Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Free Fun Fridays Are A Must This Summer

For years now the Highland Street Foundation has been offering fun exhibits in Massachusetts for free every Friday all summer long. Every year the list of exhibits grow. Last summer we didn't go to any of the free fun Fridays because we were having multiple guests from out of state at multiple different times in the summer. I also have other obligations as I was pregnant with Freya and I agreed to watch my friends' kids while they were at work. This year I have a few places in mind that I really want to go to and I am determined to go this year.

Here is this years list...

In the past we have done the Plimoth Plantation and the Buttonwood Park Zoo. The Plimouth Plantation is on my list to go to this year. I also want to go to Battleship Cove, I haven't been there since I was a child. The Peasbody Essex Museum is on my list so is the House of the Seven Gables. I also want to take the tour on the USS Constitution. 

Let me share with you my experiences at the Free Fun Friday events. First, there was our visit to the Plimouth Plantation. Morrigan and I went with friends. It was pouring rain when we got there but we were determined to go so we waited out the rain until it was only sprinkling. Luckily they sell rain ponchos for this very reason. The trails were muddy and bless her heart, my friend was very pregnant with twins no less and she walked all the way through the muddy trails and everything. 

I've gone to the Plantation as a kid but as an adult it takes on a whole new reality about human endurance and how this land once looked. We first saw the Natives who were farming and making a new hut. We got to go inside the huts and ask questions about their food and clothes. It was amazing to see how well they lived with the land. It was great to show Morrigan an example of how her ancestors lived. I explained to her of course the Cherokee used different techniques, ate different things, and had a different language but there is so little positive Native American images in society that any chance I can get to show her something that will give her a better understanding of Native life I will take it.
The rain stopped by the time we got to the English section of the exhibit. We were able to talk to a few women farming about society in the 17th century. We were able to go into the houses and the people talked about their travels over here and how they had to leave loved ones behind in England. History really came to life and it made much of what was learned more than just a memory but a realization for Morrigan and the adults. There were demonstrations on how guns were used. A man explained to a bunch of children the way a gun was loaded and was fired in the 17th Century. The wonderful thing was how people were in character but explained things so that we, the modern people, could understand. It was a wonderful trip that really makes you feel like you traveled back in time witnessing the past first hand.

Our visit to the Buttonwood Park Zoo was with my family. Both my sister-in-law and I were pregnant so we were very happy to see there was a cafe that sold drinks and food there. The food wasn't too bad actually, its no Chili's or Olive Garden but it had decent food for a cafe in a zoo. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece, Morrigan, Chris, and I walked through the exhibit first and then the two dads took the little girls for a train ride around the zoo. We also put the kids on the carousel which was so fun to see my niece ride on one of her favorite animals, the zebra. The Buttonwood Park Zoo has animals that can be found in the wild in America like deer, canes, fish, toads, owls, and buffalo. There are farm animals like the pigs, goats, cows, bulls, and horses. Also a few exotic animals like the elephants. We really enjoyed the bird of prey, its been a thing since red tailed hawks and broad wing hawks nest in the woods behind my parents house. We could see rather close up a few bald eagles. It was my first time see one so close. Also, Morrigan made a friend out of the black bear. He came right up to the glass like he wanted to talk to Morrigan. She spent some time in front of his enclosure and when she had to leave so did he which disappointed the people that came up behind her. There were a few animals that would just walk around like the cranes and the ducks. The cranes were following my niece and Morrigan through the windows in the cafe. They also made the strangest noise that could be heard through the zoo. It was great fun and definitely worth another visit. I have a pass from the Museum of Science that gets me and a guest in to the Buttonwood Park Zoo anyhow so I will probably do a different Free Fun Friday exhibit on that day but I recommended it for anyone else. I'm considering the Franklin Park Zoo for that day.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Personal Lesson

My lesson for the day: If a recipe sounds too good to be true, it probably tastes like crap!

