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A Brat Helps the Flu

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It has been a rough week for me, starting out with the stomach flu on Tuesday, continuing into Wednesday, and still on Sunday I can’t eat much of anything. While this is good for my weight loss attempts (lost 4 pounds so far), it makes for a non-productive weekend since I have no energy because I have no appetite.

As a child you were always told to eat soup, dry toast and clear sodas when you have the flu. I have attempted this and still no luck, everything I eat makes me feel like somebody has punched me in the stomach 20 times. I decided to Google my issue of still not feeling well and not having an appetite days after the stomach flu has passed. Apparently this is quite common and I read that B.R.A.T. is what I should stick to. While my husband probably thinks I am a brat when I don’t feel well, I wasn’t sure what B.R.A.T. was so I had to further investigate.

B-Bananas
R-Rice
A-Apples
T-Toast

This is what they recommend, very bland foods, to eat after you have had the stomach flu. This is all news to me but I thought I would try it out, and so far so good. It allows me to eat something, although I can’t eat much of any of these, but they don’t upset my stomach like other foods I have tried (including the traditional chicken noodle soup).

Since I know many others that are going through the same issue, or have children dealing with this, I thought I would share my research in hopes it might help others.

Wishing you all a flu-free home.

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Family Christmas Gift Ideas

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We all know Christmas can get expensive, so one thing I like to do is buy a couples gift or a family gift. Couples gifts usually aren’t too hard, but family gifts can be difficult, especially if the children have a wide age range.

I began buying family gifts for my sister’s family about three years ago, right around the time baby number four arrived. Because of the age range of the children, 12 down to 3, and mixture of boys and girls, the decision of what to buy hasn’t been very easy. When I would go online to look for ideas and search family gifts, I would get ideas that would cost hundreds of dollars, or the ideas that were more for couples and not families. Because of this, I have decided to share a few of my the ideas I have had in time for you to stock up on Black Friday.

The first year, I bought my sister’s family the same snow cone machine we had been using for several years. This machine has held up for many years in our house, including the making of more than 20 snow cones at a time at birthday and holiday parties. This snow cone machine is the same style that I bought, but a different brand.

Last year, I bought them an ice cream maker upon request. This is always a great gift for a family!

I already have chosen the item for this year, but I can’t reveal it here! So, you decide what you think they will get this year, and hopefully you will find some ideas of your own.

Game On
If it is a family that you visit a lot, you can scope out their collection of board games and make a board game basket of ones that they don’t have. Black Friday sales are a great place to pick up some of the classics such as Candy Land, UNO, Chutes and Ladders, etc. If it is a family that travels, buy the travel versions to keep the kids entertained.

Organize It
My one child has a way of taking over my car, so a family with multiple children can always use some organizing, and with Thirty-One gifts, you can personalize it for even more fun. The Large Utility Tote is perfect for organizing jackets, blankets, toys, etc. in the trunk or back of a van or SUV. The Uptown Jewelry Bag has many uses, including organizing small items for the car like crayons, cards, Band-Aids, tissues, ear buds and more. The best part, it has a clasp that allows you to hook it around the back of a headrest for easy access.

Healthy Frozen Fun
The Zoku Quick Pop Maker from Williams-Sonoma is a good gift for families, producing sweet frozen treats in less than 15 minutes. You can make popsicles all on your own, including healthy ones with fresh fruit, yogurt, or mix up the colors with some different flavors of Kool-Aid. The great thing about this, you can purchase accessories for it for years to come, my personal favorite is the chocolate station. Plus, it comes it a variety of fun colors!

Food Fun
I probably would have been more willing to cook as a child if there had been such fun cooking utensils as there are today. You can find fun aprons, colorful measuring cups, fun-shaped spatulas, and kids cook books in a variety of places and prices. I have recently seen them at TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Home Goods, kitchen stores, even craft stores like Jo-Anns and Hobby Lobby. Collect these items throughout the year when you find them and grab a cute basket to put them all in. If the family really enjoys this, maybe the next year can be a gift certificate for cooking classes.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Is there one activity center, zoo, or museum that this family enjoys visiting? If so, buy them a season pass to enjoy the gift all year round. If they always get their own season passes, why not purchase some gift certificates for eateries or buy them tickets for an upcoming special event or exhibit.

New to Town
If the family has recently moved to a new city, purchase them tickets to a local fun place, or a city tour. I am a big fan of experiential gifts because these help to build family memories that last forever.

