Monday, February 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday :: February 27, 2012

After last week's crazy busy week, this week looks calm and quiet with just a couple of routine doctor's visits added to our schedule.

It probably won't be calm and quiet Tuesday night at IHOP. Did you know February 28 is IHOP National Pancake Day Celebration? 

According to the IHOP website, "On February 28, 2012, guests from around the country are invited to celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP and enjoy a free short stack of Buttermilk pancakes.

In return for the free pancakes, guests are asked to consider leaving a donation for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals(c) and other designated local charities."

I'm not being compensated in anyway for telling you about IHOP. Just thought I'd share.

What are we eating February 27 - March 4, 2012?
  • Chicken Stack (bean and chicken quesadilla), Fruit
  • IHOP Pancake Day
  • Pot Roast, Carrots, Potatoes, Homemade Biscuits, Gravy
  • Shredded Beef Tacos, Fruit
  • Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, Salad, Pineapple Chunks
  • Turkey Spaghetti, Salad, Fruit
  • Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs
So what's on YOUR menu plan this week?

Recent menu plans:
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday :: February 20, 2012

It's February Vacation week in New England!!

What's February Vacation week? 

Well, while you folks down South and out West have Spring Break in March, New England schools let out for February Vacation AND Spring Break (though it's really an Easter Break but they can't call it that any more).

Before I had kids I didn't understand the need for 2 breaks. Now I get it. By mid-February everyone is going stir crazy from being inside all winter. We just need a break.

I have a lot of fun plans for our break.

My husband is taking 3 days off of work. We'll celebrate my second son's 7th birthday. We're meeting friends at Sturbridge Village for a play date, my Cub Scouts are working on their Pinewood Derby cars, AND I'm attending a baby shower.

Whew! I'm going to need a vacation after my vacation!

What are we eating February 20-26, 2012?

  • Turkey Spaghetti, Salad, Fruit
  • Chicken Noodle Soup (from the freezer)
  • Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, Salad, Pineapples, Birthday Cake (as requested by the birthday boy)
  • Chicken and Rice Casserole, Broccoli
  • Eating Out on Playdate Night
  • Leftovers
  • Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Don't you think February Vacation week is a brilliant idea?

Recent menu plans:
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday :: February 13, 2012

Do you have special Valentine's Day plans for your children or husband?

We don't do much for Valentine's Day. I have a few small gifts I bought on clearance last year (pencils, silly straws). We'll also have a few special food items as you'll see below. And I have a small gift for my husband.

This week holds another special activity for us: Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner. The Blue and Gold Dinner is the annual Cub/Boy Scout birthday celebration. My boys will receive the rank badges they've worked hard all year to earn. It'll be a night filled with ceremony and fun!

So, what are we eating February 13-19, 2012?

  • Bean and Cheese Quesadillas, Fruit Salad
  • Valentine's Day: Roasted Chicken, Pink Mashed Potatoes, Salad, Strawberry Milk. And a yet to be determined dessert.
  • Frito Pie - Frito's, Chili, Cheddar Cheese; Fruit
  • Blue and Gold Dinner: we're bringing garden salad and bread
  • Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, Salad, Pineapples
  • Homemade Chicken Pot Pie, Fruit
  • Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs

What's on YOUR menu plan this week?

Other recent menu plans:

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hugs & Kisses, God {Giveaway}

Hugs & Kisses, God by Allia Zobel Nolan is a cute lift-the-flap picture book published by Zonderkids.

When the email came asking if I wanted to review Hugs & Kisses, God I thought it looked like a good book to read during the Valentine season when we're talking are reading about love. Turns out, I was right.

The book is a quick read and the flaps are very simple for little hands to open. Odd numbered pages fold over, creating one large flap that you lift to reveal different ways children can express their love to God.

The author uses rhyming text to teach children various ways they can express their love to God, as well as ways God expresses his love to us through creation. The book is intended for young children, maybe ages 2-5.

I like that Hugs & Kisses, God teaches children that they can talk to God about anything and everything and to find him throughout their day.

For example, on one page we read:
"Daddy walks me to my day school. On the way, we get a thrill. 'Hugs and kisses, God,' I whisper, 'for those daisies on the hill." 

What a sweet way to remind us that God created the daises and that we should enjoy them.

I read this book aloud with my children and their response was favorable. I think my too big guys are too old but my girlie (5 yrs.) liked the verses and illustrations. My 3 year old son liked lifting the flaps.

Here's the best part! Zonderkids has kindly offered an additional copy to give to one Stephanie's Mommy Brain reader!

To enter leave a comment on this blog post. Be sure to include your email address so I can notify you when you win. For additional entries subscribe to Stephanie's Mommy Brain and like my Facebook page. Entries must be received by February 15, 2012.

