Ring Master MomMarch 10, 2014Leave a comment

Pantry Soup

One of my favorite comfort foods is anything my Mom cooks. Ha – okay, I’ll narrow it down a bit further. She makes great soups and my favorite is called Pantry Soup. Growing up, we never ate the same Pantry Soup twice. The saying went, “Whatever’s in the pantry goes in the soup.” I have great memories of pulling out cans from the shelves and hoping there’d be a bag of alphabet noodles for an extra fun pot.

Fast forward to my sophomore year in college where I was out of the dorms and fending for myself in the kitchen. My pantry was pretty bare being a college student, and I believe I only had a box of Cheerios inside. I had to call my Mom and hold back giggles asking for a recipe for Pantry Soup. This is a dish I’ve cooked for any roommate during my college days, and my now for my family. Although posting this recipe goes against the idea of pulling out cans of whatever’s in your pantry, I thought I’d share since it’s a big request among my friends. Of course, add or subtract whatever you have stashed inside your pantry. That’s the fun of this dish!


Mom’s Pantry Soup

4 cans beef broth (14 oz. size)
4 cans water (once you open and pour out beef broth, use one of these cans and fill with water. Whatever broth you put in, use the same amount of water.)
1 can chili
1 large can kidney beans rinsed
2 cans corn
3/4 cup barley
1/2 bag of alphabet noodles
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup shell or elbow noodles
1 lb of extra lean ground beef

Put broth, water, chili, kidney beans, corn, barley, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce in pot and bring to a gentle boil for 15 minutes. Add noodles and cook for 20 minutes. This is a good place to check fluid if you’re not really measuring how many noodles or barley you’ve put in and can always add more water at this point. Roll the ground beef into meatballs and add to your pot. Boil gently for 10 minutes and enjoy!


Ring Master MomMarch 9, 20143 Comments

Best egg breakfast

I really want to call this the best breakfast ever, but let’s be honest – an iced coffee and sprinkle donut are my clear winners for first place. Let’s call it my second favorite breakfast or the best egg breakfast!


What you’ll need
hearty sourdough bread for toasting – my favorite is Acme Bread Company’s sour batard
1/4 avocado
dash of cumin
splash of lemon
1 egg
sprinkle of truffle salt
sprig of cilantro

I love cooking and as you might tell with my slightly ambiguous measurements above, create my own dishes from time to time! Nothing is perfectly measured, but it’s the cumin that brings everything together!

Slice up your sour batard, and toast while you fry or poach your egg. I enjoy a slightly runny egg with this dish since toasted sourdough is so hearty. Once the bread is done, scoop out the avocado and place it on your toast. Sprinkle cumin, and add lemon juice and egg once it’s finished cooking. I add truffle salt after cooking my egg, but you can do plain ol’ salt and pepper as you’re cooking if you’d like and finish with the cilantro.



Ring Master MomMarch 5, 20144 Comments

I am

a chauffeur
a gardener
a landscaper
a window washer
a cleaner
a wet nurse
a baker
a chef de cuisine
a nurse
a teacher
a farmer
a handyman
a swim instructor
a dance teacher
a photographer
a writer
a tickle monster
a swing pusher
a librarian

This list could be revised each day and never ending, but I think you get the point. I am asked constantly about what I actually do as a stay at home Mom. The best responses come from people who haven’t had kids – “Well, how fun for you to get to play all day and not have to work!” While it’s true that I do play, I also set up each craft, game, puzzle, meal, and any trip we take during the day. My goal in life was to become a mother, and I thank God every day for the blessing of a son and daughter.

This is the first moment I had Patrick placed in my arms. Note the lights are still bright which means someone under the picture is busy stitching me up. I was incredibly tired after 26 hours of labor and have no strength left to open my eyes. Yet my heart is full of love that I’ve never thought possible and any thought of pain or feeling uncomfortable has vanished at this point in time. Patrick grabbed my finger and I was instantly in love with him even more.

The next picture me holding Alice for the first time. Classic me – no makeup, just joy. The grin from ear to ear shows how happy I am that 13 hours of labor are now behind me.


A quote from Gretchen Rubin sums up my life right now quite perfectly. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Alice and Patrick keep me on my toes every day and the amount of love I receive is the richest payment of all.


Ring Master MomFebruary 26, 20144 Comments

St. Patrick’s day snack ideas

Holidays are a fun distraction for kids to try new things or make something slightly different. They’re not necessarily Irish, but they are a fun way to celebrate and don’t worry, we all eat our corned beef and cabbage on the 17th. I love these snack & meal ideas for St. Patrick’s Day and hope you do too!

First up is my rainbow pot of gold fruit plate. I’ve seen this everywhere with marshmallows for clouds. I wanted this plate to be as healthy as possible, so I changed up the clouds and made gold coins with the banana slices.

These totally rock because they’re easy and kids love em! I use a shamrock shaped cookie cutter with spinach wraps and arranged them on a cookie sheet. You can spread olive oil on for crispier “chips” or sprinkle sea salt as well.

Bake at 375 for about 4 minutes and serve with hummus or spinach dip!

