Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years' Eve Party

I am excited to welcome a fresh, brand new year tonight! We are hosting two other families, so we'll have six adults and five kiddos at our party. As usual, I am pulling everything together last minute. Here are our plans for our casual ring in the new year...

Pasta Bar: For our simple dinner we are cooking up a few different types of pasta, serving it on a platter, and including various toppings in little bowls: sun dried tomatoes, chopped chicken, cheese, broccoli, etc., along with sauces. Everyone does make your own pasta, pleasing kids and adults alike!

: This is our third year doing this kind of party. Last year, we managed the kids by having a new activity each hour. This year, I thought, what if we could get a high school babysitter to help entertain the kids? Our friends drafted a message on facebook and we got ourselves a responsible brother/sister team. It's a win-win for everyone. Kids get paid, their parents get some freedom, and we can get some uninterrupted fun.

Crafts: Happy New Year Cards! We are going to rig a photo area with wooden numbers spelling out 2011 and have the kids make their own cards on the spot. By the way, this idea is from Family Fun.

Play: I love this bubble jump idea. I got this idea from Martha Stewart. Color the flat side of bubbles with permanent marker, turn over and tape down with painters tape. Bounce heaven in 2011!

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year's
New Year's Eve?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My new friend!

This was a big post-Christmas gift to myself. The thing I didn't know I needed! Here's a fact about me. I can't make coffee for beans (get it? ha ha). Which is why I treat myself to Starbucks most days - yikes. The cost has been really adding up over the years....I was hesitant to buy myself a better coffee maker (we had el cheapo version) as I didn't trust myself NOT to end up back at Starbucks. Enter The Keurig. If you don't already know about this machine, it is goof proof. You purchase coffee to go with it that comes in pre-measured cups - just the right amount for one cup at a time. Fill up the water tank, insert the cup, and it brews it perfectly for you. Goof proof!

This bad boy contributes to a few of my resolutions and goals for 2011. My big goal of 2010 was to become a better cook. I made a list of about 25 mini goals that would help me reach this bigger overall goal. I didn't complete all 25, and I repeatedly lost interest and renewed interest throughout the year. But you know what? I am a better cook. Hooray! I am planning to continue my cooking quest in 2011, but now it feels like more of a habit/hobby, so it isn't part of my official 'list.' Without further 'ado,' here is the list:

1) Hit Starbucks for mochas only once or twice (at most) each week. Drink home coffee instead!
2) Stay on budget! (By reducing coffee habit and bringing lunch every day I can do this.)
3) Lose 15 pounds by June 1st. (Again, reducing mocha habit and eating healthier lunches from home)
4) Continue to give this blog a little revamp! (more on that to come).
5) Plan for a family vacation this summer.

What are your plans for 2011? I am excited about having a little New Year's party tomorrow night - post coming soon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas recap

So we had an awesome Christmas, filled with lazing around, watching Hallmark movies, drinking mimosas, and playing games with family. I have some great games to share coming up!!

As I'm such a holiday nut, (or maybe just a woman?), I always reflect at the end, to see what I loved and what I wish I had done differently, I even used to keep notes in a little holiday organizer. Through the years I've made such rookie mistakes as not shopping for or planning outfits for Christmas Eve Mass. One year, I felt terrible when we missed Mass. Another year I was disappointed when we failed to have any kinds of plans on New Years' Eve. I guess I like big, blown-out holidays.

This year, there wasn't much I would change. My new lesson, though, was to make time for DOWNTIME. There was a bunch of stuff that we could have done but didn't. We didn't do our downtown's Christmas in the Park, The Nutcraker, the local Fantasy of Lights and missed some parties. We did do some entertaining, got together with all of our family, of course made it to church, and I did a bang-up job, if I do say so myself, on our cards, decorating, and gifting. I did a post below on flexibility, and I found that to be kind of the key this year. 'Marrying' my wish for a blow-out holiday with my husband's wish for a relaxing, more unstructured holiday. Communication is key, people!

This seems to be the trend this year. Read here and here, for more 'less is more' celebrations.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cousins

Birthday twin ( 8/25/04 and 8/25/08) cousins...
and more cousins

and more cousins

and still more cousins

celebrating Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flexibility is the name of the game

Have you heard of the book, The Five Love Languages?? It reminds me a little of celebrating holidays. The way you want to celebrate, isn't necessarily the way other family members may want to...especially with passing years, as we grow, evolve and relationships change.

For me, I typically love the busyness, the shopping, the music, the cards, the decorating, and the entertaining. I like to put in extra effort, to choose the most thoughtful, nice gifts I can, spend time contemplating Jesus, and to make everything festive and lively. For E, the ideal holiday equals downtime with close family and friends, little effort, little drama.

