Breakfast in a Glass

By: Danielle McFadden 

Looking for a quick healthy breakfast? Why not try a delicious, yet versatile, smoothie?

No Moms, this is not an infomercial. 

At the beginning of November I purchased a Nutribullet and I’m proud to say that I’ve used it almost every day. (I am known for buying gadgets, using them once and then forgetting about them.) It even comes with me on weekend trips to Maine! It’s helped me lose over 10 pounds and kept my weight stable over the holidays despite my overindulging.

Needless to say, I love the Nutribullet! There’s something extremely satisfying about knowing I drank fruits and veggies for breakfast.

Here’s how I make my smoothies:

-Start with spinach, kale, or mixed greens (spinach is mild and the perfect green to start with)
-Add a small banana to make the smoothie creamy
-Add some frozen fruit like strawberries, mangos and/or pineapple to ensure that your drink is chilled without adding ice
-Pour in some water
-Top it off with chia seeds

Bam! you have yourself a nutritious meal in a glass! You can even make smoothies with your kids and trick them into drinking their fruits and veggies for the day.

Breakfast in a Glass


Healthy Gummy Fruit Snacks Your Kids Will Adore!

By: Michaelene Koskela

My daughter loves the pre-packaged Gummy snacks. These snacks can contain between 8-22 grams of sugar and a negligible amount of fruit.

My quest was to find a healthier alternative; Google search offer many choices through trial and error (and tasting) we have settled on an amazingly versatile, fool proof and mostly 4 year old kid friendly favorite. Recently we made Cherry/Strawberry.

Ingredients:

1 C Frozen or Fresh Organic Strawberries

1 C Frozen or Fresh Organic Cherries

¾ C Organic Pure White Grape Juice (without added sugar)

¼ C Organic Lemon or Lime Juice

5 Tb Unflavored Gelatin you may substitute Pectin (Gluten-Free) or Agar-Agar (Vegan)

1 Tb Coconut Sugar you may also use Honey or Maple Syrup

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Other items you will need:

Coconut oil spray, shallow tart pan or gelatin dish, hand blender or vitamix. Optional chocolate molds, silicon jello shaped trays, mini cookie cutters, medicine dropper.

Combine whole fruit with juice and Coconut sugar in a sauce pan on low to medium heat. Stir until dissolved and fruit is soft. Let cool about 5 minutes then stir in gelatin one tablespoon at a time. Transfer all into blender and puree. Spray molds and pan with coconut oil, if using an intricate chocolate mold wipe gently with a paper towel to remove excess oil, pour into prepared dishes a medicine dropper is helpful to fill the smaller molds.  Refrigerate 30-35 minutes

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You can either use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes or the fastest is to just cut cubes.

You can use any combination of fresh or frozen fruit. The ratio is 2C Fruit, 1 C Juice, 5 Tb Gelatin, 1-2 Tb Sweetener.  My daughter loves making these as you see in the photo, adult supervision is needed for the stove top portion.  Other tried fruit combinations; Blueberry/Strawberry with Cranberry Juice, Strawberry with Fresh Squeezed Orange juice and Strawberry/Banana and Peach.

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Be certain to store refrigerated in air tight containers.


The Boots

By: Amy Dienta 

My son started wearing spider man boots after a snow storm and it quickly grew to wearing them every day. Even as the boots began falling apart he still wouldn’t take them off. But now it’s March and the stores don’t sell winter boots anymore. So we went to Payless and he fell in love with red rubber “Cars” rain boots. I mean fell in love with them as in never takes them off ever. As in fall asleep with them on, wakes up, goes to school with them on!pic.jpg

He hardly talks, but if you try and put some other shoes on, you better be prepared for the cars boots cry!!

I have tried everything to get him to wear something else. I have begged and pleaded. I bought cars shoes, the same shoes as daddy, and light up shoes, but nothing compares to the boots.