Disclaimer: All book title links are affiliate links. I appreciate your support for Stephanie's Mommy Brain.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Not-So Organized Basement

I'm keeping it real today. I wrote a lot of posts about organizing your home last month. That might lead you to think that my house is organized perfectly. It's not.

My house is a work in progress, just like yours.

Need proof?

Behold, the basement work room!

In my defense, this is all my husband's handyman tools and painting STUFF. That means I don't touch it.

In HIS defense, I bought 4 medium-sized tubs a few weeks ago and he's started organizing everything. It's a slow process. I'll share pictures of the finished project with you in a few weeks, or maybe months.

Does it surprise you that part of my basement is cluttered and messy?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

One of my husband's favorite home cooked meals is chicken pot pie. I hated chicken pot pie as a kid, and still hate the frozen ones, but after tweaking this recipe I actually like eating chicken pot pie now.

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe


2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups of Grimmway Farms baby carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked
3 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked
2 cans of cream of chicken or mushroom soup
1/2 tsp of pepper
1/4 tsp of salt
2 pie crusts


Boil carrots and potatoes separately. When slightly tender, drain and allow to cool until you don't see steam coming off of them.

Combine chicken, soup, salt and pepper. Gently stir-in potatoes and carrots until coated with the soup.

Place one pie crust in a pie plate. Pour chicken and vegetable mixture into pie crust. Cover with the second pie crust. Crimp the edges. Make 4 slash marks in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 375* until the top pie crust is golden brown.

We usually have half of the pie left over. I allow the pie to cool completely. Then I gently wrap the leftovers in parchment paper or waxed paper. Then wrap a second time in aluminum foil and place in the freezer.

We usually eat the leftover pie within 2 weeks. I unwrap the pie, allow to thaw, and heat it up in the oven.

Does your family eat chicken pot pie? Do you cook it from scratch or use frozen?

Disclosure: I received a coupon for a free bag of Grimmway Farms carrots in exchange for this post. I accepted the coupon because I always buy Grimmway Farms 5 lb. baby carrots at my local Price Rite for my family to eat. Grimmway Farms also sells produce under the Cal-Organic label and may be found in your local grocery store.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Plan Monday :: February 6, 2012

Last weekend I spent about an hour planning my menu for the month of February. I worked on my plan at the library and had at least one extra activity each week to plan for. Those 2 things slowed me down.

But it's done and I'm glad I don't have to think about "What's for supper?" again until March!

This week we have 2 exciting field trips on our calendar: a Cub Scout tour of the Rhode Island State House and watching Mary Poppins at Providence Performing Arts Center.

So, what are we eating February 6-12, 2012?

  • Kielbasa and Lentil Soup, Cheddar Bread
  • Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (from my freezer)
  • Pot Roast, Carrots, Potatoes, Homemade Biscuits and Gravy
  • Shredded Beef Tacos, Fruit Salad
  • Pepperoni Pizza, Salad, Pineapple Chunks
  • Turkey Spaghetti, Salad, Fruit
  • Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs

Do you menu plan for a month, two weeks or just one week? How long does your planning process take?

Recent menu plans:

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Visit San Antonio :: SeaWorld San Antonio

Here's my vacation planning tip for the day: make a list of the vacation sites you want to visit. Then follow their social media accounts and blogs. Occasionally tourist sites will share discount codes through their social media accounts.

That's what happened for us. "Visit SeaWorld San Antonio" held the top spot on my San Antonio vacation wish list. So, I followed the SeaWorld San Antonio Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Around Black Friday I saw a discount code (I think it was 20% off) and emailed my father-in-law who planned to gift the entire family (6 adults and 7 children) with SeaWorld tickets for Christmas. He used the discount and literally saved hundreds of dollars!

Now on to our fabulous SeaWorld experience.

The night before our SeaWorld outing my sister-in-law checked the show schedule on their website. We discussed which shows we wanted to see and then planned our day around the shows.

We managed to see the sea lion Christmas show, the Shamu Christmas show, and the Azul show with Beluga whales and various other animals (links are to current versions of the shows).

Seriously, I could have sat and watched the Shamu show all day long. The music and lighting were well timed but the interaction between animal and trainer was fascinating to watch!

My nephews were VERY excited that we sat in the "splash zone" and that their parents allowed them to sit with us. Rain had already soaked our clothes so I didn't think a little more water would hurt us. Much to the boys' disappointment, none of the splashes came anywhere close to us.

My family also enjoyed feeding the dolphins. The containers of fish cost extra but the experience was worth the money! The dolphins allowed us to pet them and talked to us. I love the picture of Will talking with the dolphin (bottom right)! It shows the excited interaction between boy and animal

We had a fantastic experience at SeaWorld and I expect we'll visit the park again when we visit San Antonio.