Are you in sync with your family? I do the holiday work from soup to nuts (with a few small exceptions), as I know that a lot of it is important to only me. Still, E has alternately enjoyed it, and griped about it. Today, I had a couple of reminders to scale back and make things more relaxing.

How about you?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

California Christmas

After a lot of rain, today was sunny and 70! We had friends over and shorts and t-shirts abounded. Our original plan was to make gingerbread mini houses with the kids (and by the way, baking/dessert making and the like are not my strong suit, but I think I might like to make this a new regular tradition with P. We did a trial yesterday and seems really fun!!) Today, due to the weather, and the mood of the adults (just wanted to relax rather than coordinate an activity), we tabled that idea and chilled instead. Kids playing + food + drink + leisurely afternoon = Happy Adults!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Company Dish!

Barefoot Contessa again with another delish chicken dish...

A lot of us are entertaining a bunch right now. Here is an EASY and yum-mee recipe for
Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, skin-on
  • 4 to 5 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving 1 side attached. Cut the goat cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 1 or 2 slices plus 1/3 of the julienned sun-dried tomatoes under the skin of each chicken breast. Pull the skin over as much of the meat as possible so the chicken won't dry out. With your fingers, rub each piece with olive oil, and sprinkle them very generously with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me!

Here is my Christmas present this year! We spent the first 'weekday' of our holiday break 'reverse shopping.' Basically, I had four things to return (from four different stores located in different parts of the city), and three checks to cash. The three of us went out together and probably spent a good 6 hours out and about and actually had a fun time. Of course, we did a little regular shopping as well. Miss P had gotten a visa gift card from her babysitter and was very excited to purchase a set of magic tricks. I told her today was going to be the first available day to shop, and thus she had nicknamed it 'visa day.' As in, two more days 'til Visa day! Oy! Anyway, E begged me to take over with my own gift, and I obliged, picking out this Fossil purse and matching wallet. I am also gifting myself a blog makeover, which you will see soon here!

By the way, if you are on a six hour shopping/errand trip or the like with your family, check out my new 'on the go' games to your right!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Elf Time

These alone are the gifts that I am giving at school today! My school is huge into exchanging presents. Oh wait, this is not counting the 26 wrapped books I am giving my students!!! I have been at Target or Micheal's almost every day getting one more last thing. I also was big into Pier One and Cost Plus World Market. Pier One has daily dealies....the gifts I already gave my three Kindergarten Teachers were a score from there.
This apron, which I am probably not displaying well, was regularly $19.99 at Cost Plus, but they had a 50% off special yesterday only. $9.99! Trust me, it is cuter in person. This is for my Secret Santa gal, who is awesome!

Isn't this cute? I thought so. These are Pier One items. This gift is for my student teacher and I think will fit her perfectly. I also got her the most fabulous card.

Woo Hoo for the last school day of 2010! Let's hope my students come back matured and uber ready for learning. : )

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peace be with you....

One of the things this season is truly about...

I have been very busy lately. Busy with work things that have nothing to do with the holidays. Busy with work tasks related to the holidays (such as gifts from all of my students to their parents, gifts to my many parent helpers, gifts to my colleagues, and student teacher, planning and shopping for my classroom holiday party), and just busy with Christmas preparations outside of school in general. I have been tired. I missed a couple of holiday get-togethers I wanted to attend. My office, living room, and dining room each contain a mess from projects in process. My Christmas card order was missing half the cards (thank you Tiny Prints for resending!) Our tree is not yet up. However...

The other night Miss P and I were driving home from errands. It was game night, and I was pooped after a long day. P and I were trading riddles and jokes. I was concentrating on topping P's joke - what do you call a container that talks a lot? A chatterbox! When it hit me. Right now, at this moment, my big challenge is coming up with a joke to amuse myself and my six year old. That is all I am thinking about. My mind is clear. I am at peace. There have been Christmases, and times in general, when I have struggled to relax and live in the moment. Even though I experienced happiness, there was still a worry of some kind in the corner of my mind. I am so grateful to have the gift of peace and happiness this year. The ability to live in the moment and have times of carefree gaiety, like a child. So many people do not have this. It is something that can easily be taken for granted, but not by me!

I hope that all of my *readers* can experience peace for the remainder of 2010!

my sixtween year old...

Oh the joys of a six year old......

Remember the last post, where I said I was going to keep it real?

Here's another doozy....

I have thought maybe I shouldn't post these things, as it may be classier and/or kinder (to Miss P) to leave out her ....poor choices. Then I thought about all the braggy posts I have shared about her, and this is way to....well, like I said, keep it real. Plus, one of my besties told me the other day that reading about P's 'lazy' comment to me helped her feel a little better regarding the zingers her lovelies have aimed her direction.

