My dad lives out of state and we only get together a few times a year, making those visits very special. While it takes some coordination we always get together at the start of the new year and it has become our tradition for my dad and the kids to make pasta together.

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Over the past five years we have tried a variety of pastas – lasagna noodles, plain noodles, spinach and beet flavored fettuccine – every year is a new experiment.010511 148

This year we opted for a simple ricotta filled ravioli served with a mushroom and pancetta sauce. It was delicious and a wonderful way to end our season of eating.010216 a (1)

If you haven’t made pasta before I highly recommend you give it a try and to make it even better, make sure you get your kids to help. It is a wonderful hands on activity, easy for the kids to do and gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. It is one of those things that gives a big wow factor, but is easy for all. 010511 146

One of the great things about pasta is you don’t need any special equipment. A pasta roller is helpful, but not necessary. You can use a rolling pin to flatten and a knife to cut it into shape. If you feel you really want to use a pasta machine I recommend heading to the thrift store. I always see them in our local stores, usually for less than $10.  We got ours for $5.00 a few years ago. Granted it doesn’t have the attachment that lets us attach it to the table, but we use an extra set of arms to hold it in place and it has served us fine for the last 5 years.

We like to make our dough right on the table. It’s a little risky and can be messy, but if you work carefully it is actually easier than using a bowl.010511 125

To start make a big mound of flour on the table (or in your bowl). Shape it in to a volcano with a hole in the middle. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and olive oil together. Pour it in the volcano hole and then, with a fork, slowly start incorporating the flour into the eggs.010216 (18) 010216 (22)

Once it has formed into a rough dough begin kneading until smooth. Let the dough rest, at room temperature, for at least an hour. Then you get to move on to the fun part – rolling and shaping the dough

As I said you don’t need a pasta roller, but it is really cool to watch a thick piece of dough quickly grow into a long and thin sheet with just a few passes through the roller. 010511 129

After a piece of pasta is rolled into a thin sheet it is time to shape it. Again, you can use a specific tool to get the job done, or simply use a knife to cut the pasta into the desired shape. This year we had gotten my Dad a ravioli cutter as a Christmas gift, so we put that to use.

pasta cutter

Image courtesy of Amazon

There are a lot of different types of ravioli cutters and pans, but the handheld cutter is my favorite. It cuts and crimps at the same time, but most importantly it seals the two sheets of pasta together tightly so the cheese doesn’t leak out when cooking. 010216 a (5)

Once all the dough has been shaped it is time to cook and eat. Simply cook the pasta the same way you would store bought pasta and enjoy!

Below are the recipes for the pasta dough and the sauce. Experiment, share and enjoy!

Pasta Dough  (printer ready)

1 lb (about 4 cups) all purpose flour
5 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil


In a small bowl whisk eggs and olive oil together, set aside. Mound the flour on a large cutting board, or table. Make a wide hole in the center of the mound and add the egg mixture. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the eggs. Once the mixture has come together use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead until smooth, it will take about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover the dough and let rest at room temperature for at least one hour. Roll and cut dough into desired shapes.

Mushroom and Pancetta Sauce (printer ready)

½ cup pancetta diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 cups wild mushrooms (any combination of oyster, cremini or shitake)
1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
Olive oilDirections:
In a large saute pan, drizzle olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once oil has heated add pancetta and cook until lightly crisp. Add mushrooms, lightly season with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic allow it to brown slightly then add stock. Raise heat to medium high. Continue cooking until stock has reduced by half. Add butter, stir continuously until butter is melted and sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Enjoy!

Apple Bread

For me this sweet moist bread represents why it is important to keep recipes and share them with family and friends. Growing up Mrs. K, the mom of my best friends, use to make this bread for us every fall. In junior high and high school it was a wonderful treat to come “home” and find this on the counter. When we were in college she made this when we came home for Thanksgiving break and always sent me back to school with a loaf. When I moved out of state I only got to enjoy this bread occasionally, but it was always a treat when I did get it. Every fall I thought about asking Mrs. K for the recipe, but always decided “I’ll get it the next time I see her.”

apple bread

This summer Mrs. K unexpectedly passed away. So this fall when faced with a bowl full of apples I knew it was time to finally get the recipe. Surprisingly neither of Mrs. K’s daughters ever got the recipe, they to thought there would always be time to ask her for it. After going through 2 recipe boxes the recipe was finally found and shared, and for the first time another generation is making this much loved apple bread.

