Party Favor Ideas that aren’t a bag of plastic crap!

Now that we are in December I have just finished celebrating 2 of my 3 sons birthdays.  It made me think of party favors.  In general – I would love to just not have party favors at all!  It is a super strange thing.  You invite your child’s friends to come and celebrate.  You spend a bunch of money providing entertainment, renting a space, and buying food.  You then need to spend more money on a parting gift?  Very strange!  I tried to do away with the party favors – but the kids have been conditioned to expect it.  So this has been my baby step plan – I don’t give bags full of plastic crap or candy as a party favor.

No parent is psyched to have their sugar filled sweaty or sleep deprived kid return from a birthday party with a plastic bag filled with more plastic junk or even worst candy.  I was going to write no judgement if this is what you do – but actually I do judge.  Nobody wants this in their house!!!

So what do I do – I don’t want to send more junk or candy but I am not brave enough to cut the cord and get rid of party favors totally.  I try to find something that I think the kids will actually use for a while.  I pick one thing that might go with the theme of the party or with something my the birthday boy is really into at the time.

Here are some past ideas….

  1.  Mad libs – my #1 son was really into mad libs for a while as he was learning to read and write.  I found a school themed one in a big print style that I thought the kids would get at least some use out of.
  2. Emoji Uno – my #3 son loves all things emoji’s but also loves card games.  Best of both worlds!  We are a big game family so we wanted to share the love.
  3. A book – my #2 son is really into reading right now and for his birthday party we showed the movie Holes which he just finished reading with my husband.  We gave each kid the book.  
  4. Rubiks cube – my #2 son last year was obsessed with his rubics cube.  Lucikly I found this awesome website that helps you solve it.  
  5. Dress-Up Item – all of my boys love dress up!  My #2 son had a superhero birthday party where we put all of his friends through super hero training and they each received their own cape before watching The Incredibles movie.  
  6. Nothing at all – one day I will do this….  one day…

10 Packing Tips for Sleepaway Camp

 

The time has come – you have picked a camp, submitted forms, pick electives – and now it is time to start packing.  Think of this more as a marathon than a sprint.  Start early – don’t wait until the last minute!

  1.  Buy high quality labels.  Labels have come a long way since my mother had to sew millions of printed labels on every piece of clothing.  I have used these labels for years and they stay on the tags of clothing really well.  They also make labels for water bottles, shoes and anything else you can think of.  The biggest problem I had was labeling black socks.  If you want socks back – buy white ones where you can use a black sharpie.
  2. Involve your camper.  Bring him to target, let her pick-out her shampoo.  Most importantly your kid needs to be involved in the packing.  It was actually a great bonding time for my son and I.  Running through target at night – and getting his opinions on bedding.
  3. Follow the camps suggestions carefully.  There is limited space for your camper to keep their things in the bunk.  If you decide to send 4 sets of sheets instead of 2 there will be no place to put it.  This list will also contain special items that they might need.  My camper needed a plain white shirt for a tie-dye project.  It might also tell you special color items of clothing for color wars or special dress-up items.
  4. Buy good quality duffel bags – I was going back and forth with whether to buy cheap bags or nice ones like these.  I decided with the nice ones.  I don’t want to waste money buying new ones every year if the cheap ones break.  These bags will last and I figured he can take them to college!
  5. Pre-stamp, pre-address, and pre-return address all stationary.  The goal is to remove all barriers to letter writing.  It is the most wonderful thing when you get that letter from your camper.  It might be totally spelled wrong, or it might say almost nothing – but it is still awesome!
  6. Find a Mom from your camp to pick her brain!  If you have a friend with an older kid at your camp – take them out to coffee and ask all of your questions.  If not, ask the camp to introduce you to someone.  This person can give you all the tips about the best way to pack and of course the things your camper “needs” that isn’t on the list.  Some wise Mom’s last year told me that the campers love to bring pillow “husbands,” a rug for the end of their bed, and a plastic drawers to go on top of the cubby.
  7. Find out what the “currency” is.  In my day we all brought “cool” stationary to trade and pet when we played card games.  My son was allowed to bring gum last summer.
  8. Make your camper try on all of the clothes they are planning to bring – new or old.  These kids can grow a lot in a year.  Make sure everything fits and that they actually will wear it.  Don’t send fancy stuff – it all comes back pretty lived in.  
  9. Start gathering things now!  Packing for camp is more like a marathon then a sprint.  If you start buying things now – labels, duffles, camp t-shirts and pile them in a closet you will be in good shape when camp begins.
  10. While writing this list I asked my son for his tips.  He said….  Extra underwear!!!  I followed the packing list closely but for whatever reason that was not enough underwear for my son. Whoops….

Top 10 tips to survive spring sports season

I know we are only a few weeks left of the spring sports season (summer here we come!!!). I am working on sleepaway camp tips – but wanted to get these ideas down before I forgot.