I learnt this lesson the hard way this afternoon. I was hungry, so hungry I could eat anything, well...almost everything. With my husband working 2 jobs right now we have been low on groceries since we only own one car. I can walk to the corner store if need be, I can walk to the big grocery store if I really feel like walking. But both the baby and I have been sick. Its the kind of sick that makes your whole body feel like your pulling weights behind you. We are both very congested and my asthmatic butt is not walking anywhere far from my nebulizer. So I had to come up with a solution to my rumbling tummy without leaving the house.

My idea came to me on Pinterest. Pinterest has never failed me. However, I have had many Pinterest-fails. This one however, was not my fault. This was a case of having a bad recipe. See, things that are "quick" most of the time aren't tasty. That is why when I find something relatively quick and it actually taste great I put it here. There is a reason why there will be no recipe attached to this post. The recipe I found was for simple sesame noddles. Essentially it is Ramon noodles without all the crazy preservatives. It was great, everything needed I had. The ingredients were noodles/spaghetti, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, pure sesame oil, hot chili oil, canola oil, and green onions. It said it would only take 10 mins which I only had 15 until my eight year old got off the bus. I made this easily and was so happy I found something so easy that doesn't require me to buy extra ingredients I don't usually keep on hand. I made up a bowl of these noodles, I took one bite and spit if back into the bowl. Yuck! It tasted worse then Ramon noodles!

I learnt an important lesson from this experience. Quick food often doesn't taste very well. Put the effort into cooking, it will reflex the quality in the taste.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chow Mein

The Chow Mein....
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 (5.6 oz) packages refrigerated Yaki Soba noodles (found in the produce section of the grocery store)
2/3 c. chopped celery
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and black pepper. Set aside.
Remove Yaki Soba from packages and discard included flavoring packets. Rinse noodles well, drain, and set aside.
Heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add celery and onion and saute for about 1-2 minutes or until onions start to become soft and transparent.
Toss Yaki Soba noodles and soy sauce mixture with the vegetables over medium-high heat for an additional 2-3 minutes or until noodles are heated through.

I love this recipe, its super easy and it has most of the same fresh ingredient as the Orange Chicken. Its easy to prepare the sauces for both the orange chicken and the chow mein to cook later. I will prepare it while the baby is napping at like noon, I'll cover it and put it in the fridge and then cook it at dinner time.I used to put in cabbage but my husband and I have found it better without it. If you choose to just add the cabbage after you saute the celery and onion.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Second Child

I recently read a blog that gave 5 reasons why your second child has it easier. I read it and couldn't disagree more. I realized that my two children, even though my parenting is very much the same, are growing up completely different. Just having the other sibling has an effect on the other one's life so greatly that it makes everything different.

Here are my reasons why my second child has it harder than my first.

Less Mommy time.
This is the biggest give in. The truth is, no matter how much you try to manage your time there will be less mommy time for both children once there is another child in the mix. This is natural, you are only one person after all. But my first child had 100% of my attention which means she never had to cry for anything. I got to her needs before she even knew she needed something. Diaper changes where usually in the middle of her actually doing her business which means I was changing a diaper after I already changed a diaper. I feed her at the first sign of hunger. I watched her sleep in her crib and she spent many hours of her first year sleep on my chest on the couch. Nothing would interrupt me cuddling with my first daughter. Now, I'm lucky I can get through nursing without having to get up for something. There is no quiet day dreaming while a baby cuddles up to me. Its a lot of cleaning up toys, spills in the kitchen from my oldest trying to pour her own drinks, and a rush of the morning routine.

Routine rules now
The daily routine that revolves around my oldest makes my youngest the second priority. There were no routines when my youngest was a baby. She always woke up naturally. I made doctor appointments around her usually nap times and feeding schedules. Life revolved around my oldest daughter's routine. Life still revolves around my oldest's routines and my youngest has to follow this schedule. I have to wake up the baby in order to get my oldest to the bus stop on time. Sometimes I'm also waking her from her nap to get her sister from the bus in the afternoon. I put off nap time for dance class on Saturdays. Doctor appointments are made whenever I can make it work between school bus pick up, drop off, driving distance now that we live in a town with the better school district when we used to live right by the doctor's office. Life is just busy with another child.

