You Make My Heart Glow

You Make My Heart Glow - Under the Monkey Bars blog

YOU GUYS make my heart glow. For real! Thank you for being here and joining me on this blogging journey. I’m seriously beyond grateful. Will you be my Valentine?

The monkeys gave their school friends these super cute glow stick valentines. Our local print shop printed and cut the valentines, making it really easy this year. I ordered way too many glow sticks, but I’m sure we’ll use them for dance parties. I got the idea for glow stick valentines on Pinterest from Delia Creates. Never too early to collect ideas for next year, right? 

Homemade valentines are our family tradition. Don and I gave up on flowers and gifts years ago. I’d much rather give and receive simple homemade valentines and be with my loves than anything else. I sometimes cheat and cut up a few store bought or recycled cards. Another one of my Mommy short cuts. Shhhh! Don’t tell.

Bean wrote this poem for a heart themed poetry contest this month: 

Whenever I look at the night sky,
I see a little star-heart.
Blinking, winking, shining.
Smiling right at me.
For me.
With me.
My star.
My home away from home.
My anchor.
My heavenly friend.
I twirl and bloom under the
Protection of my heart.

Words can’t describe how proud I am of my strong, creative 10-year old. Her writing skills have really blossomed this year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this little lady. 

What are you up to this chilly February 14th? We’re in Stowe for the week with plans for a cozy family pajama day today. Don’s going to stoke a roaring fire while we read books and play games together. No cooking for me tonight! We have a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants here in Stowe: Idletyme (owned by Chef Michael Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill).  Fantastic prices for farm to table food — and they are extra attentive with food allergies. 

I’m super excited for a vacation with my monkeys. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for us with my Lyme symptoms starting up again. February vacation came just at the right time. Thank you Massachusetts 🙂 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your day is filled with sweetness and love.

This and That…

This and That - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Happy 2016! How were your holidays? We had a blast skiing and sledding over winter vacation despite the lack of snow in New England. We found a balance between time with family and friends, as well as special time with just the four of us. Cuddling up by the fire with my monkeys was the best!

Who else is having trouble getting back in the swing? I’ve been busy restocking the house, catching up on laundry, and digging out of email. It was wonderful to disconnect for a week and a half, but boy does everything pile up!

January is one of my absolute favorite months. I feel the urge to purge and I have to go with it because most of the time I want to keep my stuff. I’m only a few chapters into Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I’m dying to dig my hands in. No shopping until I get this house in ship-shape! How’s that for motivation? 

Warning: this this glossary of Boston slang will cause fits of laughter whether you live in Massachusetts or not. I was shocked that Don didn’t know that “wiffle” is a boy’s short haircut, which is how we found this gem. Thank you Google!

Find out what kind of calls cops in ski towns receive in the Best of Stowe’s 2015 police blotter. More laughs, guaranteed.

What were your favorite holiday gifts? I’m in love with the little wool lamb that Bean made me (it looks nothing like the picture, which is why I love it more). Sweet Pea made us a glittery snowman plaque that we’ll hang proudly all winter. Also loving this clean eating cookbook, cozy slippers, and this tote

Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain. Love this NPR story. Hopefully more school districts and states will jump on board. 

“A horse, a bachelorette and a unicorn walk into a mansion…” The Bachelor is back! Lots of interesting ladies, and plenty of characters. Another entertaining season ahead. I can feel my brain cells evaporating while I’m watching but I can’t look away (#addicted). Please tell me I’m not alone!

Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shallot Puree

Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Did you catch last week’s post about Ceia Kitchen + Bar? If you can’t make it to Newburyport, you can experience a taste of Ceia in your own home with this delicious recipe for Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shallot Puree from Ceia’s Executive Chef, Jeremy Glover.

I’ve made these brussel sprouts twice since Jeremy shared the recipe with me. You are going to love them! Brussel sprouts are so decadent roasted this way. With the sweet and tangy puree on top, Bean couldn’t get enough of it! 

I’m not going to pretend Schmaltz was part of my culinary vocabulary. I had to look it up. Wikipedia says it’s “rendered chicken or duck fat used for cooking in European cuisine.” You can skim the fat off homemade bone broth, or cheat like I did and pick up a container of duck fat at a local market like Grand Trunk World Market or Whole Foods. For a vegan option, just roast the sprouts with olive oil and follow the rest of the recipe for the shallot puree. Chef Jeremy recommends this olive oil.

