Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cleveland Rave: Petitti's Garden Centers

Petitti's Garden Center is a lawn and garden store with several locations around the Cleveland area.  We live a few miles from their Avon store.  Sometime before the All Star's first Christmas, someone recommended we take her to visit the Petitti's Santa.  They let you take your own pictures, so we were sold!
2011
Since then, and as long as they continue to offer a visiting Santa, it is the only place we will go!  They really do let you take your own photos!  Every year the photographer has encouraged my husband to get up right behind him/her to get the best shot.  They do have picture packages available for purchase as well.  The same lovely gentleman has been playing Santa the 4 years we've gone.  His partner is a welcoming and friendly Mrs. Claus.
2010
2008  (We did not love Santa in 2009.  No picture.)
Mrs. Claus
As if that's not enough to get you in the spirit, your children will love Bertie the Talking Tree.  She loves to meet new kids.  She addresses them by name and happily sings songs with even the youngest customer!
Bertie
New (as far as I know) this year, was Petitti's story time.  For several weeks during the months of November and December, Petitti's offered a wonderfully festive Storybook Hour.  At the one we attended, vinyl tablecloths were spread out in front of Bertie for kids to sit on.  Children gathered to listen to five stories read by a friendly Petitti's associate.  In between stories, Bertie came alive to sing Christmas carols.  Petitti's, leaving nothing to be desired, had a hot chocolate bar set out with marshmallows and candy canes!

After taking your children to all these fun events, you probably need some time to yourself.  Petitti's holds a Ladies' Night, which sounds perfect to unwind with your friends!  Wine, champagne, cupcakes, and local fare are available.  Additionally, participants earn a percentage off their purchases that evening.  I did not attend this year, but have a friend who did.  She said it was crowded (maybe they will add more dates in 2012!), but relaxing and definitely worth it!  I'll be going next year, for sure.

Of course, at each of these events, you have the opportunity to shop shop shop.  You will not be disappointed in the holiday decor selection or the grand displays.  Picture opportunities galore!  This year, at the Avon store, guests walked into what felt like a giant snow globe.

Avon store entrance.
Don't forget Fido; Petitti's is pet friendly.  Our mascot is a beast so we leave her at home, but I know she'd be thrilled with the dog biscuit buffet found in the pet section!

Thank you, Petitti's for providing an array of wonderful, family-friendly, and best of all - free (my favorite!) - activities throughout the year, but especially at Christmastime.  Petitti's is definitely in a league of their own!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lego KidsFest: Cleveland

Last weekend, Cleveland hosted the LEGO KidsFest at The IX-Center.  I was lucky enough to win tickets from Clue Into Cleveland.  My husband and daughter went out for a Daddy/Daughter date and pretty much had a blast.  (He's super excited that she loves LEGOs so much.)  When they got home it was hard to tell who had more fun.

Information from the KidsFest website says: "LEGO KidsFest is a three-day show filled with hands-on, interactive and educational activities for the whole family. Get creative in the construction zones, meet LEGO Master Builders, help build the Creation Nation and Mystery Murals, experience LEGO Universe and LEGO Games, and see dozens of life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks." Additionally, my husband read (he can't remember where) that cities are selected for the tour based on LEGO sales.  So, go Cleveland!

There were a variety of activities and stations for guests to participate in.  Because our daughter is only 3, there were a couple my husband found to be just a little out of range for her understanding or ability.  He thinks 5 or 6 years old would probably be the perfect age to enjoy all the activities offered.  One station allowed builders to make a bridge then test its strength with weights.  Another area featured all the LEGO games that are available right now.  And I can't forget the the mountain of LEGO bricks (and a seperate Duplo mountain) set up for free-building (wishing my husband had taken a picture of that, just so I could have seen it!)

For their first activity, Johnny and the All Star made a flower from LEGO Bricks.  For each flower created, LEGO donated $1 to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.  Because she had to leave her flower in the garden, All Star was rewarded with a helicopter packet to build at home.

The All Star with her donation flower.
Another activity gave them two minutes to build a creation based on a topic given by the facilitator.  My girl needed to create something that annoyed her.  Based on the picture, I think they created something that annoyed Mommy!  For this activity, All Star was rewarded with a build your own race car packet.

Bugs annoy Mommy!
Creation Nation was a favorite for my husband.  It's so large that he couldn't even get the whole thing in one frame.  Apparently it travels from location to location so people all over the country have contributed to it.  I do wish I'd seen this in person.  It looks impressive!
LEGO Nation
 By far, for my family, the highlight was all the statues and creations displayed around the event floor.  They saw Indiana Jones, Batman, Sponge Bob, the cast of Harry Potter, dinos, sharks, aliens, and of course, LEGO minifigures!  Here are just a few pictures.

