Why Didn’t You Tell Me There Were Giant Cockroaches in Arizona?

I returned to Arizona in late-March and I was determined to make friends and plan playdates for the kids. When I was in Seattle, I joined a mommy group. It was great to meet monthly to talk about challenges and find out what others were doing to manage the demands of family, business, and free time (of lack of it).

When I got back I looked up the local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group so I could take my niece on playdates with kids her age. I also hoped to meet moms of teens to get thoughts on how to make it through senior year as a parent, where is the instruction book for this?? What if I scar my daughter for life with my mothering skills? Nana might have a better chance since I should learn from my mistakes with the teen, right?

Anyway, I was overjoyed when one of my friends moved to Arizona last weekend. I always envisioned a Desperate Housewives scenario where you hash out problems with friends over coffee (minus the murdering that goes with that show). Now I have a friend from California to make me feel less alone and new friends who plan all sorts of fun activities like crafting and practice spa day.
On Tuesday night, I was going to help my friend shop for a toddler bed and we ended up scrapping that idea to catch up instead. When I was leaving, she says to me, How come you didnt tell me there were giant cockroaches here? I never would have moved if I knew that. She told me there were a few of them outside, I probably got a panicky look on my face. I am a city girl and living in the suburbs with bugs, scorpions, and crickets freak me out.

I told her the house gets sprayed inside and out monthly, besides the crickets that sneak into the house, I havent seen any other bugs. When we opened the door, something flew by so we slammed the door to keep it out, I asked if it was a flying cockroach and she said she didnt see it. On the second attempt to leave I saw a cockroach on the walkway and stepped around it. Then it seemed to be running after me so I ran to the car. What I didnt know at the time was her son saw me running and asked why I was running out of the house. She told him a bug was chasing me. Anyway, its comforting to know we can laugh at each other, I mean laugh WITH each other as we adjust to life in the desert.

What are your survival tips to keep the bugs out?

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Crafting is Mommy Time

Mommy Time: Learning to knit and create crafty cardsI attended my first craft and candle party and it was a welcome girls night. I was looking forward to getting to know the moms in the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) group Ive joined since coming to Arizona. Once I moved here, Ive been so focused on my kids, work, and the gym; I havent made local friends until now.

Angela and Amber created some example cards for us to copy. This was great because I was overwhelmed with choice of paper, stamps, glue, ribbon, etc. Plus, they had a really cool machine which could cut paper, vinyl, and cloth into letters, flowers, and other designs. I want one! Its not clear what I would use it for since my latest project is ironing on designs on my daughters shirts and hoodies. With the materials they provided, I made my dad a Fathers day card since thats coming up this month and it means no scrambling for a card at the last-minute. Did I mention Ive forgotten how much I love crafting?!

Later Jeannette arrived with her knitting and I sat with her to learn how to cast on, knit, and purl. I wished I brought my knitting needles to practice, if I dont get bored with knitting on my own, friends in colder climates will get scarves this year. Just dont expect designer worthy scarves, I think you have to alternate knitting and purling to get the v design and my disclaimer is Ill be doing this while watching TV with my kids. Its very likely there will be a distraction that will cause me to lose track, so think of them as scarves with character.

The highlight of the evening was sitting around chatting, learning about everyone, and snacking. So cool to find out at least three of the ladies were secret gamers, I might have to check out Portal. It sounds like fun, although, Im not sure I need to find another reason to sit in front of my computer. I walked away with such a good feeling because we got a chance to be creative and talk without worrying about running around after kids.

What are your favorite things to do when youre hanging out for girl time? Post them in the comments. By the way, what are your favorite crafting blogs? I would love to get ideas for projects to do with my kids.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veryzoe/5763117847/

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Too Much Weekend Sun?

