Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Budget Friendly Dates

I strongly believe it is important for every couple to have time together without children underfoot. Like a garden, a marriage needs to be tended. Both need to be fed and watered and given attention. The weeds need to be pulled and the disagreements worked out. If either is ignored, they will suffer and eventually perish.
You can reconnect with your partner without spending a massive amount of money. Think outside the box. A date does not have to be dinner at an expensive restaurant.

At Home Dates
You can spend little to no money by having a date at home with that special someone. Put the kids to bed early and the two of you can be all alone.

-Spread out a blanket on the living room floor and have a picnic inside. Turn the lights down low, light some candles, play some soft music and talk to your sweetie.

-Have movie night at home. Get a movie from Red Box or Blockbuster Express for $1 (or free if you have a code). If you have a Netflix membership, order a movie in advance or watch an instant Netflix movie. If none of these options are available to you, many libraries also loan out movies to their patrons for no charge. Pop some popcorn and snuggle with your loved one.

-Break out the games. If you and your significant other enjoy board games, gather a few of your favorite games and have your own mini-tournament at the dining room table. My husband and I like to quiz each other using the Trivial Pursuit cards without playing the entire game. Make up your own rules. You can – you are a grown-up!

-Plan a spa night. Run a bubble bath. Pour a sparkly beverage. Bring out the body lotion and give each other massages.

-Play 20 questions. Whether you are newlyweds or have been together for decades, chances are there is something you do not know about each other. Take time to think about the questions and write them down ahead of time. Sit down together and listen, really listen, as you ask each other the questions aloud.

Out on the Town Dates
You can have a date out of the house without spending too much money. Many people spend the majority of their date money on babysitting, so send the kids off to Grandma’s house or organize a baby-sitting swap with a friend.

-Go to a bookstore and browse the books and magazines. Sit in the café and sip a drink. Maybe even share a dessert together.

-Plan your date for the afternoon. Take a walk in the park, while you hold hands and talk. You will spend nothing, get some exercise and breathe in some fresh air. Studies show that talking while walking side by side enhances communication because the conversation is viewed as more casual and less threatening.

-Plan a late night date after dinner and go out for drinks and dessert. You still get to treat yourselves, but you will spend less than if you were to go out for dinner.

-If you and your honey are sports fans, check out a local high school game or minor league event. You get the excitement that comes with watching live action at a fraction of the cost.

-Go to the mall. Before you go, vow not to buy anything and stick to it. (Skip this one if you do not have the willpower. ) My husband and I like to play the hat game in the department stores. We try silly hats on each other and model them. We get a good laugh and it costs nothing. You can sample the perfumes and colognes while there too.

-Check out local Open Houses. Dress up in your best outfits and check the realty section. Spend the day giggling at stranger’s decorating choices and find new ideas for your own abode.

-If you and your loved one are wine fans, take a tour of a local winery. Many offer tours and tastings for free and throw in advice as well.

Whatever you chose to do, whether it is at home or out on the town, have fun with it. Rejoice in spending time with your loved one. The morning will come soon enough and life will return to its normal crazy state.

Article written by Melissa from TriangleMommies. Originally submitted to The Mommies Network Blog on 07/22/2011
Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Monday - Mini Salsa Meatloaves


Mini Salsa Meatloaves

This is a super-fast meal that your kids will love.

You'll need...

2 large egg whites
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chipotle salsa, divided
1/4 cup ketchup, divided
1 pound ground beef, extra lean
Cooking spray
Green beans, steamed

To make...

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine egg whites in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in oats, 1/2 cup salsa, and 2 tablespoons ketchup. Add beef; mix well by hand. Divide beef mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into an oval-shaped loaf. Coat a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place loaves on prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done.

4. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons salsa and remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup in a small bowl; spread mixture evenly over loaves.

5. Serve with green beans.

ENJOY!

Nutrition-
190 calories. 6g fat. 10.9g carb


Recipe submitted by Becka (MomTo4) from SaratogaCountyMommies
Friday, November 25, 2011

Don't Forget: Santa Letters!

The elves are busy coordinating delivery of Santa letters to boys and girls across the United States. Is your letter in the bunch? If you haven't yet ordered your letter(s), don't delay! Place your order by Nov. 30 to ensure delivery before Christmas.

Remember, Your first custom letter is only $6. If you purchase more than one, you will receive a 10 percent discount on the entire order. Use coupon code SANTA at checkout to receive 10 percent off the total.

