Simple sides: Honey balsamic roasted veggies


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

I always pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for an easy dinner night. Then I get it home and think “what am I gonna serve with this?” Some version of THIS recipe is almost always my answer. This week I did it with brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, because that’s what I had. But it works with lots of veggies and really couldn’t be easier to throw in the oven. The honey balsamic glaze lends itself to carrots, parsnips, squash, sweet potatoes, onions, cauliflower and yes, even brussels sprouts.

The key to this is waiting to toss the veggies in the honey balsamic glaze until after they’re cooked. Otherwise they burn easily, and that’s no fun. So just throw your veggies on a sheet pan, toss in some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let ’em rip in the oven. Then toss them in the glaze while still warm and you’ll have some very happy campers.

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

Honey Balsamic Roasted Veggies

3/4 lbs brussels sprouts, halved
3/4 lbs sweet potatoes, cubed
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a Silpat liner. In a large bowl, toss veggies with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat thoroughly.

Transfer the veggies to baking sheet and roast until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Place brussels sprouts back in bowl. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey and toss to coat evenly. Taste and season with more salt if necessary and serve.

Serves 4.

Cheer up with colorful paper flowers for spring


Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

This is the time of year I start getting antsy. I’m ready for some flowers and green and I’m done with the sad brown grass that is wilting and dying like my soul.

But we still have a few months here, and I must find my colorful flower fix elsewhere. Fortunately, the kids and I can create our own pretty easily. I have a packet of scrapbook paper I bought, like, two years ago, and I pull it out every so often for projects. This one is perfect for it!

We made two different kinds of flowers, but both of them used this template. Nothing fancy. You could probably freehand the same thing yourself, but if you want, you can print mine out to use as a guide.

The first flower we made was the easiest. My kindergartner was able to make her own, and had a lot of fun trying different colors and patterns for her flowers.



  • 4 pieces of scrapbook paper in different patterns
  • template
  • pen (for tracing)
  • scissors
  • glue


Cut out 5 of each of the 3 petal sizes and 1 circle for the middle. Lay the large petals so that their ends are slightly overlapping and glue in place. Lay the middle sized petals in between the larger ones and glue. Then place the smaller petals and glue them as well. Finish by gluing your circle in the middle. Let dry.

I also made this flower, but I used a hot glue gun so it’s not really suitable for smaller kids to attempt. Begin by cutting 10 of the middle sized petals out, and one large circle for the middle.

Take one petal and pinch at the end. Put a dot of glue so it keeps its shape.

When you have all 10 petals glued, glue the sides of each paper flower to each other like this.

So now you have that yucky, ugly middle part left when you’re finished. And of course we do the only sensible thing now and hide it by gluing a giant circle over the top.

That’s it! We glued our flowers to papers for cards, but you could also attach them to popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners to make a little bouquet.


What do you do to fight off the winter blues? 

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

Photo credit: Laura Falin


7 reasons I won’t get eyelash extensions again


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

I was driving through a local strip mall yesterday and noticed not one, but TWO, new “lash bars”. They are the thing in my neck of the woods, and for good reason because the results really are stunning. So many of my mom friends have started turning up to playdates with the most beautiful lashes. They are long, thick and pretty natural looking.

I can spot those moms in an instant because I used to be one of them.

I rode the very early wave of this trend almost two years ago. At the time, there were only a few technicians in my town that did eyelash extensions. If you haven’t heard of lash extensions, they’re individual lashes that are individually glued to your own lashes to create a customized, full set. When done right, they are gorgeous. I was immediately enamored after my sister got them, and jumped on the bandwagon. I can’t lie, I loved they way they looked. I loved the way they made me feel. They were an instant eye-brightener and I never even had to wear eye make-up. Sounds perfect, right?

