Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dinner this week.

I'd like to pat myself on the back and say "things have gone very well with my staying organized / meal planning goal for the year." 

I'd like to. 

I've been doing well for weeks now.  


But I fear the wheels are falling off this week. 

Of course, it's for a good cause. Tonight I have dinner plans with a girlfriend and that falls under my goal of socializing more with friends. And Wednesday night the hubs and I will have a mini-date night which clearly qualifies as making semi-monthly date nights a reality!

So the problem really is that my goals are somewhat mutual exclusive. I cannot plan every meal, keep an organized home and also be flexible enough to eat out when a friend calls. How in the world can I plan ahead of schedule when the schedule is constantly changing?!? 

Do you feel my pain?

Regardless, I'm going to stick to my planning and shopping only once a week guns. And here's what on tap for this week / weekend.
all photos via Pinterest
1. Daniel Boulud's chicken lasagna - I really want to try this, though I am very loyal to another classic lasagna recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. We'll see. This week I may work on my goal of entertaining more, in which case I'd go with the tried and true.

2. Crispy Chicken with Creamy Italian Sauce - I make many variations of this dish. This is exactly what my kids want for dinner every night. 

3. Flatbread Pizza with Arugula & Prosciutto - An amazingly easy and crowd-pleasing dinner concept.  Naan flatbreads and a variety of toppings. I have some yummy Farmer's Market arugula that will make this absolutely amazing. And seriously, it only takes 5 minutes. 

4. Parmesan crusted tilapia - I listed this weeks ago but never made it. We have fresh fish {albeit currently frozen} just begging to be cooked. This weekend. 

As for last week's fare, I'll give you a quick recap:

1. Pasta carbonara - comfort food - I love it every single time. 2. Lemon orzo with grape tomatoes and asparagus - this was dropped from the menu in favor of the hubs cooking on his new Big Green Egg. 3. Mozzarella, tomato & pesto grilled cheese - yummy, yummy, yummy.  4. Caramelized brussel sprouts with pancetta - meh. I love roasted brussel sprouts when they are all crisp and tender. I loved these less.  5. Ina's baked lemon chicken - This will now be a staple in my kitchen. It was simple, delicious and made great leftovers!  

So, what's for dinner this week at your house?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Back when Elmo ruled the world.

I can remember it like yesterday.

The squeals.

The laughter.

The dancing in the aisle.

The excitement was palatable.

It was, after all, our first live performance of any sort.

It was also our first live character experience.

It may have also been the first time I ventured into a huge crowd with just me and my darling duo in tow.

No man-on-man coverage.

No diaper bag.

Just us.

And Elmo.

Though this was nearly six years ago, I can still remember the day when Elmo ruled our world. My kids were, at the time, particularly smitten with Elmo. Little Miss Thang also had a particular affinity for Zoe. But who doesn't!?

And so we ventured out to see the live traveling show.

And it did not disappoint.

The full belly laughs and ear-to-ear smiles were their own reward.

Well, that and a few toys!  

It's your turn now:  One lucky reader will win a Family 4-Pack of ticket vouchers for Sesame Street Live - Elmo Makes Music" at American Bank Center. Airfare, however, is not included. So, unless you are local, or just love a road trip, this giveaway is not for you! 

The monsters you know and love will become musicians! And your children will undoubtedly squeal with delight. Truly, Sesame Street Live is a larger-than-life, musical touring stage production. Each production is 90 minutes {the perfect length for young children} of singing, dancing and audience participation, including a 15-minute intermission {at which time you should bolt to the bathroom - the line will be long. trust me}. 

And for all readers who do not win the Family 4-Pack, you can save $3 per ticket by entering the code ERNIE online at ticketmaster.com. {Discount excludes Gold Circle & Sunny Seats and is not valid on Opening Night or previously purchased tickets. Discount cannot be combined with any other offer.}

The performance dates and times are as follows:

Tuesday, February 21:        4 PM & 7:30 PM
Wednesday, February 22:   10:30 AM, 4 PM & 7:30 PM

Giveaway details: 

One lucky winner will receive a Family 4-pack of ticket vouchers. 

