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We're an American family living in Australia, where everything seems a little bit turned-upside-down.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Mom's Peeps Memory

Peeps, peeps, peeps!  What is an Easter Basket without them? When I was young, I remember wanting a whole box of my own like my neighbor got in her basket.  Instead, my parents broke the little rows of chicks  into parts that I had to share with my three siblings.  My parents were always so good about buying a box in every color, so that we could each have a couple of each color. I vividly remember the pink chick ones were my favorite, while yellow and lavender held a close second. 

Even though we had to share, the Peeps tasted just as sweet!  I still remember how the sugar coating crunched just a bit before my teeth sunk into the soft marshmallow center.  Sometimes I would see how long I could suck on one until the sugar coating melted away and I was left with just the marshmallow-y middle.  That of course made them last a little longer!

When my daughter was just over a year old I made her an Easter basket of her own.  I know I over compensated for having to share my Peeps by filling her basket with several boxes in all the colors.  I even made sure her cousins had plenty in their baskets so that she would not have to share with them!  I have great pictures of her in her best Easter dress and little piggy tails enjoying her first Peep... pink of course! 

Now my family has grown, and we have three kids and three baskets to fill.  I like to color coordinate their Peeps with their basket grass.  My daughter gets lavender grass with pink Peeps, my middle son gets green grass with yellow Peeps, and my baby boy will get his first box of blue Peeps atop a pile of yellow grass.  I get excited just thinking about the cute pictures we will take...

One fun thing my parents did was hide the individual Peeps inside plastic eggs.  What a fun surprise during our egg hunt!  The plastic eggs always sounded empty at first, but when you cracked them open, there was a Peep inside! I think I'll try that for my kids this year...

I just asked my ten year old daughter what she thinks of when she thinks of Peeps.  She answered, "a fluffy white piece of heaven covered in pink!"  How's that for being descriptive?

Now I look for Peeps in the stores around every holiday.  We have Peeps at Christmastime and Halloween, but nothing beats the original yellow chick Peeps!  Did you know Peeps has a website with a fun store?  Here's the link:  PEEPSandCOMPANY.com 

What's your favorite Peeps memory?  Do you have a favorite color?  I'd love to hear about it!

Enjoy this exclusive offer for SocialMoms: Use this promo code at checkout - SMSPRING11 for 20% off all of your purchases until 5/4/11!





“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and PEEPS blogging contest, for a chance to get a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” (make sure you link to http://www.socialmoms.com/forum/topics/share-your-favorite-peeps)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fond Family Memories Coca-Cola Style!

I remember summertime in Montana.  It was like stepping back in time.  We spent about 2 weeks there every summer during the 1980’s, but it seemed more like how I pictured the 1950’s.  For me it was like “Happy Days” come to life!  I was only a child, but my parents allowed me to play kickball in the streets until dark (which in Montana summer meant after 10 p.m.)  We were allowed to ride our bikes to the corner store all by ourselves and buy a Coca Cola and some candy.  Some evenings we would even ride our bikes to the movies where only one picture was showing.  There was even a curtain that opened when the movie started.  Half way through the movie, the curtain closed and it was time for intermission.  Of course, that meant a Coke with some popcorn and candy! 
In the center of town there was a large square where people gathered for festivals and celebrations.  A little west of town there was a huge park and picnic grounds with a creek running through it.  We had many family gatherings and my parent’s class reunions there.  A perfect recipe using coke for one of those reunions would be my Coca-Cola Pulled Pork.  It is the easiest recipe I know!  Here it is:
Coca-Cola Pulled Pork Sandwhiches:
3 lbs pork any cut
1 can Coca-Cola
I onion chopped
Barbeque Sauce
Hamburger Buns
Put all ingredients in a crock pot and let cook on low for 8 hours.  Drain juices and set aside.  Pork should shred easily with a fork.  Add juices to gain desired consistency.  Add barbeque sauce to taste.  Serve on buns with a pile of cole slaw on top. 
ENJOY with a can of Coke!
Now that I have kids of my own, I like to continue family traditions.  We travel to Montana as a family about every other year now.  We have a timeshare there where we can enjoy each other without the distractions of everyday life.  We go hiking, play in the creeks, float the river, fish in the lake, and go to the movies.  I love to show them where I played as a kid.  I bring them to the corner store to buy a Coke and some candy.  We have picnics in the park and stay up way too late even though the sun doesn’t tell us so. 
Another  tradition I am passing on to my kids is teaching them to bake.  I was given this Coke Cake recipe years ago, and it has proven to be moist and delicious every time I bake it.  Now that my daughter is ten, I let her make it all on her own.  Here is that recipe:
Coke Cake:
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola®
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift sugar and flour. Add marsh- mallows. In
saucepan, mix butter, oil, cocoa, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry
ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to
batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into a well-greased 9-
by-13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and frost
immediately.
To make frosting, combine butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring to a
boil and pour over confectioners' sugar, blending well. Add vanilla extract and
pecans. Spread over hot cake. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

