Mardi Gras is March 4th!

Seafood Cioppino

It’s a flamboyant day of festivals, parades, and carnivals colored with purple, gold, and green. Join the fun and decorate your table with colorful masks, beads and crowns while you enjoy our Seafood Cioppino! It’s a hearty stew full of sea bass, shrimp and a kick of spices.

To make the day extra festive, get out the glitter, sequins and glue and let your little ones decorate their own Mardi Gras masks. Also visit these sites for bright, colorful table setting ideas:

http://southerncharmbyfarica.blogspot.com/2012/02/mardi-gras-tablescape.html

Hosting ‘Hang-ups’ worth Bagging (Part 2)

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If you want to host more often but never get around to it, see if these tips will help you overcome the most common hosting hurdles:

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We are limited on space
Overflow into your yard, deck, and even garage. (Crowds can be cozy)!

I don’t know what to do
You don’t have to provide entertainment since guests love to visit, but, if you like, link your meal with an activity: a football game or TV finale, cards or games, a crafty project (carving pumpkins/ making snowmen), or a playful competition. Continue reading

Top Five Energy Boosters for Dreary Days

  1. Be intentional about getting a good night’s sleep and, if needed during the day, take a short power nap.That coffee with dessert might have boosted your mood after dinner, but the caffeine likely disrupted your sleep. Lack of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep can make you feel sluggish and less motivated while decreasing your ability to focus. Try to maintain a regular sleep cycle and if your eyelids are dropping during the day, take a short nap. You’ll be energized and rboy_eating_carroteady to concentrate after your zzzzzzs!
  2. Eat a healthy diet and avoid skipping meals. Missed meals cause our bodies to crave sugar and eat more to resolve our slump than to prevent it. Don’t rely on excessive caffeine (over 500mg) and sugar to treat this problem. Their promising energy surge guarantees an energy drop later and you’re back where you started. To avoid this crazy cycle, choose nutritious snacks full of fiber and nutrients such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and granola bars such as ‘Kind’ or ‘Larabar’.
  3. Fill up on water. Even mild dehydration can alter your energy level, mood, and mental well-being. Have a water bottle handy where ever you go. To keep it interesting, add fresh squeezed lemon, lime, or other fresh ingredients.
  4. Go for an energizing walk or lift a few weights. Exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re tired, but give it a try; it’s a great ‘pick-me-up.’  Find an exercise that you can do regularly and experience the benefits of natural mood-enhancing chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. So go for it: hike some stairs, hustle around the parking lot, or jump on a bike… your heart will be pumping in no time increasing your alertness and renewing your motivation for tasks at hand.
  5. Enjoy some laughter. Ask a friend to join you for a fun girl’s day. Grab coffee, go shopping or attend a Dream Dinners session together.  Don’t have time to meet up, phone a friend who’s sure to make you belly laugh. Humor and laughter boost your energy, enhance your immune system, trigger endorphins, and protect your heart from the damaging effects of stress. It’s the funniest way to beat the blues.

Get in the Game by Sprucing up your Table

Your family will love your extra effort to make life fun by adding a new look to your dinner table this month.  Here’s how to use what you have to honor your little athletes and celebrate the season.

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  • Dig out your kids old jerseys and line them down the center of the table as a runner. Or, if you have team pendants on your walls, take them down and repurpose them for the month as a pendant runner.
  • Nothing says international like flags. If you have little ones, make placemats of different country flags and cover them with clear contact paper.
  • Make a centerpiece: fill a vase with cut greenery from your yard; pile a clear bowl full of pine cones/nuts/ or even prize ribbons, or, grab an old trophy and place it front and center.
  • Find those little outgrown mittens, hats, and scarves and arrange them around your centerpiece.

You get the idea, think winter sports and rummage around your house and yard to make your own personalized table scape.  Solicit your kid’s creative input too.  You might have to ‘take turns’ with different designs as they’ll come up with more ideas than you have room!

Take pictures and show us.  We want in on your family spirit too!

