Birthday party fun

Saturday, July 31, 2010
Do you remember the days of birthday parties in our backyards, complete with latex balloons blown up by our dads, word-of-mouth invitations, cake, ice cream and a few simple yet fun games? If you're a mom, I don't need to tell you that those days are gone. Parties are competitive, expensive, and over the top.

We recently went to a birthday party that was reminiscent of the parties of yesteryear but with modern day twists. The original party was scheduled for Bounce U, but when my girlfriend's daughter became ill during the week of the party, the Bounce U party had to be cancelled. Instead Kristy scheduled the party for a local park. I was expecting playtime on the equipment, but we got so much more!

There was sand art.

There were Crazy Coupe races.

And in addition to that fun, there was parachute play, pizza, cake and goody bags!

The best parties are definitely those that exceed your expectations. This was one of those parties.

National Cheesecake Day

Friday, July 30, 2010
Today was National Cheesecake Day, and what better way to spend it than at The Cheesecake Factory! All slices were half-priced! How could I refuse?? I couldn't wait to indulge. The only problem was which flavor to choose. We finally, after browsing the menu for 15 minutes, decided on the Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake Cheesecake. Both were sinfully delicious and worth every, single, pea-pickin' calorie!


Blueberry Scones

Thursday, July 29, 2010
My love affair with scones began about ten years ago during a vacation to England. Not only did I love the taste, but I loved the way the English served scones on pretty plates with a side of clotted cream and a spot of tea. How could I not fall in love?

A few years ago, I tried to make scones and failed miserably. I can't recall exactly where I went wrong, but I did and the outcome was horrible. Inspired by fresh, plump New Jersey blueberries, I decided to try my hand at scones again. And this time, the results were remarkable. {Recipe follows}

Blueberry Scones
Makes 12

Nonstick Cooking Spray
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh or dried blueberries
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten for brushing the tops
3/4 cup whole or lowfat milk

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Cut the butter into 1/4" dice. Place the butter on a plate and set it in the freezer while you prepare the dry ingredients.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled butter pieces and, with an electric mixer, beat on low speed until the mixture resembles course meal. Stir in the blueberries.

3. Add 2 eggs and the milk and mix on low speed just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 6-inch disk. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each disk into 6 wedges. Place the wedges 1/2" apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake the scones until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Let them cool or 5 minutes and serve them warm or let them cool completely.


- Use very cold butter

- Do not overwork dough

- Bake scones in a very hot oven

- Scones are best eaten on the day they are baked

- Scones become very dry when overbaked

100 Mile Challenge - Week 1 Recap

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I made it through the first week...alive and in one piece.

I was aggressive. I have some traveling coming up next week, so I'm trying to get ahead now knowing that when I'm in Denver, I won't be full court press with the walking.

After Week 1: 20.402 miles. Only 79.6 to go!

Making new friends

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Are you part of a "mom clique"? You know, an impenetrable group of moms who are as thick as thieves. They know everything about each other and each other's families. They have dinner together, go on shopping excursions to quaint, all-American towns, and watch each other's kids. Perhaps you know one of those moms. Or maybe you're one of them.

I am not one of those moms. I do, however, know plenty of them.

When I moved to New Jersey in 2001, I knew my husband and his family. That's it. Once Emma was born in Spring 2002, we enrolled in Mommy & Me classes so that she could be around other babies and so that I could meet other moms. Fat chance. Actually, I did meet two moms. We spent some time together outside of our classes. Took the kids for walks on the local boardwalks, had play dates at our houses, local parks, and the beach. But beyond that, the friendships never expanded.

The years passed, and it really wasn't until this year that I actually started to make quality friends, women with whom I connected on a level other than constantly chatting about our kids. They were moms of Harper's preschool classmates. Some I had met in Mommy & Me classes at our local recreation center. Others were new acquaintances. We soon became Facebook friends and were continually commenting on pictures and statuses.