Set up your puree ingredients while the sprouts are roasting. Pre-measure your olive oil. Pour the shallot vinegar and honey into the blender or food processor. I used my 15 year old Cuisinart and it was totally fine. Once the shallots and garlic were roasted, the shallot puree came together quickly. I can see myself making it with other meals for sure.

I served these Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts on a weeknight with a roast chicken, butternut squash, and quinoa.  The flavors meshed really well with the sprouts. There was plenty of shallot puree to drizzle over our plates, which we did. Maybe even more than a drizzle! It tasted amazing over the quinoa. 

Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shallot Puree may sound complicated, but it’s not a hard recipe to follow. Add it to the menu for your next dinner party because it will definitely impress your guests! These fancy sprouts will be a gorgeous addition to any holiday table with their festive combination of red and green. CĂłmelo todo!

Schmaltz Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shallot Puree
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Ingredients
  1. 24 Brussel sprouts
  2. 3 tablespoons chicken or duck fat
  3. 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  4. 2 shallots, cut length wise
  5. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  6. 2 tablespoons raw honey
  7. 4 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
  8. 12 pomegranate seeds
  9. Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, smash the cloves of garlic, cut shallots, and toss together with warm chicken or duck fat and salt.
  3. Roast on sheet pan until Brussel sprouts are dark and crisp. The garlic and shallots should be soft as well. This may take 20 – 25 minutes.
  4. Take sheet pan out of oven, peel shallots, place one and a half in blender with vinegar, honey, and garlic. Blend mixture until smooth. Drizzle oil slowly until fully emulsified.
  5. Arrange sprouts in a pile, petal out the half shallot that isn’t in the vinaigrette. Place vinaigrette in a few spots on the sprouts. Finish with the pomegranate seeds.
Adapted from Executive Chef Jeremy Glover
Adapted from Executive Chef Jeremy Glover
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

 

Simplify Holiday Traditions

Simplifying Holiday Traditions - Under the Monkey Bars blog

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But is it?

The holidays create so much extra stress layered on top of already busy lives. We search for the perfect gifts, decorate to the nines, angst over the perfect holiday card photo, host and attend numerous holiday parties. It’s exhausting!

The holidays always overwhelm me. I try to carry the sentiments of gratitude and mindfulness from Thanksgiving into December, but it’s not easy with such a long list of To Do’s.

I only started to feel the spirit of the holidays the other day when I snuggled up on the couch with my monkeys to watch the TV special Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. You know that feeling that swells up inside you and fills you with hope and joy? There’s not much in our crazy world that does that anymore.

After the show was over, Sweet Pea was struck by the tangible example of how one person can truly make a difference — even a little girl. Virginia’s letter to the New York Sun impacted the whole city. One article in the paper lifted spirits, fostered giving, and created holiday cheer.

It’s amazing how hope can change us. At a time when our world is suffering from strife and anxiety, we must cherish every moment of peace and love. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes often simplifies problems. While watching an uplifting holiday movie will not bring us world peace, it can spark sentiments needed to create change.

As parents, Don and I have been through ten years of holiday traditions. Some traditions are fleeting and only last through certain ages, while others carry on from year to year. Our Christmas this year will be very different from our first Christmas as parents in 2005.

In the early years, we went overboard on absolutely everything without even realizing it. We’ve simplified our traditions so that we can spend more time together and feel more relaxed. We still decorate our tree, send cards, play holiday music, and exchange gifts. It’s taken me ten years to realize that the Christmas spirit will thrive in our home whether or not I spend hours upon hours preparing for it. Keeping it simple allows this time of year to be truly wonderful.

One of our favorite holiday traditions is the twelve books of Christmas. It not only fosters a love for reading, but it also builds our home library. I collect books for the girls throughout the year, stocking up on used books at the Great Old Book Sale at the Newburyport Public Library and buying the rest at bookstores locally.

We give each little monkey a basket of wrapped books as a countdown to Christmas. The girls choose one book per night to open until Christmas Eve. The excitement lies in deciding which book to choose and seeing the number of books in the basket decrease. We’ll curl up by the Christmas tree to read the new books together before bedtime.

