Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Style

Question of the day: what is your holiday decorating style? I was pondering that recently as there are so many options available now. Classic red and green? Jewel tones? All silver and gold? Eclectic? Traditional? Modern?

Our look - I think - is *nature inspired.* Red and green with lots of pine cones, candles, and some rustic and vintage-y touches.

Tell me a story...game night

Last night was Game night at the R household. We made it to Thanksgiving having a nice family dinner every night and it was awesome! I really saw how wonderful it is to have this time to connect every day with all three of us being present. Physically and mentally. I loved how much Miss P and I looked forward to the ritual every evening. E looked forward to good food! (on nights that I managed to get it together.) The part that resonated the most for me, was not the nourishment (although my healthy voice tells me that should be more important), BUT the laughter is was really got me. And most of the laughter came from the activities we did after dinner. Particularly on Monday, family game night.

There is something about being silly and laughing. And I think for kids to see their parents in that light. Parents who are often reminding them to brush their teeth and pick up their toys.

Last night E was coming off a two day bout with the flu, so I pulled out a low-key game. Eeboo (love them) Tell me a story cards. You grab a selection of cards, that feature the same characters, and take turns randomly choosing a card and building a story together, based on the pictures you see. It is so cute to hear Miss P's dramatic storytelling voice. Such an easy game to play on a night when you have low energy, and a good literacy builder too (says the kindergarten teacher)!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

photo shoot!

So our awesome friend Hilary of Pulling Curls fame did a photo shoot for us the day after Thanksgiving. What a hero. Naturally, Miss P looks good in every shot, but I'm a bit of a wild card. (Yikes - cleavage. Yikes - chipmunk cheeks). Now, to decide on Holiday Cards....

Sadly, I didn't get all of our holiday decorations up in time. In hindsight, I can imagine some uber cute shots of us surrounded by poinsettias.

Love the brick!
Now, this is us!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we started a new tradition - participating in the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot! Let me tell you, it was a b-l-a-s-t. After some deliberation about the best event(s), the three of us walked the 5K together. Miss P did 22 laps at her school Turkey Trot, so we figured she could do it (if we kicked her behind a little, or bribed). We did a bit of both. I had a couple of prizes stashed in our backpack to hand out at each mile marker, to keep her going. Here we are, before the event, which by the way, had 15,000 participants and raised about $400,000 for Second Harvest food bank.

And above is us after the event. When asked if she enjoyed it, P said, "Hey, I got a shirt, face painting (at the kidsfest after), and a stuffed animal (her prize). Yeah, I enjoyed it!"

Downtown San Jose was totally closed down for the event. It was a cold, but sunny morning.
We ran into a few of our good friends, including S above, who did the 10K and is quite the runner. : )
Here's another partner in crime, J, there with her kiddos and sister. We've done a marathon and half marathon together.

We also saw my good friend Linda and her family. Today, I am so thankful for health and my fantastic family and friends. The event sure kicked off this holiday with a tone of hope and happiness. I hope everyone is having a joyful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Direction (and not a Glee reference)

I am happy to see an old favorite blog resurface....Hemstitch and Hydrangea is now Signature Style! I found H & H a couple of years ago and loved the author's writing and classy look. She stopped blogging due to some major life changes and I just learned that she came back about two months ago.

In reading about her return, I started thinking about how I love the idea of a 'signature' style. SS refers to Signature Style as something you love that makes you 'tick.' In this post, another blogger, DALS talks about having a signature dish, something people remember, something that keeps people wanting more.

I'm still mulling this over. But....I've been thinking about my blog lately. Initially, Life is What You Make it, was basically a mom blog, that also focused on positive thinking and creating the life you want. I'm still pretty positive, but eventually the blog became mostly a journal about life with Miss P, along with other miscellaneous stuff - fashion, fitness, attempts at cooking, and crazy classroom stories.

