Sep 28, 2014

Eyeball Casserole Recipe - Perfect for Halloween

Eyeball casserole is my favorite Halloween tradition. I started making it 3 years ago and I can't imagine Halloween without it. When my kids were little they didn't remember eating the casserole the previous year so I could trick them into thinking we were eating real eyeballs for dinner.



Sadly those days are behind me.

This dish is still going to be served every year for dinner on Halloween. It's fun and unlike so many other cutesy dishes, it doesn't take very long to make. It's baked ziti with a little embellishment. I make a huge batch of meat sauce that I use for this meal and freeze the rest for many meals in the future. You could easily make it vegetarian by omitting the meat or use jarred sauce. It's your dinner, make it the way that works for your family.

The best part about this dish is that it can be made in advance. I make it the day before or in the morning while my kids are at school. Halloween is hectic enough, I don't need the added stress of cooking dinner in the evening. All I have to do is pop it into the oven and I'm sending my kids out to trick or treat with full tummies. It's important that they have enough endurance to collect enough candy to cover the parent candy tax.

This is just about the most kid friendly meal I make. My kids think it looks cool and pasta is always a hit in my house.

Eyeball Casserole

Ingredients

5 cups meat or marinara sauce
1 pound ziti noodles
8 oz block mozzarella cheese
small can of small olives
2 cups of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated
1/2 t salt and pepper

Directions

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.

2. While the pasta is cooking, beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Cut 10 slices of mozzarella cheese. Cut your cheese slices to look like eyes and set aside. Shred the remaining mozzarella cheese and stir it into the egg mixture. I like to throw in the scrapes of cheese from making the eyeballs.

3. Pour half the noodles into a 9x13 pan. Using half of the cheese mixture drop small spoonfuls of cheese over the noodles. Top with 2 1/2 cups of sauce. Repeat the layers of noodles, cheese, and sauce once.

4. To make the eyeballs slice the olives into circles. You'll need 3-4 olives to make the eyes. To make the lashes, cut the olives length wise into small strips.

5. Place the mozzarella eyes in any pattern that looks great to you. Place the olive rings in the middle of the cheese slices and use the olive strips to make lashes.

6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree over for 40 minutes.


Easy dinner idea that the kids will actually eat! It's a fun Halloween tradition in my house. Do you have any Halloween traditions?

Sep 26, 2014

Anniversary and Food Confessions

I confess....
It annoys me when people who aren't parents give out parenting advice as if they are experts.

For example

I'm watching Rachel Ray right now who is telling her audience that if kids cook they will eat the meals they prepared and won't be picky eaters.

I confess....
This kid loves helping me in the kitchen. She happily makes a meal and then refuses to eat it. All the time!

Look at that face, she helped me cook that meal.

So excuse me if I'm straining myself rolling my eyes at the childless Rachel Ray dispensing advice on how to get a picky eater to eat.

I confess....
Next week is my 10 year anniversary. My husband and I are leaving for four days for a trip to Myrtle Beach. I can't wait.

I confess....
The answer to "are you bringing your kids" isn't no. It's a hell no.

I love them, but I can't wait to get my husband to myself for four whole days.

I love this goofy guy!

I confess....
I'd like to say that I'll sleep in but I know my internal clock won't allow that to happen. But I won't have to wake up to a kid who peed in my bed or fighting among my girls since one of them wants the light on and the other wants to sleep.

I confess....
I'm going to do my best to completely unplug for the vacation. I'm not very good at not popping onto Instagram or Facebook when I have a minute of downtime. I just might delete the apps from my phone to remove the temptation.

I confess....
OK now on Rachael Ray all these couples are getting engaged. It's pretty cute, not my taste to propose in public but still cute and sweet.

She's redeeming herself.

What are you confessing this week?

Sep 24, 2014

Are You Waiting for a Special Occasion



Are you saving nice things for a special occasion? I know that most people are afraid of nice things breaking or getting ruined so they save them for a special occasion.  That just doesn't work for me.

My daughters love to wear fancy dresses. Thanks to several older girl cousins and a mommy who loves to dress shop they have several fancy dresses in their closets. Now I have a philosophy when it comes to clothes, their purpose is to be worn. Shocking right?

Her blueberry picking outfit.

My girls wear their fancy dresses weekly regardless of where we are going. Side note, they usually pick out jeans or shorts for church the one place we go where it's socially acceptable to wear fancy dresses.

