Category

Family Friendly

4 Halloween Happenings in Boston

If your Halloween is not so happening, spice it up at one of these four events taking place around Boston this Halloween.

  1. Fenway Park Trick-or-TreatingHere’s a win-win: The kids get candy, and you get to walk around the legendary Fenway Park. This Halloween, children and adults alike are invited to go trick-or-treating around the field’s Warning Track, receiving candy from the park’s staff. Wally will make an appearance, as will the Sox’s three World Series trophies. Additional fun includes balloon artists, face painting, caricatures, and stilt walker Big League Brian. But before the big event, there’s a pumpkin contest on Thursday, October 29—enter your carved masterpieces from 5-7:30 p.m. If yours is one of the top three winners, it’ll be on display during the Fenway Park Halloween festivities for all to see. Free, Saturday, October 31, 1-5 p.m., Fenway Park, Gate C, redsox.mlb.com.
  2. No Tricks, Just Treats at Boston Harbor Hotel’s Spooky Tea. The Rowes Wharf Sea Grille invites you and your little ones to put on your BHH_Rowes Wharf Spooky Tea 3costumes and celebrate Halloween in the city. Dip into their Witches’ Brew Apple Cider, don their DIY caps and decorate a few cookies then fill their own trick-or-treat bag with Halloween goodies to take home.  Kids will get a kick out of the Trick-or-Treat Treasure Hunt. while the adults in tow can sip champagne and enjoy a monstrous selection of seasonal treats like scarily delectable tea sandwiches, scones and holiday cookies.   Reservations are required and this party does not come cheap ($45 per adult, $20 for children 12 and under). The festivities take place Friday, October 30, Saturday, October 31 & Sunday, November 1, 2015 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, Inside the Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA, (617) 856-774.
  3. Brick-or-Treat at Legoland Combine two of kids favorite things- Halloween and LEGOS and you’ll be happy to bring your little monsters to Legoland This October for Brick-o-Treat.  The transformation Legoland has taken creates a Halloween LEGO wonderland that will have you just as mesmerized as your kids.  A Monster Mash scavenger hunt will lead your kids through Miniland where you’ll encounter clues to find your treasure. Add a spooky pumpkin trail, and a themed a building challenge and you have the makings of a candy-free Halloween. $14.95-$29.95 (children under 3 free),  Saturday, October 31, Legoland Discovery Center, 598 Assembly Row, Somerville, 866228-6439, legolanddiscoverycenter.com.
  4.  “Heroes & Villains” at Brass Union. If you’re an adult who can sneak away and are looking to party like you did pre-kids then you should headimage006 to “Heroes & Villains” at Brass Union. Head to Brass Union for an adults only comic-themed Halloween bash that will have your kids green with envy. Enjoy the dance party, costume contest, themed libations and candy.   DJ ABD will take to the turntables and spin a variety of genres from hip-hop, funk and soul to ‘80s hits. For good measure, DJ ABD will mix in a dose of Halloween classics so revelers can do their best “Monster Mash.” Brass Union, 70 Union Square, Somerville – 617.623.9211 – www.brassunion.comOctober 31 from 9pm-2am; 21+; complimentary admission.

 -Satisfying your spook this Halloween, Jess

Food & Foliage at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe

As a mom who loves good food and a cool experience, I’m pretty open to dining adventures that allow my kids to be included.  This weekend, we celebrated my husband’s birthday with lunch & extended family at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe in Stowe, MA. We loved every buzz and bite that came our way.

After a ride along the foliage filled backroads that left me mesmerized we wound our way to Nancy’s Airfield Cafe.  Situated at the edge of Minuteman Airfield,  Nancy’s offers aviation aficionados the opportunity to watch aircraft depart and arrive at this small air field while enjoying a hot meal and cool cocktail. Ideally situated for arrival by car or aircraft, this dining destination will have those who came by car rubbing elbows with those who made Nancy’s part of their leisurely flight.

The quaint interior is filled with country charm. From the artwork for sale on the walls to the simple tables set to allow guests to catch sight of the aircraft coming and going, the simplicity of Nancy’s lures in locals who regularly make this a must for breakfast and lunch.

