st. patrick’s day burlap banner

I don’t normally put up a lot of decorations for St. Patrick’s day but thanks to Pinterest and Etsy there’s tons of inspiration to add some St. Patrick’s day inspired decorations for this holiday.  When I saw this banner on Etsy I knew I could make a version of it. I love how simple and cute it is.

St Patricks Day Banner Decoration Green Burlap perfect for photo prop or party decor

For my version you’ll need:

  • Burlap – I did 7 pennants – you could do more or less depending on how big/little you want yours.
  • Shamrocks – I used the pack of foam, glitter shamrocks I found at Michael’s and alternated the colors between light/dark green. You’l need 2 packs if you do 7.
  • Hot Glue
  • Twine, Ribbon, Yarn – Whatever you want to string the pennants on.
  • Hole Punch or Scissors – Or a better idea might be to just try to string it through. I ran into some issues with the hole being too close to the edge and the burlap falling apart.

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*Learn from my mistakes: The hole punch might not have been the best way to do this. I had a little trouble with the burlap fraying and my hole disappearing. Looking back at the pictures from Etsy I’m not sure if she punched a hole or just tried threading it through the burlap – I did notice that it was much more in the center than the outsides of the triangle. From far away mine looks fine and up close it’s more rustic looking where they are fraying and not perfectly straight; I still love it.

I used those little Command hooks to hang it up on our fireplace – they work great! Since I didn’t like how the little white sticker/hook looked I used shamrock stickers (also from Michael’s) to cover them up.

Stay tuned for a few more St. Patrick’s themed crafts and ideas. We will be making leprechaun traps this weekend and trying to catch those sneaky leprechauns all week. Stay posted!

d is for dog

Here’s our letter D craft we did this morning. I know I am repeating myself but a little prep ahead of time will make for a smoother project with these crazy little creatures (toddlers) with almost no attention span. My inspiration for letter D came from here.

What you’ll need:

  • Letter D — cut out of white paper (or be crazy and have a colored dog!)
  • Spots, Ear & Nose – cut out of black paper
  • Collar – any color you chose
  • Paper to glue the D on
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue Stick

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Super cute, easy & our alphabet border in the play room is slowly growing!

make a goal monday

For Christmas the girls each received a set of matching high chair and baby beds from their Nana and Papa; they were a big hit from the beginning and have received lots of play time throughout the day for multiple dolls and stuffed animals. When I walked down the hallway to a suspiciously quiet playroom last night and found the chair in the below condition I was ticked, to say the least. They haven’t broken a lot of toys or played rough enough with things to ruin them so I was very surprised to see the high chair with a broken back rest sitting forlornly in the hallway and two very quiet girls, each in their own room.

Here’s where it doesn’t get pretty: I yelled (as much as I wish I didn’t yell, I did) for both girls to come in the hallway and demanded answers for what happened to the chair. Norah tried telling me a story about a baby being too big or Stella trying to fit in the chair (??) and I (most likely still yelling) began lecturing them about how we don’t treat our toys this way and now it’s ruined and they can’t play with it anymore and blah, blah, blah. I believe I might have even said that she’d have to call Nana and tell her she broke the high chair (really?). To which my ever sweet Norah replied, “Ok, Mommy.” (How can I be mad at that girl?) I sent them both to their room and left the hallway with two scared little girls crying in their rooms.  As I came back out to the kitchen I felt like yelling at myself for my immediate jump to yelling and the anger that came out so quickly.  I don’t want to be the angry Mom, but sometimes find myself still feeling that way; my patience has a tendency to disappear very quickly, especially when I’m tired or hungry (in my defense it had been a long day out and about and bedtime was approaching for everybody).

I finished the dinner dishes and calmed down before calling both girls out. I got down so I was below their eye level and was looking up at them and in a very calm, quiet voice and with lots of eye contact I asked if they knew why I was upset and it led to a conversation about how we treat our toys and if they can’t make it work how they need to get Mom or Dad. I looked at both little girls and told them I was very sorry I yelled at them and that sometimes Mommy gets upset and yells but it never means I don’t love you. And that same little Norah girl says, “I love you so much to the moon and back, Mommy.” Seriously? Talk about major Mommy guilt and feeling like bad Mom. I’m pretty sure I’m not the first Mom to feel like this or have a moment like this (and if I am then I need to shut this blog down today) but it still makes you feel like you are the only one who doesn’t have it figured out and that you are screwing up your kids (or is that only me that feels that way?)

