Monday, December 16, 2013

Sick of Kids Gym birthday parties???

I don't know about you, but I am growing a bit tired of the standard birthday parties.  How many ball pits can you play in?  This weekend Diane's friend, Sadie, invited her to a Gem Mining Party. Tim the gem man brought his mobile gem truck to Sadie's house and each of the kids went home with a bag of gems, brilliant!!
Tim waited until all 15 kids arrived, then he welcomed us into his mobile gem mining truck.
It was a cold day outside, but inside it was toasty.

15 kids fit perfectly into the truck.

Each of the kids got one large bucket of sand to start with and a blue shovel.  The kids then scooped out a bunch of sand into their sifter.  Then they turned their sifter sideways and pushed it into the water.  The gems, and other goodies were left in the sifter.  Each kid had a small plastic bag hooked to the wall, which you can see on the left side of the above photo.  The kids were able to sift through two large buckets of sand. 
In front of each station was a chart, showing all the rocks, fossils, and gems you could find.
Each child was so excited when they found an arrowhead.

All the kids had so much fun!! Many proclaimed, best party ever!

This photo shows all the goodies that Diane found.  Whoever found an arrowhead had the option to make it into a necklace. Suprised that we came home with a pink arrowhead necklace?? Me neither.
The party ended with the birthday girl banging open two small geodes. The kids were amazed at all the crystals inside.  If you are in Maryland and you need a cool idea for a party, give Tim a call!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First snowstorm this year

Our dog had so much fun in the snow today.  The kids did a little sledding and the dog went crazy for the snow. What fun to watch!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Potato Latkes for the win~

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. I hope that those of you who are celebrating are enjoying delicious Hanukkah fare.
My friend Jane was nice enough to give us an enormous amount of potatoes and 3 dozen eggs so it was time to make the latkes.  This is Jane's recipe. It is awesome.  Enjoy!!  And just a note. These are not healthy, they are not vegan, and they are not typical food that is ever served in our house.  But since it is a holiday, we are eating latkes tonight.

Jane's Latkes
4 potatoes
1 onion
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 tsp pepper (optional)
1/2 cup flour
Clean, peel and grate the potatoes.  Soak them in cold water twice then squeeze out as much water as possible.  Grate the onions into the bowl with the clean, dry potatoes.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Fry in a pan of very hot oil.  Eat with applesauce and sour cream.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Walnut Muffins with Swerve

Today we tried to pretend that it is Fall. Outside it is a sunny 70 degrees, but in my kitchen it is smelling like Fall.  These pumpkin muffins were easily made sugar free with Swerve Sweetener.  This recipe is also free of oil and butter.  I do not feel badly at all giving a few of these muffins to the kids as a breakfast or dessert.  These rated a 9/10 from Alex.  Next recipe will be a 10/10!

Sugar Free Pumpkin Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Swerve sugar substitute
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  (Both kinds of flour, sugar substitute, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.)

Mix wet ingredient in a separate bowl. (pumpkin, egg, applesauce, milk)

Combine wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir until almost blended.  Sprinkle in the walnuts.  Mix up a few more seconds.  Put batter into regular size muffin papers.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Check with a toothpick to see if it is done.  Enjoy!

A few quick notes:
*You can easily use only all purpose flour, just use 2 cups!
*You can use 1/4 cup of oil if you are not into the lower fat taste of applesauce substitute.
*You can use an egg substitute (flax or chia egg) as well as an almond milk and these will be vegan!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sugar Swerved Cookies

On to recipe #2 with my new Swerve sweetener.  Alex gave the brownies a 5/10 rating. So I was determined to try again and improve my score.  I next attempted a sugar cookie made with swerve.  Alex gave these a 7/10.  He is such a good sport that he always eats everything I make for him.  Later this week I will be making a muffin with swerve.  Hoping for an 8 or higher!

Sugar Sweve Cookies
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 T milk
1/4 cup butter, softened on the counter for a while

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in wet ingredients.  Make dough into small cookies.  Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes.  Watch that they do not burn.  They will continue to firm up on the pan for the next ten minutes.  Allow to cool then eat with a glass of milk!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Swerve on in to some sugar free brownies

This past week I got an email from Mamavation that they were looking for 10 bloggers to be ambassadors for an up and coming brand called Swerve Sweeteners.
Swerve Ambassador Search with Mamavation
I read more through the email and I got really excited.  I have a 15 year old son, Alex, who has POTS Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.  Part of his recovery has been to cut out all sugar.  His terrible headaches have almost gone away completely by removing all sugar from his diet.  But 15 year old boys want to eat dessert.  Alex used to love his cookies, brownies, donuts and cake, just like his other siblings.  But over the past year, Alex has had a few sugar free candies and one sugar free cake (thanks Jane).  But the sugar free substitutes are awful.  Splenda, Malitol, Aspartame, Sucralose.  I have had no success baking with those products, and they are not healthy at all.  We have experimented with liquid stevia, but Alex is just not enjoying the results.

I applied to be one of the lucky ten bloggers who will get to represent Swerve for a month. I really feel like I will be the perfect choice.  We need to cook with this product NOW! 

