School Milestone and Chocolate Soy Nut Butter Shake

Soy Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe #StreamTeamMmmmm.  How yummy does that look? This is a chocolate soy nut butter shake. It may sound a little odd to you if you’ve never had soy nut butter (one of our fave pb alternatives). But for those of you who have tried it, you know that it is a great substitute when you are trying to get a peanut butter like taste or texture without it having any devil nuts. And I’m about to tell you why I made it.

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So I am happy to announce that I just became a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam! What that means is that, monthly,  I will be posting about my favorite movies and shows that can be found on Netflix. Let me give you a quick background on myself. I’m pretty obsessed with television. I graduated with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in TV and Film. It is my happy place. When I’m watching my favorite shows, it is my absolute escape and all is right with the world. I prefer sitcoms but also love reality, well written one hour shows (like Nashville and Revenge) and made for TV movies.

Netflix will be sending me prompts to help me round-up the shows and movies on their site that I want share with you. This month, they wanted us to talk about “firsts”. And there is one first that instantly jumped out at me and is totally relevant in my world right now. You guys, I joined the PTA. First time ever. Now, I don’t mean I joined by paying my $10 and getting a membership card. No. I mean, I joined and I’m involved. I’m making sh*t happen. I am the Recording Secretary and chairperson to two events as well as serving on several other committees. So far, it has been a bit crazy. A lot of us are new and learning as we go. But I am realizing just how important PTA can be to the students. That is not to say there hasn’t been any drama. Because there has. From what I am hearing though, that is par for the course. I’m excited to be part of this great group of parents, trying to give the kids the best school year ever.

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That is not to say that there aren’t times when I feel like I am in an episode of Parks and Recreation. With the red tape Leslie faces to get anything done and the running of a city department full of big personalities, there are some parallels to what one may find in a PTA experience. But that kind of stuff makes me happy. I love people watching and schools are kind of one of the best places to do that. Not in an I’m totally making fun of these people and judging them kind of way. But schools are their own little communities with mini mayors like my youngest son who like to know and say hi to each and every kid we pass to the “graders” as my oldest calls the upper graders, who are trying to figure out their sense of style and where they fit in. And, of course, the parents are pretty fun to watch too. From an observation stand point, schools are ripe with story lines.

As close as you can get to a peanut butter chocolate shake without nuts. #StreamTeamAnd since I’m focused on school, I decided to make a treat that my nut allergic son could eat. You guys, some of the best gossip I hear from my oldest son comes straight from the nut free lunch table. And while he won’t be eating this shake at school, I thought it would be the perfect treat for eating while watching some movies about school. All you need is some vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and soy nut butter (or Sunbutter which is made with sunflower seeds and is super yummy) and some milk. I need to pause her for a moment and tell you that this Midnight Moo syrup from Trader Joe’s is crazy good. It is much thicker than normal chocolate syrup and more rich. It was perfect for this shake. And also perfect for squeezing straight in to your mouth hole.

Soy Nut Butter and Chocolate Shake Recipe. #StreamTeamI just made a single serving so to my small blender cup I added two scoops of vanilla ice cream and soy nut butter.

Nut free soy butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamThen I added the chocolate syrup and milk and blended away.

Soy nut butter and chocolate shake. #StreamTeamSo yum! I added some mini chocolate chips to the top to give it a little more visual interest and a little bit of crunch when you sip. The straw is really just for show. Straws are just a way to make you drink your shake slower and make your head feel like it is going to explode from all the work you are putting in just to get to the shake. My son loved it. And so did I. I’m hoping next month’s prompt is something about losing weight though…

Netflix picks for school themed movies. #StreamTeamThese first four movies are for the adults and older kids, if you think they are ready for them. I am probably going to hold off with Ferris Bueller’s Day off for a while because my kids would get too many ideas. But School of Rock would be awesome for them. While these don’t focus on the parliamentary process they are school focused and awesome. And you can totally celebrate some “firsts” with these movies as your guide.

School of Rock : First time on stage, first band, first time you really find what you are passionate about

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off : First time calling in sick to school while not really being sick (but having to deal with consequences, of course…)

The Breakfast Club : First detention, first time realizing that people sometimes aren’t what they appear

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School : Lots of firsts in this one, should only be shown to age 14 and older and probably with a parent to explain and talk about most of it…but it has the Ramones.  So thumbs up.