Lines around the corner are a normal part of dining at Nancy’s where reservations are not allowed (although large parties are encouraged to call) and 10 is tops for those seeking seating together. If dining with kids be warned that the best seating is in the exterior room on the runway. However, children are not allowed to be seated in that room due to an unlocked emergency door that opens onto the runway (apparently too many kids have tried to escape). Topping out this week with our party of 10, we were seated within the interior space of Nancy’s where the windows offer obstructed views of the choppers and planes parking on-site.

Expecting little of the food at a place that pride’s itself on its location, I was more than pleased by my meal. I took a chance ordering a specialty cocktail, hoping that at it’s $9 price tag it would please my picky palate. And it did, just strong enough my gin based libation was tart and refreshing with little sweetness; I enjoyed it so much I ordered a second.

After skimming the regular menu and specials I decided on something I would not typically order- bratwurst on a pretzel roll. For $14 two hearty sausages, topped with sauerkraut and mustard arrived with a few pickles on the side.  A bit too much for me, I quickly passed one to someone with more of an appetite and set to work enjoying what was on my plate. The meat was juicy, and full of flavor with just enough topping to enhance the flavor and just enough bread to enjoy the juice. I ate every last bite and left feeling comfortably full. Those with me ordered an array of dishes ranging from lamb burgers  to breakfast favorites like pancakes and egg sandwiches. Everyone left happy.

When the kids got restless and their food was gone a few adults brought them to the small expanse of lawn in front of the landing strip to run around while we finished our drinks and payed the bill. At that point, it was clear Nancy was ready to turn the table; upon seeing part of our party depart, she rushed over to request we relinquish one one of the tables we were using so she could set up another party. One can’t fault her as many of those lined up had hungry kids in tow and no chance of being seated in the other room so we happily obliged and made our way outside for goodbyes.

Much to our pleasure, a helicopter had landed on the lawn mid lot and our final treat was a close encounter of departure, which left the kids cheering and the adults happy to have successfully made it through a meal in a restaurant as a family without any tears (from kids or adults).

-Filling your desire to dine one family friendly spot at a time, Jess

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Handmade Animal Magnet Tutorial

I recently attended the wedding of my childhood neighbor (Congrats Kayla & Steve!).  I truly enjoy going to a wedding or event that has every little detail thought out and presented in a unique way and this couple did not disappoint.  The theme was whimsical woodlands meets fairytale love story.  They did an amazing job and their wedding was really a true representation of their personal style.

One of my favorite details of the wedding was the seat card holders for the guests.  Each seat card was displayed upright in between a mini animal toy figurine which was cut in half with a magnet attached on the inside of each end.  I guess my kids found these little figurines just as enjoyable as I did since I woke the following morning to a screaming match over whose new toy it was. Since I only had one to spare, the only solution was to make my weekly trip to Michael’s a little early and get the supplies needed to re-create these little woodland gems.

Here’s what you need:

  • Plastic mini animal toy figurines (I got mine at Michael’s)
  • Sharp knife
  • Fine sand paper
  • Non-toxic paint or spray paint
  • Magnets
  • Clear glue (I used gorilla glue as well as hot glue to really secure in place)

Picture 1

Step 1:

Picture 2Take the plastic animal of your choice and vertically cut the animal in half.  If you notice that the edges of your animal are a little rough after the cut, take a fine grain sand paper and sand the edges so that they are nice and smooth.

Animals with magnetsStep 2:

Connect 2 of your magnets together (its easier to work with them already connected first).  Take your gorilla glue and dab a little on one end of your magnet as well as a little on the flat side of the animal.  Hold the magnet in place on the animal until dry (30 seconds – 1 minute).  Repeat this step on the other half of your animal.

Step 3:

Start hand painting or spray painting both sides of your animal and let it dry completely before moving to the next step.

Step 4:

Animal Seat Card HoldersOnce the paint has dried on your animals, use a glue gun to seal around the edges of the magnet.  This adds some extra adhesive to make sure that your magnets stay in place.  Once the glue has dried, your magnets are ready to use.

This is a quick project that will add some whimsical fun to your home or next event.  The magnets are a unique idea for seat cards at your next dinner party, a perfect way to display photos or décor for a birthday and they also look great on the fridge (just in time for all the lovely artwork your kiddies will bring home from school).