Less room.
With more children, you accumulate more stuff. I have my living room jam packed with baby stuff. There is a swing, an exersaucer, a bouncy seat, changing pad, a package of wipes, a small stack of diapers, blankets on every piece of furniture, and a pack'n play in the corner I can unfold if I need it. I had all these things for my oldest, in fact, most of them are my oldest child's. But when it comes to toys my oldest doesn't want to part with many of her stuff animals and even a few baby toys because she is very attached to them. Her glow worm for instance, was one of her lovelies growing up. She wants to save it for her children and doesn't want her sister chewing it anymore than it already is. I get that, I'm the oldest in my family as well. Though I parted with things, there are some things that are just "sacred". But this means more stuff of my oldest daughter's in my second bedroom, the one that eventually both girls will share, an little room for my youngest daughter to have. My youngest is spread out between three rooms. She has one toy box in the second bedroom, one toy bin in the living room, and a few toys in a basket in my room along with her crib, and a few other items. Her clothes are in a dresser in the second bedroom but her sheets and blankets are in my bedroom and her bibs are in the kitchen. My youngest daughter really has no place of her own.

Hand me downs
Even with the large gap between my two children, the majority of my youngest daughter's things are hand-me-downs. Everything from clothes, to nursery items, to toys are passed down from big sis. Few things have been bought for my youngest which brings me to my last point.

Lack of quality
Hand-me-downs are only a part of my youngest daughter's wardrobe. The rest is bought at stores like Walmart and Target at the lowest price. My oldest daughter got beautiful clothes. I went through this phase of buying nothing but classic Winnie the Pooh items, then it was Disney Princesses. Everything was pink and pretty. With my youngest, its whatever was the least expensive. Her baby bathtub is ugly and doesn't have the sprayer attachment like her sister's had. Her infant car seat doesn't match the stroller (which also matches the swing and highchair. Yup, its all from big sis). Her bowls and bibs are cheap solid colored nothing special when big sis got everything Princess from the Disney store. Children are expensive and with each one added to the list, the less money you have.

It can be tough being the second child, though it can be true for the oldest as well. It can tough being the pet when a new baby comes along. I think the phrase "the grass is always greener." applies here. I would love to revist this topic when both kids are older. Time might just change how things are done around here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Orange Chicken

One of my favorite things to make is orange chicken. Its a great recipe and paired with chow mein (for the recipe click here) it has many of the ingredients which cuts down on your grocery shopping for this dinner.

Orange Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
white pepper
oil (for frying)
1/2 cup cornstarch, plus
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red chili pepper
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon rice wine
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Orange Sauce for Stir Fry:
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons white vinegar
1 orange, zest of
It is easier to prepare the orange sauce first. Put soy sauce, water, sugar, white vinegar, and orange zest in a bowl. Whisk it up and set aside. In a large bowl stir together egg, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the oil and mix well. Stir cornstarch and flour together. Mix flour mixture and egg mixture. Add chicken pieces, stirring to coat. Heat oil for deep-frying in wok or deep-fryer to 375 degrees. Add chicken, small batches at a time, and fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden crisp. (Do not overcook chicken). Remove chicken from oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; set aside.
Clean wok and heat 15 seconds over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant; about 10 seconds. Add and stir-fry crushed chiles and green onions. Add rice wine and stir 3 seconds. Add Orange Sauce and bring to boil. Add cooked chicken, stirring until well mixed. Stir water into remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth and add to chicken. Heat until sauce is thickened. Stir in sesame oil last minute. Take off heat and serve over rice.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mother's Day gift Ideas

Mother's Day is fast approaching! Here are a few gift ideas....

Alex and Ani

I can't get enough of these bracelets! I not only enjoy getting these bracelets, I enjoy giving them. They are a perfect gift for any woman, a collector or not. You can also buy Alex and Ani at most The Paper Store.

Lisa Leonard Design

Continuing on the idea that mom might like some jewelry, there are these custom jewelry that cute and fun and not pricey. Don't forget to sign up for their newsletter and get 15% off!

Some moms just want to relax on Mother's Day. So what better gift than a nice soothing bath with one of Lush's bath bombs and soaps. There are many gift packages to choose from or pick a few out yourself and put them in a nice gift bag. 