Being a teacher is definitely my calling. Although I am always tweaking and learning, I definitely feel 'in my groove,' in the classroom. I come alive there. Yet in this blog, I've been yearning to find my own 'niche' beyond the standard mom blog (although nothing is wrong with the standard mom blog; my favorite blogs fall in this category.)

Recently, I feel like I may have found my blog's new slant. You may have noticed it in the tweaking I've done lately. I'm hoping to give Life is What You Make it a face lift and a little more structure. It will still be a lot about our family's life, but I want to share my ideas in general for having fun with your child(ren). Ideas for creative, active play. Ideas designed to help nurture your relationship with your little ones, and most of all have FUN together. As a kindergarten teacher and mom, this is what I am mostly about.

While I see tons of blogs about cooking, decorating, and every other hobby and interest out there, I don't see any that are just about having FUN with your children. Particularly that are attractive to look at and entertaining to read. I hope to be this blog. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On our reading list

I meant to wait until after Thanksgiving....but we couldn't wait! We are halfway through Holly! Miss P and I will try to s-t-r-e-t-ch the other two out a bit!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Plans

It's beginning to look a lot like....Thanksgiving!

I am starting to get excited for the holidays.

Work has been kicking my butt lately, to put it simply and plainly. This has made our household be a little persnickety about the holidays - a sacred time to relax and enjoy. One of my SILs made it her mission to get us all together for Turkey day. Here is what she had to contend with;

*families living in three different areas. Our contention: "No travel." (I am now nicknaming husband "No Travel E").

*one member that wanted a home cooked meal

*no one with a big enough house in the right location or interest in hosting the group

*one family needing a suitable spot for a little one to take a good nap

*another family needing a space for little ones to blow off steam, play and be noisy

*some members wanting to see certain relatives

*other members wanting to avoid certain relatives

and so on...

What we settled on:
Our little family is doing the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, and DVRing the Macy's parade. We will come home with Starbucks to watch said parade, have breakfast and then get stylish. Later we meet the rest of the fam at California Cafe in Los Gatos for 2:30 "linner" reservations. We have some possibilities in mind for afterward, including possibly going to see Tangled.

The next day we will 'deck the halls.' What about you? Anyone going to a restaurant? I'm "cooking up" (ha ha) more plans and will share soon....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turkey Tacos and a Treasure Hunt

Our family dinner challenge is still going strong, although we've had to sneak in more restaurant meals than I would like...here's what we made at home last night

E's Terrific Turkey Tacos (recipe inspired by Real Simple magazine's version)

1 yellow onion
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
olive oil
flour tortillas

whatever fixings you like:lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc.

-Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat, add onion and cook for about 4 minutes
- Add turkey, cook about 7 minutes
-Stir in chili powder and salt

-Meanwhile, in another skillet, fry flour tortillas in a little olive oil
-stack on a plate, in between paper towels if needed.

-Spoon the turkey filling into the tortillas and add fixings!

Since Monday night is 'game night' here, we played and then ended with 'Time for Bed Treasure Hunt.' Here's how to play - I hid Miss P's pajamas in the car in the garage. Her latest book went under my pillow, and her toothbrush and toothpaste were in the guest bath. I left clues in all the spots and began by handing her the first one. P loves treasure hunts so this was a fun way to get ready for bed. I got this idea from Sneaky Fitness by Missy Chase Lapine. Goal being to have fun and to move! Again, our house is perfect, as it is three levels. I purposely made it so she would have to go up and down the stairs several times. Some of the clues called for her to walk, run, or dance to the next location. And you know what, I found myself with a nice little endorphin rush at the end of the night too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reindeer Party

We are having a little reindeer party! We being, Miss P and I are. Here is how I got myself involved in this...

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading something by a working mom. She talked about how once she finally was able to wrangle a part-time schedule, she started to do 'cookie baking' play-dates for her kids on Fridays. (As a way to reciprocate the other moms who had hosted her children.) I thought - what a great idea! I'll have to do that....(though I don't have Friday off, I can be a little more flexible in the afternoon on that day...)

