My family’s Journey to America

This isn’t a typical post for my blog, but it is such an inspiring story I am compelled to share it with you all.

As a young girl, my family never talked about how they came to America.  I knew they came by boat to flee Vietnam after the war but that was about it.  I was sure it was a hard journey and an emotional event to recall – so I never asked. It was not until 10 years ago that I got the courage to ask if they could tell me more about it. I interviewed my grandfather, parents, aunts and uncles. The stories and recollections that came out were sad, courageous and inspiring. At the time, I had ambitious intentions to compile the videos together as a documentary for my family.  Needless to say, this documentary has been on my to-do list for 10 years.  A few weeks ago, I finally put in the time. I sat down to review all the footage and listen to their stories – 8 hrs worth.

After many late nights of editing, I managed to create 2 documentaries. First, I made a long video, compiling all the interviews and photos. I desperately wanted a way to share their story with my kids, but I knew it would be hard (well, impossible at this age) for them to sit through a 1.5hr video AND read subtitles. I was on a mission to create a simple video for my kids, their cousins and all the generations that will come to enjoy – this is the result.

 

PLAY with your food

Here’s a fun and creative way to encourage your kiddos to snack well AND play with their food.

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All you need are:

  • A variety of snacks that can easily be punctured with a toothpick. (the options are endless – go wild)
  • Toothpicks (colored toothpicks make it more festive!)

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Let them build away…

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Of course my ‘master builder’ started with a complex building.

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Star Wars spaceship comin’ atcha.

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Love how she’s so proud.

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Of course I played, too.

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Look Mommy, it’s a cactus.

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The sun never looked so delicious.

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There you have it, a fun and creative activity for your hungry and playful kiddos! If you try this I’d love to hear from you. Happy playing!

Photo Wall Gallery

Yes, I finally get to check this project off my to-do list! The thought of a photo gallery was so overwhelming and daunting that I put it off for years, and years, and…years. This is my year and I’m determined to make big things happen so here you have it – a tackle at one of my hardest projects in a long time. It turned out even better than I ever imagined, mostly because it’s filled with the beautiful faces I know and love.

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Since all our family photos were over two years old I had the choice of filling this space with older/classic photos of us OR try to take new photos. I chose the latter and planned a short notice, quick, DIY photo shoot on a free Saturday. Couldn’t be more thrilled with how they turned out. I used the newest photos in the large frames and saved the older/classic photos for the smaller frames.

Materials used:

  • 4 Large 19 3/4 x 19 3/4in Stromby silver frames from Ikea ($12/each)
  • 4 ornate white frames 5 x 7in in 2 different styles from Marshalls ($7/each) (vertical photos)
  • 4 ornate white frames 4 x 6in in 2 different styles from Marshalls ($6/each) (horizontal photos)
  • 1 decorative wooden box with LOVE print from Marshalls ($5)

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I added the artwork “Kind Heart, Fierce Mind & Brave Spirit” to the photo before printing. It’s set at 50% opacity. Here’s a free download of the artwork for anyone interested.

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Here’s a free download of the artwork I created of “You are capable of amazing things”.

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This is an up close view of the ornate frames.

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Hope this inspires you to take on some big projects that have been on your to-do list for far too long. If this helped you with your own photo gallery, please share a photo of yours, I’d love to see!

Freezer Friendly Egg Muffins

I was looking for a way to add more protein, veggies and variety to our breakfast and came up with the perfect solution, egg muffins. They’re quick, easy and portable. Perfect for a busy family.

Below are the ingredients I used but you can easily substitute the veggies, sausages, cheese for what you have or prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 10 large mushrooms
  • 12 sausage links
  • 1-2 bell peppers
  • 6 cups kale
  • 1 carton of Hashbrown potatoes (or a frozen bag will do)
  • 18 eggs
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

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  • If you’re using the carton of hashbrowns follow the directions and add water to carton to cook.
  • Slice and cook sausages in pan
  • Dice peppers and add to cook with sausages
  • Chop and add kale to cook last

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  • Once everything’s fully cooked in the pan place it in a large bowl.
  • When hashbrowns are fully cooked, add to bowl and mix together
  • Add cheese (I used about 1.5 cups) and mix together

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  • In a separate bowl beat eggs together.
  • I added some garlic salt.

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  • Add eggs to bowl with mixture.

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  • Generously grease pan with cooking spray. DO NOT skip this step unless your arms need a workout while scraping your pans clean later.

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  • This kind of ice cream scooper works perfectly for filling the pans with the mixture.

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  • This recipe made enough for 24 large muffins

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  • 24 small muffins

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  • And there was a bit extra so I put it in a loaf pan.

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  • Bake at 350 degrees
  • Bake large and small muffins for 30-40 mins, until eggs are fully cooked.
  • Bake loaf pan for 1 hr or until eggs are fully cooked.

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There you have it. A delicious and healthy breakfast (or lunch, or snack, or dinner!)

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To freeze:

  • When cool, place muffins in a single layer inside a freezer Ziplock bag.
  • To prevent freezer burn place in refrigerator until cold, then freezer.
  • These warm up easily in the microwave. 45 sec – 1 min per large muffin.