Sometime mom would rather indulge in something delicious for mother's day. Forget boring box of chocolates, you can't eat flowers but you can buy mom a beautiful edible arrangement.

Hope some of these ideas help you this Mother's Day!

Moby Wrap

When I found out I was pregnant with Freya I was watching two year old twins. In warm weather I enjoyed taking the twins out for walks in their stroller. I also took them to Morrigan's bus stop in their stroller. How was I going to take the twins and an infant to the bus stop? I was trying to come up with a solution when my husband told me he had the option to get a Moby wrap for free. Since it was for free I took it. A wrap would allow me to carry Freya and have my hands free to push the twins in their stroller.

Before I had a Moby wrap, I honestly thought these wraps were far too much work. I also worried about the safety of basically tying a baby to you. But once I got my Moby wrap and tried it out a few times with a doll, it completely changed my opinion. Luckily, Moby wrap doesn't only offer a guide in with the wrap but there is a YouTube channel that actually shows you how to tie the wrap. The wrap is very easy to tie and its very secure. You may have to try it out a few times to learn how to tie the wrap to fit you and baby the best.  I have a long torso so I had to bring up the wrap on my stomach a bit higher than the instructions indicated. The first time I put Freya into the wrap she was far too low. She was face first in my boobs. The instructions are simple enough that it was only logical for me to start higher up on my stomach.
Fair warning though, if you have a baby that runs hot like mine only put them in either light clothing or even just a onie. My poor babes was cranky and sweaty the first time I wore her in the wrap. I had to take her out, which is a lot easier than you think, strip her done to a onie, and put her back in and she was fine after that.

The wrap has also been helpful while breastfeeding. If you are considering to babywear with a wrap, which I now can recommend. I have used my wrap when I was out as a cover. I even wear Freya around the house so I can do house work during Freya's cranky times. Sometimes a baby just needs to be close to Mommy and sometimes Mommy has to do things at that moment. My Moby wrap has been a life saver in those moments.
There are two different wrapping methods, folding and gathering. I have learnt from the Moby YouTube channel two holds. One being the newborn hug hold and then the hug hold for the 3 months and older. Freya didn't like the newborn hold as she has always hated being swaddled. But once she was of age I tied it so her legs could dangle in the 3 months wrap she was fine. 

So, if you have been on the fence about these wraps I can say I was skeptical at first but really these wraps are great. Here are some videos instructing you how to tie a Moby Wrap.

Moby Wrap gathered 

Moby Wrap folded

Newborn Hug Hold

Kangaroo Hold

3 Month + Hug Hold

Moby Safety Check

This is not from Moby Wrap but a good video to show another newborn hold, the cradle hold.

This is also not a Moby Wrap video but this is the best instructions on hold to use the Moby wrap during nursing.

For those with Twins, this too is not a Moby but I thought I should include a wrap hold for twins.

I personally do the folded wrapping and I have used the Newborn hug hold and the regular hug hold. I have not used kangaroo hold. My advice is to try a hold a few times with a doll or a stuffed animal with legs. Pretend its your baby so you can feel what it is like to have to support a baby while putting them into the hold. 

Freya had a strong preference on what side she liked to put her head on me. She only would rest her head on my left shoulder. So I would pull my left side in first, it would be the side closest to my body. Also you can tuck in things into the side of the wrap, which I never thought of until I watched Making Life Simple, Check her out here: She also made the great suggestion to put your wrap on at home. Not only does this prevent you from dragging the wrap on the ground, yuck! It also works great for those of us in New England and other colder areas to make a quick exit from the car. Where the Moby is so warm for you and baby so not only will baby be dressed lightly but so will you. On a cold day that you can't avoid the grocery store with baby in tow you are going to want the wrap on already so you are not standing there without a jacket in the cold shaking cold trying to wrap the Moby.

Moby Wraps are not the best fabric but compared to other wraps that can cost you over a hundred dollars, Moby Wrap is only $39.99 typically at Target and does the job just fine. Hope this little review helps those on the fence about using wraps and especially those looking into buying the Moby Wrap.

Happy wrapping!