School picks for kids on Netflix. #StreamTeamFor the kids, there are awesome school movies for them too.

High School Musical : First love, first major life decision about where to go to college, lots of talking points in this one.

Spy School : First lesson in trust and telling tall tales and the consequences that come with it.

Casper’s Scare School : And since Halloween is next week, it just makes sense to go to scare school.

Which of these have you seen?

*I was provided compensation for being a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Quick and Easy Dinners

I haven't had much time to cook lately so I rounded up some of the quick meals I've been making for dinner. I’m pretty much ridiculously stressed out right now. And this totally affects how I feed myself and my family. So I’ve decided to share the recipes for the quick and easy dinners that I have been making that are still tasty but really easy to make. On the nights where we have extra activities like Cub Scouts, I stick to something super simple like pasta, which incidentally, is my kid’s favorite meal that I make. It’s store-bought sauce and meatballs, but they love it so why reinvent the wheel. But on the other days, I try to mix it up between crock and things that don’t take a ton of effort or prep work. There are go-to meals that we make but I try to add in some new things too. My kids are very picky so I try all different flavors to see if I can find something they are in to. And if they don’t like something, I take a break from it, but try it again a few months later.

Our regular favorites:

Salami and Peperoncini Pizza – This pizza was based on my favorite sandwiches and is super easy to make and SO tasty

Quick Teriyaki Stir fry – We are actually having this tonight. It is super simple to make and the boys LOVE it! Which is crazy because there are vegetables in it and it is pretty healthy. It is also great cold for lunch the next day!

Super Easy Chicken and Pasta – My husband requests this one and I am happy to oblige considering it uses store-bought chicken and has a ton of flavor. Did I mention it’s easy?

Tacos or Taco salad: Homemade tortilla chips with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, cheese and hot sauce.

New things I’m trying:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sandwiches – Made these two nights ago and they were INSANE! I skipped her seasoning, but added about 3/4 of a packet of onion soup mix (you know, the powder with dried onions? That.) to the meat. Super yummy. The cheese is a must to sort of bind the meet together, but even if it turns in to a big old mess, it is still super tasty. LOVED it!

Slow Cooker Creamy Bacon Ranch Chicken  –  This is on the agenda for tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that the boys will like it. My oldest has been in to ranch dressing lately and they love spaghetti so fingers crossed! I thought it would be a good way to much up our standard pasta.

Sweet Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken – I am pretty sure my kids will like this one. They seem to like teriyaki (although their tastes literally change by the minute). This will be on our menu next week.

Crockpot Rustic Italian Beef Ragu – I love a good ragu. So much flavor! And this one is done in the crock pot so that means I can busy myself with life and not be stuck over a stove except for cooking noodles. Yeah!

Bacon and Brie Grilled Cheese – By Friday night I’m over cooking from the week, but we are trying to save money and not go out much. I’ve decided Friday nights are sandwich night. Not cold cuts (probably not cold cuts) but sandwiches that are a bit fancier then we send to school in lunches. My kids love bacon so I am going to do a bacon grilled cheese this week. Except I am going to sub the brie out for some extra aged gouda which is closer to parmesan in flavor which I know my boys really like, but will melt a little better. I’m REALLY looking forward to this…

Need more recipe ideas? Follow my “recipes” board on Pinterest. And remember that fluke when I was eating all clean? I still have that board too…

Now, would you be so kind as to share with me what you are eating?  What are your go-to meals?

Upcycled Milk Jug Planters

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DIY milk jug planters. Every time my kids finish a container of milk my head spins. Those containers have got to be good for other things. I know they can be recycled but they can be so much more useful than that. So I decided to make some of the plastic milk jugs in to planters. And I decided to take my older son with me when I went to the master, his grandfather, to learn the best way to replant plants, since I have the blackest thumb possible. I figured we could keep at least a few of these containers out of a landfill and teach myself and my son something that could come in handy later. Both of my kids have expressed an interest in planting our own food, so this lesson will surely come in to play again. got milk? asked me if I could come up with a craft that would share how milk and healthy habits can be worked in to your everyday living. And I really think these planters do that.

