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Good Eats Friday – Long Weekend Edition

The long weekend is here, the long weekend is here!! I have plans to barbecue and drink summery drinks outside. Probably much like 95% of the Canadian population plans to do this weekend. So if you’re looking for some food inspiration look no further. Enjoy this week’s Good Eats Friday – Long Weekend Edition.

First up, you should know that I’m a saucy girl. So when Crystal from Ottawa Valley Moms called this Lick-It-Off-The-Spoon Bernaise Sauce, she probably didn’t think anyone would actually do it. But I will. Also probably good with steak :)

Good Eats Friday

Next is this Apple Bacon Coleslaw from our Ghetto Foodie, Dee. Personally I think the bacon should have come first in the name, it is after all what sucks you in. Am I right?

Good Eats Friday

How many ways can you marinade chicken? Many, many ways apparently. Mara from Be Nice or Leave gives you Everything You Wanted to Know About Chicken Marinades.

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Chicken wings rock my world. They are like the potato chips of the poultry world…..you can’t eat just one. This recipe for Simple BBQ Chicken Wings from Jennifer at Kitchen Counter Chronicles looks like it would be enough for me. I have no idea what the rest of the family would eat :)

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Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my mother’s recipe for chicken and ribs. You’ll never try another recipe once you make this.

World's Best Chicken and Ribs

Wishing you all a safe and fun long weekend!

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Chocolate Stuffed French Toast

Yesterday morning I made Chocolate Stuffed French Toast for my children……on a school day. I mean seriously, how impressive am I? I am owning the mother of the year title this year through that one simple act alone. Just think about it? Chocolate cream cheese slathered between two pieces of french bread then dipped in egg and fried golden brown. You can almost hear the choir of angels singing, can’t you?

How did I pull off this extraordinary feat on a Tuesday morning? First, I made Strawberry Raspberry Sauce the night before. Then I played Candy Crush for two hours and went to bed. The following morning I followed this easy recipe.

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Chocolate Stuffed French Toast

12 slices of day old Italian bread
3 large eggs
1 cup of whipping cream, half and half or whole milk
6 tbsps of Philadelphia Chocolate Cream Cheese
3 tbsps of butter

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Spread 1 tbsp of Chocolate Cream Cheese over 6 slices of bread and top with remaining 6 slices. Whisk eggs and cream together in shallow dish. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in heavy skillet. Dip two sandwiches on both sides in egg mixture and cook in pan until golden on both sides. Repeat two more times. Makes six sandwiches.

Serve with Strawberry Raspberry Sauce drizzled over top.

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Receive accolades and undying devotion from your children.

Pleasantville Note: This makes a sandwich, so this Chocolate Stuffed French Toast could also be sent to school for lunch. Mother-of-the-year. Just sayin’.

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Strawberry Raspberry Sauce

How many ways do I love this Strawberry Raspberry Sauce? Well, how about on top of pancakes, with French Toast, stirred in with yogurt, poured over vanilla ice cream, used in an Eton Mess, blended in a smoothie, or used as a dip for cinnamon tortilla chips? The point I’m making is that this Strawberry Raspberry Sauce is incredibly versatile and as you’ll see below, very easy to make.

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Strawberry Raspberry Sauce

2 6 ounce packages of raspberries
1 12 ounce package of strawberries, quartered
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp framboise liqueur (optional)

strawberry raspberry sauce

Pour raspberries, sugar and lemon in a 10 inch pan. Crush the berries with the back of a fork and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes until mixture becomes syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in quartered strawberries. Cover and refrigerate until very cold.

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How to Be a Walmart Frugal Hero

On May 2nd, Walmart sent to me to my local store with a challenge. How many groceries could I get for my family of four with $100?

Before I get to the big reveal, let me tell you that “frugal” has been an f-word we’ve been using around here for awhile now. With a recent kitchen renovation, a new roof due, a sick dog and a car on the fritz, penny pinching has become my latest obsession. I have regularly used Walmart to stretch my dollar but I have to admit that after last week’s challenge, I’ll be using them a little bit more now.

Shop the flyers. I have a list of items that I am getting low on and know that I need to start looking for it on sale in our weekly flyers. I also use the flyers to find items to stock up on (see below). Plus Walmart price matches.