One day I couldn’t find one of the rain boots and we were now running late thanks to looking for it. I had to carry him to the car as he wouldn’t leave with out his boots. It was that day I decided he wore his sneakers for one day and lived, and it was time to take the rain boots away. Immediately I felt guilty! How could I take something he loved so much away? Something that made him Omar?! When I picked him up I gave the boots back and bought a backup pair the next size up.

Ladies and gentleman I hate to inform you that my child will be wearing red rubber cars rain boots until he decides that he’s had enough. He may be 29 when he’s had enough of them, but the boots are his personality and quirks coming through. These little things make him special and that’s what I love about him!!


Mommy needs friends too!

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

As I sit back and go through all the activities I accomplished throughout today I noticed there was nothing that stood out. I was missing something important. Friends. Yes, I am married to my husband. Yes, they say your spouse is your best friend. But before we where married and had children I had other friends. Once my children started coming along my friends started dropping like flies. I noticed slightly, but I still plugged on with my life. My life was my family and I was quite content with that for years. It was my family and only my family. It wasn’t until my children started making friends that I realized, “Man, I used to do that.”

I miss the adult conversation and the relaxed feeling of not caring. And laughing! It had been so long since I had to remake friends. I think I literally forgot how to.

I was so happy when another mom at the bus stop started to talk to me. Our daughters went to the same school and were becoming friends. Our friendship started to grow over the school year. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed I had gained an awesome new best friend. She was someone I could text and vent to and share my fears and joys with. We had started planning gym times together and doing errands together. It was almost like we were planning our own “play dates,” so to speak. Next came a girls weekend away!  Time away from our families and responsibilities to recharge from our everyday life.

So yes, kids, sometimes mommy needs a break and a friend. Her very own play date! Whether it’s a glass of wine and conversation, a gym buddy, or just the kids playing together and talking to another adult, it’s nice to have a friend!


Leaving On A Jet Plane

By: Sue Anganes 

Yes, I’m leaving. I’m leaving all the kids behind! My husband travels all over the country for his job and this week I’m going with him to Oklahoma City! My second eldest daughter still lives at home and is on spring break from college and volunteered to take over as “mom” while I am away. She has graciously given up her vacation to allow me to have one.flying1

I really haven’t flown anywhere for many years- with the exception of traveling back and forth to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD, for my boys’ medical care. Those flights were stressful with luggage and wheelchairs, not to mention dealing with medical side effects from treatments and tests. This time I’m packing the bare necessities and taking off!

Since this is technically a business trip, my husband will still be working twelve hour days while we are in Oklahoma, so I will be off on my own every day. We will be staying in the Bricktown section of the city and almost everything will be in walking distance for me. I’ve already mapped out the museums, botanical gardens, and memorials that I want to see. I’ve also downloaded books onto my iPad so I can spend time reading in coffee shops. I am anticipating the warm weather and excited to exchange my snow boot for sneakers.

The solitude will be something very different for me. Our home is never without someone around, and with my two grandchildren living next door who often keep me company, I am never alone. I am welcoming the time to think and read and move at my own pace. I won’t have to cook or clean or run errands. I am so thankful to have this chance to get away. After thirty years of being a mom, it’s about time!


Mason Jar Salads

By: Danielle McFadden 

Mason Jar SaladsThis year I made a New Year’s Resolution to bring my lunch work. The reason for this was three-fold: 1. to eat healthier and have more control of what I put into my body 2. to save money and 3. to plan ahead when I go grocery shopping to reduce the amount of food that goes bad on my counter and in my fridge. I am proud to say that aside from a couple of lunch meetings in 2015, I have not ordered food for lunch! It’s such a great feeling to make a resolution and stick with it.

One thing that I can attribute my success to is mason jar salads. I have been seeing a lot about them on Pinterest and Instagram so I decided to give it a try. I bought a 12 pack of 32 ounce mason jars (I tend to do things in an extreme way) and made my shopping list for a week’s worth of salads. Then on Sunday night I got to work preparing the salads for the week!

