Saturday, October 31, 2015

10 Ideas for Leftover Halloween Candy

Happy Halloween!

This time tomorrow morning, you will have an over-abundance of candy in your kitchen. You will have plucked out the treats you like, tossed the ones with ripped wrappers (and all those annoying tootsie rolls) and you'll be left with a bowl of sugar for the kids to consume over the next several weeks.


To help use up that candy, and spread consumption over a period of time, here are ten ways to use up that Halloween swag:

1. Freeze it.
2. Bake with it. Try these Candy Cookie Bars.
3. Make an advent calendar for November. Check out Alpha Mom for a great "how to"
4. Donate it. Our old community had a dentists' office that would buy your candy for $1/lb and ship it to servicemen and women around the world. Check out Operation Shoebox if you're looking for a place to send donations.
5. Save it for your next pinata.
6. Use it for Gingerbread Houses in December.
7. Let your kids make a sandwich sized bag of the candy they want the most, and bring the rest to work.
8. Save the solid chocolate bars and use them to dip pretzels. Roll in holiday sprinkles and package them for great Christmas treats.
9. Let them choose one piece a day for their lunch. This will gradually lighten the candy load.
10. Toss it. Not my favorite idea, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Have a wonderful, safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Cupcakes

A few years ago, I made Halloween cupcakes using fondant. They were super cute, and the kids had a blast stamping the designs.  I had never used fondant before and it was certainly different.  While we weren't a huge fan of the taste (kind of like an airhead candy) we were fans of using it.  I decided to share this post because it's something the kids can do, and you can be as creative as you like with the decorating.

These cupcakes are a little time consuming, but easy.  You will need Halloween Stamps (mine are from the $1 Spot at Target), food coloring, a small paint brush and Fondant if you wish to embark on this cupcake making adventure.

Bake your cupcakes and let them cool. If you want a try a new recipe - this is my go-to

After your cupcakes have been baked and are heavily frosted (as I completely abhor a lightly frosted anything)  roll out the fondant.  I used a 1/4 measuring cup to cut the fondant into circles that would fit nicely on my over-frosted cupcakes.

With a small paint brush, I painted my Halloween Stamp with food coloring. This is a great job for the kids. 

After we stamped the fondant, I decided to get a little funky and paint around the stamp.  I carefully placed my masterpiece on top of one of the cupcakes. I love these cupcakes because they are different - and if you don't like the fondant you can peel it off and still enjoy the cupcake! 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The (end of) Invisible Birthdays

Today is my birthday.

I’m 36.  

While this is young (it is, right?) it’s kind of scary because I can remember my parents being 36.  I can actually remember my dad’s 30th birthday.  It’s bizarre when I really sit and think about how fast time goes. 
My parents had a way of making birthdays a really big deal.  We picked dinner, which was decided ahead of time in case mom had to cook.  We were showered with presents, cake and of course birthday treats for school.

Birthdays were a big deal.  And for a very long time, I woke up with that birthday excitement my parents instilled in me as a kid.  I can’t remember when I stopped feeling like my birthday was different than any other day, but a few years ago, it did.

The chaos of my life raising four kids, and the hectic daily routine, took its toll. I started to almost feel embarrassed if people other than close friends knew it was my birthday.  I didn’t want any extra attention, I didn’t want any fuss.  From my nearest and dearest it was okay, but I just didn’t feel like it was necessary from anyone else.

I’m not sure why.  I can’t explain it.

For my kids, we do birthdays big.  I stay up late and decorate their rooms, I spend weeks finding special gifts. They choose dinner and they always have cake.  Treats go to school.  I try to make them feel how I felt all those years on my birthday.

Special.  Remembered.  Appreciated.

Today when I showed up at work, a friend who knew it was my birthday brought a balloon, and a card. The balloon on my desk put my birthday on display.  I felt weird at first.  I almost wondered if I should keep the balloon where everyone could see it.  The other secretaries brought in cupcakes.  The leftovers became another birthday sign.  Throughout the day people came in and out of my office wishing me a good day.  They asked about my plans, we shared laughs about how we celebrate and a few people brought me treats. 

It felt good to be acknowledged.  I’m not sure why I hid from it for so long.  As parents we push ourselves aside and we focus on what needs to be done.  Eventually, taking time for ourselves feels wrong.  Spending money on ourselves feels like a waste.  We make do with the minimum and do for everyone else.  It’s almost as if we become invisible. 

Not literally of course, but in the sense that our needs just get pushed aside there is nothing screaming “this is me!  I am here!”  We just go and do, and go and do.  It’s a pattern.  We celebrate everything our kids do, and their success is our success.

But what about us?