  1. As soon as you get team roster – email the list to see if anyone is interested in carpooling. If you work or have multiple kids playing sports you will either need a carpool or a clone to survive.
  2. Consider a prepaid cheap phone. I felt uncomfortable leaving my 11 year old cross town while I was with my 6 year old at a different practice. If there was some emergency I wanted him to call or text. I got a $19 phone off of Amazon and paid $30 for 360 minutes. A good investment for piece of mind.
  3. Look at used sports equipment. If your child is trying a sport for the first time you might not want to shell out money for top of the line new equipment. In Boston there is a high quality used sporting equipment store that sells new and used. Play it again sports.
  4. If you have to buy a uniform – make sure you follow all ordering deadlines. You don’t want your child to miss out playing because hey don’t have the uniform.
  5. Get a dedicated bag for that sport. It doesn’t have to be a sport specific bag – any bag will do. I found that if one bag is for that child and that sport we are much less likely to misplace a glove, stick or pad. I nag them until they put all the equipment back in the bag (even when they are practicing at home) and then have a hook in the garage for that bag. When we are running late for a game or practice – we can grab and go.
  6.  Always bring a water bottle for the kid and for yourself!
  7.  Remember sunscreen for everyone even early in the spring when it still feels cool.
  8.  Bring a chair for yourself. These games can go on forever – comfort is key! I leave a few in the car for any other family members that might join for the game – grandparents or siblings.
  9.  Is is always colder then you think it will be. I keep a blanket in the car for emergencies. I also always bring a jacket even if the sun is shining.
  10.  Thank the coach every chance you get. For younger kids – the coaches are parents. Without them none of this could happen. At the end of every game I encourage my kid to thank the coaches and I do the same.
I am not even getting into not putting too much pressure or stress on your kid. To me this is obvious. I stress having fun, making friends, learning new things and trying your best!!!!

My “Mom Village”

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s and Grandma’s out there.  Any skill I have at being a mother comes directly from the amazing example that has been set for me by my Mom, Grandma and Mother-In-Law.  I also rely heavily on my “Mom Village,” the group of women who I have met over my 12 years (gasp!) of being a Mom.

I met these first group of women when #1 was only 6 weeks old.  To say I was struggling was an understatement.  At 28 years old – my husband and I were the first in our group of friends and family to have a kid.  My mom stayed with me the first week when my son was born.  Then my mother-in-law helped out.  My husband stayed home for a bit – but he had to go back to work.  I remember so clearly the first day Jerald went back to work.  I was paralyzed with fear, loneliness and a bit of postpartum depression.  I held my little baby and cried.  I didn’t know how to fill the day – meeting both of our needs.

At 6 weeks old #1 was old enough to start a new Mom’s class.  There I met the first members of my “Mom Village.”  We all had 6 week old babies who were our first babies – and none of us knew what to do!  We relied on each other and the amazing instructor for support, encouragement, tips and lots of laughs.  After each class we would hang around and go out for lunch.  I was finally brave enough to stay out of the house with my baby for longer than 2 hours.  If he needed a new diaper and changed him and if he was hungry I breastfeed at the table.  These women gave me permission to be out in the world taking care of my baby and still living my life!  We also started meeting regularly on thursdays at each other’s houses for more support and playtime.  Through each new parenting or kid phase we had each other.  Some of these women are still in my life – we all texted each other to wish each other another Happy Mother’s Day.  The picture is from our “graduation” at 12 weeks from our first class.  We took many more wonderful classes together through the years.

As my baby got older and I added two more boys to my family – I still added to my “Mom Village.”  I gathered these Mom’s from pre-school classes, from the gym, from our Temple, and from their elementary school.  I am also lucky to be able to add to my “Mom Village” friends from growing up, college, and law school who have had children and have stayed a strong presence in my life.  My “Mom Village” is also made up of my three amazing sister-in-laws, my mother and my mother-in-law.  All of these amazing women enrich my life and make me feel that I can tackle each new parenting step.

I wish all of them a very Happy Mother’s Day – I couldn’t do it without you all and I wouldn’t want to!!!

Tips for Sleep-away Camp

The countdown has begun – only 50 days until we send #1 to sleepaway camp for a month.  This is only his second summer but I feel like we learned so much about packing, letter writing, and coping with our baby away that I want to do a series of posts that could be helpful if you are sending a child away for the first time or for the fifth time.

Coming soon…

10 Packing Tips for Sleepaway Camp

10 Letter Writing Tips for Sleepaway Camp

10 Parent Survival Tips for Sleepaway Camp

10 Re-entry Tips after Sleepaway Camp

 

Other topics you want?  Let me know….