Since it will be a while until the lucky bloggers are chosen,  I went to Whole Foods yesterday to look for Swerve.  I could not wait any longer to try it. Here it is on my local Whole Foods shelf.
For $9.99 I bought a 16 oz bag of granulated swerve.  It looks just like regular sugar does.  It can be substituted for sugar 1:1.  Whole Foods also had a confectioner's sugar Swerve as well, which was $10.99.  If this product tastes amazing it will be worth the price.
These brownies are in the oven right now.  They will be cool by the time Alex gets home from school.  I really hope he likes them.  Sunday I am making a brisket, and using the Swerve in place of the brown sugar. Stay tuned for more recipes!!

Sara's Swerve Brownies
2/3 cups Swerve Sweetener
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup applesauce
2 T coconut oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare an 8x8 pan.
In a small bowl combine swerve, cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir to combine.
In another small bowl combine applesauce, oil, egg and vanilla.  Mix well to incorporate.
Pour your wet ingredients into the dry.  Mix just until combined. Pour brownie mix into your prepared pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top feels firm.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


My son Joey (17) told me today that I had to get the app Snapchat.  He told me it would be so much fun to be able to send pictures to each other.
So not wanting to make him mad, I downloaded it.

I think I am just too old for this.
I have been trying this app all morning and I do not see the appeal.
For those of you who do not understand snapchat, you take a photo, then you have the ability to draw or write on said photo.  Then you choose who you want to send it to in your contacts (another words, other people who have the snapchat app)  BUT, here is thing that makes snapchat cool to the kids.  When the person you sent the picture to gets it, they can only open said photo and see it for three seconds.  Then poof, it disappears into thin air.  For a busy Mom like me, I would rather be cooking, playing with the kids, reading a book, or trying to finally beat level 350 in Candy Crush Saga (grrrrr).

The best part of the app is the photo editing portion. Haven't you always wanted to draw on your photos?  I cannot wait to see what pictures Diane will create when she sees this new app.

What do you think of snapchat?  I will be sitting here trying to think of something creative to send to Joey.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What inspires you?

Kindergarten homework this weekend was to find a photo of what inspires you.  I asked Diane, what inspires you? Is it your family? Your new dog? A tv show? What? This is what she found on Google images.

That is what inspires my 5 year old.
Have a great week everyone and eat some inspiring chocolate for us!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Confession time with Quinoa Polenta and vegetables

It has been two months since I last posted on this blog of mine. Those two months are a real blur.
Let me quickly sum up the past two months:
Summer ended

School supply shopping began
School started
Lunchboxes needed to be made
Kids needed winter clothes sorted
Dogs needed to be walked
Fish and bird needed occasional food too
Bills needed paying
So here I am, embarrassed to say that it has been 2 months since my last confession, I mean posting.

Today I will share with you my go to lunch.  I make this lunch anyday where I do not have leftovers or something else planned. I could easily eat this for lunch each and everyday. It is that good.  Also, it is really healthy and makes you feel good too. 
Whatever fresh veggies you have in your fridge, chop them up and saute them. Add a little EVOO if you need to.  Just sauteing in a bit of water works for me.
Today I had mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli.  Anything fresh or frozen works here.
The magic part of this lunch is the quinoa polenta.  I can find this at a few local stores. It is organic, pre cooked, and ready to eat.  For a generous portion it is only 80 calories!  The best part is how quick your meal is ready when you use this product.  Quick, easy and healthy and my top 3 reasons for eating lunch.
After your veggies are done to your liking, slice your quinoa polenta as thick or thin as you like.  Saute a few minutes on each side.  Serve your quinoa over your veggies and enjoy!  Soon I will try to make a soup and crumble the polenta into the soup.  Not sure how it will come out, but it is worth a try!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

S'mores anyone?

Today is a really exciting day for me.  One of the awesome food bloggers I have known online for many years has published a cookbook.  Her S'mores cookbook looks incredible and you can purchase one for yourself here right now!  But, since Susan is so awesome, she is offering one of my followers a chance to win a free copy!!

Susan is not only giving away a cookbook, she has allowed me to put one of my recipes on her amazing website.  I am so honored to be posting there.  Since I knew I would be posting a recipe a few weeks ago, I really hoped to have time to create an amazing and complicated s'mores dessert, but with our new puppy I have not had time to accomplish anything.  Well I have had time to walk 12,000 steps a day, that is something, right? So my Krispy Smores recipe is an old family favorite and is simple (your kids can make it themselves) while also being quite delicious.

If you are not familiar with Susan's website, check it out here, Doughmesstic.  Susan's recipes are delicious but the cakes are truly so amazing.  Make sure you stop by the cakes tab. So unbelieveable! Susan's talent is endless.

Back to s'mores.  They are easy to make, messy to eat, and a wonderful comfort food.  I will be honest, I do not make them very often (because I am the annoying Mom who only likes to serve healthy foods).  But once in a while we all need a really sweet treat and smores hit the spot.

