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Although weekends are busy, they’re often the only time to prepare a nicer, more extensive family meal. We were celebrating my parent’s anniversary last weekend, and I wanted a simple but enjoyable meal that didn’t involve the BBQ.  Instead of using my regular recipes, I gathered some from the internet to test out.  All turned out well, and I’ll share them here for your upcoming family gathering.

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner

Chicken Marsala is a family favorite, but one we don’t get to make too often.  This recipe was excellent.  I quadrupled it, as we were having a larger group.  The only modification I found necessary was to thicken the sauce further, which I did by removing a small amount from the pan, whisking in two tablespoons of cornstarch to make a slurry, and stirring back in.

Mashed potatoes are a great alternative for a gluten free family.  I usually make them dairy free to accommodate my daughter, but since we were serving company, I made hers separate and then followed this recipe for the rest.  To make it a little healthier, I used one cup of skim milk and one cup of half and half instead of heavy cream.  I used a combination of Yukon gold and Eastern potatoes, and decided not to peel them.  For some tips on how to achieve creamy potatoes that don’t get gluey, check out this link.

Finally, roasted asparagus. I’d never prepared them this way before, but we really liked them.  I washed and trimmed two bunches of asparagus, lined a pan with foil, rubbed the asparagus with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I cooked them at 400 for 12 minutes, and they were perfect.

Gathering the family around the table is a great bonding experience, especially when extended family can be there.  At our home, giggles, rounds of the game, “Telephone,” and silly stories always abound. A delicious meal can be put together without too much trouble, and sets the backdrop for memories and laughter.  Share your family favorites with our readers. To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy Halloween!

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This week my girls discovered the McDonald’s salad container I was eating out of looked very similar to a UFO. So, they decided to decorate their own UFO’s in honor of Halloween! I know UFOs are not a traditional part of Halloween, but when you are five anything goes. Now, you can’t have an empty UFO, so we made aliens to go inside.

What you’ll need to make this:

  • Clean, empty salad container from McDonald’s (or other fast food chain)
  • Imagination
  • Play Dough/modeling clay
  • Decorations or other random stuff from your art cart

The girls painted the inside bottom half of the containers with glow in the dark paint, and used stickers to decorate the top half of the container.

glow in the dark paint

As the new paint job on the space ships dried, the girls started crafting their aliens using modeling clay. (Modeling clay isn’t as soft as Play Dough so it really works the little fingers).

playing with modeling clay

They added googly eyes. Well, one eye and one horn. I admit the girls may have been influenced by the Flying Purple People Eater song we were listening to earlier.

one eyed one horned purple people eater

pink people eater

Someone decided it was a monster vs. alien theme and converted their alien to a monster. It didn’t look “monstery” enough compared to the alien. So, I helped add clothes pin legs to give the monster a larger presence.

monster

After crafting two UFOs, a monster and an alien the girls decided it was time to play. This was the part where I just sat back and listened to the stories they made up about the alien landing on Earth and meeting the monster for the first time. After playing for nearly 45 minutes, they decided both the monster and the alien will need a nap. So, they selected items for their little creatures to snuggle with. I made the little teddy bear (thanks clay sculpture class from 1998 for the skilz).

alien nap time

Final UFO

The finished product. Our crazy mish-mosh UFO from our imagination. So these aren’t upscale sculptures going for thousands of dollars, but this proud mama thinks they are priceless. My kids saw a master piece in this ordinary container. They were inspired and followed through with zero instruction from me. They created something from nothing and saved this salad bowl from the landfill.

My kids are saving the planet … one recycling project at a time.

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

We’ve all been there, living on Ramen and a prayer until pay day. Broke is a place we’ve all been, so don’t be ashamed, just keep moving forward and hopefully broke will be a place you’re just passing through, instead of where you put down roots. Last week, I talked about ten ways to make ends meet when you’re scraping by and here are ten more.

toothpaste

11. Pack It From Home – If you’re leaving the house for work, recreation, church or wherever you’re going whether it’s solo or with the family, pack your food and drinks from home. It’s going to save you a lot of money. It takes some foresight sometimes, but if I even suspect we’re going to be out of the house near a meal time I pack sandwiches, snacks and water bottles. It’s tempting especially when the kids are whining to hit up the drive thru, but trust me that your wallet and waistline will thank you if you just pack it from home before hitting the road. The same goes for coffee.

