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Family Fun Foods for Valentine’s Day

Family Fun Foods for Valentine’s Day 0

Ideas and Recipes for Kid-Friendly Valentine’s Day Celebrations

Valentine’s Day is such a fun time to celebrate with family!  Make it extra fun with some Valentine’s Day inspired foods that kids and parents will love.  Anything red, pink, or heart-shaped is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  You can make just about any food heart-shaped with a cookie cutter or by shaping it by hand. 

Here are some fun, festive, simple ideas for fun Valentine’s Day foods for families to make and enjoy together!

 

A Heart-y Breakfast

Start the day with a lovely meal.  A Valentine’s Day breakfast might include any of the following: pink hardboiled eggs (dipped in beet juice), heart-shaped toast (cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter) topped with strawberry or raspberry jam, heart-shaped “Hole-In-The-Middles” (egg fried in the middle of a piece of bread with a heart-shaped cutout in the middle), heart shaped eggs (heart-shaped frying pans are available at Target or Amazon), and heart-shaped pancakes or waffles (heart-shaped waffle makers can be found at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, or Urban Outfitters) topped with strawberry syrup and fresh strawberries and raspberries. Some other ideas include strawberry yogurt, red Jell-O cut into hearts, pink grapefruit, and cranberry juice.

 

Valentine’s Day Snack Ideas

Some fun Valentine’s Day snack ideas include a pretty tray with cheese and salami (cut into hearts) and crackers (you can find heart-shaped crackers at various markets and on Amazon); cream-cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes; red pepper slices to dip in ranch dressing; fruit salad with strawberries, raspberries, red grapes, watermelon and cranberries; pink smoothies (with any combination of red fruits like strawberries, raspberries, frozen cherries, and yogurt); and shrimp cocktail.

 

Valentine’s Day Lunch and Dinner Ideas

For some simple and fun-to-make Valentine’s Day meals, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make heart-shaped mini sandwiches, quesadillas, and pizzas.  Make heart-shaped calzones or wontons (recipes below).

Other Valentine’s Day dishes include: pasta and any red/marinara sauce  (you can also purchase heart-shaped pasta from World Market, Williams-Sonoma, and Pastashoppe.com), and meatballs; salad with red leaf lettuce, pomegranate, cranberries, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and red wine vinaigrette, pine nuts, blue cheese or feta, heart-shaped croutons.

 

Valentine’s Day Sweets and Treats

Of course, Valentine’s Day would not be complete without some sort of sweet treat – just ask any kid.  Some simple and fun Valentine’s Day sweets and desserts to make together include chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry shortcake, red velvet cake or cupcakes, strawberry milkshakes, and heart-shaped cut-out sugar cookies. 

 

Tried and True Kid-Friendly Valentine’s Day Recipes

 

Mini Heart-Shaped Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients (for making 7 minis):

2 large/burrito-size flour tortillas

1 heart cookie cutter

½ cup diced (in really tiny pieces) cooked chicken

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Using heart cookie cutter, cut out 14 (more or less depending on the size of your cookie cutter) hearts from tortillas.  Mix chicken and cheese together in bowl.  Top seven tortilla hearts with spoonfuls of chicken/cheese mixture, and top with remaining tortilla hearts.  Broil in oven or toaster oven about 5 minutes, turn over and broil another minute.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.  You can add more spice to these by using Pepper Jack cheese instead of regular Jack, or by adding chopped green chiles (from can) to chicken/cheese mixture.

 

Mini Heart-Shaped Calzones

Ingredients (for 8 servings)

2 rolls/balls refrigerated pizza dough

About 1 cup prepared pizza sauce

1 pound mozzarella cheese

1 cup pepperoni slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pizza dough one at a time, and cut each one into 8 squares. On 4 of the squares, drop a teaspoon of pizza sauce in the middle, followed by a teaspoon of grated mozzarella and a teaspoon of pepperoni (cut into smaller bits). Top each of these with the 4 remaining dough squares (like sandwiches). Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter on each “dough sandwich” and then press the ends of each heart-shaped calzone lightly together. Place calzones on a non-stick cookie sheet. Brush calzones with olive oil.

Bake for about 10 minutes (or until lightly browned). Meanwhile, cut 8 thin slices of mozzarella cheese and use a cookie cutter or knife to make into small heart shapes. Take 8 pepperoni slices and use kitchen scissors to cut out heart shapes (you can do this by folding the pepperoni slices in half and cutting a teardrop shape). After removing calzones from oven, top them with the cheese hearts and the pepperoni hearts and return them to the oven for about 5 more minutes (or until the cheese melts).