Flash forward to week ago, I was thinking of another article I read, that suggested, in order to keep from getting too overwhelmed in December, pick only 3-5 holiday things that are must-do's and drop the rest. I thought - OK! Decorations, holiday cards, a couple key parties, church, and gifts for the kids! Gee, that covers everything! What am I giving up? Oh, I know, baking. I can give up baking. Baking is not that important to me. There, that is something. But hmmmm...I haaad been thinking about doing a baking playdate for P. And hmm...we were going to have a school friends Halloween get-together, but didnt. We could have a cookie baking playdate! And the moms could be free to holiday shop. Yes! And thus, the gingerbread house making (my idea)/ reindeer party (miss P's idea) was born.

In case anyone is as crazy as me, here is what we are going to do (I actually think it'll be pretty easy). We are only inviting 3 little girls, so that it is somewhat mellow and loose - 4 six year olds total.

*Little girls show up, are ushered into our craft room downstairs to get 'reindeer-ed.' (I do reindeer noses for each of them and hand them their antler headband. I'm thinking I may do a little holly or candy cane on their cheeks if they want.)

*When everyone is accounted for, we head upstairs to make simple gingerbread houses out of graham crackers in the dining area. As girls finish, they can sing to holiday songs on P's microphoned boom-box or play pin the beard on Santa/pin the nose on Rudolph.

*After, time to hit the hot chocolate bar and have a healthy snack in the kitchen.

*Treasure hunt time! Girls will burn off some energy running outside (weather permitting), following clues and participating in challenges (prance like a reindeer, name 3 reindeer, sing Rudolph, etc). Assuming they complete the challenges and hunt, they'll find a little santa bag with some treats.

*Finally, they'll end with some free play and then a holiday cartoon, depending on the mood.

I'm excited, as I think they'll have a blast! (And it won't break the bank!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hot dogs and turkeys

First of all, for anyone wondering, this is not Miss P in the photo. However, the pinecone turkeys the model is holding bear some resemblance to last night's craft. We had another less than stellar meal - hot dogs. However, I did finish and turn in my report cards! In addition to report card madness, I have been battling the last two days to get services in place for one of my special needs students. I have been meeting with a lot of folks and doing lots of follow up. Hopefully there will be a payoff. Anyway....we did eat as a family tonight, the aforementioned hot dogs. And, as promised, Miss P and I did our Tuesday night craft - these little guys from the latest Family Fun. It was a little tricky - for both of use - but there was a sense of pride in the end. We are all excited about having Veteran's Day off tomorrow! Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mom Cave!

Apparently, there is such a thing now as a mom cave! Why am I just now hearing about this?! Hello!

I think I may need to plot and plan my dream hideout. Will my family ever see me again??

Monday, November 8, 2010

How low can you go??

Our family dinner project is going better than I imagined! Tonight, I didn't cook, E did. I am smack in the midst of finishing report cards, so he did a quick pesto pasta. After prayers, dinner, and some conversation, Miss P cleared the table, and we played the fun family card game above.

After reading the rules, I decided to simplify and modify the way to play the game. Basically we each had as stack of cards and, kind of like War, we each turned over our top card. Depending on the round, we chose for either the person with the highest or lowest number to have to perform the dance shown on their card. Dances included: hip hop, the twist, tango, tap dance, and western style, to name a few (10 types total).

We all had some laughs (and a little bit more exercise than usual). It was amazing to me how much more fun we were having, compared to our previous Monday evenings. Not that we were the Doldrum family....however, I think it is easy to fall into a weekday rut, of being tired and busy with responsibilities. Miss P shared multiple times how much fun she was having, which made me feel great. Since we started, she has been talking each day about what the 'theme' of the night is (Monday- game night, Tuesday - craft night, Wednesday - P's choice, Thursday - Mom's choice, Friday - Movie night or dad's choice). It has made our evenings so much more special, and so much more something to look forward to.

