Halloween Candy


As you will see… I am not a big fan of this holiday being so candy-centric. But I do think I have given you some useful tips. Head on over to Untrained Housewife to read my tips on How to Get Rid of Halloween Candy.



The Best Chicken Soup Recipe

The Best Chicken Soup Recipe

It’s been well-established that chicken soup is necessary to cure a cold (well-established by me). Now, when you are a child, you need that chicken soup to be lovingly prepared by mom, dad or maybe grandma because you aren’t allowed to use sharp knives and the stove, but as an adult – you must have a good chicken soup recipe in your repertoire because you will find it’s most likely YOU who will need to prepare the soup for YOURSELF. Don’t mistake my ALL CAPS for bitterness, I would prefer to make my own soup now because it can be customized to my specific tastes (and as an adult you have to do your own dishes!! Wait until my kids realize being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be). Chicken soup is what I consider to be a blank slate food. Once, you have the basics down you can turn it into numerous different soups.

This soup is super fast, requires little effort and doesn’t need babysitting. As always, I am not a fan of proper measuring, so you know, take my approximations and mix that with your good judgement.

Now this soup that I made today will clear your sinus right quick, but another favorite combo is to add in fresh rosemary, grated lemon zest and Parmesan cheese with orzo pasta. You can also make a Mexican version by adding in chili powder and ground cumin; topping with sliced avocado, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Last weekend, I played around with a Thai version that included red chili peppers, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice noodles. I could go on, but you get the picture – once you have the basics down, you are good to go no matter what flavor mood you are in the next time a cold strikes or you are craving a warm bowl of soup.

Chicken Soup Recipe 


2-4 chicken breasts, cubed

3-4 celery stalks (with leaves), diced

2-3 carrots, diced

3-4 gloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp. thyme (if you have fresh, then use a few sprigs)

32 oz. low-sodium chicken stock (I use one carton of chicken stock and then an equal amount of water but you could use all chicken stock if you are so inclined.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 tbsp Olive oil

1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Optional Ingredients: 

(This is only a short list – based on what I used today, but use your imagination and add in whatever else suits your fancy).

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 red chili pepper, minced (be careful not to touch your eyes after touching the pepper).

Sriracha Hot Sauce – liberal amounts if you can tolerate it.


Preheat a big pot, Dutch oven, what have you – to medium heat.

Chop all vegetables, fresh herbs and chicken.

Add olive oil to pan to coat, place chicken into to brown.

Season chicken with salt, pepper and thyme (if you are using dried)

Once chicken has browned some and you can easily move it around the pan, add in the onions, garlic, celery, carrot and chili pepper and give it a good stir.

Let all the goodness cook together for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Add in the chicken stock (and water if you choose), cover and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn it to low and walk away. Leave it covered; constant stirring not needed. Today I let it cook for about 45 minutes while I was working on a photo editing project, but you could go longer if needed. 30 minutes is the minimum cook time in my opinion.

Important Step!! This is crucial if the soup was prepared for cold-curing purposes. When the desired amount of time has lapsed – lift the lid and put your face in the steam – DON’T GET YOUR HAIR IN THE SOUP! – breathe in the aroma and feel your sinus open up. Obligatory warning: don’t burn yourself.

Now, you get to garnish! Today I used fresh chopped Italian parsley and Sriracha sauce, and it did the trick.

Sit down at the table or curl up on the couch and enjoy that yummy soup and allow it’s magical healing powers to work.

15 Winter Break Boredom Busters

20 Winter Break Boredom Busters

Wow. Did Christmas just sneak right the heck up on everyone? No? Just me? Either way. Last thing I remember seeing on the calendar was Halloween and BAM! CHRISTMAS! Just like that and I am staring down the barrel of 2 weeks of winter break with the kids home from school every day (actually every. single. day). That means that this work-from-home mom goes from having a delightful office setting where talk radio or Micheal Bolton Radio on Pandora (I kid… maybe) waft through the laptop speakers and English breakfast tea can be sipped slowly, almost leisurely, while carefully crafting brilliant content for her clients… to breaking up sibling fights, stepping on Legos where there shouldn’t be Legos and noise… so much noise.