As I was finishing up all the chores I have to finish before I can finally sit down for the night I was thinking about the upcoming week and everything we had going on. Then I started thinking about setting a few mommy goals for myself for the week and then thought how this could be a forum to share goals for the week (mom related or not). I’ve found that when you post goals or share them with someone it makes you more accountable and you’ll have a tendency to follow through on them.

So here are my goals for this week:

  • NO YELLING! There are plenty of ways to get the same point across without yelling — whisper, take a breath and say it normally…
  • If they ask me to play, read, dress-up, comb their hair – I am not going to say, “hold on while I finish this,” I am going to PLAY!

These aren’t life changing and don’t require a lot of time, thought or effort (hopefully not anyway) just a way to work on my relationship with my girls and work on my patience (or lack of) when I find myself getting frustrated and angry. Nobody is perfect and we have to remember that nobody really has this parenting thing figured out – we are all trying the best we can and finding out what works for us and our families.  But if you know there are areas you want to improve on (LIKE MY YELLING FOR EXAMPLE) then setting small weekly goals can help you work on them. Non-parenting goals are great too — they can be health, work, marriage, even money related! I’d love to hear your goals for this week – anything you are going to focus on. This might become a new idea for Monday’s here at Mom’ Secret Weapon!

week one recap

Week one of my challenge is coming to an end and I can most definitely say it will be continuing. Was I perfect this week? Nope… a glass of wine yesterday, a VERY delicious piece of Upper Crust’s Carrot Cake at my cousins baby shower yesterday and few stolen french fries off the girls plates today.  But, I think that’s part of life and how you make it a healthy lifestyle (clean, paleo, weight watchers, atkins, whatever…) rather than a extreme diet for a few months.

I am not a nutritionist nor do I have the scientific research to back up what I am going to say (and we are only talking one week of trying this) but I swear I had less cravings of the sugary/carb loaded stuff I could normally overeat on.  Perfect example:  Friday night I was coming home late and we decided to just grab a Papa Murphy’s pizza since I wasn’t going to want to cook and I couldn’t talk my family into eating the leftover spaghetti or split pea soup for about the 3rd night this week. I don’t know if it was because I told myself I wasn’t going to have any or because I wasn’t starving since I’d snacked on cashews and an apple on the way home or what it was but I didn’t eat a single slice of the pizza and instead ate a bowl of split pea soup and strawberries while they munched away on their Canadian bacon pineapple cheesy deliciousness. But you know what? I didn’t really miss it. Let me say that again just to really hear it again myself –  I didn’t really miss it. This is coming from someone who could put away 4 pieces of pizza no problem. I don’t know if it was that I was all caught up in the idea of the challenge and trying to stick with it or that since I was eating less of the sugars/carbs I could easily turn them down when they were right in front of me. I don’t know if it’s true the less you eat of something the less you miss it and more importantly could that really be the case after a few days? I don’t know but I’m interested to see if it continues.

All in all, it was easy for me to transition to this style of eating. My energy levels were great all week and I never had that I’m-so-starving-I’m-going-to-eat-whatever-I-can-find feeling since I was making an effort to eat every few hours. Next week I am going to work on increasing my protein (thanks for the tips, Blaire) and I still need to keep the glasses of water going during the day.

And in case you don’t believe that you can still make delicious and healthy treats here’s a very yummy “clean” peanut butter oatmeal cookie recipe I made with the girls tonight.

Recipe adapted from The Gracious Pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C peanut butter
  • 3/4 C agave (or honey)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour ( I realize mines says white whole wheat flour and I’m not exactly sure that that is – I just had to go with it since that’s all I had)
  • 1/2 C oats

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

Scoop and drop the cookies onto cookie sheet ( I sprayed mine with olive oil using my misto sprayer, you could also do parchment paper) and bake for 10-12 minutes. You might need them to go a little longer if they are thicker – just check them and see.