I highly recommend that YOU visit San Antonio. The warm winter weather makes San Antonio a great February Vacation or Spring Break destination!

Have you visited any of the SeaWorld parks?
Disclosure: I have received NO compensation for this post. I had a great time with my family in San Antonio, Texas and think you will too.

Read more San Antonio posts:

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Visit San Antonio :: San Antonio Children's Museum

Ben dressed up like a Cowboy/Fisherman.

It seems that every good-sized city boasts of a children's museum. Some are great, some are mediocre. The San Antonio Children's Museum is AWESOME! It just might be my favorite children's museum.

What makes San Antonio Children's Museum so fantastic?

The Exhibits

The Children's Museum contains three floors of interactive exhibits. THREE floors of pretend play, answering "what happens if I..," and just having fun.

We had several favorite exhibits:

Our faces in Science City.

Connecting the Circuit Center in Science City lit up the sign.

We learned how to direct air pressure in the PowerBall Hall.

We pretended to work in a grocery store in the H.E.B. Kids' Market.

The Location

San Antonio Children's Museum is located in downtown San Antonio. It's within easy walking distance of the River Walk, The Alamo, hotels and restaurants.

We only had one day to spend downtown so we split our time between lunch at Fuddruckers, The Alamo and the Museum. Both grown-ups and children enjoyed a really fun day.

Visit San Antonio

I had a great time visiting San Antonio and can't wait to go back! In addition to our day downtown, we also spent a day at SeaWorld San Antonio. I'll share about our sopping wet day at SeaWorld in another post.

I highly recommend that YOU visit San Antonio. The warm winter weather makes San Antonio a great February Vacation or Spring Break destination!

Where is your favorite children's museum?
Disclosure: I have received NO compensation for this post. I had a great time with my family in San Antonio, Texas and think you will too.

Read more San Antonio posts:

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Visit San Antonio :: River Walk & The Alamo

In December I crossed off 2 items from my bucket list: visit The Alamo and the Paseo Del Rio (or the San Antonio River Walk).

My family and I flew into San Antonio, Texas shortly before Christmas in order to visit my in-laws who retired there two years ago. This was my first trip to San Antonio.

After spending a couple of days doing the usual Christmas related activities, we loaded up in my in-laws SUV and drove into downtown San Antonio.

Paseo Del Rio

San Antonio impressed me with its clean streets and tourist friendly layout. We easily found a parking garage (I saw little on-street parking) and set off to explore the city.

We wandered around downtown and crossed over the Paseo Del Rio, or San Antonio River Walk, a couple of times. Unfortunately our agenda for the day didn't allow much time for exploring the River Walk but the parts we saw were beautiful.

Shops, hotels, and restaurants lined the River Walk tempting our appetites and wallets. We finally ended up at Fuddruckers in Alamo Plaza where they claim to make "the World's Greatest Hamburgers." They have good reason to make their claim. The hamburgers were HUGE but my hubby managed to eat all of his burger, and declared it delicious.

The Alamo

After filling our tummies we walked down the street to tour The Alamo. This was the highlight of the day for me!

First we posed for the necessary tourist picture. After all, can you really visit such a famous site and NOT take a picture?!

Picture taking completed, we moved into the Long Barrack Museum where we watched a short video explaining the events of March 6, 1836. The Long Barrack Museum also houses a collection of historic items from this era.

As we strolled from display case to display case, I heard my son, Ben (6 yrs.), cry out "Davy Crockett's rifle!" A beginner reader, he had managed to read the sign on the display. Last year we read a biography of Davy Crockett and watched the old movie of his life so Ben recognized Davy's name.

Sufficiently educated about the siege and battle at The Alamo we entered the Shrine. The building you typically think of as The Alamo, and see in the above picture, is the Shrine.

Inside the Shrine everyone speaks in hushed tones, much like you would at a funeral. There are a few more displays to look at and read but mainly I just thought about the men who wanted freedom enough that they died for it.

It's a sobering thought.

Visit San Antonio

I had a great time walking around downtown San Antonio with my family. In addition to the River Walk and The Alamo, we also visited the San Antonio Children's Museum. I'll share about the awesome Children's Museum in another post.

After a day in San Antonio I checked off two items on my bucket list. But I also added 2 new places to visit: The Buckhorn Museum and Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. I guess I'll have to visit San Antonio again!

I highly recommend that YOU visit San Antonio. The warm winter weather makes San Antonio a great February Vacation or Spring Break destination!

Have you visited San Antonio?

