Halloween is a fun tradition for many families, including my own. My kids are always excited to show off their costumes to our closest neighbors and spend time walking door to door with their friends. But before we head out, I want to make sure their tummies are full and they have enough energy to make it through the neighborhood.
I’ve rounded up some of our quickest and most favorite Halloween dinner ideas. When my kids were just toddlers, these fun recipes were also a fun holiday themed activity and eating our creepy morsels was part of the fun.
MUMMY PIZZA from “Cents”able Mama uses store bought ingredients to make this fun dinner fast!
BAKED QUESADILLAS from That Fit Fam are perfect for your little cheese lover! Serve with some carrot sticks or an apple sauce pouch for a quick meal before heading out the door.
SWEET AND SOUR BAT WINGS from Sprinkles and Sprouts. How spooky are these?? Marinate overnight in the fridge and put in the oven in time for your pre-treat dinner.
If you have time to make all of these at once you’ll have a variety of fun things to offer the kids before heading out for candy. We usually don’t serve a dessert since we know we are going to eat a bunch of candy as soon as we get home. Happy treating!
What’s your favorite Halloween recipe to make?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She spends most of her time making food her kids won’t eat and fantasizing about how a beach vacation where naps are required. You can find her at The Whatever Mom on Facebook and on Instagram. For more recipe ideas, follow her on Pinterest.
Date nights with your spouse are an essential investment in your relationship. After all, you were each other’s everything before you became parents. It is important to spend time nurturing your romantic relationship too. Once the kids grow up and leave, it will be just you and the hubby together again. Plus, it makes it easier to cope with those annoying habits like absurdly loud chewing and never changing out the empty tooth paste tube. *eye twitch*
COVID has created some complications for date night opportunities, but even before this pandemic it was hard for my husband and I to spend a Friday night out on the town together. We do not have access to regular babysitters and the extra cost to pay for childcare limited what we could spend on dinner, or a movie. My kids did not love being left with a babysitter and would cry, which always led to me feeling guilty and wanting to rush back home. When my husband started working from home it was easier to treat ourselves to a grown-up lunch while the kids were in school. Except, now school is happening at home.
So where do parents with two rambunctious children and zero babysitting options go for a date night?
Here are 10 date night ideas for couples without a babysitter:
If you have a back yard, us it! Light a fire, grab a blanket and a couple of favorite beverages and head to the back yard to gaze up at the stars. Super easy and spontaneous.
2. Have a subscription box delivered to open together after the kids go to bed. Take turns presenting each other with a new snack box, or silly gifts to exchange.
3. Host a Zoom night double date with good friends and include a wine tasting. Each couple can recommend a bottle for the other couple to taste and sample along with some snacks. Treat the kid to their own special movie night in the living room with snacks and separate places to get cozy to buy yourself some quiet time with friends.
4. Host a game night with another couple on Zoom. You can split your screen for online games or go old school with fun Pictionary or charades.
5. Set up a candlelight picnic outside under the stars after the kids go to bed. Order out some grown-up appetizers from that new place you have wanted to try, but you know the kids will not like.
6. Stream a movie on the lawn. Set up a comfy spot with an air mattress and cozy blankets, or a double seated swing chair to snuggle in while watching. Bring out the snacks and beverages to enjoy.
7. Order a DIY craft kit from a local maker and make something at home. A lot of local crafters are offering a make and take kit to do at home. Pick one that you both like and give it a try! It does not have to be perfect, just fun.
8. Pick up a favorite dessert that you don’t want to share with the kids. Once they go to bed, bring it out and do not feel guilty!
9. Go through old photos and movies together and laugh at some of the crazy shenanigans you have taken part in over the years. Pop open some champagne and re-watch your wedding video or honeymoon videos.
10. Make it an early morning date. Wake up an hour or two before the kids and enjoy some quiet coffee and a savory brunch without picky eaters. You don’t even need to get fancy, just toss some fresh bagels out and call it breakfast. The point is you’re alone and it’s quiet.