Treatment for Sunburn Whether you went away for the long weekend or decided a staycation was better for the budget this weekend, it’s likely you and your kids might have indulged in too much sun and paying for it today. My family decided to stay home this weekend with the ridiculous gas prices and the kids were water babies. They were asking to go to the pool as soon as they opened their eyes and it took a lot of creativity to keep them in the house until the hottest part of the day passed. Even with slathering the kids with tons of sunblock at least 30 minutes before going into the pool and reapplying, it’s inevitable some spots were missed.

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic to ease sunburn discomfort:

  • Keep skin cool by wetting a towel with cool water or letting the kids play in a cool bath.
  • Keep the sunburned area moist with aloe vera or moisturizing cream, taking care to avoid products containing alcohol which can dry out the skin.
  • Don’t pop blisters, popping blisters will slow healing and increase the risk of infection. You can cover the blisters with gauze so the kids don’t pick at it.
  • Treat peeling skin by applying moisturizing cream. Peeling skin is the body’s way of getting rid of the top layer of damaged skin.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you consult a doctor for sunburn treatment if:
Severe sunburn covers a large portion of the body with blisters.
Sunburn is accompanied by high fever or severe pain.
Severe sunburn doesn’t begin to improve within a few days.

Tips to avoid future sunburn:

  • Select sunscreen that blocks both UVA & UVB rays with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Use sunscreen frequently and liberally, use a shotglass full to make sure you applied enough.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alenastrizh/1475887972/sizes/s/in/photostream/

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Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe uses the same basic ingredients as the easy chicken chilaquiles recipe. You can substitute red enchilada sauce or even mole to add variety. If you don’t have chicken, make cheese enchiladas.

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas
1 rotisserie chicken
16 oz can Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (medium)
1 package Mexican blend cheese
1 package of corn tortillas

9″ x 13″ pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shred the rotisserie chicken. Layer corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, layer chicken over the tortillas, sprinkle cheese over this, then pour the green chile enchilada sauce. Repeat the layers again, finishing with a layer of corn tortillas and cheese. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Take the foil off and bake another 5 minutes to make sure all the cheese on top is all melty.

I used to warm the tortillas, then roll the chicken and cheese inside each tortilla. I realized the dish tasted and looked the same when I did it lasagna style. Plus the kids didn’t care because I was done cooking 20 minutes earlier.

Let me know if you’ve made this dish and how you liked it!

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Easy Meal Planning & Coupon Clipping

Food on the Table iconI’m always looking for new ways to save money and stretch our family budget, only try as I might, I’m never organized enough to bring all the coupons I’ve clipped to the grocery store. Some of you are probably in the same boat, you’re busy, beyond stressed and scrambling to come up with new meals to keep your little ones fed and healthy. I’ve read articles about how you can save money if you plan your meals around the meats that go on sale at your local grocery store for the week. Only every time, I look at the various circulars, I lose track of what is at which stores, much less match that with what I know how to make (limited).

I found an answer to my coupon clipping and weekly meal planning dilemma. I was participating in a tech conference yesterday and a new startup has an app called Food on the Table is making easy to do these things from iPhone and Android phones. I just got an Android phone from Virgin Mobile and I’m still learning how to use it. When I turn my phone on it says “Android” before going to the main screen.

Meal planning and grocery shopping on the go.
  1. Install the app.
    • iPhone users: Go to iTunes, search for Food on the Table and tap Install.
    • Android users: Go to Market and tap on the magnifying glass to search for Food on the Table, tap Install.
  2. Once the app is installed, tap on the icon to launch Food on the Table.
  3. Login to the app with your Facebook account or create an account.
    • Once you create an account or login with Facebook, you can access the app from the web and any changes you make will sync with the app on your cell phone.
    • Give the app permission to use your location to find the grocery stores around you.
  4. Select local grocery stores.
    • My app has Safeway as the primary grocery store.
  5. Tap on Grocery List and see what is on sale at your primary grocery store.
    • I selected Chicken Tenders, since meals made with chicken tenders usually have a higher chance of being eaten by the kids without a fight.
  6. Tap on Meal Plan and select the recipes you want to make. The free version is limited to 3 meals.
    • Here I selected Chicken & Steak Fajitas.
    • The app then added the steak to my grocery list along with all the other items I need to buy to make sure everything for the recipe is included in the grocery list.