Apple Bread    printer ready

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 apple, finely diced
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dates, roughly chopped

Preheat oven 350. Grease and flour 9×5 loaf pan.
In large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix until combined. In small bowl combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add flour to butter and mix until combined. Stir in milk. Gently fold in apple, walnuts and dates. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

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Daily Snapshots

As a preschool teacher one of my biggest challenges is daily communication with my students’ parents. I send home weekly emails, but  I feel it is important for parents to know, on a daily basis, what we discussed at circle time, what books were read and what activities students were engaged in during free play. While providing parents with this information is very important sharing it in a timely manner can be difficult.

We have a message board and we try to jot notes throughout the day. This is helpful, but what the parents really want is to see pictures of their children. We take a lot of pictures and do a lot of documenting, but in the past sharing these pictures has been time consuming. This past month we started using Hp Social Media Snapshot sticky backed photo paper with our new Envy 5660 printer and suddenly this process has become much easier. We click, we print, we stick!

The teachers have all downloaded the HP app for wireless printing and print pictures throughout the day. Each day we take at least one picture during: free play, circle time, outside play, story time and snack. These pictures are posted and when parents come to pick up they can see what happened throughout the day.

HP social media

As a cooperative preschool we have at least one parent in the classroom with us each day, so the parents have also downloaded the app and they take more candid pictures which they also post and share.

At the end of each day these pictures are put in a binder creating a log of our weeks, months and year at preschool. .

If you would like to check out HP Social Media Snapshot paper Staples has a Buy One Get One free offer now through October 31.

HP Social Media snapshots paper.

What would you click then stick?

*This post is part of a sponsored campaign with HP and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Boring Advice

We all get advice. Some advice resonates deeply, you take the advice to heart and apply it immediately. Other times you know the advice is not for you and completely ignore it. Then there is the advice that you get and think “well that’s obvious, its good advice but I already know it and apply it to my life.” You think you can write it off, but somewhere deep in your subconscious it sticks with you.

Then days, months or years later you look back, reflect and realize it was much better advice than you realized and you really didn’t apply it to your life as you thought you had.

This realization, that I had missed some good advice, happened to me this summer.

Before telling you about the sage advice I completely missed, let me tell you about my friend Tiffany. Tiffany was, and continues to be, one of my guides in parenthood. We met at preschool her youngest is the same age as my oldest and are best buds. Whatever parenting issues I am just starting to go through she has already been through. Our outlooks on life and parenting are similar.

So, when our boys were 3 and just finishing their first year of preschool,  we were talking about our summer plans. She told me her plan for the summer was to have a boring summer. She planned on going to the pool, going on vacation for a week to visit family and maybe doing a few things around town.

I thought this sounded great and just how summer should be. I told her our plan for the summer was going to be pretty low key as well. I then proceeded to tell her my plan for making it a “low key summer.”  I told her of the road trips I had set up to visit friends and family. I shared the list of every event being offered at every library and museum in a 30 mile radius and the corresponding playground, park or splash pad we would visit after each event. I had activities planned for hanging out at the house and what I would do if my kid said he was bored.

It was going to be the best summer, completely relaxed and just fun – yes my kids were 1 and 3 at the time and yes I was a completely crazy, still relatively new mom. And no it was not a relaxing summer

Fast forward seven years and I finally get it. Each year my summer planning craziness has lightened and I don’t think it can get any lighter than this year.

The kids each did one camp and that was it.

We have spent a lot of time at the pool. I don’t pack a giant pool bag,  everyone grabs a few snacks and a towel. I grab my book and out the door we go.