Even when bedtime is a struggle (as it is in my house) these ideas are all easy enough to put together without a lot of planning. And they can break you out of the channel surfing rut most of us find ourselves in after the kids go to bed.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer in search of picky eater free meals and exciting adult conversation. Visit The Whatever Mom on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter.
Now that back to school is here and life is a little chaotic with a new schedule to work with, I find meal prepping a giant life saver. I actually get a little excited to see my hard work stacked up neatly in the freezer. Knowing that most of my meal prep work is done takes a lot of stress off of my plate, especially on those crazy days where everything else seems to be going wrong, or I am running behind.
As I was prepping I stopped quickly to take a few pics of what I was making to show you how easy it is to make two different chicken dinners ahead of time to stash in the freezer for later in the week. I made Honey Mustard Chicken to serve with rice pilaf and I made Thai Chicken Soup. One package of chicken split between two different recipes and I was done in minutes.
HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN
1 lb. chicken breast (I use thighs because it’s usually cheaper and tastier)
1 bottle of your favorite honey mustard dressing or marinade
1 package of French cut green beans
Salt and pepper
1 gallon zip seal freezer bag
Place chicken pieces into bottom of the bag, pour one half of the bottle of honey mustard dressing over the chicken and then dump the frozen veggies on top. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Press all of the air out of the bag before you seal it and stack in the freezer. That’s it for prep!
When you are ready to cook, remove the prepped meal from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to thaw out. Empty contents into the crock-pot and be sure to arrange with green beans on the bottom and chicken on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. *Every crock-pot heats differently. Mine cooks really fast, so I only need 3 hours for this meal.* Serve with rice, pasta or roasted potatoes (you can get prechopped potatoes in the produce section or in the freezer section to save more time).
THAI CHICKEN SOUP
1 lb. chicken breast (thigh definitely is best for this recipe, but either works)
1 jar of salsa
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 TBSP soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 can coconut milk
1 gallon zip seal freezer bag
*optional serve over cooked rice, or rice noodles.
Place chicken pieces in the bottom of the bag. In a separate bowl add peanut butter, juice of one lime, soy sauce and the jar of salsa. Mix until it is all combined and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal and freeze.
When you are ready to cook, remove from the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight. Put the mixture into the crockpot and allow it to cook on high 3-4 hours. *Crock-pots may vary in cooking times. Mine will cook this meal in 2.5 hours.* The last half an hour of cook time, shred the chicken and add in can of coconut milk. Allow to simmer for remaining 30 minutes. If you chose to serve over rice, you can get those really quick 90 second microwave rice packs that will bring this meal together quick. You can even delegate that small part of dinner to a helper.
That’s it! Two recipes to prep this week that will take you as much time as it takes to read this post. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to prep those breakfast smoothies too! If you try any of these feel free to comment below, or stop by The Whatever Mom Facebook page to share, or find me on Insta.
Roxanne Ferber is twin mom and freelance writer doing whatever it takes to find extra sanity in the day.
A good friend once said to me, “you need to get away from the husband and kids. You need time to miss them.” She is totally right.
My husband and I both work from home, and now both of our kids are attending school from home. We spend every waking hour together. I love them and I am so grateful we have the option to bet together through these crazy COVID times, but, I need mental space. And sometimes I really need physical space. I need to not be on demand for a meal, a snack, a quick question or to settle an argument.
Before the pandemic hit and the kids were in school for most of the day, I met with friends for coffee and we talked about our lives as moms. We vented about our stress and laughed at the ridiculous things our husbands can’t seem to find right in front of their faces. It was good for our mental health to drop those feelings in a safe space and let them go.
Now that I am “teaching” all day while trying to write and balance the chores, I am stuck inside my house more and it really makes me crazy. I am not a “homebody” or one to sit still for long. Movement and getting out of my house (and away from my family) is essential selfcare for my mental wellness. Some days I fantasize about running away or leaving a note on the counter, “Dear family, I love you. Now get away from me.” That’s not considered polite, so here are four ways to nicely inform your family you need time alone with your thoughts.