You will be asked a few questions about your child during the ordering process. Your answers will assist Santa in creating a unique letter for your child. Letters will be printed on Santa's special stationery, signed by the jolly fellow himself, and with the help of a special elf, shipped in bulk to North Pole, Alaska, in time for your little one to receive a special letter before the holidays.

Reserve your letter(s) before Nov. 30 to ensure delivery before Christmas. We hope you'll take advantage of this terrific treat from the North Pole. Place your order now! http://www.themommiesnetwork.org/santa.html

The proceeds of this fundraiser will support The Mommies Network and your local chapter.  Please mention your chapter's name to ensure they receive credit for your purchase.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Wine Glass

As I sit here typing this, I am sipping wine from a sippy cup. A good vintage, red merlot, fine and robust with a smooth flavor. In a blue sippy cup, with a built in straw. I'm torn between shame and amusement, both equal in validity, neither feeling stronger than the other. All I can think, as I sit here and slurp up my vintage wine, welcoming the weekend, that this is indeed, a true sign of being a Mom.

It's not that I don't have clean wine glasses. In order to keep my family from eating in a communal style I must do at least 2 loads of dishes a day. My wine glasses are clean, and stored above the stove where they have their home. So I cant blame lack of glasswear.

J just saw me, sitting in the living room, desperately trying to finish the book I've been working on, and with it being the weekend, treated me to a glass of red to celebrate the fact the children were put in bed and the weekend was upon us. In a sippy cup. Because of our white carpets. And I have the reputation of spilling my drinks quite often, drunk OR sober.

After giggling over his unspoken comment by his choice in cups, I enjoyed my wine for the first time with a straw. I finished my book and sippy wine in hand, headed downstairs to my desktop, where I now sit. Gaming with J and some friends, who are also celebrating the return of the weekend with drinks down the hatch, I realized my glass was empty. Instead of getting a regular wine glass, I refilled my sippy cup. No reason to dirty another glass. But still, I sit here, gaming, blogging, and drinking, with the glow of my screen illuminating my blue sippy cup and I have to smile. Drinking wine from a sippy cup fits me. It seems a good symbolism for life. To love and enjoy the quality core of what is important: family, love, etc.. things that matter... but wrapped in humor, silliness, laughter. Giggles.

I think this may become some sort of tradition for me. Just don't tell the kids I borrowed their cups.


Post submitted by Brittany (Rhaven) from TriangleMommies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Menu Monday - Homemade Mall Pretzels





Every time I go to the mall, I can't say no to those delicious Mall Pretzels. The smell hits me as soon as I hit the food court. I love the crispy outside and soft inside. I enjoy dunking them in mustard or melted cheese.  Last night I was brain storming ideas for the Monday recipe and I thought pretzels! I told my husband right away that I was going to make mall pretzels. He looked at me and laughed so hard and said, "your going to bake homemade pretzels? Please don't burn down our apartment." Well this just made me 1000 times more excited to make pretzels, just so I could prove my husband wrong.



In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast, 2tbs. brown sugar and 1 1/8 tsp. salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water.



Stir in 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup bread flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. The video above is of me kneading dough. I thought I knew how to knead dough, but after I googled a how to video on kneading dough. I can say that I was totally wrong. Some tips I would share are first spray your surface with pam cooking spray and put flour on your hands and dough. If your surface and dough start sticking lay down more pam or flour. This will help the dough not to stick to you or your rolling surface.



Place dough in a pam cooking spray greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise for one hour.





After the dough as sat and allowed to rise for an hour, cut into twelve pieces.



Roll each piece of dough into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner.







Twist the dough into a pretzel shape, and dip into the baking soda solution. The baking soda solution is 2 cups warm water and baking soda combined in an 8 inch square pan. I found a helpful video on how to twist your dough into the perfect pretzel shape. The video also gives some great suggestions on other uses for your pretzel dough. Honestly, rolling the doll out into the three foot long rope is the toughest part. I found working from right to left was the best for me.





After dipping the dough into the baking soda solution, place on a towel to soak up the bottom side of the dough. Then place the pretzel on a greased cookie sheet, reshape pretzel if needed. Let the pretzels sit on the cookie sheet for twenty minutes before putting in the oven. Sprinkle dough with salt if desired, before baking.

Bake at 450 degrees F for five minutes, turn 180 degrees and cook another five minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.

The best part of this recipe is it is kid friendly. Kids will love playing with the dough and seeing what creations they can make. One warning I have is not to leave your balls of dough in reach of a two year old, they will eat it. Also it takes time to roll out all the dough so you may want to bag half of the dough and put it in the refrigerator.

The finished product is hot and delicious! Kid tested and mother approved!