12. REWARDS, REWARDS, REWARDS – If there is a loyalty program out there for a store you shop at, sign up. If your credit cards offer points for cash back or rewards sign up (IF, and only IF you can and will pay off the balance quickly). I got a great tip from that Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union and Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union offer rewards based on transactions you make with your debit card. I just saved $15 on my recent K-Mart purchase using their Shop Your Way points, making each pair of pajamas I bought for my son’s birthday about $5 each.

13. Use Less/Use It Up – My husband has been known to nearly empty a bottle of dish soap onto a sponge before washing a single pot. It makes my frugal-self cringe to watch it, fortunately/unfortunately for me it’s not something I have to worry about often. To me it’s simple, use less = stuff lasts longer = don’t need to pay full retail just because we ran out of something. Stock up on items when on they are on sale, but also don’t waste what you’ve got just because it was cheap or free. The same goes for using something up. Just because something is almost empty doesn’t mean toss it. I will confess that I’ve been known to cut up the tube of toothpaste when you can no longer squeeze any out and scrape it into a small Tupperware container. Sounds extreme maybe, but if you’re scraping by, you really can’t afford to throw out what actually is weeks worth of a product just because it seems empty. I’ve been known to rise out bottles of shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap etc. to use every last bit. You think that’s not going to help much? Well you know the saying – watch the ounces and the pounds take care of themselves.

14. Prepaid Phone – My husband has a smart phone with prepaid minutes through tracfone and it works just fine. It costs us a little less than $50 a month and I don’t even have a cell phone. I know what you’re thinking – how does she even survive without a phone, but rest assured I’m alive and well and I can be reached by (shutter) landline. For anyone who still has a landline check out phonepower which is a voice over internet provider. We prepay ours once a year, but it works out to roughly $8 a month. You just need to make sure your internet is fast enough or you’ll have to upgrade your internet service to accommodate it.

clothes line

15. Go Green/Save Green – Look around your house. If you regularly buy something for the simple purpose of using it and throwing it out, find a reusable alternative. I’ll give you a pass on toilet paper and diapers, because even this frugal mama has to draw the line at washing human feces. Cloth diapering can save you money if you have the special washer and detergent required and of course the stomach to clean it. Kudos to you cloth diapering Mamas! I considered it, but my husband drew the line in the sand on this one. We use dish towels and rags, cloth napkins, and homemade cleaners (despite my husband complaining that my all-purpose cleaner made of water and white vinegar smells like pickles). I hang our laundry out to dry as many months of the year the weather permits. Become an avid recycler and you may even be able to cut down on trash pickups saving you money.

16. Don’t Keep Up With The Joneses – If you want to live richer, pretend you are BROKE. Don’t worry about what other people have and don’t be ashamed of what you don’t. Chances are the Joneses have high mortgage and car payments and are really burdened by living beyond their means. Just because you can afford the payments, doesn’t mean you own something or that you should try to own it. I always tout the fact that my (now three bedroom) townhouse is what kept us out of the poor house when I started staying at home. Do everything in your power to live below your means. Often times we think that if we just had more money we’d be fine, but the more you make, the more you will spend if you don’t make a conscious effort not to. The other day I wanted to make a recipe, but didn’t have buttermilk. I thought about running to the store, but after a quick google search I found out I could make my own using milk and vinegar. The internet is chock full of hacks, tricks, and secrets to saving money, but you have to be willing to forget what that might look like to the outside world. Sometimes we go to great lengths to make ourselves appear wealthier than we are, and this is precisely what is making us broke.

17. Gift Giving For Less – Gifts don’t have to be from a retail store, purchased full price or be frivolous. Gifts can be found at yard sales, consignment shops, on craigslist, or Facebook swap sites. They can be homemade or for things that are needed vs. wanted. I’ve gotten into the habit of giving my kids book bags for Christmas when they’re on clearance and they have them ready to go for the following year (cross that off my back to school shopping list). My son is getting pajamas for his birthday because he really needs them. He’ll get a few toys from us and I’m sure from friends and family. Some moms on Facebook suggested following www.hip2save.com for their special deals on great gift items. You can also look for coupons in newspapers, sales flyers, online promotional codes, etc. I sign up for e-mails for stores and restaurants I like and they often send me coupons and alert me to great sales I might have otherwise missed.