I don't make them save their dresses for a special occasion. I don't understand why so many parents do. The dresses are paid for, don't you want them to wear them often to get the most bang for your buck? Plus it makes my daughters happy. I love that one simple move on my part makes my girls happy.

I have the same philosophy when it comes to my wedding china. Now that my kids are a little older we use it at least twice a week. Any meal that I consider fancy (ie it took more than 30 minutes to cook) is served on wedding china. My kids set the table and they ask if we can use my "fancy wedding china" often. They get so excited when we use the china and it makes the meal feel special, even when it comes out of the Crock Pot.

I know why I am this way with dresses and china. My grandma was a big believer in using your nicest things on the people you love the most. Every time we ate at her house we sat in the formal dining room and ate on her china. As a kid I loved getting to use her fancy dishes. She never worried about us scratching a plate or dropping one. A few years before she died she asked me what I wanted to inherit from her; I picked the china. If there is a fire, I will save the china. She also wore jewelry daily and dressed nicer than any occasion called for. I didn't inherit that fashion trait, you'll find me in jeans daily.

I don't want to have my nicest things hiding in closets or cabinets collecting dust. What is the point of having something nice if you never use it? My girls want to dress up like princesses and feel beautiful in their fancy dresses. A phase of life I'm all too aware will not last long so I'm enjoying every minute of it. I want to make my kids feel special by using my wedding dishes. It makes the meal feel special instead of an ordinary family dinner.

Do you save things for a special occasion? Why or why not?

Sep 22, 2014

Evenflo Symphony™ LX Car Seat Review

I have three kids which means my household has gone through several car seats. The total is currently 9 car seats and booster seats.  Between two cars and my kids outgrowing their car seats, it has been an expensive ride.


Normally a mother with an almost 5 year old boy would be looking into getting a booster seat for the last phase of the car seat life span. I've never liked being normal. My son is very small for his 44" height; he finally hit 35 pounds this month. I feel safer having him ride in a 5 point harness system since he weighs so little. Plus he lacks the maturity to sit correctly in a booster seat all the time. I received the EvenFlo Symphony LX to review for this post. All opinions are mine.



Like all moms my number one concern when it comes to a car seat is safety. When it comes to my son I'm a little extra concerned since he has Cerebral Palsy. Thankfully, the Symphony LX has e3 Side Impact™ Protection – three layers of engineered foam designed and tested to reduce side impact forces up to 50%. That system combined with a 5 point safety harness system gives me peace of mind. 

I'll admit that even after 6+ years of having car seats in my car, I'm not very good at installing them. Usually there is some serious sweat and tears involved so I make my husband take care of the installation. For the sake of this review and the fact that he was out of town, I installed it myself. The Symphony LX is by far the easiest car seat I've ever installed, no tears and I chalk the sweat up to the humidity. The ease of my installation was due to the SureSafe™ System. 

Evenflo developed a system consisting of Quick Connector™ LATCH and Guides that increases proper installation by 2 times compared to installation with standard LATCH hooks! LATCH guides act like a tunnel, making it a cinch to find your vehicles lower anchors. The Quick Connector™ LATCH easily attaches and detaches the seat from the vehicle with one hand for easy transition between vehicles.



Once I had the car seat installed all of my kids had to test it out. I love that the car seat is rated from 5-110 pounds making it safe for all of my kids to ride in it. All three of my kids said it was comfy and they liked how much higher they were sitting in the car. My son who has been riding in the car seat for about 3 weeks loves that he can see better now. You have to love kids; they pick the strangest feature to latch onto. He also likes that he has two cup holders now. 

The buckle pockets protect from hot buckle burns and eliminate digging under your child for lost buckles. While he hasn't mentioned this feature, it is a favorite of mine since I was always digging under his bottom to find the seat buckles. Are you ready for the best feature of this car seat as a parent? 

You don't have to remove the car seat to wash it! That's right no more unbuckling the seat to remove the cover to wash it. It is by far my favorite feature!

I love our new Evenflo Symphony LX and I highly recommend it. It's a great car seat since your child can use it from birth until they no longer need a car seat. My son is comfortable, safe, and I won't have to buy another car seat for him since it's rated for 110 pounds. The only downfall is that my girls argue over who gets to ride in the new car seat when Mark is not with us.

Check out the height!


You can learn more about the Evenflo Symphony LX on Walmart's website. Visit Evenflo's website for a $10 or $15 off coupon




I participated in this sponsored campaign on behalf of One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

Sep 19, 2014

Back to School Confessions

I confess....
My oldest needs a teacher who can challenge her, keep her focused, and appreciate her quirkiness. We hit the jackpot last year and it seems like we did again.

