If you find yourself down to the wire on dinner, don’t sweat it! Try this Indiana Kitchen 2-Step Ham recipe. Step 1) Heat in oven. Step 2) Serve. — Now, how easy is that?!
Have you ever heard the saying, “A watched pot never boils”? Fortunately, you only need to add the ingredients for this easy Crock Pot Apple BBQ Pork Tenderloin recipe to the crock-pot and switch it on — no watching necessary. Sweet apples and barbecue sauce make this dish burst with flavor!
Ideas for keeping New Year’s Eve kid-friendly
Gone are the days I long to whoop it up in Times Square and watch the crystal ball drop at midnight. I’d much rather be home with my family, rocking around the clock in my fuzzy slippers, when it’s time to welcome in the early minutes of January. It’s not that I’m a stick in the mud. I love a good party. It’s just that when it comes to saying goodbye to one year and welcoming a new one, I’d rather do it surrounded by those I love most.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to keep the party rolling until the clock strikes twelve, here are some ways to have fun with your family!
This year we’re dining in style! Some years I order pizza; others, we’re appetizer central. This year, I’ll set the table with my grandparent’s china, gold-rimmed water goblets and cloth napkins, and we’ll enjoy a large meal together. Mashed potatoes, green beans and a beautifully seasoned pork tenderloin—from Indiana Kitchen—will grace our table and palates. We will enjoy this uninterrupted time together until someone spills their milk, decides they don’t want to sit next to a particular sibling any longer or something else that will make one of our children irate, yet makes absolutely zero sense to me or my husband.
Last Year–This Year
One tradition we began this year was writing down memories throughout the year as they happened—a trip, a funny joke or moment, a favorite event . . . anything that made an impression. We wrote them down on little strips of paper, placed them into a jar, and we’ve been waiting until New Year’s Eve to read them as a family. This year, after we read and remember them, we’ve decided to fill the jar with things we’d like to do in 2016. From silly and outrageous wishes, to achievements we hope to accomplish, to places to visit, we’ll pull one wish a week from the jar throughout the year, and see if we can make it happen. Not all wishes can be fulfilled, however . . . like my daughter’s wish that we become the owners of a dog kennel. Not going to happen, honey.
Pop! Around the Clock
Little ones can be impatient, to say the least. “When is it midnight?” “How much longer?” “How many more minutes?” You know the drill. One of my book-club friends shared a way she keeps her little ones busy until it’s midnight. She buys party poppers, and her children excitedly “pop” one every half hour starting at 9 p.m. Once the last one pops, her children know it’s midnight! Plus, they are entertained with the little toy inside until it’s time to pop again. When they begin to ask, “How much longer?” she simply redirects them to count the poppers and tell her how much longer. Well played!
From this CFO to all of you others out there, I wish you a happy and healthy 2016!
Chief Family Officer
Come on, we’ve all done it! No one here is going to judge regifting, because it’s something we’ve all done in some way, shape or form. Whether you’ve wanted to unload that poodle candle Aunt Edna sent for your birthday, or you forgot a friend’s birthday and knew you had something lying around she’d like, you’re in good company. As organized as I strive to be, I’m far from perfect, and I know I’m not the only one who has repurposed a gift. More than half of people surveyed (the brave ones who actually admitted it) said they believe regifting to be absolutely socially acceptable. My take—why should something sit around my home collecting dust when someone else could enjoy it?
- Is it something they’d like? If you know your best friend would love a sugarplum-scented candle, and you happen to have one you’ve never burned, why not send it her way? If it’s not something the beholder would find beauty in, then don’t pass it along.
- Is it new? I would hope it goes without saying, but I feel like I must say something. Do not—I repeat—do not regift an item that is no longer in its original packaging or that you have used. No half-eaten box of chocolate. No clock that once hung on your kitchen wall. Just no.
- Is it a matter of feeling budget-conscious? No one loves to save a penny more than I do, yet exchanging gifts shouldn’t feel like an obligation, especially if your wallet feels like you can’t squeeze out another dollar. Someone who truly cares about you would rather have a homemade batch of cookies or the gift of your time.
- Does it need sprucing up? A fresh layer of wrapping paper, a beautiful bow and a card signed with love is the perfect touch. Please, leave no evidence behind of it once being a gift from another. That would be awkward.
- Who, what, where? Keep tabs on who gave you the gift originally and for what occasion. You wouldn’t want to give a gift back to the original giver, would you? This, very awkward.
When in doubt, the perfect way to bless someone with something unused in your home is to simply donate it. Just remember to keep to a minimum the giving of fruitcake. It’s for the good of mankind, and I mean this with love.