If you would like to win a copy of Susan's new Smores cookbook, leave me a comment.  Tell me what your favorite comfort food is.  I will pick a winner in one week, on August 8th at noon.  Good luck!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It is feeling like a zoo in here

If you had told me last year at this time that we would now have
3 birds
1 fish
and a dog
I would have said, YEAH RIGHT.
I did not have any pets growing up. But my DH always had tons of pets. I know he misses his dogs, turkeys and birds.
It all started about a year ago when Diane turned 5 and she was given a betta fish as a pet.  This fish is still alive and really has a great personality.  Lucy just upgraded her tank to an awesome fish tank on the bottom and grow some herbs for your recipes on top.
You can see all about it at this link:
I am not joking that in 24 hours we had sprouts on top.  Now 4 days later we have 6" of wheatgrass and big sprouts of lettuce and basil too.  This is the easiest way to take care of a Betta and a super easy way to grow fresh herbs in the kitchen.  Many thumbs up from our house!
So then a friend said their children were afraid of their new parakeet.  So Daisy joined us soon after Lucy.  Daisy is hilarious and super low maintenance.  Diane's Junior Kindergarten class has 2 birds who needed a home for the summer so they are here temporarily.  They are so cute and sit in their house on their 7 eggs.
And three days ago our big time waster joined us.  Molly Shadow.  She is a border collie/terrier mix  from a NC kill shelter.  She is super sweet and wonderful for keeping us active.  She wants to pee every 30 minutes, so about 12 walks a day it is.  Jake was often getting 5000 steps a day on his fitbit.  In the past 4 days he is getting 18,000 steps and he lost 2 pounds!!
You can follow Molly's escapades here:
Molly Shadow's Facebook Page
So if you come visit us, be prepared to meet our zoo and take a few walks with us.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Real Parents Review: Pacific Rim and a note on Grownups 2

Pacific Rim:  This is what summer action blockbusters should all aspire to be.  This movie was fun, fast, action packed and BIG. It has been described by many as a cross between Transformers, Power Rangers and Godzilla.  What you haven't heard though, is that this movie tops each of those in almost every area.  We were able to catch two screenings of this movie last week, one in  IMAX 3D and one on a regular screen and wow, the difference was stunning.  For most movies I would normally tell you that the extra money for IMAX/3D is probably not well spent, but that is not the case here. Spend the few extra bucks to see this on the true IMAX screen and be amazed at the visuals throughout.  But, beware of the very real and lifelike big screen movements, because children have been known to get nauseous at an IMAX/3D movie. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

The first 10 minutes of the movie gives you the entire backstory of how the kaiju (giant monsters) arrived on Earth through a portal at the bottom of the Pacific.  To defend against them, the rest of the world bands together to build giant robots called Jaegers, which are controlled by pairs of pilots.  The Jaegers are successful, but the kaiju keep coming and coming and they must find a way to close the portal for good.

There are no A-list stars in this movie, but there are plenty of faces you will recognize who put in good performances.  There is tons of action and robot-on-kaiju violence, but its mostly cartoony in nature and not something I would think would be objectionable.  The monsters themselves are very scary and I think children under 10 could easily be scared by them.  There is no nudity and very little profanity (I can't really remember any at all), but the fight scenes are really intense.  I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see a fun action movie that incorporates sci-fi and great visuals.  Dad gives this movie 4.5 stars and 9 year old son gives it 5 stars.

Grown Ups 2:  My 17 year old son asked me to take him to this preview screening.  I did not see Grownups 1.  And I don't have much to say about this movie.  I had a few chuckles and
maybe a few laughs and that was about it.  The movie starts out with a deer urinating all over Adam Sandler, his wife and other family members.  I have to believe this is actually a metaphor for how the
cast feels about its audience.  The movie is filled with these types of inane moments without any real purpose.  I have to believe that the target audience for this movie is 14-17 year old boys (based on the
amount of cleavage shown throughout the movie).  Needless to say, this is NOT a movie for young children (or even adults with functioning brains) despite the fact that there is no actual nudity (aside from very brief shots of the 4 stars jumping in the water naked - I tried really hard to forget that scene too) and not that much in the way of profanity.  There are a few fight scenes with some minimal violence, but mostly it is just really juvenile humor that's really not very funny.  My 17 year old son laughed throughout the whole movie. But he even said, this movie was really lame.  0 STARS

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Camp Mommy is in session

School has ended, YAY!
But that only means that Camp Mommy has started. BOO say the older kids.
I refuse to allow the kids to sit in front of screens 24/7 for 3 months. Nope, not happening while Camp Mommy is in session.
Here was the first day activity list:
The first day was OK. Older boys begrudgingly did what I asked them to. But Diane loved it.  At the end of the day she told me it was so much fun. WHY? Because she got to spend the whole day with me.  I love this girl.  Girls are so different than boys.

I have some awesome recipes to post for you this summer. I got an amazing box from Bob's Red Mill, filled with bags of grains. I can't wait to share these new recipes with you.

We visited Disney's Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge last week and we had an amazing time. I have some more Disney tips to share with you as well.  Here is a video of the animals we could see on our balcony.

It was so much fun seeing the animals right outside our window each day.  If you plan to visit Disney, you really should stay here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Power Snack: Quinoa Oat Muffins

Happy Memorial Day everyone!
Just because I have not posted any recipes in a few weeks does not mean that I have not been cooking. It means that I have not had time to take any pictures or post recipes. School is winding down, life is crazy, but I am still cooking healthy.
Today's recipe was created by me because I am a snacker. I love to have healthy snacks that I can quickly grab as I am on my way out.  These muffins are packed with powerful protein, are vegan, and are amazingly delicious!!
Use the ingredients you have on hand.
Make your quinoa in advance. I use my rice cooker. Put 1 and 1/2 cups dry quinoa and 2 cups of water in your rice cooker. Cook it on the white rice setting and then use it as needed.