FIND SOME HEADSPACE
Taking a daily walk through my neighborhood each morning before logging everyone into a laptop helps me feel free. There’s no schedule, there’s no tether to my home, there is only me, the fresh air and my air pods. It isn’t the spa or working out at the gym, but it truly helps me clear my head and get ready for the chaos of the day. If I can’t get outside to walk because of weather, I walk on my treadmill. And sometimes, I just stand at an open door and quietly sip my coffee and listen to the birds chirp.
SOCIALLY DISTANT VENT SESSIONS
Once a week, usually a weekend morning, I invite other moms to join me on socially distant hikes. We walk on opposite sides of the trail while we chat about our stress and laugh about how crazy our families make us. It’s a great way to stay connected to my village and take in nature, which always makes me feel more grounded. Once a month, I meet with a couple of other moms outside in one of our driveways, or an empty lot just to talk about our stress. We sit 10 feet apart and bring our own chairs.
JUST LEAVE THE STRESS BEHIND
There are some days after the laptops are off and the kids are plugged into a video game, I leave the house. I no longer walk the aisles of Target slowly to peruse. Instead, I head to the drive through for a coffee and take the back country roads and soak in the passing scenery. Sometimes, I get out at a park to sit on a bench and watch people go by, read a book, write in a journal or phone a friend, which ever I am in the mood for.
SCHEDULE TIME TO UNPLUG
About once or twice a week, I skip watching TV after the kids go to bed and opt for reading a book. I leave the phone in another room so that I am not tempted to scroll, or look through the horrifying headlines of the daily news. This gives me time to unwind and plug into things that bring me joy like reading a good book and being in my cozy bed.
Selfcare means something different to everyone. I personally, need deep connections to others and nature and time to connect with myself. I miss dining out at leisure and going to the gym. But, scaling back to basics have really helped me cope with how different things are right now.
Do you spend time away from your family to recharge?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer just looking for a quiet space to enjoy her own thoughts.
Going back to school this year looks vastly different than any other year. Many of us are working from home, while also teaching our kids at home. We are not sending our kids off on the bus and our back to school traditions may have changed.
At least this time around we are not feeling the last-minute scramble of a complete shutdown, we are starting day one at home. Thankfully, we learned what worked and did not work and we can use that to plan this year.
The one big thing I learned during our shutdown in the spring, is that I am over standing in my kitchen all day making meals on demand. Scrambling to prepare food in between Zoom classes did not work well for me. I spent a lot of time making fresh meals three times a day for picky eaters and it was exhausting. So, to free up that time this year I am ramping up my meal prepping.
Since becoming a mom meal prepping is my go-to sanity saver and number one-time management technique. It does require a one to two-hour time commitment in the kitchen, but the amount of time it saves me from clean up and standing in front of the stove the rest of the week is worth it.
Here are my quick tips for planning and prepping for each meal of the week. Maybe it will help you save some time/sanity around remote learning this Fall.
I use the weekends to prep ahead a few different breakfast options that my family can grab and go or warm up for themselves. I wake up an hour before the family on Sunday morning to have the kitchen to myself. You can check out my Pinterest board for ideas, but some of our favorites are breakfast burritos, protein pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, hidden veggie muffins and smoothie blender cups. I make two options for my family to choose from and then I make the blender cups for myself. I have them preloaded and stacked in the freezer to make my mornings easier. My family can reheat their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes on their own or grab a muffin from the fridge.
Each night after dinner, I have the kids pack a lunch just like they did when going to school. And my husband and I pack up our own lunches. This saves me the headache of making two different sandwiches or rummaging around for leftovers to reheat every day. Preparing all of our lunches each night saves enough time for all of us to take our lunch break together, and it encourages my kids to be self sufficient.
Before I even go grocery shopping, I make a dinner menu for the week. My meal plan for the week includes a DIY pizza night (or take out) and a leftovers night to give me a night off from cooking. On my grocery shopping day, I like to wash all the produce before putting it away and I prepare as many meals ahead of time that I can. I am especially fond of freezer meals that I can toss together in a freezer bag and dump into the crock pot later. This is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up during the busy week. I am also a fan of one sheet pan meals to make in the oven. And on really busy nights, I’ll make a charcuterie board that fits everyone’s picky favorites. You can find some of my favorite go to meal pins here.
