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Bursting with Flavor: Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to dust off the grill and gather together with family and friends to thank the Lord for our many blessings as we remember the heroic men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy!

What better way to celebrate than with a super quick-n-easy meal that allows us more time with our family and less time in the kitchen! Firing up the grill is definitely one of the easiest ways to get a healthy meal on the table in just minutes!

Another plus is that grilling results in less mess and less dishes. And of course, you just can’t beat the savory flavor of grilled meats, which is why it’s one of my favorite cooking methods.

This super easy Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe is my new go-to favorite. I love that I can make the marinade ahead of time, which means even faster turn-around time on busy weeknights! I also throw some veggies on the grill at the same time for a simple side dish that complements the chicken perfectly and adds a boost of nutrition!

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious and healthy. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create quick-n-easy dishes just bursting with flavor! And remember you can always save even more time by grilling extra chicken that you can use to create other healthy weeknight meals.

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 Tbsp lime zest (about 2 limes)
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

1. Place chicken thighs in a 9×9-inch baking dish; set aside.
2. Place remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor in the order given. Cover and process on low until fine chopped and blended.
3. Transfer 1/2 cup of the cilantro-lime marinade to a small bowl. Evenly distribute the remaining marinade over the chicken, making sure to well coat.
4. Cover chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Then remove from fridge and pre-heat grill to medium-high heat.
5. Grill chicken about 3-4 minutes, until the edges become opaque. Then flip the chicken over and brush with reserved marinade. Reduce heat to medium and cover grill. Continue cooking until chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

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St. Patricks’ Day Crafts/ Science Experiments You Won’t Want to Miss with Your Young Kids

So I may be a little late with the March calendar of crafts/ science experiments, but I figured the 11th was good enough to get it out there. Most of my “crafts” are science experiments because my kids LOVE to tinker and explore. I also like my “fun things to do with the kids” to be educational and allow deep conversation to brew. Don’t get me wrong, there are times for the cute crafts, but I use them sparingly because there are so many amazing experiments out there with basic ingredients/ materials you have hanging around the house…so why not right!?! I have done some research on Pinterest and various teacher sites and have come up with a fantastic list sure to make your March fun and a HIT with your kids!

I love this “I am Lucky” St. Patrick’s Day craftivity because it helps children reflect on who they are as a person and helps them value what they have around them. So often, our kiddos don’t spend time thinking about what makes them a good person and appreciating the good things in their life. In this activity, students create a four-leaf clover.  On each leaf, students write something that makes them lucky. You could also come at it from the perspective of something they’re thankful for or appreciate.

Skittles Rainbow Experiment

How fun is this Skittles Rainbow science experiment?!? So easy and will surely bring the “Oooh’s” and “Ahhh’s” from your kids or students. Place skittles (in a rainbow pattern) around a slightly sloped plate or bowl, add luke warm water until just the edge of the water touches the skittles, wait about 30 seconds and watch the magic happen!

Exploring Colors with Baking Soda and Vinegar

In this science activity, not only will children get to create a chemical reaction, but they’ll also be able to explore color mixing and create some colorful “artwork”!

Materials:

Tray to hold the materials

Baking Soda

White Vinegar

Food coloring

Ice cube trays

Pipettes

Procedure:

Place a fair amount of baking soda in the bottom of the tray.

Fill ice cube trays with the primary colors (food coloring) and vinegar

Using a Pipette, place different colored drops in the baking soda. Practice mixing the colors to make secondary colors.

How to make Shamrock Crystals

  • Borax
  • boiling water
  • a wide mouth glass mason jar
  • green and white pipe cleaners
  • string
  • a pencil
  • food coloring.

Instructions for making the crystals

First, twist  your pipe cleaner into the desired shape.  I set out a few templates of shamrocks (printed off the internet) for the kids to look at.

You will need 3 cups of boiling water per mason jar, 1/2 cup of Borax for each jar.  The more saturated your solution is, the larger your crystals will be.  Stir until all the borax is dissolved and the solution is clear, add food coloring if you desire.

