kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker · Tips and Tricks

Super Bowl Ideas

I’m just going to assume everyone reading this is rooting for the Patriots like we are on Sunday … ha!

As a kid we watched football every weekend, though the Pats were pretty much abysmal until I went away to college (figures) so I struggle to imagine what it must be like to have grown up watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dominate the NFL for basically your entire lifetime. That said, I’ll enjoy the dynasty while it lasts. Once this particular season is over, I can focus on my favorite sport — hockey — and before you know it the Red Sox will have opening day at Fenway Park and it’ll be spring again.

Until then! Here’s what we love to cook up on game day. You know I’m going to start off with my Brown Sugar Kielbasa, don’t you?

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This one is a star for a reason. It has two ingredients unless you want to embellish it, and you just set it and forget in the slow cooker. Giving myself more time with my guests, and to prepare the rest of the game day food, works for me!

We also love to make delicious and simple Shepherd’s Pie. This one is so easy! My friends always ask for this and it is hands-down one of my husband’s favorite dinners that I make. All you need is ground beef, creamed corn and regular corn plus mashed potatoes, and somehow it all comes together and tastes so much more complex. This is a recipe I originally got from my mom, and she used to make it for me in little ramekins that I could take for lunch every day. I don’t even own ramekins!

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Another must-have for snacking is tortilla chips and salsa. I always, always make my own salsa, because it so fast and tastes approximately a thousand times better than canned salsa. I like to use Rotel, fresh tomatoes and heaps of cilantro and jalapenos, but you can very much customize things if you don’t care for the heat or the taste of cilantro.

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If you are hosting vegetarians and are in need of good chili options that involve more than just a ton of beans, I’ve got a few ideas. This recipe has literally four ingredients and very little simmering time, and can be made with ground beef or vegetarian “meat” crumbles, which I normally don’t love but end up tasting delicious here. Morning Star Farms and Gardein both make excellent veggie crumbles.

Another awesome recipe that packs a little heat with a hint of sweetness is this tasty Soy Chorizo Chili, which I usually make by shopping all Trader Joe’s ingredients, from the chorizo itself to the sweet potatoes, black beans and salsa. Serve it with some vegan shredded “cheese” on top or, if dairy is an option for your crowd, some sour cream or (even healthier) plain Greek yogurt. Yum! And spicy!

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You really can’t go wrong with food, friends and football for any game day, so no matter who you are rooting for, I hope you have a blast this weekend and that this post gave you some good ideas. As Georgia says, “go ball players! you’re doing a great job!” haha.

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Baby & Toddler · Holidays · kid-friendly · Tips and Tricks

Our ‘Georgia Peach’ 1st Birthday Party! {& Peach Sangria recipe}

You may remember that my child turned one in August. As in, August of 2014. You may also remember a three-week hiatus immediately following said birthday, during which we all shared the stomach bug (including our poor house guests) and then attempted to take a “relaxing” trip to Myrtle Beach as a family. Well, let’s just say this post fell by the wayside.

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if only we knew the torrential stomach flu about to befall us, we wouldn’t look so happy

I decided to finally post it this week, though, for two reasons: we have so many spring babies in our life — we know five born this week alone, with more due next month — that it really got me thinking about when my G was born and how I spent all year looking forward to her first birthday party, and I wondered whether other moms might enjoy reading about a cute birthday party theme as they get ready to celebrate their spring babes! Secondly, a friend just asked to borrow all my “peach” decor for a baby shower she’s throwing, and I thought that was awesome. Happy to give these things another life, especially the ones I worked so hard to make by hand. And I just love the idea of a “little peach” themed baby shower. How perfect!

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But most importantly, I’m already planning Georgia’s next birthday (because darn it, the good places get booked WAY too far ahead of time for this flaky mom) which means I really, really need to get her 1st birthday post online before she turns two.

We had so much fun planning her “Georgia Peach Party,” and can’t wait to share the awesome vendors who helped make it happen, from the local bakery that custom-crafted peach-infused cupcakes for us, to the Etsy party shop that helped make our decorations look peachy, to the sangria I had to make in our recycling bin (!) when the punch dispenser wouldn’t fit in our 1950’s-style kitchen fridge. All in all, Georgia had a really fun day surrounded by family and friends, and Mom and Dad (and our house) survived the festivities! So, without further ado: the Peach Party.

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THE THEME

Full disclosure: I knew I wanted to do a one-year peach themed party before Georgia was even born. As soon as it became socially acceptable to do so (when she turned 9 months old?) I created a Pinterest board for inspiration. Then we decided the key details: have it at home, or in a park or hall? (home). What time of day? (11 to 2, to work around her naps). How many people? (between 30 and 40, since we have a small yard and 1200-square foot house). Make our own food, or order catering? (mostly catering). Budget? (say what? I’m married to Mark Linehan).

