The Mummy Pumpkin

Son # 4 lovingly referred to this as his ‘Mommy’ pumpkin. I, of course, was tickled pink. It took some practice, but this year he’s having no trouble pronouncing the word ‘mummy’. I’m thinking to celebrate we will be seeing multiple Mommy, err Mummy, themed crafts this October.

When I found this easy, fun pumpkin craft on Martha Stewart’s website I knew we had to do it. I love carving pumpkins with the older boys (I spend a shameless amount of time scouring the web for the lates and greatest pumpkin template for them to choose from), but I wanted something different to do with the youngest son. Let’s save carving, you know pumpkin guts, tools, knives and all that, for at least a few more years. Please? That and if he needs a quick sensory lesson he can always stick his hand in his brothers’ pumpkins. Which he did…repeatedly.

While my version may not be as pristine, or authentic looking as Martha’s, it did the trick. I used what I had on hand in the house so it was budget friendly, and it was a quick craft to fit in before nap time.

The Mummy Pumpkin

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Mummy Pumpkin

  • roll of gauze
  • googly eyes
  • black cardstock
  • glue gun

Directions

  1. Starting at any point on the pumpkin glue a starting edge to the pumpkin.
  2. From their wrap the gauze around the pumpkin, continuing until you feel like it’s sufficiently covered.
  3. When satisfied with the ‘look’, cut the gauze and hot glue down the end piece.
  4. Glue two googly eyes on.
  5. Cut a mouth out of the black cardstock and glue on.
  6. Voila, you now have a pumpkin mummy.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of our favorite cereals. I even remember how cool it was when I was a kid and they came in bar form for breakfast or snacks on the go. One weekday morning after pouring everyone’s bowls, I had an epiphany. Why not make my own cereal bars?! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. The boys LOVED these. This recipe alone probably won me the coveted ‘Mom of the Year’ award. Include them in lunches for an extra special treat, but be careful because you just might start a cafeteria riot as all the kids vie for a taste.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars

  • 4 1/2 cups cinnamon toast crunch cereal
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Spray a 9×13 or 9×9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot melt better over low heat. Add marshmallows and cook over medium-low heat until marshmallows are completely melted.
  3. Once marshmallows are melted, remove pot from heat and add cereal to the pot, stirring to coat.
  4. Press into the prepared pan and let cool completely. When set, cut into bars and serve.

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

Fall is finally here in Virginia and I’m loving it. The windows are open and the air conditioning is off, baby! It’s so nice out, that I don’t even care that I haven’t yet put the screens back in the windows. You know, I’m just enjoying the moment, living life on the wild side.

With fall temps here and the official start of fall right around the corner, I’ve already begun pulling out the coordinating recipes. Beer Bread is one of my favorite things for Fall. I know I coudl make it all year round, but something about the yeasty taste or beer or a good lager just aren’t as appealing in the Summer months. This year I decided we’d try playing with the recipe and see if we could make our bread even better. This is what I lovingly refer to as Beer Bread 2.0, and let me tell you it is simply divine!

For those of you who aren’t confident in the kitchen, who don’t consider yourselves ‘bakers’, or are simply overwhelmed at the thought of attempting homemade bread… Do NOT be afraid! Beer Bread is your friend. It’s fool proof. You can’t mess it up.

Now I give you ‘Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread’. The name says it all.

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread

recipe adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided
  • 1 12 oz bottle, or can, of unflavored beer/lager
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and roughly chopped, divided (or 1/2 cup REAL bacon bits)
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir with a whisk to combine ingredients. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients.
  2. Add beer, half the bacon and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour the batter/dough into a greased loaf pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining bacon over top and drizzle with the remaining butter. Bake for an additional 25 minutes or until browned.
  6. Remove and allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Famous Football Party Stromboli

Football season is underway again, and for our house, that means so are the game-time snacks and treats.  All of my guys love the game. They also ALL love food. So this is the perfect union of two of their favorite things. The amount of testosterone in my house on game-day is scary. However, on game day, I’m just ‘one of the guys’.