I’ll admit I do actually like having my kids home from school (I even love them!) especially with a reprieve from homework and school projects, but I like to have an ample list of activities to pull from if boredom strikes or we get snowed in (we haven’t been snowed in since we lived in Chicago- but I bet this applies to quite a few of you). These activities/games/crafts do not have to be elaborate or expensive – just something interesting and entertaining enough to pass the time together as a family. I have scoured the web for the best in family entertainment – many we have tried and are favorites in my own home.

15 Winter Break Boredom Busters

Snowmen Potato Printing – We won’t be making any real snowmen in Florida, so we might have to try this art project instead.

Christmas Book Reading  – Here are 20 of my favorite Christmas stories. We are obsessed with Christmas books, so I did have to narrow the list down – but the more the merrier.

Repurpose Christmas Cards – The photo cards we receive, I keep on a metal ring, divided by year – but for other cards, these are some great ideas for reusing them!

Snow Games – If you are lucky enough to have a white Christmas, here are some fun games to play in the snow.

Fingerprint Elves – These would make cute cards, or place settings at Christmas dinner.

Reindeer Noses Candy Cane Gingerbread Cookies  – Delicious, adorable, and could be given as gifts – score! Or you know, just enjoy all of them as a family. 

Holiday Bookmarks – If you haven’t visited Teachers Pay Teachers yet, please do! It’s an excellent resource for supplementing school work at home – and there’s a lot of free content available for download – including these holiday bookmarks

Christmas Tic Tac Toe – We made this last year and the kids were very excited for it to reappear this year when we unpacked the Christmas decorations. Hours of fun.

Reindeer Thumbprint Ornament – Such a sweet gift and keepsake.

Bottle Cap Snowmen Ornament – Have a few leftover beer bottle caps in the kitchen junk drawer? This is the perfect craft to help use them up. If you don’t have any, well then … drink up!

Car Track Tape – Turn your floor into a rip-roaring car track with the Autobahn tape kit. Huge favorite at our house – I may have insisted the kids let me play with it first…

Calm Jar – Even 2 years later, we are still making these on a regular basis whether for gifts, or because someone wants to try a new color combination.

DIY Glittery Snow Globes – A twist on the calm jar! I have been searching for a snow globe I actually want to purchase, instead I think we will just make our own this year.

Paper Clip Bookmarks – What a cute idea! Use your leftover Christmas ribbon for holiday-themed bookmarks. Would also make a great gift for kids to make for friends and family.

Build an Igloo – This activity requires a lot of snow and patience, for the snow-free indoor version – use all of the empty boxes from Christmas presents and either cover them with wrapping paper (flipped over to show the white side) or paint the boxes white. Let your kids try and figure out how to assemble them. Should buy you a few hours. 🙂

And of course my favorite winter activities – Christmas Movie Marathon, Christmas Light Tour and a Christmas Music Dance Party! Happy Holidays!


Scary Mommy’s Thanksgiving Project

Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project

If you haven’t stumbled onto Jill Smokler’s site – Scary Mommy – then do yourself a favor and head right over there (after you read the rest of this post). I love when I see her posts pop up in my Facebook feed – usually because I know laughter will follow and because it helps me not take myself so seriously as a mother, but I was especially touched by her Thanksgiving Project. Read all about it here and consider helping a family who’s struggling this year. 100 % of your donation goes to giving families a Thanksgiving dinner they won’t soon forget.

If you are sobbing after reading the testimonials (like I was), then go read 33 Reasons Moms Are Late (Mom, if you are reading this – then I am assuming the sock bit resonated with you – man, you were angry at me – I know how angry you were because of how angry I get when Ainsley throws a sock tantrum).

Book Butler – At Your Service

Book Butler - At Your Service

Not to disappoint but “Book Butler” is not the name of my sexy librarian Halloween costume… unless… hmmm…

A few weeks ago on one of our library visits, I found myself remarking to Jack, “I am not your personal Book Butler – you do have to try and find some of the books on your own.” In the middle of silently laughing at my own joke – book butler… hilarious! – the young, hipster librarian laughed out loud (like actually, laughed out loud, not just in shorthand) and said she was stealing that line. Since she’s kind of my idol, seeing as she currently holds one of my dream jobs, I was as flattered as if say… Dick Wolf and the team at Law & Order: SVU has asked me to fill in for Mariska for a few episodes.