Rainbow shamrocks made from Jell-o take a bit more time and patience. You’ll need as many flavors as you’d like – I used 6 for my rainbow. Follow the directions on the side of the box for making your Jell-O and pour each layer into the mold. You’ll have to do this many times, so be careful as you’re spooning the liquid in each mold. You’ll have leftovers unless you use several molds at once, and you can always place that into a large bowl to make a super huge pile of rainbow Jell-O! Here’s a side view of what 6 different flavors of Jell-O looks like!

I also used the same mold above to make shamrock cakes. This is super easy – follow instructions on whichever cake mix you buy or use. Food color and decorations optional and endless! I go for the obvious best choice of cake mix – Funfetti!

I had some extra mix leftover, so I made cookies!

It’s fun to spice up a milkshake with decorations! I used mint chocolate chip ice cream with a few splashes of milk topped with whipped cream and decorations! I made this last year, and think I’ll use vanilla ice cream with Thin Mints this year.

Kiwi shamrocks are a healthy and fun snack for little ones! I sliced a kiwi several times, and cut out several shamrock shapes.

Pot of Gold treats were for my former co-workers. I bought cauldrons at my local party store (located in their Halloween section) and filled them with Rolo candies and Twizzlers.

As you may know by now, we are big into holiday pasta! Cost Plus World Market is where I go to get holiday pasta with natural colors. I’ve linked below to where you can buy this online. This is lots of fun because you can always witch up veggies, chicken, fish, or sauces for lots of variety. I took this pic when Alice was one and a half. Barely a tooth, but loved little veggies! This year I’m excited to add things like broccoli or zucchini so that way I can share and it seems a bit more grown up!

Shamrock spinach pizza is a fun way to get kiddos to eat spinach with some cute decorations! I buy dough at Whole Foods along with any toppings that tickle my fancy that day along with spinach. Use shamrock cookie cutters to cut the shapes in the spinach and place on your pizza before you bake!

This snack idea was a surprise find when I was shopping. I just so happened to be without children at Safeway which meant I was in the ice cream aisle buying my favorite pint of Ben & Jerry’s! After I snagged that, I looked up to see green and white animal cookies! This happened last March and I’ve not seen these cookies again. I don’t know if it was a St. Patrick’s Day decoration, but I thought the colors were perfect for a special treat.

The last snack I have to share are my “I’m so lucky to have you as my friend” treat jars. I had a few pickle jars saved and wanted to do something with them. I also had some extra cupcake liners, so I taped those to the lids. I filled the jars with leftover Rolos and Skittles for an extra sweet treat.

Below are affiliate links to help you create your own St. Patrick’s Day snacking fun!


Ring Master MomFebruary 25, 20142 Comments

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts

I love making St. Patrick’s Day crafts with my kids because it means time to create lots of rainbows! I’ve put together a selection of our favorite crafts we make to decorate our home.

Toddlers love using anything big to dip and paint – so I used a toilet paper roll squished into a heart shape (same thing we did for Valentine’s Day) and told the kids to repeat that a few times to create a shamrock.

And of course you have to add a rainbow. I thought it would be fun to use q-tips for each color to mix it up. Can you tell Patrick is left handed? 😉

The rainbow shamrock wand Patrick wanted me to help out a lot more. He did a bit with cutting and sprinkling glitter, but wanted me to do most of the work which I was happy to do. As much fun as he has with squishing glitter on paper, he knew he couldn’t do the shamrock and is a perfectionist just like me. I could see him getting frustrated when he first started, so I told him that I’d help squeeze the glue and he got to guide where it went. The best part was he was making it for Alice as a surprise!

We cut out a few hearts and glued them together with ribbon and a straw. We then added glitter and waited for it to dry before giving it to Miss Alice who was only a year old at the time. She really enjoyed shaking as much glitter off as possible for a “glitter party”.

Not only can hearts form a nice shamrock for kids to decorate, but slicing a pepper can also be used as a stamp to create large shamrocks.

It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without rainbows galore, so we also do a science experiment to see how water helps flowers grow. The kiddos love to watch them change into a giant rainbow on the kitchen table.

One of my favorite crafts as it keeps my kids occupied and quiet for a while is a tissue paper rainbow.

I cut tissue paper into squares and draw a rainbow on a piece of paper. Your kids can decide where they want the tissue to go and dip it in glue with a pencil, and crinkle it up to create a great 3-D effect. Cotton balls for clouds, and voila!

And while your kids are creating, don’t forget to do something for yourself – a double rainbow manicure! I painted my nails green except for my ring finger. I used a small makeup sponge and painted a rainbow directly on it and applied that to my ring fingernail.

When that dried, I applied this to the top.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve included a few affiliate links below (and one above!) for some of the items we used for our crafts. Enjoy!


Ring Master MomFebruary 10, 2014Leave a comment

Valentine crafts for toddlers

I wanted to share a few crafts we’re working on to decorate our house for Valentine’s Day.

For the first, I have my kids paint X’s and O’s along with hearts. Can you tell that orange is Patrick’s favorite color at the moment? This is great practice for letter writing, and I’m surprised at how patient they are when they’re perfecting their hearts. After that dries (so no elbows get dipped in the paint) we attach ribbon and pom poms wherever we want.

