15 February 2019

getting our kids to sleep (well)

Whether our kids are babies or tweens, sometimes they could use a little sleep support, ya know what I mean? Nobody loves a bedtime battle, and thank goodness for oils and the way they have saved my sanity. We've been incorporating essential oils into our daily routine for more than two years, and they have made such a difference, in so many ways.
No matter the age, there's an oil that can help your little (or not so little) one drift off to dreamland.
FOR THE BABIES: I cannot say enough good things about Gently Baby. You guys, I love this oil, even for myself. If your baby is under six months, they are still finding their way in the sleep department, so give yourself some time and some grace. But roll a little Gentle Baby on your chest before a snuggle sesh, or diffuse a drop or two in a big open room, and you just might marvel at the difference it makes. Once they reach six months, I'd diffuse a drop or two at bedtime, and that's true all the way up to 2 years old. It's a miracle.
FOR THE TODDLERS AND YOUNGER BIG KIDS: SleepIze is where it's at. I'll be honest, I've even diffused this in my room at night and it is pretty awesome. It's pre-diluted for kids, so we usually do 3-4 drops in the diffuser about 30 minutes before bedtime, and then I let the diffuser run all night in their rooms on the intermittent setting. A drop in the bath after dinner never hurt anyone either 😉
FOR BIG KIDS AND ADULTS: Peace and Calming, which is now part of the premium starter kit, is one of my ride or die oils. I usually have a few bottles on hand because my love runs deep. I diffuse this in my big kids room same as I do with SleepIze for the little ones. I also roll it on them before bed or whenever circumstance calls for it, if you know what I mean. I apply this along my neckline before bed, and will also use it in the diffuser in our room! I switch up my sleepy time blends, but I almost always wear this one topically before my head hits the pillow.
Have you tried these yet? Do you love them? What are your favorite sleep oils? I can't wait to hear!

12 February 2019

old fashioned doughnuts with Nutella glaze

We are in the midst of crazy snow here in Seattle, and that means we aren't quite as mobile as we're used to. So this last Sunday when we couldn't venture out for doughnuts after church, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. The results worked out pretty well, considering the entire batch was gone within minutes.

Homemade doughnuts are actually way easier than you'd probably expect, and chances are pretty good you've got all the ingredients on hand! The Nutella glaze is optional, but I don't think you're going to want to miss out on that if you don't have to. It was pretty amazing.

Here's what you need to get started:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
canola oil for frying

Heat oil to about 375 in a saucepan. It needs to be deep enough for the doughnuts to float without touching the bottom.

Next, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour in melted butter. Lightly beat the egg and combine with the milk, and pour into the dough. Combine with a spatula until everything is well incorporated. Lightly flour your hands and knead gently. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll out to about 1/4" thickness.

Grab two different sized biscuit cutters, or use different sized glasses, and cut to size. Gently drop doughnuts into the oil, about two at a time. Fry for about a minute on each side until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or spatula, and drain on a rack over paper towels. Continue until you've fried all the doughnuts and doughnut holes!

Now you're ready to glaze!

Here's what you need:
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
sprinkles, optional

Whisk together the Nutella, powdered sugar, and milk. If it's too thick, add another splash of milk. If it's too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. When it's just the right consistency, gently dip the top of each donut in the glaze, and return to the baking rack.

If you're using sprinkles (always recommended), add them now. It's extra fun to include your little ones in this step, and helps them feel like they're part of the excitement.

Want a little bonus treat? Combine a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in a big zipper bag, and shake your doughnut holes to coat. These are DELISH!

Have you made your own doughnuts yet? Tell me your favorite variety! I think this might just become a regular thing around here.

05 November 2018

a week with my instant pot (and a meal plan for you!)

Hey friends, it's been awhile! I am coming out of the haze of fall sports and trying to get back into the swing of meal planning. My kids have been eating a lot of nuggets. So it's time to get back on my game - that's the plan this week, at least. 

I've decided to spend an entire week with my Instant Pot. It's a busy mom's best friend, and I am maxing it out. I just shopped for all of the ingredients for each of the following recipes, which I'll serve up with a side salad and bread. Keeping it simple and kid friendly all week long!

Creamy chicken soup from EatWell 101 - this is perfect for fall! Rich and decadent, but still healthy. My kids love these flavors (I am switching out the sun-dried tomatoes for roasted red peppers!). Bread and salad and dinner is done.

We love this veggie lasagna from Pinch of Yum. I've made it many times in my crock pot, but I'm attempting it in the Instant Pot this week as a fun experiment. The key (I think) is adding about 1/4 cup of water to the bottom, along with the pasta sauce, to create enough steam. We LOVE this because you don't even miss the meat, and the texture of the kale is perfect and my kids don't even know they're eating so much healthiness.

Easy pulled pork - this is a family favorite. Served over rice or on brioche buns. My husband could eat this basically every single day. We switched to Stubbs BBQ sauce because we prefer it, and it doesn't have any high fructose corn syrup!