Milk is full of things that growing bodies need to help them in the future. But first we needed a few empty milk jugs. Luckily, this kid LOVES his milk. If he could, he would drink milk for all of his meals instead of eat. I don’t hate that. Milk is full of good stuff that his body needs so he gets it for each meal and one snack a day. And before we knew it, we had 3 empty jugs for us to upcycle in to planters.

Making planters out of empty plastic milk jugs. Grandpa Al runs a nursery out of his back yard and sells cottage garden plants to mom and pop nurseries in and around Orange County (read this great article the Register wrote about him). So when it comes to anything with plants, he is the man. We brought over our plastic milk jugs and he and my son got to work turning what would have been trash in to something useful.  I had wanted to plant some herbs, as I really enjoy using them in cooking, but Grandpa Al doesn’t grow herbs. And while he used to grow heirloom vegetables, he has since changed his focus to cottage flowers. I decided that since I’m such a gardening novice, I would let him show us with his regular plants and then my son and I will be able to purchase some herbs and create an herb garden together. [Read more…]

Halloween Treats for a Great Cause


Wendy's Halloween coupon book for Jr. Frostys benefitting the foster care system.Halloween is usually all about the treats and tricks. But this year I’ve picked up some sweets that actually benefit a great cause. From now until October 31, 2014 Wendy’s is selling these awesome coupon books for free Jr. Frosty’s. Each book costs only a $1.00 and .90 cents from each book goes straight to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. There are over 100,000 kids in the foster care system awaiting adoption in the United States. The goal for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® is to help every child in foster care find a loving and permanent family and they have, so far, helped over 4,000 kids find adoptive families. So in buying one of these books, you are directly helping to change lives.  You might think Wendy’s is all square burgers and french fries but it is so much more. (P.S. their new pulled pork fries with sweet bbq sauce…DO IT).

Treats to give your friends and family that also help kids throughout the United States.I picked up two booklets as gifts for my niece and nephew. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have started the process to becoming foster parents. But it isn’t just the parents who foster. It’s the whole family. I want my niece and nephew to know how important they are to the process and how great it is that they will, one day, be a special part of another child or children’s lives. They, along with their parents, will be positive role models and a loving family unit to a child that is lacking both. They are just kids and may not understand the magnitude of that but one day they will. I’m super proud of my in-laws for taking these next steps. It is something they have talked about for years and finally everything has fallen in to place. While the process is long and they have many more classes, home inspections and interviews to go, in the next six months, they will be a foster care family ready to love any children who come in to their home.

Books for foster familiesI plan on giving my niece and nephew these books, that deal with foster care, along with their Wendy’s Halloween coupon books. I was surprised that there aren’t more books written for the kids of the adoptive families to help them understand their role, the challenges and the rewards of fostering and finally adopting. My nephew is 7 so I got him an easy reading book written for a child going in to a foster family. I figured it would help him to put himself in the shoes of a child entering his family and give him an idea of how that child might feel. For my older niece, I got a fiction book about a girl entering a foster family who learns to let her walls down and trust her new siblings and parental units.

Halloween treats that give back. Wendy's Jr. Frosty coupon books donate money to foster care adoption in the US.To me, these books are so much better than candy. Next time you pass by a Wendy’s, grab yourself a frosty and pick up a few of these coupon books.

Visit your local Wendy’s® to purchase a Jr. Frosty™ Halloween Coupon Book* for $1, which benefits the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®!

*Coupon book may contain coupons for 5 or 10 free Jr. Frosty™ treats. Prices and participation may vary. Ninety cents to every $1 coupon booklet sold between 9/15/14 and 10/31/14 will benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. Coupons valid from 11/1/14 through 2/1/15. ©2014 Oldemark LLC

This year Wendy’s aims to give $10 million to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and YOU can help!

Thank you for supporting the companies that let me keep my blog running and also share important messages with you.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Healthy Habits for a Better Future – Got Milk?