Every day I’m the first one up and the last one in bed.  Many of my shirts have grease stains, which you can only see if you look closely, in the sun.  I go months in between trips to the salon and my wardrobe consists mainly of school tees, sweatshirts and jeans.

None of this bothers me.  Well except the first up and last to bed. I don’t want fancy clothes because I don’t like to wear them. I prefer to be comfortable. I don’t need haircuts and hair color only bothers me when the top half of my head is brown and bottom is blond. My perfect night is home with my kids, in my pajamas, eating good food and watching movies.

Which is why it’s okay to get balloons. It’s okay to let one day a year be about ourselves.  Just one.

We all deserve a day to eat cupcakes and to be remembered.  It's okay to feel like something is actually for us.  Today, for the first time in years, my birthday felt different from every other day.

It felt good.

We deserve it ladies.  And God Bless the mamas…mine is still making my birthday as special as possible and I’m 36.  Our babies will always be our babies, and I’m so blessed to have learned from the best.

By the way, here is a cheesy picture I made of myself , in honor of my birthday, several years ago.

Cheers all.  Let those birthdays roll and celebrate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Craziest Night of My Life

*Today, on my younger son's 10th birthday, I'm re-posting his birth story, with edits.  Enjoy the ride!*

Seven years ago our third baby was born.  The birth was a terrifying "I can't believe this is happening to me" experience.  In the middle of the night on October 14th, I delivered my baby in the front seat of our car.

At eighteen weeks pregnant with our third baby, we had our 1st ultrasound. I am one of those anal planners who needs to know the sex of my baby.  I love to imagine who they will be and what they will look like.  I shop for clothes and wash everything.  I organize and fold and reorganize and fold.  Then I reorganize again.  And again.  I am a reorganizing fiasco.

The ultrasound technician told us we were having another girl.  With the possibility this was our last baby, I thought a girl would be excellent for the Gymnastics Queen.  Sisters.  Close in age.  But I also felt a twinge of disappointment.  I couldn't imagine raising only one boy.  I might need another baby.  This was a thought I did not share with Hubby.  I break him in slowly with all my crazy.  Little bits at a time.

My pregnancy continued smoothly.  There was never a need for another ultrasound.  By my third trimester, I had stacks of preemie sleepers (I don't grow 'em big) and I had bought bedding for the crib.  I redid the Gymnastic Queen's bedroom for her and her new sister. We had a name (Ella) and a new pink patchwork carseat.  Although something inside me told me not to wash all the clothes.  I saved receipts.  Deep down I just "had a feeling" I shouldn't go crazy washing and preparing.  Mommy instinct was telling me what I needed to know.

At exactly 37 weeks, I awoke around 1am.  I had terrible pain in my stomach.  The pain was different from labor pains; it was strong and intense.  My labors were quick with my first two munchkins, but they always began with gradual pain which then progressed quickly.  Tightening from my back to my front.  This was not labor.  It couldn't be.  I tried to walk it off, but it got worse.  I showered, drank water and went to the bathroom.  Thirty minutes later I woke my Hubby.  The pain was excruciating.  My exact words to him were, "I don't think I'm in labor.  But something is wrong.  We have to go to the hospital."

Hubby jumped out of bed and he called a friend to stay at the house.  I called my midwife while Hubby grabbed a quick shower. "Gail, I'm in's bad...."

"Ok, I'm on my way.  But Jodie, if you can't make it you need to go to the nearest hospital..."

Those words hung in my head.  Not make it?  Who doesn't make it to the hospital?

But Gail, having delivered the Gymnastics Queen, knew me.  She could hear it in my voice.  She had delivered 999 babies.  That was the exact number.  She knew what she was doing, and she thought I might not make to the hospital in time.

By the time we were leaving, about ten minutes later (this is 1 hour after my first pain woke me), I could barely walk.  The pain in my stomach was so intense I felt like I was being ripped apart.  Literally.  There were small breaks for me to breathe, but this couldn't be labor.  Labor had contractions with minutes in between.  Not seconds.  I sat on the floor in silence.  All I could do was breathe.  Hubby stood over me, and asked if we should really leave.  I shot him the hairy eyeball.  What on Earth else would we do?

Hubby called our friend and he was on our street.  I managed to walk to the car, and we waited at the end of the driveway.  Our friend flashed his lights as he came into view.  Hubby pulled out and we headed for the hospital.

The hospital was a thirty minutes away.  Hubby drove in silence and I breathed.  About five minutes from our house was a small local hospital.  We were driving past it when Hubby looked over at me in the dark.  "Do you want me to pull in?"

I was silent.  I was in pain.  I couldn't speak.

"Jodie! Do you want me to pull in?"