 

Banana “Faux”Meal

I eat a cheese omelet 80% of the time for breakfast.  When I am desperate for a change this fauxmeal makes me happy.  It is very reminiscent of how I like to eat oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon.  It comes together very quickly and is a really nice change for me.

 

Banana “Faux”Meal

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp oil

Instructions

  1. Peel and mash banana in a bowl.
  2. Combine with eggs and beat eggs and banana until combined.
  3. Add cinnamon and raisins and stir until combined.
  4. Heat a skillet on a medium heat with oil.
  5. Once hot, add mixture of all ingredients.
  6. Stir constantly until mixture is not runny but still soft.
  7. Can top with nuts, honey, or coconut.
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http://picklejinxblog.com/2017/04/09/banana-fauxmeal/

Mom’s Frozen Matzah Balls (aka “Matzah Bricks”)

These are my absolute favorite matzah balls!  Because I am following a grain-free diet to treat a GI issue I am using these amazing almond flour recipe for my own personal matzah balls.  But I will always make these for my boys.  It is their favorite thing I make!  there are so many things I love about this recipe.  It has a few ingredients that I usually have on hand, they come out light and fluffy and the best part is that you freeze them and put them right into the soup – so if you have 20 minutes, you can have fresh maztah balls!  There is no need to every use the mix again….

Mom’s Frozen Matzah Balls (aka “Matzah Bricks”)

Ingredients

  • 4 beaten eggs
  • ½ c water
  • ⅓ c oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c matzah meal

Instructions

  1. Combine beaten eggs, water, oil and salt.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Add matzah meal and let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Add ⅓ c more matzah if too wet.
  5. Keep a bowl of water nearby to re-wet hands while forming balls.
  6. With wet hands shape balls of any desired size and place on cookie sheet. Do not allow matzah balls to touch on cookie sheet.
  7. Place cookie sheet in freezer overnight.
  8. After frozen, remove from cookie sheet and store in ziplock bag until needed.
  9. Place frozen matzah balls directly into soup and cook for 25 minutes.
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http://picklejinxblog.com/2017/04/07/moms-frozen-matzah-balls-aka-matzah-bricks/

 

Mom’s Tzimmes

I always thought of this recipe as a traditional tzimmes.  Since marrying my husband and getting more into food and recipes it seems it has all the traditional ingredients, but what makes it special is the grating of ingredients.  That is my favorite part!  Instead of chunky separate pieces – it is all blended together into yumminess!

Mom’s Tzimmes

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 apples
  • 2 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped prunes
  • 1 cup almond flour or matzah meal
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup oil or melted coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 x 8 pans with oil.
  2. Grate potato, apples and carrots.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a spoon.
  4. Pour into prepared pan. .
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes
  6. Can be frozen.
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http://picklejinxblog.com/2017/04/06/moms-tzimmes/

Rachel’s Yellow Squash Kugel

My friend Rachel makes this recipe year round.  I love it, but for some reason I only make it on passover.  It comes out delicious everytime – maybe this year I will put it in our regular rotation.

Thanks Rachel!

Rachel’s Yellow Squash Kugel

Ingredients

  • 5 large yellow squash (peeled, if desired)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ⅛ oil
  • 1 c almond flour (or matzah meal)
  • ½ tsp pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cube and boil squash in small amount of boiling, salted water, covered for approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Drain water from squash and mash with a fork.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  5. Fold into baking dish (can be any size - I usually do 9x13 pyrex).
  6. Bake for 1 hour - or until browned.
  7. Can freeze.
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http://picklejinxblog.com/2017/04/05/rachels-yellow-squash-kugel/

Nana’s Matzah Granola

ALERT!  This is NOT a paleo or SCD recipe.  It is a staple in my husbands family so I felt that it would be good to include it.  It is crunchy and sweet and hard to stop eating.  It is great on its own or my favorite was with milk as a cereal.  Last year I made a gluten-free version for my Dad who has celiac.  I used gluten-free matzah and then kept the recipe the same… he LOVED it!

Nana’s Matzah Granola

Ingredients

  • 3 c matzah farfel (use gluten-free matzah and break into little pieces for gluten-free version)
  • ¾ c sliced almonds
  • 4 T oil
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 T honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Option: raisins, cranberries, dates, coconut
  • NOTE: I usually double recipe

Instructions

  1. Toss together farfel, almonds, oil, cinnamon, honey and vanilla (use hands to help mix). DO NOT ADD RAISINS HERE! (I have made this mistake many times and the raisins or other optional add-ins will burn.)
  2. Spread onto greased aluminum foil on cookie sheet.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 min until golden brown (stir after 10 min).
  4. Cool
  5. Then add optional ingredients
  6. Enjoy plain, on top of yogurt or even with milk as a cereal.
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http://picklejinxblog.com/2017/04/03/nanas-matzah-granola/