Books have always played a large role in our holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, we read Twas The Night Before Christmas in front of a roaring fire. I’ll never forget the first year that each of my daughters read the whole book themselves. It was truly magical. We cherish this Holiday tradition most of all.

This holiday season, welcome new and old traditions to foster holiday cheer without the stress. I hope your holidays are magical and the most wonderful time of the year for you and your family.

Holiday Gift Guide 2015

Under the Monkey Bars Holiday Gift Guide 2015

1. For the selfie obsessed :: Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Instant Film Camera will be an instant hit this holiday. Jazz up the border of those plain polaroids with mini film stickers, or throw in an accessory bundle that includes a selfie lens, frames, stickers, album, and case. Don’t forget the film!

2. For the musician…Kala Makala Shark Ukuleles come in a rainbow of colors and are easy on the wallet. Add a guide for self learners to get started on this entry level instrument. For tiny musicians, try the Hape Early Melodies Ukulele.

3. For the book worm…Naughty Mabel by Nathan Lane and Devlin Elliott is the new hilarious story of a naughty French bulldog that will entertain kids of all ages. Don’t miss Amazon’s list of 100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime for filling the home library shelves. Add a fun headlamp to the stocking for monkeys to read in bed or the car.

4. For family game night…Jenga’s new GIANT game is 3ft tall and even more fun than the original. Play inside or outside with this hardwood classic.

5. For the techie… They’re asking for a phone but you’re not ready. FiLIP’s wearable watch with GPS locator displays date/time, calls, texts, and communicates location with up to 5 contacts. Consider the GizmoPal for younger kids. Families can stay connected without a smartphone. Now that’s smart.

6. For the movie lover…Schylling’s Star Wars jumbo inflatable R2D2 comes with sound and a remote control for kids of all ages to move the droid in every direction plus stunts and 360-degree spins! Seriously? A must for Star Wars fans.

7. For the artist….Coloring books are a must for kids of all ages this year. The Lost Ocean coloring book is the latest by pen and ink artist Johanna Basford. Not interested in going under the sea? Check out the Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Tangle Wood coloring books. If your little artist doesn’t have a human mannequin body for freehand drawing, it’s a must-have — and fits in the stocking!

8. For the builder…Tegu magnetic wooden block sets make the perfect green gift for any age. Magna-Tiles taught us that the more you have, the higher you can build. Choose a classic set of Tegu wooden blocks, this robot, horse, car, or helicopter…and don’t forget the travel tote! Tegu is truly an investment in imagination.

9. For the fashionista…StyleModel Pocket Sketchbook provides pre-drawn models and stickers for fashionistas to create unique designs. Some images are a little edgy, but my monkeys absolutely love these books. Neutral colored pencils help create just the right shading. Little designers who love animals will flip over StyleModel Doggy.

10. For the traveler…Boogie Board Jot eWriter takes lists, games, and drawing to a new level by saving tons of paper. It’s perfect for little monkeys to practice writing their letters or playing hangman in the car. For a more retro travel game, check out these reusable bingo cards for the car.

11. For the scientist…Crazy Aaron’s Made by Me Thinking Putty is new this year, allowing kids to mix their own colors without making a mess. This new kit adds to Crazy Aaron’s creative line of over 40 putties to knead, bounce, bend, tear, stretch, snap, or pop while you think. Don’t miss holiday themed Thinking Putty for the stocking!

12. For the doll lover…Lottie is an age appropriate English doll without makeup or high heels that my monkeys have played with consistently since last holiday season. New this year as a collaboration with the European Space Agency and winner of the 2015 Space Age Awards, Stargazer Lottie includes a telescope and tripod. Finn was designed as a playtime buddy that boys can relate to, with a healthy childlike boy shape and a kite to fly. No matter what Lottie doll you choose, it will be received with a smile and hours of wholesome play.

Print this Under the Monkey Bars Holiday Gift Guide to take shopping with you, or click the image to pin it. Support your local toy stores and #shopsmall this Holiday season. The monkeys and I love to shop at the Dragon’s NestEureka, Jabberwocky, and Green Elephant Toys locally. What’s your favorite local toy and book store? What are your little monkeys wishing for this year? 

 

Note: This post was not sponsored by any of the companies included in the holiday gift guide. The opinions are my own. This post includes affiliate links, which means I could make a small commission on something you purchase at the corresponding site. However, products will not cost you more because of this. Thank you!