We also did another craft that we’ve done the last two years – hearts with toilet paper tubes! We added some thumbprint hearts since that’s easy and fun for kiddos. Making thumbprint hearts was the first Valentine I sent out when Patrick was only a few months old – also incredibly easy way to send Valentine cards to loved ones when you have a baby. And the mess is pretty much non-existent compared to handprint crafts which don’t always turn out the way you want.

Pinch the toilet paper roll at one side, and fold the top into a heart. It takes no time and then have your kids go nuts with making designs, patterns, etc. Once that dried, we added washi tape as we pleased.

I had some heart doilies to attach to Valentines that Patrick was using for his preschool friends, and was trying to think how we could finish using up the last few. I searched through our craft closet, and grabbed some string and the watercolor set.

This craft was my favorite because both kids took their time creating and testing colors. After Valentine’s day is over, I’ll be sure to move this from our mantle to my bedroom. I’m just in love with how cute it is!

I hope you enjoy making with your kids, and I’ve provided affiliate links below for most of the items we used. Happy love day!


Ring Master MomFebruary 9, 2014Leave a comment

Forest on First Preview

Another amazing cafe is opening in Los Altos and today we were all invited to a preview party. It’s called Forest on First and it’s an all natural organic cafe with juice bar and treehouse for the kids to play. Yes, I said treehouse, people!


We were greeted with their signature green juice and I got to try a latte. Obviously the coffee is amazing since it’s Four Barrel, and the juice is really smooth and fresh.


Alice loves any type of green juice and as you can see, she couldn’t put her glass down!


Patrick had a great time navigating around the treehouse while we got to sample the menu. In addition to being a sit down restaurant, you can order dinner to bring back home. My word, I am counting down the minutes till I can take home a roasted whole chicken. It’s juicy, tender, and the rub is perfect. Not too salty, but full of flavor and a very small hint of heat.

Behind the eating area, there’s a huge place for kids to play and run around. Alice loved playing with the magna tiles.


The reading nook looked so cozy, especially on this overcast and rainy day.


If you are a fan of Bumble, I know you will love Forest on First. Same concept of local and fresh food while providing a place for kids to explore. Also, I am a sucker for cute details like a roll of butcher paper attached to the side of wall featuring daily specials, chalkboard menu and vintage arrow sign.


If you’re in the area, come play with us soon!


Ring Master MomFebruary 3, 20142 Comments

Olympic Ring Center

Can you tell I’m getting slightly excited that the Winter Olympics are almost here? I was able to attend the games in Barcelona in 1992 with my family and watched everything from gymnastics to synchronized swimming to pretty much every track and field event. As a child, I loved paying attention to the medal count, looking up information about other countries, and learning the history behind flags. Now that Patrick and Alice are showing interest in different flags, I thought it would be great to set up an Olympic Ring Center in our home.

Patrick helped create a sign made with a flag banner, markers, and colored rings. We’ll soon add a medal count and we also have a great book on Flags of the World – see link below. We also use this book when we learn about different cultures and cook dinners from other countries. It’s a great resource for toddlers because of the big pictures of each flag and not too detailed description of each country.

Affiliate links below to the items we used for this craft


Ring Master MomFebruary 3, 2014Leave a comment

Olympic sorting game

I want to share a great sorting game to get little ones excited for the upcoming Olympics. Two years ago Patrick was Alice’s age, and he loved doing this game over and over again for the summer games.

PJ Sorting

I placed a bowl full of pom poms on the table along with a child’s set of chopsticks and paper ring set I bought at a local party store. I placed the rings on the table and told Patrick to grab the chopsticks and place a pom pom in the ring. Once he got the hang of the chopsticks, we decided to play again by placing the corresponding color pom pom with the ring. Obviously there are many ways to “play” this game, and you can make it as easy or hard as you want. I love it because it keeps little hands busy and little minds thinking about new versions to play once they feel they’ve mastered the level they’re on.

You can also teach what the Olympic rings represent, what the games mean, etc while they are playing. It’s a really easy set up and clean up which is always a plus in my book.

Affiliate links below to the items I used.


Ring Master MomFebruary 2, 2014Leave a comment

Olympic torch craft

In preparation for the Summer Olympic games a few years ago, I had Patrick create an Olympic torch. He was just 2 at the time, and loved hearing about Olympic traditions and was obsessed with the torch run. I thought since he loved it so much, we should create an Olympic torch of our own. Now that the Winter Games are here, I thought I’d share our creation. This craft is incredibly easy to make and the only part that requires patience is the paint drying.

We started with brown cardstock and rolled it to the size we wanted to create and secured it with tape. Then I had Patrick paint “lots of fire” on a few large pieces of white paper.

pj torch painting

After that dried, I cut them into flame shapes and we taped those to the torch. We had leftover yellow tissue paper from a previous craft, and Patrick very slowly cut long strips and rolled them with a pencil to give them a little dimension. Finally, we crinkled red tissue paper and placed that in the middle of our flames. Then he ran around outside screaming with joy! I love a craft that also lets little ones release some energy!

pj torch

Affiliate links are below to the items I used for the craft.