I discovered my kids will eat through a bag of chips like its an Olympic sport. So, I stopped buying bags of chips that literally disappears within minutes and leaves my kids crabby. I set up bins in the fridge with grab and go options like cheese sticks, baby bell cheeses, yogurt tubes, mini oranges, hummus cups and bags of veggies. Don’t get me wrong, chips are delicious, and I do not judge anyone buying them for their kids. I just know my kids stay fuller longer (and stay less moody) when they eat protein and fruits.
It took me a little while to make these prepping hacks a routine. So, don’t think you have to do all of the above to be efficient. Pick the toughest meal of the day and prep it in advance to help make that time of day run a bit smoother for you.
What’s the toughest meal for you to prepare each day? Mine is breakfast, so I will always prepare breakfast in advance. I like sleep more than I like to cook.
If you have any great meal prep hacks or recipes, feel free to share in comments below or send them to [email protected]
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, fur mom, wife and freelance writer just trying to eek out as much sanity as she can from each day.
After nearly six months at home with my family here around the clock, I might be ready to lose my mind. I cannot tell you how many messes I have cleaned up, nor how often I’ve heard myself yelling, “pick that up” or “put that back where you got it!” or “don’t even think about stepping over that one more time!”
I am officially burned out from all of the cleaning and sanitizing. I don’t know about you, but I like a good deep clean right after summer to clean up all the mess we dragged in through the season. Since I am so tired of it all, I am seriously considering hiring a cleaning service to do the heavy lifting for me.
We aren’t ready to have a weekly cleaning person come into our home, but we could definitely use some help with a deeper cleaning. The folks at E&J Cleaning and Floors have provided deep cleaning and sanitizing services for businesses and residents throughout the Capital District. They have perfected their sanitation levels and protocols throughout this Pandemic, and they are ready to help you too! Their team will arrive to your home with masks and gloves and stay at a safe distance while they work.
Not only can they sanitize high touch surfaces by hand, but they also offer an Electrostatic Disinfection Technique to apply an EPA approved sanitizing solution to surfaces that lasts for months. A great way to protect your home as we head into flu-season.
Visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to see before and after photos of their residential, furniture and floor cleanings and what a great job they can do! Having someone else shampoo the couches and carpets will save me a ton of time and energy that I just don’t have right now, while planning our return to remote learning for two kids, working from home, meal planning and wiping down all the door knobs.
If you are worn out by all the extra cleaning, or trying to balance all the extra messes with working and cooking and everything else that comes along with this Pandemic life, do yourself a favor and hire someone who can help. Treat yourself to a little extra time in your week, or month and let someone else do the heavy lifting. You can use that time to relax in the back yard reading a book, or taking the kids for a drive for ice cream. If you hire someone for a weekly cleaning, count that time as self care and head to your local drive through to pick up lunch or dinner. Hiring extra help definitely leaves room for sanity in our day.
A clean and sanitized home is one less thing to stress about as we head into back to school season, holiday planning and worries about keeping our family safe. Call / Text For Your Free Estimate Today (518) 419-4683
(This is a paid post, but all opinions expressed are my own).
Yes, it’s another deconstructed pizza recipe from me! I can’t help it, my family loves pizza! You may have enjoyed our Easy Pizza Rolls for family pizza night or even our Pizza Cookie for dessert. But, this gluten free pizza pasta casserole is just for me because I can’t have gluten or (most) dairy. So, finding anything resembling a real pizza is near impossible. I am from New York, home of the best pizza and there is no substitute. However, this easy recipe brings the same flavors and makes me feel like I am not missing out entirely.
This whips together in under 30 minutes and FYI, it is a great recipe for school lunch boxes! Make it on a Sunday, reheat to put into a thermos and pack in a lunch box.
Pizza is simply crust (base carb), cheese, sauce and favorite toppings.
