Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Family Board Game Review: Cauldron Quest by Peaceable Kingdom

We attended GenCon this year and while there, we discovered a company that creates cooperative games for kids and families.  What is a cooperative game? In a nutshell, it is a game where players work together against the board instead of against each other.  We fell in love with the one we purchased there and reached out to Peaceable Kingdom to do a review on some of their other games.  The first one I will be reviewing is Cauldron Quest.  The goal of this game is to make the potion before the evil wizard blocks your way to the cauldron. Each turn, you roll dice to see if the wizard paces around the cauldron, if a potion ingredient can move closer to the cauldron, or if a minion appears to block your way. Sometimes, you have the chance to roll 3 dice Yahtzee-style to try and perform one of three possible charms to help you on your way.
 As an adult, I still can't win every time.  We've probably won about half of the time we've played.  This honestly doesn't bother me, though; it just makes me want to play it more so I can figure out the best strategy!  Pete (7) isn't bothered about losing during this game; it makes game night much more enjoyable since it doesn't have to end early because someone is in tears over losing to someone else.  He is also learning different strategies without feeling like he is being babied because we all help each other decide how to play on our turns. Often, he has great observations himself and is learning how to make suggestions to others in a collaborative and kind way. 

This game is too difficult for Nora (3), but she does like rolling the dice and counting out the spaces we tell her to.  She's a pretty good dice roller for us and loves getting to take a turn even if she doesn't really follow along with what is happening in the game.  We have created some house rules (who doesn't do that in board games) particularly about getting to use the spell breaker charm a second time to reduce the odds of losing super fast.

In general the board is fun with its round shape instead of a square.  The ingredients for the potion are something Pete enjoys with the eyeball, batwing, mushroom etc. Nora on the other hand is quite partial to the wizard's minions: the rather ominous looking unicorn, rose, and saber-tooth tiger thing ("kitty" as she calls it).  The artwork is fun and goes along with the feel of the game, and the pieces all have a high quality weight and feel to them. Plus, the biggest bonus is that if a piece goes missing, we can get a free replacement from the company!  Seriously, how many times have you come up with stand-ins for pieces because the little figurine went into the Lego bin on accident and can't be found?

This review was sponsored, and I received this game for free for that but the thoughts and comments on the products are my own.  I have also bought some of the company's games on my own as well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pete Turns 7!

We've been out of town for almost 2 months.  We did lots over that time but the biggest thing was Pete turned 7 this year and celebrated with lots of family!  We had a huge family party for him including a death star pinata, and star wars cake! He got lots of new legos (currently his favorites are Nexo Knights), a robot thing, a switch and go dinosaur, and a bit of money that is burning a serious hole in his pocket.  I think he had a great time and is already talking about how he wants his birthday party to go next year!
The awesome cake I made with no food coloring!

Birthday boy with his cake!

Modeling his lego set

Death Star Pinata

Monday, August 21, 2017

Instant Pot Stuffed Peppers

1 pound hamburger (uncooked)
1 cup instant brown rice
4 green peppers-tops cut off and "gutted"-stab the bottoms to let liquid drain out while cooking
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 TBL chia seed in 1/3 cup water (or 1 normal egg)
spices (I used Italian seasonings but more Mexican style would be tasty too)
4 oz shredded cheese-topping

Mix together the hamburger, rice, onion, garlic, tomatoes, egg, spices and diced pepper tops.  Stuff into the pepper. Place the stuffed peppers in the instant pot on the trivet.  Pour 1 cup cold water into the instant pot. Cook on manual for 15 minutes high pressure with natural pressure release.  Once finished top with cheese if you want, and let melt.  Serves 4.  10 smart points per pepper (assuming you have enough stuffing for 2 more peppers for a total of 6 servings)

I had extra stuffing leftover.  I'm going to pick up some more pepper to finish it up for another dinner this week because Phil loved them.  I had found a couple other recipes for stuffed peppers but they didn't suit me and the family so I changed it up.  I thought it needed salt and pepper while eating.

Monday, June 19, 2017

End of the School Year Campout at First Landing State Park

Thursday was Pete's last day of school for the year, we do finish up later here than back home but school didn't start until after Labor Day so it makes sense we go so long into summer.  Pete had been asking about going on a camping trip so Phil reserved a campsite at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach-like 20 minutes from our house.
The traditional last day shot
We headed out after Pete finished up his last half day of school and got there just in time to set up our campsite.  The temperature dropped that day for us and was around 70-75 that day while the day before had been the mid 90s.  They had been calling for rain, but it stayed dry for the whole time we were camping and didn't start raining until just at the end of vacuuming the mud out of the van.  The campsite was mostly mud, but worked in our favor for keeping Nora entertained while cooking and setting up the tent, though didn't stop her from constantly asking when we were going to eat.  (if you are wondering this proves she is my daughter...)