One of the easiest, and tastiest things we enjoy chowing down on between downs is homemade stromboli. What game-day experience would be complete without man-food? This is MAN-FOOD at it’s finest. It’s also ‘Mom’ food. It’s easy and quick to prepare so I don’t have to miss the game to slave away in the kitchen. It’s even easy to serve and eat, which is another plus since it means all four boys are allowed to eat on the couch. No griping about missing parts of the game? No giant mess to clean up after four boys? Famous Football Party Stromboli for the win!

This is literally the perfect party food. Make a little, make a ton. It’s simple, and totally satisfying. Feel free to chase it with a swig of beer in between bouts of screaming at the tv.

Famous Football Party Stromboli

4 Sons 'R' Us: Famous Football Party Stromboli

recipe adapted from Liv Life Too

  • 1 16 oz loaf of bread dough, thawed according to package directions or homemade pizza dough
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced ham
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni (hard salami)
  • 1/4 lb salami (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cornmeal (optional)

Directions

  1. Place bread dough on lightly greased baking sheet.  Pat into a 15 x 10” rectangle.
  2. Arrange ham slices lengthwise down center; place pepperoni on top, then salami.  Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon basil and ¼ teaspoon oregano.
  3. Arrange provolone cheese over herbs and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with remaining herbs.
  4. Moisten all edges of dough with water; bring each long edge of dough to center. Press edges together securely to seal.  Seal ends.
  5. Brush dough with 1 Tablespoon butter; sprinkle with cornmeal and carefully invert so that the seam side is down.  Brush top with remaining butter.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until browned.
  7. Remove from oven and place on a cutting board.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
  8. Cut horizontally into slices with a serrated (bread) knife.  For smaller portions, first cut vertically down the center, them into horizontal slices.

Cheeseburger Buns

I know I’m a day late (such is life when you have kids, sometimes anyway), but yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day. In honor of that, and also because my family loves that cheesy, meaty concoction, I’m bringing you this delicious recipe. Instead of a traditional burger, we opted for a new twist on the classic favorite. Can I just say that burgers inside of a bun are the new way to go?! These things are amazing. They could totally revolutionize the entire cheeseburger industry. Give them a try for yourself and see. Savor the amazement.

These are easy to make, they freeze great, and as leftovers they’re still fantastic. Like something versatile? You aren’t obligated to stuff these with a cheeseburger filling. Try ham and cheese, or broccoli, chicken, and cheddar. Sloppy Joes in a bun, anyone?

Cheeseburger Buns

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheeseburger Buns

recipe from Taste of Home magazine

  • 2 packages (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 -4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 8 slices American cheese, quartered

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, shortening, egg, salt and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  4. Punch dough down; divide into 16 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out and stretch each piece into a 5-in. circle. Top each circle with two pieces of cheese and about 3 tablespoons beef mixture. Bring dough over filling to center; pinch edges to seal.
  5. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes. Bake at 400° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

It’s that time of year again. The kids clamber up onto the big yellow bus. I do a little dance of joy. Then the kids come home…

Not only do they always manage to come home with homework for me, as well as for themselves, they also always manage to bring home some sort of cold. And of course, as the natural laws of the mommy-verse state. If one child gets it, every child gets it. And Mom.

These little babies are kept in my illness arsenal. Along with our cold medicine. And when your head is stopped up and you feel like banging it against a wall, or anything else equally painful just as long as it comes with some relief and the long-lost ability to breathe through your nose, these puppies are a God-send.

I used to buy them from the pharmacy down the street, and they cost me a pretty penny. However, they worked wonders and were worth it. I was sad to see when our local pharmacy stopped carrying them and they gradually disappeared from store shelves. I didn’t need to mourn their loss long because Sarah at Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity provided me with a recipe for making my own batch.

When set they smell just like that familiar comforting aroma you’re used to apply under your nose and massaging into tiny little congested chests. While you’re enjoying a nice, hot shower these gradually melt away releasing the essential oils within and clearing out your congestion. Aside from congestion relief, these also help provide relief from similar allergy symptoms. The combined scents and steam help relax the cold (and symptoms) right out of you. It’s like watching your illness wash away down the drain. It’s positively glorious after a day filled with dragging yourself around from one sick bed to the next, all while being sick yourself.  I make these ahead, because I know getting sick is inevitable. So are son # 4’s allergies. I leave them in the wrappers until ready to use and store the whole batch in a large zip-locking bag. Low maintenance, and I don’t have to drag my derriere off to the drug-store when the sickies are storming the gates.