I confess....
I'm looking forward to volunteering at school again. I am not a PTA kind of mom but I'll tutor kids and do anything their teachers need for support.

I confess....
I like being back in the classroom for a few hours a week but I don't want to go back full time.

I confess....
I have a serious issue with helping my own child with her homework. I do fine most nights but when I'm tired and the math lessons are long I lose my patience. By the time we get to the last few questions I'm like Penny in this clip.



I confess....
I don't know how it's possible but helping my child with her homework is more exhausting and frustrating than a full day of teaching other peoples' children.

I confess....
I now have a deeper appreciation for all of my former students' parents that made sure they did homework every night. While I don't skip any nights, it's very tempting. Unfortunately the teacher in me just cannot allow for that to happen.

I confess....
I already hate packing lunches. Not even one month into the school year and it's my most dreaded chore. I don't know what is wrong with me since it doesn't take very long. It's not like I make their sandwiches into panda bears or anything, but I still dread making lunches.

I confess....
My kids ride the bus. Not only do they want to ride the bus but I'm way too impatient to sit in the car pool line. My preschooler has car pool this year and I love it! But they stagger the times so there are only 15 cars going through the line. Unlike the Elementary school which is at least 25 minutes long and oh yeah, I have to go through two lines there. One for my other preschooler and one for the 1st grader. Pass!



I confess....
Today I mixed up my daughters' lunches. I sent a ham and cheese sandwich with my pseudo vegetarian and the pb&j with Molly who goes to a nut free school. Crap!

I confess....
My daughter told my neighbor, the lady behind the counter at CVS, and her Aunt that I mixed up the sandwiches. I picked her up less than 2 hours ago, clearly I'm not going to live this one down anytime soon.


I confess....
I love seeing what crazy outfit Isabella lays out every night. She's such a character! I hope she makes her teacher laugh.




I confess....
I'm happy that summer is over and school is back now that I'm into the routine of school again. I'm able to work more and getting some alone time for a few hours a week is pretty amazing.

What are you confessing this week?

Sep 17, 2014

Today's Blessing - Hand Me Down Clothes

No matter what is going on in your life you are surrounded by blessings, you just have to look for them.

Don't worry this isn't a post that is intended to make you feel guilty for not appreciating what you have. I just think we sometimes forget that even during rough times, we are still being blessed. Perhaps not the way you intended, but the blessing are still there.

Last night I had my kids try on last winter's clothes. No surprise, not a single item of clothing that they wore last winter still fit. Molly's jeans fit everywhere but the length. I measured, they are 3 inches too short. How is that even possible?

Up to the attic I went to retrieve our bags and bins of hand me downs. Over the years we have been extremely blessed with friends and family who give us hand me down clothes. Every season I am filling in the gaps of what is missing or needed in my kids' wardrobes. Typically I need to buy dresses since my girls love dresses and we don't get very many handed down. Of course having two girls means Isabella's clothes go to Molly. They are currently one size apart which is surprising since they are 2 years apart.

I actually missed a bag so this isn't a true picture of my blessing.


I went through the clothes last night and pulled out all the winter stuff in the next size and determined the gaps for each kid.

Mark needs a 3-4 hoodies and socks. We always buy socks new, he just happens to need them now.
Molly needs a new jacket and a 3-4 long sleeved shirts. The jacket Isabella wore at 5 doesn't fit Molly's arms at 4.
Isabella needs 1 pair of jeans and all new leggings.
All 3 kids need gloves.

Seriously how amazing is that list? It's like this every season and I still don't take it for granted.

HUGE BLESSING! 

I know some people think it's too much work to store and organize clothes. But I have an easy system that works for me. I bag everything by size and store them in plastic bins. Besides this picture represents hundreds of dollars worth of clothes. Two of these bags are for the next size for Mark and Molly so they are set to grow.

Last night I did 4 loads of laundry and took the time to put away most of the summer clothes. I can't put away everything since it's still warm here. I hate the window where it's cool one day and blazing hot the next day. It took hours between having the kids try on clothes and washing and folding everything but it's done and worth the effort.

When it comes to clothes I have a pass it on mentality. I find friends to give the outgrown clothes or donate them to so the cycle continues. I want to bless other people the way they have blessed me.