Quinoa Oat Power Muffins
1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 and 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup small nuts and seeds ( I used sunflower seeds, crushed walnuts, and cashews)
1/2 cup dried fruit and chips ( I used vegan chocolate chips, golden raisins, and dry apricots)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used 3 kinds to make a 1/2 cup, sunflower, better n PB and regular PB)
2 flax eggs (Mix 2 T flaxseeds with 6T water, let sit for about 15 minutes, till egg-like)
1/2 cup almond coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Get two bowls.
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl (quinoa, nuts and seeds, fruits and chips)
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.
Then add both the dry and wet together.
Spoon the mixture into your muffin receptacle. I love my reusable silicone muffin papers.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Enjoy with some fresh strawberries!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Animal Kingdom Lodge- Kidani Village

We are gearing up for a trip to Disney soon!!  So much work goes on behind the scenes to get the family ready for a big trip like this.  Disney really is the best place to take kids of varying ages. The teens like it, the tweens like it, and the 5 year LOVES it!  There really is something that appeals to everyone.
If you have never heard of Disney Vacation Club before, you should really check it out.  The DVC rooms are huge.  Full kitchens, multiple bedrooms, and many other perks make DVC a family favorite.  Last year we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village.  The family enjoyed the hotel so much we are headed back there again this summer.
We have a short video that will show you some tips and tricks for staying at Kidani Village.
If you have any DVC, Disney, or Animal Kingdom Lodge questions, please leave a comment or email me

This post was sponsored by MomTV.  All thoughts, ideas, content, and cute kiddos belong to me.  See you in Disney!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Real Parents Review: Now You See Me

How do they do that?  The art of being a magician is one that has been
passed down from ancient Egyptians through Houdini and on to the great
acts of today.  Now You See Me is a movie that
takes you on an adventure through the world of magic by highlighting
four magicians with different specialties who team up to pull off some
of the biggest and best tricks of all time.  They are being guided by
a shadowy figure who you never really know, a leader of an
ancient guild of magicians .  They follow this figure's instructions to
pull off amazing stunts in an attempt to earn their way into
the elite group.  For their first major trick they rob a bank in Paris
while doing their show in Las Vegas.  This trick gets the FBI involved and
the movie goes from four magicians who can do amazing things, to four
people tricking the FBI and everyone else, while they complete their
announced trio of tricks.  There are some great twists and turns
throughout the movie which all lead up to an ending we really did not
see coming.

If I had to compare this to another movie, I would have to describe
this as Inside Man meets Oceans Eleven.  There are some great
performances from a variety of actors I really enjoy: Jesse
Eisenberg (as the leader of the magicians group), Woody Harrelson (a
mentalist who can hypnotize you in a matter of seconds), Morgan
Freeman (who makes his living exposing magicians and their tricks),
Mark Ruffalo (the FBI agent in charge of taking them down) and more.
There is very little in the way of sex (one scene where one of the
magicians is with a girl while she is getting undressed and he has to
leave - no nudity though), minimal violence and only a minimal amount
of bad language.  If you have a child who likes magic at all, they will really
enjoy this movie.  My 9 year old so attended the screening with me and he
cannot wait to see it again.  This sleeper movie is such a pleasant surprise!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Real Parents Review: The Great Gatsby

I attended a sneak preview of this movie last night and I was actually very disappointed.  I think this movie will appeal to the Moms much more than the Dads. But, I was really looking forward to this movie, and I was expecting much more from a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. 

Having read the book back in high school, I was very familiar with the basic plot, but had forgotten many details. .  I intentionally did not want to go back and refresh my recollection for the movie so that I could experience the story anew. 
 The story itself is obviously one of the great classic of our times, which almost everyone will read at one point or another, but in my opinion, this movie version did not do the story any justice.  
While the visuals for this movie (and sets and costumes) are outstanding, there is no reason for it to be in 3D. The mansions that Gatsby and Buchanan live in are right out of the 1920s, complete with ornate decorations and kingly room set ups.   
The sets and designs were fabulous, but the storytelling didn't match up with the grandiosity of those houses.  
The scenes from the parties that Gatsby throws are everything you would expect to see in a giant Vegas casino.  Bands, dancing, drinks, hundreds of people enjoying themselves......all to the tunes of Jay-Z.  What?  There was no rap music in the 20s you say? 
 The story is set in the roaring 20's in NYC - a time of big bands, yet in various points throughout the movie we are subjected to heavy JayZ and Beyonce songs. I'm a fan of Jay-Z from way back, but I am also a big jazz fan and this was a missed opportunity to introduce a whole new generation to big bands and the music of the 20s.  Having Jay-Z provide multiple songs to the movie was distracting and took me completely out of the story since the songs were so out of context with what we were seeing visually.  They did such an amazing job of physically recreating everything about that period of time, but then destroyed the entire mystique with a really poor choice of songs for the soundtrack.  I'm not sure I've ever had songs in a movie distract me as much as these did.  This one choice dragged you from a gala blowout party from the Roaring 20s and pulled you right back into this century.  Very poor choice.

