2.27.2014

Netflix Movies to Help Our Kids Go For Gold Lead Us to New Family Classics


Our kids are still a little young for watching sports. W is just now becoming interested in sports - mostly asking which color uniforms we're rooting for and who are the good guys or the bad guys. We wanted the kids to get into the Olympics. It's hard for a five year old to grasp how special the Olympics really are -- especially a kid who hasn't really gotten in touch with his athletic side.

Have I mentioned that I am part of the Netflix Stream Team? Every month I'll be participating with a post inspired by Netflix. I thought this month would hard... The Olympics. And when the watching got tough with the kids, I took a look at the movies Netflix recommended for little ones...

1. Super WHY!: The Tortoise and the Hare
2. Curious George: George Gets a Trophy
3. Bob the Builder: The Bobblesberg Winter Games
4. Angelina Ballerina: In the Wings
5. Caillou: Caillou Gets Active


The idea is these movies will help kids get ready for gold. These movies are right in our wheel house... Super WHY!, Curious George, and Caillou are still hot characters for us Hannemaniacs. W is starting to grow out of them a bit, but B is just starting to love them.

So, after these I checked the list of 15 movies that Netflix recommended for the older kids and found Air Bud: World Pup, Air Bud: Seventh Inning Stretch, and Air Bud Spikes Back. I wasn't sure if the kids were quite ready for them, but was introduced to Air Buddies. And - hello, new family favorite. That's probably my favorite thing about Netflix... For years I have relied on it for recommending or leading me to movies I would not have otherwise found. I've been a Netflix member since 2005, so there are hundreds of movies we have found - mostly independent and foreign movies pre-kids - through Netflix. First through the website and now mostly through streaming.

Now we're finding some family favorites that same way... Like Air Buddies.



What's your favorite movie to help kids get ready for gold?

2.24.2014

Homemade Oatmeal Bars: I'm Obsessed

I'm obsessed with these homemade oatmeal bars. It was one of those... Hmmm, how can I make an oatmeal snack that everyone will love and can be made with stuff that is already in the pantry? A quick google search and I found this recipe as a starting point.

My variation on KathEats's recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
Mix all the dry ingredients and set aside. Whisk the eggs and add the milk, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the wet to the dry ingredients. It will look like this:
Don't be afraid if it seems too watery. It's all good.

Pour into a baking dish that is well sprayed or lined with parchment (I would suggest the latter). Bake for 40 minutes. I would suggest sprinkling the top with a bit of sugar and cinnamon and then broiling for a couple minutes as they're finishing for a nice sweet, caramelized top for a little sweetness.

With these the combinations are totally endless. I literally opened my cabinet and just used what I had in there. They're all gone. And I can't wait to make another batch tomorrow. Seriously, everyone loved them. What do you have in your cabinet to throw into these bars?

2.18.2014

Total Body Rapid Cleanse(d)

To kick off 2014 Matt and I decided we needed a good kick-in-the-ass detox. After our way overly-indulgent holidays (can you say Rumchata?) we just needed a reset. I had no idea what exact cleanse we should us and then found this box at Whole Foods - seven days, on sale. Boom. I bought two.

Then I got home and decided to do a little research (typical me - buy first, research later) and couldn't find a ton of stuff online. So, maybe this little overview might help other people doing the same research or YOU if you need the same kick-in-the-ass that we did. The reality is the idea of a cleanse can be a tad bit intimidating. Could be the horror stories of starvation, sweating out years of toxins, or the need to be within 10 feet of a bathroom at all times... Or just the idea of restricting your diet for a week can be scary. I agree - all very scary.

We wanted something tame. The thought of being stuck in the house, potentially uncomfortable commutes, and detox side effects, was kind of daunting. We didn't want to spend a lot of money. We didn't want to have to make smoothies every day... during the coldest winter in the history of the world.

So, this kit fit the bill and I stocked up on fruits and veggies. We got started on a Monday. Most days were ok. Sure, we were hungry, but we weren't ripping each other's heads off hungry... Until Thursday when we were both seeing a little red and starting to lose our will to continue (especially Matt), so we threw in a handful of almonds, which actually helped. Protein makes everything better. A cocktail with those nuts would have also made everything better, but that would have pretty much killed the detox. Ho hum.

Honestly, though, it really was not that difficult to stick to the diet of fruits and vegetables. We each had at least one avocado a day - usually sprinkled with salt for breakfast - and it was pretty awesome. Also, there is a lot you can do with vegetables, so I tried to get creative with salads and roasted lots of veggies for flavor.

The detox includes pills and a drink twice a day. They didn't mess with our stomachs, weren't a pain to swallow or make us feel off at all. If anything, my biggest complaint was the taste of the drink. Blech. But, it was only twice a day and those skills I learned in college came in handy... We thoroughly enjoyed our twice daily chugging contests, says the reigning champ (me).

So, yeah, not bad... And then there are the results...

How did we feel? Totally awesome. Seriously. No inflammation. Well hydrated. More energy. Skin was clear. Our bodies just felt like they were working efficiently and felt like what I imagine a car feels like after an oil change. A lot of the symptoms that made a doctor think I had celiac last year went away completely.

Did we lose weight? Matt lost 10 pounds. I lost 6 pounds. While most of this was water weight, it has been a month and we've both kept it off.

