Kid-Friendly Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

Kid-Friendly Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

Kid-Friendly Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

It’s that time of year again, and football is in the air! I will freely admit to you that I take much more interest in the event of having a Super Bowl party and the commercials than the actual game itself. If you’re hosting there are the food and drinks to prepare, house to clean, comfy chairs and hang-out areas to prep, and whatever other traditions you have in your family.

Kid-Friendly Game Day Smoothie

With my own kids, and also if there are other kids coming, I like to put some extra effort into getting food and games ready beforehand to keep them entertained. Why you say? One, most people do want to watch the game and don’t want the four-year-old begging them to go play dinosaurs in the other room. Two, as a child I remember going to my parents’ friends’ houses in the late 80’s to watch the Broncos lose. I clearly recall being so bored (and everyone else being so depressed) I spent the games doodling pictures on scraps of paper and counting M&Ms. Of course, I also had time to imagine what it would be like to see a football game played with one team in cowboy getup and another in dolphin costume.

Would you like a fun and healthier game day treat for kids?

We all know, and generally celebrate the fact our Super Bowl snacks are not always the healthiest. There must be dips and chips, little sausages in barbecue sauce or crescent rolls, all sorts of sliders, cookies, candies, and more! Kids often have sensitive stomachs to these sorts of foods, so that’s why I jump in with my fruit and veggie trays and offer this fabulous dairy-free, Kid-Friendly Game Day Smoothie in a clear plastic cup decorated to look like a football.

Kids love the novelty of the decoration on the cup, the fact they get to use fun colored straws, and of course because it’s CHOCOLATE! I suggest using a high-powered blender such as a VitamixBreville Boss, or other similar option. However, you could process this smoothie perfectly well in a regular blender, I would just use creamy peanut butter and chop up the banana in small pieces before you freeze it.

Try the Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

Game Day smoothie

Start by adding one cup of almond milk to the blender. Add the vanilla, peanut butter, honey, and cocoa powder and blend slowly turning the power to high for about 15 seconds. Once that’s together add your frozen banana and ice and blend until the banana’s incorporated. I use the tamper on my high-powered blender to push the banana down into the blades, but if yours does not have a tamper just chop the banana up into bite-size pieces before freezing.

Blend until smooth (about 20-30 seconds) and pour out into 2 cups. Place a festive straw in each and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp natural peanut butter (or for a nut-free version try sunflower seed butter such as this)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp raw unfiltered honey

1 frozen banana

3-4 ice cubes

Items you will need:

                    

Enjoy the Super Bowl, and may your team triumph!

Definitely celebrate the game with all your traditions. Sip a smoothie, chomp on a carrot, devour a slider, and get your fill of Uncle Jack’s green chile cheesy dip. Take a second to play catch with the kids, make pom-poms in your team’s colors, or play a Super Bowl commercial game. Or you could just play cards the entire time, but appreciate your friends and family. Have an awesome kid-friendly game day!

Kid-Friendly Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

Kid-Friendly Game Day Chocolate Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter (or for a nut-free version try sunflower seed butter such as this)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp raw unfiltered honey
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Measure and pour one cup of almond milk into the blender.
  2. Add the vanilla, peanut butter, honey, and cocoa powder and blend slowly turning the power to high for about 15 seconds.
  3. Once smooth add your frozen banana and ice and blend until the banana is incorporated.
  4. Use the tamper on the blender to push the banana down into the blades. If the blender does not have a tamper chop the banana up into bite-size pieces before freezing.
  5. Blend until smooth (20-30 seconds) and pour out into 2 clear glass or plastic cups decorated as footballs.
  6. Finish with a festive straw in each and enjoy!
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The Best 2 Products to Combat Dry, Cracked Hands and Feet

The Best 2 Products to Combat Dry, Cracked Hands and Feet

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The Best 2 Products to Combat Dry, Cracked Hands and Feet

How many of you out there have resigned yourselves to the painful, dry, cracked hands and feet covered with bandaids all winter? Any mom with kids who is washing their hands a million times a day is going to have some trouble with this, and I have struggled with it in the extreme. Look no further! After years of searching, I’ve found the best hand and foot cream that actually works!