Mandatory Entry: 
Leave a comment below. Yes, that's it!  Just leave me a comment to let me know you are interested. 

I will close comments on 12:00 PM CST on Friday, February 10th. I will then select a winner at random and contact the winner directly.  

Rules (aka the fine print): 
You must be 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen to enter. Chances of winning are based upon number of entries received. The contest will run from Monday, January 30th through, Friday, February 10th at Noon CST. A winner will be selected from all eligible entires using Random.org. The winner must provide me with his or her mailing address within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be selected.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dress him up with your love.

Hisflix Switch

The Hubs may not always appreciate the amount of time I spend on my computer. But perhaps this find will buoy my standing {and his wardrobe}!  Trunk Club is perfect for the all those men who want to look their best but cannot find the time to curate style-worthy wardrobes. And puh-lease, I have a hard enough time keeping me and the kids looking respectable. I certainly do not help him much beyond an occasional linen shirt and shorts {his summer vacation uniform}. 

Trunk Club is one part New York fashion company and one part Silicon Valley startup and a brilliant way to try a variety of clothes without ever leaving the house. 

This is how it works: You share the deets on your {or your hub's} lifestyle, needs, age, and profession and team of stylists consider carefully what clothing meets that criteria. Days later a new wardrobe in a box arrives on the doorstep. Inside is an assortment of apparel that's custom fitted to meet his personal style as well as his size. 

The best part? You only pay for the pieces he wants {or that you want him to keep} and return the rest - no questions asked.

What a wonderful Valentine's gift for the guy in your life! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's a bird! It's a plane!

Every little superhero deserves wings! 

super hero wings for your shoes
super hero wings for shoes
super hero lightening bolts for shoes

How cute is that?!

These wings and bolts fit any child’s shoe 
{and smaller adults!} by simply attaching to the laces.  


Find them at Smallfly's Etsy shop!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dinner this week.

I think it fitting that I comment on the dinners from last week in case you are curious, or hungry, or wondering if I just make all this stuff up.

I did indeed make all four of the dinners pictured.  Scout's honor.

Here are my thoughts on each:

1. Pasta orecchiette with chicken sausage - This was fabulous, easy and even the kids enjoyed it {minus the pesto on their portions}. 

2. Shredded chicken tacos - I didn't end up actually doing the shredded chicken part. We just had rotisserie chicken tacos. It was my easy quick and that's what I needed last Wednesday {actually ever Wednesday} night.

3. Easy penne with balsamic sweet potatoes, arugula and parmesan - Yummy.  I adored the balsamic glazed sweet potatoes. Adored them so much in fact that I found myself standing over the skillet "sampling" about ten bites before determining they were perfectly cooked.  Don't judge until you've tried them. Added in with the peppery arugula and salty parmesan and it was a fabulous pasta dish. A lovely deviation from our norm. 

4. Fig-prosciutto pizza - Epic failure. We've never done a homemade pizza before. Suffice to say, we* will perfect our crust before inviting any friends over for a pizza-making party. I do not blame the recipe. We* just had crust issues. And a soggy-woggy crust pretty much ruins the pizza. That and I think my husband thought I was crazy with my fig spread on pizza. The toppings were delicious, though, in my opinion. The combination of the fig spread, arugula, and prosciutto - inspired. Eating it on all on top of a soggy, undercooked crust - depressing. 

*when I say "we", I really mean "the Hubs".  {xoxo honey!}

Moving on.

Here is my idea board for our dinners this week:  
all images via Pinterst
1. Pasta carbonara - one of my all-time favs, 2. Lemon orzo with grape tomatoes and asparagus - simple and light, 3. Mozzarella, tomato & pesto grilled cheese - because I have leftover pesto and kids can have regular grilled cheese - probably our Wednesday night dinner, 4. Caramelized brussel sprouts with pancetta - served with leftover chicken, 5. Ina's baked lemon chicken - I'll make lots of this so we'll have leftover chicken to get us through the week.  

So, what's for dinner this week at your house?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting dressed should be a no brainer!