The truth is I would gladly be anyone’s book butler! I really did think I would own a bookstore one day (ideally in London or the Virgin Islands – covering multiple climates just in case) and well I suppose I still have time. But how about for now, I just continue being your virtual book butler.

Currently on my nightstand (and in stacks on the ground next to my nightstand) are the following (either just finished, or on deck):

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett – If you were a fan of Pillars of the Earth, you will enjoy this immensely. This is an epic saga (and part one of the Century Trilogy) that will give you a different perspective on World War I and it’s a book that you’ll be glad you can’t finish in one night – it’s easy to get attached to the characters.

Inferno by Dan Brown – I didn’t love it as much as The Da Vinci Code, but if you are in fact looking for a fast-paced read that you can finish in one night, you will welcome the return of Professor Langdon.

The Never List by Koethi Zan – I have put off reading this one mainly because I keep hearing how disturbing it is – which I normally love, but ever since I binged-watched Homeland (Seasons 1 and 2), I try not to get myself too worked up at night. From everyone I know who has read it – if you loved Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, than you will enjoy The Never List.

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie – Recommended by my therapist (why is that still such a dirty word? As if we all couldn’t benefit from talking to a therapist every so often… Well not Tom Cruise of course, but the rest of us), Byron Katie challenges those rigid beliefs that we all have about ourselves or our situations. Her 4 questions help shed new light on whatever you may be struggling with. And if you are someone who thinks and speaks in absolutes as I know I tend to do, her method can really work to get you unstuck mentally.

That’s just a small sampling of what I have been reading, but if you still need more ideas – here are a few of the Book Lists I have published elsewhere.

And because I am ALWAYS looking for my next favorite book – please tell me what you’ve been reading!!

15 Halloween Books for Kids

10 Horse Books for Kids

15 Anti-Bullying Books for Parents, Teachers and Educators

30 Anti-Bullying Books for Kids

Book Review – The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared

The Untrained Housewife's Guide to Getting Prepared

Just a glimpse at the television screen depicting the recent devastation in Moore, OK, from a powerful tornado, or the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused last year in the northeast, not to mention the countless natural disasters we don’t hear about on the news, makes you wonder what you would do in that situation. Would we have enough food to eat if we were stranded in our home for days? Where would we go if it was unsafe to stay home? Maybe you even contemplate coming up with an emergency plan, only to find it too overwhelming and eventually push it to the bottom of the to-do list.

In Florida, many residents are immune to hurricane warnings because these storms are a fact of life here and we all just assume it’s never going to affect us. Hurricane Season (June 1st through November 30th) is really the closest we get to a 4th season (the others are Pleasant, Hot, and Really Hot and Humid). But emergency preparedness is not something you can gamble with or ignore. I vividly remember being 8-months pregnant with my first daughter, living in Gainesville, FL, when a hurricane blew in off the coast, steamrolling Cedar Key on its way to visit us. I sat in total darkness in the bedroom of our 3rd floor condo listening to the terrifying sound of the wind howling through the building corridors and convinced that the entire building would be sucked up into the storm. As an expectant mother, I was beside myself when I realized we had very little food in the house, maybe enough water for a day and no landline to call for help. As an 8-months pregnant very cranky, very swollen woman I wanted to march out into that storm and curse it’s name (I can’t remember the name) and demand – you get your act together and get the hell out of town because I want the air conditioning back on and I want the lights on so I can finish reading my stack of parenting books before Talia makes her entrance into the world, so help me God! Luckily, by midday the following day the storm had passed us, and a day or two late the power returned.

Disaster can strike on many scales, be it widespread destruction caused by mother nature or an accidental house fire or flood. We all have insurance for our property and belongings but we must start looking at emergency preparedness as another form of insurance.

