Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mommy Playdates

I belong to an awesome mom's group that allows for frequent get-together of kiddos to play, craft, run around, etc. My kids really appreciate having other kids their age to play with, and I appreciate a break from hearing “I'm boooored!” and “But, I don't want to play with my sister/brother anymore!”

But, what I also love about my mom's group, are the mom's night out (MNO). We usually get together at least once a month for bingo, bunco and even the occasional fondue night or movie night. I can restore my sanity, if only for a few hours, and be free to eat with both hands. I'd love to say the conversation is more grownup too, but we often fall into the routine of talking about our kids' most of the night anyway. Oh well, just being able to get out more then two words of a sentence before being interrupted to untangle the fork from your daughter's hair, get the shoe out of the toilet or remove the banana peel from the dryer is pretty much heaven.

One of my favorite aspects of our MNO, is the food. Some of the moms really go all out and bring some truly nummy (yea, I said nummy...see I do need to get out more) dishes!

I myself decided I wanted to do something different then the usual cookies or rice krispy treats (though don't get me wrong; I could very well live on chocolate chip cookies and rice krispy treats alone), so came up with a couple fun foods...

This first one is something I've been wanting to do for awhile; brownie balls. My little guy and I fell in love with these after trying them from our local bakery. We'd make up any excuse we could to have occasion to go get them, Unfortunately, the bakery recently went out of business and took our beloved brownie balls with them. After sulking and pouting for a couple weeks, I decided they seemed like something we could make ourselves. As with most new recipes I want to try, I headed for the internet. I found a few recipes for 'brownie balls' but they were mostly disappointing to me. Most recipes called for adding frosting to the cooked brownies. While that's a standard practice for cake balls, it just seemed to me that brownies are already rich enough. So, I decided to just do it myself.

Brownie Balls

Brownie mix (you can go with homemade brownies here, but the boxed Hershey's never let me down)
Six squares Bakers Chocolate, semi-sweet (these are pretty rich, so if you use another chocolate, still stick with semi-sweet)

Sprinkles, cookie crumbs, nonpareils
Sucker sticks


Mix brownies according to directions, but cook about five minutes less then recommended time (make sure they are done, but still soft)
Cool completely
Turn out brownies onto surface, and trim edges off (use pizza cutter to speed this up and please, save those scraps...perfect for hot fudge sundaes)

Begin scooping brownies, shaping into about two inch balls (use a cookie scoop for the perfect size) and set on parchment (or Silpat) lined baking tray.
Put finished balls into freezer (if you want pops, insert lollipop sticks now) for about 10 minutes
*And, if you are worried about this task becoming monotonous, make sure you have a five year old who is very eager to discuss with you all aspects of Dinosaur Train.

Taking out a few at a time, dip balls into melted chocolate and put on another baking sheet. If desired, add sprinkles, cookie crumbs etc.
Place back into freezer for 10 more minutes until chocolate has set.

And, that's it! Simple, yummy, and fun enough to take to your next outing!

This next one is just something that seemed fun, and actually, it was one of those situations where I didn't want to drag my crew to the store, so used what I had on hand: marshmallows and chocolate. And, you know you can never go wrong with that combination!

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows


Marshmallows (I used two different flavors; vanilla and chocolate)
Chocolate (again, I used both milk and white chocolate & added some peppermint extract to some of the white to make it mint flavored)-melted
Pretzel sticks
Sprinkles, cookie crumbs, etc (optional)

Melt your chocolate in batches in the microwave (and, yes, you can melt white chocolate in the microwave; just go a minute at a time and be prepared to keep re-heating as it hardens)
Insert pretzel stick into marshmallow and dip into chocolate, making sure to add some melted chocolate to the hole around pretzel stick
Sprinkle with cookie crumbs, sprinkles, etc
Refrigerate or freeze until hard

Simple, inexpensive and fast enough to throw together last minute!

Hopefully, there will be many more mommy playdates in the future, so I can create more fun food! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day-Cation:Wildlife Safari

We are a family that likes to do, go, experience. We don't buy a lot of fancy things (not that the kids aren't spoiled...thanks Grandparents!), have only one car (hubby commutes to work by bicycle) and try to eat-in as much as possible. We save our money for little trips here and there. Living in the Great Northwest means ample places to visit, many of which can be done in one day. As a family of four, this suits us just fine.

One of our absolute favorite places to visit, is Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR. It's about an hour and a half to two hours (depending on potty breaks, traffic, etc) so pretty reasonable for a five and two year old. This was our second year in a row visiting this magnificent place, so we were all pretty excited!

As weekends there can be pretty crazy, we decided to go on a Monday (Colin had just returned from a four day trip to St Louis for work too, so this was just the family time we all needed). We happened to pick the perfect day too! The sun was shining the whole time we were there and it only rained just as we were leaving.

We started our first drive-thru (you get to go through twice) and almost immediately, Avalee started “oohing” and “aahing” and practically jumping out of her seat! Apparently, she saw a giraffe just ahead and then an elephant. She was about as excited as I've ever seen her! We eventually let both kiddos out of their car seats (you drive through at about 5mph, tops) so they could get the best views.

Grandma was in the backseat with them, and unfortunately I think she got quite a few flying elbows, knees and blocked views from a couple very excited kids...hahaha!

Zavion even brought along his constant companion and best friend, Leopard (his stuffed cheetah), who got to sit on then window for some pretty cool views of bears, lions and bison.

After we drove through, we stopped for lunch at the restaurant there and were treated to a fun show by the monkeys outside. We had a perfect view of their crazy antics, including climbing to the tip-top of a tall (telephone-like) pole and screeching very loudly. The kids loved it, and had to be reminded several times to finish their lunch so we could go see them in person.

After lunch, we headed straight for the monkeys who were still screeching and now swinging wildly from tree to tree. Avalee, however, couldn't care less about the monkeys; she was enthralled with the giant Koo fish that were in the moat around the monkey area. She would pint out fish after fish and squeal with delight when they started swimming around! After visiting with some flamingos, cheetahs and taking a little break on the playground, we were ready for a second drive through.

This time we were treated to feeding-time with the bears and even got stalled when some mountain goats decided to get into a tussle a few cars ahead of us, locking horns and pushing each other around for almost 15 minutes! We also got to see some baby cheetahs (and their very nervous mama, who was pacing back and forth behind them) and the lions giving each other a bath.

It was a fun, fun day and one that I know my whole family enjoyed! This was just one of our many day-cations I'm sure we'll go on this year, but this was definitely a great start!

The kiddos checking out the animals from the best view in the house.

During the walk-through; the kids check out the (very smelly!) flamingos

This little guy tried stealing Avalee's hotdog!

My little guy discovering the moonroof as a great vantage point

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Back to blogging...after these messages

Wow, has it really been that long since I last blogged?? Nothing in April? Shame on me!

Well, it's not that I don't things to say, pictures to share news to report...I just haven't had the time to sit down and write anything up!

Between my grandma going into the hospital for open heart surgery the beginning of April to Zavion starting t-ball to all the holidays and birthdays; I'm all tapped out!

So, having said that, I do have some fabulous new posts to share with all of you soon, and I promise to have something new this week. Really.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this ridiculously adorable photo of my ridiculously adorable children.
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