These can be made the day before, refrigerate and reheated (at 350 degrees for about 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and they are heated through).

 

Heart-Shaped Chicken Wonton Appetizer

The following recipe is an easy-to-make take on wontons, using premade crescent roll dough.

To make 8 wontons:

2 cans of 8 oz. Pillsbury crescent roll dough (each can has 8 triangles of dough)

1 cup of chicken, cooked, diced

½ cup of asparagus, steamed to just tender, chopped

½ cup of broccoli, steamed to just tender, chopped

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray cooking oil on cookie sheet.  Mix chicken, asparagus, broccoli, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.  Unroll dough triangles and place half of them on cookie sheet.  Spoon chicken mixture onto dough triangles.  Cover mixture-covered dough triangles with remaining dough, and pinch seams together, forming stuffed, sealed triangle pockets.  Form them into hearts.  Cook for 25 minutes or until nicely browned.

 

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Getting the Nursery Ready for Baby

Getting the Nursery Ready for Baby 0

Baby Room Ideas, Tips and Suggestions

Planning for your baby’s arrival is a very exciting time filled with anticipation, happiness, awe, maybe a little anxiety, and lots of preparation.  There are so many things to do to get ready for that little bundle of joy!  One of them is setting up the nursery.  Here are some of the basics on getting baby’s room ready!

Overall Plan

After you’ve designated a room, or part of a room, as baby’s very own, you’ll want to start thinking about what will go where and the overall flow.  A baby’s room should be sweet, peaceful, comfortable and functional.  It’s where baby will (eventually) sleep, where you’ll change baby’s diapers and clothes, where you will rock, feed, comfort and read to baby, where his or her things will be kept, and most likely will continue to be his or her room long after babyhood. 

 

Envision where you might want to put things like the crib, rocking chair or glider, changing table, storage, and more.  This is also a good time to start thinking about colors, themes, and other decorating elements.  And if you’re into Feng Shui, you’ll want to think about that too.

Foundation

Take care of major room fixes and changes long before baby arrives.  This includes any reconstruction, renovations, painting, wall covering, flooring/carpeting, window treatments, shelving, and changes to lighting (such as rewiring or hanging a light fixture).  Make sure paint’s dry, fumes and dust are gone, and the room and nice and clean, and ready to fill – with baby’s stuff and with lots of love.

 

Furniture

Your furniture style and colors are a matter of your own tastes and preferences.  You may want to go with a cohesive furniture set, or something more eclectic.  Baby furniture can widely range in style, colors, and price.  Regardless, here are some of the basic pieces you’ll most likely want: crib, a firm crib mattress (waterproof), changing table (or dresser that can serve as a changing table), changing pad and covers, comfy chair (or rocking chair or glider), dresser, and other pieces that serve as storage.

Accessories

There are lots of extras you might consider having in your baby’s room.  Some accessories for the nursery might include any of the following: a rug, storage bins, shelves, a book shelf, a diaper receptacle, waste basket, toy box, and hangers and other organizers for the closet.

Bedding

Baby’s bedding is pretty simple.  All you need is a fitted waterproof mattress cover and fitted sheets.  There is some controversy about baby bumpers, so proceed with caution there.  If you’re going to use then, don’t go for really thick or puffy ones.  Instead, opt for thin ones and fasten them securely to the crib.  You don’t want them coming loose.  Skip the comforter and any blankets in the crib.  They aren’t safe.  A bed skirt (for decorative purposes) is optional.

  

Decorations

How you decorate your baby’s room is a matter of taste and preference.  You may go with traditional pinks for a girl or blues for a boy, or neutral colors.  You may want to incorporate a theme, such as a character from a favorite book, movie, TV, or Disney; a beach, ocean, mermaid, surf, or sailboat theme; or other themes, such as garden, cars and trucks, animals, travel, jungle, ABC’s, sunny or starry sky, Paris, woodland, glamour, sports, and so on.  The possibilities are endless. 

 

Some decorations for your baby’s room might include: wall art (such as pictures, other artwork, plaques, decals, tapestries, murals, garland, wall shelves); curtains/drapes/valances; light fixtures (i.e., chandelier, ceiling light, wall sconces, lamps); mobiles (hanging from the wall, ceiling, or just above the crib); and other fun props (such as a rocking horse, carousel horse, fairies hanging from the ceiling, a surfboard hung on the wall, and so on.)

 

Baby Essentials

Once your baby’s nursery is arranged, you’ll be able to stock it with baby essentials and everyday items.  These include: blankets/swaddle blankets; toys; books; diapers; diaper rash crème; lotion; wipes; wipe warmer; hangers; baby monitor; baby clothes; nightlight; and so on. 

