We’re excited to announce that we have six amazing women who are the lucky winners of our recent Mother’s Day contest! The moms who were nominated win, as well as the people who were sweet enough to nominate them. Thank you to everyone who entered. You warmed our hearts and inspired us with stories of some truly incredible moms. We’d like to share the winning stories to celebrate these super moms. Their entries are below, although fair warning: you might want to keep a box of tissues close by!
Kori S. – Beth
My sweet friend Beth is a working mom of three littles, all under the age of 4 including a set of twin 2 year olds. Her husband Mason is a police officer and in the Army Reserves. Several times throughout the year, he is gone for drill weekends and then for extended times during the summer. A couple of years ago Mason was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer and Beth was by his side, through his treatments. In the past few months, they have experienced three deaths in their family, within just a matter of weeks. Through it all, Beth has persevered with a smile on her face. She is the first one to come to the side of anyone who needs help, even if just a shoulder to cry on, but NEVER asks for help for herself. One of her coworker’s sons was diagnosed with cancer. Beth along with her coworkers have organized fundraiser after fundraiser to help alleviate the costs of the little boy’s treatments. Beth is just a genuine person who is a great friend! She deserves a break from having to prep meals. 🙂
Mickey G. – Maxine
After my daughter passed away we had to leave the Ronald McDonald house. I had separated from my husband during Miranda’s Leukemia and faced the harsh reality of being homeless. Our little van and the belongings within are all we had. My husband had stopped giving me money and locked us out of our house. It was so hard to face the loss of my daughter and feel my whole life come apart. As I drove feeling desperate and alone there was only one person to call – my mom. Her love and compassion were a lighthouse to our family. She took us in even though she lived in a tiny apartment with no extra rooms or beds. We camped out in her front room for nearly two months. It was me and my three kids taking over her only living space outside of her bedroom. She fed us and helped us through the most difficult days we had ever faced. Just weeks after Miranda passed away I was served divorce papers. My mom saw my estranged husband’s desire to have full custody and she took action. She had little money herself and few resources but she went and took out a loan and got money from a close friend. She told me I had to have an attorney. It was a tough divorce but because of her actions we were blessed and I was able to keep my children and I received alimony that I never would have received without an attorney. She protected us and changed the outcome of my trial by sacrificing with love. We moved out of her apartment and we paid her back the money she had borrowed on our behalf. But we can’t repay her for the love she gave us it is ours to keep eternally. For me there will never be enough expressions of gratitude for what she offered us during those months. I am grateful for who she is and how she loves.
Shanna S. – Julie
I would like to nominate Julie, a woman I admire. As a young, single mom of two children (Josh – a baby, and Brandi – a toddler), living in a one-bedroom apartment, Julie did not hesitate to take in her toddler nephew, Austin, who had a lot of medical issues and was in a full-body cast due to the poor choices of his own mother. Julie obtained custody of Austin and raised him as her own, treating him exactly the same as her own children. Eventually, Julie was pursued by Danny, but a relationship was not on her list of priorities when she had three little ones to care for. Danny was persistent and, in time, won Julie’s heart. Together, they built a life for the children, and brought a 4th one, Madelyn, into the world. Although money was tight and their 3 bedroom home was small, the children were always well taken care of and never went without necessities, and the home was filled with love. All of those children are now wonderful young adults beginning their own families, except Madelyn who is a teenager. In addition to raising such amazing young men and women, Julie was a second mom to many of her children’s friends, and kids in the neighborhood. Her home has always been open to anybody needing a good meal, a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand. She is known as Mama Jules because she treats them all like they are her own children and has even taken in one or two kids when their home lives were terrible. No matter how rough or overwhelming things get for Julie, she always has a smile and a positive attitude and will never turn her back on somebody in need. She has such a huge heart and great compassion and love for people that is rarely seen in this world and I think she deserves to be recognized for her selfless, giving nature.
Congratulations to all of these amazing winners! These moms, and their love and compassion, are an inspiration. We applaud them for their kindness and courage.
Tis the season for family camping! It’s always a good recharge for the body and soul to get out in nature once in a while. This is especially true if you’re a city dweller and don’t see forested areas very often in your day to day life. Camping with your kids can seem daunting and maybe even overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! With the right approach it can be a great time for everyone involved.