Have I overwhelmed you yet? I am overwhelmed and I am the one writing this post! Deep breaths… I have just the thing – a guide book… man, do I love a guide book. The Untrained Housewife’s Guide To Getting Prepared: Surviving Emergencies Without Stress will take you step-by-step (think walk, before you can run) through preparing yourself and your family so you will be ready, in the event of an emergency. Robin Egerton and Angela England have done the leg work and laid out all of the details for you to help you focus and get organized in order to accomplish this crucial task for yourself and your family.

Divided into 3 sections, the book starts with Preparing to Prepare, and I love this, because I am the type of person who needs a solid game plan before I move forward with a project of any scale. My to-do lists have to be organized before I actually start crossing items off the lists. The opening quote from Don Williams Jr., might have to be my new motto, “Despair is most often the offspring of ill-preparedness.”

The book starts by breaking down the must-have items you need to be prepared for an emergency and then tackles the First Priorities, such as, insurance, food and water storage, generators, and my personal favorite – the 72-Hour Survival Kit. My pediatrician has actually preached this concept to me before and each hurricane season I make a little more of an effort, but this year I will make good on my promise to do this. Just the peace of mind alone would be worth the effort.

Section 2, Preparing Around the House, focuses on what you can do in your home to make sure you would be able to survive if you were stranded with out power. The instructions on how to prepare food, properly storing dry food and how to can and store food – including recipes, really take a lot of the guesswork out of this project. And what about clothing? Energy Sources? Sanitation? Not to worry, all covered in the book. Take note of the chapter on Buying Supplies before you rush out and haphazardly grab everything that you think may be useful from your local big box store.

Section 3, Preparing for Action, begins by detailing how to menu plan for 30 days at a time. I struggle with meal planning for a week, let alone a month, but it’s broken down so simply here that not only can you implement it in regards to emergency preparedness, but also in your day-to-day life (or month-to-month as it were). There’s also information on how to begin to live off of your land, or small patio. I strongly urge you to check out Angela England’s book, Backyard Farming on an Acre More or Less, if you want to upgrade your wimpy house fern, to a full blown backyard vegetable garden and more.

The book wraps up by touching on disaster plans and sharing them with your family, health, safety, first aid and even touches on what to do in the event of an unexpected home birth. There are checklists and resources in the back of the book, all meant to make this whole process as simple as possible for you so you can get done what you need to without becoming totally overwhelmed.

Angela and Robin have given real information that readers can easily implement. The peace of mind that you can gain by even just beginning to follow their guidance is worth every penny. Regardless of how you choose to interpret their words, don’t hesitate to take action and prepare your family for surviving an emergency

Full disclosure: I was given an advanced copy of this book to review but the opinions are mine and honest. The links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.

Holidays Out, Cleaning In

Holidays Out Cleaning In

Ahhhhh, do you hear that… wait for it… it’s the sound of parents of young children collectively sighing in relief that the marathon of candy & present-laden holidays has ended. I was standing around the ole’ swing set this morning at preschool drop-off and it was as if the other moms and dads were just waiting for someone to say it, so I did – Who’s excited to not have to buy any more toys, bags of candy and explain mythical holiday creatures and how they relate to religious traditions or historical traditions?! Am I right?!

Okay, so that’s not exactly what I said, but I edited for profanity. Don’t worry, this isn’t another rant along the lines of my St. Patrick’s Day Rant. No sense harping on it – there are 212 days until Halloween (if there is a holiday in between now and Halloween that we celebrate with candy that I am forgetting, just don’t tell me – let me live in blissful ignorance) and in the mean time we can all get back to focusing on non-holiday things… like CLEANING AND ORGANIZING! Two of my favorite things!

It is spring after all (I know seasons aren’t capitalized but dammit if I don’t want spring to be capitalized. I am just itching to do it.), and spring is a great time to get organized and do some deep cleaning (huh… that sounded more fun in my head). It’s also a good time to check the batteries in your smoke alarms and flip your mattresses FYI. And don’t forget to clean out your garden and start your spring garden if you haven’t already. In need of some garden inspiration? Check out this DIY Whiskey Barrel Strawberry Planter. And I must mention that my Paint Stick Garden Markers from last year are still looking great! I’d write more on one of my favorite topics if I wasn’t a bit dizzy from scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush so in the meantime enjoy two of my posts on Untrained Housewife:

How to De-Clutter Your Closet

How to De-Clutter Your Closet – this actually went better than expected, and I was able to donate a large amount of clothes and accessories that I had no use for any longer.