So, here we are driving to church on Sunday morning and P is prattling on about spelling patterns in words. I misheard something she said and asked her about it, and her response was something to the lines of, "Mom, I said this, not that. You didn't hear me right. You must not have a very good brain."


We had a big talk about that comment. A talk that was revisited later in the day, and then this morning. I think she got the picture. She tells me that she was just trying out a way to be funny, and she did not think about it being hurtful at the time.

On the plus side, after school today I had mega errands to run for the classroom. After putting together the class gift for P's teacher, we trekked to Fremont to the Scholastic warehouse, which had a huge sale for teachers. I had my eye on some books to give as gifts to my students and was not disappointed. I was actually quite giddy. How I love a bookstore! Anyway, Miss P and I sang and told jokes and riddles on the way up. It occurred to me how lonely and different it would be to do this errand without her. I have been doing so much holiday stuff lately and have nicknamed her my little elf. (The three of us actually watched Elf together on Saturday night, and Miss P had quite the time later playing 'Chrismas Elf.') We continued to tell jokes and riddles through our IN-n-Out dinner and final errand to Micheal's. I finally had to put a kibosh on the jokes on our way home after a three hour jaunt.

Finally, my favorite joke of the night...

How does a goose say goodbye to his friends?

'Geese Out!'

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reindeer Party

So last Saturday was Miss P's famed Reindeer Party....

I'm going to keep it real....

there were some highs and lows.
The low point was when Miss P 'lost it' when I asked her to put her shoes on as we were taking our reindeer challenge (a game we were playing) outside. P did not realize that was part of the plan, and/or did not want to go outside and played the stubborn game. When she finally did come out and saw everyone running around the play structure having a great time, she burst into tears, claiming that everyone was having fun without her, and 'didn't need her.' She was very dramatic, and I felt, bratty. I think she may have been overexcited and revved up, and it got the best of her. I was not thrilled with her behavior, partly because I was trying to simultaneously lead the activities and cover for her, as I wanted to save face and not have her friends see her acting ridiculous. E, who was sick upstairs, talked to her briefly in the hallway, and I kind of lost it, and said something hideous, like she was 'looking for a smack.' I have never come close to hitting her, nor do I talk that way. Anyway, she pulled herself together and we moved on.

Overall, the party was a success, and P and her friends had a great time. I feel like it was a good learning experience, to really walk through what to expect and how to behave in 'hostessing' circumstances. I know, had the party been at someone else's house, she would have put on her shoes and ran outside. At someone else's house she would have been flexible, the way she typically is. The other guests were great, but one of the girls had some interesting reactions to party events, and it made me think about how important manners, confidence, and poise are. My MIL tried to drill good manners into P. Although I've always felt they were important, I initially thought her efforts were a bit overkill. Now, I see the importance. Sometimes P feels shy around adults and forgets her manners. This is the perfect age for some refresher. See, E, having parties is a learning experience. : ) : )

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Run, run, run, as fast as you can...

One of our family activities the other night was to decorate gingerbread men. I picked up these bad boys from Trader Joe's. And when I say 'bad boys,' I mean - yuck-a-doodle. Fun to decorate, barf to eat. This, naturally, has not stopped Miss P from picking at the icing. Can you tell whose is whose?
Brain surgeons that we are, we did this activity on a school night shortly before bed. Actually, I think we are just used to how easy the P is. Not this night. Do you see the monstrous look in her eyes?? She went nutty for the candy and needed removal. Merry Christmas!

Had to snap this pic...

OK, I love my Whole Foods, but dude, leave Trader Joe's alone!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Grade Award Winner!

Meet a top first grade reader! Woot! Thank goodness my student teacher was able to take on my class so I could sneak out and attend Miss P's award assembly.

Life Changin' Chicken

So I read on another blog recently about a chicken recipe created by Ms. Ina Garten. The poster, like me, is or was not previously a big chicken fan. Too bland usually - she claimed. Until she discovered this recipe from Barefoot Contessa, which she calls life changing as she now loves chicken! I had the same feelings about chicken - I'm definitely a pasta girl - so I had to try this recipe. Need protein. I have to concur!! This chicken is the bomb!! Even Miss P, also a pasta girl dug it big time...can we have it tomorrow?

Barefoot Contessa Chicken

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

You will need: Bone-in Chicken Breasts with skin (I get the cage free kind and I think you should too)

Remove chicken breasts from package, wash, and pat dry. Use a very small amount (1 teaspoon) of olive oil for each chicken breast. Rub on both sides of chicken. Be careful NOT to drip oil on pan or use too much oil on chicken as you don't want the smoke and smell from burning oil.