Darling Hayley from The Tiny Twig recently sent me a copy of her ebook, The No Brainer Wardrobe, to review. 

I was happy to oblige. By no means do I fancy myself a fashion maven of any sorts. Far from it, in fact. But I do love clothes. And I generally love getting dressed. Always have. When I was in high school I kept a clothes calendar.

Yes, seriously. 

{stop mocking me} 

I would mark what I wore every single day. This was partly motivated by my fear of repeating too frequently {2 weeks minimum which required a lot creativity given my limited high school wardrobe}, but also so I would remember what I wore with what. Curating the combo is often initially daunting. I never wanted to forget what worked. And thus, my clothes calendar worked like a charm. 

Sometimes I wonder why I ever stopped. Hayley's book reminded me of the wisdom in that practice. And so much more. 

The No Brainer Wardrobe is for every woman who has ever stood in a full closet and exclaimed: I have nothing to wear! It truly does get to the nuts and bolts of what makes you feel good, and thus, look good. 

I love how Hayley sums it up here:
There is something about a woman’s confidence that makes her more beautiful and more approachable at the same time. . . . As important as confidence is contentment. There are seasons in life, and maybe this season doesn’t afford you a lavish wardrobe budget. . . . Creativity and a bit of time is all you need to put together a bevy of attractive and of the moment outfits.
So true!

Hayley even suggest turning to Pinterest to help you discern your style. We've all pinned a few cute outfits for inspiration. Here are a few of my "style" pins. 
all images via Pinterest
The No Brainer Wardrobe reminded me that "classic" truly is my style.  I need not be worry about every little trend - it simply isn't my look.

From this board, it appears jeans and t-shirts are my look.

Luckily, Hayley has an entire chapter on "How to Make Jeans & T-Shirts an Outfit."  

Truly, it is a lovely little book {80 pages of content} which will make you reexamine your closet, your style, your shape, and your budget.

Hayley says it perfectly:
It really is about realizing that looking perfect everyday isn’t the aim. Looking good and put together, feeling proud and confident–now that is what it’s about. You don’t have to spend a fortune; you don’t have to spend an eternity. You just need to let go of a few preconceived ideas that you’ve probably carried with you without even knowing it. 
The No Brainer Wardrobe is only $7.99 -- a wise investment if you generally take more than five minutes deciding what to wear. As a *BONUS* the first 10 readers to download a copy receive it at 50% off that price!  Just enter the code eatlivelaughshop at checkout!


*I did receive a free ebook for review, but all opinions are entirely my own.*

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Belly up to the bar!

You may remember last year I shared my top five beauty products. The #1 product on that list was Savon de Marseille pure olive oil soaps!

Maybe you did not care then and still do not care now. But if your interest was piqued or if your skin is scaly and dry, I thought you should know French Soaps is currently running a special -- 3 lbs of Savon de Marseille for only $14.99 (50% off) *plus* a free wire cutter.  

The bars, when purchased in this quantity, are quite long and individual bars are simply cut as needed. I love being able to cut little hotel size bars for my house guests so they have a fresh bar every time! 

Truly a wonderful, natural, biodegradable soap. And, for our family, three pounds of soap lasts about a year. Or more. 

I was provided absolutely no compensation or perk for sharing this information. I just love sharing a good deal with friends {or completely strangers who find themselves here}. 

Happy Weekend!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Albums that define my life.

The task was simple: list 10 songs that define your youth. 

Problem is, I couldn't stop at 10. Nor was I willing to admit that my "youth" is a thing of the very distant past {delusional, I know}. And then I realized, I really had more favorite albums than songs {I'm loyal like that}. 

So instead of 10, I listed 20.

Instead of songs, I listed albums.  

And instead of sticking with a pure definition of "youth", I drew the line in my mid-30s. 

Because, friends, I don't like being confined by rules. When I sit down to over-share, I over-share on my own terms. 

So here you have the 10 20 songs albums that define my youth life:

1.  Shaun Cassidy - Was there more than one album?  I only know one. My first vinyl. Yes. I am. That. Old.

2.  Carly Simon - You're So Vain - My mother's album, but one to which I spent countless hours in the basement choreographing fabulous dance routines.