18. Get Paid To Shop – Since I don’t have a cell phone, I can’t say I’ve ever used a lot of these aps that reward you for shopping, but there are plenty to choose from. There’s Ibotta, Saving Star, Checkout 51, Receipt Hog, the Walmart savings catcher and Ebates. The only one I’ve actually used is Ebates and while I don’t do a ton of online shopping, they do give you a free $10 gift card to either Kohl’s, Target, Walmart or Macy’s just for signing up. You simply go to Ebates first and then to the retail store of your choice through their site and you can earn anywhere from 3-14% cash back when you make a purchase. You can also go old school and clip coupons from the paper, check coupons.com, track your store’s price matchups on livingrichwithcoupons.com, and load coupons directly to your store loyalty cards. You can often use a paper coupon with a digital coupon for the same item making it cheap or completely free in some cases. New to couponing? Check out my couponing crash course posts – part 1 and 2 to learn how to get started.

19. Take A Defensive Driving Class – You can take a defensive driving class entirely online for under $25 and you can easily save 10% on your car insurance.

20. Barter/Swap/Negotiate – Sometimes no cash needs to exchange hands at all in order to get what you need. There are online swap sites for things like clothes, toys and household items. You can also set up swaps of kids’ toys and clothes with your friends. You could also try bartering for goods or services. A mom on Facebook shared that her husband does snow plowing for someone in exchange for auto repair work. You can also set up babysitting swaps with friends. If you have to pay for big ticket items like purchasing a house or buying a car ALWAYS try to negotiate. I’ve gotten every used car we’ve ever purchased for $500 off the asking price just by negotiating. If you have cash in hand it definitely gives you an edge. Most people will take less than asking price for the guarantee of money in hand. They know if they turn you down they may get full asking price from someone else, but they also might not get anything at all. A common tactic for negotiating lower prices at yard sales is a bundling technique. If you find multiple items you can offer a lower price for all items than what each one cost individually. Most people would rather get rid of more stuff at once then haggle with you over each individual item. BUT, don’t be that rude person who low balls every offer.

I hope these posts help you move through the land of broke more quickly. Have some stellar money saving tips? Share them here or on my Facebook page.

Oatmeal chocolate chip

There’s a secret to getting your kids to make you cookies.  Let them cook with you as soon as they’re old enough to sit up, pour, stir, and make your kitchen a mess.  The time and effort spent on these early endeavors will return to you in spades.  My kids, now almost eight and 11, can actually make things… on their own… and even clean up.  It’s a culinary miracle.

A few days ago, my little one wanted to make oatmeal cookies.  She’s not a raisin fan, but I convinced her that oatmeal and raisins go together like milk and, well, cookies.  I oversaw her process, delighted in her confidence and fraction recognition; assuring her it’d be okay when she accidentally poured a liquid ingredient into the dry ingredients too early in the process.  The end result? Delicious.  A few days later, she asked to make them again for some friends, this time with chocolate chips. Who was I to say no?  At the same time, my older daughter took on making dinner rolls to accompany the night’s meal.  I happily made soup while the two of them took over the kitchen.

Oatmeal raisin

Oatmeal cookies

Ingredients

1/2 c. rolled oats (we used certified gluten free)

3/4 c. rolled oats, ground into a flour

1 c. almond flour

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

1/4 c. maple syrup

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. oil

1 c. raisins or chocolate chips

*Note: t stands for teaspoon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350, and prepare two cookie sheets with non-stick spray.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the first seven ingredients.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg until uniform in color.  Mix in the oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Pour in the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.  Stir in raisins or chocolate chips.  Scoop cookies onto cookie sheets using a tablespoon, placing at least two inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through.  Do not overbake, as cookies will firm up as they cool.

Share your favorite kid-friendly recipes.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Have a great weekend!