Making the most of teachable moments with your children
Something happened this week that I didn’t anticipate, which isn’t unusual in life, is it? While driving my daughter to a Saturday-morning art camp, we heard a news story on the radio about a young girl who was collecting teddy bears for police officers. They carry them in their cars to give comfort to children during tragic and emotional times.
The little girl’s story began innocently enough when she heard that her friend’s daddy had run out of stuffed animals. Normally, that would make me smirk because most guys I know are way past collecting stuffed rabbits and the like. Yet, this man was a police officer, and he knew, in tough circumstances, something like a toy could provide relief to a little one who might feel scared.
The story ended, the radio music started, and her questions began. “Mom, do you think it’s nice to give something you really love to someone else who really needs it?” I knew before she finished her question, this was going to be a teachable moment.
Teachable moments are those brief windows of time where an opportunity arises to talk about something—or do something—that isn’t what you originally intended, yet we can learn or educate someone else in the process. These little moments happen a lot with my kids. Sometimes I jump on them, and sometimes I let them sail right by. It’s all about timing, figuring out what their thoughts are on the subject and answering them in a way that continues conversation. Sometimes these moments happen organically, and other times, you can initiate some activities to facilitate great learning conversations with your kids, such as:
- Reading books together.
- Talking about when you were younger.
- Having age-appropriate conversations about happenings in the world.
- Taking a learning trip to a farm, zoo, museum, park, festival and so on.
- Looking at photos, maps and memorabilia.
- Cooking, gardening and even grocery shopping can unearth discussions on measurement, nutrition and why budgets are important to plan and follow.
Just as my children have learned from me during teachable moments, I also have learned a great deal from them—and about them—when it comes to grace, compassion and how their childlike thoughts and emotions touch my heart.
I’d like to tell you that, after discussing why community service, first responders and charity are important (yes, we covered them all from one little news story), my daughter parted with the plethora of stuffed animals taking over her room. But, that didn’t happen. Instead, after camp, she asked if we could run to the store to buy popsicles. She wanted to deliver them to the firehouse near our neighborhood and thank them for all they do. When I asked why popsicles, she simply stated, “They work in the fire and heat all day, Mom, so something hot to eat would be inappropriate.”
Now, why didn’t I think of that!?
Chief Family Officer
Why family meals are important
When your father is a farmer, and works sunup to sundown, you might think finding stolen moments with him would be a problem, right?
My dad knew when it was time to wear the business hat and when it was time to trade it in for the dear old dad hat. No time was more precious to him than dinner with his family—saying grace, passing the green beans and asking about our day. Flexibility was key. Some days, mom rang the dinner bell (literally, we had an old schoolhouse bell she salvaged and mounted near the back porch) at 4:30 p.m, and other days it sounded at dusk. Yet, we gathered together, broke bread, and it was good. It was a priority.
In the craziness of life, between sports, piano lessons and carpools, company meetings and PTA events, it would be easy for me to hand my kids a chef’s hat and spatula and wish them luck nuking a frozen dinner. Don’t get me wrong—some days are like that, and during the crazy swells in life, we just keep on swimming
You see, it’s not really about eating amazing, four-course meals, seven days a week—because, believe you me, that isn’t happening under my roof. It’s about spending time together. Setting aside dedicated minutes to listen, to laugh and be in each other’s presence. We all go different directions once the alarm clock sounds in the morning. Dinner is our one opportunity, as often as possible, to enrich our relationships with one another.
When I chat with my girlfriends about family time, it seems we’re all in the same boat. We want more time on the clock, fewer commitments and a few minutes to be alone and regroup, recharge. We all lead busy lives, don’t we? What to do?
The common thread we saw was our families were starving for time together as a whole. We divide and conquer to make it to our kids’ sporting events, school functions and playdates, and when you add in careers and other commitments, it can feel like a no-win situation. So, what can we do to combat the hamster wheel of busyness and make family time at the table happen more often? Here are a few suggestions:
- Prepare large batches of favorite meals, like an extra ham and cheesy potato casserole to freeze, or plan meals from leftovers.
- Big brunch weekends!
- Turn off the TV, hide the electronics, and interact at the table.
- Plan meals and shop ahead, so meal guesswork is at a minimum.
- Love Taco Tuesday? Pizza Friday? Bacon every day? Make one meal that everyone loves—a staple—each week.
- Get your kids in the kitchen! Have them help set the table, season the stew, and for your older children, let them be hands-on—slice and dice with supervision.
- Pick up premade side dishes from your grocer to pair with mouthwatering ribs simmering in the crockpot.
If you’re looking for some good conversation starters with your kids during dinner, try these:
- Have I ever told you about my best friend when I was your age?