3.  The Muppets - I'm not joking - these were my formative years and this is what was available.

4.  Abba - Gold - Don't get me started. I've belted out "Dancing Queen" more times than I can count. By age 5 my kids knew the lyrics to Dancing Queen. An absolute classic. If it's not on your list, I'm surprised we're even friends.

5.  Madonna - Holiday - My BFF and I both wore fingerless lace gloves to the 8th Grade Dance. Need I say more? I won't even mention my hair.

6.  Grease - Soundtrack - This was my High School Musical. Literally.

7.  The Outfield - Play Deep - Possibly my favorite album. Loads of amazing memories associated with it. Including memories involving a boyfriend, a BFF, a four pack of Bartles & James wine coolers and a little brown car with crank windows and no air conditioning. Good times.  

8.  Yaz - Upstairs at Eric's / Depeche Mode - Violator / Erasure - The Circus / Chorus / Wild - I realize this is more than one album, but they all mesh together in my mind. And all remind me of crazy {relative term} high school memories. This was the music of football games {driving to and fro}, driving backwards in Ashley's Buick, school dances, slumber parties, and weekends at Renee's when her parents were at their ranch. Every time I hear any song from these albums I immediately crave a wine cooler. Pavlov's dog.

9.  Journey - Greatest Hits - This reminds me of high school and my brother -- I believe he introduced me to Journey {in addition to other things which I shall not mention}.

10.  St. Elmos's Fire - Soundtrack - Yes, I loved this movie, and thus, this album. It was a cassette. Possibly copied from a friend's cassette. I can hear the musical theme song in my head right now.

11.  Alphaville - Singles Collection - "Forever Young" was our Senior Song. I still love it and can recite it word for word. Okay, maybe not word for word, but I'm awesome at singing it in my head.

12.  Pretty Woman - Soundtrack - College. Loved this movie. I believe it was the first movie I ever purchased to watch repeatedly at home {VHS of course}. I went through quite a soundtrack phase.

13.  Cure - Wish - College. My college roommate {freshman year} had a poster of the Cure in our dorm room and we played this album {a CD - one of my first} pretty much non-stop.  In related news, I may have been a victim to the clubbing scene in the late 80s - early 90s. Which is why you will never {ever} see a picture of me taken after 10 pm on any night circa 1989-1990. Thankfully, I settled down after my first year of college.  

14. 10,000 Maniacs - Our Time in Eden - "These Are Days" is one of my all-time favorite songs. I can specifically remember blaring it in the car driving around Dallas for my BFF's bachelorette party. Those were the days indeed!

15.  Alanis Morrisette - Jagged Little Pill - Law school music. I would literally SCREAM {all caps warranted} along with this album {especially "You Ought to Know"} while driving my little red Miata home from finals. A surprisingly refreshing release.

16.  Dixie Chicks - Fly - Reminds me of falling in love with the hubs. "Cowboy Take Me Away" was my theme song of 2001. And he did indeed. We were married and moved in 2003.

17. Jack Ingram - Jack Ingram - Part of my Texas / country phase. And because he sings "A Song for Amy".

18.  Kelly Willis - What I Deserve - The Hubs introduced me to Kelly at a great little club in Houston called the Mucky Duck. We were regulars every time she and/or Bruce came to the Duck. I especially love when she unplugs. Her voice is . . . absolutely amazing. Side note: we had twins within a month of each other.  Yes, I'm a bit of a Kelly stalker. 

19.  Laurie Berkner - Buzz Buzz - Major transition in my life: twins. Around 2005 when I had twin toddlers I became a big fan of Laurie. Buzz Buzz managed to put us all in a good mood. I will never forget these upbeat songs and the simple little music videos on Noggin. My kids loved to dance to Laurie. And I absolutely adored watching my toddlers light up and dance. 

20.  Adele - 19 - This lady can sing. I was introduced to her, along with most of America, when she was lucky enough to sing on SNL during the infamous Sarah Palin / Tina Fey skits. I can't get enough of her, but I will always associate her with the 2008 election. Did I mention I met Bill Clinton around this same time?!? Well, that's another story for another day. 