Leonardo DiCaprio gave a good performance but he lacked big supporting performances opposite of him, especially by Tobey Maguire who I thought was all over the place.  Tobey kept making the same wide-eyed dopey face we saw in Spiderman and Seabiscuit and vacillated from cowering friend to over the top bullying (especially in the scene where Gatsby first meets Daisy). Carey Mulligan, who played Daisy Buchanan, was the real star of this movie for me.  I felt her pain in the beginning as she struggled to keep her marriage together and later her love for Gatsby, after the two finally meet again after 5 years apart.  She doesn't overdo it on either end and her scenes really drive the movie. You can't wait to see her back on the screen after her scenes are finished.
I think my date for this movie enjoyed it much more than I did. This movie will appeal and resonante better to the females in the theater than it did for me.  This movie probably falls into the "chick flick" category which means it will probably do very well both in the theaters as well as afterwards in DVD sales, but its not going to show up on many people's "best of" lists for 2013. If you can ignore the out of context music and focus on the visuals, you will enjoy it more than I did.  But, you might want to lower your expectations just a little from the ridiculously amazing trailer that got me interested in seeing this originally.

As a parent I was glad I did not take my kids along to this movie.  There is no sex, minimal violence (people fighting with each other) and very little bad language.  So, you would be safe bringing your kids along to this movie, but I think your kids would be very bored and they would not enjoy it at all.  The kids might actually enjoy the JayZ songs more than I did. Leave me a comment if your kids enjoy it!  I would love to hear what they think about it.

Real Parents Review: Ironman 3

Iron Man 3 is the 3rd in the series of movies which highlights Marvel comic book hero Tony Stark/Iron Man.  The story picks up after Iron Man has finished defeating Loki (Thor's brother) along with the other members of The Avengers in the movie of the same name.  This battle has affected Tony in a significant way and his anxiety is shown in very real ways throughout the movie.  The movie introduces a new villain from  the comic book series - Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley, who is depicted as an evil terrorist and is bent on taking down the President and destroying the US of A.  Tony decides to take on this bad guy by challenging him and giving him his home address much to the chagrin of Pepper Potts, Tony's companion.  The Mandarin accepts the challenge and off we go.

The movie also borrows elements from Warren Ellis's Extremis story arch, and to do so, director Shane Black, begins the movie by taking us back to 1999 where we find the drunken playboy Stark pursuing a young, female scientist who's on the verge of a breakthrough in the field of medical regeneration. In his abrupt manner, Tony dismisses another aspiring scientist thereby setting the wheels in motion for the weaponization of the Extremis program that Mandarin uses to great affect.  

The movie has violence aplenty, as all of the movies in this genre do, but, it is generally of the slapstick/comic book type.  There is absolutely no sex and very few offensive words to offend your children.  The villains in this movie are not very scary and I don't think there is anything that would be overly scary for most children.  There are some great comedic moments throughout the movie and Robert Downey Jr does his typical good job of bringing the snark to Tony Stark.  My recommendation on this one is that this movie is appropriate for children 10 and over with the possibility that your younger child who have seen other comic book movies would also be able to enjoy this one as well. There have been other reviews of this movie, and they were disappointed in the storyline or the lack of other Avengers or how they portray the Mandarin, but in general, if you can just enjoy this movie by itself without comparing it to the other films in the Marvel group, you will have a great time.  We have seen Ironman 3 twice in the first week and plan to see it one more time!! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

One of my kids is a fairly picky eater.  He likes very few foods.  But luckily the foods he likes are healthy.  We just made an awesome smoothie together.
We just threw in the vitamix
chia seeds
an orange (peeled of course)
a banana
about 1/4 cup hemp seeds
Blend it all up and enjoy a cup of healthy deliciousness!

But my picky eater never knows what he wants for breakfast.  So on the weekend we try to create some healthy muffins to eat throughout the week.  Here are the muffins we just made, hot out of the toaster oven.
Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Can be made non-vegan as well.  Those substitutions are in parentheses.
1/3 cup white flour
1 cup sprouted grain whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup pure can sugar
1 flax or chia egg (2 egg whites are a good sub)
1 tsp vanilla
1 banana mashed
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl combine flours, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl mix together applesauce and sugar.  Stir in the flax or chia egg or egg substitute and vanilla. Mix well.  Slowly pour in flour mixture and the mashed banana.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Do not overmix.  Pour batter into muffin papers or disposable muffin tins.  Our batter made 10 muffins.  Bake 16-20 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.
Add some protein to these by spreading on some peanut butter.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Real Parents Review: Oblivion

My husband and 14 year old son attended a sneak preview last week of Oblivion, a new Sci fi movie starring Tom Cruise.  Cruise's character (Jack - Tech 49) is a part of a two person crew assigned to a post-apocalyptic Earth where the Moon has been destroyed by an alien invasion and much of the planet is destroyed.  While the invasion was halted, the planet became mostly uninhabitable and Earth's residents are all moving to Titan, a moon of Saturn.  Jack and his partner, Victoria, are staying on Earth to fix the drones that protect the machines that are collecting all of Earth's sea water to create energy.   There are aliens remaining on Earth who are still roaming the planet's surface and attempting to sabotage these plans.  Jack and Victoria's minds have been erased so that they have no memories of the atrocities that happened, but Jack has some repressed memories of Earth from before the invasion, that continue to bubble to the surface.  This leads Jack to be curious about the world he now inhabits and he uses his mission time to explore the areas of the planet that are not affected by radiation. While on one of these missions he stumbles on to something he did not expect to see.