Animal Magnet Card HoldersTry this project next time you are stuck in the house with your kids on a rainy day.  Complete steps 1 and 2 on your own and then let your kids use their creativity to paint the animals the colors of their choice.  It is a great way to educate your children on their animals or dinosaurs, they get to explore their creative minds with some crossbred species of animals and you will have some pretty cool magnets to hang all their beautiful artwork with.  Picture 8

Just one wedding guest who appreciates the little details that make a stylish wedding, Thia 

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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

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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

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5 Free, Family Friendly, Fun Things To Do Around Boston This Summer

This summer, the team at Amazing Matriarch has been hard at work finding FREE ways to fill your days with activities that every member of your family will enjoy in and around Boston. Read on to find five of our favorite ways to entertain our kids when we just don’t want stay home or fork out serious cash for an activity.

1. Splash Parks

Not only are these water areas a way to cool off on hot summer days, most are FREE! Make time for favorites in the center of the city like the Rings Fountain on the Greenway or the squirting frogs at the Frog Pond. Or enjoy FREE parking along with your FREE water park at one of the parks in the suburbs of Boston. The city of Waltham has 8 spray parks, most in locations with easy parking, and many that are fenced in. And Belmont, MA is home to Beaver Brook where you’ll often find someone from Amazing Matriarch enjoying the water followed by a game of catch and picnic on the expansive lawn on the other side of the Brook. We like Boston Central’s comprehensive listing to find new spray parks to explore.

2. Bike Paths

Cape Cod Canal
Cape Cod Canal

With a new bike rider and a 2 year old who thinks she’s the coolest on her tricycle, I tend to be cautious about where we go to ride bikes. Many paths are packed with riders who find “newbies” a bit annoying making it a bit scary for those who are just learning. However, there are several trails that will have your young riders moving along with confidence.

The Cape Cod Canal is a waterside oasis for riders, walkers and anyone looking to enjoy the sea breeze. With FREE parking on the access road between the Bourne and Sagamore Bridge you can easily bring your bikes down the stairs, directly onto the trail that hugs the non-Cape side of the canal.

Having been detoured there recently when a nearby beach lot was filled, my kids had a blast zooming around while more experienced riders passed them with ease and cheered them on. Clean restrooms are conveniently located along the path.

After, enjoy a pre-packed picnic under a shady tree, bike to the end of the trail (with more experienced riders- or pay to park within the beach reservation) and take a swim at Scusset Beach. Or drive across the street to one of the clam shacks on the other side for a taste of summer by the sea.

Recreation Sundays on Memorial Drive are a favorite for Bostonians. With the wide road with scenic Charles River views open for biking, walking, running or rollerblading you can be sure there’s plenty of room for bike riders of all levels. Open late April-November annually, this section of Memorial Drive allows you to detour into Harvard Square for shopping,  a libation or a bite to eat.

Experienced riders can continue along the paved pathways for the miles that lead to the Esplanade and into Downtown Boston. Explore the city by bike then head back before Memorial Drive reopens at 7pm.

Zipline @ Joey's
Zipline @ Joey’s

3. Playgrounds

Some summer days require little activity on my part. For those days I head out on playground explorations with my little ones. Being zero budget meccas of fun playgrounds can entertain my kids for hours without any creativity or activity on my part. Often, I enlist a friend with kids to join me so we can chat while our kids run wild (I do get looks of horror from first time moms who find my hands-off, solve your own problems approach to playground parenting appalling, but I’m ok with that). As someone who’s always seeking something new I get tired of our lame local playgrounds and head out to find other cool spots for my kids to frolic.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of playgrounds around the city and in the suburbs. Some are simple with swing sets and slides, while others add extra excitement like zip lines. Leave your local playground for the day and seek out something special. You won’t spend a dime and your kids are sure to be beat by the time you leave.

Joey’s Park in Belmont is tops fro a range of activities to suit all ages. A zip line, where amazingly, even on a crowded Saturday, you’ll find kids patiently waiting in line for a turn and helping toddlers who try to cut in the kindest of ways. Lots of climbing structures, tires to hop from and even a musical feature sit alongside an expansive lawn and tennis courts. Your kids could play all day at this amazing FREE playground.

The playgrounds along the Charles River Esplanade are awesome! With a variety of climbing structures and pathways for kids to ride bikes all while within your view; if watching more than one, you’ll feel in control and at ease while your kids get some energy out.

4. Take in a movie outdoors

Two Boston spots make it their mission to bring you outdoor movies for the family all summer long.