 

Hosting ‘Hang-ups’ worth Bagging

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What makes hosting challenging for you?
I have a friend who rarely hosts because she doesn’t think she’s a good cook, although, whenever I eat her cooking, it’s always great! Does having people over for dinner seem intimidating? We have lots of reasons that hold us back. We can be low on: time, funds, energy, space, experience, and confidence all of which can make hosting challenging.

False Beliefs
Our beliefs and expectations of ourselves affect whether we will host or not. For example, if I expect everything I serve must be made from scratch; I will never have enough time to prepare it. Or, if I believe my house isn’t nice enough then I’ve mistakenly believed that the environment I present to my friends is more important to them than our friendship. Continue reading

Encouraging the Best in People

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Have you ever felt unjustly accused or misunderstood? Or perhaps you’ve formed premature opinions of others that aren’t based on truth. Is your co-worker stand-offish?  Maybe she’s dealing with difficult personal matters you know nothing about. Is your spouse non-talkative? Maybe he’s weighing a challenging business decision he doesn’t know how to handle. We could save ourselves a lot of relational strife if we would stop summing each other up without really knowing all the facts. It’s easy to make false assumptions and label someone wrongly which gets in the way of real love and acceptance.

You might have noticed children rarely jump to false accusations, but, they take in the facts first. They innocently offer an abundant amount of unconditional love Continue reading

Make these Winter Game Appetizers in a Snap

girl_in_snowGet in the spirit of the Winter Games and have a celebration.  Gather your family or a few close friends and turn some of your Dream Dinners meals into party appetizers for the Ceremonies or your favorite event.

The Slow Cooked BBQ Beef with Rustic Country Rolls are a savory winter treat. Serve them on a platter alongside vegetables and dip for your cheering fans.

Cheddar Filled Mini MeatloavesOur Cheddar Filled Mini Meatloaves with Potato Pancakes turn any event into fun! Bake the meatloaves in mini-tins for a great appetizer for your party buffet.

Dipping adds variety and pizazz to any celebration. Treat your burgeoning athletes to our BBQ Chip Chicken Tenders with Dipping Sauce and watch them smile! For more variety, squeeze extra sauces from your frig into little serving bowls and sample new combinations…even marmalade is interesting.

 

Try these ‘Winter Game’ Contests and Join the Fun!

kids_playing_in_snowBeat the cold winter blues and throw a party for kids or adults. No Slope Style course or Half Pipe? No problem, use what you have and join the competitive spirit.

Start by grouping couples or families into teams each representing a different country and let the competition begin!  (You can have them draw the country from several you pre-select). Designate a judge to vote for game winners and to keep the games moving. Make a music play list to add to the competitive mood. Have fun!

Your first game: ‘Our Country’ Internet Challenge

Use their smart phones or computer and find: 1.How to say, “We’re number one!” in their Country’s language. 2. Sketch and color their Country’s flag. 3. Find names of athletes from their Country (one for each team mate). Limit the time to about ~10 minutes. Each team takes turns presenting itself, stating their Atheletic ‘name,’ holding their flag, and saying, “We’re number one!” Let the judge decide who wins (i.e. first team ready or most funny).

More Game Ideas: Compete in Sports you Already Love

bobbing_apples_mouthPull out your family’s favorite games and turn them into a competition. Set up a rotation all over your house with two teams in each area. Give them score cards to track wins and losses. The team with the most wins after completing all the rotations wins.

Try: hockey in the garage, a slam dunk contest, ping-pong,  X-game skateboarding course, Wii games, Minute to Win it challenges, a puzzle assembling race, etc.

Conclude with an Awards Ceremony and recognize teams with medals and prizes.  Have fun!

 

 

Discover the Powerful Potentional of Eating at the Table

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Can you name your five all-time favorite dinner remembrances?
A first date, grandma’s house, a momentous celebration … they might stir up your memories with a smile. Most likely, these events happened around a table.  easter-2011-family-at-table

We’ve all got a table somewhere—indoors, outdoors, fancy or worn—they’re functional, common, and sometimes…magical. Simple pieces of furniture, our tables, quietly offer unforgettable opportunities for all who gather around them.