Plan your menu weekly. Let the sale items in your flyers be your guide. Not only does planning your menus save you money but it relieves stress as well. No more rushing home and wondering what to have and then going out for dinner and blowing your budget completely. The thing about planning a menu is that you also must stick to your menu. Skipping a day often leads to food being wasted, which leads to your wallet crying out in pain. True story.

Avoid processed foods. Skip the pre-packaged items as much as possible and buy only when it is truly a convenience for you. Try to find recipes that you can make and freeze yourself like these Bean Burritos.

Bring a list. Stick to the list. Divide it according to sections in the store so you don’t have to double back. Dairy, meats, canned, fresh, deli, breads, etc.

Don’t shop hungry. You’ve heard this before I’m sure, but it is so true. Just like we tend to overeat when we let ourselves get too hungry, we also tend to overshop when hungry and usually stop following our carefully constructed list.

Go meatless. There is a movement to eat meatless every Monday, this is largely related to your health and the planet’s. However, go meatless two days a week and your wallet will smile.

Stock up on sale items. Things I stock up on include: butter, bacon, meat, sandwich bread, and cheese. If chicken breasts are on sale I usually buy enough for a meal that week and two for the freezer. Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up wasting more than you use.

Buy frozen fruits and veggies. Don’t be afraid of the frozen food aisle when it pertains to fruits and vegetables. There is evidence to suggest that frozen can be better for you because the flash freezing holds in more nutrients than those shipped fresh.

Use your calculator. Honestly, I can’t add in my head to save my life so bring a calculator to find the best deal possible for you. While picking up Granny Smith apples at $1.47/lb I noticed that the 3lb bag was $3.97. A quick calculation told me I was saving 44 cents. May not seem like a lot, but pennies saved here and there add up.

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Stick to your budget. I was pretty sure I had come in under my $100 limit but I didn’t want to go over so I kept items that I would consider treats until the very end, like hot dogs and Fruitopia. Had I gone over those would have stayed at the store.

So how much did I get for $100 at Walmart? All of this!

frugal heroes
 

Here’s my itemized bill and check out some of these deals! $5 for a pound of ground turkey, 67 cents for three bulbs of garlic, $9 for five boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

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Walmart has inspired me to add a little more frugal in to my life. Maybe all those pennies saved will get me a day at the spa? :)

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The Thing About Mommy Blogger Conferences

I might be the only one not offended by the Wall Street Journal’s recent article on mommy blogger conferences.  I missed the initial brouhaha on social media when the story cracked. After reading an angry tweet, I searched for the article and had my pitch fork at the ready. I mean, if my fellow bloggers were this upset, obviously the Wall Street Journal had really insulted us. Instead, I had to put my pitchfork down to scratch my head. Huh? What are we so upset about again?

First the attached graphic to the story made me laugh. Probably because this is me on all counts.

Damn right I relish in the fact that I didn’t have to get my kids on the school bus and I know I’m not the only one. Ain’t no shame in that. Do I lounge in bed all day eating bonbons? Not a chance. I get my ass up, dress professionally, learn and network. But I definitely snicker a little when I think of my husband embracing the chaos while I lie in a little longer than usual in a bed free of dogs and children. *cue evil laughter*

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I may not attack the mini-bar because as we all know, only idiots pay $10 for a Mars bar. That being said, I certainly eat what I want, when I want, when there’s no example to be set. Heck, I had M&M’s for breakfast once people. Watch out, “mommy” blogger on the loose.

I also enjoy love going to the conferences because they offer me a chance to socialize with women I know from online networks. Wait, that’s what they said.

Do I dance and pose for pictures? Guilty.

mommy blogger conferences

Let’s pretend I’m not a blogger though but a drug rep. Would I be any less inclined to enjoy the fact that I didn’t have to get my kids on the bus? Would I not enjoy meeting other reps from across the country that I spoke with daily through e-mail? The fact is that you could apply this graphic to a lot of moms, traveling to any conference.

Moving to the article itself, it starts with this:

Katherine Stone, a 43-year-old mother and wife from Atlanta, wants to leave her husband and children.

Hooks you doesn’t it? That’s what an article is supposed to do. I didn’t feel all “judgey” towards Katherine like she just set us all back a decade or something. Being a big girl, I was pretty sure almost immediately that she probably made a crack about escaping the kids and husband and they led with that. In fact, escaping the children was the focus of the whole story. There’s no question it’s a one-sided article meant to garner page views.  So, why pick on us? Well, because we’re kind of a big deal if you haven’t heard. You have to admit that had they written about dentist conventions it wouldn’t have had quite the same bite.