Thursday is Veteran's Day and a day off from school, so I'm sure I will cook something good that night!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Outdoor Decorating: From Halloween to Thanksgiving

Our Halloween decorations have finally come down! Yes, I was that person. I've been half waiting for a note on my door that people are tired of seeing my cobwebs and spider outside (jack 'o lanterns had been put to rest.) Although, I have seen a lot still up at other houses, so maybe I'm not so alone.

Anyway, I am doing a little Thanksgiving sprucin.' I try to mostly do general Autumn (both in my home and classroom) with just a few touches of specifically Halloween and Thanksgiving for ease. However our outside is feeling a bit lackluster now, so I turned to Better Homes and Gardens, as most of what I've been seeing elsewhere has focused on indoors. Check out the link below. I love the hollowed out pumpkins with flowers and branches and the festive tree.

Fall Outdoor Decorating: From Halloween to Thanksgiving

Miss P and I have started a craft night on Tuesdays after dinner, and this month is dedicated to Thanksgiving. We are making pinecone turkeys this week that I found in Family Fun. I'll let you know how it all turns out!

A Ghost Story

So this is another peek inside Miss P's adorable writing journal. A fiction entry this time. I have to save this memory! (Again, spelling corrected) You know six year olds have a 'thing' about chapter books! I have left out the description of the pictures on each page, they match the words. Should I *read* something into the fact that I am the hero in the end?? Hopefully, I can remain a hero forever...

The Ghost under the Bed
by P**** R****

Chapter 1
What's that, I said.
Is it a ghost?

Chapter 2
Or is it my mom?
I don't know!

Chapter 3
I'll look under my bed.
Aah! It is a ghost!

Chapter 4
Oh. It is just my furry rock! (???)

Chapter 5
Right. There are not ghosts.
But wait. I hear a scratching sound....

Chapter 6
Is it a ghost again. Or is just my imagination? (spelled amajanashin)

Chapter 7
I guess I'll never know? But wait. I hear it again!

Chapter 8
It is a ghost! Whooo! whooo!

Chapter 9
What should I do??

(ghost pictured scaring her - boo!)

Chapter 10
Mom help! Mom help! Pretty please!

Chapter 11
Thanks. Everyone is fine.
The end.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Something Sweet

A smile. This week for miss P's homework, she was asked to write about something close to her heart. This is what she wrote independently (spelling corrected for your ease):

My home is the place I want to be. Because it is the right place to be.
My reasons
My home is fun!
I love my mom and dad
My home has memories
Every home does
It's a clean place
It smells good
And the food is good there
yum! and delish!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tonight: a little fitness!

Tonight was leftover chicken from Monday night. And, yikes! I missed it. I stayed a little later at work while E took Paige to swim lessons. I thought they'd wait for me, but they ended up eating early. Can't miss any other nights this week now! They did eat together and then sat with me while I ate, so not a total loss.

Tonight's after dinner activity was P's choice, but I *influenced* it without her really realizing it. In my quest for healthy family activities, I've done what I always do. Get books on the topic! One new book I just received is Missy Chase Lapine's Sneaky Fitness. Inside was an activity just made for P and our tri-level house. Pet hospital! We turned the downstairs den into a hospital, complete with cribs and equipment. As we 'worked' (P logging stats into the computer), we would receive emergency phone calls, requiring us to run to the top level of our house, fetch hurt (stuffed) animals, then run to the middle level, climb our helicopter, do some laps around the table, and then return to the hospital on the bottom floor. Repeat. Not a major fitness experience, but something!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 2 - Carbonara

Day two found us dining on Pasta Carbonara. This is one of my favorite dishes, however it always turns out a little different! This is a variation on what I usually do:

Bacon and Egg Pasta or Carbonara
1/3 pound bacon
Olive oil
4 eggs
Parmesan or parmigaiano cheese
8 oz pasta

Cook the bacon, drain the grease and set aside
Cook the pasta (undercook it a smidge)
Meanwhile, mix up the egg and cheese in a bowl
When pasta is done, drain most of the water
Then, put back on the stove with a bit of the hot water left
Add in the bacon with some garlic and egg/cheese mixture
Cook until the eggs scramble and everything is nicely mixed