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This kid dreams to be an artist when he grows up. I love to talk to my kids about the future. I’m really big in to them knowing that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. And while there may not be an established career path based on what they turn out to be passionate about, they can absolutely create a career for themselves through hard work and perseverance. Anyway you slice it, my kids (and ALL kids) have a really bright future ahead of them. There are so many exciting things happening in the world and so many cool opportunities that will, no doubt, be available to them as they grow.  Today I’m partnering with got milk? to tell you how I think milk will help my kids have a better future.  With a great foundation of healthy habits, all of our kids will be ready to take on the world.

Healthy habits are important to start young to help build a bright future. From time to time we ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up.  For a long time, my littlest milk drinker said a he wanted to be a veterinarian. He is crazy about animals, mostly puppies, and said that if he was a vet, he would get to hang out with them all day. I thought that was so sweet! I was proud of him for wanting to help animals. But when I explained that being a vet actually meant that he would be their doctor, he was kind of over it. It made me laugh but reminded me that he is still on the younger side to fully grasp what a career is. And while I am sure that he would help an animal if he could, he mostly wants to provide snuggles. And that’s ok too.  So just like we encourage him to drink milk with his meals, I will also continue to encourage and embrace all his whims and let him explore his interests. My oldest son wants to be a video game designer. End of story.

The world is this kid's oyster. His future is bright. Once my little one moved past veterinarian, he decided on being an artist. I’m totally on board. My walls can really use some fresh artwork. He is really creative and loves to draw characters and depict stories through his drawings. His characters are usually drawn with pencil on paper and are super intricate with lots of arms and tons of details.  I can only imagine what his hands feel like after one of these drawing sessions though. Luckily milk has a mineral in it that helps to prevent muscle cramping. Seriously, it’s a good thing he drinks milk regularly.  While this may help him with his art, we also encourage our kids to be active. Having this mineral in their bodies is also good for keeping cramps at bay when they are doing PE at school or running around at recess. You know, basically doing normal, active kid stuff. And being active is integral to staying healthy overall. As they grow, we will encourage them to play sports and get out and exercise. Milk also contains a protein that helps your muscles to recover after exercise. Working milk in throughout their daily routine really benefits their growing bodies.

Fine art by my 5 year old. This was his first canvas painting and I love how it turned out. He told me that the next painting he wants to do is of a clown shoving a pie in his own face so I’m looking forward to that one as well. Being active means that there could be some injuries. But drinking milk helps to build stronger bones and also help maintain bone density over time. So milk not only provides good qualities to kids who drink it when they are young, but to adults too. Once you reach a certain age (you guys, I’m hovering around 40!), you start to realize that your body isn’t acting the way it used to. Drinking milk, later in life, helps adults have a better future, in terms of health benefits, too. Bone health is super important for us older folks. And It would be such a shame for my son to break his arm in a physical activity to prevent him from creating his next work of art. I doubt his clown portrait will be anything short of amazing. So keeping his bones strong is a must.

Admiring his artwork. My son was very certain that he was going to be a dad and a husband in the future. His father is a great role model in so many ways. He’s active, caring and pretty much the best dad and husband there is. My husband and I try to drink milk so that our kids know it isn’t something that stops when they turn in to big kids or teens. We try to lead by example and show them the healthy habits we want them to follow. In turn, our kids will show their future kids these same habits. And you’ve all seen the commercials with the father and son dipping cookies in milk together.  There is nothing more heartwarming. Perfect bonding time.

Got milk? Drink to a brighter future. By drinking milk now, kids will be better poised to handle the things that come their way in the future. When I asked my son what the future looked like, he mentioned floating houses and aliens.  Strong bones aren’t going to be a bad thing when aliens come to town now are they? And a study has shown that milk may improve sleep quality and next day alertness. You’ve got to be on your toes when those aliens are around. Milk also has 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounce glass so it will help to keep your body functioning properly. We need proteins to give us the energy to keep our bodies moving. No time for lethargy when the aliens are coming.

Teaching your kids healthy habits, including drinking milk regularly, can only help their future. And yours, too, so don’t forget to pour yourself a glass as well. What is your favorite way to drink your milk? A straight up glass of milk? Hot Chocolate? White Russian? With cookies? In a smoothie? Leave a comment and let me know!

This post was sponsored by got milk? All opinions are my own. And it is my opinion that those aliens will be no match for my son. Thank you for supporting the brands that give this blog running.