Let’s face it, piss off the “mommy bloggers” and you will feel the wrath…… and the page views. Very cagey that Wall Street Journal.

And maybe the blatant cry for attention wasn’t intentional, maybe it was a full on assault on women and bloggers. Maybe. I don’t think so though because there were nuggets of truth in there as well.

I’ve heard countless women relate how happy they are to catch a break from the daily grind while at these conferences. It may be said with humour but the sentiment is sincere. It doesn’t make you a bad mom, it makes you human. It’s also, obviously, not the whole story. So, why then are we offended when someone writes an article saying that moms enjoy catching a break from the daily grind? Are we so precious we can’t laugh at ourselves a little?

As for the whole “mommy blogger” moniker. I’m over it. For a time, every time someone would call me a “mommy blogger” I would get all holier-than-thou and correct them. Now, I just smile and nod. The media can continue to use it ad nauseam and I’ll continue to smile and nod and move on. Some day they’ll get it, or they won’t. Whatever. The newspapers are dying ladies, take solace that they are gasping their last breath. Soon, we “mommy bloggers” will rule the world. *cue more evil laughter*

And what of all these sponsorship dollars they speak of? Well that’s just a fact Jack. Nothing offensive in there. Then there’s this:

Event planners, networking organizations, travel agents and consumer-goods marketers are targeting these women by sponsoring conferences and conventions. They have figured out a simple way to make them happy: Give them a reason to go on a business trip.

Indeed. The mommy blogger or blogger conference has become big business. If we can’t admit that then we’re not being honest with ourselves.  It seems like a new one is popping up every week these days. As women, we are by our very nature, social creatures and so if they build it, we will come. There is also no doubt that these conferences can provide massive inspiration and motivation to it’s attendees, but how many do you attend before it becomes less about the socializing and networking and more about the escape?

The “art” of blogging is not so complicated that countless workshops are needed to master the technique. Yes, we could all benefit from workshops on skills but exactly how many do you need to attend? Is the same information not available on line? How many times a year and how much money do I need to spend to feel like I’ve really connected with my peers?

The amazing thing to me about conferences is that the best nuggets I’ve walked away with were gleaned while talking to other bloggers in the hall or over drinks. Once I had a light bulb moment in the washroom. The best information isn’t always found in the conference rooms. This always makes me ask, do I really need a conference or just a weekend away with some amazing women I know?

For me, the financial strain of attending these conferences started to weigh on me in the first couple of years. It was a very simple cost-analysis. When you subtracted the cost of the conferences from what I was making blogging, I was in the negative. See kids? You will use your math some day.

I’ve personally decided that one a year is my limit, unless of course my blog turns into the gravy train, then I’ll be escaping my children, er, I mean running off to learn, several times a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

One of the best gifts of spring is the heralding of summer just around that bend in the road. And living in a cold climate with a darker, colder and drawn out winter makes the bright, hot days of summer seem like the prize for making it through another year of seasonal cartwheels. We switch from snow pants to capris and from Boots to flip-flops in what seems like a blink of an eye. Many people love winter and snow and outdoor fun. I am not one of those people. If I dare to compare—winter is the yucky veggies and summer is the dessert.

don't compare yourself to others

The game of comparison

Why not dare to compare? The world is full of opposites and contradictions, what’s wrong with acknowledging them? Nothing. Cold is the absence of heat and dark is the absence of light, comparison is very helpful in defining each of those states. When I was teaching my kids their primary colours, red and blue were easier to name than green and blue, because in comparison red was more different to blue than green, so comparison played a role in their learning. These, however, are concrete concepts. The problem with comparison is when we apply it to people.

The great Mark Twain said “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

People are as dynamic as the weather. People are not concrete. We are very fluid in that we are constantly changing from one year to the next, from one day to the next. We are human beings being human. And being is a verb. Being is action. We are growing and learning and expanding, our cells reproduce and die, and we find new things to like and new people to spend time with. None of us are the same person today that we were yesterday. Yet, we take the instinct of comparing apples to oranges and use it on someone who is in a constant state of change.