The Hatch Shell, located along the Charles River, offers Free Friday Flicks. Pack a picnic and your kids and head into the city to sit alongside the Charles taking in a movie and the view for FREE, with little worry that your little ones are too loud or rambunctious for the “theater”.

Music and Movie Fridays at the Boston Harbor Hotel are geared towards a more mature audience, but are still fun for families with older kids. Enjoy harbor views from the pier and enjoy movies from your youth or even your parents’ younger days.

5. Free Fun Fridays

Probably the best FREE fun you’ll find around Boston takes place on Fridays with 70 Free Fun Friday events happening throughout the summer. For 10 weeks, starting the final Friday of June, you’ll find 7 different free activities for families throughout the entire state. Visit old favorites or discover new spots without spending a dime.

-On a mission to save you money all summer long, Jess

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Become a Summer Supper Superhero: Grill Once, Eat Three Times

When summer days are filled with outdoor fun, dinner preparation often falls through the cracks leaving this matriarch feeling not so amazing. My default to dinner is ordering pizza, hitting the drive through, whipping up mac n cheese or hot dogs day after day. Committed to ending the cycle of sub-par summer food, I’ve been testing recipes that can conquer multiple nights with simple tweaks that are no more difficult than boiling a box of mac n’ cheese. Grill once and have the making of dinner for three nights- a Monday’s mixed grill, taco “Tuesday”, and a pasta bar.

Night 1: Mixed Grill w/dipping sauce

Choose several meats to grill and lightly season with olive oil, salt and pepper (so you can alter their flavor profiles for future nights). My most recent variety pack included chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin and sausage because each cooks quickly, is enjoyed by all members of my family and offers versatility to transform in different dishes with very little effort.  Whatever you do, grill enough that you’ll have lots of leftovers.

Grill to your liking and serve alongside a salad  (tomato, cucumber and feta & watermelon caprese right now and coleslaw are in my current salad rotation) or a selection of grilled veggies, which will double as add in for your pasta bar and taco toppings.

Since the meats are very lightly seasoned, add a few dipping sauces for a little more “umph”. Cooking Light’s July issue has a recipe for Nuoc Cham that’s easy to prep and stays fresh for several days; it’s healthy and flavorful and works well on everything. My kids will eat anything dipped in ranch dressing so I put that on their plates, alongside my favorite bottled BBQ sauce for a trifecta of fun sauces that everyone can agree on.

Night 2: Taco “Tuesday” (or any day)

tacos-245241_1920 Chop some leftover chicken and pork tenderloin, quickly warm in a skillet and sprinkle with taco seasoning (you may need to add a touch of water to incorporate the sauce into the meat). To save sodium make your own:

  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika (hot, smoked or regular)
  • 1 tsp red pepper (if you like some spice)

Store in an airtight container to use when needed; add 1 tsp cornstarch to keep from sticking if it is humid. Or save time; buy a packet at the grocery store.

While meat is warming (about 5 minutes as to not overcook), wrap soft taco shells in foil and place in oven, set to 350; when oven has preheated shells will be warm.

Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream and leftover salad from Monday (a spicy slaw tops tacos nicely).

Night 3: Pasta Bar

spaghetti-709337_1920Set up two or three sauce options, dice  and warm (the microwave works well) the remaining meats and place in separate bowls. Sauté vegetables (or use pre-grilled veggies from night one) while pasta cooks. Then set out for everyone to make their own pasta creation.

My kids love pasta with “red sauce” so I typically keep a container of my homemade sauce frozen at all times, but when I run out and it’s too hot to even think of making more I turn to a jar of store bought. Rao’s wins taste test after taste test but comes with a hefty price tag ($9). My kids are just as happy chowing down on Ragu and at a much lower cost, I’m happy saving.

A tip to buy the healthiest sauce available is to read the list of ingredients, check preservatives, sodium and sugar content and try to buy a sauce that has very few ingredients.

I enjoy a fresh pesto and if I don’t have some on hand I buy a container from a local farmer’s market or Whole Foods. If you’re inclined to make your own, pesto freezes well if you divide the olive oil and drizzle some over the top in an airtight container adding the cheese when it has been defrosted.