Join the list-making fun at  Moment's that Define Life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Memories captured.

I love capturing memories. 

Especially some of the little moments that would otherwise be lost. 

But the idea of adding text to really define the memory or the person, well that was a new idea to me. 

And what a great way to remember the details of a specific moment 
or the essence of the person at that very moment in time!

For my first go-round, I captured the very essence of Little Miss Thang, age 8 and 3/4. 

I used Picnik to very quickly add text to this photo.  

It's easy and free!  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dinner this week.

Dinner this week may {emphasis on "may" because I'm a bit flaky} become a weekly feature. It was incredibly successful last week in that I did actually shop for just the specific meals featured and we ate just that. I realize this is not a novel concept for most, but I'm used to going to the grocery store 2-3 times/week.   One trip on Tuesday and I was set for the week. Amazing. 

So this week, here's what's in store.  I plan for only four nights a week because inevitably (1) we eat out one night, (2) the hubs travels and we eat breakfast for dinner in his absence, and/or (3) I cry "uncle" around 5 PM and order pizza. 

So, what's for dinner this week at your house?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dinner this week.

As part of 2012 organizational strategies, I am meal planning for the entire week. I would say "on Monday" but you won't be fooled.  It's Tuesday. 

Baby steps. 

This is what's for dinner at our house this week. I turned to Pinterest for inspiration this morning. I pin yummy looking dishes all the time. It's time to start making them!  So I'm off the to the store with my list in hand. I hope it all turns out as good as it looks.
all photos via Pinterest
1.  Balsamic glaze chicken, 2.  Autumn chopped salad, 3.  Parmesan crusted tilapia, 4.  Lemon chicken soup with orzo and baby spinach.

So now many of you with young children are wondering what in the world I do to my children to get them to eat such a variety of foods. Don't be fooled by my pretty pictures. My kids are picky just like yours.

Here's what I imagine the kid version of each meal will entail:

1. chicken breasts without the balsamic glaze, roasted pepper and mozzarella {their loss}, 2. leftover chicken breasts with a side of lettuce, pears and dried cranberries {but not mixed together and dressed}, 3. I think I can sell the tilapia, though will have a side of pasta to ensure full bellies, 4. rotisserie chicken, raw spinach and carrots {undressed}, and orzo {basically the soup disassembled - silly kids}.

So, what's for dinner at your house this week? And do you also serve your kids' disassembled dinners or are yours simply more adventurous than mine?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Amy's Top Five: Vacation {with kids} Destinations

I once read a piece about happiness research which concluded people glean happiness not from possessions, but from experiences. This little bit has always fueled my desire to travel together as a family. To build memories. To spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It brings us closer together. It broadens our horizons and, well, it's a whole lot of fun! 

And yes, it takes effort to travel with small children. But it's worth it. We did not, you'll note, travel oversees with two two-year-olds. We are realistic but also wanted our children to begin exploring different areas of the country {and continent} at a young age.

We cherish the family times we've shared on these travels. But yes, we also cherish a little adult time on our family vacations. So this list is not entirely kid-driven. It is not full of amusement parks and water slides {though we've done our time at both}. Rather, it is full of family destinations. Places to enjoy time as a family and to create those memories that will help get us through the tween and teen years ahead when they will refuse to be seen dancing with us to low country music. 

In 2012 we plan to repeat two of the top five. And as our kids grow and mature {and become more adventurous eaters} we plan to expand our sights further. 

But this is my top five list for traveling with kids ages 3 - 8. 

1.  Sea Island, Georgia

Entering through the gates and onto Sea Island you are immediately transported back in time. To a refined era where people dress for dinner and generations gather to "summer." Sea Island is an amazing enclave. The lodging options vary from posh hotel suites to cottages by the sea. We opted for a cottage we shared with another family. It was an ideal arrangement and allowed us the space for our kids to run a muck and to cook the majority of our own meals {so important to me when traveling with kids}. 

