Month

August 2015

Back to School Buying Guide: 3 Tips for Seamless Shopping

We’re well into August and let’s face it, you’re practically being hit in the face by back to school ads; in fact they started about a week after your kids got out of school if you live in the North East. As a former teacher, I loved this time of year; it signaled a new beginning, but as a parent I’ve come to find it to be among my most stressful times of the year.

I’ve been around the back to school block quite a few times and although I have not mastered the balance of enjoying this final month of freedom, I know a lot about how to make the leg work for the first day relatively seamless. If it’s your first go-round with the back to school shopping extravaganza or you could use a few tips to keep sane read on.

1. Stick to the list your teacher sends home

Seriously, buy what’s asked for and nothing more; you’re teachers know what your kids need and there’s no extra credit for extra stuff; in fact it may be prohibitive to your child’s organization as  more stuff = more mess and more mess means more chances of important items falling by the wayside.

So, put that cute package of Hello Kitty crayons back on the shelf, along with the really cool erasers for the pencils your kid does not need and move on.

2. Think practically & long term

Do not purchase expensive items covered in your kid’s favorite character. Today, my kindergarten age son loves Star Wars before that Super Heroes . Today, one of his best friend balked at taking his Ninja Turtles back pack to camp while my son insist the sports back pack that’s in perfectly good shape only be used for sports. Notice a trend, they are fickle little beings who commit to trends for short periods before moving on to the next super cool “it” thing.

Instead stay neutral, let your child choose a color, skip the flashy prints and buy a quality product with a great warranty. This way you won’t have to replace what they refuse to use because it is no longer cool come December; maybe it will even last more than one year.

And speaking of the following year… I’m a big fan of LL Bean: free shipping, fast product delivery and they offer hassle free returns if need be. Avoid the junior or x-small backpacks- nothing fits inside especially if you’ll need room for snow pants and boots.

3. Hold off on replenishing the wardrobe

Back to school is the worst time to buy clothes for your kids. You’ll find stores packed with fall attire that’s pretty much a month or more ahead of what your kids will need to wear. Wait until post Labor Day (or if you can Columbus Day) when prices fall before stocking up on cool weather wear. You’ll save and your kids will be wearing their new clothes when the weather is in line with the styles. My kids are still in summer clothes through most of September, so if you need something new and cute for the first day choose something summery that’s on sale because you can get it super cheap and they can still show off their new school clothes.

Then mix yourself a cocktail because you’ve mastered back to school shopping with 3 simple tips.

-Mastering the back to school mayhem, Jess

Share your back to school shopping tips with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

Easy Homemade Appetizers to Take to Any Gathering

I’m a big fan of making what I take to people’s gatherings but I follow a few simple rules: I must be able to make it ahead of time, serve it at room temperature and it must be a finger food of just a few bites-no plate required. Recently, baffled by what to bring to a friend’s annual lobster bake, I perused a collection of my family’s recipes and found two gems that fit all my requirements and would please all party-goers-  zucchini bars and pepperoni pizza bars.

Passed down from my great aunts, and compiled to a simple well-worn booklet by a distant cousin for a family reunion in 2008, I knew two things about what I was making to take one of my favorite annual events- both would be darn good and super easy.

Of all the excellent recipes in my family recipe collection, I chose these two because I thought the idea of dueling bars (one with and one without meat) would be ideal for noshing while sipping a summer cocktail and awaiting the main event.  These are not trendy recipes with lots of fancy ingredients, they are easy to follow, mix by hand treats the Italian women in my family served regularly, especially when having guests.

Recreate my family’s recipes to bring to your next gathering:

Aunt Louise’s Zucchini Appetizer

  • 3 cups of zucchini thinly sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup parmesen cheese
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram (leaves or powder)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic

Mix all ingredients together by hand. Transfer into a greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. Excellent served at room temperature; this appetizer satisfies as a side dish for dinner or even as a vegetarian main course.

Aunt Lorraine’s Pizza Appetizer

  • 1 & 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick of pepperoni, diced w/skin removed
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8oz muenster cheese, diced
  • Oregano or Italian seasoning mix

Mix eggs, milk and flour to remove any lumps. add remaining ingredients and combine well. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. These can be served hot, or at room temperature. This appetizer look and tastes like a deep dish pepperoni pizza.

Serving suggestion: Be the best guest at the party and bring a plate or platter the hosts can keep. The kindness of your hosts should not end in a flurry of empty dish drop offs the following day. I keep a stock of cute plastic platters and bowls on hand (purchased for a little over a dollar at my local Christmas Tree Shop) so that even when an impromptu gathering pops up I am prepared to plate well.

-Simplifying your appetizers one bar at a time, Jess

Share your easy appetizer success stories with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

6 Tips Every Parent Needs to Tackle Story Land

Before you head to New Hampshire’s Story Land take advantage of these 6 tips that will make your day in the amusement park more enjoyable.Mother Goose

  1. Plan for a weekday during July and August– Located int he White Mountains of New Hampshire the heat of the summer months allows you to maximize time on the rides. Often jam-packed on weekends, the long lines wreak havoc on impatient little ones; make your day better by going on a weekday.
  2. Pre-Order & Pre-Print tickets- Arrive with your tickets in hand and you’ll enjoy a quick and easy entry upon your arrival. It’s much quicker to scan a ticket than process a payment so even when the line wraps around the corner you’ll be through the gates in no time.The itsy bitsy spider
  3. Arrive at Opening- Story Land opens at 9:30am, get there as it opens to optimize your parking options and enjoy minimum ride lines. You’re early arrival really pays off as you’ll get to complete the entire park in one day.
  4. Head to the popular rides first- Rides like the Roar-O-Saurus draw crowds of big kids and excited parents as it’s the largest coaster in the park; head directly there when that section opens at 10am and you’ll be able to ride several times before the crowds flock to this section of the park. Other rides that find themselves with long lines include the Bamboo Chutes (log flume), Dr. Geyser’s Remarkable Raft Ride, the Polar Coaster and Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach (Cinderella is only at the castle certain hours; if you’re cutting it close to break time walk to the castle and take the Pumpkin Coach back as the line moves very slowly).IMG_0482
  5. Bring Food- You can bring food into the park, which is a life saver for parents who have kids with food allergies or dietary restrictions (or have dietary restrictions themselves). Pack a simple snack or lunch that can easily be eaten without refrigeration or heating. There are plenty of food vendors available for purchasing treats, drinks and meals within the park and Story Land posts an ingredient guide.
  6. Wear quick drying clothes- Many of Story Land’s rides are going to get you wet, if you want to dry quickly dress in garments that won’t remain soggy all day long. Although bathing suits work for kids (or as shorts for men with t-shirts), it’s best to have on a bit more when wandering the park as ride seats get hot and shade is limited.Getting wet

Check out more Story Land and area tips here.

-Setting out to save parents from screaming kids one ride at a time, Jess

Share your Story Land tips, photos and favorite moments with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch.

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