- Want to hear about my favorite vacation when I was little?
- If you could have a day filled with wishes that would come true, what would they be?
- What do you think life was like when Mom/Dad/Grandma was little?
- If you were given a hundred dollars to donate to a charity, which one(s) would you give it to, and why?
Recharge as a family at the dinner table. A time to impart a little wisdom to your children, and learn from them as well. Some of my favorite moments come when my children dispense advice, love and listen to one another. That’s priceless to me.
Not every meal is perfect, not every meal is argument free, and not every meal has every member of our family present. That’s life. What we gain, however, when we gather is priceless. We learn to listen, to not interrupt, and why good manners matter. We learn to work through issues together, and we realize that some of life’s bigger questions are hard to answer.
Give family mealtime a try this week, and let me know how it goes!
Chief Family Officer
Halloween costumes that won’t break the bank!
I’m going to date myself here…
Who remembers when Halloween costumes came in a box from the toy store? Cellophane wrapping on the front allowed you to peek inside and see the mask and also the less than flattering plastic smock to slip on over your clothing. Anyone?
Costumes have come a long way, haven’t they? Many companies specialize in head-to-toe transformations leaving your little superhero or fuzzy monster dressed to the nines yet your bank account does a stutter step. For the crafty parent who can sew, staple and glue like no one else, this is your time to shine and get funky with the fabric. And then there’s chief family officers like me that wish they had the time and talent to Martha Stewart-up a costume.
Spending large amounts on an outfit means less dollars in other areas of our monthly budget. That’s why our family gets costume creative without breaking the bank, or stitching our fingers together.
Our favorite place to begin costume shopping is in our own home. Last year, my daughter and her friends decided on a Girl Power theme and dressed as powerful women in history. I’m not sure where she came from concerning the DNA pool since my friends and I all dressed like Madonna when we were her age. She borrowed a denim shirt from me and rolled up the cuffs, used baggy jeans from her brother, tied a red bandana in her hair and with a little 1940’s glam makeup went as “Rosie the Riveter.”
My oldest son is hosting a “Get Your Dead On” themed party this Halloween weekend. Zombie costumes are not optional for party guests. He and his buddies hit up our local donation store and chose clothing they could tear, smear and destroy for just under $10. A girl in his biology class is artistic and loves doing makeup, so the guys pitched in to buy makeup and she’ll work her transformation magic for them just for the experience of it. He’s a bargain hunter in the making.
My youngest cannot decide what to be for Halloween. His certainty on what to dress up as changes as frequently as the Midwestern weather each time he looks at costumes online. Visiting our local children’s clothing resale shop works out best for him. He can choose between popular costumes and I can buy him a like-new getup at a fraction of the price. That makes both of us happy.
Chief Family Officer
P.S. Don’t forget to talk with your children about Halloween safety!
Stay on the sidewalk
Always walk with a group of friends or a trusted adult
Flashlights are important in the dark
Examine your candy with an adult
Test your costume and makeup for safety and add reflective tape if necessary
You never enter the home of a stranger
Fall party pleasers for the school crowd
Sugar coated, sugar caked, and sugared up until the cows come home. If that doesn’t describe Halloween treats our kids know and love, I’m not sure what does. Believe me, I love candy just as much as the next person who buys truckloads to appease costumed little ones when they arrive, and say, “Trick or treat!” I never handout Bottle Caps or Butterfingers on Halloween. They tempt me in the days ahead, begging me to eat them. It would be rude not to give in to their request, right? So it’s best they remain out of my grocery cart, otherwise, it’s back to the store I trot to buy more.
But I digress…
Planning party snacks for school can feel challenging. Some schools prefer classrooms celebrate a fall harvest theme, while others are open to ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Providing food kids will devour, while being mindful of school policies on snacks, as well as remaining sensitive to children with food allergies, might make you cringe and sign up to only provide paper plates—I get it. I really do.
So let’s put a little fun and creativity into snacks while saving time and sanity! I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel, so thank you to the crafty folks who shared their ideas online!
Snacks with a little prep time required:
Quick and crafty snacks:
Boo Cheese Sticks & Jack O’ Lantern Cups
If you are short on time, yet have a black Sharpie marker, this is the snack for you! You could also replace the mandarin orange cups with orange gelatin snack cups.
Wash and remove seedless grapes from the stem, then place grapes into a bowl. Craft a little sign that says, “Spider Eggs! Beware!” Set a few plastic spiders around the bowl, a little fake web material underneath, and you’re good to go.
Lucky for us Chief Family Officers who might be super short on time, companies love to create snacks packaged for Halloween that you can simply purchase ready-to-go and send off to school. No assembly required snacks is sometimes what a busy family needs.