I was that mom whose hands were so dry my fingerprint wouldn’t register on the security system at our old daycare. My dry hands caught on the fabric when simply rubbing my son’s back to help him sleep. But what could I do?

Every year I go through the winter changing lotions, creams, and then resorting to antibiotic ointment and bandaids. I’ve tried gloves at night and gloves during the day, but let me tell you it is a pain to have those on all the time! And worse, it didn’t always heal my hands or allow me to do the things I wanted.

Why do women experience dry, cracked hands and feet?

“Do you use harsh soaps and cleaning supplies?” I’ve been accused of such un-environmentally friendly tactics, and while not always harsh, I do use soap every time I wash my hands. Viruses and household sickness are miserable, and I WILL those cold and flu germs to stay away!

Here in Colorado we often have extremely dry winters. Combine that with how often the heater runs, and indoors your skin will be pillaged and plundered of all moisture. We went so far as to install a whole house humidifier, which unfortunately did not solve all my problems. Alas.

No longer do I change diapers all day (hallelujah! stay strong, you’ll get there), but especially if you are cooking, straightening, and cleaning up the child(ren) and the house you will be washing your hands a ton.

Dry, cracked hands

What you should do when you experience dry, cracked skin.

To be honest I’ve tried pretty much every cream out there. I used these lotions or creams almost every time I washed my hands without much benefit. The same problem existed with my feet so I went through scrubs, pumice stones, scrubbing rasps that look like zesters, and every tub, tube, or bottle of lotion or cream on the Target shelves. Ambitiously, I even made my own salve out of coconut oil, beeswax, essential oils and couple of other random ingredients. It smelled great, but didn’t help as I’d planned.

I randomly saw a friend of a friend on Facebook suggest a product I hadn’t tried before.  So without much hope I went ahead and ordered some. Because I was pretty much just desperate.

And guess what?! It worked! The results were absolutely amazing, and I was completely shocked because something actually helped, and I could see immediate results. After about a week my skin was completely different. My cracks started healing, and I could actually run my hand along a piece of fabric without it catching.

The best product for painful, scratchy, cracked hands is:

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Hand Cream. Click here to find it!

Button to buy O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hands Cream to combat dry, cracked hands and feetThe absolute best skincare product for ugly, cracked feet is:

O’Keeffe’s for Healthy Feet Foot Cream. Again, click here to find this fabulous skincare product.

Button to buy O'Keeffe's Foot Cream for Healthy Feet to combat dry, cracked hands and feet

I LOVE this stuff! Why? Well,

  1. It works.
  2. It’s not greasy, which means I’m not getting smudges all over my glasses, computer, car doors, and absolutely everything else I touch.
  3. It has no odor.
  4. It’s hypoallergenic.
  5. Did I mention it works?!

Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but after my quest to find the perfect hand and foot cream was successful I can’t help but shout it out to help all of you out there.  Torn up skin is painful and irritating! Try these creams out, and you won’t regret it.

Passport Power: Passport Tips and Tidbits

Passport Power: Passport Tips and Tidbits

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Do you have some great passport tips? This past week I received two delightfully thick envelopes in the mail containing none other than fresh passports for my son and daughter. I don’t know about you, but when I hold that little blue passport book in my hand a thrill runs through my bones. Pictures of locations all over the world flash through my mind: Paris, Machu Picchu, an African safari, the Pyramids, the Sydney Opera House. There is such power and freedom that comes with a passport! (Since I’m from the U.S. this focuses on tips and links for a U.S. passport.)

The Possibility and Power of a Passport

I may be dating myself, but do you remember the Sandra Bullock movie While You Were Sleeping? I admit I love this movie. It is a witty, fun, romantic comedy I tend to watch every Christmas season. There is a scene where Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is walking with Jack (Bill Pullman), and she pulls her passport out of her bag. She longs to travel, and when he asks where she would go she immediately and decidedly says, “Florence.” She doesn’t have the funds or the ability to go at the present, but she is a dreamer and that passport means enough to her to have it with her all the time.

That is the power of the passport! It represents what could be. It might mean miles to fly, trains across Europe, or winding bus rides to exotic locales. Who doesn’t dream of walking through fields of lavender in Provence, riding a camel through the Valley of the Kings, or taking in the beauty and symmetry of the Taj Majal?