Each week the girls and I try to create our own projects. I scour Pinterest, or Facebook for ideas and we make them our own. I like to keep things simple. This week is so busy we are taking some help from the store. Well, more specifically a generous gift giver. The girls are using the gem mining kit by Wonderology they got as a birthday gift. I was reluctant to pull this out because of the mess factor. But, I can’t hold them off any longer, so now we are sharing with you!

Gem mining kit Wonderology

The age recommendation on the box says age 8+ but my 5-year olds love it! (I later found these available at Target). The kit comes complete with little plastic excavation tools and promises there are 8 gems inside.

Gem mining Wonderology

I placed the plaster cast inside a large disposable aluminum food pan to keep the excavation tidy.

Disposable food tray keeps crafting neat

It was a challenge to unearth these little gems as they were really hidden! It was big work for little hands so I stepped in to help by breaking the cast into smaller pieces to make chiseling easier.

Gem stones Wonderology

After we uncovered all of the gems I gave the girls the extra step of cleaning them. I emptied the plaster rubble into the garbage and filled our tray with clean, clear water. They enjoyed the water play as much as the mining activity.

Water play

Now that my girls are a little older and moving way from some of the younger preschool activities I often find myself challenged by what to do next. They don’t know it, but I stashed away all the arts and crafts gift sets they got for their birthday and I’ll bring those out on those less inspired days. Sometimes it’s OK to follow a boxed craft.

What are some of your favorite kids craft kits?

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

I’m eagerly counting down the months till March. Like most people, I live for that fantastic day when we get our tax refund. Even though we changed my husband’s withholding on his paycheck when I first started staying home to get more money per check, we still get a decent refund each year. Last year, along with our savings we were able to renovate our basement into a master bedroom, and this year I can hardly sit still for joy of thinking about paying off our debt consolidation loan. Yes, it sounds glamorous I know. This is the year we get rid of all debt save the house related debt. Three years ago, we were in deep to the tune of roughly $20,000 and come March that’ll be the end of that chapter and hopefully the end of just scraping by.

I’ve done some crazy and some not so crazy things to get us through the lean times over the years while staying home with our kids. I’ve also enlisted the advice of other moms on Facebook. In no particular order, here are 20 ways to make ends meet when you’re just scraping by.

Local U-Pick Farms like Dubois Farms in Highland have fantastic fruit and veggies for great prices, they also give the family a fun outing together that teaches kids where food really comes from.

Local U-Pick Farms like Dubois Farms in Highland have fantastic fruit and veggies for great prices. They also give families a fun outing together that teaches kids where food really comes from.

1. Budget – I can’t tell you how much having a budget helps. Even if you can’t stick to a set dollar amount per category it’s invaluable for seeing where your money is going and figuring out where you can trim the fat. Need help getting started? Try Every Dollar‘s free online budget tool.

2. Lower My Bills PLEASE – I’ve called pretty much all our bill collectors and asked for lower rates or asked how to scale back on services to lower my bill. One year, I saved hundreds of dollars on our propane bill simply because I asked for a better rate. It helps if you’re current on your bills. If a company is unwilling to match rates or help you lower your payments, it’s time to shop around for new companies. Here are some negotiating tips.

3. Meal Plan – When shopping don’t just plan for the week’s meals, plan for the week’s leftovers. Buy bigger cuts of meats and use them for two meals instead of one. Take leftovers for lunch. Read more about how to stop feeding the trash.

Not only am I not ashamed at shopping thrift and consignment shops, I'm pretty thrilled with the deals I get. I got 4 pairs of jeans for $14 on Salvation Army's family day which is every Wednesday. Most items are half off.

Not only am I not ashamed to shop at thrift and consignment shops, I’m pretty thrilled with the deals I get. I got 4 pairs of jeans for $14 on Salvation Army’s family day, which is every Wednesday. Most items are half off.

4. Buy Used – I have ZERO shame about shopping thrift and consignment shops. I think of it as a treasure hunt. I often find more expensive quality brand name clothing for my family then what I could buy new at Wall-Mart or Target. Tip: Hit up Salvation Army on Wednesday when most items are half off. Read more about what you should know before you pop them tags. Tip: Goodwill gets brand new items from Target that didn’t sell.