Tie a string around the tail of the shamrock and tie the other end to a pencil.   Gently lower the shamrock into the solution making sure that it is not touching any sides or the bottom.  Set the jar in a safe spot that will not be disturbed.  We let ours sit overnight and the kids were amazed to find the pipe cleaners were transformed into crystal-encrusted decorations.  Gently cut off the string and display in your window.

Magic Milk Experiment

Place milk in a shallow dish and add some drops of liquid food coloring.

Now grab a *magic* toothpick.  What?  You don’t know where to buy magic toothpicks??  Just dip the end in dish soap 🙂

and let your kiddo touch the milk with it.

The colors instantly shoot out at lightning speed creating a wake of rainbows!  Try dipping the toothpick in the color first and then the milk and you’ll make rings.

Do it a few more times and then just sit back and watch.  As the soap disrupts the surface tension of the milk, the colors dance around all by themselves.  Kind of like a funky kaleidoscope.

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How do I effectively Explain Easter to Children?

As my kids get older and are ready to learn more in depth about Jesus, I find myself scrambling to explain and worried that they don’t “get it.” Explaining Christmas is so much easier than Easter right?!? – babies, sheep, angels, stars. It’s pretty much all about love and presents: things your kids can relate to. Sure there’s the nasty part where Herod kills the baby boys, but that’s not an essential part of the story and you can leave it out if you want to.
Easter, on the other hand, is much tougher. You have the joy and celebration of Palm Sunday and the even bigger joy and celebration of Easter one week later. But in between, there is betrayal, denial, torture, pain, and death. How do you explain all this to children?
My first instinct is just to skip it, to go directly from Palm Sunday to Easter without that disturbing stop at the cross. As tempting as this option is, it is not the best choice for my girls. We can’t experience the real joy of Easter without first reflecting on the pain and sadness of Good Friday. If we skip over the cross, our children are going to approach Easter with a “So what’s all the fuss about, anyway?” attitude.
This is not to say that we should run out and rent The Passion for our kids to watch. However, there are many age-appropriate ideas, Easter books, and videos you can use as a starting point for sharing Easter faith with our kiddos. Preview the books and videos first to make sure they
  • Match your beliefs
  • Are not too violent
  • Include Jesus’ resurrection as well as his death
I never want to tell the story of Jesus’ death without also telling about his resurrection.
Here are some other activities I found online that you can use to explain Easter to your children (which I plan on making the resurrection eggs):
Make resurrection eggs
You can buy sets of resurrection eggs or you can make your own. To make your own, label 12 plastic eggs with the numbers 1-12 and fill them as below:
  • Egg 1 – a piece of fur to represent the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem
  • Egg 2 – a cracker symbolizing the Last Supper
  • Egg 3 – a piece of soap, symbolizing Jesus washing the disciples’ feet
  • Egg 4 – three dimes to symbolize the 30 pieces of silver Judas received to betray Jesus
  • Egg 5 – a feather to represent the rooster that crowed three times
  • Egg 6 –  a thorn, symbolizing the crown of thorns that was put on Jesus’ head
  • Egg 7 – a die to symbolize the lots that were cast for Jesus’ clothing
  • Egg 8 – a small wooden cross or a nail to represent Jesus’ death on the cross
  • Egg 9 – a piece of black paper to symbolize the darkness that covered the earth
  • Egg 10 – a piece of cloth to symbolize the cloth in which Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body
  • Egg 11 – a rock to symbolize the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb
  • Egg 12 – Leave this egg empty to symbolize Jesus’ resurrection
You can open one egg a day for the 12 days before Easter or open a couple eggs a week. It is extra meaningful if you can open Egg 12 on Easter. As you open the eggs, talk about what each item represents.
 
