When Fall Gives You Apples, Make Apple Cider!

You know the old saying when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but what about when the fall gives you apples? You make apple cider of course!

And that’s just what we did. Well, ok we didn’t exactly make it from scratch, but I would like to try that ONE of these days (like a thousand  other things I’d like to try!).  Every year, the kids & I set up a lemonade stand at the end of the summer when everyone is back in town, usually just after school starts. It gives them something fun to look forward to and it prolongs our summer vibes. This start of the school year was particularly busy so by the time we found a weekend to have our Last Licks Lemonade Stand, it was quite chilly! That’s when we dreamt up our apple cider stand.

Thanks to some of my fave spots, Party City & Target, I was able to put some super cute items together and make it look like our very own farm stand. Maybe  I’m exaggerating just a bit,  but it did turn out really cute and autumn- esque. I found the cute little wagon at Target for under $15 and picked up the hay at Party City. I love how perfectly the hay bale fit into the wagon like it was meant to be. Love those inspired decorated moments. They don’t always come so when they do, I really appreciate it especially as there was so little time to pull this all together in a day.

We had our beverage dispenser already from Amazon and decided to just keep the cider at room temp. Everyone was happy with that and we didn’t have to worry about anyone burning themselves. Next year we might get fancy and put some cider in a large insulated pot or thermos. You can always do that if you prefer to serve it warm. I found the cutest little fake painted pumpkins at Target, the festive fall leaf napkins and baggies at Party City along with some cups and paper straws inspired by the colors of fall. We already had the cream tablecloth from Party City from last year.  We put it all out on our tried & true Ikea little kids table and brought down the chairs for when the little workers need a break. Did I mention they take them often, cider and donuts included!?

If you know me by now, I can’t miss an opportunity to dress them in this cute theme. My daughter’s dress and cute brown boots are from Primark and her hat is from Target. The whole outfit is under $50!  My son’s pullover is from H&M. And me? I have on an old sweater and boots. It’s all about them!

My little ones always help to make the sign themselves and we printed up a sign to let friends nd neighbors know half of the proceeds will go to a charity we chose. We always match the amount as well. We choose a new one every year. Most years, it’s one for children because children helping children. What’s sweeter and kinder than that? I take the other half of the proceeds and pay my kiddos for their hard work (and for not eating ALL of the donuts!) and they love the feeling of earning money for themselves.  It’s a fun family activity, we raise money for a children’s charity, we get so see so many of our wonderful friends and neighbors, and they earn money to buy something special for themselves. It’s a no-brainer and a win win all around!

I really recommend trying one if you haven’t already, whether it be lemonade & cookies, apple cider & donuts, or maybe even hot cocoa and Santa cookies! We may just have to try a hot chocolate stand this winter ourselves. You can put a cute, fun stand together in a short time if you hit the right stores and keep it sweet (and cute of course) but simple. If you try it, come back and let me know! I’d love to see some of your pics too. Happy fall friends!

Garden Party Cupcakes- Bugs & Butterflies

With spring in full bloom and summer around the bend, thought it would be a great time to share how to make these adorable ladybug and butterfly cupcakes (inspired by Martha Stewart), for an upcoming celebration, be it a garden, kid’s birthday party, or even a sweet outdoor baby shower. Honestly, you don’t even need a reason other than ‘tis the season and because they’re so super cute! 

The how to:

Ingredients

Your favorite cupcakes (from scratch -my fave recipe coming soon- or from the box- Duncan Hines is my go to boxed when in a pinch).

Vanilla (and chocolate frosting if you like)– again, you can make from scratch which is easier than you might think (see my delicious, easy peasy vanilla frosting below) or go with store bought.

White chocolate or yogurt covered small pretzels

Mini m&m’s

Gumdrops

Black string licorice

Food coloring

Pastry bags and tips (or can use plastic ziploc type bags ans can snip a small hole in them if you don’t have).

Assembly

Separate vanilla frosting into bowls and tint them different colors. Here I made light green, yellow, pale pink, light blue, and left some white. I also used the chocolate for some bugs as well.

For ladybugs-

Slice the cupcake tops off of the cupcakes with a serrated knife. Slice in half.

Frost the flat top of cupcakes.

Place the sliced halves back on the cupcake a little part with their top point touching (to look like wings above).

Frost the halves/ wings with desired color and then pipe the outline of the wings and then some dots on the wings or any decoration you desire. Add a gumdrop head and little antennae by making little holes in the gumdrop and pushing the strings of licorice into them.