What I loved about Sea Island was the old-town feel. Everyone rides bikes from the cottages to the Beach Club. Older kids ride alone. The feel is one of very established neighborhood in which you are completely comfortable and safe. 

The amenities and activities are mind boggling -- tennis, air rifles, horseback riding, nature adventures, kayaking, fishing, pool games, movies, kids' club and more. Our kids' days were booked and they loved all the activities. Every activity was staffed by professionals and safety was the top priority. 

And while the resort itself is fancy-schmancy, we only "dressed" for dinner one night of nine -- the night we attended bingo night. I cannot possibly convey how fun bingo night was for our entire family. It's unlike any bingo hall you've been to, I can assure you of that. It is southern gentility at it's finest. And a "show" that will keep you in stitches until the final Bbbbbbbb5.

Sea Island is an exceptional resort. Ever facet - the spa, the golf, the facilities, the kids' activities -- are beyond reproach. And yet the staff is friendly and accommodating {need a babysitter tonight, of course we can find someone} and no detail goes unnoticed {supervised activities for the kids during cocktail hour, of course}. It quite simply provides the ultimate location and atmosphere for a family to make lasting memories! 
Sea Island memories ~ 2008
2.  Kauai, Hawaii

Simply amazing. We were all blown away by our Kauai experience. You can read all the splendid details here and here. It was a lengthy vacation for us -- 15 days including travel -- so that alone added to our enjoyment. But it is the people of Kauai and, of course, the gorgeous natural environment that make Kauai, well, paradise. 

Snorkeling just 50 feet off-shore with your kids for the first time. Seeing the Na Pali coast by helicopter. Taking family surf lessons. Enjoying fresh fish and produce at every turn. Marveling at the glorious natural landscape. Completely unwinding and bonding as a family. These are just a few of the reasons Kauai now holds a special place in our family's history. 
Kauai memories ~ 2010

3.  Costa Rica, Central America

What I loved so much about Costa Rica was the lack of development. It felt like Mexico without the Burger King and with howler monkeys. It is remote and a long bus ride may be required, but the hospitality we encountered, in addition to the pristine beaches and rain forests, was beyond compare. 

Within thirty minutes of arriving Little Miss Thang had slipped on a rock and busted her chin open. The doctor was paged, emerged from the hot tub {no lie}, and stitched her up about thirty minutes later {after the hubs grilled her to ensure she was indeed a "real doctor"}. 

I also remember taking our kids to one of the nicer restaurants {note: kids were then 4 and not at all accustomed to fine dining}. The restaurant staff went above and beyond in ensuring we all enjoyed our meals, by providing activities for the kids and customizing meals to their exact specifications. 

We stayed at the Westin Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal because we were with a large work group. It is a lovely resort with a plethora of activities and restaurant offerings. Because of the age of our children we did not opt for the six hour rain forest excursions complete with towering zip lines. We did, however, explore enough to experience a bit of rain forest and zip lining and so much more.

We spent an entire afternoon and evening in Tamarindo with a group of friends. The kids surfed, played and climbed trees. The adults lounged, some surfed, and all enjoyed one of the most laid-back days and glorious sunsets of our lives. We all feasted on steak and lobster that night at a little shack right on the beach and paid only $80 / family {including a day-long bar bill}. 

Everywhere we went there was someone looking out to ensure we were all enjoying ourselves. The hospitality and scenery were simply amazing at every turn. 
Costa Rica memories ~ 2007

4.  Beaver Creek, Colorado

"Not exactly roughing it" {the officially Beaver Creek motto} sums up our experience at this Colorado ski resort. The mountain is vast. The runs are challenging, and easy, and scenic and everything in between. And it doesn't hurt that they offer warm chocolate chips cookies as you come off the slopes around 4:30. 


And truly, beyond cookies, there is something for everyone at Beaver Creek -- in terms of skiing, lodging, dining and shopping {not that I stopped to fully explore the shopping - maybe this year}. Yes, there is the super posh Spago restaurant at the Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gultch, but just up the hill there is also the buy your lunch and grill it yourself venue which, as you may guess, is much more affordable {and scenic}.  