I don’t make plans days ahead, or even the night ahead. If we wake up and feel like an outing we just go.

I planned one road trip to visit friends and family. Even on this trip we have no plans beyond where we are staying and some possible ideas of things we might like to do.

Getting to a boring summer has been hard, for all of us. It hasn’t always been idyllic there has been crying, whining and fighting and I probably wouldn’t invite you in my house because it is such a disaster.

The kids still wake up in the morning and ask what they have to do today. I tell them we can do whatever we want and they look at me with slight confusion.

There has been more fighting as they try and figure out what to do when mom isn’t entertaining them every minute of the day. But they have discovered some games in the game closest they never knew they had and have had some great games together just the three of them.

There has been more screen time than I am happy with, but I am finding they do get bored with screens after a while and will eventually turn them off without being told. Although if you were to be a fly on the wall in my house today, you might think they never get off the couch and Descendants just runs in a loop on the TV.

In our third week of boredom we are slowly getting into a good rhythm. It has been hard, but worth it.

I hope your summer has been and continues to be as boring as ours!

The Beach

The National Building Museum is a cool hidden gem in Washington DC. It is only 4 blocks from the Mall, tucked in over by Chinatown, but not always on the usual tourist path. The building is beautiful, the exhibits are always interesting, and change on a regular basis plus there are great hands on activities for kids. These things alone make the Building Museum a must do for locals and tourists anytime of year, but each summer the museum takes things up a notch by installing a summer themed exhibit in the main hall.

First there was the”building the Future” themed miniature golf course. Last year was The BIG maze080414 (1)

And this year they brought us the BEACH, which in my opinion, is the best exhibit yet.072815 (1)

The beach is a 10,000 square foot “ocean” filled with nearly one million translucent balls – so basically a giant ball pit. Visitors can sit on the 50′ wide shoreline or dangle their feet off the pier into the water.

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You can wade in slowly from the shore or just jump right in. At its deepest it is 3 feet and there is a small island in the middle. I experienced a slight panic when I first jumped in and found myself sinking with every movement. Wading around is definitely a little challenging and a helping hand is sometimes needed, but the mood at the BEACH is light and fun and people were always willing to lend a hand if needed.

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For planning purposes:

  • take the metro – parking can be tricky and expensive – just hop off at Judiciary square.
  • tickets to the BEACH are on a first come first serve basis. From the time we walked in to the museum it took about 45 minutes to get in to the actual beach area. I have heard of others waiting for a couple hours.
  • weekdays are obviously the best time to go, but if you can’t get there during the week get there early on the weekend. They open at 10am Monday thru Saturday and at 11am on Sunday
  • there is a concession stand, run by Union Kitchen, that serves, delicious but not necessarily typical snacks.
  • tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for kids
  • be sure to check out their website for more information – The BEACH

If you are a local, or planning on being in the DC area, add this to your summer bucket list. You won’t have to empty sand from your shoes before getting in the car and it is sure to bring a smile to your face.

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The exhibit is only open until September 7, so don’t procrastinate!

Dutch Pancake

It’s summer. It’s hot and humid and the last thing I want to do is go in the kitchen and fix dinner, yet these three little people – and one big person – want food, and they want it every night!

On top of that my counters are filled with veggies that need to be used up.

Enter the Dutch Pancake, my favorite summer go to meal. A cross between a crepe and a popover this perfect little dish can be either sweet or savory. It puffs up when baked, making it look impressive and as if I spent hours in the kitchen. Plus it can be topped with almost anything, making it super versatile.dutch pancake

All you need is a cast iron skillet and a few basic ingredients and you are ready to go.skillet

You can find a ton of recipes, they are all about the same. Some have sugar, some don’t. Some are a little more eggy and some are more doughy.

They are all good.

This has been my basic, go to savory recipe this summer. It’s on the eggy side -think quiche meets crepe – and can stand up to some yummy fillings.