All the parenting books tell us not to compare our children, but we do. I do. Who walked first, who talked first, who weighed more at birth. And if I don’t say it out loud (because I have read enough of those books to have some idea what I’m doing) I do make note in my mind as to which child has the higher grades in math. Yet, I can honestly say, when someone asks me who my favourite child out of my four kids is, that I do not have a favourite. Some days I may like one child a little less, but it’s usually because of what is going on with them that day. A moment in time. Nothing resets a mother’s love-o-meter like seeing their child’s angelic face as they sleep. Having four kids taught me that with every new day comes a new challenge, and a few more new reasons to love.

don't compare yourself to others

I can tell you that in both my career and my personal life, the issue I see the most, with women especially, is a desperate lack of self-worth. And I am right in there with the rest of them. I don’t know why. I have some theories that relate to culture and media and the messages we hear from the time we are born, but my theories are not tested and the solutions of changing a whole culture is not a quick fix. What I do know is that mixed in with this lack of self-worth is a tendency to compare ourselves with other women. The airbrushed beauties in magazines, the seemingly perfect people on television, the former ballerina in yoga class that perfects the King Pigeon pose, the other mothers in the park who seem to have it all together.

Seem.

They seem to have it all together.

Yet we are comparing ourselves to appearances. Comparing our dynamic selves with good moments and bad moments to what someone chooses to allow us to see of their dynamic life for a short time. I can assure you that the airbrushed model has had her heart broken at least once in her life, and she made the ugly cry face but no one was there to take a picture of it. And when that ballerina has to push out a 10lbs baby she is going to be screaming just like the rest of us did during childbirth. The model is no more or less worthy of love and happiness when she is smiling for the camera or crying herself to sleep. She is worthy because she is human. Being human is imperfection and that is the gift. She is worthy because she is imperfect. You are worthy because you are an imperfect human being. We have to drop this crazy notion that there is such a thing as perfection and embrace being who we are—an ever changing, ever evolving human being, being human.

comparison is

Since this is my last Spring Cleaning for the Soul post I wanted to thank Candace publicly for giving me a voice this month. It has been a blast! I also wanted to let you know that I am running an online Webinar for the month of June called Mom’s Mind Body Makeover. If you are ready to honour your self-worth and give yourself a Mother’s day gift you can sign-up here.

Tammy Plunkett uses the knowledge gained from her careers as a registered nurse and an alternative healer, and her studies of psychology and spirituality to inspire others through her talks and her book Being Human: Inspiration for Balancing Mind Body and Spirit. She is also the Founder and CEO of Inspiration4 Inc. which produces the content driven website inspirationformindbody.com all while happily raising her four children with her loving husband.

You can find Tammy at tammyplunkett.com, @TammyPlunkett and www.facebook.com/tammyplunkettauthor

BH Cover Proof1

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Good Eats Friday

I’m off my game this week, so I’m hoping you’ll forgive me that Good Eats Friday is landing on a Saturday!!! Hope I catch before you get your groceries so you can pick up the ingredients needed for this week’s great recipes.

First up, this recipe for Homemade Skillet Pizza from A Bit of Momsense. I have an ongoing love affair with my cast iron skillet so I’ll be trying this one for sure.

I can not tell a lie. Brussel sprouts may be my least favourite vegetable BUT Jen from Kitchen Counter Chronicles makes them look so good on this post I will give them another go, especially because they are so healthy for you!

Staying on the health track here, this Chocolate Green Smoothie from Jayda at Eat Whole Be Vital has piqued my interest. Mostly because I’m always amazed how you can’t taste the green in any green smoothie! They are always so delicious you don’t know how good they are for you!

There was no one more surprised than me when I made Kale Chips and liked them. They are super easy to make and they are wildly addictive.

This recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Breasts from Mara at Be Nice or Leave has me drooling.

Finally, you can’t end without a little something sweet and this Nut Caramel Fudge from Ottawa Valley Moms looks like it would hit the spot. Mmmmmm.

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Rick’s Cafe Jamaica – Iconic Tourist Trap

If you’ve never been to Jamaica, at the very least you are familiar with a few of it’s gifts that are uniquely their own. Simply mention Jerk, Red Stripe, Reggae, Blue Mountain Coffee, or  Bob Marley  and people are whistling Three Little Birds and looking for their swimsuit. And chances are that long before they even booked their first trip they heard about the iconic Rick’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica.