My husband’s favorite is alfredo sauce; it’s tasty but not waistline friendly. I trick him by providing all the flavor with fewer calories using a tried and true Food Network recipe that I can prep while the pasta is cooking. I like to mix my alfredo with a pinch of red pepper and a tablespoon of tomato sauce.

Pair with a leafy green salad (use the bags to save time), a tall cup of cold milk for the kids, a glass of wine for yourself then sit back and enjoy the creative combination your family puts together without any complaints for the third night in a row.

-Making it easy to feed your family when the weather’s warm, Jess

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Handmade American Flag Lanterns Perfect for July 4th

 

With 4th of July rapidly approaching I wanted to create some red, white and blue party décor that I could use at our family celebration this weekend.   I headed over to Michaels Art & Crafts and after a little while cruising the aisles hoping to find some inspiration for my decor, I came across some jumbo sized mason jars.  This particular brand, Ball, is made in the USA and I thought they would make a great base for party lanterns.  I knew I needed an American flag displayed somewhere at our celebration, so I decided to paint the stars and stripes on the jars to create handmade American Flag lanterns.

This project was very simple to craft and the added bonus was the wallet friendly cost at the end!  Follow our easy steps to create your own American Flag inspired lanterns.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 Mason Jars (any size will do)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Paint for Glass (I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint)
  • Circular Foam Brush
  • A Mini Star Lever Punch
  • Rope (a thin size for the base of the Mason Jar and a thicker size for the handle)
  • Clear Glue
  • 3 Candles (make sure these will fit into the nape of your jar)
  • Sand (optional)

Step 1:

Clean the outside of the mason jars with a damp cloth to remove any dust or dirt on the surface before you begin painting.  Let them dry completely.

Step 2:

Once the jars are dry to the touch, you can begin placing your painters tape.  Since I had blue and red paint, I placed the tape where I wanted the white sections to be.  I took the lever punch and started punching little stars into the painters tape and placed each star on the jar one at a time so they were evenly spread out all around the surface.  I then started placing the stripes down on the other 2 jars making sure they lined up but also eyeballing it as I went.  Rub your finger over all the tape to ensure it is securely in place.

Step 3:

Start painting the blue paint onto the jar with the stars and the red paint onto the jars with the stripes.

**Note** – I ended up using a circular foam brush to apply the paint because on my first try with a brush all you could see where the brush strokes when I was finished.  I switched to the circular foam brush and applied the paint in a dabbing motion and this presented a more smooth finish when the paint dried.

Let the first coat of paint dry completely.  Annie Sloan Chalk Paint dries really quickly, so that was ideal for me to complete this project in an hour and a half.

Step 4:

Once your first coat of paint is completely dry, you can then apply your second coat.  Let your second coat of paint dry completely.

Step 5:

Once the paint is dry, remove the painters tape.  You may need to clean up the edges of your lines a bit in case any paint bled under the tape.  I used a cotton swab for this process.

Step 6:

Use a sealer to place over your jars so that the paint that you applied will stand the test of time.  Let the sealer dry completely.

Step 7:

Now that your sealer is dry, you can start adding the rope to the nape of your jars.  I used a hot glue gun with clear glue to secure the rope in place.  Begin with one layer of the thinner sized rope for the bottom of the jar neck to the top stopping along the way to secure with glue.  Next cut a small handle (or large depending on your preference) out of the thicker sized rope and glue each side of the handle to the mason jar.  Finish with one more layer of the thinner sized rope over the handles.  Repeat this step for the rest of the mason jars.

This American inspired party décor is an inexpensive way to put a unique twist on your celebration and it will last for many years to come.

– Just one proud American whose heart beats true for the red, white and blue, Thia

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An Unexpected Recipe: Use Your Scraps To Make a Great Stock

Amazing Matriarch’s Recipe for Using it All in Two Simple Stocks

Th last time I was taking the final bits of meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken (one of my favorite dinner cheats since it can become so may wonderful things with so little effort), I created a savory stock that was easy to store and was ready to use:

  • toss the bones into a big pot

Added

  • an unpeeled onion, chopped in half
  • 2 wilted ribs of celery
  • 2 unpeeled, limp carrots
  • a few cloves of smashed garlic
  • a bay leaf

Fill the pot with water and sprinkle in some salt and pepper (and any herbs of choice; I tied a bunch of thyme together because it was in need of use) then let it come to a boil.

Once it boils, reduce the heat to simmer, set a timer for an hour to 2 and walk away.