The Family that Plays Together
Encourage families to spend time together, away from electronics, by purchasing lessons or passes to a local sports facility or gym. The entire family can enjoy tennis or golf lessons, something that will keep them playing together for years to come. If this is out of your price range, why not try for a set of yard games. These sets are available in a variety of games and prices at Wal-Mart, Target and other sports stores.

Movie Night
We have family movie night a couple of times each month, as do many families. Why not purchase some movies for the family, then include their favorite movie theater candies with some microwave popcorn. Or, purchase a fun popcorn popper and a mixture of colorful popcorn and a vareity of flavorful seasonings.

These are just a few ideas for family gifts. So, Katherine, if you are reading this, you can put them in order of what year you would like to receive them!

Happy shopping and have a safe Thanksgiving Day!

Crockpot Parmesan Ranch Mushrooms – Pinterest Review

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I am always trying recipes and projects that I find on Pinterest. Sometimes they turn out successfully, sometimes there are items/ingredients missing, sometimes I don’t think there is any way that the person could physically manage to make these items. One of my friends suggested that I start blogging about my experiences, so here is my first Pinterest pin review.

I just tried this recipe for Crockpot Parmesan Ranch Mushrooms for a work luncheon today. They were tasty but even better, they were super easy to make! I bought four containers of whole snow cap mushrooms, cut them in half, threw in two sticks of butter, one packet of powder ranch dressing, and about a half a cup of Parmesan cheese all into the Crockpot, threw on the lid and turned it on. I started with it on high for about an hour, then turned it to low for about 2 more hours.

I had about a cup of leftover mushrooms so I brought them home and used them as the base for a chicken pasta dish. I simply added some additional frozen veggies to the mushrooms in a pan, sauteed them with some already cooked chicken breast, then poured it over some bowtie pasta for a simple and tasty dinner.

This was a definite success and one that I will keep on my Pinterest board to make in the future!

From Old to New

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There is a new flea market in town, well, not a true flea market, but something that calls itself a flea market! Me being me, I had to check it out. I was beginning to think I had wasted the last 10 minutes of my life walking around when I looked down and saw this amazingly horrible, homemade cabinet!

Decoupage cabinet from flea market.

Decoupage cabinet from flea market.

Something about it struck me as having some potential if I could only get all that decoupaged image off the front. My mind immediately went to an image I had seen on Pinterest a few days before and I thought it would work perfectly for this cabinet.

My son insisted on helping me remove the decoupage image, after an hour scraping, wiping, and more scraping, we finally had the image off. The downside, the image had left quite a bit of discoloring on the wood, and the texture was more coarse than I originally had thought. It was time to rethink my original concept for this.

After stewing over it for a bit, I decided the texture could add personality to it, so I went on my hunt for the right paint colors.

After lots of layers of paint (the wood wouldn’t hold the color very well), I was finally finished and loved the end result. The best part, the inside is a fun shade of ocean blue so when you open the cabinet door you get a burst of color.

Now, I just have to figure out where I can put this magnificent little piece.

A bit of surprise color inside.

A bit of surprise color inside.

The cabinet after some scraping and paint.

The cabinet after some scraping and paint.

Beautiful Structure

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I was at yet another over-priced thrift/antique store when I saw this amazing bench sitting next to a pile of antique toys.

This is the bench that I am referring to:

This was my $5 bench before.

This was my $5 bench before.

What, not what you were expecting?

I know, but something about this bench drew me in, and the $5 price tag helped draw me in more.

Here is the crazy side to me, I walked away from it and left the store. As the day continued I just kept thinking about that crazy little bench. The shop was supposed to stay open until 5 p.m., but when I arrived at 4:45 it was already closed. I was saddened by this, but saw the store still had it.

The next day I worried all morning that somebody else was going to get my bench before me, but when I went back to the store on my lunch hour it was still there.

I got the bench home and my husband told me to go get my $5 back. The bench was not stable, the cushion was rotting and it was scratched in multiple places.

After a bit of spray paint, some wood glue to stabilize it, and a new cushion and cover, here is the end result.

My $5 bench after.

My $5 bench after.

I think it was $5 well invested!

A Stay at Somewhere Inn Time

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What better of a way to spend a weekend then with friends, wine and good food. Oh, and a comfy bed to sleep in at the end of the night  doesn’t hurt either.

For a 2011 Christmas present my husband and I received a gift certificate to a bed and breakfast in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. After searching TripAdvisor for a place with good reviews, my mother bought us the certificate for Somewhere Inn Time.