Chief Family Officer
Growing up a farmer’s daughter, I’ve learned to appreciate the hands that work hard bringing food to our tables each and every day. It’s definitely a labor of love. One way I choose to not only support local growers, but also local businesses, is by visiting our farmers market. Vendors arrive with smiles, fresh produce, unique products and sometimes their trusty sidekicks of the four-legged variety whom my children all love, scratch behind their ears, and know on a first dog-name basis.
Taking my children to experience the open-air market allows them the opportunity to become familiar with the people in their town whose passions lie in getting their hands dirty in the soil, just like their grandpa. The hardworking retailers who craft exquisite jewelry or paintings because they must create to keep their hearts fulfilled are people I want my children to be inspired by. If I’m honest with you, my kids are really in it for the kettle corn, yet that doesn’t stop me from providing them with an experience I know they secretly love and will always cherish.
One of the ways I get my children involved is by letting each of them choose a food item—fruit, vegetable, dairy—that I’ll incorporate into a meal during the week. They have the freedom to wander around and select any fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. And yes, when we began this ritual, I reminded them weekly that cookies and chocolate bars are not vegetables nor on the periodic table of fruit. Also, we set the ground rule we would try one another’s choices without complaining before having a taste. Now, Saturday mornings run a little smoother, yet you never know what might happen. Will this be the time one of my kids finally chooses beets? Will we have to play rock, paper, scissors if two reach for the same item at the same time? It’s always an adventure.
Some veggies are home runs, while others—not so much—and that’s okay. You never know if you’ll like something until you try it, right? One of our family favorites so far was when I paired grilled asparagus, sprinkled with a touch of sea salt and fresh parmesan cheese, with a flavor- infused Indiana Kitchen Tenderloin, and baked potatoes. I know it’s a favorite when there’s less talking and more eating around the table. Speaking of grilling, don’t forget to enter Indiana Kitchen’s Outdoor Sweepstakes for you’re chance to win an amazing outdoor kitchen! Click here for more details!
Last Saturday my daughter asked if she could forgo her food choice for something different, promising it wasn’t covered in icing or sticky sweet. I looked into her eyes and couldn’t say no. She took my hand and led me to a display of fresh cut flowers. She smiled, and said, “Just for you, Mommy.” Yes, there were waterworks. Until she hit me with, “Since I did something nice for you, will you buy me a dog?” Oh, sweet child of mine!
Chief Family Officer
Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win Indiana Kitchen’s Outdoor Kitchen Sweepstakes! Click here for details!
I don’t know about you, but at the start of each summer my family and I talk about all the things we must do between the last day of classes and when the first school bell rings in the fall. And every year, I’m lucky to remember what some of those things were during the massive brainstorming session, let alone knock one or two items off the list.
This year, we decided to create a list of ten things we wanted to do and place it on the refrigerator. If it’s out of sight, then it’s out of mind and no one has the refrigerator out of their minds at my house.
We created three lists of must do’s: one for the kids, one for my husband and me, and one for the whole family.
Now, before this begins to sound too daunting to complete, like the bucket list items that you’ll never see come to fruition, remember to keep it simple, CFOs. If you list volcano climbing in Hawaii or dinner with the Queen Mum, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment if those are not actually going to happen anytime soon.
Be realistic, have fun, and most of all make it happen! Here’s our lists:
The Kid’s List
- Make homemade popsicles
- Flip flops only!
- Use up every last bit of sidewalk chalk
- Have cake for breakfast
- Do a cannonball and jackknife jumping into the pool
- Roller coasters! No hands!
- Fly a kite without getting it stuck in a tree this time
- A day at a children’s museum
- Build a lemonade stand and make a million bucks
- Camp in the backyard
The Parent’s List
- An evening concert date outdoors
- Dinner out with friends we haven’t seen in ages
- Late night chat alone on the patio while eating dessert
- Slow dance at dusk to our wedding song
- Play hooky from work
- Watch a sunset together
- Go on a date alone where food isn’t served fast or wrapped in paper
- Turn off the TV and gadgets for a day and unplug
- Mom goes to the art museum for Dad
- Dad goes to a baseball game for Mom
The Family List
- An evening under the stars catching fireflies
- Pack up the car for a drive-in movie experience
- Mandatory pajama day for all
- Visit the local petting zoo
- Tour our own hometown
- Bike ride on trails
- Make ice cream
- Visit a local festival
- Evening picnic in the park
- Float and fish the day away at the lake
I’d love to see the lists you’ve created and hear about the ways you enjoy summer days. We all know the time passes by way too quickly. So make the days count!
Chief Family Officer