Letting the stock develop it’s flavor for the two hours I had at home while my 2 year old took a nap, the stock was ready before she woke.  I strained the mixture, saving only the stock, which I cooled that afternoon while at a playdate, poured into freezer containers upon our return, and put away until I was ready to use.

This simple stock was made from things I was ready to waste; it’s been used in an easy and excellent lentil soup:

  • Boil lentils in stock according to lentil package directions
  • Add a bit of spice with a pinch of red pepper flakes while boiling
  • Top with a dusting of grated parmesan cheese

And as the base of a sauce in a 20 minute, one pan, Pork Medallions with Grainy Mustard Sauce I found in the July, 2015  issue of Cooking Light that even my picky eater ate all up.

But the stock magic does not stop there as I found myself wondering if I could create a delicious vegetable stock from the stalks of broccoli, and cauliflower I was cutting, and use the entire vegetable rather than let it go to waste. This recipe tricked my carnivorous husband into thinking it was regular chicken stock in his favorite side dishes:

  • Put all your broccoli and cauliflower, or scraps from any vegetable of choice (leaves, stems, etc) into a large pot

Alter by adding any vegetables you have on hand; the broth’s flavor will alter based on what’s in it. I used:

  • A few ribs of celery (a great use for when it goes past its prime)
  • A few carrots (I like to use the ones that hid in the back of my produce drawer too long and go limp)
  • Several cloves of crushed, unpeeled garlic
  • One unpeeled onion chopped in half
  • One bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper (and any fresh herbs you may have on hand)

Then I followed the same procedure as with the chicken stock and ended up with an equally as delicious, meat free broth at the ready. It’s been added to quinoa and couscous; filling my grains with flavor before adding any mix-ins.

This stock is ideal for #meatlessmonday or any day you want to be a vegetarian but don’t want to sacrifice flavor; or to get more nutrients into vegetable averse children or spouses.

Made in spare time; these stocks are an inexpensive and flavorful alternative to store bought that can be easily stored in your freezer, and quickly defrosted when you’re ready to use.

– Making it easy to make use of it all in the kitchen, Jess

Share your use the scraps stocks with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

Five Father’s Day Ideas That Require No Wrapping

If you’ve let time slip away and are panicking about what to give the father of your children this Father’s Day, then Amazing Matriarch has a few ideas you can pull off and look like a pro who planned well in advance.

1. 18 holes

Plan a round of golf with his best buds. Maybe it’s his kids or friends he rarely sees without them. If Father’s Day is not the time to let him freely hit the links, coordinate with the ladies in the lives of his foursome and book a tee time you know will work, pay for it when you call, and then let Dad play all day without the worry his phone will ring with a request from you.

2. Take something off his plate

Dad’s are busy people; take over a chore he dreads and give him some much deserved free time to spend with the family.

3. Plan an itinerary for his perfect day with the family

Think of what he likes and set a plan in motion for a day that’s all about him. Maybe he’s active and a morning hike followed by an afternoon bike ride with a cooler filled with his favorite “to go” eats in the trunk that ends with an ice cream at his favorite stand or parlor is just the ticket. Or perhaps he’s the kind who’d relish a day of peace and quiet vegging out on the couch; make his quiet time happen while you and the kids prep an elaborate feast. Perhaps he’s a foodie and a meal out is just the ticket; be sure to reserve a spot at his favorite clam shack, steakhouse, or burger joint. Whatever it is Dad loves, you do-without making him make a decision.

4. Divide the day

If your kids are still at home let each pick a special activity they want to do with Dad and divide the day into chunks so Dad can spend some one on one time with each; even if it’s just an hour to throw rocks in the neighborhood pond. It’s not often a parent of more than one little one gets to enjoy their kids solo, and it’s something every parent values.

5. Get his Dad to you to celebrate

If the father of your kids is close to his father get them together to enjoy the day. Even better if he’s far away.  Drive the many miles to pick him up, spring for a plane or train ticket and bring his Dad to your home for Father’s Day.

Then watch the smile hit his lips because nothing says I appreciate you more than a well thought out adventure.

-Sharing simple ways to show you care, Jess

Share your “unwrapped” Father’s Day got ideas with us via Facebook: Amazing Matriarch, Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter: @AMatriarch;  Tag us on social using#amazingmatriarch

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