Buzz and Woody

The All Star loved the LEGO minifigures the best!  Johnny tells me there was one with a lumberjack beard that she insisted on visiting 3 different times.
Dinos!
Sponge Bob
In posing for the picture, All Star went to rest her elbow on the ninja, but bumped it on a corner of one of the LEGO brick edges.  As Johnny snapped the picture, she yelled, "Hey!  The ninja poked me!"  Much to the amusement of the adults around her, I'm sure.
Lightening McQueen.  I love the lady behind M checking the undercarriage.  As if she doesn't have faith that it really is ALL LEGOs.  But then again, she is also wearing a Steelers t-shirt.


Fun facts from the lanyard each attendee received (too funny not to share):


 "With a production of about 306 million tires produced every year, the LEGO Group is the world's largest producer of tires."


"The LEGO minifigure represents the world's largest population of people!  Over 4 billion minifigures have been produced in the last 30 years.  This is almost 12 times the population of the United States."

"There are 915 million ways to combine six eight-stud LEGO bricks."  WOW!


LEGO KidsFest is in a league of its own and we sure hope they return to Cleveland next year! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Recipe: Croissant French Toast

I have wanted to try this recipe for awhile.  Like pretty much all my fabulous ideas of late, I found it on Pinterest.  We tried it out this weekend.  Original recipe is from My Recipes.  I tweaked a little because I didn't have or want to make Strawberry Syrup.

Ingredients: milk, eggs, butter, croissants and vanilla extract
As with all French Toast, this is super healthy!  I kid.

Use day-old croissants.  Whisk up the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Half the croissants then dredge them in the egg mixture.  Melt some butter in your skillet or griddle.  Cook croissants about 2 minutes on each side.  I needed less time as the pan got hotter and hotter.



Plate up, cover with butter, syrup, whipped cream, fresh fruit, whatever your fancy.  We used butter, syrup, and/or whipped cream.  They were tasty. 


We rarely have French Toast because I won't eat it if it's made with your everyday sandwich bread.  And I don't like that I would have buy special bread, so this was an easy alternative.  Flavor-wise, it's not any different!

Recipe:
Croissant French Toast

Ingredients

  • 4 large day-old croissants
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Whipped Cream (optional)
  • Syrup (optional)

Preparation

  • Slice croissants in half lengthwise.
  • Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into a shallow dish. Dip croissant halves into egg mixture, coating well.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add four croissant halves, and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Repeat procedure with remaining butter and croissant halves. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; top with Whipped Cream, if desired, and Syrup.
Yield: 4 Servings

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recipe: One-Ingredient Banana "Ice Cream"


You read that correctly.  There is only one ingredient in this yummy treat.  It is very easy and obviously healthy compared to the Moose Tracks in your freezer.  I originally found something similar on Pinterest, but didn't want to use cocoa powder, so I did a little Googling which turned up this recipe and excellent step by step instructions

First, take your bananas and slice them about 3/4 inch thick and place on a freezer safe dish.  I used 3 extra ripe bananas which provided 2 1/2 servings.  Place the dish in the freezer for at least one hour.  You want the bananas to be fully frozen.  Mine were in for about 3 hours.


Place frozen bananas in your choice of small appliance.  I used my blender, but next time I think I'm going to try the food processor.  The first pulse with the frozen bananas is loud!  Warn the children in the room it's coming.  Also, if you are a fan of Dippin' Dots, you can just stop right here and dish the bananas up.  It looks just like that!

If Dippin' Dots aren't your thing, keep going!  The remaining process takes awhile, but you will be rewarded.  Puree, scrape sides, puree, scrape sides, puree, etc.  You have to do the steps over and over.  Don't give up!  Keep at it.  The first time we tried this, I almost stopped because I thought I must be doing it wrong.  Just keep scraping the sides down.  It will eventually turn into a creamy, cold, banana "ice cream" with soft-serve consistency.  Yum!

I forgot to take progress pics.  It wasn't quite this melty when we dished it out.

All Star #1, what do you think??


We preferred the ice cream plain, but you could add cocoa powder, peanut butter, Nutella, Biscoff, or top with chocolate sauce.  Go crazy and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recipe: Christmas French Toast

This is one of my favorite recipes to make and to eat!  It's called Christmas French Toast only because the woman who passed the recipe to me served it for her family only one day a year - Christmas morning.


Christmas French Toast

1 loaf French bread
6 eggs
1 ½  cups milk
1 ½ cups half/half
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 stick of butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. dark Karo syrup

1) Night before:
Cut bread into 1 inch thick slices.  Lay in bottom of well-greased 9x13 pan.  (Squish them down in there, fit as many as you can.)
Mix eggs, milk, half/half, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix well until frothy.  Pour over bread. 
Refrigerate overnight.