Clean pennies
Your children may have difficulties understanding that Jesus died for their sins. First of all, you may need to explain to them that sin is anything we do that keeps us from being friends with God. Bring out some grimy pennies and tell them the dirt on the pennies represents their sin. Then mix ¼ cup of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Put the pennies in the vinegar mixture for about five minutes. They will come out shiny and clean! Explain that Jesus makes us shiny and clean too.
 Answer questions honestly
Your children will ask you tough questions like “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “Why didn’t God help him?” Answer as best as you can – chances are you ask yourself these same questions sometimes! Admit that you don’t understand it all yourself, but explain as best you can that Jesus died for us because it was God’s plan. Such questions are a sign that your children are growing in faith and wanting to understand for themselves, not just accept what they have been told in Sunday School. Rejoice!
Keep the emphasis on Jesus
Easter morning can easily become more about candy-filled eggs than Jesus’ resurrection. Keep the focus on Jesus, with the Easter Bunny a very secondary character.
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What’s Next?

“What’s next?”

I heard Annora say that throughout Christmas and I was getting a little annoyed.  I kept reminding myself that she is a little one and the excitement has been building for quite a while…just breath mom…

“Stop and enjoy the blessings you have in front of you!” I kept saying. I said it all evening Saturday and all day Sunday. I also reminded her that some kids don’t get any presents at all…to be grateful.

I woke up pretty early yesterday morning and started reflecting on the holiday season, the hustle and bustle of Christmas traffic and then…life in general. You know what I immediately thought…

“What’s next?”

I felt God reminding me to “Stop and enjoy the blessings you have in front of you Mary!” Live in the moment and stop looking so far ahead to “what’s next.”

So….

CHEERS to living for the now! I’m going to go snuggle my little ones and not worry so much about “what’s next!”

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The Elf on the Shelf…Yes or No? (SPOILER ALERT)

113806-elf-on-the-shelf

CHRISTMAS TIME…YEEHAW!!!!!

I am a sucker for art projects, holiday activities, baking and getting involved in the community for holiday events so when I had kids, it was only “OBVIOUS” that I was going to go all in with them as well…

Right before Annora was born this Elf on the Shelf idea hit the community and BLEW UP! By now you’ve likely all heard about the Elf, but just in case you’ve been in hiding or trapped in a Christmas time warp for the past few years, here’s the gist of it: Sold with a book that tells his story, the Elf sits on a shelf (and on toilets, in freezers, atop batches of freshly baked cookies… but more on that later) and keeps a watchful eye over the inhabitants of the home…AKA your children.

When everyone is alseep he flies home to the North Pole, where he reports back to Santa on whether the kids have been good or bad. Then he zips back to the house in time for everyone to find him precariously perched in some new, wildly entertaining spot the next morning.

Apart from being many families’ new favorite Christmas tradition, the Elf on the Shelf is also a multi-million dollar industry. As the Washington Post notes, “Within seven years of his birth, the Elf has scored his own Web site, Twitter account, $16 million in sales for 2011, an annual growth rate of 149 percent and a movie deal.”

Fun right? A little Christmas joy along with an easy way to keep the children behaving for about a month. What could possibly be wrong with this seemingly harmless practice? We weren’t sure we wanted to build up such a lie to our (at the time) child.

When our first-born came along and was of age for traditions to start, my husband and I needed to make a decision because we weren’t so sure having an elf in our home for 4 weeks a year was sending the right message about Christmas (I know…we are slightly over-protective). We had a list of cons such as:

1.He is naughty. 

For someone who is supposed to be encouraging kids to be good, the Elf seems to spend a lot of time making mischief. He tears apart pillow cases, writes all over bathroom mirrors, he toilet papers the Christmas tree and gets into “laundry fights,” strewing clothes all over the floor. And yet, when the children he’s watching over-step and are out of line, he doesn’t hesitate to write a note letting them know that yes, he did tell Santa about the Sharpie-on-the-leather-couch incident and no, Santa is definitely not impressed.

2. He is manipulative.

Plenty of parents have concerns about the idea of using the threat of Santa’s little tattle-taling helper to coax kids into behaving themselves. It reinforces the message to even very young children that the only reason to be good to each other is to get stuff.