I know my kids are going to be obsessed with this pizza pasta. It's basically marrying their favorites into one steamy bowl of cheesy carbs. How can you miss?

We love all things teriyaki, so these teriyaki meatballs are right up our alley. Served with brown rice and salad, my kid will love these, and I feel good about them because they are fairly healthy and easy to whip up.

Do you have an instant pot yet? This is ours right here. And this is the pressure cooker I am dreaming of right here. Because eight people in a family means you might need two, right?

Ok, now I want to hear from you: what are YOUR favorite instant pot recipes? What's on your menu this week?

07 May 2018

a (fairly healthy) meal plan for busy families

Confession: last week was not my best when it comes to meal prep. I lost my luster for standing over the stove, my creativity in the kitchen had full on died, and my kids ate boxed mac and cheese for two meals within three days. The other day in there was frozen pizza. I threw in some apple slices and a side of peas to balance out some of the guilt, but I literally could not think of one single thing to make besides peanut butter and jelly and we were out of bread. Not my finest.

So last night I committed to actually meal planning for the week and getting all of the supplies. And by "getting all of the supplies", I mean ordering them online and having someone else load them into my car. I thought I would share, since I feel like we might all be in the same boat with the end of the school year looming and spring sports in full swing. Bonus: two of them are crock pot meals, one goes in the instant pot (with a crock pot version if you haven't taken the leap yet), and one is a sheet pan meal where you just throw everything in the oven. Basically, I meal planned a bunch of dinners that don't require very much of my time, because I don't have much!

We've tried all of these meals before, and they've gone over well with almost the whole crew. Hope your family enjoys!

I do a quick stir fry of celery, carrots, and broccoli to add in once the chicken is done. Add a side of rice and you're good to go!

I love this one so much. We use soft taco sized tortillas, serve guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side. A bag of our favorite tortilla chips, and some black beans. 

Every time I make this, my entire family raves. They LOVE it. I just add a salad and bread and you've got a complete meal that takes no time. I'll add in oven fried potatoes if I have time, but it's great without!

Crock Pot French Dip
I have made these so many times and they are always a hit. Again, just add a salad and it's the perfect meal. Throw in a side of roasted veggies if you want to bulk it up. It's so tasty and easy and a huge crowd pleaser!

Also on the menu if we need another meal (I'll often to a "leftover buffet" if there is enough from previous nights), I've got gnocchi as back up. We buy it in mass quantities at Trader Joe's because my kids love it. Add some marinara and parm, another salad, and another loaf of bread, and everyone is happy. (Salad and bread abound here.)

So, there's our week! Hope that's helpful for all of you trying to get food on the table for your own crew of crazies. What's on your menu this week?

02 May 2018

Disneyland tips and tricks and so many memories

After a few years of dreaming, we were finally able to take our family of eight to Disneyland over spring break. It was such a gift, and so many good memories were created. I grew up in Southern California, so I have such nostalgia and love surrounding my memories there, and I couldn't wait to experience it through the eyes of my six!

I took it to Facebook and asked or tips, tricks and Disney hacks, and of course! People had so many great ideas. I thought it would be fun to share a condensed version here, what worked for us, and what I would do all over again! And hopefully I will get to use them all over again, because we all got Disney fever... bad. Oh, to be sitting in sun with Dole Whip in hand. 

First up, let's talk booking your trip. We did a whole package deal through Costco and it was so worth it! Park hopper tickets (which includes early admission to the parks), hotel, character dining, gift cards - it made it all so easy, and not as expensive and time consuming as piecing it all together ourselves. There are tons of hotel options. When we went a few years ago, we stayed at a local hotel. This time we opted for the Disneyland Hotel and it was PERFECT. Super close to the park, amazing pools, Disney magic sprinkled everywhere you go. Definitely worth it. We had breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen, which was a great way to get to hug the characters without crazy lines, and a good way to fill the kids up for the whole morning. Thankfully it came with the hotel package, or the sticker shock may have caused us to keel over. And we even met a couple of characters wandering around the hotel, happy to pose with our kids and sign autographs (seriously anything to eliminate lines at the parks). 

We got up early each morning and got to the gates about 20 minutes before they opened. One of the best tips I got from one of my favorite friends: if you're walking to Disneyland through Downtown Disney, do a Starbucks mobile order before you leave your hotel, swing in and grab coffee and bagels (it took less than a minute!) and have a little picnic in line. It was awesome! Again, one less line and coffee is like the perfect morning combo.

Now let's talk food. If you have spent any time looking for advice, you will hear it again and again: pack food and bring it in because food in the park is expensive. This is true, it can be pricey. But also, there are so many snack carts and fruit stands, that you don't ever actually have to buy an entire meal at a sit down restaurant. Ideally, pack some sandwiches and bottles of water and bananas, and then also enjoy the food there because everything is DELISH. Our family favorites: Mickey beignets, churros, Dole Whip, treats from Pooh's Corner, corn dogs, and Frozen Lemonade. There were so many things we wanted but didn't have a chance to try. Most servings are huge, so even our family of eight could share three full sized meals and then have room for treats. If you are staying near Downtown Disney, the sandwiches at Earl of Sandwich are huge and tasty, and my husband and I shared nachos from Tortilla Jo's and couldn't even finish them (and that was after walking all day with six kids and being totally famished). So, plan ahead by bringing in your own snacks and h2o, but also plan to treat yourself - it's part of the experience!