5. Buy GENERIC – I know there is a huge stigma for some surrounding store brands or stores like Aldi which carry very few name brands. Most store brands are just as good, if not better, than the brand name. It’s totally worth it to give them a try. Generic medicines and baby formula have the EXACT same ingredients so why pay more for them? If you’re at the doctor, make sure they write you a prescription for the generic version of the medication if there is one. If you don’t ask, you could get stuck paying a lot more for the brand name. I even found that I could get free birth control pills just by switching to a generic brand that is fully covered by my insurance.

6. Say NO A LOT – A big part of choosing or having to be frugal is learning to deal with temptation, which is EVERYWHERE. When friends innocently suggest you go out to eat, suggest a potluck instead. When it comes to sales based parties I have a strict “No Go” policy. It’s not that I’m trying to be rude, I just won’t put myself in a position to have to say no or else buy something out of guilt. Many of the fundraisers that come home from school go straight to the recycling bin. We do some fundraisers and give to charity, but we have to be selective about where we give. My kids know that if they want a new toy they have to wait for their birthday or Christmas, whichever comes first. I have a strict “don’t ask me for anything at the store” policy on those rare occasions I have to take them with me.

One of the best part of living in the Hudson Valley are the many local farms available to pick fresh produce at prices cheaper than you'd find in the grocery store.

One of the best part of living in the Hudson Valley are the many local farms available to pick fresh produce at prices cheaper than you’d find in the grocery store.

7. Buy Direct From Farms – Get fresh veggies and fruits and preserve them by canning or freezing them. Lots of people reap the benefits of food shares and food co-ops and the Hudson Valley is full of great farms to choose from.

8. Cut The Cable – We ditched our cable and now do Hulu and Netflix for a teeny tiny fraction of the cost we had with Direct TV. Streaming subscription services can cost as little as $8 a month and with Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix and others you can pretty much get anything you want a la cart for a LOT less then even those bundled cable packages.

9. Refinance – If you have a mortgage or loans, try to refinance them if you can get lower interest rates and you’ll save a ton of money on interest. We refinanced our mortgage three years ago and saved $280 a month, plus the month while the loan was processing and we didn’t have a mortgage payment we were able to pay off a small personal loan with that would be mortgage payment.

10. Take Out Your Own Trash – I know what you’re thinking- that’s gross! Honestly, I go to the dump twice a month with our coupon booklet that makes each bag $2. We used to spend $26 a month on a collection service and while saving $120 a year isn’t a lot per say, it does make you reevaluate just how much stuff you throw out, encourages you to recycle as much as you can because it’s free, and it gives you an opportunity to recycle oil, scrap metal and even drop clothing in donate bins instead of throwing them out. It might even encourage you to stop buying disposable items like paper plates, napkins, utensils, cups, and perhaps even diapers. You pay for these items once at the store and pay again to get rid of them. I’m not ashamed to admit it also gives me an opportunity to snag some free coupon inserts, which also save me money.

Read more about how to move from “survive to thrive” when money is tight. Stay tuned for the second part of this post and feel free to share your money saving tips here.

Zucchini carrot fritter.  I could give them all kinds of introductions, but zucchini, carrots, and fritters kind of speak for themselves.  I had some fresh zucchini to finish up and found the recipe online.  The fritters were fried in the recipe, but I wanted to bake them to make it a little healthier, and skip the step of standing in front of the stove for multiple batches. As in the recipe, I allowed the zucchini to sit after shredding, and squeezed it in a clean dishtowel to remove extra liquid.  Instead of whole wheat pastry flour, I used a gluten-free blend, which worked perfectly.  If you’d like to involve your kids in dinner, mixing and shaping these would be a great task.  When baking, I lined the pans with parchment paper so they wouldn’t stick, and sprayed each side of the fritter with a very light mist of olive oil from my Misto.  They took about 20 minutes on each side, but it was easy to leave them and prepare the rest of dinner and fold some laundry while they baked.

Fritters-1

These fritters were a hit.  Small and dainty, they weren’t too heavy since they hadn’t been fried.  Even though neither of my kids like zucchini by itself, they loved it this way.  The fritters accompanied breaded fish and mixed vegetables beautifully, and I was sad to find no leftovers. Fritters-2 To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Have a great weekend!