Putting the Power to Use

Next, you book your flight, get on the ferry, or drive across a border. When you hand your passport to the official for the first time in a new country there is a pride there, a sense of adventure, as well as anticipation in seeing these new places and cultures.

I remember taking a ferry from England to Ireland, being quite seasick in the process. However, that in no way dimmed my enthusiasm! Ireland is one of those magical places of green rolling hills, some of the friendliest people on the planet, and if you look and listen hard enough I think you will hear fairies zipping around to the tunes of Irish penny whistles.

Back to passports. When I got off the ferry, the official looked at my passport and ticket, asked a couple questions, and indicated I should go on through. I stared at him a moment, and froze in panic for just a second. Then I blurted out, “Couldn’t you please stamp my passport? I need an Irish stamp in it!”

His serious demeanor disappeared, and he laughed and obliged saying it must be my first time in country.

Passport Tips and Reminders

We will be traveling internationally as a family this year. I started pulling out the passports about six months in advance to review dates and ascertain what all needed to be updated. Here are some things to remember:

  1. Plan ahead!

    If you do not wish to expedite your passport processing (and pay a bunch more) or have to visit a passport agency, get those forms in early! At least 3 months before you travel is my advice, but check the State Department website for their application information and current processing dates: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply.html

  2. Fill in your application on-line

    You can fill in your application on-line and print it out, or print it blank at home and fill it in. Unfortunately, you can’t submit it on-line, but it’s very helpful to have everything completed before you go. Then you can take all the paperwork to your local post office or city hall to apply.

  3. Make an appointment

    Many locations now require an appointment to complete the process so call beforehand or check their website.

  4. Look out for expiration dates

    Passports are good for ten years for adults, BUT only five years for children under age 16. If your kids have had passports in the past, be sure they’re not expiring. I had to renew my daughter’s passport this year.

  5. Renew if expiring in less than 6 months

    If your passport is near the expiration date make sure it is good for at least SIX months after your planned travel. Some countries will not grant you entry if your passport is expiring in less than six months.

  6. Both parents must be present to apply for kids’ passports

    Are you getting passports for your kids? Keep in mind BOTH PARENTS must appear with the child to apply. If one parent cannot make it, there is another form that must be filled out and notarized. Generally, it’s easier for everyone to go together and get it done.

  7. A note on pictures

    When you have your passport photo taken wear a shirt without ornamentation or words across the front. Anything distracting may not be acceptable. Glasses are not allowed, and you will be encouraged not to smile. Also, a chair cannot appear in the passport photo behind the subject.

  8. Make sure everyone traveling with you meets travel requirements

    Does everyone traveling with you have a U.S. passport or another country passport? Make sure your entire party meets the requirements for each country you travel through. Don’t forget to include countries where you have only a layover to change planes.

    Many years ago, before my husband was a U.S. citizen, he was traveling on his Georgia passport. We had a transfer in Frankfort for a flight to Munich and then another flight to Tbilisi, Georgia. In order to get the flight to Munich we had to change terminals to the national flights terminal. My husband was not allowed to leave the international flight terminal because he did not have a German visa in his Georgian passport. We ended up having to buy a ticket out of the international terminal to Zurich, take another flight back to Munich, and continue with our scheduled last flight to Tbilisi. It was my fault for not figuring this out before the trip, and we certainly paid for it! (The Zurich airport was beautiful though!)

How do you celebrate when that little blue book comes in the mail?

When your passport arrives in the mail first do a little happy dance.  Allow some time to indulge in a little imagination spree about where you will go. Then, put it in a fire safe lock box, or some other location, where it can be kept safe and retrieved easily when it’s time for your trip. I suggest getting a passport holder to keep your tickets and passport while navigating airports, especially if traveling with children. It is difficult to dig out your documents while holding a child and pulling your carry-on so try a holder similar to this one.

Love your passport and the opportunities it opens up to you. You can see the world! Can you imagine?

Take advantage of your travel freedom, but realize it is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Learn about new places, definitely eat and drink well and locally, meet and respect the locals, learn from them, and breathe in the history of those who’ve gone before you.