More Suggestions

Here are a few extra things that I found helpful and that I would recommend.  Install a dimmer switch on the light switch so you can adjust how soft or bright the lighting is.  Get a blackout shade for the window/s.  It really helps with napping as baby gets a little bit older.  Have any tall, big, or heavy furniture (such as a standing shelf) mounted/tethered to the wall for safety. 

Preparing the nursery is one of many special ways to get ready for your baby’s arrival.  I found it to be a fun and memorable experience.  Enjoy it.  Have fun with it. 

Please share your recommendations for preparing a baby’s room.  We would love to hear from you!

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Simple, Spooky Halloween Snacks

Simple, Spooky Halloween Snacks 0

Here are some fun and festive food ideas to get you in the spirit of Halloween.  Whether you’re hosting a Halloween party or just celebrating with your family, these simple spooky snacks are sure to be a treat!

 

Bell Pepper Jack O’Lanterns

Hollow out some orange bell peppers, and then carve their faces as you would with a pumpkin.  Fill in the carved out parts with pieces of black olives, cut to fit.  Fill them with Ranch Dressing, dips, and snacks.  Serve them with chips and veggies.

 

Spider Canapes

Spray or spread some cheese or other dip or topping on round crackers.  Top each one with a whole black olive and olive slices (for legs).

 

Chipotle Cream Cheese Spread

Top cream cheese with chipotle jelly and serve with crackers.  Also, serve a cheese ball with crackers.

 

 

 

Cute and Creative Themed Baby Gift Baskets

Cute and Creative Themed Baby Gift Baskets 0

Are you looking for creative baby shower gift ideas?  Themed gift baskets, bundles, boxes or sets make the perfect gift for babies and moms- and dads-to-be.  Pick a theme based on something cute and fun, maybe something the baby's parents are in to, and create a bundle from there!  

Start with a cute basket. box, bin, container, or hamper, that coordinates with your theme, and fill it with fun and useful baby items like clothing, toys, teethers, books, accessories, decorative items, night lights, blankets, bibs, burp cloths, pacifiers, and more.

You can also include essential items (great for filler for larger bins), such as diapers, wipes, toiletries, swaddle blankets, etc.

Here are three themed baby gift basket ideas based on three of Kabana Kids' Beachy Baby Bodysuits -- Pineapple, Surfer, and Mermaid.

Pineapple Themed Baby Gift Basket 

For our Sweet Pineapple themed gift basket, we used a small pink and white bin and filled it with cute pineapple products.  You can also use this large pineapple print storage bin (pictured in the back) if you have lots of items to fill it with (this would be a good one for including large packages of diapers).  Pineapple themed items include Kabana Kids' Sweet Pineapple Beachy Baby Bodysuit, a pink bow that matches the onesie, a coordinating pineapple plush toy, (the cutest ever) pink sparkly pineapple embellished sandals, a yellow pineapple teether, pineapple print sun hat, pineapple swaddle blanket, and a pineapple baby wipes holder.You can get our Sweet Pineapple Beachy Baby Bodysuit here!  Our little matching Sweet Pineapple plush will be available soon.  Other items can be found on Amazon.

 

Surfer Themed Baby Gift Basket

This one is perfect for surfer families with a little surf baby on the way!  We started with Kabana Kids' Surf Baby bodysuit (get it here) and found some cute surf-related items that coordinate with it.  For the basket, we used a great storage bin with waves on it (at Target).  We filled it with our surf baby onesie, a blue waves blanket (coming soon), light-up surfers bath toy (Target), toy ring (Target), nautical teethers, little toy crabs, and "Surfer Baby on Board" car sign (all on Amazon).

Mermaid Themed Baby Gift Basket

For a mermaid themed baby gift basket, we found this adorable mermaid storage bin (on Amazon) and filled it with goodies that coordinate with Kabana Kids' Mermaid Vibes bodysuit (get it here).  Items included a crocheted mermaid tail, mermaid themed head bands, mermaid pacifier holder, mermaid doll, and "Three Little Mermaids" book (all on Amazon).

 

 

Potty Training Tips, Tricks and Tools

Potty Training Tips, Tricks and Tools 0

Ready, Set, Potty!  

Potty training is something all parents engage in with their children at some point.  It’s a major milestone for your child, and one that takes a little practice.  It’s one of those experiences that take a child from baby to big kid.  It’s something to celebrate!

There are several approaches to potty training, and all parents will do what works best for them and their child.  We have compiled some lists of helpful tips when it comes to potty training. 