Except all the lash love came at a price. I rode the wave for about six months, then ultimately decided I had to give it up. Here’s why:

1. Time. I had to go in every 2-3 weeks for “fills”. Each session was around an hour. That alone was almost a dealbreaker for me, because no mom has that kind of “free time”. But the hardest part was that my technician was so booked, my one-hour sessions were never at a convenient time. I knew it wasn’t for me when I found myself searching for a babysitter at 9am on a Tuesday, because it was the only time she could get me in.

2. Money. Holy smokes are these things expensive. I had a coupon for my first session, so the total for the full set was around $180. But each subsequent “fill” was another $80 by the time I included a tip. Ouch.

3. Comfort. When I had researched extensions, the actual process of applying them was described like this:

“Really—it’s enjoyable. You lie down in a bed and close your eyes for an hour and a half while calming music plays in the background and a technician attaches little feathery nothings to your lashes. It’s the most socially acceptable naptime a working adult could ask for”

Huh? For me, my back hurt because I had to be super still, and there was lots of tugging and pressure around my eyes. Also my eyes watered. It was not naptime.

4. Products. Of course there are entire lines of products made specifically for these lashes. You can’t use regular eye make-up remover because it’s too harsh. So you need the $40 bottle of “extension-friendly” remover to remove any eye make-up you wear. There’s also plenty of eye creams and even eye make-up specially formulated for these lashes that all technicians recommend.

5. Showering and swimming. For some reason, both of these wreaked havoc on my lashes. Really, getting them wet at all was problematic — I noticed way more fallout when they got wet. This is not the way it’s supposed to be, but I noticed it consistently. Since I swim a lot in the summer and, well, everyone needs to shower, this was a bummer.

6. Sleeping. I am, apparently, a “side face” sleeper. Meaning I sleep on my side and nuzzle my face into a pillow. This is terrible for the lashes, and my technician really advised me to try to sleep on my back. I tried so hard. But my brain was not listening to my lashes. I think extensions are best for gals who can keep their face out of the pillow.

7. Wait? Where are my REAL lashes? And the final reason, I’ll never do them again? When I had finally had enough and decided not to keep maintaining the lashes (i.e., I let them fall out) I realized my natural lashes were, like, gone. They were thinner, shorter and just all-around almost invisible. It has taken me almost 18 months for them to grow back, and they’re still not as thick as they once were. Boo.

Have you tried lash extensions? What did you think?

(Image 1 from Lina Smith via Flickr Creative Commons)
(Image 2 from hannahbananalangy via Flickr Creative Commons)

Feed a crowd with this hearty Italian “chili”


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

My kids call this Italian chili and the name has totally stuck. It’s is a chili in these sense that it’s tomato-based and has lots of beans, but it goes Italian with the pasta sauce, garlic and oregano. It reminds me of a heartier minestrone soup.

I love this one for two reasons: 1) it feeds a large crowd and 2) it’s basically a dump and stir recipe. Easy peasy. And if it’s cold in your neck of the woods, this is the perfect soup to warm you up.

Feel free to substitute any of the beans with varieties you like better. I have one kiddo who will pick out every single kidney bean in the pot, so sometimes I double up on the Great Northerns. Make it your own 😉

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

Hearty Italian Chili

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced about 1/4″ thick
2 celery stalks, sliced about 1/4″ thick
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz.) pinto peans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz.) white Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (and juice)
1 jar (26-ounce) pasta sauce
4-6 cups beef broth (start with 4; add more at the end if you like a thinner soup)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup dry elbow pasta, to add at end of cooking time

Use a 6 quart or larger crockpot, or cut the recipe in half. This serves 8-10 people with hearty bowls.

Chop up the onion, carrots and celery. Add it to the empty crockpot. Add garlic.

Drain and rinse the beans, and add them. Add the whole cans of tomatoes (with juices), and the pasta sauce. Add the beef broth. Add the oregano, Tabasco sauce, garlic salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or high for 3. When the vegetables are tender, stir in the 2/3 cup of dry pasta. Cover and cook for another 30 min to 1 hour on low, or until the pasta is tender. It will swell quite a bit.