Delicious! And the perfect way to end our Sunday.

c is for caterpillar

We’ve gotten a little behind on our letters but a quiet morning at home made this a perfect activity. I did a little prep while they were playing alone and that made this a fast, easy project and they continued to play with the scraps and glue well after we finished. I’ve been using this site to come up with inspiration for our letters – there are tons of great ideas.

What you need:

  • Construction paper – cut out a letter C and about 9 smallish circles for each caterpillar
  • Googly eyes
  • Pipe cleaner – cut in half
  • Glue stick

Glue the letter C onto another sheet of construction paper.

Glue the circles along the shape of the C to make your caterpillar body.
Add googly eyes and a face and punch a hole at the top of your circle (maybe do it before it’s glued on and it might be easier) to thread your pipe cleaner antenna through; and there you have it… C is for Caterpillar.

Since we have started this I have noticed Norah being very aware of letters when we are out and about (the whole 2 she could possible recognize anyway). She is still not sure whether to call it an “A” or an “Alligator” but we are getting there and she is definitely recognizing them.  She even got herself all worked up this weekend when Luke was trying to put her in the car seat and she wanted to show me the letter “A” that was on a restaurant window. When we realized why she was so upset we let her show us what she was talking about and she proudly ran up to the window and pointed out the letter. I love seeing their little minds work and to see the excitement of learning in her eyes is so wonderful. I can only hope that excitement will stay alive her entire life and she’ll always want to learn.

day 1 of clean eating challenge

Don’t worry – I’m not going to be posting my play by play of clean eating; I just wanted to share what day 1 looked like for me and how truly do-able it is to make small changes and incorporate healthy eating into your life without sacrificing flavor and still feeling satisfied.

Here’s what today looked like:

Breakfast:  A bowl of oatmeal with banana and milk and sprinkled with lots of cinnamon and a few splashes of vanilla extract (check your vanilla — most have high fructose corn syrup; again something I was surprised by!) I wish I could take awesome food photography – it’s a talent I just don’t have. This does not look as appetizing as it actually was; trust me.

I enjoyed my coffee with fat free milk and nothing else – no fake sugar or creamer to sweeten it like I normally would have.  I felt like quite a grown-up having just milk in my coffee and it wan’t too bad. It’ll take some time to get used to actually tasting the coffee and not the overly sweet way I used to make it —  i/e a little coffee with my sugar/creamer.

Morning snack:  (remember they suggest eating ever 2-3 hours) A bowl of fresh raspberries and a handful of almonds.

Lunch:  Split pea soup with turkey (I made a big pot last night from The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook to eat for lunches all week) and a spinach salad with strawberries, feta, almonds and my favorite Lucero Balsamic Vinegar & Basil Olive Oil.

Afternoon snack: Brown rice cakes (found them at Trader Joe’s and learned they are made locally in Richvale right outside of Chico – yeah for eating locally too!) and almond butter.

Dinner: Skillet turkey spaghetti, roasted broccoli & sliced strawberries

Winner, winner spaghetti dinner! This was such an easy spaghetti recipe and the fact it’s all cooked in one pot was the most amazing idea I’ve ever heard of! No boiling the noodles separate – they boil in the tomato sauce liquid. I’ve never heard of such a thing! Great flavor and the girls and hubby scarfed it up. Regardless of clean eating challenge I will make this again for sure. This recipe made a ton — there will be plenty of leftovers for snacks, lunches and another dinner for sure.

Dessert:  Honey Apple Crisp I think I was expecting this to taste exactly like my favorite apple crisp recipe and I should have  known better since the  topping is made with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, flax seed (I replaced wheat germ with this), honey and butter. And while it wasn’t nearly as sweet and buttery as my old recipe (with brown sugar, white sugar, white flour, and butter) it was surprisingly really good and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth I get in the evening. The homemade honey whipped cream was a delicious way to top it and gave it the creamy feeling of having ice cream on top with just a little dollop. The girls gobbled it up just as quickly as they would’ve gobbled up the old recipe which goes to show you that our kids will eat healthy foods that aren’t loaded with sugar.  I will definitely keep this recipe in my roation and will play around with some different variations — want to try pears next and peaches this summer! My pictures did not turn out of our yummy dessert; they were all out of focus and fuzzy for some reason. Oh well. If you check out the link you’ll see her awesome pictures and recipe.