*The cake recipe was contributed by Lee Avery Catts to "Atlanta Cooknotes"
published by The Junior League of Atlanta.

No matter what the tradition, adding Coke to the mix makes it better!  Whether it be a family picnic, a fishing trip, an afternoon at the movies, a bike ride to the corner store, a class reunion, or a Classic Family recipe… Coke goes with everything good.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Coca-Cola® blogging program. If I am one of the first 100 blogs received by SocialsMoms, I will receive a $25 gift card. For more information on the program, click here." (Make sure you link back to the discussion page:http://familyclassics.socialmoms.com/about)

Monday, April 11, 2011

San Diego Wild Animal Park

A funfilled ending to our Spring Break. 




We visited the Wild Animal Park in San Diego.  We wanted to drag things out as long as possible and stayed until the park closed at 7 p.m.    Highlights of the day included the bird show, the African Tram ride, a bubble magic show, mountain goats, California Condors, Bald Eagles, feeding catfish, taking the stairs instead, and walking, walking, walking!  The best part of the day was when a lorikeet landed on Everest's head and decided to go pee.  Everest was such a good sport, and even let the bird stay there!  We also just loved the Butterfly exhibit.  It was amazing to have them flutter all around and land right on us!  It was another picture perfect day, and we didn't leave one piece of the map unexplored!

White Roses


I find these white rose bushes to be absolutely amazing.  They said hello to me when I pulled into my driveway this morning.  When everything else seemed tired and cranky, they were not.  They didn't seem to mind Monday morning after Spring Break at all. 

The thing I love most about these cheerful flowers is that they need absolutely nothing from me.  They are there purely for my pleasure and enjoyment. 

I love the way they cheer up our plain rectangular Southern Californian home. The house we pay much, much, too much to live in.  These roses remind me of one of the reasons why we do so. They shout to the world, "see what we can do without even trying!" 

That got me thinking of all the things I do everyday without even thinking about it.  Today, thanks to my white roses, I'm going to make sure those things are positive, and simply for the pleasure and enjoyment of others.

~A

Friday, April 8, 2011

Staycation Day #5

Our last day of Staycation is here and we are all sad to go back.  It was hard to pick just one activity today, so I gave the kids one envelope to open with:

Free Choice Friday!
Pick Six:
  • Make cardboard house for our egg carton furniture.
  • Eat raw fish
  • Easter Egg Craft
  • Go to Redbox and rent movies
  • Go to the Park
  • Play a game
  • Get Yogurt
  • Take a Nap
  • Read
  • Go see "Hop" with Daddy
The raw fish thing was supposed to be a joke, but they picked it!  So we are going out for Sushi for dinner.  They also picked Easter egg craft, rent movies, go to the park, see Hop with Daddy, play a game, and get yogurt. 

Pray we have enough time to fit it in! 

Stay tuned for a recap of today and the rest of the weekend! 

We will be busy all day tomorrow with a soccer tournament.  McKinley is playing three games and I am refereeing three games.  I think we are off to San Diego on Sunday, then back to school Monday. 