If you like your soup thinner, add more broth before serving. Serve with a bit of parmesan cheese if you have it.

Get your kids involved in a backyard bird hunt


Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

The Great Backyard Bird Count is almost here! Every year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (that’s bird studying and stuff), The Audobon Society, and Bird Studies Canada team up to encourage people to take 15 minutes and count some birds. You can grab the kids and head to a park, go on a hike, even just count them in your own yard. Enter your findings here, and help scientists as they study bird populations and patterns.

I love this program for several reasons, but mostly because it counts kids as important. They’re collecting information for actual scientists to use in actual research, and that’s a pretty great feeling. Combine that with the fact that it gets everyone outdoors and observing nature, and I think you can’t go wrong. Kids can do this once, or once a day for the entire time of the count (Feb. 17-20).

And I’ve noticed that once you get kids involved in bird watching, they’ll want to do more. Here are a few more tips for bird watching with your kids.

1.) Get a bird feeder. We have a squirrel-proof feeder that we bought at a home improvement store for about $10. Hang it where you can see it from a window, fill it up, and watch the show. On cold and snowy days when everyone is tucked warmly in their homes, we’re always amazed to see the numbers of birds flocking to our feeder. It’s better than TV, I swear.

2.) Get a bird bath. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Ours is a flower pot saucer on a tree stump. But when it’s cold out, birds need water that isn’t iced over. If you keep some fresh water where they can get it (near a tree or some kind of shelter for them is best…and close to your feeder if you have one) you’ll be hosting crazy bird hot-tub parties all winter long.

3.) Do some research. Roger Tory Peterson has bird guides for just about every region, and he’s made some especially for kids as well. Maybe set up a bookshelf or basket near the window where you bird watch, and have some books, a sketchpad, and some colored pencils for kids to draw what they see. The Audobon Society also has a wonderful app that helps you identify the birds you find.

These simple citrus bird feeders are simple and fun to make!

4.) Make bird treats. Make your own bird feeders with stuff you probably already have at home. Hang them out and see what kinds of birds like your goodies.

5.) Practice observing. You don’t have to know much about birds to get your children interested in learning more about them. Go for a walk or hike and just talk. Do you see any birds? What do they look like? Can you hear any birds? Where do you think they are? What might they like to eat? Sometimes this can lead to more interest and checking out books from the library or looking things up online. Sometimes it just leads to conversations with your kids and then everyone goes and gets some hot cocoa. Both are a great way to spend a morning.

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

Photo credits: istock and Laura Falin

Sick? Try the Coldbuster smoothie


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Oh mah gah. Everywhere we turn there our sick people. Our friends are sick. Our neighbors are sick. Our relatives are sick. Germs are having a freakin’ Mardi Gras everywhere and peeps are dropping like flies in fever and/or vomiting-induced quarantine. Influenza is at a record high in the Midwest, and norovirus is a little bonus that’s spreading like wildfire.

We are doing everything we can to stay away from this crap. For us, that means vitamins and extra zinc every day, hand-washing like fiends and extra doses of Vitamin C-rich foods. This smoothie is a perfectly delicious way to accomplish that, and it’s so pretty to boot. It’s carrots that give it the vibrant orange color, but bananas, mangoes and pineapple give it the best tropical flavor.

Mix this puppy up for breakfast or snack ASAP!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

Coldbuster Smoothies
You gotta blend this puppy for a LONG TIME to get those carrots smooth. My kids DO NOT like this with gloppy carrot texture, so we’re talkin’ a good 3-4 minutes in the blender. In addition, I’d chop those carrots pretty small. It makes it so much easier to blend. Also, one of my kids insists he add vanilla yogurt to this. It tastes great but dulls the orange color…you decide.

1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 ripe banana
1 cup water

Blend all ingredients until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

Makes 1 serving.