For butterflies-

Frost the non-sliced cupcakes and affix two white pretzels to the top with frosting, to resemble wings (like above). Pipe small dots of frosting between the pretzels for the body ( or just use m&m’s id easier). Add a mini m&m for the head and stick small pieces of licorice into the frosting for the antennae.

*I’m all about substitutions if you don’t have certain items, so don’t let fancy things like pastry bags and tips stop or scare you from making these cute treats or any others for that matter. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and you can always modify to make it work for you.

I like to serve them on fake grass because it ups the cute factor.

Please let me know if you do try them and share how they came out with me! Would love to know.

Frosting Recipe

Easy Peasy Vanilla Frosting-

Two sticks softened butter

4 -4 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Beat butter in mixing bowl until smooth and creamy, about two minutes. Add a cup or two cups of sugar at a time, with a pinch of salt, add some milk, alternating until the frosting is creamy, smooth and thick enough to frost with. I beat oh medium for about two minutes to really whip it up and make it creamy delicious! Nothing quite like homemade frosting. Yum!

Dairy free version coming soon!

 

 

 

Tea Party for Littles-(aka Our Royal Wedding Celebration)

I’ll admit it! We got completely swept up in the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and just could not help but celebrate along with them (and the rest of the world)! What I loved about this royal wedding is what so many of us were drawn to, I think, besides the obvious: cheeky adorable bachelor prince meets the woman of his dreams, an American, bi-racial, beautiful, lovely, charitable minded woman with what seems to be a bit of a kooky family (I can relate to that part)! She may have not grown up with a royal pedigree, but her and her beautiful mother were as graceful as any queen or royal I’ve ever seen.

I think it gave so many of us the sense that anything is possible. I couldn’t wait to show my  daughter what a real princess was like. From her solo walk down the first half of the aisle, to the American pastor that gave an impassioned speech, this was a royal wedding for the books. It was transformative in so many ways and I was very happy to celebrate it with my family, especially my little girl  who like so many other little girls, is enamored by princesses. Meghan, or shall I say the Duchess of Sussex, is the loveliest example of a real life one.

I grew up with Princess Diana who was in headlines on a weekly basis, and grew to really admire her and appreciate all of her charitable work and kindness. If you grew up during my time, I’m sure your heart broke for those boys when they lost their beloved “mum.”  As a mother myself now, it feels so even more and this seems like it would be one of her most special, proud days. There is so much about that cheeky Prince Harry that reminds me of her!

For our little tea party, which would also make a sweet birthday celebration, much of what we used was what we could find around our home. I loved the idea of also introducing my kids to some new(ish) foods from a different country. The more you expose them, the more curious and wiling they are to try different thingsFull disclosure though: We didn’t have any tea! I know, I know, that’s absurd for a tea party but she didn’t want any, and let’s be honest, at this age, it’s all about the tea set. Who cares if there’s water, juice or anything in there at all. They have all they need, their imagination.

We did buy some delicious scones from Whole Foods, a lovely variety of blueberry lemon, maple walnut and chocolate chip though. Since we didn’t drink tea, I felt the need to add a bit more authenticity (I remember my first tea well at Picadilly Circus) so I found some proper clotted cream to accompany the sconesThough we didn’t drink tea, we made tea sandwiches. I made egg salad and watercress, as well as cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches (more often they’re made with butter but my kids love their cream cheese) and they went over fairly well. The egg salad wasn’t as popular with my kids, but they do  love cucumbers. For a kids party, I’d say don’t worry about staying authentic to proper tea sandwiches and just make them what they’ll eat. Anything goes and if you cut them into diagonal shapes, they still look the part.

My favorite part of our tea party were the sweet sugar cookie crowns we made. We cut out sugar cookies in the shape of a crown, added some jam, topped it with another cookie and sprinkled on confectioners sugar. I’m so thankful to the beautiful The Kittchen blog for this genius idea. They came out so pretty and royally delicious!  You can find the original recipe here https://thekittchen.com/how-to-make-crown-cookies/

We toasted the beautiful couple with my fave, Lorina’s sparkling lemonade, and added raspberries for an extra pop of pretty color.The only activity, besides watching this gorgeous wedding, was making fascinator hats out of paper plates. Super inexpensive, so easy (only using what we already had around our home) and so fun. Of course my little princess only wanted to wear her crown though, but I loved the way my fascinator turned out. I felt quite like the Brit! It makes such a cute tea party activity for little ones (and big ones alike).