Water Beads Sensory Play

This week we are playing with water beads!! I don’t know who is more excited the kids or me! A friend (and Occupational Therapist) recommended these to me a while ago. When the girls preschool teacher gifted us with a set we couldn’t wait to try them out. Plumped up water beads are a great sensory experience for little hands (and big hands alike).

These amazing tiny pellets are used by the floral industry to add color and texture to floral arrangements and keep plants hydrated. Water beads are also non-toxic, Eco-friendly and just fun to play with!

Water bead tubes

I followed the directions on the tube and dumped the beads into 2 quarts of water and waited several hours for them to grow. The directions also say to leave in the water for about 12 hours, but we left them in for less. I started to panic and thought I did something wrong when the pink beads seemed to disappear and the orange beads looked fuzzy. I thought some how they started to dissolve. Turns out as the beads grow they become translucent. Once I dipped a mesh strainer into the water I could feel the tray was completely full of plump beads!

water beads fade

I divided the beads into two trays, one for each kid to play with. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to play either. The texture of these squishy little spheres is intriguing. It’s almost hypnotic to squeeze them between your fingers and bury your hands in these smooth jiggly bubbles. It didn’t take long for my kids to discover the beads  bounce like rubber balls. No matter how hard I tried to keep them contained there were some escapees.

water bead cups

The kids spent an hour (YES!! An entire hour) sorting and scooping the beads with a spoon, and filling up small cups. Since the beads are translucent light will pass right through them. After the girls filled a glass jar with the beads, we used a flashlight to shine light through them. Then we took turns holding them up to the window. The girls were impressed by how shiny the beads look. “It’s like jewels!”

water bead scoops

The beads keep their hydration for several days. You can leave them in a tray, or store in a jar or a Zip Lock bag to use again later. As they loose moisture they will shrink back to original size. You just have to rinse with cold water and they will swell again. You can reuse these several times.

water beads jar

You can find water beads at Michael’s Craft Store and seasonally at The Dollar Tree. You can also order online through Amazon.com for as little as $3.00 per packet. These little beads definitely give you a big bang for your buck! I can’t wait for you to try these!

Important Note: If you decide to try these out, be sure your child is passed the age of putting things in their mouth before you play with these. Even though these are non-toxic it is dangerous if your child swallows any.

 

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

My friend Marissa and I have this joke about how we’ve joined the secret society of the Un-Pinterested. She posts pictures of Pinterest crafts or cute deserts dressed up as animals or decorations and we say, “Let’s pretend we did this and just eat the cookies instead.” We also post the Pinterest fails, because let’s face it, most of our attempts at replicating a Pinterest design are bound to fail.

I never could catch on to the whole Pinterest craze and I’ll tell you why – Pinterest is no place for mothers like me. What I mean is that I joke that I cook so my family won’t starve, baking involves some sort of boxed mix, and crafting is something I did when I was ten. I personally think glitter was invented by the Devil to frustrate me. My daughter googled glitter bomb the other day and proceeded to make glitter bombs (basically glitter glued to paper plates) and did she use her craft table for just such messy nonsense? Heck NO, she used our dining table which may permanently have the Devil’s flakes embedded in it no matter how many times I try to wipe them off. Here are the top 4 reasons I’m so completely Un-Pinterested.