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Avocado Quinoa Salad

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I’ve been hooked on this salad ever since it was first introduced to me a few years ago. It’s simply too good not to share.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa cooked in broth
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used Better than Bouillon)
  • 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15oz can of sweet corn
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup red onion finely diced
  • 3/4 cup cilantro dressing (I like this one, not pictured) (This is a good recipe for cilantro avocado dressing if you can’t find any at the store.)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lime (I sub’d this with lemon because I didn’t have lime handy)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package in broth. Combine beans, corn, avocado, sea salt, pepper and lime zest to taste. Top with cilantro dressing and toss. Add 1/2 cup cilantro and gently toss. Set aside.

When quinoa is cooked, toss with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve spread quinoa on large serving platter and top with corn and bean mixture. Garnish with extra cilantro. Or you can just mix it all together like I do. If you can’t happen to find the cilantro dressing at your local market (because it went out of business like mine did)) this dish will still taste fabulous without it.

There you have it, one of my favorite dishes that’s the best of both worlds, healthy and tastes amazing!

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Gift

Over the weekend we went to the Home Depot workshop where Zander built and painted this sweetheart box. We decided to use it to make something special for his teachers this Valentine’s.

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We added a Valentine’s message to his teachers and he signed the back.

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I woke up early this morning to make these dark chocolate mint and white chocolate covered strawberries

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Could not be more happy with how they turned out!

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To make your own bouquet of strawberries simply cut and insert a floral foam block into your pot. Poke your strawberries on a stick into it and your done! Also, I didn’t have any popsicle sticks so I used disposable chopsticks and they worked perfectly, better than popsicle sticks in my opinion (and they were free because I had a ton laying around from past take out.)

Hope this inspires you to make something special for someone this Valentine’s!

Big Boy Room

 

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Since Zander had to give up his nursery to his little sister, we wanted his big boy room to be extra special so he would not miss his old room one bit.

In case you’re in the market for some of the items in his room, here’s a break down of where to find them:

There you have it. A sweet little room for my sweet little boy. If you’re looking for nursery ideas, check out my recent post on nurserys.

Nursery Ideas

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I remember gathering so much inspiration on Pinterest when we put the kids nurserys together I thought I’d pay it forward for anyone who’s expecting a little one of their own.

Here’s a break down of where you can find some of the featured items:

  • Crib. Purchased at Target.com but not sure they sell it anymore.
  • Eames molded plastic rocker
  • Bookshelf, bins, dresser (my hubby added the top part to turn it into a changing table), rug, pendant lights, wall shelving, futon, red moose are from Ikea
  • Red Rody inflatable hopping horse toy
  • Ornate wooden picture frame is from Michaels
  • Custom skateboards hand painted by my hubby
  • Parachute wall decals
  • 3D paper mache letters. These came unpainted.
  • 3D paper wall flower template. I hot glued a thumbtack to the back and stuck them to the wall.

If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned that you’d like to know about, just ask.

Hope this helps you create a fun space for your babies, too!

DIY Freezer Burritos

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Thought I’d take a break from all the kid posts and give you some ideas on meals/recipes for a change. Recently, I discovered freezer cooking and it’s been huge time saver, not to mention money saver also. Traditional freezer cooking takes quite a bit of planning and usually involves a full day (or two) of prepping/cooking.  That’s a little too much work for me so the way I normally freezer cook is by cooking larger portions of whatever we’re having for dinner that night. I usually double or triple a recipe. It’s the best on days I’m too lazy to cook. I just check my stash in the freezer and defrost a yummy home cooked meal. It’s worked out pretty awesome.  If you’re interested in learning more, here are some freezer cooking basics from one of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom.

Burritos are one of my favorite things to make and freeze just because it’s easy to prepare and makes a great lunch or even dinner in a pinch.

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1st, you’ll need to gather up your ingredients. What’s great about burritos is you can pretty much use any filling you like. I use different ingredients every time, but this is what’s pictured:

  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Refried beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Foil for wrapping

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Then, fill’er up.

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Then, roll it all up in the tortilla. I usually fold the sides in first then roll it closed.

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Wrap it up in foil and you’re DONE!

Freeze:

  • To prevent freezer burn, chill all food in the fridge first before putting it in the freezer.
  • Be sure to label it well so you remember what you made, when you made it and how to reheat it.

Heat:

  • Unwrap foil
  • Drench a paper towel with water, ring it out just slightly
  • Wrap the wet paper towel around the burrito
  • Microwave for about 3 minutes

Serve:

  • With your favorite salsa, guacamole, etc.
  • Enjoy!

Faucet Extender How-to

Who cut the cheese? We did, of course!

After a couple visits to Target and Babies-R-Us looking for a faucet extender without much luck, we decided to make our own.  By “we”, I mean my husband – Chris. He’s much more innovative and handy with tools than I am so I let him have this one.

We looked high and low around the house for something that was the right size and safe for Zander to touch and consume water from (because he will drink this water at some point). Since the parmesan container is food grade, it was the perfect candidate. And no, your hands will not smell like cheese after using it. One good wash did the trick for us.

The steps are simple:

Cut and drill 3 holes on the bottom of the container. Large square hole is where the faucet will be inserted. 2 smaller holes are for the rubber band. We used a 4 inch rubber band.

Drill a small hole on the bottom of the container to drain any excess water.

Next two steps are pretty self explanatory. Insert the rubber band and attach it to your faucet. And in the words of my hubby… you’re DONEZO!

Here’s the little monster in action using his new gadget made by his macgyver Daddy

It may not be fancy but it sure is functional! Hope this inspires you to make your own “cheesy” creations.