Isn’t that just an extension of the tradition of jolly old St. Nick himself, though? After all, as the song goes, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Like most busy moms out there, I have nothing against a little bit of well-placed bribery. 

Those 2 objections were well talked about in our household and we weren’t sure the Elf would be welcome…but we also discussed the pros to having him around.

REASON: IT’S FUN IF DONE CORRECTLY!

How fun would it be to write letters to Santa, have the elf take them at night and come back with a Santa response letter the next day?  

Or…Your elf listens to your wishes that you whisper to him/her and reports them back to Santa for you?

Or…Your child explains the Christmas story to your elf using the nativity scene and you make sure the real meaning of Christmas isn’t lost in translation.

Or…Your elf brings gifts from Santa and places them under the tree throughout the month just because he caught you being an awesome kid?

We decided that the pros outweighed the cons and “Elsa” the elf was born. She doesn’t get into mischief at all. She does, however, move around our house (but just because it is fun to watch the kids try to find her in the morning). Santa writes letters to the girls but every letter talks about the true meaning of Christmas and encourages them to “Go be like Jesus.” Elsa brings the girls gifts (PJ’s for Christmas Eve night and a book about Christmas when she arrives at our house the first time). And lastly…we don’t use our elf, Elsa, to threaten our kids. We reprimand them like we always do and leave the elf out of it…she is there to report good things to Santa.

santa-letter-4 santa-letter

 

 

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December MUST Do’s in the Toledo Area!

I’m THRILLED!!! I had a lot of people respond to my November calendar of events in the Toledo, Ohio area so I decided to give you a good snap shot of what we plan on doing the month of December and you can pick and choose what you think your family may enjoy. I have toddlers and preschoolers but I must say this list is for ANY AGE! I have also included all links to the event pages along with the Toledo Parent link (which is where I get many of my monthly ideas).

http://toledoparent.com/

1. Toledo Zoo for the Lights Before Christmas.

If you have a membership, they allow you one free pass into the zoo for the lights (for the whole family). This is HANDS DOWN our FAVORITE holiday activity!

Check the link below for times and days they are open.

https://www.toledozoo.org/lights

lights-before-christmas toledo-zoo-lights huge-tree

 

 

2. Bass Pro Shops to see Santa and do some holiday crafts

This is a FREE (my FAVORITE 4 letter word) activity to do with the family and there is always a lot to do there.

Check out the link below for all activities, days they are doing them and when Santa plans to be there.

http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPageC?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&appID=86915&cm_ven=redirect&cm_cat=mktg&cm_pla=bps&cm_ite=santa&cm_sp=SantaWlandNov2013_RD

 

 

3. The Bethlehem Experience at Westgate Chapel Church

This happens to be THIS WEEKEND (December 9th-10th) but is FREE and totally worth it! GET THERE EARLY!!!

The Bethlehem Experience is the largest live indoor experience of the Christmas Story in the greater Toledo area. It’s an interactive dramatization of the Christmas story where you’ll journey through Biblical accounts leading up to the birth of Christ. You experience the sights, sounds, people, animals and trades of a bustling Bethlehem Marketplace, all culminating with an awe inspiring scene of the Angel’s pronouncement to the Shepherds and the birth of the Christ child.

https://westgatechapel.org/bex

 

 

4. Children’s Wonderland at Tam-O-Shanter

This Toledo classic event has been around for more than 50 years. A truly beautiful look at the wonders of Christmas, it features train rides, treats, interactive kid zones, and pictures with Santa!

http://www.playsylvania.com/childrens-wonderland/

childrens-wonderland-2 childrens-wonderland

 

 

5. Fort Meigs Holiday Open House in Perrysburg, DECEMBER 11th ONLY

Celebrate the holidays with Fort Meigs as they provide demonstrations and answer questions about the War of 1812, all while you enjoy holiday music and refreshments.

http://fortmeigs.org/

 

 

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas performed by Ten Mile Creek Theatre Company DECEMBER 16th-18th

Join Ten Mile Creek Theatre Company as it begins a new tradition of presenting A Charlie Brown Christmas live onstage. The well-known holiday story takes its turn in the spotlight.