I whispered yes.  My stomach was being ripped from the inside, the stabbing pains were agonizing.  But as we were about to pull into the parking lot, I had an ounce of relief.  I thought about my midwife, who I adored.  I thought about my planned water birth.  I began to shake my head no. " driving...I can make it...."

"Are you sure?" Hubby hid his panic well.

"Yes. Get on the highway."  Hubby did as I asked.  The highway to the hospital only had exits every few miles, and we were in a rural area.

Only five minutes in, I felt pressure.  I felt the baby's head.  I began to cry.

Hubby looked at me and he knew we were in trouble.  The highway was black; no one for miles.  I whimpered to him, "You have to call 911. The baby is coming.  You have to call 911."

This is where Hubby amazed me.  There was no hesitation.  I waited for an "Are you serious?" but there was none.  He called 911 and kept his composure. He will never know how much gratitude I felt for his moment of composure.

As Hubby dialed 911, I sat in silence. I breathed.  My water hadn't broken.  I knew I had time.  I felt pressure, but we had time.  I rocked in my seat, "I have time...I have time..."  the words soothed me as I said them in my head.

Hubby told the 911 operator he was pulling off exit 12.  Hubby went to work every day on that highway and he knew it well.  Exit 12 was a mile away, and there was a State Police Barracks there.  The operator assured us a police officer would meet us outside.  We were going to be okay.

But as Hubby pulled off the exit,  there was splash of warmth down my legs.  My water broke.  I started to break down, yelling and crying.  "My water water broke...."  I was panicked and afraid.  We were out of time.

Hubby pulled into the State Police Barracks seconds later.  He threw the car in park.  Three things then happened simultaneously.  I heard Hubby tell the 911 Operator "There's no one here!  There's no one here!", he ran around to my side of the car, and I threw my seat in recline.  By the time Hubby opened my door I was pushing.  On that cold October night, we were alone and Hubby was ready to deliver our baby.

The operator talked Hubby through the mechanics of delivery.  I don't remember any of it except him removing his sweatshirt to wrap our newborn in.  I went from sheer panic and fear, to nothing except my desire to push.  All of my births were natural, this was just a whole different scenario.  I pushed my baby into this world with such determination I remember nothing other than my focus.

After three pushes our baby was born.  In the front seat of our minivan Hubby caught the baby and untangled the cord from its neck.  I remember relief.  Just relief from the agonizing, gut wrenching intense pain.  I laid back and relished that moment of relief.  Somewhere through my cloud of "what the heck just happened to me?" I heard my Hubby, "Holy sh*# Jodie, it's a BOY!" 

I knew I was supposed to be shocked and amazed, but at that moment it could have been a puppy and I wouldn't have cared.  There was so much for me to take in I couldn't absorb it.  Hubby wrapped the tiny precious person in his sweatshirt and placed him in my arms.  I sat in the front seat of my car, in the middle of no where, staring at my new baby boy.  After a few wails to let us know he was alright, he slept quietly in my arms.

Two policeman may have caught the end of my delivery, but I couldn't have cared less with all the pain I was in.  An EMT arrived minutes after them and they stayed with us and monitored our vitals.  I just sat, in shock, holding my new munchkin.

While I waited for the ambulance I reached down into my purse and grabbed my cell phone.  I dialed the only two people I would ever call at a moment like that: my parents.  They were en route to the hospital.  My mom answered.

My voice was weak as I tried to talk.  "Hey mom, I just had the baby, I'm in the car, and its a boy." (Yes I am strange enough to make a phone call at a moment such as that one).

She thought I was joking.  Car? A BOY? Not until she heard the ambulance pulling in did she scream to my father, "OH MY! Jodie had the baby in the car! It's a boy! The ambulance just got there!"

From this moment on I remember the EMT cutting the cord, and I remember the bright lights of the ambulance.  Hubby followed in his car.  I remember asking repeatedly about my baby and if he was alright.  I was euphoric and eternally grateful as the reality of what just happened began to set in.  At only 5lbs 13oz, born with the cord wrapped around his neck in the front seat of the car, we were healthy.

The aftermath of the birth was the front seat of our car being destroyed (as you can imagine) and we now had an abundance of baby girl attire to return. We also had no name for our new baby.

The next morning, as I gazed at our new son, Hubby arrived with my two other munchkins at the hospital.  We decided to name him for the shop across the street from the police barracks. And his name fits him well, even though it wasn't my first choice.

Tonight, looking back, the whole experience is still very surreal.  Aside from my memories and our 911 recording, we have a birth certificate that states "Parking Lot" as place of birth.  We don't have any video other than a few minutes of me holding Harley in the front seat of the car.  We don't even have an accurate birth time.

But we have Harlo.  And he certainly lives up to his entrance into this world.  Crazy and loving, yet at the end of the day quite peaceful.