We looked around our place for cute bits and pieces, and scraps from other items, found some doilies and ribbon and got to work taping, gluing and stapling it into a fascinator made out of the Target paper plates we were going to use for our tea party. We used some ribbon, tulle from an old little homemade tutu, feathers from an old art project and voila, a fascinator! Of course no tea party is complete without fresh flowers and when I found out Meghan’s favorite was the same as mine, it was a no-brainer. Peonies! We decorated a bit with a pink tassle garland from a previous party and we were all set. Sweet & simple, proving that you can have a lovely little celebration and create fun memories with your kids without too much fuss and without spending much money.

Cheers to the Duke & Duchess of Sussex! I look forward to seeing their love continue to grow and all the charitable good they’ll bring to the world.

Thanks to this guy who was game for taking photos and also got into the spirit of things by dressing the part aka as grabbing my beach hat and an old jacket of his. He may or may not have had sweats on through.

My boys wanted the sweet treats of course  and watched the wedding (my younger son was totally mesmerized by it all-sssh, don’t tell him I told you!), but they had no interest in dressing the part. But here they are in all their dirty tee glory.

Admiring the spread and wondering where to start first.

 

 

 

 

 

Cookies first of course!

What kind of princess licks her white gloved fingers? Only the best kind!

Some more fun shots from our tea celebration:

Being her silly cheeky self-

Dad got in on the action! He couldn’t resist.

So fun to have a little girl who’s into all of this with me. We adore her. Can you tell?

Hope you’ll get to enjoy an English tea party with your own little crew one day. I think it’s great for boys and girls alike and for the record, if I had  pushed a little bit, my younger boy would have been into dressing up with us too.

Tata for now dahlings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid Approved Parmesan Kale Chips

Now, I won’t guarantee it but I’ll just say that my crew of three, (even the 4 year old!) all love these chips, and although they are pretty good eaters, they are picky little critters. They’re not only all very particular about what they like to eat, but how they like it prepared. Hmm, wonder where they got that from. So if you’re struggling to get your kiddos to eat their veggies, struggle no more. This could be the game changer. These “chips” are really a win, win, win in this house! Hallelujah!

I also think once kids set their own standard of what they will and will not eat, parents get tired of trying and just tend to give up after a while. No judgment at all (whatever keeps you sane), but I started early with them and bugged them all the time to eat their veggies. The “no thank you bite,” is a good one a teacher told me about years ago and it’s worked very well at times. So to the mom and dad whose kids refuse all vegetables, don’t give up! They may surprise you one day! Til then, try these!

I’m pretty veggie obsessed over here and I never feel quite right if I don’t have them twice a day, so I infused that philosophy into my kids. While they will eat lots of veggies and even ask for them sometimes (the two little ones do, the big one not so much), some days there is some coaxing, (and possibly a little bribing) to be done, but you didn’t hear that here! Whatever works, right!? But I don’t have to do that with these crunchy, cheesy, healthy “chips.”  Sidenote:  I tried it with baby spinach one night when we were out of fresh kale, and it worked like a charm!

I’ve also tried the prepackaged kale chips for us and they’re not big fans. I’m all for convenience but there are some things that are just better homemade. (Frosting is one of those things but that’s for another post!). The best part about these is they’re super easy and quick to make. Here’s how:

Start with a pack of baby kale. My kids prefer the them but you can get the regular for a crunchier, more textured chip. If you do, I suggest tearing off the middle stem because they’re so thick. With the baby kale, you’ll just need to trim the fine stems if they’re too long.

Toss them a big bowl with a good amount of olive oil to coat them.  Massage the oil in the kale. I know it’s sounds silly, but trust me, it helps. (And hey, maybe you can barter for a real massage from your partner later if you’re making these!). I never measure the oil but using the right amount is key. You want enough so that they’re all nicely coated, but not so much that they’re dripping in oil. You can always wipe some off if you overdo it.

Then lay them all out on a baking sheet. I use one lined with parchment paper but if not, brush your baking sheet with some oil or use a nonstick spray, but parchment is really your friend, so I highly recommend.

Sprinkle with a touch sea salt and of course our fave (except for my daughter, who is dairy free, so we just make hers with a little salt), Parmesan and a touch of pepper. You can put garlic, onion powder, chili powder, whatever you like, but I think the kids like the Parmesan best.

