having a messy ponytail almost every day. In the summer, I still want to make good meals but want to soak up all the outside fun and adventures that we have planned. So welcome in Lettuce Wraps that you make in a slow cooker! Can I get an “AMEN!” These wraps are simple and very tasty. Chop a few things and forget about it. Throw some edamame on the side and you are ready for a pretty healthy meal that you did not give much thought to. I’m always looking for easy meals in the summer. So please share your go-to’s in the comments below. I would love to cook them up and share with our squad. Take it easy this summer and watch for recipes, summer ideas, books I’m trying to read while playing hot wheels, and random thoughts from my head.

Keep Singing and Dancing! We have so many reasons too!
Looking Forward, Amanda

 

20160218_195921 (1)Slow Cooker Lettuce Wraps

2 lb. ground chicken
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 T soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 t sesame oil
2 heads iceberg lettuce, cleaned, separate lettuce leaves

Sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 T soy sauce

Place ground chicken and garlic in a large skillet. Cook ground chicken throughly. Drain off liquid and pour mixture into a slow cooker. Add red bell pepper, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper and toss mixture. Cover and cook on low heat 2 – 3 hours until chicken is tender.
Stir in water chestnuts, green onions, rice vinegar, and sesame oil, cook until heated through. I give this about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt pepper if you as desire.

Mix additional hoisin sauce and soy sauce for sauce. This will add a little kick for those that want it.

Fill your lettuce leaves with the chicken mixture and top with extra sauce if you are feeling crazy. Serve with cooked edamame.

If there are leftovers, they are very yummy the next day.

Simple Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

In our home, you will never hear me begging our boys to eat brussels sprouts.  Brussels Sprouts are a favorite and enjoyed often.  For me, this is simplest way to make  tasty, little sprouts.  Add them as any side dish.  Get creative and add bacon!  Sing and Dance- Amanda

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24 Brussels Sprouts, cleaned, and halved lengthwise
2 T Olive Oil
2 T unsalted butter
5 Garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large shallow pan, over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Let the butter bubble a little then add the garlic cloves and cook until they turn a light browned.

Remove the garlic cloves from oil.  Discard garlic. Turn the heat to low.

Place each brussels sprout cut-side down on the pan. Simmer covered for about 10-12 minutes or until the brussels sprouts are nicely browned (cut-side) and tender when pierced.

Place on a serving platter.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you are feeling crazy, add shredded Parmesan cheese.

Rice Krispie Treats

Happy National Cereal Day!  How do I celebrate cereal?!?  I add marshmallows and butter!  This is my simple rice krispie treat recipe.  Nothing over the top except I think you need to start with large marshmallows and then add smaller ones at the end.  Gooey and a complete guarantee that you (and family, if you share) will finish the pan in one day.  You will notice in the picture that there are little marshmallow pillows of goodness waiting on you.  The secret is adding minis after you have made you initial mixture.  Trust me!  Happiness in a little square of cereal!  Happy National Cereal Day!  Celebrate the appropriate way!  Looking Forward, Amanda

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5 T butter (extra for buttering pan)
8 cups of LARGE marshmallows, plus 2 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie Cereal

Butter your 12×9 pan, set aside.
On very low heat, in a large pan, melt butter. Once butter in melted add  8 cups of large marshmallows, stirring constantly.
Once the marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and stir in your cereal until coated in marshmallow mixture. Now stir in 2 cups of mini marshmallows.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and press in evenly. I use wax paper to help me press down the mixture so that it does not stick to my hands or spoon.
Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.