For the planners, you can add the recipes to your phone, then look through the pantry to check off the ingredients that you have. If you’re like me, you’re probably sitting in the car waiting to pick up the kids from school and adding recipes to your plan before heading to the grocery store. What I like about the app is I can check which meats are on sale at my local stores so I can plan recipes around what is on sale. Bonus that recipes and the grocery list are contained within the app because I can come up with new meals without any added stress.

Let me know if you try this out or if you are using a better system, I would love to try it out. Post your thoughts in the comments.

Food on the Table
Login screenGrocery sale itemsSelect local grocery storeSelect and add recipe
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Living Without A Dad

Single parents
I watched The Real World with Jellie during our weekly bonding session (don’t judge, it reminds me how lucky I am to have such a good kid). Its our ritual to bond while watching a reality show and since controversial topics usually pop-up, it’s a way to talk to her about difficult subjects. I mean I can’t just plop myself into her room and randomly bring up alcohol, teen pregnancy, etc.

On the episode we watched, one of the girls hired a private detective to search for her dad. So during the commercial, I turn to her and ask, “Do you ever think of your dad?” In typical teen fashion, she said, “No.” Of course I had to probe, then she replied with, “You can’t miss something you never had.” Then I asked, when you’re older, would you hire a private investigator to look for him? Jellie said, “No, if he was worth knowing, he would have stepped up and stuck around.” I don’t know if this is incredibly mature of her or if she’s suppressing any feelings of abandonment.

As a single mom, I worry my kids are deprived of normal family life because their dad is absent. I haven’t introduced them to anyone because it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a serious relationship.

Jellie never met her dad. She was spared disappointment if he missed a birthday or any other holidays, since she never expected it. As one of the first grandkids in my family, she’s been showered with love from my parents, my sisters, my cousins, and me. We also shower her with advice and guidance, sometimes it’s welcome and since she’s a teen sometimes unwelcome. I feel terrible she got the mom and not a dad too. I’m amazed at how mature and well-adjusted she appears to be, yet I worry it’s a façade. How do you know if your child is really ok?

Any thoughts on how to raise confident, independent teens or how to deal as a single parent?

Image credit:

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Easy Chicken Chilaquiles

Easy Chicken Chilaquiles

If you’re like me, you either have no time to cook or have run out of ideas for meals with minimal prep. Yet you want to create yummy dishes your family will love, so what do you do? I learned to cook Mexican food from my ex’s family. Over the years, I experimented with shortcuts to see if I could save time and still make it taste authentic.

Here’s my recipe for quick chicken chilaquiles, this can be done with leftover chicken.

Chicken Chilaquiles Recipe
1 package of fried tortilla chips from the Mexican grocery
1 rotisserie chicken
16 oz can Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
1/2 onion
1/2 package of Cotija cheese crumbled
4 eggs

Shred the rotisserie chicken.
Dice the onion.

Put a pan on medium high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions. To check if the oil is hot, put the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and if the oil bubbles around the wood, then the oil is hot enough. Cook the onions until they are translucent, then add the shredded chicken. Sauté for about 3 minutes.

Next move the chicken and onions to one side of the pan. Crack the 4 eggs into the cleared area in the pan. Once the eggs are completely cooked, mix it with the chicken, then pour the green enchilada sauce over everything and simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes.

Place chips on the center of the plate, then layer the chicken mixture over, layer more chips, then more chicken. Sprinkle the crumbled cheese over everything and serve.

Making the chips yourself
Cut the corn tortillas into chip sized triangles and fry them into chips. Using a slotted spoon or spatula take the chips out and drain in bowl lined with paper towels. If you have a deep fryer, it’s easier to fry the chips in batches.

I wrote out all the steps because when I first started cooking I missed key information that people assumed you knew, like boil the lasagna noodles before putting them between layers of meat and cheese.