I’d say Day 1 was a success and not that much different than I normally try to eat — a few tweaks here and there and a little more time looking at labels at the grocery store but all in all do-able.

Now on to Day 2. 🙂

clean eating challenge

Hi. My name is Lindsay and I am a sugar/carb addict. Can anyone relate?

I’ve always considered myself a fairly healthy person and eater. We always have plenty of veggies and fruit around our house, I stick to low-fat milk  and I try to snack on yogurt or almonds during the day. Try would be the key word there; there are also days where I snack on a nice plate of homemade nachos or graham crackers with peanut butter dipped in a glass of milk, seriously yum but probably not the best on the waistline or my heart. Then if you take it one step further and  really look at the labels in many of the easy go-to products you’ll see the crazy amounts of hidden sugar and other additives to make them low-fat or last longer. Maybe this doesn’t matter to you and for the most part, I’ll admit it doesn’t matter that much to me, usually I’d rather just stick my fingers in my head and say, “la, la, la, I can’t hear you” and pretend that it’s not bad for me. Just looking at the box of graham crackers for example: the first ingredient listed (meaning it is the biggest one) is unbleached, enriched flour and farther down the list is the big no-no partially hydrogenated oil.  How they can say they are “whole grain” when the first ingredient listed is white four and farther down the list is whole grain wheat flour I don’t know.  So, I’ve decided I want to try to make a big change and see if I notice a difference in energy and overall health and go without the pre-packaged stuff and all the sugar. I am setting small goals first – 7 days of eating clean and then hoping to make it to 30. Baby steps, folks. If it seems to be working and fitting in our lifestyle then I hope to just continue.

Will there be days where it doesn’t happen perfectly? Absolutely. That is part of life and I think looking at everything I’ve read about Clean Eating is that it’s a lifestyle rather than a diet (I hate that word anyway) and the goal is more to eat clean 80% of the time and then leave 20% of the time for goodies that aren’t necessarily “clean”. I bought two new books to help me in this process:” “The Idiots Guide to Clean Eating” (the highest reviews on Amazon.com for Clean Eating cookbooks) and “The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook” by Tosca Reno. So far I’m impressed with both – very easy to read, lots of valuable information on why Clean Eating is so good for your body, and the recipes look fantastic! Between those two books I’ll have plenty of breakfast, lunch, and dinner inspiration. I’ve also found thegraciouspantry.com as another online resource.

There is so much information out there that it’s hard to decide what’s right/wrong and good/bad and I went back and forth between trying a Paleo Challenge or a Clean-Eating Challenge. In the end I decided I liked that Clean-Eating has whole-grains and dairy included in it and thought it will be an easier transition to just work on cutting out the over-processed and refined foods (white sugar, white flour, white rice) at first and then if we want to cut the others out we always could. For the most part my kids are going to eat clean right along with when it works. I am not going to throw out all the graham crackers and gold fish (thank you, Costco) just yet but as we finish them I might look for alternatives from Trader Joe’s.

These are the Clean-Eating Principles:

  • Eat a small meal every two to three hours (5 to 6 small meals per day total) to keep blood sugar level and prevent hunger
  • Combine both protein and complex carbs at every meal (*Proteins are meats, cheese, beans, legumes, and nuts. Complex carbs are fruit, veggies, breads and grains)
  • Avoid ALL over-processed and refined foods (especially sugar, white rice, and white flour)
  • Avoid saturated and trans fat, instead consuming healthy fats (like avocados and olive oil)
  • Avoid ALL sodas and other sugary juices and drinks
  • Choose organic food whenever possible
  • Avoid high-calorie, zero nutrient foods (i.e., junk food)
  • Eat meals with proper portion sizes
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water every day