I like adding some extra yumminess to the batter. Ham and cheddar cheese is the favorite in my family, but they will also go for a little sausage. I have also been know to sneak in some leeks as well, which I love but gets mixed reviews with the ten and under crowd. It is also great loaded up with herbs

To serve I top it with a variety of vegetables. Again, my family likes to keep it basic and sauteed zucchini and tomatoes is the favorite. But experiment and see what works for your gang.veggies

Spinach, asparagus, eggplant – if it comes from your garden, or the produce section, it will probably work.

Cheese options are just as endless – goat, cheddar, and monterey are sure bets in my house, but if you can work in something more flavorful go for it.

Savory Dutch Pancake

3 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
¼ cup cheese
¼ cup chopped ham

Preheat oven to 350℉
In a 12” skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. In a medium bowl whisk eggs, milk and flour together until combined. Gently fold in cheese and ham. Pour mixture into skillet, place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top puffs and is a light golden brown.

To serve, cut into six wedges, and top each wedge with vegetable mixture.

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg

We live three hours from Williamsburg. We have talked about going for years, but for some unknown reason never made the trip down there, until this summer. We only made it down this year because my son’s little league team won districts and advanced on to the state tournament.

If it weren’t for Little League we would probably still be saying “we should go to Williamsburg sometime.”

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Like all amusement parks, daily ticket prices are crazy expensive. There are a variety of packages available and some good buys to be found, but the one option I found missing was a half day ticket option. After a few hours at an amusement park my kids are done. Plus if you are on vacation in an area like Williamsburg there are probably a lot of things you want to check out and might not want to devote an entire day to a park.

We ended up getting a 7 day flex ticket. It allowed us unlimited entry to both Busch Gardens and Water Country. It’s a good deal if you are in the Williamsburg area for a few days or even if you plan on just devoting two full days to the park.

This is my biggest pet peeve. I don’t mind paying $5 or $10 for parking, but shelling out an additional $25 is a little annoying. And like the tickets there is no adjustment in price for half day.

As I said we bought 7 day passes, but were only able to make it to the parks twice. Even if our schedule had allowed us to go for all 7 days I doubt we would have, as that would have been an additional $175 – just to park. After spending almost $400 on tickets a break in parking would be nice.

Getting Around:
It’s an amusement park, it’s big which means a lot of walking. But, there is a lot to see and do while walking, plus there are maps galore making it easy to figure out how to get from one ride/attraction to another.busch gardens

When we first entered the park we were helped greatly by a guest relations employee. She saw us hovering over the map trying to make our plan and swooped in to help out. She helped us plot out a route that would get us to all the rides we wanted to see. She also provided a few nuggets of information to make our visit even more enjoyable.

Not much I can say here, it is Busch Gardens, they know how to do rides. There is something for everyone and what is even better is the family can stay together all day. The thrill seekers don’t have to go off in one direction while those who like to keep their feet on the ground head off in the other direction.  There are kid sized rides in every area of the park allowing little ones to be entertained while older siblings are off riding the more adventurous rides. Families don’t need to just meet up for lunch, but can stay together all day.

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They also offer kid swap, which allows both parents to ride, but only one parent has to wait in line. The procedures vary from ride to ride so be sure to check in with the ride attendants.

Like parking, food at amusement parks drives me crazy.  The quality varies from stand to stand and is always over priced. While Busch Gardens offers a variety of meal packages we didn’t take advantage of any of the meal deals. I have heard that there is some good food to be found in the park, we didn’t find it, but again we didn’t look very hard, as we had limited time and were there to ride.

We did take advantage of the free water – this was a tip from the woman at guest relations who helped us when we first got there. All food stations, with soda fountains, will give free water if you ask. You don’t have to have a water bottle, but we found it easier than walking around with cups. We bought an $11 water bottle when we first got in the park, this fulfilled our souvenir quota and kept us hydrated throughout the afternoon. A win win in my book.

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We are already talking about our next trip to Busch Gardens. I would like to go back in the fall when the weather is a little cooler, my kids would be happy if we went back next week. The one thing I do know is there’s a lot more to see and do than we took advantage of!