My challenge to you is to take a moment today and find one way that you have been blessed. I'm sure you'll realize that there are many blessing in your life that you look at but don't really see. Perhaps your neighbors agreed to carpool to soccer this year. Or maybe you have a friend who will drop everything for you when you need it. Whatever your blessing is, think abut how different your life would be without it and give a little thanks.

What are some of the blessings you see?

Sep 15, 2014

10 Things I'll Never Apologize For

I believe one of the best parts about getting older is gaining confidence in yourself. When I was in my 20's and I heard that someone didn't like me I was shattered, now I could care less. I've learned that trying to change who you are just to please other people only makes you miserable. Now I'm all for changing to make yourself happy. I'm only against doing it for someone else.

Yes, life is a little easier in your 30's and since I'm starting the downward turn toward my 40's I'm convinced that they will be even better. See I'm an optimist. I see the glass as half full, but either way there's always room for more wine!

In the last month I've read countless posts where mothers apologized for all the areas that they are failing and begged them to stop in my head. Seriously ladies, it's OK to be human. Just look at Martha Stuart, she aimed for perfection and went to jail. Perhaps it's time to let go of the idea of perfection.

Yes we should apologize for making mistakes, like yelling at our kids. But not sending in the perfect bento lunch is not something to apologize over. I started thinking about the things I'll never apologize for. These are the things that are my weakness and strengths, the core of my personality, quirks, and beliefs that make me Allison. I think it's time we decide as women to stop apologizing so much!



I will never apologize for parenting in the way that aligns with my faith, morals, and feels best for me. While I'm well aware that some people view parenting as a reality show competition and they are one of the judges, but I am not getting wrapped up in their drama. I make decisions based on my education, faith, experiences, background, morals, gut instinct, what annoys me in other children, what annoys me in my children, what worked in the past, and what didn't. I'm learning on the job just like everyone else. It's not a #momfail, it's an opportunity to learn and do better next time.

I will never apologize for being stupid excited over the leaves changing colors. Living where the leaves change colors is new for me and I love it!



Or for pinning 30 pumpkin recipes in under an hour. I know it's annoying to other pinners but I was on a roll last night! Yes I made pumpkindoodles for dessert last night after drooling over them. Yes I ate too many. And lastly, yes they were amazing!

I will never apologize for making my relationship with my husband a priority. Yes I am a mother. Yes I chose to bring these wonderful people into the world that suck the energy out of me better than any vacuum. But I will always make spending time with my husband a top priority. We do date night at home most often since we can't afford a sitter every week. Yes, we are taking a 10 year anniversary trip alone. Without the kids! (Gasp!)

I strongly believe that husbands and wives need to keep dating, especially after they have kids. The marriage is the most important relationship in the family. Our spouses need our love and attention too. Newsflash the kids are going to leave you one day, hopefully your spouse will not.

I will never apologize for loving the Texans. I don't care how childish or stupid some people think football is I love it! I'm a Texan, born and raised. You just cannot take the football out of me. Public service announcement - the Cowboys suck.



I will never apologize for feeding my kids organic carrots at lunch and then being too tired to cook dinner so we hit McDonald's. I try my best to cook dinner every night but I'm not above pizza or the drive thru.My kids will be fine, I promise.

I will never apologize for letting my kids dress themselves. They have their own little quirky personalities and I happen to love their wacky outfits. Besides my kids don't like matching their socks which makes laundry a little easier for mommy.

I will never apologize for wearing makeup every day. Again I'm from Texas; there are some things you just hold onto. But I promise to never wear makeup to the gym in the morning.

I will never apologize for keeping an organized home. I married a wonderful man who has OCD and cannot stand clutter. Translation he is a great organizer and taught the kids how to perfectly put their toys away. I can take no credit for it. I also get in trouble with the kids sometimes for putting things away wrong since I don't know the system after it changes. Growing up I was horribly unorganized but Brett has taught me many tricks and now I actually like cleaning out closets and purging the house. Past Allison surely thinks I'm crazy.

I'll Never Apologize for Advocating for my Kids. During my first visit with the neurologist, he told me that I need to find my voice and make it loud since no one would ever fight for my son. Five years later I understand that wisdom in ways I never thought possible. I've learned to advocate for all my kids in a way that makes me heard without being rude. Be prepared for a fight if I don't agree with the plan. Once I brought a lawyer, don't mess with my kid.



There you have it, 10 things that I'll never apologize for doing or being. What is something you will never apologize for?



 
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