What ultimately sold me {besides the cookies} was the ski school. It has been referred to as the "Ivy League of ski schools". And who doesn't want an ivy league ski education for their children!? The ski school facility, while mildly chaotic {first come, first serve in selecting an instructor}, was wonderful. They devote a large portion of the mountain to the ski school -- a very large  portion of a very large mountain. It is an incredible set-up for every level. Additionally, the instructors were friendly, engaging, laid-back, and most importantly, great with my kids. And allegedly they ate more than cookies and hot chocolate for lunch. 

But the proof is ultimately in the pudding, as they say, and well, at the end of three days my kids were skiing. Little Miss Thang successfully {albeit accidentally} navigated a black on her first day with us. Even more importantly, they had a positive attitude the entire time. They contacted us when one of the cousins was having a bad day, though handled and rectified it perfectly. 

Bottom line: they made my kids fall in love with skiing and want to return. For that I am forever grateful!  
Beaver Creek memories - 2011

5.  Disneyland, California

No list of kids' travel destinations would be complete without a Disney experience in the mix. For our tots, then 3, we chose Disneyland in lieu of Walt Disney World. In my opinion, you can capture that magical "Magic Kingdom" experience at Disneyland in about half the time as Disney World. And with toddlers, three days of excitement is about all they can truly enjoy. We were even able to walk from our hotel straight into the park {and back for a nap}. No car. No bus. No tram. Character dinners and experiences were plentiful and lines were mangeable. 

I know I do not need to convince you that every kids adores the Disney experience. It is truly magical. And I think every parent should experience the awe in your child's eyes when she see her favorite princess {or he sees his favorite character} and truly believes she is that princess. Disneyland makes that Disney experience manageable and enjoyable for families with toddlers. 

Now that I won't be pushing a double stroller and trying to coordinate a nap schedule, we will certainly venture on to Disney World and all Orlando has to offer. And I'm certain it will allow for an entirely new and different sense of wonder and awe. For the kids and the hubs and me.  
Disneyland memories ~ 2006

What destination do we need to try next?  And what is your favorite family-friendly spot so far?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Detox Superfoods Salad

It is the beginning of a new year and while my goals for the year do not include a new fitness regimen, that is simply because I consider staying fit a life-long goal. It never changes. I do not diet. I do not try ever new fitness craze. I exercise regularly and try to cook real foods for my family. 

All that said, there are times when my waistbands feel a little tighter than usual and I realize I need to make a few modifications. It is currently such a time. My holiday splurges are clearly apparent on my waist, my skin and my overall demeanor. I abhor scales and certainly haven't stepped on one, but I simply feel like I need a healthy kick-start for the year. 

It's time to add a few uber-healthy meals to my repertoire. 

This superfoods salad is on the menu for the weekend.

Winter Detox Superfoods Salad
serves 4
1 small bunch broccoli, raw or quickly blanched
2 tangerines, peeled and segments separated, plus 1 for dressing
1 pomegranate, seeded
1/4 cup shaved or thinly sliced fennel
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup walnut pieces
extra virgin olive oil

Toss first 6 ingredients together in a medium bowl. Drizzle olive oil and juice of one tangerine over salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Visit Yummy Mummy to read about her fitness tips and for a printable recipe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Amy's 2012 Top Ten.

It is a new year and while I may personally refuse to set "resolutions" per se, that does not mean I do not want to start the new year on the right foot. Though today I'm pretty sure it was the left foot that hit the ground, noted the cool temps and curled right back up in bed for another 15 minutes. I did, however, get the kids to school on time and make my 8:00 am pilates class, so we are off to a decent start. But decent is not my goal for 2012. I want more for myself and my family. 

So, no, these are not resolutions. These are areas of my life I'd like to improve. Areas that require more deliberate planning on my part. This is a list of the top ten areas of my life I think I can and should improve over the coming year. 

This is my 2012 Top Ten list:  

1.  Organize and plan meals. In advance. Not at the grocery store. So I have an actual list and am not searching my phone for recipes while pushing the cart down the aisle. 