The beautiful thing about a great salad is that you can make different combinations so that every day you really feel like you’re eating something new and exciting. My favorite combo? Light Italian dressing, tomatoes, beets, chickpeas, black beans, red peppers, cucumber, chives and lettuce (layered in this order).

Tips:

-Layer the ingredients in order from wet to dry

-When you’re ready to eat your salad just shake the jar when the lid is still on to mix your ingredients

-You don’t have to use a lot of dressing!

Bonus: Make your salads on Sunday and then stay fresh the entire week!

Busy Moms rejoice!


Winter Breakaway!

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

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With the winter that seems to never end, we are all looking for ways to be creative and have some fun! We found it with a weekend trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg. We excitedly made our reservations for a surprise getaway with the kids. In an effort to keep it a surprise, we packed while they were asleep so they wouldn’t catch on! We left after school on a Friday and we were off to, as the kids put it, “the greatest adventure EVER!”

We pulled in the driveway of the lodge and they went crazy with excitement when they realized where we were. They couldn’t wait to get out of the truck and hit the pool; I actually think they were out of the truck before we even stopped! After checking in we walked to our room way at the end of lodge. We had to walk past the pool areas and the kids were dying to get in there!

We entered out room and that set off another round of delightful squeals as they saw they were going to be sleeping in a “tree trunk.” They had bunk beds in a small alcove of the room where it was decorated to look like the inside of a tree. The room was very spacious, which was a good thing since we’d all be sharing the room for 3 days.

With the kids already in their suits (never have they changes so quick before!) we were trying quickly settle in and get organized so we could get down to the pool.  That’s when we noticed the chewed up food on the couch and floor- it was 4:30 pm so the room should’ve been well cleaned at this point. As we went through the room we noticed more issues- the kids room was missing their TV remote, one bed was missing sheets, room safe wasn’t working properly. We got all of these issues taken care of promptly, but I found myself wondering, “What’s next?” It soon became apparent as to what was next, we purchased souvenir tumblers at $15.00 a piece, which we were told you could refill at any of the 3 Coke kiosks through out the lodge. However, every one we tried to use throughout our 3-day stay was ALWAYS empty. We would tell staff and were dismissed with “I’ll get to it later.”

Now, getting back to the pool area. We arrived to the pool and kids were quickly on their way to the wave pool, where they stayed for over an hour. We decided to go to the Pub restaurant in the lodge for dinner. Unfortunately, our waitress was excessively rude, bringing wrong drink and food orders and becoming exasperated when we said anything. Yes, I do believe that your tip reflects your service. We tip generously for great service, but service liked this warranted a note explaining why there was no tip, especially considering the restaurant wasn’t even busy at this time. When we left I found a hotel manager and explained the situation as to why there was no tip left and the rest of the stuff that had happened to us up to this point. This woman was terrific! She was kind, empathetic and very understanding to what had happened to us. She gave us vouchers for free breakfast at the buffet, which was great, and gave us a voucher for the gift shop to, as she said, “get those two little cuties a cool surprise.”

We spent the next day in the pool areas where everyone enjoyed riding the water slides, jumping in the waves, and playing all the different obstacles. My kids are total water babies so they were in heaven! That night we decided to try out the lodge’s pizza shop, and it was excellent! After dinner we joined in on a bingo game and then Matthew and Kelsie danced the night away (okay, 9pm) in the kids’ dance club. As we strolled back to our room, we passed through the arcade, which the kids decided would be their next day’s adventure. Kelsie made sure to add AFTER we spend the day in the pools. They were up early and ready to go before pool areas even opened. I barely had an eye open and my husband was still snoring away (we made the mistake of thinking this could be a getaway for us, too) when the kids were already begging to get out of the room!