I’ve seen alcohol as something to stay away from while eating clean and I’ve also seen the occasional glass of red-wine as ok (antioxidants and all I guess). These seem doable to me. Now, keep in mind I read my “Complete Idiots Guide to Clean Eating” with the leftover bag of candy from Powells Candy Shop this afternoon — can you say oxymoron? So, I have a feeling it will be easier said than done but I like the principles. I liked reading all the recipes and knowing everything in them and thinking how fresh and delicious they sounded. And I’m interested to give it an honest shot and see if I feel a difference in energy and mood, according to many of the blogs I’ve read they do and that’s why they continue to eat clean. I know right now I will not be making a huge effort to purchase everything organic. If the price seems decent I will, but I am not going to break the bank to buy all our produce and meat organic.

Take a look at this . . .

This is the amount of food I should throw out/donate since it does not meet the Clean Eating requirements. The doors on my fridge look empty.

And this is from the pantry:

I couldn’t stomach the idea of throwing out that much food (and my husband would probably kill me) so I made a pile of canned goods I could donate and got rid of things that were almost gone and that we really hardly ate (all the salad dressings, syrups etc.) and the rest I’ll keep and we’ll use here and there. Does any of it surprise you? It was interesting reading the labels — did you know horseradish has high fructose corn syrup? I did not. I’ll admit this kinda felt good – my shelves are a little emptier and my fridge isn’t loaded with all those condiments taking up space.

Meal planning and grocery shopping this weekend and my goal is to start my challenge Monday. Here are some great ideas for what a day of clean eating might look like.

Anybody want to join me?

dr. temple grandin

I had the honor of hearing Dr. Grandin speak last night at the Butte County Farm Bureau Annual Dinner.  Now I will admit I didn’t really know who she was before I saw the HBO movie; I had heard her name before but didn’t really know who she was or what she had done for agriculture or special education.  The movie was an inspiration. I was amazed in her, her life, and all she has accomplished personally and professionally while fighting the limitations her autism tried to put on her. So when Luke mentioned that she was speaking at the dinner and he could get us tickets I was really excited to go hear her talk and she didn’t let down.

I’m sharing the link to the HBO movie trailer. If you haven’t seen this movie – watch it! Claire Danes played her so well and it is a great family friendly movie that gives great insight into what autism looks/sounds/feels like for someone living with it.

Temple Grandin Movie Trailer

at-home workout #4

Here’s another workout  you can do at home. This one might need a little more space, but if you want to make it work at your house you will find a way to. I’m giving lots of notes below on ways to modify it since you most likely will have to. For this workout you’ll go through the exercises listed doing 20 of each as many times as you can in 30 minutes. It is a short workout – but you should feel the burn if you push yourself. End with a little stretching and then some crunchies or plank to work your core.

Remember do at least a 5 minute warm-up that includes movement (high knees, jumping jacks etc.), stretching (lunges, squats) and a few push ups for good measure. 🙂

*Inchworm is basically moving like an inchworm. Keep your body low, feet together then walk your hands out to a push up position do a push up then feet walk back in, walk hands out to pushup. Aim for 10 of these. Here’s a good description with pictures.

*”Flys”  You can do them laying on the floor.

*For the “sprint” I’d modify that if your space was limited with 1 minute of high knees, butt kickers, jumping jacks something to get your heart rate up .

* For the moving lunges – use your weights and do a shoulder press when your feet come together. If you are doing this workout at home you’ll have to get creative to be able to do 20. I’ve done lunges down my hallway and into the kitchen before to get all the reps in.

*For box jumps – You are trying to jump and land two-footed on something. I have a low brick fireplace that has a bench I can use perfectly. If you can’t jump then step up, up, down down. If you don’t have a space or something to jump on then do 20 squat jumps.

If you’ve done any of these workouts let me know how they worked for you!

valentine’s day fun

Here’s a few of the fun things we did and ate today in honor of the day of love. I enjoy Valentine’s Day and think it’s fun to spend a day gushy, mushy and making as many things heart shaped and pink as possible. And on a side note – it’s the 8 year anniversary of Luke proposing from the side of the road so it sort of has a special spot for that reason too.