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Rick’s Cafe was founded in 1974 when Negril was little more than a sleepy fishing village and hippie retreat. Almost 40 years later Negril has morphed into an idyllic escape with world-class resorts and hotels built into it’s west end cliffs and Rick’s Cafe has become a tourist trap. A tourist trap that you absolutely should not miss!

There are three things you’ll want to get out of your trip to Rick’s Cafe.

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First, you’ll want to watch the cliff divers. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Rick’s four times and I can tell you that your stomach will lurch every single time you watch one of their professional divers soar from the bird’s nest 75 ft above the water. As a brief aside, please don’t be one of those eye-rolly tourists huffing and puffing because the guys jumping from the incredibly high platform for your amusement would like a tip. If you can make it to Jamaica, you can part with a couple of dollars for these amazing performers. Rant over.

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If you’re brave enough, you can jump off the 35ft platform into the turquoise water below. For the record, I am not brave enough. I’m a watcher. Someone has to do it or what would all you thrill seekers do it for?

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Second, soak up the vibe. Slip into the attitude of the latitude because every ting irie mon. No really, it is. Rick’s Cafe has exactly what you need — sun, reggae, cold drinks, and happy people on vacation. Strike up a conversation with your neighbour or get up and move to the entertainment on the stage. If there’s one thing you should check before you arrive at Rick’s is your stress.

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Finally, take in the sunset. It’s amazing how many of us don’t take time to watch the sunset. Heck, most of us don’t have a view of the sunset, it’s so obscured by buildings. Rick’s Cafe, and the cliffs of Negril in general, boast one of the best seats in the house. Grab your honey or throw your arms around your little munchkins and marvel at the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea. I mean truly marvel at it.

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You can get to Rick’s by land or water. If you choose to take a catamaran cruise, which I highly recommend by the way, make sure you know how you’ll actually get to Rick’s Cafe. Some charters will tender you in on a small dinghy, but on others it’s man overboard, so expect to get wet.

Finally, here’s the one things I recommend you do not have at Rick’s Cafe. Their version of Jerk Chicken is a crying shame.  A breast of chicken that comes with some sort of country style gravy on it that’s supposed to be “jerk”. Nuh-uh. Don’t do it. Get your jerk on at a jerk hut or for a real treat visit Scotchies or Sweet Spice, two incredible restaurants on the island you should not miss. Stick to little appetizers and some ice cold Red Stripe at Rick’s Cafe and save your appetite for more authentic fare later.

 

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Pig Picking Cake

I know, I know, you’re thinking what the heck is a Pig Picking Cake? Well, first I want you to set aside any hang-ups you may have about a cake that is not entirely made from scratch. Next, I want you to imagine for a minute that you are about to taste the best cake ever invented. Pig Picking Cake, as far as I can surmise, came from the Southern States and it’s a flavourful explosion of butter pecan, mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple and Cool Whip. That’s right, Cool Whip.

pig picking cake

It’s because of the Cool Whip in it that I also call this my Mad Men cake. Cool Whip became a household name in 1967 and so this cake, obviously, was the brainchild of some repressed 60s housewife. More Betty Crocker than Betty Draper though if you know what I mean.

I have seen this cake devoured by friends and family for over 20 years now. Just trust me on this one.

Pig Picking Cake

1 box Butter Pecan Cake Mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 10oz. tin mandarin oranges
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple
1 1/2 packages Jell-o Vanilla Instant Pudding (4 serving size)
1 1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip

pig picking cake

Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. Preheat oven to 350F. Beat cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and the juice from tin of mandarin oranges in large bowl on low speed for 30 seconds and then beat on medium speed 2 more minutes, scraping sides of pan occasionally. Stir in oranges and nuts. Divide evenly between two cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool ten minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely.

While cake is baking, stir together crushed pineapple in juice and 1 1/2 packages vanilla instant pudding. Fold in Cool Whip and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When cake and frosting are cool, assemble cake. Decorate top with mandarin orange sections and mint leaves.

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I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Sometimes doing the math on how old I was when a song was released it just depressing. Take, I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues, for example. This song by Elton John was released in 1983. That’s 30 years ago for the mathematically-challenged. Thirty freaking years!

I was 13 at the time and loaded with teenage angst. I was in love with being in love and this song played to every emotion I had about what “real” love was supposed to be like. By the time this song was on a regular rotation on the radio, MuchMusic had just started and I was glued to my television hoping this video or Electric Avenue would play.

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