When we left the room we decided to check out the high ropes course outside our door. Both the kids tried it, but Matthew decided heights were not his thing and needed to be rescued by staff member. Kelsie sailed through the course and wanted to do it again and again. After the day’s adventures and dinner (lunches were from their little snack shops that sell the typical chicken fingers, fries, soft pretzels, etc.) We did the game time and listened to story time then we were off to the arcade area. The kids had a blast playing EVERY game. We finally got back to room and they were out within 10 minutes. We checked out the next morning and loaded up the truck, but were able to still enjoy the pool for several more hours. Once we were dry and changed, we got in the truck and headed for home. The whole ride all the kids could talk about how much fun they had and how excited they were to get to school the next day and tell their friends all about their winter breakaway!

These are the memories I know they will carry with them forever and talk about as adults. I love knowing we are giving them great memories to treasure and look back on fondly. Until next blog, make a lasting lifetime memory not just for your children but you also, take care, Val!


What we learned from adopting a pet from a shelter

By: Michaelene Koskela

When your family makes a decision to add a pet to your family please consider looking into adoption. Statics say that every eight seconds in the United States an unwanted cat or dog is euthanized.  This number is staggering and absolutely heart breaking. Because of this our family wanted to do our small part to help.

Find and support organizations that promote a spay and neuter policy, if possible shelters that are no-kill. Many shelters will transport cats and dogs from areas known to have higher abandoned pet populations or recent national disasters.  When meeting a potential future pet for the first time bring a list of questions to make certain the pet is a perfect fit for your home. Many of the pets have been fostered so the temperament is well documented. If possible, all family members that will reside in the same household should be included in the adoption process. Here are a few questions we asked. “When was he/she last vetted?” “How well does the animal get along with other cats/dogs or children?” “Does the pet require a special diet or medications?” “What is the known background?” “Did the animal display any anxiety or fears? (a running vacuum, car rides, musical instruments etc.) Your circumstances and questions should reflect your needs, the shelter will also have a 3-4 page questionnaire they will have you complete.IMG_20150303_115904

We attended and took home a 4 year old domestic short haired male cat from a local adoption event. Our stray had been found living on the Roxbury streets we named him Cosmo.  From the moment he sauntered into our lives he has filled our hearts with so much joy. Through our experience we learned.

1. We saved two lives- his life and the spot he left open for the next cat to be saved.
2. Our cat loves to cuddle and be near us. He is very calm and relaxed with a 4 year old.
3. Cats do not need to be housebroken. They bath themselves and figure out the location of a litter box. No late night potty walks in the cold or snow.
4. Cosmo came with an identification collar and a microchip and will be a house cat. He loves sitting by the window and watching the bird feeder and squirrels.
5. Cosmo was neutered, had dental work, vaccines and had been fully vetted before we adopted him. We plan to take him to our family vet for a base line and an initial introduction next week. Not all shelters have the benefits of vet resources -plan to have your new pet seen shortly after you take him/her home.
6. Adopting is not free. The fee is minimal compared to the cost the shelters incur to treat, feed, foster or transport. Your fee more likely does not even cover the cost of the first vaccinations. Most will only take cash or checks.
7. A cleaner house! WHAT how is that possible? After losing our dog Tootsie, I had gotten into a routine of not making beds or leaving out my daughters left over snacks.  With cats they will jump on anything including beds and sinks.  Food is tossed and beds are back to being made every day, no one wants cat hair in their sheets, nor do I want to give the cat a reason to jump onto the counters.
8. Cats are independent and do not need constant attention much like a new puppy or dog would require adjusting to a home.
9. Owning an animal is a great responsibility and teaches your children empathy. Having a pet also has been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. When you pet an animal it’s proven that it’s calming as well as releases feel good endorphins.
10. Your pet is grateful. Cosmo is still scoping us out and taking things in stride. We are committed to caring for him and providing a great life. We have found a good match for our family and a future fur best friend for our daughter.