One of my special memories originated on a warm July evening when we celebrated our friend’s wedding anniversary while vacationing on a houseboat. Between all of us adults we had about a dozen children, so we hired the oldest to keep the others occupied. We set up folding tables and chairs on the upper deck complete with table cloths, wine glasses, candles, and music. As we ate, we watched a gorgeous setting sun Continue reading

Have we Gone too far Rewarding with Food?

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Let’s face it, sweets and treats motivate kids! From the time they begin potty training we start reinforcing their behavior with whatever works best. Rewards come in smiles, high fives, a cheerful “good job,” and quite often, a piece of candy or a trip to their favorite restaurant. boy_eating_smoresMuch of our cultural celebrations involve food and these are wonderful traditions. There’s nothing wrong with having cake & ice cream for birthdays or going out to eat to celebrate your ‘Student of the Month.’ But what happens when food becomes a prize for just about everything? Think about your family, what food rewards are your doling out on a regular basis?

Too many food rewards have a downside: we learn to eat for emotional reasons, sugar becomes a habit or an addiction, and we pack on the pounds. We’re a product of our time, everyone gets a trophy. If we reward every little accomplishment, we diminish its uniqueness while the overused prize loses its value. We can end up treating ourselves (and our kids) for everyday occurrences, just because we ‘deserve’ it.  There has to be a balance.

Try to find other ways to reward your kids and celebrate accomplishments. This is Continue reading

Our NYC Appetizer Adventure

stephanie-blog-headerTina and I just had the craziest week traveling to NYC to appear on Good Morning America Live. I say, ‘week’ but it was really only 2 days!

Our segment was on demonstrating Super Bowl party appetizers using Dream Dinners.

Before we left, we packed up all of our frozen dinners in a suitcase and pre-cooked the flank steak. Also in our bags were, green and blue shirts along with 12th man buttons so we could properly root on our home team. Go Seahawks! I threw in a knife too (which ended up being a brilliant idea that I will tell you about later). Continue reading

Our Under-construction Christmas

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Discover ‘True Hospitality’ and Never be Intimidated Again

What kind of friend are you: the one who hosts or the one who’s often the guest? Sometimes we let self-doubt, fears, intimidation, or an imperfect environment inhibit us from having people over. We can easily confuse the food and presentation with the art of hospitality.

When you’re a guest, what’s more important: Gourmet food or feeling welcome and included? A well decorated environment or feeling loved by your host who is so glad you came? You see, hospitality is how we make people feel when we have them in our home.

Our last Christmas gathering is one I’m sure my family will never forget. Not because it was ‘perfect,’ Continue reading

Fun at Work Day is January 28th

Whether your work environment is serious or light hearted, take advantage of ‘Fun at Work Day’ and add a little joy to your co-worker’s lives. Here are some ideas to get your imagination spinning with fun and your work breaks teaming with laughter.

  • Surprise co-workers with a little gift on their desk when they arrive.
  • Bring a camera and take snapshots being silly, post them on your bulletin board.
  • Play a Minute-to-Win-It game
  • Share your uncommon talent (wiggling ears, whistling, double joints) Continue reading

Soup On My Mind

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When I think of soup… I envision my family around our sturdy, oak table, leaning over big bowls of chowder. The light overhead envelops us in a scene we know as family while the windows hold out the blackness of night. My nose inhales the unmistakable aroma of sautéed onion lingering in the air as we tear into crusty loaves of sourdough.

My favorite soups to make are Ham & Split Pea, Turkey Vegetable, and ‘Amazing Soup’ (which is always different because it’s inspired from anything I have leftover in my refrigerator)!  What truly warms my heart Continue reading

National Soup Month

There’s no better way to warm up on a chilly winter day than with a steaming bowl of soup. In honor of National Soup Month, we’re sharing this recipe for Kielbasa Bean Soup, which is a hearty meal in itself. It’s perfect for throwing together while the kids are outside playing or putting in the slow cooker so it’s ready when everyone gets home from school and work.

Kielbasa Bean Soup, serves 6

You’ll need:

2 cups potatoes, ½-inch diced and par boiled*
2 10.5-ounce cans bean with bacon soup
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
¾ pound kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces Continue reading