To start, if you haven’t taken your kids camping before and are worried about how they’ll like it, do a trial run first! Pitch the tent (with your kids’ help) in your backyard, and spend an afternoon playing outside and in the tent, even napping in it to see how they do in a different sleeping environment. That way when the “real deal” camping comes, both you and your kids know more of what to expect.
With every step of the way, get your kiddos involved as much as possible, even when it means that things will take longer. From having them help pack their own bags to gathering sticks for the campfire, involving them will allow them to be more invested in the activities and to feel that their contributions are valued.
One area that is a lot of fun to involve your kids is also our personal favorite: food! Ask your kids for their opinions on what to eat, and have them help with preparations before you leave. When planning your camping meals, think simple and think crowd pleasers. Foil meals and things you can grill over the fire, for example. On our May menu we have Campfire Grilled Pork Chops, and Tarragon Carrots. The pork chops, as the name suggests, would be perfect grilled over the campfire, and the carrots could be prepped before leaving and thrown in foil, also to be cooked over the fire. Check your nearest Dream Dinners location to see what menu items are available, and which would be best for your next family camping adventure.
A few other quick pieces of advice: make sure to do your research before you go, checking campsite details and regulations, etc., so you have less surprises along the way. Don’t forget to bring along toys and games for your free time at the campsite, and think positive but also plan for any potential challenges. Pack extra tarps in case of rain, extra layers so you’re ready for weather changes, and a first aid kit for cuts and scrapes.
Of course we’re only scratching the surface of all the possibilities! If you need more ideas for family friendly camping, there are plenty of resources available. REI offers some solid advice in this article, and this Lasso the Moon blog post also has a lot of fun tips and tricks. Research and preparation aside, what’s most important is to have fun! Camping with your family can provide you with great memories to last for the rest of your life, way after the bug bites go away and the s’mores are all devoured.
Spring is in full bloom! With some creativity and a little planning, these ideas for Springtime family fun will help your family really savor the season.
Plant an herb and/or vegetable garden
Spring is a great time to plant a variety of veggies and herbs. The Urban Farmer Seeds and Plants website is a great resource in terms of how to go about planting everything, what to expect, when to start, etc. Your kids will love getting their hands dirty (without getting in trouble!) and the whole family will get to enjoy the tasty benefits of having fresh herbs and vegetables once your seeds have grown. Another bonus: your harvest could be added to some of your Dream Dinners meals!
Paint rocks together
This creative craft project starts with getting your family outside. The next time you go on a walk together, have your kids collect small rocks to bring back home to paint. Then let the artistic energy flow! If you’re in need of some ideas, this Color Made Happy page has a ton of inspiration, from silly faces to unicorns and minions.
Check out a new park & take a picnic!
If your family has gotten into a routine of visiting the same neighborhood park all the time, challenge yourself to visit someplace new. Make it an occasion, by taking a picnic along. Many of our Spring menu items would make ideal picnic meals – check your local store to see the full menu and find the most picnic-friendly meals available. If you’re stumped in terms of which parks to try out, here’s a few links for some of our regions. If you don’t see your city below, try visiting your local Parks and Recreation website for a list of parks in your area.
- Seattle, WA: seattleschild.com/10-best-parks-kids-seattle
- Sacramento, CA: blog.sacramento4kids.com/best-parks-for-kids-in-sacramento
- Cincinnati, OH: cincinnatiparent.com/10-cincinnati-playgrounds-worth-the-drive
- Austin, TX: austintexas.gov/blog/make-austin-your-playground-these-family-friendly-parks
Make Spring cleaning fun
Last month we talked about self care Spring cleaning and there are plenty of ways to make Spring house cleaning fun and less of a chore for you and your family too.
- Have your kids help you gather any and all papers that you no longer need into a bin: old newspapers, magazines, mail, etc. Then use what you’ve gathered to make a campfire that night! Find a neighborhood park with a fire pit you can use, and bring s’mores for added incentive.
- Set up some friendly competition between your kids – who can clean their room the fastest, who can gather the most books/toys, who can find the most change in the couch cushions!
- Turn it into a dance party clean-up! Play some fun, upbeat music and dance with that broom (and your kids!) between sweeping, dusting, or whichever cleaning tasks you’re tackling.
When most of us hear “spring cleaning” we think it’s about opening the windows, letting fresh air in and then heading into the deepest darkest crevices of our closets and drawers. The pantry? Oh my. That’s a scary place.