Here are a few tips, tricks, tools and tidbits to help your little one through the potty training process.

Potty Training Readiness Signs:

  • Showing an interest in pottying in the toilet
  • Showing signs of wanting to be more independent in general
  • Ability follow directions
  • Not liking the feeling of a dirty diaper
  • Asking you to change his or her diaper when it’s soiled
  • Having an awareness of needing to go potty
  • Talking about going potty, or telling you that he or she is going or has gone potty
  • Having long periods of time when his/her diaper is dry/clean (especially when waking up in the morning or after a nap)
  • Expressing an interest in wearing big kid underwear

Potty Training Success Tips:

  • Make it fun, interesting
  • Read your child’s signs/cues
  • Introduce
  • No pressure
  • Keep it casual
  • Talk about it
  • Make it fun
  • Celebrate successes
  • Be prepared, patient, positive and persistent

Potty Training Products

Here are some fun products that can help with the potty training process.

  

Potty Chair – there are tons to choose from, including the little stand-alone models and the kind that are placed on the toilet.  Some make sounds or play music.  Some flush.  Some feature fun characters.  There are even some that include an iPad holder.

  

Pull-up diapers –part diaper, part underwear, they allow your child to easily pull them down when they need to go the toilet and pull them back up when they’re finished, like real underwear.  And, if they miss the opportunity, the diaper part takes over.

Big kid underwear – take your child shopping and let him/her choose them.  My daughter enjoyed picking out several packs with her favorite characters, then putting them in her drawer after I washed them.  She wanted to start wearing them immediately, which was great potty training incentive.

Potty training sticker chart – there are several you can buy, download or emulate online.  We made our own and hung it in the bathroom.  We bought fun stickers, and let our daughter put them on the chart every time she went potty in the potty chair or toilet.   

    

Books and DVD’s – our favorites included Everyone Poops, by Gomi Taro, Where’s the Poop?, by Julie Markes, Potty, by Leslie Patricelli, A Potty for Me!, by Karen Katz, and  Elmo’s Potty Time DVD.

    

Toys – The Little Mommy Princess and The Potty Doll, which comes with a flushing toilet (“now you see the potty, now you don’t!”), a little sipping cup and hand sanitizer.  Our daughter loved having the doll “go potty” and then flushing the toilet to see the potty disappear. 

Waterproof mattress cover – this is a must in order to protect the mattress.

When it comes to potty training, you provide the incentive, opportunity, and expectations, and your child will do it when he or she is ready.  Like the famous book says, everyone poops (and pees) ... in the toilet eventually.

It will eventually click.  Meanwhile, have fun, and enjoy the learning process. 

Family Travel Destination: Catalina Island

Family Travel Destination: Catalina Island 0

Catalina Island is a fun travel destination for families with kids of any age.  Whether you visit overnight, for a weekend, a few days, or a week, you’ll find plenty to do.

Just 22 miles off the California coast, Catalina Island is 22 miles long and up to 8 miles wide.  It takes about an hour to get there by boat (or 15 minutes by air).  Boats leave year-round out of ports in Long Beach, Dana Point, Newport Beach, and San Pedro.  For my family, the boat ride to and from the island was a fun and memorable part of the trip. 

Once you get to the island, you’ll instantly notice how cute and quaint it is.  It’s pretty small with hills off in the distance, a charming little town with lots of shops and restaurants, little strips of beach, a pier, and the most spectacular views from everywhere.

The main town on Catalina Island is Avalon (there’s also the unincorporated community village of Two Harbors).  Avalon’s main street is Crescent Avenue, where you can walk around, shop, eat, visit the beach, and enjoy stunning views.

 

While you’re there, you may want to try some of these family-friendly activities: taking a boat or submarine ride, renting a golf cart to explore the island, relaxing and playing at the beach, shopping, visiting a museum, playing miniature golf, and more.  Here are a few recommendations:

Sea Adventures
You can choose from a variety of sea-going activities, which you can book and access from the centrally located pier, the Green Pleasure Pier.  We loved the submarine ride, Undersea Expedition, where we got to go under water and look at lots of fish through the windows.  See http://catalinatours.com/tour/undersea-expedition/

 

 

Other boat adventures include the popular glass-bottom boat, Ocean Runner dolphin watching tour, nighttime Flying Fish Tour, Sundown Isthmus Cruise, and if you really want a true ocean submersion experience, the Sea Trek Walking Tours and “Snuba” – not something I’m willing to try.  You can also go snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, or paddle boarding.