This was yummy! As always. This particular night we played a game called, "I'm going on a picnic." It's a good critical thinking skills game. One person (or in this case, both P and I) made up a secret rule for this conversation game. We would talk about things around the table that we would bring on a picnic. However, the items had to all consist of just three letters. Like you could bring a 'bag,' or a 'hat' or a 'dog.' The other players have to ask, "could I bring this on the picnic?" (Like a book?) You answer 'yes' or 'no' until everyone figures out the pattern. Another way to do it, is everyone can only bring things that start with the first letter of their name. Like, Paige will bring pizza. (I think that is a pretty common game). We decided to make Tuesdays art night, so after we made turkeys out of brown craft paper, with foamy feathers and crayons.

Miss P is already on board with this new tradition, asking each day, "what is our theme tonight?!" E has appreciated the cooking and a more organized evening.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Night One of the Family Dinner Challenge!

No, it's not pretty, but it's real. Here's night one's meal (E's dish with a salad, not pictured). We had Honey Mustard Chicken and it was dee-lish! I know chicken is good for you, but I always find it so bland. Not so with these toppings! (Naturally, you can use less, to make it lighter and healthier). Miss P set the table, and we actually did have the TV on since it was the final game of the world series (thank God that is over).

After we played some games. One was "Rattlesnake Tag." One person closes their eyes and the other shakes a rattle or bell. The blinded person has to try and tag the rattler. A third person observes to make sure everyone is safe! Then, we played "Graveyard." (Also can be called "Statues.") One or more people have to lie down and be still. The other has to try and make the still player(s) laugh. In the 'statues' version, the players have to pick a pose and remain still. Fun night at home!

OK, here is the recipe:

Honey Mustard Chicken
4 chicken breasts
8 strips bacon
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. honey mustard dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon strips (I like to microwave cook them), break into pieces and set aside. Brown chicken until no longer pink. In a baking dish, layer as follows: chicken breasts, bacon strips, cheddar cheese, and then drizzle honey mustard on top. Bake for 10 minutes. Voila!

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Challenge!

In honor of this month of cooking, eating, and gratitude, I have decided to do a family meals challenge. You *may* remember my new year's resolution (oh, who am I kidding) to improve my cooking abilities. I actually have not done a bad job this year. I learned a handful of new recipes, had 'stints' of cooking dinner marathons. Tried some new techniques. Did a 'fruits and veggies' challenge with my family. Even started a short-lived blog about my attempts, The Riley Food Revolution. Anyway.

For the month of November, our family will have dinner together (at least) 6 nights a week. Five of those nights it will be cooked by me. This leaves us two 'freebie' nights of eating out (with one potential date night). We will make a ritual of the meals, with everyone playing a role. Miss P will *decorate*, set the table, or help cook. We will say grace and leave the TV off. We will have games sometimes.

I will post my recipe, a photo, and tell a bit about how it went. I can't promise that the recipes will be super creative, original, (and 95% of the time they won't be mine), or always really healthy. I will pick things that are quick and easy to cook, usually comfort type foods, that kids and adults both might like.

Posting here will keep me accountable, be a fun personal record, and may give you some ideas (or help you feel a whole lot better about yourself and your efforts!!) Oh, and since I love, and am a sucker for cookbooks, I'll give some deets about the newest ones. Pictured above is our school's community cookbook (first grade fundraiser this year). It has some awesome recipes! Also, an inspiration for this challenge - The Family Dinner, by Laurie David. Bon appetit!

A little random creativity!

Last weekend Miss P's aunt and cousin "C" made a pilgrimage to SoCal to get P and C's American Girl dolls' ears pierced (bit of a tongue twister). P is so excited with her doll's assortment of new earrings. So excited that she decided to peel the wax from our candles and make her own fancy hoops! Ingenuity!