Three tips for a 1,200 mile road trip

Three tips for a 1,200 mile road trip

Our family of seven is hitting the road this Christmas!  Two adults and five kids.  We are taking a 14 hour car trip from Orlando to Indianapolis.  We’re leaving at 5 am and arriving at 8 p.m.  I’m envisioning pure chaos.  Arguments.  Tears.  Uncontrollable laughing.  And crankiness.

Here’s my plan for making this trip go as smoothly as possible:


We have 7 seats in our car.  It’s always a fight among the kids to see who gets the middle seats with the most leg room.

So before all the kids run to the car and scramble to get these prized seats, I will be one step ahead of them.  I will be meeting them at the car door with a seating chart in hand.   (Ah-ha!)  Each child has been assigned to a specific seat for as long as we travel in a particular state.  For instance, once we cross the state line from Florida into Georgia, we will rotate.  We’ll continue to change seats as we pass each state line until we reach Indiana.  If I do this right, we will make one full rotation.

The benefit?  Mixing it up a bit will keep them fresh with new neighbors to talk to on the trip.


It’s expensive buying treats at every gas station, not to mention eating at restaurants along the way for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I’m planning ahead.  That means breakfast and snacks in the car (see my menu below), a picnic lunch at a rest area, and dinner we will splurge at some quick stop along the way.

Snacks: Popcorn Rocky Road, (packed in individual bags),  grapes (no seeds or cores to get rid of), Christmas Cookies, (preferably chewy and not crumbly)

Breakfast: minI muffin frittatas, heated just before we leave.

Lunch: tortilla wraps with turkey, spinach and cream cheese.  Individual ziploc bags of pretzels. Bottled water.


I’m a stickler for the kids learning something with each new experience.  That’s why I’ve created a trivia worksheet for each of them to complete on our travels.   They need to pick a map of the state we are driving through and tell us the Capital and three interesting facts about that state.  (Let them use those phones and ipads for research and not just video games.)

(Need to work on our capital cities a bit.  Not Jacksonville, but Tallahassee:)

Christmas Baking & Kids

Christmas Baking & Kids

I love my kids.  But when they ask to “help” me in the kitchen, I can’t help but think about how much more work that means for me.  It’s just easier to do it myself.  But it’s the holidays and even though it’s more work on my already crazy schedule, I owe it to them to let them be a part of the baking and decorating.

This year I’m getting ahead of them before they even ask to help me with baking cookies.  I’ll plan their participation.  They’ll have a role, but it’s going to be specific and organized.  That way I can get all my work done and they can feel included too!

Plan A:

Call them into the kitchen after the cookie dough is made and have them help scoop it onto the baking sheet.  Then let them lick the bowl!

Plan B:

Buy cookie frosting in pre-assembled pastry bags.  Set up a station (outside preferably) where they can make their decorate their own cookies and put on candy toppings.


Plan C:

Target sells gingerbread houses that are already assembled and ready for the final decorating touches.  Give the kids the goal of making the best decorated house that they can.  You’ll be amazed at what ideas they will come up with.


The bonus:

Make a plate of your holiday treats and jump in the car to visit your neighborhood fire station.  Knock on the door to the station and surprise those firefighters with some unexpected holiday cheer.  (If you are lucky and they offer, you might even get a tour of the station and the fire trucks.)





Cooking for Neighbors in Need

Cooking for Neighbors in Need

It’s common at birth announcements, surgeries or family tragedies for neighbors to pull together and form some sort of meal delivery calendar.  I remember this happening when I lost a family member in a sudden car accident with a drunk driver.  Everyone wants to know how they can help and food seems like the best and quickest reaction.

Right now, we have a neighbor who recently lost her mom.  This friend is a vivacious, young, busy mom who’s world has just been turned upside-down.  Worse yet, her husband is scheduled to travel for business next week, so she will be home alone with the kids.  When I learned that there was a “meal train” formed for her where we could each sign up for a night to deliver dinner, I knew I needed to jump on aboard.

Our friend Jennifer found this website called  I signed up to make chicken enchiladas on Tuesday night.  I see other friends are signing up with great meals too.


Maybe you have been invited to be a part of something similar.  If it involves meal delivery, here are some tips taken from the website that may be helpful:

Top 10 things to consider when participating in a Meal Train
1. When dropping off a meal, plan not to stay more than 10-15 minutes. It is best to expect that the recipient is not yet ready to entertain.
2. If there are open calendar days after your delivery, make enough for leftovers. Freezable meals are also nice.
3. Don’t forget the extras like drinks, condiments, and salad dressing.
4. If you are having something delivered (e.g. pizza), make sure to pay and tip in advance.
5. If possible, deliver your meal in a recyclable or reusable container.
6. Be sure to label any items that you would like returned. Include a large paper bag with your name on it that the recipient can use to store your items until you can coordinate a pick-up date.
7. Include clear preparation instructions, i.e. “Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.”
8. Consider sharing a link to your recipe in the “Notes” section of your meal booking so the recipient can know the ingredients.
9. As a nice added bonus, bring breakfast food for the following morning, such as muffins, bagels, and fruit salad.
10. If possible, text the recipient when you are on your way. A little heads up can go a long way.

Nothing beats the feeling you get when you cook for others.  It’s a labor of love.  A gift from the heart.

My Herb Garden

November 29, 2016

Living in Florida has the benefit of keeping my outdoor herb garden alive for a few more months after summer has ended.  Right now, the rosemary and basil are all that is left.  Come spring, I’ll replant with cilantro, mint, and more basil, but for now, I am happy to still have any fresh herbs left in the garden.


I cook with herbs constantly.  Fresh herbs measure differently into recipes than dried.  Plan on using 1 1/2 times the amount fresh herbs as you would dried herbs.  To approximate it, I will use about one tablespoon of fresh when a recipe calls for one teaspoon of dried.

My herb garden was built from a kit we ordered through William Sonoma four years ago.  It was a Mother’s Day present from my kids.  We have a tradition going now that on every Mother’s Day each one will engrave a picture and their name in the wood of the herb garden for me.  All four sides now have some sort of sweet engraving from 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016.

My herb garden

The herb garden is an inspiration for me to get in the kitchen and start cooking.  I will use them in all kinds of recipes, salads and cocktails.  If I have herbs left over that I need to use, I’ll make a compound butter with them.  (Right now in my freezer, I have logs of rosemary and sea salt butter.  It is a great to slice up and put on your grilled steak just before serving.)  Whatever the use, herbs are just another fun part of cooking for me.

So here’s to enjoying the last few weeks I’ll get with my herb garden until Mother’s Day 2017.

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November 26, 2016

A tradition at our house is to have our neighbors over the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a great way to entertain, stress-free.  Just bring out your Thanksgiving leftovers and in place of cooking, get outside and play some football and good old-fashion tug-of-war with the kids.

Here are some photos from our day yesterday.  Hope you all are enjoying this long weekend and good leftovers too.

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