Throw it in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. I’ve tried different variations of time and temp, but this one works the best. Slow and low. Let them cool for a few and there you have it, a new veggie (ahem chip, definitely call it a chip), they just might like!

If you try it, let me know how it goes.  I’m curious if your kids will enjoy it as much as mine do so please leave me a comment and let me know.

Don’t forget to eat some yourself. I’m totally addicted!

 

Quick & Easy Salad Series

Hey friends!

With Valentine’s a week behind us now and all the chocolates eaten (I thought about hiding some in my secret spot, but none were spared this year) and with this unbelievably warm weather in the middle of February, I’m getting major spring fever vibes and realizing it’ll be time to peel off all the layers before we know it.  And right after spring comes summer of course. I know, I know, I’m jumping way ahead here but it’s all got me in a very light and springy mood and so with that comes light and springy food!

I don’t know about most of you mamas (or dads) out there but lunch is something of a mystery to me most days. It often consists of leftover crumbs of my kid’s breakfast or even their school lunch made that morning. Once in a while, I treat myself to a real sit down meal for lunch and as rare as that may be, I’m going to to try and do a whole lot more now. It’s an important meal because as busy parents, we really need lunch to carry us through the rest of the busy day. Right after lunch comes school pickups and activities, park and play time, homework, dinner, bath and bed so we need as much fuel as we can store up to pull that all off!

I love a good salad for lunch. That’s always been my favorite go to but most days I honestly don’t have the time or energy to chop up all those ingredients! Even with the kids all in school now, I find there’s so much to do and so many more projects I’m taking on, that I don’t often carve out that time for lunch. I’m also admittedly not that mama who preps meals on the weekend to have for the whole week. I SO want to be that person but I’m not….yet. Maybe one day, and perhaps you’ll even join me on that journey, but for now if you’re anything like me, more fly by the seat of your pants, here a few salads that you can make in no time that are healthy and delicious.

The one caveat I’ll add is to the non existent meal prep sitch is that if you like grilled chicken on your salad, you can cook that up over the weekend (we love it cooked lemony style on the Foreman grill) to have it for the week. We often make sure to have that for the kids to throw in their salads or sometimes when we’re out of time, we buy some fresh grilled chicken at our local supermarket. I’m not a huge chicken person though, so I don’t  often feel the need it to fill up on it when I have my lunch salads, but if you do, that’s an option for any of these quick & easy salads.  Tuna could also work well on the arugula & Parmesan one and that’s super easy.

My favorite super quick & easy go to salad at home is made with baby arugula, roasted red peppers, red onion with frosting on top, I mean froth, ok,  it’s grated Parmesan really, but doesn’t Parm makes everything tastier and happier? I love that you don’t need a whole lot (though you really couldn’t tell that from this heaping mountain of the good stuff!) to flavor salad or veggies or anything at all for that matter.

The key here is to finely grate or zest it onto the salad with my fave Microplane zester (above). This was a little tip I once received from a well known NYC chef. Seriously delicious and if I could just stop eating it off my salad before I mixed it all in with the dressing (which btw is super easy, just whisk olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon with a dash of salt & pepper), it blends perfectly in with the dressing plus creates a divine flavor and texture. Like I said, throw on some lemony grilled chicken or even tuna if you like, (grilled shrimp when you want to get really fancy) and you’ve got yourself a lovely lunch salad.

Next is another fave of mine. So simple, healthy and delicious. This one makes me feel like summer is around the corner. I’m starting to see really, red, ripe and juicy strawberries in the market, and that means it’s time for a salad made with these gems.

Here I pair them with a baby spring blend of lettuce, pecans and goat cheese. I don’t always have time to make homemade dressing (honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing recipe to come soon though!), so Annie’s Balsamic (with a touch of fresh honey mixed in for a little more sweetness) will do just fine! Berries and pecans- super healthy, antioxidants, you know the drill by now and goat cheese is one of the lower cholesterol and lower fat cheeses. Again, throw some of that lemony grilled chicken on if you like and you’re all done. Honestly, it takes only minutes or trust me I wouldn’t do it.

Another quick & easy salad is coming up on the blog later this week. This one has pomegranates and if you make the dressing ahead of time (which is SO worth it), it’s one of the best salads you’ll ever have! So come back and check in soon on this salad series. See you on the light side!