Saturday, June 28, 2014

Virgin Mojitos



Virgin Mojito Recipe
Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 liter Club Soda
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
6 limes
50-60 mint leaves



Directions:

1. In a pot, heated to low-medium, add your 2 cups of water, 2 cups sugar, and 20-30 mint leaves. Zest two of your limes into the pot, half the limes, and squeeze the juice in the pot. Let it all simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let mixture cool for at least 3-4 hours. This also can be made the day before and refrigerated. 
2. Slice up the remainder of your limes in quarters.
3. In your pitcher, muddle the remainder of your mint leaves.  Pour in the mixture you made in the pot. Gently squeeze your lime slices as you drop them in the pitcher. Top with the liter of Club Soda. Serve immediately and enjoy!

This is a delicious and has a nice light fizz that helps you forget you can't (or just aren't) drinking an alcoholic beverage. Yum Yum!!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Cleaning Routine

My two trusty sidekicks!


The secret to keeping a clean house is just that...keeping it clean! The easiest way to keep your house at a manageable level of dirt and chaos is to instill a cleaning routine into your daily life. You may not want to clean everyday, but it is actually a smaller task than you may be envisioning and far easier than letting the dirt, laundry, and clutter pile up and have to spend days pouring time and sweat into your house. 
First, you need to run a load of laundry everyday to every other day depending on the size of your family and amount of laundry your family produces. The best way to tackle this task without feeling overwhelmed and allowing yourself the desire of leaving the clean laundry in the dryer for a day...or two...is this: Load your washer when you wake up in the morning, move to the dryer when done and/or when you get home from morning activities, and by naptime (if your kids still take naps), you will get a moment to yourself to catch up on a show, fold, and put away the laundry. Easy peezy!! 
Next, make sure you run your dishwasher at least once a day and put the cleans away. I have found that running my dishwasher after I put the kids to bed is best for my routine. When I wake up in the morning and usually while the kids are eating their breakfast, I put the clean dishes away. That way it is empty in the morning and you can slowly add the, rinsed, dirty dishes to the dishwasher throughout the day.
Third, vacuum your house every other day. I have a two story house so I vacuum daily, but alternate upstairs and downstairs each day. For example today I vacuumed downstairs, so tomorrow I will vacuum upstairs. This is the easiest way that I have found to suck the pesky dirt up, but if you prefer to sweep or something else than by all means. I have hardwood floors downstairs and carpet upstairs which calls for extra cleaning on both parts (mopping and carpet steaming) which are probably my least favorites of cleaning.
Fourth, mop your hardwood floors and tile floors at least once a week. Twice to even three times a week would be ideal, but at least once a week is important. I use a swiffer wet jet and make my own floor cleaner in the refill container. I coupon, as most of you know, so I am able to get good deals on the swiffer pads and I like being able to throw away the filthy pad rather than having to keep up with washing reusable ones. I have one refill container for the tile bathrooms and one for my hardwoods to make going from one floor to another easier. 
Fifth, the dreaded bathrooms... dun dun dun... I hate cleaning the bathrooms. Hate! HATE! I have four to clean. Four. It has to get done though. Thankfully my kids are still little, so two of the bathrooms never get "dirty" and are very easy to clean. Our master bathroom gets dirty, primarily from my make up and hair, which is gross. I clean the guest and master bathrooms twice a week because they get the most use and the kids bathrooms once a week because pretty much all that happens in them is bathtime for the kids so they stay pretty clean. 
Sixth, are all the extras that go into keeping the house clean. Things like cleaning ceiling fans, pulling out beds to clean under, window washing, scrubbing the baseboards, etc, all need to happen once a month at least to keep the dust at bay. Dust and mold are two allergens that can be very bothersome to a lot of people, but are also the easiest to make a non-issue by cleaning!  
Lastly, the general day to day things like yours kid's shoes, books, backpacks, toys, mail, etc all need to have homes and make it to their homes when finished using to avoid making your house look over-run by your beloved babies. We are fortunate enough to have a playroom and several closets throughout my house which helps enable my home to be clutter-free. The toys stay in the playroom, books go to a book shelf, backpacks belong in the hall closet, kid's shoes go in their rooms, etc. Everyone's house is different, but finding homes for everything you own is important to keeping a clean house. If something you own does not have a home and is not getting used than get rid of it. I am a huge believer of only having the bare necessities. I strongly dislike (hate) knick-knacks, excessive appliances on kitchen counters, etc. I am a minimalist, if you will, and prefer to have less out and therefore more living space.
I hope this helps! This is just what I do to make my house a functioning, happy, and clean place for us to live!


*If you have pets than I would vacuum daily due to the pet hair and dander and mop at least three times a week.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Trip to the North Carolina Zoo

We have been to the North Carolina Zoological Park twice, as a family, now. The zoo is huge and wonderful for families to hike through and see animals from around the world. I am writing this post to both share our experience and also to ease your fears! The zoo can be done in one day! It can be done at little to no cost! And best of all your children will have lasting memories!!

I will start with some pictures from our most recent zoo trip:

The hubby pushing the kids in the double jogger. That's a real man right there! 


Lions


Me at 32 weeks pregnant and my almost 4 year old son in front of the Rhinos!


The hubby and our two year old daughter in front of the Elephants!


Lunch break, that we packed, in the shade.


Lunch break!


Watching the geyser spout. Also, you can see the double jogger is well packed!