Based on the trailers we had seen, we were very much looking forward to seeing this movie. We both were pleasantly surprised at how much we really enjoyed it.  We have read some other reviews which commented on the lack of exploration of feelings between the main characters, but as you get into the larger plot you understand why these criticisms are not really valid.  Oblivion is not a chick flick where we want to see Jack be conflicted by his feelings for two different women.  Its a Sci-fi thriller which is exploring an apocalyptic event and how people can survive.  There are a couple of great twists in the plot which we will not reveal here (and we would recommend not seeking them out, as knowing them will really spoil the movie for you), These twists are on the scale of Sixth Sense type of surprises.  We were able to see the screening for this movie in IMAX, and visually, the movie is amazing on the big screen with the enhanced audio.  The movie itself has many elements of other sci-fi/apocalypse movies such as Planet of the Apes, Matrix, Wall-E, and others and at times appears to pay homage to them in a variety of ways.  Keep an eye out for the Statue of Liberty which shows up in all of these types of movies, but has only a brief cameo here.

The movie is rated PG-13, but we didn't find anything too objectionable for children 10 and up.   There is one scene where the main female lead goes for a swim, but there is no nudity (except for a brief view of her backside which is all dark and in shadow).  The violence is minimal except for a scene at the end where there is plenty of shooting by drones at people (although we don't recall seeing anyone hit by the drones).  All in all its a fun movie with some good plot twists to keep you in the story and it is all done in stunning visuals.  We recommend this for anyone over 10 who likes exciting action packed movies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ridemakerz #xtremecustomzparty recap

Yesterday we were lucky enough to host a MommyParty sponsored by Ridemakerz.  The Ridemakerz line is aimed at boys 5-7 years old.  I can tell you after a few guests called in sick, our girl party attendees stepped up and LOVED the Ridemakerz cars, just as much, or more than the boys did!
So our party was a total success and the Ridemakerz cars were easy to put together.  The kids basically did all the car building themselves.  Very little help was requested.  The cars were really cool.  Each set of wheels, the front and the back, could pop up or down (adjustable suspension we learned), depending on what kind of car racing you wanted to do.  A simple push of the red button helped you raise or lower the front or back wheels.

Choosing which car they wanted to build went smoothly.  The Ridemakerz come in so many options, superheros, police cars, corvetter, mustangs, and camaros. Something for everyone!
We built cars in less than 5 minutes, then we raced them and raced them some more.
We ate some popsicles and donut holes and raced our cars some more.
Thank you MommyParties for sponsoring this awesome party.
If you have a child age 5-7 a Ridemakerz Xtremecustomz car would make a great gift!  The one car that won almost every race was the Commander, third from the left, in the photo below.

Disclosure: I was sent a package of cars by MommyParties and some literature and suggestions in order to host my party.  All thoughts and ideas are my own.  The kids had an amazing time and are still talking about their cars today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Vegan Muffins with Jelly

Happy last day of spring break everyone!  This spring break really sucked.  Most of the family was sick throughout the vacation.  I held on and somehow did not get sick until 2 days ago.  The fever, the coughing, and the headaches were quite annoying.  Everyone is on the mend now, so that is good.
My big kids go back to school tomorrow, Passover ended last night, and the little baking assistant(Diane) is at school.  Jake decided it was the perfect day to make some muffins.
Jake loves to cook. It inspires him to eat more.  So today we quickly whipped up some delicious and healthy vegan jelly muffins.

Vegan Jelly Muffins
1 cup milk (we used almond, you can use soy or coconut too)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 T cornstarch
1 and 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup jam (we used strawberry)
2 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  We love the silicone muffin holders, so that we do not have to throw away the papers, or lose some of the muffin inside the paper :)
In a measuring cup mix together your milk, vinegar and cornstarch.  Mix well and get out any lumps.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Make a well in the center.  Pour in the milk mixture slowly. Add in the sugar, applesauce and vanilla.  Stir well.  Put your batter into each muffin liner and then plop some jelly on top.  The jelly plopping is a great job for kids!  Do not overfill your muffins.  The jam sinks to the bottom while baking.  Bake for 21-24 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack and then set uncovered overnight in a cool dry place.  This will make the tops slightly crispy, like a donut crust.  Using a sifter, sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar and serve with a nice cup of tea.  Or, eat the muffin right out of the oven and burn the roof of your mouth like Jake just did.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Pizza Please

My kids love pizza. Most kids do!  So this recipe is healthy but at the same time it is delicious.  Since we have some vegans in the house, this recipe can easily be made vegan.  Daiya mozzerella cheese and unsweetened almond milk are easy substitutions.
Here is the recipe, Mom's stir and roll pizza!
1 cup white flour
1 cup sprouted grain whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup your favorite milk
Add all ingredients into a bowl and stir till combined.
Press dough onto pizza plate.
I love this pizza pan and these parchment papers.  Makes a super easy cleanup!
Add your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings (oregano is awesome) and then bake at 420 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Watch carefully that you do not burn it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Three More Recipes, all oil free and vegan