Let me know if you tried this and alternate versions, I would love to try it out!

Permanent link to this article: https://handthingsdown.com/easy-chicken-chilaquiles/

What is My Job as a Mom?

Mother's Day Mug from Nanabear

Mother's Day Mug from Nanabear

Young & Naive
When I got pregnant with my oldest, I was too young and naive to understand that being a mom was more than a full-time job, it was the chance to shape a life. I didn’t know the first thing about babies or what they needed, all I knew was no matter what; my family was there to help and guide me.

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I was fortunate to attend the 2nd Annual Mom Entrepreneur Conference in Mesa, Arizona. During the keynote speech, the theme was “KNOW YOUR WORTH”. The 2010 winner talked about how all these amazing entrepreneurial women were afraid to submit their videos to be in the running for the Momentrepreneur of the Year for various reasons. Either they felt they weren’t in business long enough or they didn’t think they were good enough. What struck me about their stories was that these women started their own businesses to make ends meet for their families, to fulfill a need, to do something they were good at, and they became successful at it.

Then I got back to thinking, what is our most important jobs as moms and as leaders of our families? Now older and somewhat wiser, I realized it’s to pass on positive self-esteem and confidence to our kids. Have you ever marveled at the fearlessness in your toddler? At their boundless curiosity to learn what they can about their world with their endless questions? Sometimes these questions may drive you bananas until one day the questions stop and your teenager won’t talk to you at all. You think, what happened? Their self-esteem flickers and wanes each time we tell them we’re too busy or simply ignore them because we’re exhausted trying to make ends meet. Sometimes in anger, one might say hurtful things and unfortunately, these things stick with the kids and your once fearless toddler grows into an insecure teenager.

Homemade Gift WrapHow can I build strong self-esteem in my kids?
The answer is to support their enthusiasm. Remember, the times when your kids were excited to show you something and you were too busy to see what they wanted? That’s exactly when you should look at what they want to show you because it shows they are WORTH your time. It tells them that what they do matters no matter how insignificant it may be in the big world. Their world is you, your spouse, your friends/relatives and everything you say to them matters.

Helping your kids build confidence can be as simple as talking to them. Telling them how proud you are of their accomplishments or acknowledging their efforts to clean up after themselves. Lastly, if you’re in the middle of making dinner and one of your kids wants to tell you a story about their day, take a moment to listen. As far as I know, no one has ever starved to death because a busy mom put dinner on hold for a few minutes to listen.

What do you think your job is as a mom? What are your tips to other moms? Leave them in the comments.

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KidsQuest Childrens Museum Free Friday

Like most parents, each crazy week is programmed from the minute they wake up, until it’s time for bed. After work, time is filled shuttling kids between school and activities, all this madness needs to be balanced. It would be great if weekend recreation with the kids was free or low-cost. I remember when I was a kid, my parents would take my sisters and I to the Exploratorium or the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. As an adult, I am always looking to see if I can take my kids to the museum to expose them to science or the arts.

If you’re a mom in Bellevue, Madrona, or even Queen Anne, you might want to check out KidsQuest Children’s Museum. For families on a budget, the first Friday of each month is free starting at 5 pm. Tip: Get there early, it gets a little crazy.

KidsQuest is interactive, geared for kids from birth to age 10 and they really encourage learning through play. You can explain how things work to your kids. It’s also a great time to stop being a parent and express your inner child. This week is recycled art week, so you can be green while you craft with your kids.

The museum has different exhibits for the kids to explore: the backyard, the tree house, the garage, and waterways.

When: Friday, April 1, 2011
Time: 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
KidsQuest Children’s Museum
4089 Factoria Blvd. S.E., Bellevue, WA 98006

First Friday of the Month, 5-8pm: Free
Members: Free
Under 1 Year of Age: Free
Ages 1-59: $7.50
Ages 60-100: $6.50

Thanks to Allison Wallin for the tip about KidsQuest.

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