Disclosure: I have received NO compensation for this post. I had a great time with my family in San Antonio, Texas and think you will too.

Read more San Antonio posts:

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Valentine's Day Children's Books

Valentine's Day is just around the corner so I picked up a few Valentine themed books from our library. We've enjoyed reading them aloud and I recommend you read them, too!

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz is basically the old Charlie Brown Valentine's Day video in book form.

Charlie Brown is confident that this will be the year he receives a Valentine's Day card. As the story goes along his confidence wans and eventually he realizes no one sent him a Valentine. Poor Charlie Brown!

I really like the way that old Charlie Brown movies are also made into books. The entire movie is included so you don't miss your favorite parts. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is laid out like a comic strip so it's visually attractive to young readers.

I loved introducing my kids to Charlie Brown and his friends. Hopefully I'll find this book at a used book sale this year.

The Valentine Box

The Valentine Box by Maud Hart Lovelace is a sweet story about a little girl, Janice, who is new in town. She dreads her class Valentine's Day party because she's afraid no one gave her any valentines. I won't spoil the story but I will say the ending is happy and cheerful.

This is the first book I've read by Maud Hart Lovelace. When I opened the book to read it I recognized her name as the author of Betsy-Tacy, which I've seen mentioned on other blogs but have never read.

So, I know almost nothing about Maud Hart Lovelace. I don't know if this is a typical story for her or different from her norm.

The thing I find most interesting about this book is the illustrations. While the storyline is your typical new girl story, the illustrations show Janice as an African American child in a class of all Caucasians. The words of the story in no way address the difference. The black and white illustrations make the difference very subtle and I doubt my children even noticed.

The Valentine Box was published in 1966 during a racially turbulent time for our country. I wonder if the illustrator, Ingrid Fetz, was trying to make a point through her drawings or if the story as a whole was intended to make a statement. If you know the history behind this book, I'd love for you to share in the comments.

Cranberry Valentine

Cranberry Valentine by Wende and Harry Devlin is a cute story about a confirmed bachelor, Mr. Whiskers, who begins receiving unsigned valentines. Being a confirmed bachelor he is very concerned that someone has set her cap to catch Mr. Whiskers!

I'll not give away who has sent the valentines but in the end Mr. Whiskers is relieved to learn that he was never in any matrimonial danger.

You may recall we read Cranberry Thanksgiving last fall. Cranberry Valentine is part of the same series and centers around the same three characters. Like the other book, a cranberry cake recipe is included at the end of the story.

I'll definitely keep my eye open for the Cranberryport series when I visit a used book sale! And recommend you do the same!

What books have your been reading? Any good Valentine's Day books?

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Announcing...Everyday Family Living!

It's Launch Day!

I officially announced my new blog, Everyday Family Living, on Facebook today. I had intended to make this a big day full of excitement and giveaways but life got in the way so I'm just going to make an announcement and let it go at that.

You might be wondering “Why another blog?” or “What’s different about the new blog?” Great questions!

Why another blog?

My vision for Stephanie’s Mommy Brain is to be a place of practical encouragement for moms. While tips and ideas for family time activities are a part of that support, I want SMB to focus on the heart and experiences of moms. I want to encourage moms that they are not alone in their struggles and help them be the mom they want to be.

The thing is, I really enjoy writing about the fun activities I do with my children, the good children’s books we read, and our family visits to tourist sites. I want to expand on those topics and write about them even more, but SMB just isn’t the place to do that.

Thus, Everyday Family Living was born!

What’s different?

The biggest difference is that Stephanie’s Mommy Brain will focus primarily on Moms and family life from Mom’s viewpoint.

Everyday Family Living will focus on the whole family interacting and building relationships together. There will still be kids’ activities posts at SMB but not as a month long series like in November and December.

What is Everyday Family Living?

As I talked with fellow moms over the last couple of years I realized that family-centered activities don't come easily for all parents. Everyday activities I take for granted, like engaging my children in the shopping process at the grocery store, aren't even thought of by a lot of parents.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not Super Mom! I’m just an ordinary mom who has learned a few tips for making the most of the time her family has together.
My vision for Everyday Family Living is to help you play and learn as a family so you can make the most of family time.

To accomplish that goal, you will find posts about fun kids’ activities, children’s book recommendations, seasonal activity ideas, and inspiration to make the most of family time.

I’d love for you to look around Everyday Family Living. The about page is a great place to start. Or the beginning of the Family Night Series.

While you are at Everyday Family Living, be sure to subscribe and you will receive a link to download the current month's Family Holiday and Activity Calendar in your RSS feed or email subscription.

Have you already visited Everyday Family Living? I'd love to hear what you thought about it! Is there anything wonky? Links not work?
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