On Friday night, we enjoyed our first outing, happy hour at a local outdoor hot spot. It was so much fun to catch up outside of the playground. I hadn't seen two of the women since preschool ended a month ago, and it was great to see them.

l. to r. back row: Kristy, Colleen, and Nancy
front row: Cathy and me

It was a fun night out with new friends. We are already scheming our next Moms Night Out!!

My 100 mile challenge

Monday, July 19, 2010
Sadly, it's always a visit to the cardiologist which motivates me to hop back on the exercise wagon. Ever since I've gotten my treadmill, I've been walking (and struggling through a few runs) somewhat regularly. But I haven't been incredibly consistent, and I haven't held myself accountable for my workouts or lack thereof. I need to raise my HDL, and one of the proven ways to do so is through regular exercise.

Over the weekend, I finally decided that I needed a long-term plan, a goal. I wanted a goal that was achievable yet challenging. So, I came up with a 100 mile challenge. Between July 18 and August 27th, I will walk 100 miles. I have six weeks to walk 100 miles. That's 42 days to log 100 miles on my feet, an average of 16.67 miles per week.

Can I do it? Will I do it? Can I keep the momentum up for 6 straight weeks?

Follow along here. Each day that I workout, I will log my stats at Daily Mile. You can track my progress by checking the Daily Mile widget to the right. When I started my 100 mile challenge, I had already logged 44 miles at Daily Mile. So, my ultimate mileage goal is 144.

My reward? The freedom to indulge during my vacation from August 28 - September 4!!!!!!!!!!!!

Summer Camp

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The first week of camp went surprisingly well. I was worried that, since Emma wasn't going to camp, each morning would be a struggle with Harper. I was pleasantly surprised when she bounded out of bed each morning practically begging to get to camp...NOW! She's having fun with her preschool friends and making new ones, too.

This was the scene when I dropped her off yesterday morning. Shaving cream. What could be better? Glad I wasn't the one cleaning up this preschool mess.

Today she was excited for the clown/variety show. However, I received a call at 10:30 am from her head counselor letting me know that she wet herself during the show. Miss Kerry was guessing that Harper was a little spooked by the clown. When I later questioned Harper, she told me that she "really, really had to pee, but I didn't want to ask Miss Kerry to take me during the show."  I had to go to school to pick her up. My thought while driving there: Will she ever want to go back to camp?

We shall see how tomorrow morning goes.

Quick and easy smoothies

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We love smoothies. They are healthy, yummy and simple to make. And Yoplait has made it even more simple to make great smoothies.

Until recently, I've always made smoothies using fresh fruit, yogurt, orange juice, and milk. They were always an after school treat. We just didn't have time to make them in the mornings before school. When I came across a coupon in the Sunday circular, I decided to give these a try. I still prefer to make homemade smoothies, but the Yoplait variety are definitely great when time is of the essence.

Each package yields two (2) smoothies, each of which contains one full serving of fruit. The Yoplait Smoothie is available in 3 flavors: Triple Berry, Strawberry Banana, and Strawberry Mango Pineapple. Our favorite is the Triple Berry. We've tried the Strawberry Mango Pineapple, but it didn't go over well in this house. My kids aren't fans of mango.

 Preparation is super simple, just add 1 cup of skim milk to the contents of the package and mix in a blender for about 1 minute. Each package retails for about $3.49, which may sound like a lot. But trust me, we have a handful of restaurants around us that make smoothies and sell them for about $5.00 each. So, $3.49 for two smoothies is a deal.

Check out for a $1.00 coupon.

Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this review. I recently tried the aforementioned product and wanted to give my honest opinion to readers.

A slacker? Hardly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010
I know what some of you loyal readers are thinking and asking yourselves. Where am I? Why have I been slacking on blogging lately? What could possibly be more important that this little blog?