2) Day of:
Preheat oven to 345 degrees.
Mix softened butter, brown sugar and Karo syrup.  Spread over bread.  Bake 40 min or until golden brown.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Recipe: Sausage Stew (Crockpot)

* Recipe from my cousin.
* Hope to edit with pictures soon. 
Sausage Stew

1  16 oz. smoked sausage, sliced
1/3 cup diced onion
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, undrained
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 10 ¾ oz. can minestrone soup
1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning*

Combine all ingredients in crockpot.  Cook on low for 6 -8 hours.

*You can buy Creole Seasoning premade, but I found a website that has a recipe to make your own

For 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning:

3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder



Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/11

I don't know what to say today.  I've struggled with Facebook, Twitter, and general conversations with family.  9/11 brings me such a crushing sadness that sometimes I don't even want to talk about it.  I just prefer to sit alone and take in as many 9/11 TV specials as I can.

The worst part is, I didn't know a single person killed or injured that day.  I feel like beyond the patriotic duty of being saddened, I have no right to feel this way.  Then, I had discussions with some ladies on my local message board for moms.  Turns out a lot of people feel this way.  Or at least, a lot of those moms anyway.  Women my age, some a little younger, some older all talked of feelings bigger then them.  Feelings they couldn't understand.  I was comforted to know that I was not alone.

Ten years ago, I was recently graduated from college, living with my parents.  My only sibling was away at his first year of college.  And my parents were leaving for a small mid-week trip to a bed and breakfast.  My aunt called asking us to turn on the TV.  I was glued to it for the rest of the day.  She must have called early because I saw everything (the second plane, the towers falling, the Pentagon, Shanksville) happen live.  I didn't move from the TV for hours.  I spent much of the morning (from the chair in front of the TV of course) trying to reach my brother and updating my parents.  I didn't leave the house until the reporters started speculating about gas gouging.  I drove my car, then my dad's (a manual when I didn't know how to drive stick) to a nearby station to fill up.  Then chatted with my college friends for most of the night.  Just trying to talk out what was happening.

I am 32 years old.  Our generation had no idea what a national crisis looked like.  Yes, we'd seen things like devastating hurricanes and the OKC bombing.  We'd all been taught in school about Pearl Harbor.  However, nothing could have prepared me for that day ten years ago.  Maybe that's where the confusing and and weighted feelings come from.  I know only one thing.  I will never forget.

Taken from a friend's Facebook status (and edited for grammar):
For the husband who told his wife I love you one last time before his plane went down in a field.  For the wife who stopped in the stairs to call her husband to say I will love you forever.  For the mothers and fathers who kissed their kids goodbye the morning they died.  For the police and firefighters who rushed in and got others out only to die themselves.  For the soldiers who fought back for ALL of US and lost their lives. For everyone who died on 9/11... I will remember you...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recipe: Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken

* Recipe introduced to me by a friend. 
* Hope to update with photos...

Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 stick butter (*I use 1/2 or 1/4 stick and it tastes just fine!)
1 package Good Seasonings Italian Salad Dressing mix
1 can cream of chicken soup (*I buy one of the healthy versions)
1 bar of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white wine
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
fresh black pepper
prepared pasta or rice

In crockpot, place chicken, butter, garlic, onion (optional), a shake of pepper, and package of Italian dressing mix.  Cook on low for five hours.

After four hours, add white wine.   

After five hours remove chicken and shred.  Add soup and cream cheese and stir.  Return shredded chicken to crockpot.  Stir to combine.  Cook on low one hour more.

Serve over pasta or rice. 

Total cooking time: 6 hours.  Serves 6.   
 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pink Themed Birthday Party

The All Star had one request for her birthday party.  She wanted pink.  In fact she told me everything should be pink.  Pink decorations, pink clothes, pink cake, pink food.  We did our best to grant her request.  Literally.  Everything was pink.

Menu
Hot Dogs (boiled or grilled)
Ambrosia Salad
Potato Salad (dyed pink)
Macaroni Salad (dyed pink)
Watermelon
Jello Jigglers (they don't really make a "pink" flavor. Boo.)
Pink Party Punch
Birthday Cake (cake and frosting dyed pink)


Hot dog toppings
ketchup, yellow mustard, ball park mustard, sweet relish, dill relish, onion, cheddar cheese, chili, Frank's Red Hot, sauteed peppers and onions, sauerkraut, salsa, and cole slaw

If you are here for pink party ideas we also entertained doing ham and mashed potatoes (dyed pink) but our All Star has a spring birthday so we wanted more summery foods!

 Invitations:  I used Socializr.com and we tweaked the "Birthday Star" invitation a little to be more personalized.