The moral of this tale? When showering sick, use a disk, especially before going to bed. You will actually find some relief and get a solid stretch of sleep.

Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

4 Sons 'R' Us: Copy-Cat Vick's Shower Disks

  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lavender
  • Muffin/Cupcake Tin
  • Muffin/Cupcake Liners

Directions

  1. Add baking soda to a mixing bowl. I don’t really measure.  About 2-3 cups.
  2. Slowly add water, just a little at a time, until you’ve made a thick paste.  You’ll want the mix to feel like putty.
  3. Spoon in to a muffin tin, and let sit out for 12-18 hours overnight. Or, for a quicker set, you can bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. If using paper lines, as opposed to silicone, and baking make sure to remove the liners from the pan before it has completely cooled.
  5. Add 15 drops of each essential oil to every cooled, set puck.
  6. Remove from the liners and place in the bottom of the tub during shower. These typically last about 10-15 minutes in the shower, out of the direct spray of water.

Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

I’m always on the lookout for new things to do with ground beef. I buy two 6 lb packages of lean ground beef each month from Costco. One gets divided into 1lb packages to freeze and use for meals. The other gets divided and made into meatloaf and meatballs. My boys love meatballs with their spaghetti. They love meatball subs. But, that’s about as adventurous as they were willing to be when it came to the sacred ‘meatball’. That was until this recipe. They loved it. The sweet and sour sauce was rich and delicious. I love it when I can get fruit into any meal. They devoured it and asked for more.

These are by far, the BEST crock pot meatballs I’ve ever had. They’re simple. They’re easy. They’re filling. AND they’re budget friendly! All of which made this recipe a keeper for a busy Mom with a boat-load of growing boys to feed.

Really, this is a must try. No longer are meatballs only for Italian-style dishes. Or the typical, tried and true, bland crock pot ‘cocktail’ style recipes that have been done countless times before.

Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Hawaiian Meatballs

 

recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff

  • 32 oz of pre-packaged frozen meatballs or about 2 lbs of frozen, homemade meatballs
  • 13.5 oz can of unsweetened pineapple chunks, drain and reserve juice
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Directions

  1. Place meatballs in crock pot and top with green pepper and drained pineapple chunks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and soy sauce.
  3. Pour sauce over meatballs, pineapple and green peppers.
  4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through.
  5. Serve over cooked white rice.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

I’m convinced little boys are magnets. Pint-sized, powerful dirt magnets. I’m constantly going through wet wipes. In the house. In the car. In the store. Everywhere. There’s not a dust bunny, dirt speck, or food particle within a good mile radius that does not find it’s way onto their person. And by person, I meant their face, hands, shirt, etc. You name it, if they’ve been awake for 5 minutes, something has found them. Knowing this, I’m always armed with some handy-dandy wipes to scrub them down on the go. That leftover kool-aid mustache? Check. The hands that are now black from tracing every wall we’ve walked past for 5 minutes? Check.

About a year ago, I started to notice how many wipes we were going through and how the cost was really adding up. Being the fastidious penny-pincher that I am, I began to look for a way to make my own that were not only cheaper, but just as durable. Only a strong wipe can compete with my grubby boys and keep them as presentable as humanly possible until bath time. A friend of mine with a gaggle of her own children told me about this recipe that she swore by. I tried it, and from the very first swipe I was hooked!

As I’ve mentioned before, Son #4 struggles with eczema. We’re dealing with a very itchy bout of it now. These wipes are gentle enough to even use on his super-sensitive skin. Not only do they not cause any reaction or irritate his condition, they even seem to help soothe his itching. That alone would have sold me on these.

But there’s more…

One of the best things about these all-natural, homemade baby wipes is that they do not contain alcohol and are super gentle on those delicate areas, especially if you’re dealing with diaper rash. The tea tree oil, as well as the coconut oil have anti-microbial properties and protect against molding. Also, both the tea tree oil and coconut oil provide a multitude of skin benefits.