Post submitted by Kathy from CentralPeidmontMommies.com
Originally posted on the CentralPiedmontMommies Blog on 5/16/11
Friday, November 18, 2011

This Week with the Mommies


We chat online in a private forum — discussing everything from the best photographers to the worst temper tantrums and all that lies between — and meet up regularly at member-driven events around town. Whether it's a late-night commiseration about a crying baby (there are 4 a.m. posts to prove it) or a Moms' Night Out, SCValleyMommies provides what our members need, when and how they need it.

Click here to go directly to our calendar, and stay up-to-date on all of our events scheduled for this week.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mommies Weigh-In Challenge

Are you looking to shed a few pounds? Need some help with your fitness goals? Or just searching for the right foods to eat? The Mommies Network challenges you to be the best you can be in 2012!

Join mommies across the country on their journey to be healthy for themselves and their families. Participants will be assigned to regional teams led by a TMN member and a wellness collaborator. Results, tips, and stories will be shared monthly to keep all participants motivated. This challenge is a six-month commitment, running January–June.

Email fitness@themommiesnetwork.org for more information about this program. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 23, 2011.
Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Monday - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup & Cheesy Green Onion Cornbread


You Need (for the soup):
1 Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
Chicken (2-3 breasts, 4 thin breasts, 5-6 cutlets, or any leftovers you can shred up)
1 Can Black or Pinto Beans
1 Can Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 Cans Chicken Stock
2 Cans Enchilada sauce
Frozen Corn (a whole 15-16oz bag)
Oregano
Cumin
Chili Powder
Salt & Pepper

You Need (for the soup toppings):
Avocado
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Tortilla Chips
Note: I recommend you use the Ortega brand of enchilada sauce - not because I have any brand loyalty or endorsement (ha), but because it has a meaty/taco-y base rather than a tomatoey/pepper base. The other brands are a LOT more spicy. It depends on what you like, really, but I prefer the way the Ortega brand tastes in this soup.

    Soup Instructions:

    1. Cook/shred your chicken. The easiest way to do this if you're using fresh chicken is to boil it for about 25 minutes, and then shred it on a plate with forks. If you're using leftovers, just shred it up! I get this boiling right off the bat.

    2. Chop up your onion to a fine dice & mince your garlic. Sweat these out in some olive oil right in the pot you plan to make your soup in.

    3. When the onions & garlic are cooked down a bit (somewhat translucent), add in your diced tomatoes & corn. Then season with the list of spices - they all call for 1 tsp but I like to play around with it so add what you like! Don't go crazy on the chili powder until you know how spicy the enchilada sauce you're working with is.

    4. Add in your chicken stock, enchilada sauce & water. Stir & check for seasoning - add more of whatever you'd like if you think it needs it. You can also add your jalapenos now, if you got them. And - if your soup is a bit too acidic for your liking you can add a few pinches of sugar to help.

    5. Shred & add in your chicken if you haven't already. Then simmer for 10-15 minutes.

    6. Cube up your avocado & get your toppings ready while you wait for the soup to simmer.

    I top mine with everything from the topping list above - but have fun, play around with it! The sour cream cools it down a lot - and the avocado tastes incredible with all the other flavors in the soup!

    You Need (for the cornbread):
    A box of Jiffy mix (or any other cornbread mix)
    Ingredients to make you cornbread (I believe mine was 1 egg & 1/3 cup of milk - follow your box instructions)
    Green Onions, sliced or snipped into O's
    Cheese (I used a Mexican blend to fit the Mexican theme)

    Cornbread Instructions:
    *If you're making these together, I suggest doing this first & popping it in the oven before getting to work on the soup!

    1. Prepare the cornbread mix as the package instructs in a mixing bowl.

    2. Chop up or snip green onions with kitchen shears and add it to the batter. I snipped up 1 bunch (the size grocery stores usually sell them in) and put about half in the mix - the other half we used as a topper for the soup.

    3. Mix in a few good handfuls of your cheese - I used about half the bag, otherwise the cheese gets kinda lost in the cornbread.

    4. Bake according to box!
    Recipe submitted by Jenn Rychlicki (mrsLicky) from Buffalo Mommies
    Friday, November 11, 2011

    This Week with the Mommies


    We chat online in a private forum — discussing everything from the best photographers to the worst temper tantrums and all that lies between — and meet up regularly at member-driven events around town. Whether it's a late-night commiseration about a crying baby (there are 4 a.m. posts to prove it) or a Moms' Night Out, SCValleyMommies provides what our members need, when and how they need it.