It has been an amazing trip!  I have to say that I was so pleased with how excited the kids were just to do simple things with us around the house with a few outings.  Nothing we did was over the top, and we spent very little money.  I was always a bit nervous when they opened the envelopes that they wouldn't want to do what I had planned.  But each time I was pleasantly surprised with the smiles and the squeals of excitement.  This is definitely a vacation we will never forget!

Staycation Day #4

Day #4 already!

The thing about a staycation is there is no hotel maid.  Bummer!  So before we opened the first envelope, we had a fast family pick up.  We basically ran around the house and put things where they needed to go.  With the three of us (me, Mc, and Everest) it only took about 20 minutes for this small cozy place.  We made beds, emptied the dishwasher, filled it back up, swept the floor, picked up toys, etc.  Viola! 

While I was busy folding laundry, McKinley was busy in my room.  I went in and found that she had made my bed and left me this note:



Made me cry!


Here's envelope #1:
Lazy Morning!  Let's play Wii, read, build Legos, draw, watch Netflix, spend Itunes giftcards! 
It's hard to believe we need to actually set aside time to do these things.  But with the demands of school (yes, even elementary school), piano, church, and sports activities we barely have time to just "play".  And don't get me started on how long it takes for me to figure out Itunes.... I could never have time for that if it weren't Spring Break!

Lazy morning was a big hit.  McKinley and I figured out her Itunes, and she spent $35 on Justin Beiber songs.  Everest played Wii to his heart's content, and Hagen had a nice nap. 

Envelope #2:

Let's go to the Movies! 

Wimpy Kid 2 was playing just a block away.  We walked down and met our friends there at 1:25 for an afternoon showing.  I took my chances and brought the baby along.  I filled his snack cup with chocolate goldfish and we were set!  The ticket guy did say I could get my money back if we had to leave early.  But we didn't have to leave, in fact, Hagen did remarkably well, and even fell asleep.  I only missed the last 7 minutes or so of the movie. Once the baby discovered he could get out of the stroller and run around, I decided to take him into the lobby to play.

It was a great movie.  The kids loved it, and had fun watching it from the very front row.  The theatre was pretty much empty, but that's where they wanted to sit.  I love watching my kids watch movies.  I love seeing what makes them laugh, and to see which jokes they get, and which ones go over their heads.  Good times!

We ended the day playing with friends and having dinner together at their house.  By the end of the night Hagen was begging at the door to go home so he could go to bed.  The big kids and I watched American Idol results and waited for Daddy to get home from his overnight business trip.

Another perfect day!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Staycation Day #3

Todays activities really stem off of the idea of taking time to do the things we usually do not do.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to Chuck E Cheese's in the 10 years that I have been a parent.  That includes other's birthday parties too!  I just don't care for the place.  The pizza has a lot to be desired, it is usually crowded and I can't keep track of my kids, and the ever dreaded "store" at the end where the kids get to redeem their tickets.  Well, today was different...

Activity #1:  Chuck E. Cheese!

The kids were glowing with excitement!  I have a feeling McKinley is not going to be too thrilled to be included in this type of activity for much longer as she enters her "tweens", so I was happy she wanted to go.


Our timing was perfect.  We showed up at 10 am and ordered our pizza.  I had a coupon for a large pizza, four drinks, and 50 tokens for $19.99.  Who can beat that?  We didn't need a large pizza, or four drinks, but anything less would have cost more.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves.  Chuck E. himself came out and threw tickets in the air for the kids to catch after they danced to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes".  Everest ran in horror, and McKinley stuck with it despite the embarrassment so she could catch some tickets.  Hagen clung to me for dear life as if he didn't know why anyone would dress in such a crazy suit.







We left at noon when the crowds started to swarm in. We all had smiles on our faces, and the kids had their hands full of plastic trash, umm I mean toys to play with.  Hagen fell asleep in the car within minutes.  I'd say it was a hit!



I always love getting my Family Fun magazine (also a Christmas gift).  I flip through the pages and wish I had the time to do some of the crafts with my kids.  Well that's what this staycation is all about, so that's where I got the idea for...