Generously add salt (kosher or sea salt) and pepper (freshly ground) to BOTH sides of chicken breast. When I say generously, I really mean that. It gives the chicken lots of flavor and you have the option to discard the skin once the chicken is ready to eat.

Place on baking pan and cook for 45 minutes. (Remember each oven is different, so just check it until you get the hang of how your oven works for this recipe). Skin will be golden brown.

Remove pan from oven and let chicken rest under aluminum foil for at least 10 minutes. DO NOT TOUCH IT UNTIL IT RESTS.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Words of the night: Lazy and Random

Monday night = Game night. Tonight was Breakfast for Dinner, followed by a *loose* playing of this game - 25 Random Things About Me. I bought this game around last Valentine's Day, with the thought that E and I could have some inspired date 'nights in.' Instead of just watching a movie, we could grab this game and enjoy some fresh conversation. We still have not gotten around to this. Back to game night.

Tonight, our original plan was to do Christmas charades after dinner. Then, Miss P cracked open her homework and had a writing assignment to complete a informative piece about someone she knows. She selected me, and, I kid you not, she considered as her first fact: My mom is kind of lazy. I did not really react, and fortunately E did not hear, as he would have freaked - very into the respecting mom thing. When I playfully prodded she explained that because I like to relax and read, that this could be considered lazy, but that she was really 'just kidding.' I let that pass.

Anyway, this game popped into my head and I decided it could be an easy one to integrate into the packing lunches/cleaning kitchen routine, as it looked like it was going to be one of those nights. We all hovered about the kitchen island and Miss P and I took turns posing questions. The game is actually for ages 13 and up, but I figured it could be modified for the younger set. We did not follow the official rules, but took turns reading the statements and answering them, and then played a bit with guessing and questioning others' responses. Examples:

True or false:
I consider myself artistic.

I have an Ipod.

I am a good speller.

I can sleep with socks on.

Another fun game night at the Riley house. Now I'm off to 'be lazy.' : )

Sunday, December 5, 2010

playing St. Nick

Today at church we talked about how tomorrow, Dec 6, is St. Nick's birthday. Our priest shared how St. Nick is revered for thinking of others before himself, and that was our take-away message. I feel like at church that is typically the message: do good and think of others before yourself. The funny thing is, many of us (me, at least) still need the reminder! It's kind of like in my classroom, I feel like I should tell my students certain things (like 'listen to my directions') and by day 60 they should all definitely have it. But here we are, adults, still needing to be reminded to think of others.

So, I thought of a small, but great way to implement this into my own life. E has been a little stressed and grumpy off and on. He was recently really sick for a few days, and that, plus the end of the teaching quarter has thrown him off a bit. So, I've decided that for the rest of the month, I will take on a job he can't stand - making Miss P's lunch. I typically put her to bed, and he makes her lunch. I don't really mind either job, but don't want to do both. Since I usually cook and E usually cleans up though, he typically takes on making lunches. Read this hilarious post about lunch-making. Apparently, a lot of people can't stand it. : ) Anyway, what a nice and easy way to show him I love him - and, by offering to do both jobs all month - putting someone else before myself. (Granted, we have two weeks of vacation, later this month, but hey, still counts, right?)

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 Christmas Card Reveal

So, is it just me, or is selecting a holiday card pretty dang stressful?

Which picture makes E and I both look more attractive and trim than we really are?? Actually, as I told my friend Hillary, who took the pictures, E is attractive and trim - and Miss P is like a model for Gapkids. I am the wild card.

On top of that, there is selecting the card that best goes with your photo. So many choices! Between the money it costs, and your one shot at showing the world your family in 2010, I got a bit obsessy.

We just got the cards today, and here is the end result.

Not bad, right? Thank you, Hillary! Your gift card is on it's way!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet night

Oh, how I love a Hot chocolate!

On our way home today (a day in which my class and I did an hour long reindeer craft - can you say painful?), Miss P and I decided to stock up on hot chocolate and whip cream while at the store. We couldn't decide between the nestle and the swiss miss and also had a marshmallow discussion. Which gave me an idea. Wouldn't it be fun to have Hot Chocolate party? You could set up a whole hot chocolate bar with different toppings, and even do a 'hot chocolate tasting,' using shot glasses and different varieties - some gourmet hot chocolates, perhaps? Each guest might even have a mug that was personalized for them. You could serve sugar cookies and/or biscotti to go with, and of course you'd have to play the Hot Chocolate song from Polar Express. Something to think about....