2.  Be more deliberate about my children's schedule. I often act surprised that Wednesday is such a busy day. It is every Wednesday. This should not sneak up on me. Also, I am in charge of their schedule. I can determine that it does not make sense for our family to make golf, piano and gymnastics all work on one afternoon. I am in charge. 

3.  Stay organized and ahead of schedule.  I am queen of working under pressure. I do it with my blog. I do it with trips to the grocery store {leaving 15 minutes before I have to grab the kids and see #1 above}. I do it with my volunteer obligations. This year I plan to keep Monday's free so I can sit down in the morning, plan my week, our meals, calendar any obligations, and formulate a comprehensive plan for the week. This sounds so obvious, but yet, I have never, ever been that organized.

4.  Read more. I love reading. Love it. It truly brings me joy to fully immerse myself in a good book. I recently looked back at my iBooks for the last year and was mortified at how few books I'd read. I love reading. I should do it more. And *gasp* I may even schedule a bit of time during the day! 

5.  Socialize more with friends. Again, I love my friends and enjoy being with them. It brings more joy to my life to see them regularly. It can be as simple as a lunch or, with long distance friends, a weekend away. I need that time and am at a stage in life where I can make it work. I need to make those calls on Mondays {see #3} to schedule a few lunches during the week. As for my Houston, Austin, San Antonio friends, expect a call this month. I need weekends with each of you. Soon. 

Girls' trip - 2011
6.  Entertain more. I love entertaining. I enjoy cooking. Even for a group {though not so much kids}. When our children were younger I swear I entertained more. How does that even make sense?! I swear you do not appreciate naps until they are gone, but I was always able to accomplish so much in that time. Now during those same hours I am running from activity to activity and do not have the same time to  prepare lovely dinners for friends. Too bad. I need to figure it out so we have more Friday evenings or Saturday evenings with kids running a muck, friends sipping cocktails, and Kevin cooking on his *new* Big Green Egg. 

7.  Organize and streamline my files and clutter. My office is directly off the entry of my otherwise beautiful home. And it is always a mess. I used to clean it occasionally when company was expected. It is now too far gone and I no longer make the effort. I have file cabinets full of files that should be shredded. And binders full of . . . who knows what. It is time for a purge. I don't need as many files -- it is all online. And I really need to take a step back and streamline my clutter. Or just dispose of it. We'll see. 

8.  Limit my computer time when the family is home. My children are now of the age that they are quite aware of how much time I spend in front of a screen -- whether it's my phone, my iPad or my computer. I ask them to limit their time and I need to set that example. We are a family that spends time talking. Face to face. We are not a family that texts each other when it is time for dinner. I am the one who can set the tone in that regard. If I want children who are unplugged, I will also need to be unplugged. And it's time to start. 

9.  Make semi-monthly date nights happen every month. We used to be very good at this. Now, we only make it work when we have a social obligation or when a friend calls. Our marriage is better when we spend more time one-on-one. The fact that we enjoy spending time with our kids should not dissuade us or make us feel guilty. They need happy parents. Constant maintenance. Just like everything else. 

date night shoes
10.  Attend more cultural events. When we lived in Houston we enjoyed season tickets to the symphony and regularly attended musicals and plays. Kids and moving have squashed that part of our lives that we very much enjoyed. We can, however, still ensure we, as a couple, and our children are exposed to a variety of cultural events. As part of #s 3 and 5, I want to incorporate a few out of town trips to attend certain events. I also want to explore the local landscape. Again, it is simply making it a priority and planning ahead. Few attend the symphony when they see the ad on Saturday morning. I need to plan ahead for a few date nights and late nights out with the kids. We will all be better for it. 

I plan to check back in with you {maybe quarterly} to report progress on each item. I need accountability and truly believe there is no point in setting a goal without regularly checking progress and making adjustments. And I'm pretty sure the hubs will only make me accountable for # 9. He may actually try to thwart #s 5 and 10, and Lord knows his schedule is often what makes #1 so difficult. Point being:  I'll need all the help I can get! 

So, dear readers, what is on your list of goals, or if you must, "resolutions" for 2012?

Linking up here with Freshmom and Unexpected Mom.

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