Believe me, I've had plenty of blog fodder. I just haven't had time to sit down and write a post. I've got a list a mile long of ideas for posts, but NO time!! Ever since the girls have finished school, I've spent almost every waking moment making their summer a memorable one. We've been to the beach several times, been to my sister-in-law's pool to swim, been to Hershey, PA and Ocean City, NJ. Whew! It's been a whirlwind, and it's only been two weeks!

This week camp started for Harper. Emma is not going, and I'm actually quite happy about it. It gives us a chance to have some alone time. Harper is loving camp, and I'm so happy for her and proud of her. Some of her preschool friends are there, and she's making new ones as well. The camp is 5 days per week from 9 am to 12 pm.

I've been waking at 6:45 and working out before I have to wake the girls. I've been loving getting up and walking and running on the treadmill before the girls wake. It feels so good to be working out regularly, and I like getting it out of the way first thing in the morning.

I've been surprisingly organized so far. We have a plan for most days once camp ends for the day. I've had my meals planned out so that I don't have to decide what we'll eat after a long day of swimming. I like this new schedule. Why can't I be like this during the school months??

What have you been doing this summer? Do you like the routine of a summer schedule or do you like unplanned, carefree days?

Uncle Ben's Kitchen Kickoff Party

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
A few weeks ago, I volunteered, through Mom Central, to host an Uncle Ben's Kitchen Kickoff Party with a few of my friends. I was sent an apron, measuring scoops, boxes and boxes of brown rice, paper goods, coupons, recipes, and fact sheets and several other fun goodies such as a memo cube and a gift card.

After I sent invites, I got to work on the menu. I have some tried and true favorite recipes with which I always serve brown rice including chicken stir-fry and black beans with rice. I also asked several participants to make suggestions for some of their favorite recipes which use rice as a main ingredient or as a side. We also made one of the recipes from Uncle Ben's Web site.

Some of the recipes I (or a guest) prepared in advance and a few we prepared as part of the party including mushroom and spinach stir-fry. Everything was delicious. I love brown rice. I stopped using white rice long ago. This party convinced most participants to make the switch to brown rice as well. The nutritional qualities of brown rice far outweigh those of white rice. It's a smart choice for your family.

I assembled a swag bag (see photo above) for the participants which included boxes of rice, a rice scoop, a recipe and a fact sheet, and coupons. The guests loved these. I purchased the bags, but everything else was provided by Mom Central. Isn't it always fun to leave a party with some free stuff?

Look for the recipes and pictures of the food in an upcoming post.

Visit the Uncle Ben's Web site for more information.

To become a member of the Mom Central community, click here.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a Kitchen Kickoff campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Uncle Ben's. Mom Central sent me a gift card and other Uncle Ben's items to thank me for taking the time to participate.

The Sweetest Place on Earth

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
It was a crazy busy week. It was the first full week of summer vacation, and it was jam packed with travel and plans.

First stop, Hershey, Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in the Hershey area. Hence my affinity for all things chocolate! I had to be in central PA for personal business relating to my father's estate (more on that later). We mixed a little business with a lot of pleasure and had a fantastic time.

If you are within driving distance to Hershey, it is definitely worth the trip. We didn't make it to the amusement park this time around, but we have plans to go later this summer. We did go to Chocolate World, and as always, it did not disappoint.

It's fun and full of whimsy!

Although there is no admission charge for Chocolate World, there are several attractions for which you pay a small fee. Not to be missed is the 3-D show!

There is also a chocolate tasting, which although kids might enjoy it, it is better suited to adults. It includes a tasting of 5 different types of chocolate and a spiced chocolate milk. You'll also receive an education in the cocoa making process.

Also, not to be missed is the Great American Chocolate Tour, a simulated ride through the chocolate making process. Years ago, tours were given of the actual factory, but due to health and sanitation guidelines, the factory tours ended and were replaced with this ride. This attraction is free, and upon exit, you are given a free mini Hershey milk chocolate bar.

A real-time tally of actual factory production.
If these displays don't put you in the mood for some candy, I don't know what will!

For more information and exact pricing, visit the Chocolate World Web site.