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THE FOOD

Because it was a hot day, we served the food inside, pushing our dining room table up against the window to make room for foot traffic. This way nothing spoiled and we didn’t have to worry about bees or flies. Drinks we kept in two coolers outside (booze and non-booze). Then, I decided to make a festive peach-themed cocktail for the adults, which would have been easy except that the drink dispenser wouldn’t fit in our refrigerator to soak overnight as required, so I had to MacGyver an insulated cooler large enough to hold the darn thing out of our recycling bin, which I left on the porch overnight to blend. It worked perfectly, and the recipe is below. In addition to the beverages, our menu included homemade chocolate cookies & custom peach cupcakes for dessert, fruit salad, tossed salad, a cold cuts & cheese platter, eggplant Parmesan, chips & dip, as well as rolls for making sandwiches.

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<< optional: pouring five bags of ice into your recycling bin, covering the top with three layers of aluminum foil, and weighting it down with cardboard to deter insects from devouring your sangria overnight >>

Peach Sangria

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 1 large container of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 4 bottles of rose wine, chilled (I chose a dry, mid-priced organic option from Trader Joe’s that was well-reviewed)
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine, chilled (I used prosecco)

Combine the fruit and rose wine in a large serving pitcher and chill overnight, or at least 8 hours. Just before serving, pour in the sparkling wine and stir. Serve cold with chunks of fruit in each glass.

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We stuck a “1” candle that I ordered on Amazon into a cupcake for Georgia instead of ordering a “smash cake,” and this turned out to be a very good plan because she was extremely tentative and dainty about eating it at all. No smashing actually occurred.

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THE DECOR

I go the Dollar Tree route for everything plain (tablecloths, platters, punch bowl, straws, plates, napkins, utensils), embellish with fabric ribbon from A.C. Moore, incorporate items I already own such as vases, mason jars and baskets, and customize where it counts by ordering theme-specific invitations, address labels and banners from artists on Etsy. Balloons and the “first birthday” cupcake stand are from Party City and the tent we snagged for $100 at Ocean State Job Lot; with our sunny yard, we will use it for years to come. Sangria container and banquet tables were purchased from the Christmas Tree Shop and Pier 1. I also — to my husband’s deep embarrassment — placed peach-scented soap and candles in our bathroom, both from Bath & Body Works. He hated it, but I can’t tell you how much of a finishing touch it felt like to me.

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THE INVITATIONS

I used Paperless Post, which I love. You can customize the “envelope” lining, the theme (there was nothing peachy available, so I picked the next cutest thing) and it’s animated when guests open it. By purchasing “coins” through their site (60 run you $14) you can further customize your options and add larger and larger quantities of people to your invite list. There’s also an ipad app, and it lets you add registries or wish lists, too. Great for showers!

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THE FAVORS

I made these myself after being inspired by this post on Kara’s Party Ideas. I created peach tags that I could use on favors and as menu cards, with pink and orange craft store ribbon and clear favor bags, and bulk ordered peach candies on Amazon. I created the labels in Microsoft Word and bought heavier stock gift tags at A.C. Moore, cut out the labels, punched a hole in each tag, glued on the labels and tied them to the bags. It took about an hour. Assembling the banners took another hour of cutting, tying together with the same ribbon used on the favors, then having Mark help me hang them.

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Things I didn’t get to: I intended to make a farm stand sign for the front door (like this or this), and I had also wanted to print out month-by-month photos of Georgia to hang inside the house as additional decoration. I also wanted to order peach iced tea in bottles, but that was cost-prohibitive. I think I was getting carried away by the Pinterest-ization of baby’s first birthday, so I heeded Mark’s opinion that hand-making the decorations, favors and a themed cocktail was already beyond the call of duty. I took two days off from work before the party just to clean my house, prep the yard, make and hang decorations and start the Sangria ~ but as moms, we always feel like we should have done “more,” don’t we??

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the most challenging aspect of party planning: cat interference
the most challenging aspect of party planning: cat interference

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Georgia had an awesome day with awesome weather. She greeted everyone, spent time with each person who came, and went right down for her nap by 1:30. Relatives stayed all afternoon, snacking, opening gifts and sipping Sangria, and then little G woke up refreshed and ready to try out a few new toys. This year, we will probably have it somewhere around town instead of at our house, but I wouldn’t change anything about this day. It turned out perfect, just like my perfect little Georgia Peach herself!

And yes, I did get a peach pedicure for the day, and yes I did color-coordinate the thank-you notes and address labels.

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Vendors

Paper Goods — WhirliGigsParty Co.

Custom Address Labels — Sweet Pea Petite (formerly Le Petite Peapod)

Catering — Anthony’s Italian Specialties

Cupcakes — VCVC Cupcakes

Georgia’s Dress — Janie & Jack

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