The hubby and I left one night after work to drive to Ste. Genevieve, about three hours away. After arriving around 8:30 at night, we were welcomed by Gary and Mary Scheel.  This was my third time to stay in a B&B and my husband’s second. We had rented Arthur’s Cottage which was actually a small building outside of the house behind the pool.

We quickly settled in and turned on some movies we had picked up from a Red Box on the way. The room we selected did not have satellite or cable, but that was clearly explained on the website so we came prepared.

With the room being separate from the house it was a bit on the chilly side, but there are several heaters in addition to the large one, including a small portable fireplace. The fireplace provided a nice ambience to the comfortable room.

With plenty of pillows and blankets, we slept well and awoke refreshed and ready to enjoy the day. We  enjoyed an excellent breakfast of pumpkin and walnut pancakes, locally raised sausage, and a fruit and yogurt parfait. Just a word to the wise, you don’t get your food until your fruit is finished. This became a joke during our stay when Gary commented that when we finished with our fruit we would get our pancakes.

Some long time friends then met us and we went on our days adventures. A separate blog will follow with the adventures of the day.

We returned to Somewhere Inn Time later that evening after a light dinner. Even though none of us were hungry, we were all very tempted by the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and decided to have a few and chat with the Gary and Mary.  They have a coffee table book with the history of Ste. Genevieve and a photo album with the B&Bs renovation pictures that provided for nice conversation starters.

Our friends had reserved a room in the house, and it was large with two double beds. They had a fireplace and a jetted tub along with television programming and a DVD player. We all slept well that night.

Breakfast the second morning was even better than the first. After finishing our pineapple lightly dusted with coconut shavings, we were able to partake in the main course. We had their specialty breakfast dish which they called a stuffed French Toast. It was very similar to a bread pudding and had blueberries. The servings were so large that I don’t believe anybody was able to clean their plates.

We each went back to our rooms and packed up to return home. We had an excellent time and I have to say that we will definitely return to Somewhere Inn Time in the future.

KC Fun, All in Walking Distance

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On many trips to Kansas City for conventions I would always say to myself that I need to bring my family here for a weekend. I finally sat down to make plans for our visit and find a hotel and I realized that we could go to KC, stay at the Crown Center and never have to drive anywhere until it was time to go home. Gotta love that!

Crown Center is located in downtown Kansas City a few miles from the Power and Light District and a few miles from the Country Club Plaza. If you are going to Kansas City, this is a prime location for a family outing.

Crown Center consists of two hotels, a shopping center, multiple restaurants and a food court. All of these items are attached by a skywalk. Across the street, and still accessible by the skywalk is Union Station containing more restaurants and attractions. So, rain or shine the weather won’t stop your family from having fun.

Fritz's Railroad Restaurant

Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant

Upon arrival in Kansas City, you have many options, the best part is several of them are free. The hardest part of this trip will be deciding what to do first and where to eat.

The Crown Center mall is filled with department stores, boutique shops, toy stores, large Hallmark and Crayola stores, a movie theatre and a live performance theatre. The food options are abundant including several nice sit down restaurants, pizza, tacos, Chinese food and bagels. The can’t miss choices for kids would include Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant and the Crayola Cafe.

We ate at Fritz’s, and I will be honest, at first glance the line seemed very long, however they move the people through pretty quickly. It is worth the wait for your children to get to order their food over the phone and have it delivered by train. Fritz’s is very affordable as well.

Don’t forget to grab some snacks to keep in your hotel room. Chips Chocolate Factory has gourmet chocolates, fudge, cotton candy, and other sinfully delicious treats. Stop by at the right time and you might find them demonstrating their fudge making skills. Group tours, 10 or more people, can be scheduled in advance for $5 per person. Everybody deserves to experience some “chocology.”

Another great snacking option is a little bit of sweet, spicy and salty from local popcorn maker, Topsy’s. Purchase multiple flavors or your favorite in a variety of sizes, the small are perfect for your room, while the large containers allow you to take a bit of Kansas City home with you. The cinnamon mixed with caramel is my favorite.

Now that the survival basics are taken care of, let’s talk fun!

The newest and largest attractions in Crown Center are SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Discounts are available for purchasing tickets to both attractions online, a $7 savings for children. Make sure to schedule plenty of time for each. These facilities seem small based on the area they are in, but there is so much to see once you get in, you don’t want to be rushed.

LEGOLAND Race Zone, build your car and race it against others on multiple tracks.

LEGOLAND Race Zone, build your car and race it against others on multiple tracks.