Would we do it again? Absolutely. We actually plan to do this every few months as a good check in for our systems. I'm seriously excited to do it again.

What did we learn? If you asked me how well our family eats, I would happily brag about it. But, you know what? I'm a total liar? My kids eat awesome. Matt and I get what's left. Since the kids loves fruits and veggies, we often don't get many. So, I wrote a post on it for Chicago Parent. Now, hop on over there and read it. It might just make you reconsider what's on your own plate.

Note: I have no relationship with this company. I did not receive any compensation for this post, nor did I receive complimentary product.

2.17.2014

You Gotta Try This #StonyfieldGreek Smoothie

I usually eat a lot of Greek yogurt. It's been my go-to for the last couple of years and in my busiest days I can easily eat it for two meals. My kids also love yogurt, but I can't convince W to eat Greek yogurt for some reason. The other two love it and my guess W doesn't because I've been pushing it on him so much. And why wouldn't I?

Did you know that Stonyfield makes Greek yogurt in 13 different varieties? And they just perfected the recipe, so they found a way to make it even better, as well as introduce new flavoes like black cherry and cafe latte (the hands down personal favorite in our house so far).

Anyway, in my attempts to get W to eat Greek yogurt I put it in a smoothie and suddenly it was delicious.

I just went through the freezer and fridge and used what was on hand: frozen bananas, frozen blueberries from the summer, and a handful of kale.



I threw it all in the blender with Stonyfield Organic Greek Blueberry yogurt and a little almond milk.


And - BINGO - W unknowingly ate and enjoyed Greek yogurt.

Even better, I've been eating cleaner since our cleanse (more on that tomorrow) and was reminded how much I enjoy smoothies and can continue to get more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I've added some chocolate protein powder to mine... Which I bought six months ago when I vowed to get back in shape. But, then life got in the way.

So, now it's time for me to get back on the wagon - especially since we're going on vacation at the end of May. My plan: a mix of running, core power yoga, and the occasional P90X in the basement... Now just to find the time.

Disclosure: I am a Stonyfield Yo-Getter and received complimentary product.

2.16.2014

Prayers For The Stolen: A Reminder of What Can Happen Anywhere

It felt like not too long ago that I was a mom of boys... Honestly, before I had A I was afraid of having a girl. I wrote about it when reading another From Left To Write pick. Funny, I was writing about it as hypothetical thing then... IF I have a girl. Why I was afraid of what that COULD mean. And then it happened. And a year and a half later I'm still unsettled about what the world can do to a female.

Bringing a girl into the world is a beautiful thing. People ask me all the time whether it feels different from having boys. It does, but it doesn't. The biggest difference is the concern I feel for her future.  I know that boys aren't guaranteed safety, but females are more vulnerable in this world. Period. And that scares me for A. She is more vulnerable physically. More likely to be objectified. Faces more pressure in very different ways.

Reading Prayers for the Stolen just reminded me of that reality. It feels silly to show concern as I type this from my cozy, safe suburban couch after reading about what the women in the book face in trying to keep their daughters safe. A very real life for far too many young girls in this world, I thought. 

So, while I sat here feeling all cozy I wondered just how safe we are here. It's easy to think that human trafficking is one of those issues that isn't that big of a deal for our children in the U.S. We all know that there is human trafficking in the U.S., but what's the reality?

Turns out Illinois is one of the least safe states. According to the Polaris Project, the top five states for human trafficking are:
1. California
2. Texas
3. Florida
4. New York
5. Illinois

So, who is at risk? According to The Covering House, 300,000 children are at risk for being trafficked in the U.S. That's just children.

All too often we feel like things aren't happening here, but they are... And, trust me, I know that there is no comparison to the real, daily threat that millions of people face every day in other areas of the world. And I also know that the real threat is based on many other factors. However, that's not my point. My point is: We're all at risk if any one in the world is at risk.


This post was inspired by the novel Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement.  Ladydi was grew up in rural Mexico, where being a girl is a dangerous thing.She and other girls were “made ugly” to keep protect them from drug traffickers and criminal groups. Join From Left to Write on February 18 we discuss Prayers for the Stolen. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

2.05.2014

I Miss Reading

Man, being a parent can be a real time suck. Everything that I used to do with my time is pretty much no longer an option now that I have three human beings under the age of five totally reliant on me. All day is spent tending to their needs, running them around, or working. Then I put them to bed and clean the house/do the laundry/look through mail/fold the laundry/prepare stuff for tomorrow and hope one of them doesn't fight sleep. Every now and then I catch dinner with a friend or have a meeting. If we try to watch any tv or a movie we're automatically up way past when we should and then end up cranky the next day.

Like right now, I know I should be going to bed, but it's the only opportunity I have to cross this one thing off my list... So, I'll be tired in the morning. Like the day. I was totally exhausted because I just so desperately needed to read.

I got into bed at 10 pm, which is my goal bedtime (but early for me) with the intention of working on a book I could not get out of my head. I opened A Well-Tempered Heart and then what I thought was about 30 minutes later... checked the clock to see how many more pages I could read... 11:40. So, I got to a stopping point and went to bed. I don't know the last time I've spent nearly two hours reading.

Of everything I miss from my child-free days it's the ability to close a book knowing I'll get back to it in the morning, knowing I can take a weekend afternoon to devote myself to reading. Now I'm never so sure. But, this book was one I just couldn't say no to.

This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.