We’re going to leave you to those nooks and crannies, and instead focus on some other spring cleaning tips. Sure, a clean, almost-dust-free house is the first step to clarity and stress relief, however we’re thinking it’s time to go deeper.
- Now’s the time for some self-care. Shed winter’s layer on your body by sloughing off dead skin with masks or exfoliants. When your skin is glowing and wonderful, apply a layer of light moisturizer.
- Enjoy the change of seasons and get outside as a family to enjoy nature. Pick an activity like walking, hiking or bicycling and simply move about in the fresh air. Enjoy some fun conversation, and take the time to plan some summer fun.
- Detox from social media by unplugging from your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram for as long as it takes to simply feel better when you re-engage. Social media can wreak havoc on our sanity when we compare our lives to the escapades, dinners, children and adventures of all those people with whom we are connected. Unplugging quiets that urge to compare ourselves to others on a seemingly endless stream of images and stories.
- Start journaling to reflect and find gratitude. You can journal mornings or evenings, or both. Just take a few minutes to express how you feel and relax knowing this is probably one of the healthiest steps you can take to cleanse your soul.
- Try drinking tea instead of coffee, or at least sit down for a cup of tea in the afternoon. Tea has many health benefits, from the type of tea and herbs you use to the calming effect it has on your nervous system. One cup of chamomile, a good view and quiet is just what your busy body needs to calm itself.
- Tap into your creativity. Creativity can extend into so many different aspects of your life. From gardening to painting, building or playing music. Reach deep to find your creative passion and let your heart and mind sing.
This February, how about taking care of that special person in your life by celebrating the loving heart you share? It’s simply a great time to remind you to actually schedule those date nights at least once each month.
Ask someone to watch the kids and start planning. And planning a date can be shared or flip-flopped; one date night is yours and the next is his. Dream Dinners makes dinner easy, but sometimes you just need to head out to mix up dinner plans.
We’ve been scouring websites for date night ideas that are sure to be fun, interesting and sometimes over-the-top exciting.
Here are a few ideas we love:
- Plan to learn something. The Escape Adulthood website encourages taking a class together. It can be anything from painting to photography to glass blowing, just make sure it’s a skill that’s new to the both of you.
- Pretend it’s your first date and relearn things about your partner. Even reinvent your story. The Date Night Wingman website says to stay curious with someone you’re familiar with. By going out on first dates over and over, you get that first kiss again and again.
- Mini Road Trip to escape the norm. Your road trip shouldn’t be far, just far enough that you go someplace new or exciting. Lifehacks.io website that you can stay somewhat close to home and enjoy a small town or antiques market, or travel a little farther and enjoy the journey along the way.
- Staying home? Try sparking a little bit of competition either by playing board games, a few rounds of indoor golf using cups or cardboard boxes or video games. If you want to up the ante, have a water balloon battle or Nerf gun fight. Check out therealisticmama.com website for more ideas.
- Scavenger Hunt. Stylecaster.com offers up a fun date by presenting your loved one with date clues in a sealed envelope. Give subtle hints and directions if you’re the ultimate destination. If you’re going along for the ride, each stop along the way can get bigger and bigger in terms of intrigue or simple size if it’s food or beverages.
Whatever you choose to do, keep date nights fun and keep them on a regular basis.
If Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon mogul, can find time to eat with his family, we’re thinking there’s really nothing holding us back from doing the same.
We are all making a pact here at Dream Dinners to slow down in 2019. Sure, it’s easy to pack granola bars for breakfast in the car or throw an extra pack of snacks in the kids’ soccer bag. Really, at the end of the day, we just need to carve out some time to reconnect.
There have been myriad studies about the importance of nightly – or as close to nightly as possible – family dinners. Not only are they a way to unwind, relax and share stories, they have some substantial effects on the social and emotional development of children and lasting positive effects on adult relationships, as well.
By Sherry Jennings, Dream Dinners
Not everyone has the opportunity to be raised with parents who love to cook, who know their way around the kitchen and enjoy sharing that passion with their families. Some of us had that opportunity and we’d be brought into the meal making process at various times to stir, chop, taste, or simply salivate during the wait.