I hope some of these passport tips and tidbits are beneficial to you! The State Department website is also user-friendly and has all the major details. Now get traveling!

 

 

7 Awesome Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

7 Awesome Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

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What winter activities do your kids enjoy?

Kids are back in school, and what have we learned over winter break? My little ones love to be outside as much as possible, but sometimes freezing temperatures or other factors prevent outside play. What can you do occupy the kids during the winter? Try out these awesome activities with your kids, and you will be sure beat those winter blues!

1. Sledding and good old fashioned playing in the snow

Do you have snow? Is it warm enough outside not to get frostbite? Stuff the kids in coats and snow pants, get outside, and get active! Sledding is a HUGELY popular activity around here, and you don’t have to go far to enjoy it. Do your research. Is there a local sledding hill around? Do Grandma and Grandpa have a small hill on the side of their house that might be perfect for sledding? Make a day of it and drive up to the mountains or to the nearest famous “big hill” in your area.

Don’t have a sled? I highly suggest a nice soft blow up tube like this one, but there are many available. The more you use them the faster they seem to get.

If sledding’s not your thing, build a snowman or make a snow fort. You can pretend to be a lynx or a snowshoe hare and hop around the backyard, make snow angels, or whatever, but get outside. The kids will love it.

2. Check out your local library

Libraries are not just places to be silent and pick out a book. While I myself love simple reading and peace and quiet, the libraries around us have calendars packed with other fun things for kids to do. We go to the libraries in our town as well as the neighboring town and then can pick and choose our favorite things to do.

Most libraries will have story times for different age groups, reading programs, and reading clubs. We love the fact our library also has craft times, completely free, and as a bonus they clean up everything! There are all sorts of other activities as well such as Lego groups, science experiments, Dungeons and Dragons, computer classes, and more.  You might even find a momma support group you like, a painting group, or a gardening class for adults.

At the library? No way you say! Yes way. Libraries are changing. Therefore, support them and learn something new.

3. Christmas thank you cards or I appreciate you cards

There are probably a bunch of new toys around the house from Christmas. Possibly so many you’ve not even really used them all yet. Encourage thankfulness, appreciation, and manners, and have the kids write thank you cards to friends and family.

First, set out some construction paper, scissors, glue, and markers or sparkly pens. Then have the kids create the cards, write a personal message (possibly with help), and mail them out. My daughter addressed her own this year, and we talked all about where to put each address, how the post office works, and why you need a stamp not just a sticker if you’re actually going to put it in the mail.

If you have smaller kids or want something quicker, use note cards or try out this free printable you can use like a post card.

Christmas thank you cards

If you don’t celebrate Christmas or don’t do gifts, pick three people who are special to your kids and have them write “why I appreciate you” cards.  Family members love to get these in the mail or in person with a hug!

4. Ice Skating

Play on the winter theme and find your closest ice rink. Most rinks have a family free skate with skates to rent, helmets, and even buckets to overturn and aid beginning skaters. Outdoor shopping malls and city old towns also have temporary skating rinks set up with all sorts of winter decorations, hot chocolate vendors, and more!
I have great memories of ice skating as a kid and then watching the beautiful figure skating on the Olympics.  Warning, however! I wouldn’t advise attempting a triple flip, fast spins, or even a double Lutz on your local pond. I’ve seen a few dads experiment with such moves with rather disastrous results. So be safe and have fun!

5. Origami paper folding

Stuck in the house with a few hours on your hands? Try some origami folding. There are tons of tutorials on YouTube or if you Google “Origami Shark” for example. You can buy origami paper such as this for best results or use whatever colorful computer paper you have around.

Older kids can do this on their own with a little help now and then, but even 3-5 year olds enjoy it with a little more assistance. We have spent hours in fascination as the little figure comes together.

6.  Local museums

I am a huge history buff so love to check out any local museums. This is a convenient winter indoor activity, and even if you don’t have a large nature and science museum in your city, do a search or ask around. We have a fabulous model train museum in town my son can spend hours exploring. Or maybe you have a state history museum, a dinosaur resource center, or a children’s museum.