Kitchen Cleaning Guide

Kitchen Cleaning Guide – No one really loves cleaning the kitchen, but at least make it easier on yourself.

Happy Cleaning everyone!

Book Crush

My Ode to Reading

I love reading… seems like a rather lame introduction to a post regarding my undying love for the written word – specifically in book form. But it is accurate – my love for reading is unconditional. I get really amped up over every book I read that takes ahold of me (in a good or bad way) and I have been known to behave a bit like Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook when ranting to my parents about a book (I do this with movies also).

I don’t hate the books I have read that were less than riveting, bored me to tears (looking at you 50 Shades of Grey sequels) or that ended in a manner that I felt was inappropriate – because someone wrote each and everyone of those books. Someone took the time to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and pour their heart and soul out in order to produce something that would be judged by everyone who read it and if they were lucky – really lucky – that book would be judged by millions of strangers.

I love reading because no matter what else is going on in my life, no matter how stressed, angry, overwhelmed, tired, cranky, sad or happy, elated, content, relaxed (I am never relaxed) I am feeling, I can open a book and disappear between the pages. If it’s an exceptionally captivating book, then it’s as if time stands still when I am reading and I am transported to the time and place written about in that book; as if I am a quiet observer, almost close enough to touch the characters.

I love reading because I love the way a book feels in my hand – I tried reading on my former iPad (I miss you iPad!), but it wasn’t the same. I like the smell and feel of a book. I have bought used books from antique stores simply based on the way they looked and felt (insert judging a book by it’s cover joke here).

I can’t go more than a day without a book – which means carefully timing my library requests or Amazon orders and as a parent I have tried from day one to instill the same love of reading in my four children. When they were newborns I would read to them aloud from the newspaper, magazines, or books I was reading (as long as they weren’t too scary… didn’t want to scar them from the start) and while I don’t read everything aloud to them anymore, we do read together every day. They especially love when I use my funny voices and I especially love that in the past few years my 2 oldest daughters have learned to read (the twins aren’t far behind) and they love it just as much as I do. We have trouble staying under the 50 book limit on our library trips. Aside from taking their first steps, learning to read is my favorite childhood milestone – the look on their faces when they realize that they have just read the word on the page of a book is enough to bring me to tears. Or when they start to slowly recognize the letters and sound them out and shout to me from the other room, “Mom! This spells DOG! It’s right here in the book!” I love that.

This post was originally intended to share with you some articles I wrote for Untrained Housewife about great books to read aloud as a family and now it’s turned into my love letter to books, but either way you can see – I take reading very seriously.

Check out my 2 new posts on Untrained Housewife: 20 Classic Read Aloud Books for Families and 25 Modern Read Aloud Books for Families.

20 Classic Read Aloud Books for Families 25 Modern Read Aloud Books for Families

And I thought I would also share with you two tools that I love when it comes to deciding what to read and keeping track of what the kids and I have read. Goodreads is a fabulous site that allows users to keep lists of books they’ve read and want to read, gives you recommendations based on your ratings and reviews and on top of that you can discuss what you are reading with friends.


Another fun tool when you are sad to be done with a book you just loved is What Should I Read Next? You simply type in the book you just finished (or any other book you loved) and they will give you a list of suggestions.

Well enough writing, it’s time for me to go put on some warmer clothes (it’s unseasonably cold in Florida) and curl up with my new library books.

What are some of your favorite books as a child or an adult?

Sauce and Balls

Alright, Alright… I apologize for the crass title. It was just too easy…

This week has been a tasty one so far – green smoothies and rainbow veggie wraps (the wraps were able to impress 3 out of 4 children, which is a success in my book). The smoothies were a mash up of some recipes for smoothies and juices I found on The Londoner – they all sound delicious, but I ended up using what I had on hand to save time – kale, spinach, ginger root, apple, lemon juice and a splash of pineapple juice – and a lot of ICE – this is not a drink you want to have at room temperature. For the wraps (which I didn’t have time to snap a pic of since they were gobbled up so fast, save for that one child … ahem… Ainsley… who pouted in disgust at the offending meal), I simply used flour tortillas, shredded carrots, diced red bell peppers, chopped romaine, and diced cucumbers. I used ranch dressing as the binding agent here and because my children love it in a way that borders obsession, but I have seen others use cream cheese.