 

Land Adventures

One of the most favorite things my family did when we there was rent a golf cart to drive all over the island.  You can follow the map the rental company gives you to go on a self-guided scenic tour.  It takes you way up in the hills where you can stop and take in the most beautiful views.  You can also venture off and explore more of the island, such as through residential streets and other hillside areas.  Visit http://www.catalinaislandgolfcart.com/.

Other options for exploring by land include walking, hiking, or renting bicycles, as well as taking tours by Jeep, Hummer, or bus.  Visit https://www.catalinatours.com/.

Beaches

Catalina has a few cute little beaches, including Descanso Beach (mentioned below).  The main beach is Crescent Beach, which is right next to the Green Pleasure Pier, from where many of the sea excursions depart.  There are no big waves at these beaches, so swimming, playing or floating in the water is ideal.  It also makes it really nice for young kids.  Our daughter enjoyed collecting shells, rocks, and sea glass there.

 

Descanso Beach Club

Descanso Beach Club is a beautiful and fun cove beach with stunning views.  You can lie out in the sand and play in the water there.  They sell all kinds of whimsical rafts and tubes in the gift shop.  You can also rent a cabana or chaise lounge chairs.  

 

It’s a lot of fun to have lunch at the outdoor restaurant, where the food is delicious, and the setting and views are amazing.  My daughter enjoyed her first mocktail there, a Virgin Strawberry, Mango, Coconut Daiquiri.  See http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/activities-adventures/descanso-beach-club

 

Catalina Island Museum

If you’re interested in learning about Catalina’s history, visit the Catalina Island Museum, which is in a gorgeous new building (the New ADA Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building).  The museum includes over 18,000 square feet of exhibit space and features artifacts from and about the island.  Museum staff engage kids by giving them a treasure hunt/fact-finding task to earn a prize at the end.  The museum is located at 217 Metropole Avenue, and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  See http://www.catalinamuseum.org/

 

More Catalina Island Adventures

Other fun activities to consider, if you’re interested, include rock wall climbing, zip-lining, miniature golfing (at Golf Gardens), and touring the iconic Catalina Casino, which also has a movie theater that shows a first-run movie each night.  

Shopping

Catalina has tons of cute little shops, most of which are on Crescent Ave. and adjoining side streets.  Your kids will be happy to know that there is a great toy shop, at 233 Sumner Ave., right off Crescent Avenue (near the intersection of Sumner and Beacon St.).  Island Toy Store Plus More is a darling little shop with all kinds of toys and goodies (and a small section of goodies for pets).  There are also several souvenir and gift shops, clothing stores, a general store, and other shops and boutiques.

Great Food

There’s lots of great food on Catalina Island!  Here are just a few suggestions (all on Crescent Ave.):

Luau Larry’s – a casual, tropical bar and restaurant, it serves burgers, sandwiches, sea food, salads, appetizers and specialty cocktails.  See http://www.luaularrys.com/

Blue Water Grill – on the water with gorgeous views and great food, including all kinds of fresh seafood.  See http://www.bluewatergrill.com/locations/catalina-island

 

Antonio’s Pizzeria and Cabaret – waterfront with excellent Italian food.  See http://www.catalinahotspots.com/original_antonios/

Sweet Treats

If you have kids, you will most likely visit Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery, which has delicious and beautiful candies of all kinds, including their renowned saltwater taffy, caramel apples, fudge, chocolates, and ice cream.  It’s located at 315 Crescent Ave.

See http://catalinacandy.com/

Other places to get sweet treats: Scoops Homemade Ice Cream (505 Crescent Ave.) and Avalon Bake Shop (122 Catalina Ave.).

Getting to Catalina Island

We took the Catalina Express out of Long Beach.  It was an enjoyable, comfortable, smooth, hour-long ride.  http://www.catalinaexpress.com/

Lodging

There are lots of hotels in Avalon, and most are within walking distance of everything.  I would recommend staying at an ocean-front hotel (on Crescent Ave.), steps from the beach and everything else.  Here are a few:

Hotel Mac Rae

www.hotelmacrae.com

Pavilion Hotel

www.visitcatalinaisland.com

Portofino Hotel

www.portofinohotel.net

Hotel Vista Del Mar

http://www.hotel-vistadelmar.com/

The Edgewater

http://www.theedgewater-hotel.com/

Another option that looked interesting was the Catalina Cottages (via the Hermosa Hotel), which are located right next to the new Catalina Island Museum (131 Metropole Ave.).  These are affordable, studio apartment style rooms, some with kitchens.  See http://hermosahotel.com/

For more information on planning your family trip to Catalina Island, see http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/ or http://www.catalinachamber.com/.