Relaxing watching dinner cook

Kids watching the fire while cooking

Her pose cracks me up

For dinner we had corn on the cob, baked potatoes and sausage peppers and onions. All turned out perfectly 

This grill is a true Indiana girl with how much she loves corn

Pete has lost enough teeth that I have to cut his off the cob to eat, Phil finished it off for him though
We had an interesting experience while hanging out at the campsite, a military base borders the park, a ton of helicopters started circling around fairly low and loudly.  A ranger came by to check on everyone and make sure everybody understood everything was fine and it was just a training for the base.  The kids were a little freaked out but once we explained they were practicing and would be done in a little bit they were ok.  

After going to bed at the normal time of 8pm and waking up at the standard time of 6am (I felt a little bit sad for our neighbors that stayed up partying until 1am, because my kids are not quiet upon waking) We ate breakfast from the fire and went on a celebratory doughnut birthday run, except Whole Foods was out of Nora's safe ones and we got a cupcake instead-she didn't complain.  Afterwards we headed to the beach for a bit.  It was cloudy and bit foggy and cool that morning so we only stayed for an hour and a half, but going to the beach isn't that crazy for us since it only takes 5 minutes to fit the coast for us.

Camping with the kids was totally doable and a fun time.  I prepped all the food before leaving the house and next time will do more for breakfast prep because my kids wake up hungry and didn't like waiting for the charcoal to turn white let alone for bacon to fry up. Next time the breakfast will be precooked and just warmed up and melted over the fire.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nora Turns 3!

Nora turned 3 the other day.  This year she got to celebrate with cake 3 separate times even!  The first cake was with Grandma and Grandpa while they were visiting, the next time as a breakfast treat on her actual birthday and finally today on her family birthday party.  She had a fun time and got lots of legos, which is what she wanted.  She loves the disney princess lego sets and now has a couple frozen sets, cinderella and an ariel set (which she used her birthday money to buy), she also has the standard batgirl lego set. 

It is hard to believe that you are already 3 years old.  You are so fun to have in the family and fit in perfectly- you do a great Darth Vader impression, love legos and super smash brothers, have fun during dance parties, can take down Pete in a wrestling match, but still like to be the family princess-though armed with either a lightsaber or sword depending on the outfit.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spring with the Calls

Ok so I just blew off the last 3 months as far as blogging is concerned.  Life has been busy, between traveling, end of the school year stuff, sickness it has just been down right crazy. So here is a quick overview of that time, a whirlwind tour of our lives the last couple months.

Phil shaved his head for St. Baldricks, along with a visit from Matt and Tashina's family!

We've built stuff at Home Depot

they built easter baskets

Nora became an astronaut

We got a new to us sandbox

 Pete had his first school concert

Played with legos

Played with more legos

Visited the Capitol

Visited the DC Temple

Played at the beach

We've watched waffle cones being made at doumars.
 We've had guests and done fun stuff the last couple months.   Hopefully I'll be better at updating the next couple months, though I make no promises.  Phil was accepted into grad school at the University of Virginia and Pete was accepted into Norfolk Academy! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Egg-free Coconut Chicken with Fruit Salsa

1 1/2 -2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts- cut into strips

1 cup coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

4 TBL water
2 tsp oil
4 tsp baking powder
1 TBL brown mustard

Preheat oven to 425. Grease 2 cookie sheets. Mix up the breading and place in a bowl suitable for dredging.  Mix up the dip in shallow bowl.  Dip prepared chicken, coat in breading fully and place on cookie sheets.  Bake for 17-20 minutes or until done.

Fruit Salsa
1 Mango-diced
2 cup strawberries-diced
1/2 onion-diced
Cilantro to taste (I don't use much-I'm not a fan)
TBL lemon juice
(optional) 1/2 jalapeno-seeded, membranes removed and diced

Mix together and let flavors mingle for a couple hours.  I mixed it at lunchtime for dinner in the evening and it was perfect!