LEGOLAND has perfected the entertaining while waiting concept. One of the best “distractions” is the Master Builder. This person is responsible for designing the elements within the center and special exhibits, and the pieces that children build during the classes. The building classes are an extra fee if your child wants to take their project home. We built a very cute robot, and of course, had to take it home.

Upon entering LEGOLAND, you and your children will get to defend the good from the evil during a short ride with laser guns. Then, the hardest part will be keeping up with your kids as they are running from attraction to attraction. The fun includes Kansas City attractions built from LEGOs, a ride (also a great workout as you peddle with your feet to stay in the air), karaoke, a play zone, 4D cinema, earthquake zone, racer zone and much more.

SEA LIFE Aquarium is the only of its kind in western Missouri. Children will get to see more than 5,000 creatures, everything from jellyfish and octopus to tropical colored fish, stingray and sharks. Edutainment is abundant including  hands-on fun at the interactive rock pool where kids can feel creatures such as starfish, sand dollars, crabs and other creatures. Don’t forget to track your answers as you go along on the kids quiz trail. There are small monitors along the way that teach children all about the creatures they are seeing.

"Swimming" with the fishes at SEA LIFE Aquarium.

“Swimming” with the fishes at SEA LIFE Aquarium.

My favorite, the seahorses. To see them in person instead of in a cartoon movie was surreal.

If there is still time left in the day, why not take in one of the free attractions.

Kaleidoscope is an attraction owned and run by Hallmark. This is the perfect creative outlet for children. Several stations are set up around this fun and colorful space for children to color, cut, glue and paint art projects to take home with them. Don’t miss the puzzle making station where kids take a piece of cardboard and turn it into their own creation to assemble over and over again. Kits to take home are available for a small fee. Check their calendar online before you go. Admission is first come first serve and they do limit the number of children allowed in during each session. Classes are also available for children and families.

Hand washing station at Kaleidoscope.

Hand washing station at Kaleidoscope.

Right next door is the Hallmark Welcome Center that showcases the history of Hallmark. Learn the production life of a Hallmark card, the reason behind the name Shoebox Greetings, make your own bow, and enjoy some laughs with Maxine.

Another of the free attractions within Crown Center are the special exhibits that are set up throughout the year. A jungle exhibit including a tree house and binocular safari hunt were on display when we were there.

Now that is all more than enough to fill a day, so head back to one of the wonderful hotels and settle in for the night. The next day has just as much adventure in store.

Grab some breakfast, my favorite is Einstein Bagels, then grab a map and find your way to the skywalk. Union Station is your next stop. This is a great experience for the children to learn about directions and following maps. They can’t actually get lost but it makes them feel very important.

Leader of the pack.

Leader of the pack.

Union Station has an exciting history that began in 1914 and included tens of thousands of visitors on an annual basis. At its peak time during WWII, it is estimated that the station had more than one million visitors. As you walk through the station you can tell just how many people passed through it by the low areas in the floor.

The Union Station Massacre is probably one of the most infamous dates in time for not only Union Station, but for Kansas City. The shootout between FBI officers, local police officers and mobsters left its mark on the building that is still visible today. Don’t leave without seeing if you can find the bullet marks. (Researchers have discovered that these are not actual bullet marks, however it makes an interesting story to tell the kids.)

Union Station has a series of original and traveling exhibits throughout the year. Past exhibits have included Princess Diana during the Royal Wedding, Titanic and an annual Christmas display.

Science City is a can’t miss for the kids. Experiment with electricity, learn about storm fronts, climb the tree houses, take an imaginary ride in a helicopter, play miniature golf, and make some noise at melody park. Even on the busiest days you will hardly notice the crowds because of the size of this facility.

Musical fun.

Musical fun.

If you are ready to relax after leaving, don’t head back to the hotel, take in a movie right there at Union Station, or enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants.

Still have some time, head to the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial. This attraction is still within walking distance, across the street from Union Station. Upon entering the Museum you will cross the glass bridge over a brilliant display of 9,000 red poppies representing the fatalities of WWI. Another site in the museum to see is the working replica of a German plane used in the movie The Aviator.

After taking in these attractions, don’t think this is all the family fun Kansas City offers. Our next family trip will include the Kansas City Zoo, home to Missouri’s only polar bear. For the sports lovers in the family, you won’t want to miss the College Basketball Experience where visitors can try their best to beat the game clock, try their hand at sports announcing, and take in the Gallery of Honor of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

There is so much to see and do in Kansas City and the surrounding areas that you will keep returning for more family and couples fun.

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