The second recipe I demonstrated was Mushroom Stroganoff
This recipe is really easy, vegan, and has no oil, cream, or butter, but still tastes rich and creamy!
1 onion, chopped
8 oz cremini or other wild mushrooms
8 oz sliced white mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T whole wheat flour
3 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup almond milk(unsweetened)
thyme, 2 pinches
16 oz cooked whole wheat pasta

Cook onion in non-stick skillet on high heat for 3 minutes. Keep moving them around. Add all the mushrooms and garlic.  Keep stirring as the veggies get brown and release juices.  Sprinkle flour over mushrooms.  Stir continuously with spoon until the flour is dissolved.  Add in balsamic vinegar, and almond milk, sauce will thicken.  Add in thyme to taste.  Add in your cooked noodles and eat immediately. Sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for a "cheezy" taste.

We also made 2 desserts.
Strawberry Mousse
1 pkg extra firm silken tofu
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 pkg frozen strawberries, 8 oz
zest from one orange
Blend all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or vitamix.  Chill for one hour.  Enjoy with some granola or by itself.

Oil Free Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 T chia seeds, mixed with 6 T water, stir together and let sit in fridge for 15 min.
1/2 cup oats, whole or quick
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 T crushed walnuts
Preheat oven to 350.  Use a cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Mix peanut butter and brown sugar together.  Stir in your 2 chia eggs.  Add in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and oats.  Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.  Scoop out cookies with a 2T measure.  Press cookies down with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Enjoy with a nice cold glass of almond coconut milk.  Or, if you do not want to bake the cookies. This makes an incredibly delicious raw cookie dough, with the bonus that it is safe to eat!  We have been munching on the raw dough all day, it is amazing!

Chia Egg Tip: Anytime you see a recipe that includes eggs, you can veganize it by making a chia or flax egg.  Use 1T of either chia seeds or ground flaxseeds.  Add in 3 T of water. Stir it up.  Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes and you will be amazed at how egg like it becomes!

I Did It!

So what did I do last night?
I taught a cooking class at Whole Foods.  I attempted to post here on my blog that my cooking class was coming up, but every time I sat down to write a post about it, I got more and more nervous.  Then time raced by as it always does and it came and went.  I think it went really well.  All the people loved the food we made, asked for seconds, and one person told me it was the best cooking class she has ever attended!  This absolutely made my day!
Gina and Wendy, who both work at our local Whole Foods, have been asking me for a while to teach a cooking class.  I attend many different classes and I cook every day in my home kitchen.  But cooking for other people is a whole other game.  Plus, you have to hold a microphone, while sauteing your onions, YIKES!
I was lucky enough to have two helpers during my hour long cooking presentation.  My little girl and my husband.  They were both amazing assistants and I could not have done it without them.  Wendy did an amazing job setting up all my ingredients and reassuring me that I would do a good job.
I have not posted enough recipes on my blog lately so here are the 4 recipes I made last night.  The class was a part of the Engine 2 Diet 28 day challenge group.  My class was called "How do I live without Refined or Extracted Oils?"
Here is the calendar on the wall of Whole Foods. It was really official!
My class loved the recipes I made and I hope you will too.
Steel Cut Oats for Breakfast:
I prefer making the oatmeal in my rice cooker. Use the porridge setting and set it up the night before if you have a timer on your machine.  You can also put the ingredients into your crock pot and cook it at low for 3.5 hours.
1 1/4 cups of steel cut oats
3 cups of water
Once your steel cut oats are ready, you need to add some toppings. These are our favorites!
goji berries
peanut butter
maple syrup
ground flaxseeds
chia seeds
almond milk
pine nuts
If fresh organic fruit is not available, buy frozen, it works perfectly when you add it to your hot oatmeal!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Real Parent Review of The Croods, Oz the Great and Powerful, GI Joe and Olympus has Fallen

This month has been filled with new movies for us. Movies are a great way to get the family out of the house.  Even better when we have free passes to go to an early screening of said movie.  Most of this month's new movies were awesome too!  Here is a quick rundown of the last four movies our family watched.
The Croods in 3D
We attended a screening of this movie and we were surprised at how empty the theater was.  This does not bode well for this cute animated movie.  I brought my 5 year old daughter and her four year old best friend and Mom with us.  The movie felt a bit long towards the middle and my daughter got restless and a bit scared at parts.  I think the 3D part made this movie quite difficult. The two little girls took off their glasses five minutes into the movie and never really put them back on.  Without the glasses the movie was very blurry and I cannot believe the girls enjoyed it that way.  The 3D effects were really cool. The first scene with different flying items had the girls reaching out and trying to touch the objects.  It was so much fun to watch their reactions.  The story of the Croods, a typical family was cute.  Nothing earth shattering happened but many of the voices, (Nic Cage and Cloris Leachman) were fantastic.  I laughed a lot and enjoyed the strong girl character who loved to show her Dad she was the boss.  If your kids will keep their glasses on, I think your family will really enjoy this movie. I will add though, that my little girl, who does not go to many movies, did have 2 nightmares last night, even though she did not seem scared during the movie.  Our feeling was that this movie is good for kids 3 and up who will keep their 3D glasses ON! 
You can watch the trailer for the Croods here:

The next real parents review we have for you is Oz the Great and Powerful.
Our family gives this a 5 star, instant classic rating.  The 3d was the best in ANY movie we have ever seen.  The opening credits alone, are so visually stunning, that you cannot imagine how the movie will get any better, but somehow it does! James Franco plays this movie as "old timey" with all the mannerisms and acting and he is awesome!  The movie was very true to the original Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white and switches to color when he lands in Oz.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a new movie from Disney which is a prequel to the classic tale of Dorothy's trip, The Wizard of Oz.  Growing up I remember watching the Wizard of Oz every year and how fantastic the story was with the Wicked Witch, the flying monkeys, the Munchkins and all of the characters from Dorothy's home in Kansas who showed up to help her out.  Trying to make a movie that would could compare in any way to that ultimate classic would be a tall task indeed, and nearly impossible.  In this case, they succeeded.

The story starts off by following Oscar Diggs (Oz) as he works his magic at a carny show in Kansas.  He is a charlatan in every way.  He tricks girls into working with him and being with him and is inconsiderate to all around him as he lets his selfish ways run his life.  As he is escaping in his balloon from someone he has wronged, he gets sucked into a tornado and brought to the Land of Oz.  As the screen goes from black and white to full color you see the beauty that is the Land of Oz.  I don't want to reveal too much more than this about the plot since I think the story is wonderful (and try to avoid any reviews which give away too much).  I will tell you that many elements of the original movie show up in this prequel such as his friends in Kansas show up in Oz only slightly different than he remembered them.  We also learn why he is the man behind the curtain and how the witches became so bad.

I would recommend seeing this in 3d (and/or IMAX) since this was the best use of this feature in ANY movie I have ever seen.  I have read a few reviews which pan James Franco and his acting.  My analysis couldn't be more divergent.  James Franco plays this role as "old timey" and intentionally overacts with the mannerisms of a vaudevillian star and to me it worked perfectly.
While we have seen some reviews that have been less than stellar, we have to tell you that when we left the theater both my son and I agreed that the movie was incredible.  There was no sex or sexual scenes at all and the violence was minimal.  There were a few scary parts when the flying monkeys appeared out of nowhere, but we both thought this was not as scary as many of the villians we have seen in animated Disney movies.  We highly recommend this movie to anyone with children or anyone who enjoys classic movies.  We suggest this movie for kids 6 and up.  You can watch the trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful Here:
 Olympus has Fallen VS GI JOE Retaliation:
Last week we were able to preview two new action movies which were different in almost every aspect aside from the expected action and violence.  We enjoyed both movies, but their intended audiences and how they portrayed their stories were far different. 

Olympus Has Fallen is an action movie in the vein of Die Hard and Under Siege, in which they follow the path of a lone hero who has to fight superior numbers to save something they care deeply about.  In this case its Gerard Butler who is a Secret Service agent who is relegated to desk duty after serving for the President for many years.  His new position means he is not actually in the White House when the terrorists begin their attack and he eventually finds himself in the thick of the action saving the President and the entire country with his actions.  

The action in this movie is spectacular, but completely inappropriate for younger children (depending on your child probably 13 or older).  There are multiple killings as Butler's character works his way through the White House and there are also multiple scenes of civilians and military people being killed on screen.  The opening scenes of the movie (after the prologue in Camp David) where the terrorists take down the White House are exciting and thrilling.  The action is non-stop for a good 20 min...... and then it gets exciting.  

We really enjoyed this movie, but it is as far from a chick flick as you can possibly get and it has a well deserved R rating for the violence. I felt comfortable watching this movie with my teens, but you will probably want to take the younger ones to see the Croods or something else more in their range.You can see the trailer for Olympus has Fallen here:

GI Joe Retaliation is the second in a series of comic book turned into a movie starring The Rock, Dwayne Johnson (who I will refer to from now on only as the Rock).  This was originally slated to be released last summer, but was pushed back to turn it into 3D (which apparently helps with the overseas box office).  The premise for this one, is that Cobra has infiltrated our government at its highest levels and use that, to destroy the GI Joes (the MOST elite fighting force we have). With the Joes out of the way, Cobra can destroy the USA and take over the world.  

Again, the action is this movie is exceptional and there are far fewer "killings" that you witness compared to Olympus (which allowed GI Joe to have a more kid-friendly PG-13 rating).  Much of the fighting is done hand to hand and those sequences are really well done and very exciting.  The extra time they took to work on the graphics clearly pays off and you see this in many scenes (including the destruction of a major city and a chase along a mountain cliff).  The story itself is very much a comic book story, where the plot is over the top and oftentimes unbelievable.  If you see this movie you should be prepared to let those plot issues go, and just enjoy the ride that The Rock and team are going to take you on.  Bruce Willis even shows up at one point, but he doesn't put in a great performance, just his usual squinting, looking tough routine.  

Overall, we enjoyed both action movies, but Olympus was definitely a much better movie all around. If you want to see a movie with your older kids (ages 10 and up) we can recommend GI Joe.  Just realize that the story is weak, but the action strong.  I would not recommend Olympus for young children due to the very graphic violence and R rating (which is well deserved) even though there is absolutely no sex or nudity at all.  If you would like to watch the GI Joe trailer, here it is:

Hope you have a great time at the movies with your family! There is definitely something out there for everyone.