  1. Mom-Olympics – This is where the competitive Moms do their best work in crafting, baking, cooking, homemade Halloween costumes and party planning. I know I’m never going to medal in any of these areas and it seems foolish to even try. Is there a ton of cute stuff to look at on Pinterest? Of course. That’s why it’s the internet equivalent of a casino. You go in thinking you’re just going to try your luck on one thing and get sucked in and before you know it eight hours have passed. I also worry about the moms who really do feel the need for their efforts to be “Pinterest worthy.” It can only lead to a loss of self-esteem. I don’t look at Gabby Douglas do her gymnastic routines and think, “Yeah, I did gymnastics in high school so I can totally do that!” I try my best not to be sucked into thinking that we could all be the super Mom-Olympians of Pinterest.
  2. Food Gets Consumed – Ok, I love looking at the many cute ways you can turn a cookie, candy, and pretzel sticks into different characters for every holiday, but is anyone else nostalgic for food you simply eat? Must we spend hours assembling it to make it look cute, pretty, spooky and “ooh and ahh” worthy? I can’t see spending so much time on something my toddler will throw on the floor (cause that’s what toddlers do) and my older kids will say, “Gee, that’s cute.” mere seconds before scarfing it down. If it’s all about the effort, I think I’ll save mine for something else like surviving bedtime drama, tantrums, or eight-year-old Diva-tude. I don’t have much patience as it is, so I figure I better save what little I have for those moments I’m likely to lose it. When you count how many times you have to tell your kid not to eat something that fell on the floor, you’ll understand that perfect food simply tastes good. 
  3. Real Life Is Not Staged – I love those photos. Who wouldn’t? They look like the pages of a magazine. I don’t live in Pinterest world though. If I did, there’d be pictures of cereal on the floor, runny nose children, sweat pants and a whole lot of smiles. For those who agonize over picture days like I do, you know it takes some serious coordination to hide the crazy, but it’s the crazy that makes life worth living. I guess if Pinterest looked like my life, most people would be Un-Pinterested too.
  4. I Like To Set The Bar LOW – When it comes to things like making sure my kids do their homework, we have dinner as a family, everyone is clean, healthy and know 100 percent that they are loved, I set the bar high. On everything else, I try to set the bar LOW. Ain’t nobody got time to live a “Pinterest life” all the time? There are some great messes to be made, laughs to be had, and memories to be shared and if I set the bar that high I’d be missing out on the beautiful chaos that is my life.

I’m not saying you can’t love Pinterest. If that’s your thing, more power to you and I elect you to bring snack to school on my kid’s birthday because Lord knows I would just slap some icing on some boxed mix cupcakes and call it a day. We all need a Pinterest Mom friend. She’ll inspire us to try just a little bit harder, like maybe I’ll look up a cake recipe as long as you keep that piping bag far away from me. BUT if you’re not the crafting, baking, party planning champion Pinterest would encourage you to be, you can join my society of the Un-Pinterested and you’ll be in some damn good company.

One fun way to find new meal ideas is to eat at friends’ homes.  Years ago, we went to a potluck at my friend Sarah’s house, where she served Asian Chicken Meatballs.  They were cute, uniquely shaped, chunky little bites full of flavor and paired with a slightly sweet, slightly kicky sauce.  There wasn’t one person who didn’t love them, and I promptly obtained the recipe.  With her permission, I’ll share it here with you.  It originates from her friend Takako, and is an authentic Japanese dish.

Asian Chicken Meatballs

Asian Chicken Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs

1 lb. ground chicken

½ T. sake (this is an Asian wine, found at a liquor store)

1 T. starch (potato or corn)

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 in. piece of ginger, shredded (I’ve used 1 t. ground ginger in a pinch)

1 egg

Sauce

1/3 c. soy sauce (If you’re gluten free, check your label; we use coconut aminos instead of soy)

1/3 c. sake

1/3 c. mirin (found at an Asian market, or the Asian section of some grocery stores)

1 T. sugar

Note: T stands for tablespoon, t stands for teaspoon.

Directions:

To make the sauce: In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.  Be careful not to burn.

To make the meatballs: In a large bowl, beat the egg until uniform in color.  Blend in the sake, starch, onions, and ginger. Add the ground chicken, and mix well.

Put a thin layer of a neutral oil (such as canola) in a large frying pan, and heat over medium-high heat.  Scoop meatballs into the frying pan using a tablespoon, roughly shaping them but not forming them into perfect balls.  I was introduced to them in this fashion, later to find out that the shape was due to my friend’s cooking style.  The choice is yours. Rotate until uniformly browned, and cooked through.  Transfer to bowl with slotted spoon and continue to fry until all of the meatballs have been cooked.

In Japan, these are served on bamboo skewers, as an appetizer, but I was introduced to them over rice as a main course, and will forever regard them in that way.  Spoon sauce onto meatballs and rice, if desired. This goes very well with a bowl of steamed mixed vegetables.

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Have a great weekend!

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