We made this tonight for dinner and it was a huge success!  Nora loved it all we served it with basmati rice and a side salad for some veggies. Tortilla chips would also be tasty but I wanted it lower calorie for me. I'm trying to be good... below you'll find the option for the egg version for the dip.  I loved how well the dip/breading adhered to the chicken, normally I have issues with the breading not sticking-not an issue with the egg free version. I also ran out of baking powder and made my own out of soda and cream of tartar. I've altered this for our tastes and how I knew we'd like it from here.

Optional dip recipe using eggs for the chicken:
1 TBL water
1 TBL brown mustard
2 eggs

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MommyCon Chicago 2017-Giveaway!

MommyCon.  One of my favorite events of the year.  This year I'll be traveling extra far to get to Chicago but with family living a couple hours away it isn't too bad and I love it so much!  Pete is really excited about it too, not that he is going, but because "you're going to learn all about how to be a better mommy".  Thanks kiddo, though really I think he is mostly excited to spend time bacheloring it up with daddy for a couple weeks, since they already have tons of plans of things to do while the girls are away.  But he does hit at the heart of what MommyCon does for me, it helps be learn how to be a better parent for my kids. I've learned more about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, caring for myself, creating lasting bonds and not beating myself up with mom guilt.  The classes, vendors and just the other parents I spend the weekend with all help me recharge my batteries ready to take on the next parenting challenges.  It is also really fun to run away for a weekend and geek out on lots of natural parenting goodies as well!  The other moms (and dads) are a great group, we share common interests and concerns and are always willing to help out if you need it.

This year I'm looking forward to the How to Teach Boys vs Girls about Money, The Mob Party, Potty training, redefining motherhood and finishing it up with What happened to my pelvic floor.  The classes are great this year and I love that they aren't all overlapping.  I'm just going for Saturday, because it is my dad's birthday weekend and since I'm in town I want to be there to celebrate.

Now for the good part! A giveaway!  I'm giving away two (2) 2-day passes to MommyCon Chicago+WEAR.  You'll have a chance to win one of the two passes I'm giving away!  Good Luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 13, 2017

Food Allergies

Want to see what an allergy skin test looks like? Here is Nora's after 4/5 hours.  The reactions are all gone, all those purple dots are where they jabbed a sharp into serum and then into her back to see if she'd swell up.  I had to hold her there while she was clawing trying to scratch her back because it itched so bad. They had to go through and measure each of the welts then got to wash her off and put some ointment on her to make it feel better. They also tested for the major food allergens, and some environmental allergens as well and shes got a dust mite and dog allergy as well-which means Dex is limited with where he can go in the house, mom has to clean more and Nora takes some daily allergy medicine.
This is the evening the day she was tested, those dots mark all the places they poked to see if she had allergies
She also had a blood draw done that same day to test her peanut levels as well. Poor thing got turned into a pincushion that day.
This is where she had to have a blood draw to test her peanut level

She's allergic to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  We have been avoiding them since October of 2015 when she was first tested. These are full blown allergies, not a lifestyle choice or health decision. This is if she eats this she will react instantly and depending on what it is have life threatening consequences.  So if I seem uptight at parties or events with food here's your reason why, also don't be offended if I just bring her own food, because sometimes it is just so much easier than dealing with anything else since I know it is safe for her.  

We now carry an epinephrine auto-injector everywhere we go, the common name is an epi-pen but with insurance that won't cover it we went with the CVS generic that cost us only $11 instead of the $500 of the epi pen. They can't get too hot or too cold, they expire after so long. 

Her food allergies are NOT going to magically disappear, no matter how much I wish or pray they would it will take years if any of them are actually outgrown.  Her level for peanuts was borderline low so she should be up for a food challenge at the allergist office where they are prepared in case she were to have a reaction and know what to look for in early stages.  

Considering what we had to put her through that day she ended up being happy as a lark, didn't hold any hard feelings to me or the nurses, but she also got to eat a sucker so that makes it all better in the mind of a two year old.

After the test she's happy again

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Aunt Sarah Visits Virginia

Aunt Sarah came to visit before she loses her free flying privileges with the upcoming wedding!  We had a super fun time, she was amazed at the temperature and was determined to go to the beach.  Locals were all wearing coats and she's in shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  I warned her the water was cold, and it was but the sand was nice as was the sun.  Nora had a blast on the beach too, Pete was mad he had school and couldn't enjoy that bout of fun with Sarah.  He did get to show her all around the aquarium though, which is one of his favorites. Nora was thrilled to have her and was very sad to see her leave.   
Pete had already run off to go to the sub by the shark tank