    Click here to go directly to our calendar, and stay up-to-date on all of our events scheduled for this week.
    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    An Organized Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of remembrance, family and thanks, not a holiday

    of stress and chaos. Here are 9 easy ways to stay organized for an enjoyable, stress-free Thanksgiving Day:

    1. LEAVE COOKING AND CLEANING BEHIND. These days, many people opt to go out for Thanksgiving, instead of cooking and cleaning at home. If you're an extremely busy person, this may also work for you. If you don't want to miss the feeling of being at home, perhaps you might have the main course at a restaurant, and later have pie and coffee at home. In addition, lots of supermarkets and restaurants offer fully cooked Thanksgiving dinners. You simply pick everything up and place it on your table ready to be served, and if you must add a personal touch, make one special dish of your own.

    2. PREPARE FOR TRAVELING. If you're traveling this Thanksgiving, be sure to make your packing list well ahead of time. Check items off as you're putting them into your luggage. Bring this list with you and use it to repack when you're ready to return home. By the way, I usually suggest that you travel a few days before Thanksgiving and come back a few days after the Thanksgiving rush. Otherwise, you're going to spend a lot of time in airports, on the road, in line, etc.

    3. LET'S TALK TURKEY. First, determine how much room you have in your freezer and refrigerator, and how many people you will be serving. Then, order your turkey. If you need more storage space, perhaps a neighbor or relative can help you out. Rather than defrosting a frozen turkey in water on Thanksgiving Day, defrost it a few days ahead in your refrigerator instead. This saves tons of time!

    4. INVITE GUESTS IN A SNAP. If you haven't already sent out invitations, you may consider simply calling possible guests instead. You won't have to spend a ton of time writing and mailing, and you usually get an RSVP immediately.

    5. CHECK YOUR INVENTORY. Check your supply of chairs, tables, dishes, glasses, pots, pans, serving plates and utensils. Arrange to buy, rent or borrow anything you don't have.

    6. PLAN YOUR MEAL. Plan your meal from appetizers to dessert on a piece of paper. Make a list of all ingredients needed. Bring your list when you go shopping and check items off as you put them in your cart.

    7. COOK AHEAD. Make any meals that you can well ahead of time, and freeze them. On Thanksgiving Day, just defrost, heat and serve. You will save tons of time, plus you'll be able to join in the festivities without being stuck in the kitchen.

    8. GET READY THE NIGHT BEFORE. You'll be happy you took care of a few things the night before. Set the table. Get the good silverware out of storage. Lay out your wardrobe--and your kids' wardrobes.

    9. DON'T FORGET THE IMPORTANT STUFF. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be thankful for health, family, friends and all that life has to offer. Some people choose to say grace. Others prefer to simply have a moment of silence before dinner and football. Still others like to make time to read a Thanksgiving Story or a poem. Make a list of the things you want to do to make the day a special one and reference your list so you don't forget them.

    {Originally submitted to The Mommies Network Blog by CharlotteMommies}
    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Menu Monday - Perfect Pumpkin Pie

    Perfect Pumpkin Pie

    1 (15 ounce) canned pumpkin
    1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 teaspoons McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust (you can use graham cracker crust if you prefer)

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

    In a medium saucepan, combine pumpkin, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice over low heat. Stir until the ingredients are well mixed and mixture is warm.
    Transfer mixture into another bowl and allow to cool.
    Add sweetened condensed milk and eggs to cooled pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth.
    Pour into crust.
    Bake 15 minutes.
    Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean.
    Cool on top of oven to prevent the pie from cooling too fast, causing the crust to crack
    Friday, November 4, 2011

    The Mommies Network Presents Santa Letters

    TMN presents Santa Letters!

    Have your kids begun making their Christmas wish lists? The Mommies Network and Santa Claus have teamed up to send your little one a letter straight from the North Pole!

    Your first custom letter is only $6. If you purchase more than one, you will receive a 10 percent discount on the entire order. Use coupon code SANTA at checkout to receive 10 percent off the total.

    You will be asked a few questions about your child during the ordering process. Your answers will assist Santa in creating a unique letter for your child. Letters will be printed on Santa's special stationery, signed by the jolly fellow himself, and with the help of a special elf, shipped in bulk to North Pole, Alaska, in time for your little one to receive a special letter before the holidays.

    Reserve your letter(s) before Nov. 30 to ensure delivery before Christmas. We hope you'll take advantage of this terrific treat from the North Pole. Place your order now! http://www.themommiesnetwork.org/santa.html
    Please mention our area chapter name to ensure we receive credit for your purchase.

    The proceeds of this fundraiser will support The Mommies Network and your local chapter.

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