Find out if they have a free day to visit or any special themed activities going on before you go. There are often exciting activities right under your nose; you just have to pay attention. It’s always good to support your local community.

7. Culture days

Pick out a local restaurant that is not traditional American. Find an Indian, Japanese, or Italian restaurant and plan to go there for a meal. Before you go, talk to your kids. Where do people eat this kind of food? Locate India, for example, on the map and do some basic research (you may have to narrow it down to a specific region in the country).

Where is this country on a map?
What kind of music do the people listen to there?

Do they have any traditional dances?
What do people do for a living?

What is the typical school day like for a child your age?

Where might they live and with who? With their parents, grandparents, extended family, etc.

What language do they speak? (Practice how to say hello, good-bye, and thank you in the other language)

All sorts of good conversation with kids can come about with these simple questions, along with a little searching on the internet. You can make posters, do presentations, or keep it simple. Talk about traditions, perhaps even those of your own ancestors from another country. Celebrate the beauty of our differences and stress how important it is to learn about and respect other people.

If you want to explore a specific country and don’t have that type of restaurant nearby, make your own meal. Say, “Today we will be French!”  Pick your recipes, make a shopping list, and try something new.

Bon appétit!

Why I still have Christmas decorations up on January 7

Why I still have Christmas decorations up on January 7

It’s that time of year again, the period after December 25 when we still have Christmas decorations throughout the house and Christmas lights sparkling brightly outside. I love this season, with the lights, visitors, family, laughter, and squealing children, but now is the time people start to say, “So…have you been really busy? Are you going to turn those Christmas lights off outside? I mean, it is almost 2 weeks after Christmas.”

Those are the brave ones. Neighbors and visitors who are not so brave either keep glancing over at the decorations or they determinedly attempt to not look at them at all. I laugh and explain yes, I will jump in and focus on my January organization and cleaning after January 7, but now is a time we reflect on Christmas.

Since when is there an Old Christmas Day?

My husband is from Georgia (the country, not the state), and many Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe celebrate Christmas according to the old calendar. It was called the Julian calendar before changing to the Gregorian calendar if you want to get technical. 11 days were dropped when England and Scotland switched calendars in 1752.

In the Georgian Orthodox church, services last all night before Christmas day, and you stand with other parishioners through the entire service. There are no chairs or benches except for perhaps at the back or sides along the wall. It is a joyous service, and families return to their homes afterward, light candles, and begin the traditional Georgian feast, or “supra”. These can go on for hours, literally.

How can a dinner party go on for 9 hours?

I once attended a supra lasting 9 hours, and that was only the time I left, others were still going strong. There is usually a ton of food, with plates quickly replenished by the hosts so nothing appears lacking. Also you’ll have music, dancing, laughter, and above all, toasting. The toastmaster toasts to pretty much everything: God, peace, the birth of Christ, the New Year, children, mothers, Georgia, joy, love, the hosts, the vine of the grapes that made your wine…after nine hours you get down to some pretty interesting ones.

But, back to Christmas. In many Georgian towns the local clergymen process through the streets carrying crosses, flags, and icons and sing songs praising the birth of Christ. Many join in the procession, and children wearing white go to the front to lead. In the capital city Tbilisi, the Georgian Patriarch ends by speaking to the crowd and congratulating everyone at Christmas.

Here in Colorado we still celebrate on December 25, but we keep our decorations up as a reminder of the Christ’s birth and our ties to Georgia. We also like to teach our children that people in different cultures celebrate holidays in different ways. It is not odd or weird, but an opportunity to learn something new and to take pride in.

What other cultural celebrations or family traditions do you have during the winter holidays?

I tend to be partial to the French tradition on January 6 in serving the particularly tasty “la galette des rois”, or King Cake. This is baked to celebrate Epiphany, when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus. A small figurine is baked inside the cake, “la fève”, and the person who finds the figure is crowned king or queen for the day. Now really, can you imagine a child not loving this custom?!?

Whatever you do, enjoy your friends and family, hold them close. Extend your kindness to all, including that crazy neighbor who leaves their Christmas lights on weeks past Christmas. Gagimarjos! Cheers to you, and I wish you joy and peace in the New Year!

Explorer Momma EM

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