http://www.tenmilecreektheatre.co/

charlie_brown_christmas

 

 

7. The Nutcracker at the Stranahan Theatre DECEMBER 17th-18th

The longest-running annual Nutcracker performance in the United States, this Toledo tradition is sure to stun audiences. Keeping with tradition, the character Mother Ginger will be played by a local celebrity at each performance! Tickets range from $27.50-$57.50.

http://www.stranahantheater.org/

1449248311-bostonballet_nutcracker_tickets

 

 

8. Holiday Magic Show at the Waterville Branch Library DECEMBER 19th

Feel the magic of the season with a Toledo Public Library-sponsored magic show! Fun for the whole family and free! Just be sure to register for your seat starting December 5.

http://toledolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=15675&lib=1019&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2016/12/08

 

 

9. Noon Year’s Eve at The Toledo Zoo on DECEMBER 31st

Midnight is awfully late. Why not celebrate a little early at the Toledo Zoo’s Noon Year’s Eve? Cheer in the New Year by watching the ball rise at noon and having an apple juice toast. Ice carving, crafts, and an ice slide will also be available for a fun family outing.

https://www.toledozoo.org/noon-years-eve

noonyearseve2

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How to NOT Break the Bank for Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-day-table

One thing I have learned as a stay at home mommy is how to budget and save for the best bang for my buck. Holidays can be overwhelmingly expensive if you don’t plan things out. We aren’t hosting this year (and never have) but I came up with a list of important to-do’s to help cut the costs of hosting Thanksgiving in your home.

1. Create a meal plan

Get the idea in your mind of you want your table to look like when the guests arrive. Do you want mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet potatoes with brown sugar, carrots or green bean casserole, or all of the above? Once you have decided on what the “feel” of how everything should be and what the menu consists of, get to work writing it down. Remember, Uncle Joe does not need to go home with a HUGE plate of leftovers!

2. Set your priorities

Once the menu is complete, figure out what you feel is a must for the holiday gathering. It isn’t necessary to have 3 different desserts and 2 different potato options. Think of your guests and what they might enjoy and go from there.

3. Set a budget

If you don’t have an arm and a leg to spend then it is important to set a budget. A group of 10 people can eat a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving Day meal for just over $70…that’s right….$70! Set the budget and STICK TO IT once you are at the supermarket.

4. Shop your pantry

Before leaving to get the supplies at the store, double check your pantry to see if you have any substitutions or even ingredients that are required in your recipe.  It’s likely you already have at least a few of the ingredients on your list. No need to buy the same ingredient twice!

Congratulations! The planning stage is done and now you’re ready to hit the grocery store.

5. Leave the kids at home

I don’t know about you, but I simply cannot focus when I have my girls with me. When shopping for the meal and supplies, you want to stay focused (and stick to the budget). When the kiddos tag along, I usually end up spending more than I had anticipated.

6. Buy generic

Go generic where it makes sense but splurge on the stars of the meal. Generic tends to have the same ingredients as name brand items so don’t feel like you need the most expensive ingredient to make the recipe taste good. But if a generic brand only saves you 50 cents and could jeopardize your famous sausage stuffing recipe, it’s okay to stick with name brand.

7. Skip prepackaged meals

Making food from scratch is a MUST when cutting costs. By purchasing prepackaged foods, you’re not just paying for the ingredients. You’re paying for everything that went into making the meal and getting it to your local grocery store.

8. Save a tree

Take out Grandma’s fine china or dust off your own and get the real silverware ready. It will feel more “traditional” and classy anyways. Yeah you have a bit more work to do when everyone leaves BUT you’re saving trees, cutting costs, AND looking classy when hosting. Don’t have enough silverware and plates for everyone…that’s okay…borrow from a friend or neighbor!

 

Turkey just tastes better when it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. So make a game plan and stick to it. Keep the grocery list under control, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a delicious and regret-free (well, except for that third slice of pumpkin pie) Thanksgiving feast.