Decorations:  I made tissue poms in varying shades of pink. 

The pic was pretty bad, so just giving an idea of pom poms.






I had a great plan to do different sizes and shades and decorate our porch, but we didn't have wonderful weather like last year.  It rained all day so we were stuck inside.  Other pink decorations - serving bowls, tins for hot dog toppings, tableclothes, plates, napkins, and cups - all pink!

Everyone in our family wore pink.  I didn't ask guests to wear pink, but many of them showed up in pink anyway.  
Another bad pic, but we all wore shades of pink!

A Pinkalicious time was had by all!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Letter for My All Stars

Our local newspaper, The Plain Dealer, along with The Cleveland Indians recently held a contest for Indians fans.  You were to write a short essay about your most memorable game.  They received over 600 submissions.  Originally they were awarding one grand prize winner a ball signed by Indians greats, 4 tickets to a game, and the chance to throw out the first pitch at a game.  Four additional finalists would win 4 tickets to a game.  Apparently they were so surprised at the number and sincerity of the entries they decided to award 162 (one for each game of the season) extra winners a 4 ticket prize.  All 167 winning essays were or will be published in the paper.  My essay was not chosen as a winner.  I'm still not sure how since my children are named after Indians, but in any case, that doesn't mean it can't be published in some capacity. 


I have been an Indians fan as long as I remember.   Indians players are household names for us.  Literally.  My oldest daughter, Maris, is named for Roger Maris.  Her sister, Paige, born in January, is named after Satchel Paige.  I drove a car for 10 years with the license plate O MY OMR.  I own enough Indians apparel to clothe the team itself.  There is an authentic Indians jersey with my maiden name on the back framed and hanging in our Indians themed basement family room.  I even wrote my 8th grade “how to” speech about how Indians pitchers pitch.

So, each and every Tribe game I have been to holds a special memory.  I saw my first games at Municipal Stadium when I was a child.  I’ve attended playoff games that were so exciting you can’t sleep when you get home.  My husband and I have traveled to Detroit, NYC, and San Francisco to watch the Indians play ball.  I even got to watch my dad don an Indians uniform and play a game at the Jake – albeit a fantasy camp reunion game.

However, there is one game that stands out.  July 29, 2008.  The Tigers were in town and beat us 8-5.  By comparison, it was probably a pretty boring game.  That didn’t matter.  I had my little girl, just over two months old, in her tiny little Indians onesie, at her first game.   

Maris won’t remember it.  But I will.  And my mom and dad will.  Three generations of Indians fans enjoying a game on hot summer night in July.  A wonderful Indians customer service representative saw us and offered a certificate to commemorate her first game.  I think he was just as enamored with the fact we named our daughter Maris as we were with his stories of his parents actually befriending her namesake many years ago.  We ended the night with a group photo at the front gates with the field behind us. 

My parents taught me to love Indians baseball.  Being able to share my daughter’s first game with them was something I’ll never forget.   All of us look forward to a similar memory when we take Paige to her first game this summer.  The only thing that could make it better?  Writing in her baby book that she helped us throw out the first pitch!

 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Polka Dot Birthday

When we switched my daughter from Pampers to Target diapers, she was quite pleased. She'd run around yelling "Polka dot diapy!" So we figured that would be a fun (and easy!) birthday party theme. It was!

We started with the invitations. I love Evite. It is free, saves on postage, allows immediate RSVP options, and even lets the sender know when guests have viewed the invitation. Even better they had a birthday invite with a polka dot background! We thought up a fantastically literary poem about birthdays and polka dots and sent the invitation out.

Decorations were easy too. I bought $5 worth of poster board, found four dishes in different sized circles and started tracing. Cutting turned out to be the hard part. I had almost 100 circles when all was said and done and my hand was significantly cramped/blistered to prove it. We found perfect polka dot table clothes at Old Navy during their 30% weekend and my mom bought 3 dozen daisies in beautiful bright colors. We slipped the "1st" off her birthday banner from last year (which was conveniently dot shaped) and hung that up.  Decorations were done! We actually found polka dot latex balloons on Ebay for a great price, but didn't order them in time. The party store near us sold them for much more than we wanted to spend.  It turned out not to be necessary.  The table clothes, poster dots, and flowers were lovely all by themselves.



We incorporated polka dots everywhere we could.  The cake had dots on it and I made jello jigglers in rainbow colors, cut with a biscuit cutter. 


Lastly of course, we were all dressed in polka dots.  Even the guests (using hints from the aformentioned literary masterpiece, I'm sure) brought gifts wrapped in polka dot paper or bags and some even dressed in polka dots themselves. 


Thanks to everyone who helped make the All Star's Polkadot Pallooza birthday party a hit!