Activity #2:  Let's make miniture furniture out of egg cartons.

I will show the pictures of what we made so far, but this is obviously a work in progress (which makes it all the more fun). 


Colorful Couch

Rainbow Chair, Lamp, and Book

Justin Beiber's Bedroom.

Twin Bed, Desk, Lamp, and Chairs


This project reminded me of when I was younger I would make my own Barbie furniture out of Kleenex boxes.  I just love the idea of showing the kids how to make things out of items we have around the house.  It is a wonderful feeling to be a "re-user" rather than just a "consumer".  And how refresing it was to use the creative parts of our brains!


McKinley and I got so into this that we started creating our own furniture pieces, not just what was in the magazine.  We plan to make the house to put the furniture in too.  Check out this link from Family Fun where we got the idea:

http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/carton-furniture-workshop-1001221/

I have to admit, Hagen and Everest were not as thrilled with this activity as they were with Chuck E. Cheese.  Here's what Hagen did instead...



And Everest spent the afternoon playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii.  But that's okay because this is Spring Break!

We worked well into the evening on the furniture then ended the night with brownie sundaes and American Idol.  Another perfect day!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Staycation Day #2

One of my favorite Christmas presents this past year was a gingerbread house and gingerbread man kit.  It came with a note telling us to enjoy making them together as a family.  Well, we had every intention of doing so, but the business of the Christmas Season took over, and we never had the chance to make them.  That's where I got the idea for:

Envelope #1:  Let's make a gingerbread house and gingerbread man and decorate them for Easter!


Happy Easter!




Boy were the kids excited!  And how fun to be able to spend time making them without feeling rushed or pressured for time.  I think this will be a lasting memory for them!

Envelope #2:  Beach Bike Ride with Daddy!  We will eat dinner somewhere along the way, and then go get some Cold Stone for dessert.


Getting the bikes ready is half the fun, right?


Hagen was unhappy with his helmet, but he was happy once we started moving!



Gotta love patio seating!



What a fun afternoon!  We ended up riding a full 14 miles on our bikes.  We started at Torrance Beach and rode all the way to Dockweiler Beach near LAX.  We stopped at Ruby's in Redondo and ate dinner on the patio.  It was great because we were the only diners there, and Hagen was able to run around while we ate.  To our surprise, when the bill came we discovered that KIDS EAT FREE!  When they asked if we needed parking validation, we proudly told them, "no, we rode our bikes."  Later at home Mark took the kids to get our Cold Stone ice cream.  The night ended with a family game of cards and some laughs.  It was a perfect day!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our Spring Staycation Day #1

We are staying home this Spring Break, and Daddy has to work most days, so we are having our first ever "Staycation!" 

At first I was a little nervous about the whole thing.  But then I decided to make the most of it and use this time to do all those things we never have time for because of homework, activities, or because we are traveling! 

Twice a day the kids will open an envelope to see what fun activity we will enjoy together.

Perhaps the best part of all is I get to Blog again, which I completely had to give up once Hagen started walking.  Well, this week I have two built in babysitters, so I will have a few minutes here and there to type.  Hooray!  On second thought, I'm going to have to make this more of a picture diary of our week....

Activity #1: Let's hike down to Trump Beach and search for rocks.  Pick some nice, flat, round ones to use for our afternoon activity.

Ready to hike down to the beach for some rock hunting!

Hagen with a rock pebble mustache.

Who needs blocks when you have a pile of rocks?



What's a vacation without Jack in the BOX and a slurpee!
 Activity inside envelope #2: Now let's paint the rocks we found!

Back at home on the patio painting our rocks.

It's as if each rock was meant to be something different!

Our masterpieces!

Mommy painted this one...



 

McKinley's hamburger with cheese, lettuce, and pickles followed by her  fried egg.

Here is Everest's very cool ladybug.


The day ended with soccer practice for McKinley and a baseball game for Everest.  At the completion of Day #1, I have to say we were all very tired and very happy.  The kids went to be talking about what might be in tomorrow's envelope!