Happy 10th Birthday Harlo!

You have been shocking us from before you were even born...truly one of a kind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Every fall I get an uncontrollable urge to bake with canned pumpkin.  This urge is similar to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving and Diet Coke with french fries.

I feel one cannot exist without the other.  

Yesterday, armed with canned pumpkin, I baked my favorite pumpkin loaf.  I also have neglected to purchase Eggo's all week.  Pumpkin loaf makes a killer quick breakfast when Eggo's are not available.

Waste no time baking this because it is delicious and fairly healthy.  And tomorrow morning you could be sitting down to toasted chocolate chip pumpkin loaf, moist with melted butter and dusted with powdered sugar.

You will have died and gone to pumpkin loaf heaven.

This recipe makes two loaves (I'm all about sharing) or one loaf and twelve muffins.  I freeze the muffins for later consumption. 

3 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
dash salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour loaf pans/muffin tins.

Mix sugar, applesauce and eggs.  Add pumpkin.

Slowly blend dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake loaf 35-45 minutes, until center is done.  Muffins bake approximately 15-20 minutes.


*a wonderful, worthy re-post*

Thursday, October 8, 2015

EASY Halloween Party Ideas (great for all ages!)

My kids LOVE Halloween.  Costumes, candy, scary movies, decorations...they can't get enough.  I love all holidays, and I've always felt creating traditions and memories for my kids was important.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate any holiday is small and simple "parties" with close friends.

This post is going to focus on Halloween.  Remember, this is not an "invite 20 kids and wrap eachother in toilet paper to be mummies" kind of party.  This party is meant to be easy, festive and fun!

Start with a few good friends.  You can go a few routes.  Have one child host and invite a few nearest and dearest (stick to five or less) or have each child invite one and incorporate the whole family.

We went with option A.

This "party" is perfect for Halloween night, or the weekend before or right after.  Keep the party to two hours and have it after lunch or dinner so guests come fed.  

Choose two to three activities.  If you play games have Halloween prizes like slime, candy or a cheap Halloween DVD (you can find these at Target in the Halloween aisles). You can make Haunted Houses (think Gingerbread houses but use gummy worms and Halloween candies and frostings), decorate your own cookies, make masks, play Witches Brew (my favorite Halloween Party game) or bob for apples.

Before the party, make a playlist with Halloween classics like Thriller, Monster Mash and Ghostbusters. 

For our party we made Halloween cupcakes and Eyeball Cake Pops. 

For our party you'll need:

PATIENCE.  And now the other important stuff... 

Cupcake supplies (liners, mix, two containers of frosting, Halloween candies/sprinkles for decorating)
Plastic knives and black plastic forks.
Napkins and wipes for sticky hands
Halloween Plates
Small paper craft cups (I found mine at Walmart in cake baking aisle)
Bright Halloween stickers
Halloween Cellophane Baggies
Cake Pop supplies (either a kit or cake mix, frosting)
White Candy Melts or white chocolate (2 bags)
Container white frosting
Red food coloring 
Festive decorations and tablecloth
Plastic bowls 
Candy eye balls (small sugar candies can be found at craft stores)

I set a Halloween table with a tablecloth. I baked cupcakes and had them cool and ready for icing when the guests arrived.  Make cake balls and stick a black plastic fork in each one.  I bought a kit but you can use any cake pop recipe.  Chill in freezer.  

Set a place for every guest at the table with what they will need for cupcake decorating.  Place a plastic bowl with candies and another plastic bowl with frosting and a plastic knife at every station.  This makes all finger licking a non-issue.  Set a small paper cup at every chair and markers and stickers in the middle of the table.

Each guest should decorate 2 cupcakes. 

When the guests arrive explain that one cupcake will go home in the paper cup and one can be eaten at the end of the party.  Have them decorate the paper cup and them start on their cupcakes.

After the cupcake decorating, melt white candy melts or white chocolate (candy melts work best) and have each guest dip 2-3 pops, covering cake ball completely. Set on tinfoil lined platter and press candy eyeball on.  After the chocolate sets, heat a cup of white frosting in the microwave for about twenty seconds, and stir in red food coloring.  Drizzle the icing over the "eyeballs"  to make them look bloody.  These are pre-bloody eyeballs. 

Individually package goodies in Halloween cellophane baggies to take home. 

My best tips are:

BE PREPARED.  Set the stations for each guest if doing crafts, have games ready. 
Play great music.
Keep guests to less than 6.
Keep the timeline to 2 hours. 

This is just a general guideline of how we do our parties.  I like to leave everything general because there are so many possibilities.  The trick is to keep it simple!  No need for huge costume parties that cause stress and require days on Pinterest to plan.