Start making your own wipes today. They blow all the store-bought competition out of the water. And, they’re cheaper! These, my friend, will totally ‘wipe’-out and reservations you may have.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Homemade Baby Wipes

  • 1 roll of Bounty paper towels (I found mine at the the Dollar Tree)
  • a very sharp knife, or an electric knife
  • 1 tbsp baby wash
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • tea tree oil
  • container to house the wipes in (the one pictured came from the Dollar Tree as well)

Directions

  1. Cut the roll of paper towels evenly in half. It will resemble two rolls of toilet paper at that point.
  2. Carefully remove the cardboard paper tube from inside the paper towels.
  3. In a bowl, mix the baby wash, oil, hot water, and 2-3 drops tea tree oil until evenly combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the wipes container.
  5. Add the cut paper towels and let sit, for about an hour, until all the mixture has been soaked up and saturated throughout the towels.
  6. To use, pull wipes from the center.

Super Hero Birthday Cakes

Sons 1 & 3 have birthdays within a week of each other. Since the dates are so close together they typically have a combined celebration where all of their family and friends can get together at once. We almost always do a cake and coordinating cupcakes. This year, they opted for a combination of comic books (Son # 1 collects them) and some of their favorite Super Heroes (is any boy ever too old for them?). These were the results and they thought they were absolutely fantastic!

Comic Book Birthday

4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Cupcakes 2 4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Cupcakes

Holy Cupcakes, Batman! I loved, as did Sons 1 & 3, how these turned out! They were a huge hit. The cupcake toppers are from 3 separate printables. The first one, representing some of the boys favorite iconic comic book superheros was from Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss. Batman was present, but isn’t pictured. The Happy Birthday, Bang, Pow, and blank printables I found at Let’s Panic. Finally, the smaller ‘Boom’ & ‘Pow’ came from Simply Designing with Ashley. I just cut out the printed images and hot glued them to lollipop sticks. Last minute I decided to add some Pop Rocks as ‘sprinkles’ so the cupcakes matched their comic book captions.

A few months ago I had found Thor’s hammer on clearance at Target for less than $5. I purchased it immediately with this cake in mind. I used chocolate frosting to cover the cake. I gently pressed the hammer into the cake at an angle creating an indention. I removed the hammer and had my husband cut a rectangle into the indention, in the center, where the hammer would rest to make it stable and ensure it would remain upright. I then stuck the hammer on top and sprinkled crushed oreos around for ‘dirt’.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Thor Cake

While the older boys wanted things kept simple party-wise, both loved their cake and cupcakes. Seeing their eyes widen when I presented them with their birthday treats made me feel pretty darn ‘super’ myself. They can just call me Wonder Woman. Just Kidding.

I love my little ‘Supers’.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Comic Book Birthday 3

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

I love, love, love this pasta salad. I can’t quite put into words all the love I have for. My family thinks it’s because it’s such a crowd pleaser. I’m leaning more towards it being the ranch dressing. It’s my sauce of choice. Also, it’s the versatility. I can easily make this as a side to dinner, or add extra lettuce to make it an all-in-one meal. The recipe easily feeds our family, but is simple to double to serve a larger group.

Originally, I was skeptical of the Swiss it called for. I’ve only ever included cheddar in any ranch-based pasta salads before, but my skepticism was unnecessary. The Swiss perfectly compliments the other flavors in the bunch. Simply put, it’s delicious. If you’re looking to branch out of your more traditional pasta salad comfort zone, looking for a dish to ‘wow’ family and/or friends, or simply trying to ditch the pre-packaged, processed box versions, this recipe is a must try.

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

recipe adapted from Cinnamon, Spice, and Everything Nice

  • 1 lb radiatore pasta
  • 16 oz ranch dressing
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cup cubed Swiss
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 2 cups finely chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta, according to package directions, in salted water.
  2. Drain pasta. Toss with just enough dressing so that the pasta is lightly coated and won’t stick together. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the tomatoes, Swiss, onion, bacon, and lettuce.
  4. Add enough dressing to generously coat everything, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve. If not serving immediately, don’t mix the lettuce in until you’re ready to serve to prevent wilting.