Easiest dinner ever: Taco soup


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Do you have one night each week that is absolutely crazy? Crazy as in…ain’t nobody gettin’ anything homemade for dinner because mama is running around delivering everyone where they need to be all night long?

That’s my Monday.

This is the meal for Mondays. If you can brown some beef, dump some cans (you don’t even have to drain them) and stir, you’ve got this. It’s so easy. I serve it with some crusty bread and call it good. Protein and veggies in one bowl, plus a little bread = a perfect weeknight meal. It uses taco and ranch seasoning for flavor, which is genius because it’s so quick and easy. It’s also delicious.

Taco Soup
Feel free to substitute some of these ingredients if they don’t work for your family. Don’t like pinto beans? Try black beans. Don’t eat meat? Double up on some veggies or beans. Make it work for you.

1 – 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey/beef
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 cups water
2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, undrained
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (14 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, undrained
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles, undrained
2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning or 1 packet store bought
1 recipe homemade ranch dressing mix or 1 packet store bought
Fritos and toppings, for serving

Brown meat and onion in a large stock pot until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Add water, beans, tomatoes, corn, chiles, and all juices from cans. Stir in taco seasoning and ranch seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Or, transfer to a slow cooker, cover, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
Top each serving with shredded cheese, Fritos, sour cream, or other toppings as desired.

Serves 6.

11 books to read with your kids for Black History Month


Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

Since February is Black History Month, we’ve pulled together a list of books to read with your kids. From stories based on actual historic events to fictional stories featuring African American kids (who are still underrepresented in children’s literature), we’ve got some books here to get you started.

Like any book list, this one was hard to narrow down. Hopefully this is a jumping-off point for finding more books you and your family can read together!


Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier — a great introduction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for children. The book uses many of King’s own words to share his story and show how he changed the world. The book has beautiful watercolor illustrations and was a Caldecott Medal Winner. 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats — this has been one of our favorites for years…a sweet book about a little boy out investigating his city on a snowy day. The beautiful collage illustrations are bright and unique. It’s a trailblazer as well — according to Horn Book Magazine, this was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.” It’s also a 1963 Caldecott Medal winner. Just a perfect book.

What’s the Hurry, Fox? And Other Animal Stories by Zora Neale Hurston and Joyce Carol Thomas — author Hurston, who also wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, traveled through the rural south collecting stories and folktales. Thomas took those stories and re-wrote them to be easier for kids to understand. Discover “Why the Dog Hates the Cat,” and “Why Whitecaps Have Waves,” in this  great collection.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson — full disclosure: I haven’t read this yet. But everyone I know who has just loves it. It’s a longer book, probably for kids 10+, but there’s also an excellent audio recording so you can listen in the car with the younger kids. It’s a collection of poems written by Woodson about her experiences growing up as an African American in the 1960’s and 70’s. 

If you’re looking for more books for older kids and adults (I still love YA novels), this podcast has some great recommendations.

Papa’s Mark by by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert and Colin Bootman  — Samuel T. Blow participates in the first election where African Americans are allowed to vote. But he wants to write more than an “X” on his ballot — he wants to write his name. And so he turns to his son, who helps his dad participate in this historic event.

Please, Baby, Please! by Spike Lee , Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson — Filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife write a hilarious book that’s relatable for both kids and their exhausted parents (“Go back to bed, baby, please, baby, please. Not on your headbaby baby baby, please!…”). We follow the rambunctious toddler through her day, ending with a sweet moment between her and her sleepy mama before bed.

This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt and R.G. Roth — “This Old Man” is reworked to include some of the greatest jazz musicians like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Bojangles (Bill Robinson), and Charles Mingus. SNAP! BOMP! BEEDLE-DI-BOP! A really fun read.

 What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, Ben Boos, and A.G. Ford — The basketball star shares the stories of little-known African American inventors who created everything from the ice cream scoop to the cortisone shot. Funny stories that are easy for kids to read or listen to, and that will likely teach adults a thing or two also.

Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack and Rachel Isadora — a great twist on Little Red Riding Hood. A sneaky fox who loves stealing eggs tries to nab some from Flossie…who outsmarts him spectacularly. A fun, clever book, told in the dialect of the rural south.

Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud,  and John Holyfield — After Martin Luther King, Jr. visits Gee’s Bend to encourage black people to vote, the sheriff shuts down the ferry that would take them to their polling place. The residents refuse to be deterred and hitch their wagons to mules (including Belle) to head on a long journey around the river instead. Inspired by a true story.

Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes is a sweet, lovely book about the arrival of a new baby. The illustrations are wonderful, the writing is poetic — a perfect bedtime story, or a great book for child getting ready for a new little brother or sister.

Do you have any favorite books you’d add to this list? I’d love to know what they are — we’re always looking to expand our reading lists! 

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.


Valentine’s special: Midnight cupcakes


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

If you’re looking for something special for your sweetheart(s), I’ve got the perfect yummy treat. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe and a delicious deep, dark chocolate frosting to go with it.

The cupcakes start with a mix, but I promise they won’t taste like it by the time you’re done. Adding pudding, sour cream, coffee and mini-chips make these so tender and full of flavor. Topped with a homemade dark chocolate frosting, these are sure to please even the pickiest chocoholic.

I actually made the cupcakes almost a week ahead of time and froze them. Then I defrosted the cupcakes and made the frosting on the day I wanted to serve them. This worked perfectly for my sweethearts!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes
I’m specific about the brand of cake mix — Duncan Hines — because it does NOT already include pudding in the mix. This is good, because you’re adding your own.

1 (18.25 ounce) package Duncan Hines devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm coffee
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, sifted
8 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin cups with paper liners. (This makes about 60 mini cupcakes or 30 regular sized.)

In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a well lined muffin cups.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes (mini) or 19-22 minutes (regular), or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in pan then remove to a wire rack. (I often make these early and throw them in the freezer until I need them.)

For the frosting, In a mixer combine all ingredients and over low speed for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute until smooth. Let frosting cool for 15-20 minutes before you frost the cupcakes.

Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Kids DIY: Valentines slime


Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Are your kids into slime? It’s the thing around here…kids are making (and selling) it like hotcakes. You can’t find a bottle of glue on the shelves ANYWHERE (glue is the main ingredient in slime) and many kids have taken to ordering glue by the gallon on Amazon. (I know this from experience!)

Slime was recently banned at my kids’ elementary school because it has become such a distraction. But I have LOVED watching my kids make it. It has replaced all technology as the main form of entertainment in my house. They make all sorts of colors, textures, add sparkle, make it super stretchy or mildly stretchy, and include all sorts of crazy mix-ins. They even have an Instagram account where they sell slime to their friends, and have learned so much about supply and demand, opportunity cost, and SHARING.

My kiddos are the slime experts!

Anyway, they threw a Valentine’s batch together yesterday and I thought I’d share their recipe. Give this one to your kiddos and I’ll bet they have some fun!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

Valentine’s Slime
For clear slime, use clear glue and no food coloring. For colored slime, use white glue and food coloring.

1 teaspoon borax powder (I find this in the laundry detergent or cleaning aisle)
1 1/2 C water, divided
4 oz (1/2 C) Elmer’s glue, clear or white
red food coloring
Glitter or heart confetti

Dissolve the borax powder in 1 cup water and stir. Set aside.

Pour glue into a medium mixing bowl and add remaining 1/2 C water. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired until correct color is achieved and then stir until smooth.

Pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture and watch the solids start to form. Stir to combine and then use your hands to gather the mass. The mixture will be very soft and wet.

Keep kneading until it firms up and feels dry. Discard excess liquid in bowl. The more you knead and play with the slime the firmer it will become. Store in an air tight container and the slime will keep indefinitely.