First thing you need to do is get a membership to a local place that will also include the Zoo. For example, we are members to the Fort Fisher Aquarium for a total of $75 per year for our whole family. That membership also includes the NC Zoo, so it is free for us to visit at any time. If there is no where local for you to get a membership at and you think that you would go to the NC Zoo more than twice a year than it is worth purchasing a membership to the Zoo at $74 for your family. That comes out to under $10 a person if you have a family of four and go twice in one year. Obviously, if you go more than twice than the cost is even more worth the while! 
We live three hours away from the NC Zoo and can easily "do the Zoo" in one day. We leave the house by 8 am, arrive to the Zoo by 11 am, start walking, take a lunch break when we get to the "Junction" in between North American and Africa, finish walking around 3 pm, get back in the car and make it home around 6 pm. Obviously, that is a very abbreviated version of events, but it can be that simple if you make it simple. Don't make it harder on yourself than it needs to be!!
 Pack well, not too heavy but not too light! Make sure to pack lunches for your family. You CAN bring food and drink in to the Zoo and there are plenty of picnic areas to eat at. I have a small cooler bag that I pack all our cold items: water bottles, cheese sticks, yogurt, carrots and hummus, etc. Then, in a separate bag, I pack all of our lunches, in individual snapwear containers, that includes: PB&Js, goldfish, dried fruit, etc. I do it in two separate bags so that they can fit under my double jogger and neither Hubby or I have to carry anything. Nobody wants to hike miles and miles carrying anything they don't have too! I hang my camera bag on the handle bars for easy access so I can switch lenses when needed and have easy access to it to snap a photo of my cutiepattootie children! I also pack us each a reusable waterbottle on top of the waters I put in the cooler bag. You will drink a lot of water walking the Zoo! 
We have been twice, to the Zoo, once last fall and now again at the beginning of summer. They were two very different experiences. Fall was the perfect weather, not too hot and not too cold, and almost all of the animals were alert and able to been seen. However, the kids play area was closed and is only open during the warm weather months. When we went again, this week, it was hot. Hot! Hot!!!!! It was 90 something degrees, I am hugely pregnant, cramping, cranky, tired...you get the picture.... The animals were also hot and hiding. Not all were hiding, but a good majority of them were. There was even a sign at the polar bear exhibit stating that because it was so hot the polar bear was likely in it's sleeping quarters. We were pretty bummed, but totally understand. Because it is summer the play areas, for the kids, are open, so the children did get to enjoy that! 
We plan on going again after I have the baby. I hope we get to see the polar bear this time! I will be pushing the baby in a single jogger and my Hubby will be pushing the older two in the double jogger. It will be a much more full car on the next trip! 

I hope you all take a trip to the Zoo soon! Enjoy!  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Blueberry Pancakes


Blueberry Pancakes
Yield: 2-3 dozen

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 1/4 cup milk
2-3 cups frozen blueberries

Directions:

1. Separate your eggs, in two bowls, and whisk your egg whites into peaks. Set aside.
2. Melt your butter and slowly whisk it into your egg yolk.
3. Add your vinegar, milk, vanilla, and sugar to your egg yolk bowl.
4. Add in your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and mix well.
5. Fold in your egg whites
6. Heat your griddle to medium and gently ladle out your batter. Sprinkle blueberries into the freshly poured batter. Once you see bubbles, flip your pancake. The pancakes should be a golden color.

I like my pancakes on the thinner side, as you can see from the picture, but if you like yours thick leave out the vinegar and 1/4 cup of milk. I topped these pancakes with a blueberry sauce I concocted. Here is the blueberry sauce recipe:

Blueberry Sauce:

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and mix well.
2. Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes until warm.
3. With your fork, gently mash your blueberries extracting all that yummy goodness! Don't mash all the blueberries, but just enough to make your concoction saucy. Drizzle over your stack of pancakes and enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Baked Rigatoni



Baked Rigatoni
Yield: Serves 6-8




Ingredients:

2 lbs Ricotta Cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella (separated)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 
1 egg
6 cups homemade tomato sauce or sauce of your choice
1 box of Rigatoni
salt and pepper




Directions:

1. Cook your pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In your mixer, add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well with the whisk attachment for about a minute.
3. Detach your bowl and add your cooked pasta to the cheese. Incorporate all that cheesy goodness into the pasta.
4. In a 9x13 dish, add your tomato sauce. Pour your cheesy pasta mixture into the sauce and spread out.
5. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top and cover with tin foil.
6. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes with the foil on. Take off the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes to get the cheese extra yummy on top!




Yummy!!! So good! 
Seriously, if you love cheese, this is the dish for you! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins

My cute baking buddy and taste tester!

Double Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins
Yield: 30-32



Ingredients:

4 very ripe bananas 
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk 
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 bag Ghirardelli chocolate chips



Directions:

1. In your mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, add your bananas, oil, milk, sugar, and eggs and mix well for about a minute.
2. Add in your flour, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and cocoa and mix well for about 30 seconds. Your batter should be about as thick as pancake batter.
3. Remove your bowl and whisk and add in your nuts and chocolate chips. Swirl the whisk by hand to incorporate the chocolate chips and nuts.
4. Line your muffin tins for easy clean up and because the chocolate chips tend to sink to the bottom.
5. Use a 1/3 cup scoop to fill your cups.
6. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.  


Yummy! Eat up! 
Chocolate and banana go hand and hand together, yum! I pretty much love every variety of banana muffin known to man so double chocolate it is! I love how moist and fluffy they are. Yumm!!!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week



It is currently Teacher Appreciation Week! That means it is time to wrangle the brain and internet to figure out what to give to those awesome ladies (and gents) that put up with our kids, teach them everything they know, and give us several hours out of the day of uninterrupted mommy-time! This year I baked some banana nut chocolate chip muffins (yummy) and personalized a pretty chevron tumbler. I used my Cricut to cut out the name in vinyl that I put on the tumbler. I used the Lyrical Letters cartridge. I let my son pick out what went inside the tumbler, for his teacher, and he put in a pack of gum and a bag of popcorn! 
What did you give to all the teachers in your lives this week?