I was raised in such a family. My mom was Italian and spent long Sunday afternoons stirring pots of sauce even in the summer. My dad, an Englishman, enjoyed cooking just as much, although he cooked things he truly had a passion for. His family baked daily so the muffins and breads were on a seemingly endless cycle. He also loved hot sauces and would grow his own peppers and spend hours canning his well-known and sought-after “hot source.”
From fish to pasta, vegetable bakes to anything grilled, my parents kept me involved and I grew up loving home cooked meals shared with my family and friends.
Sure, today’s family schedules are jammed packed and events are endless. That’s why Dream Dinners is the perfect partner to keep families connecting, sharing and bonding through the power of the dinner table. I’m pretty sure my mom would have appreciated the effortlessness dinners Dream Dinners could have provided when we spent our summers at the lake house in Pennsylvania.
It’s that time of year when we begin thinking of trips over Spring Break, Memorial Day and throughout the summer. The calendar fills up quickly, and so do mom anxieties when trying to make sure every detail is in place and the trips ahead are memory-worthy, not in the Griswold family sort of way.
The Dream Dinners team is always looking for ways to simplify planning, and road tripping is no different. Most of us have raised our kids and some are still juggling high school and middle school schedules, while a few are still changing their kids’ diapers. We are always talking trip hacks to make everything so much easier on the entire family. Adventures should focus on the journeys and destinations, and that’s possible when a few tried-and-true planning steps are handled right from the get-go.
One way to get the kids psyched about the trip, not just the days out of school, is to bring them in on the planning right from the dream stage. When they are excited, the anticipation well outweighs a last-minute food stop.
There are ways to get the kids involved. Start with a list of destinations, break out the maps and research at the library, or online, all the details about where you hope to land. If you use a paper map, which is so much more fun to mark up Ken Jennings-style, take time to point out some fun spots along the way. Are there scenic vistas? Giant trees? Historic markers? Hikes? Places to play?
Football fans can find their emotions in a knot this time of year. As the sport’s ultimate game preparations head into the final plays, fans are both elated at the prospect of a dynamic matchup on the field, or flattened, knowing that once the Super Bowl credits are running and the confetti is floating to the ground, that’s it: game over for a year.
For some fan supporters, the last game is welcomed with Sunday honey-do lists piling up. There will be no more excuses not to clean the gutters.
Dream Dinners loves football, its fans and its party hosts. Our dinners are the perfect start to an MVP award-worthy appetizer spread. The best part is you already have the ingredients in your freezer and can spend less time in the grocery store with the other party hosts a few days ahead of February 4.
The January menu has loads of great recipes that can be remixed into appetizers. You can always serve bowls of the Down Home Texas Ranch Chili with Cheddar Corn Cakes, easily prepared on the stovetop or in a crock pot. Then there is the Garlic and Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak you can slice thinly and weave onto skewers. How about cutting the Crispy Coconut Chicken into chunks and serving them with toothpicks? Or serving the Crunchy Oven Fried Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Puffs on toothpicks? Easy peasy!
Meatball Marinara Stuffed French Bread is also another easy way to turn a Dream Dinner meal into an appetizer.
In 2018, our Sides & Sweets Freezers at the stores are packed to the gills with appetizer favorites.
Dinners with family have been our company’s focus for 15 years now; however, entertaining was a focus for our company’s founder for many years before 2002, during Stephanie Allen’s pre-Dream Dinners life as a caterer. Even today, Stephanie is the “the hostess with the mostest.” She invites groups to enjoy at her home and before people know it, there is a spread of food that could feed an army.
The mystery is that you never see her leave the gathering. She spends so little time in the kitchen and so much time with her guests, you have to ask yourself where she hides the elves. Surely, she has a merry band of chefs working with her behind the scenes. No, she doesn’t. She’s Stephanie. She’s learned through the years that it’s absolutely possible to focus on her guests because she’s taken the time before her gathering to prep and pre-cook what she can.
She once wrote that guests can pick up on a host’s mood quickly. If a host is stressed, the guests can’t really relax. Stephanie exudes a sense of relaxation that can only be emulated by pages in a lifestyle mag, where everyone is smiling and every plate and glass is filled: Cheers! Always laughing and with an ear to listen to the many stories, Stephanie quietly goes about the final touches. She is eating with her guests, laughing around a fire pit and cracking crabs at the beach because she’s taken steps ahead of time to make sure she’s not stressing and is focused on her guests.