Green Smoothies

I even managed to get myself to bed early last night after a busy day of writing, laundry, writing, laundry, driving around to pick up children, LAUNDRY… the only problem was that I woke up at 1 a.m. … for good. Was not able to fall back asleep. The green smoothie helped pick me up a little this morning, but it’s safe to say I am not operating at full speed (in fact, I am not even sure that metaphor sounds good). Lack of sleep means I am not super pumped to make dinner tonight (or do more laundry, seriously… is it multiplying?!), but then I remembered that I have my Homemade Super Special Lubrano Spaghetti Sauce in the freezer and I have all the ingredients to make my Florentine Turkey Meatballs! This may sound like a labor intensive Sunday supper, but it really isn’t. Granted the sauce takes some time to cook – but do it once and make enough to freeze two extra batches for future dinners. And the meatballs come together really quickly and after a quick sear on the stove top, they finish cooking in the oven. This meal really is a crowd pleaser, which always makes mealtime easier. And if you aren’t in the mood for red sauce, the meatballs well end up with their own gravy that is simply delicious – serve with a nice chunk of toasted ciabatta bread and a salad and dinner is done. Enjoy and let me know how the recipes turned out for you!

Florentine Meatballs & Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

St. Patrick’s Day Rant

St. Patrick's Day Rant


Saunters up to mic confidently, dressed in suit and tie (irrelevant), double taps mic.

St. Patrick’s Day is just a few days away which means I am frantically preparing. Nope, not by loading up on Guinness and green food coloring. Instead I have been frantically making sure all 4 kids have something green to wear, making sure my eldest’s leprechaun trap is ready to be turned in to her teacher on Friday and thanking my lucky stars that my children will be at their father’s house for the big day. Not because I plan on indulging in all things Irish, but because I refuse to participate in what has become another excuse to buy children gifts and candy.

While St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, it’s still celebrated in the United States with parades in cities like Chicago and New York with large Irish-American populations. But let’s be honest, St. Patrick’s Day is typically an excuse for ADULTS to drink ridiculous amounts of beer and if they can stomach it, eat corn beef and cabbage. When exactly did St. Patrick’s Day become yet another kid-centered holiday!? Don’t get me wrong, I love a holiday (Christmas is my favorite. My belief in Santa will not wane), but when did every holiday become toy and candy binges for children (Read Kate’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day at The Guavalicious Life)?!

I remember when my eldest, now 8, was in preschool and she first started going on and on about Leprechaun Day (um, it’s called St. Patrick’s Day kiddo) and how the leprechaun would visit their class while they were at home the night before and “make mischief” and “leave presents.” (Presents?!) And the best part, my dearest daughter told me that her teachers told her the leprechaun would do the same at our home… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! (Do NOT send me any hate mail, I love teachers. We have been blessed with one amazing teacher after another over the years and I know we are very lucky for that). And this was not a one time occurrence, almost every teacher since that first one has reiterated this belief. Where did this idea come from?! What happen to just wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day – which just so happens to be my only memory of this holiday from childhood.

Dramatically removes mic from stand for emphasis.

So now that I have just taken a deep sigh of relief after 2 birthdays in October, Halloween, Christmas, 2 more birthdays in January and Valentine’s Day, you’re telling me I am expected to make it look like a f*cking leprechaun came into my home, made a mess and left presents. Now if memory serves, leprechauns are indeed into mischief-making, but I do not belief they are in the habit of bringing new toys to children (the big guy in red has the market cornered on that task, and he doesn’t make a mess when he delivers gifts).

I love my children, but the idea that I am supposed to shower them with gifts on another retail-driven holiday is utterly ridiculous. I am boycotting… just as soon as I finish finding enough green ribbon for hair bows.

Drops mic.

Lubrano Out.