Our deconstructed pizza uses gluten free pasta as the base carb, mixed with sauce and favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage or favorite veggies and of course cheese. We use a gluten free pasta from the grocery store that everyone in my family likes and suddenly we are all eating one meal! Since I can’t have most dairy, I use grated parmesan cheese, affectionately known in my house as “shaker cheese.” It isn’t the hot gooey mess of melted Mozzarella, but it still tastes so darn good!
Cook 1 pound of pasta according to directions on package.
Add in one jar of your favorite sauce.
Stir in favorite pizza toppings (I sliced up pepperoni, black olives, green pepper and red onion).
Sprinkle with grated parmesan, or add in shredded mozzarella. (The mozzarella will melt into the hot pasta and sauce, so no need to bake to melt).
Give it a good mix before serving! This goes great with a salad or a side of wings. Anything you’d normally eat with your pizza!
It’s a super easy meal to make on a week night when the kids are hungry and you need something fast, or as a quick side dish for your picky eater who only eats pasta, pizza and cheese.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and wannabe foodie. Food tastes better when other people cook it, or when kids aren’t complaining about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to cook it fancy. If you have a recipe to share email it to [email protected] or share it over on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.
The one question invading every mom’s group on social media, every conversation I overhear at the park and in line at the store is, “How are you feeling about sending the kids back in the fall?” Even my own child asked me tonight, “what will school look like in the fall and how can I be ready for it?”
Parents, we are facing some tough choices about sending our kids back to school safely, while living through a raging world-wide pandemic (because parenting just is not challenging enough is it?). We are now living with a virus so brand spanking new that we are not entirely sure how it affects us long term, or the most effective way to treat it. At least with the flu, we know what we are in for and it comes with a healthy side of chicken soup and all the tea one can drink.
The truth is, I have no idea what back to school will look like for us. And to be honest, I have too many feelings about it and not enough time to sort them all out. My mind is already fatigued from managing the last four months of virtual school and remembering where we last saw our masks before leaving the house. Not to mention the mental gymnastics just assessing our risk exposure before running errands. I am also the new cruise director making the schedule to keep everyone from getting bored. I feel like a regular mom, but amped up on steroids raging through overtime shifts I never signed up for. I am so consumed with managing our daily life as it is right now, with our new guidelines and safety measures, AND making up for lost summer camps and cancelled vacations, that I just can’t muster the mental energy to make one more decision.
So, I won’t.
I just won’t make this decision until I have to.
I do not know what our school’s reopening plan is yet.
I do not know if our state will reopen schools in the fall yet.
I do not know what to do right now, and I am not planning to ‘make a plan’ for at least another month when the new school year begins.
I do know my kids are craving connection with their friends and family.
I do know it is hard as hell to write while kids are screaming for sandwiches.
I do know my kids are tired of being home for days on end.
I do know my kids are tired of talking to people through a screen.
I do know that whatever the upcoming school year holds, my kids will need to be ready to handle it. In person school will not be the same as it was when they left in March. Remote learning is not what they are looking forward to. And homeschool, will be entirely different than what they love about classroom learning. Every back to school option on the table right now requires some amount of adjustment and anxiety for all of us, not just our kids.
So, instead of imagining every potential scenario and stressing about which one I am going to choose, I am going to spend this time focusing on my kid’s mental health and investing in their resilience. The only way I can do that is by focusing on the present. The summer sun is calling, the pool is primed, and we live in an amazingly beautiful area of our state. We can spend time outdoors exploring and seeing friends from a distance. I cannot control this virus and I cannot control how schools will open up again, but I can control our day and how we learn to deal with this new challenge.
Giving myself permission to not make a choice RIGHT NOW, truly relieves a lot of the pressure to decide what happens in the fall. I am going to stay informed. I am going to watch the numbers. I am going to prepare my kids with school supplies and new outfits, just like I would any other year. But I am not going to make the final decision about how I am sending my kids to school until I must.
Until then, we are taking a break from the stress and anxiety by pressing pause on overthinking. I am confident this decision will help build our resilience to deal with whatever school looks like for us a month from now.