Let's talk rides. Without a doubt, get the Disneyland App on your phone. You can see what the current wait times are for each ride, when and where you can see specific characters, where the nearest restroom is, and where to find your favorite treats. You will definitely want to get FastPasses for your favorite rides, and there are two ways to do that. You can go to the rides and pick up FastPasses for later in the day, but when they're gone, they're gone. You can spend a lot of time running to and from rides grabbing passes, and they will only give you so many per ticket at a time. OR you can pay an extra $10/day per person and get a MAXPass on the app. You only need the MaxPass for people who will want to ride on the big rides, so if you have kids shorter than 42", skip it. I bought them for all of us on the first day like a dummy and then realized the only thing I could FastPass for my girls was Roger Rabbit and really, that's not the most amazing ride. Do kids under 42" even know who Roger Rabbit is? The MaxPass is RIDICULOUSLY awesome because you reserve rides and times right on your phone. Pick the busiest rides first because those passes go the quickest. As of today, that would be Guardians of the Galaxy, Spring Racers, and Indiana Jones. Also at the top of my kids lists: Matterhorn, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We got those multiple times. It's awesome because you can reserve passes at Disneyland OR California Adventure from anywhere in either park and not have to run around in hopes of snagging one. Cannot emphasize enough how awesome this option is!

If you have little ones, but you still want to go on the big rides, make use of the rider swap option! Stand in line together - one of you will go on the ride first, then when they get off, you hand them your kid(s), and take your turn with no extra wait. Disneyland wants it to be fun for grown ups, too! A few rides also have "single rider"options with MUCH shorter wait times!

If you have kids in different age brackets, or with different interests, or you just have a lot of them, like we do: divide and conquer. We spent the first two days in groups - one of us would be with the older three, the other with the younger three, experiencing different things. Then on the last day, after we'd done everything everyone wanted to do, we spent the day as one big group on things we all could enjoy together (mostly the boat rides: Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, etc.). No one felt pressure to do anything except hang out and re-ride their favorites.

My biggest encouragement is to just enjoy the magic. Yes, there will be lines, and the app is great for seeing where things are moving a bit more quickly. But don't spend too much time racing from one end of the park to the other, soak up the fun in every Land. When you're tired or your little ones need to sit for a bit, hop on It's a Small World (again), or Pirates of the Caribbean or the Storybook boats (fun anytime of day, but at night they are so enchanting!). Think of fun games to play with your kids in line, and don't be afraid to take breaks.

And on that note, TAKE BREAKS. Nick and I were talking about how Disney has the potential to be the perfect storm: parents that have spent a boatload of money and want to get everything they can out of every minute, and kids that are overwhelmed by all of it and totally exhausted. Going back to the hotel for a nap or a swim is perfect in the middle of the day when the parks are busiest. Calling it quits earlier in the evening can be worth it if you are there for multiple days. Rest when you need to rest. We walked 23 miles in three days and that was with a lot of breaks, so pace yourself!

I also believe it is 100% worth it to bring or rent a stroller if you have kids 5 and under. They get tired, there are big crowds, life is easier on wheels. You can rent from a local company, but we decided to get one right at Disney and it was great.

SOUVENIRS. Your kids will want them, and every ride ends near or just outside a gift shop specific to that ride. A lot of people give the advice of getting some souvenirs before you go and tucking them away to hand out throughout the trip. This is great advice unless you have kids like mine that just mostly like the act of shopping and spending my money. The VERY BEST advice I got regarding this is to let your kids know before you even enter the parks on the first day of your trip that you will not be buying anything until the last day of your trip. They are welcome to window shop and get an idea of their favorite item and on the last day they will be allowed to pick something out within a certain budget. THIS SAVED MY SANITY. I mean, for real. Because they change their minds about eleventy billion times and they never stop asking, so it was so easy to tell them to just store it up in their mind until the last day. And it totally worked, and even after all their lavish dreams, they all ended up picking things relatively inexpensive and small and to me, that was victory. 

And here is the most important tip of all: ENJOY IT! Disneyland is truly magical. There is so much to see, do, eat, and take in. Don't miss it. If in doubt, go. If you think your kids are too little, they probably aren't. There is something for every age to enjoy. And if they don't remember it, isn't that just an excuse to go again? Make a plan of what you want to do and see (and eat), but hold to your plan loosely as you fill up on all the magic.

We had the most amazing time, even with crazy Spring break crowds and long lines... it was priceless. Here we are a month later, still talking about our memories, each of us so excited for the next opportunity to go. Go, enjoy, eat lots of treats, and say hi to Mickey for us!