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

These have become a staple in our house for breakfast. Partly because I almost always have Greek Yogurt in my fridge (love it!) and second because the girls can eat pancakes like they are going out of style. When I first tried the recipe for these I was hooked and have a feeling this could become our go-to pancake recipe. There is very little flour and they are loaded with protein from all the yogurt.  And, although I’m not a crazy-obsessed-organic-all-natural-eating-Mom, I do appreciate that I know everything that is in these and they aren’t made from a packaged mix loaded with ingredients I can’t read. I tried making these using heart pancake molds I bought at Cost Plus and never making fun shaped pancakes before there was a definite learning curve. Apparently, you don’t want the pancake to cook all the way in the mold or it’ll get stuck and you’ll just have mess trying to get it out. So, we had a few decent heart shapes and more little silver dollar sized circles because I lost patience and had hungry girls. All in all I’d say light pink, sort of heart shaped pancakes, were a great way to start our morning.  Try these for breakfast. They are fast, healthy, and I’m sure you could make a huge batch and freeze some for easy breakfasts.

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

adapted from everydaybelle.com

  • 1 1/2 C of your favorite greek yogurt (today we used Plain, Non-Fat but I’ve used Vanilla before and want to try Mango or Pineapple)
  • 2 eggs (even healthier would be just egg whites)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Optional: red food dye

Mix the yogurt and eggs together well; add in the vanilla.

In another bowl mix the flour and baking powder. Add the egg/yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and mix well. It will be very thick. Today I added a few drops of red food dye to get the light pink shade for Valentine’s.

Spoon onto a hot griddle and flip when they start to bubble. Using the mold I set it down on the griddle, sprayed it with non-stick spray then spooned a little into the mold. After it had a few  minutes to set I carefully removed the mold and let it continue cooking before flipping. Serve with whatever you love on pancakes.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

These are beyond delicious — two red velvet whoopie cookies sandwiched with delicious cream cheese frosting between. Here is the link to Annie’s Eats with directions and much cuter pictures than mine. I managed to make a batch of these today while they girls were napping and we delivered them to our parents and grandparents. They are adorable for Valentine’s Day but would be a sweet treat anytime of the year. I forget how good red velvet cake is and could easily eat quite a few of these in one sitting.

Here’s what I learned from making them:

1.  Really mix the cocoa powder with the flour. I left little clumps thinking my stand mixer would break them up; it did not and I can see little clumps in my finished cookies.

2.Pipe out smaller hearts — she said she got 18 sandwich cookies out of her dough — I believe I got 9 so I was a little generous with my batter.

3.  Use parchment paper not wax paper. It worked but got a little smokey at the end of baking.

4.  More red food coloring! I ran out and used probably half of what she did and I love how red hers are.

Scavenger Hunt

We ended our day with a scavenger hunt in pajamas. This is one of the traditions I remember my Mom doing growing up and knew it was one I couldn’t wait to continue when I had kids.

She always had it all set up when we woke up and we’d tear through the house, reading the clues and moving on to the next one before coming to a small Valentine’s gift at the end. I believe this continued until I left for college. I’ll never forget the year I was 16 and it was a driving scavenger hunt with my younger brother that ended at an old Bed and Breakfast for brunch with my Grandma and parents — talk about a memory!  Next year my plan is to be more prepared and have them wake up to one; we will see if that happens.

I bought a cheap box of Valentines and wrote 10 different clues for each girl and while Luke distracted them I put them around the house. “Where does your toothbrush live?”  “Where do your babies sleep?” Where are your pajamas?” Where do your dirty clothes go?” Where does Stella eat dinner” After watching how into it they were I’m wondering why I’ve never done something like this on a normal day when we are looking for something fun to do.  Thank you Target $1 section for an easy goodie basket of  chap-stick,  princess notepads, princess puzzles, and water bottles.  I love this tradition and can’t wait to do it again next year.

   

Here’s to a fun day of love and continuing that love all year!