DIY Pinwheel Headbands

While watching my friend’s daughters one day, I decided we needed something crafty. It was my attempt to keep them from going stir crazy, in between our daily 30 minute reading time and a trip to the pool, while we waited for the littlest son to wake up from his afternoon nap. I had recently seen this idea, and knew I had most of the supplies on hand, and that it would take up just the amount of time I needed to fill. The actual headbands I found at the craft store in the jewelry making section. These simple headbands were an immediate hit with the girls. Even my boys wanted to get involved in making them and were surprised, and even impressed, at how something so simple could be turned into something so ‘professional’ looking. Next time you’re feeling ‘crafty’, create your own easy and trendy pinwheel headband. They’re so simple, you can even make a spare to share, or several, quickly.

DIY Pinwheel Headbands

4 Sons 'R' Us: DIY Pinwheel Headbands

  • 2 different colors of felt, preferably coordinating and 1 sheet of each
  • 3 buttons
  • headband
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut out 2.5 x 2.5-inch squares of felt, 2 squares for each pinwheel.
  2. Starting at each corner, cut a slit toward the center of the square, measuring approximately 1.5-inches long. This should leave at least a half inch of the center of the square uncut.
  3. Now there are 4 “triangles” within each square.
  4. Place two of the coordinating squares together, one a top the other. Secure with a dot of glue in between each.
  5. Begin by folding over one corner of a triangle toward the center of the square. Place a small dot of hot glue in the center of the square to hold down the edge of the triangle. Continue around, gluing down every-other triangle corner to form a pinwheel shape. Continue for the second layer.

  6. Next, glue a button over the center of the pinwheel where all the triangle corners come together. Finally, put a little dab of glue on the headband and place the pinwheels!

Son # 2 ‘pouting’ that he didn’t get a headband too! I couldn’t help but laugh, I love my little comedians.

4 Sons 'R' Us

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Sometimes, I think my kids must find me a real drag. I mean, they love carbohydrates sooooo much. Why should they be forced to suffer through a salad? If they were meant to eat leaves, they would have been born cows… right? No.

I’m kidding. Just a little. Maybe. Really they don’t complain. Much.

However, this mean, green Mama came equipped with a wonderful little sensor. I can feel the resistance building. When I feel an attack of the ‘anti-leaf’ campaign approaching, I immediately resort to subterfuge. I find a way to get those greens in. I get behind their defenses and hit them where it hurts. Right in the taste buds. This recipe is a beautiful pairing of pasta and salad that they can’t resist. The secret ingredient? Bacon! They see the greens, they know they’re good for them. They know they should at least try to resist, but their surrender is inevitable. This dish is just too tasty. Support your own troops with this delicious pasta salad. Pack a punch that they won’t soon forget. Who said your greens had to taste ‘green’ anyway?!

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

  •  1 cup dry pasta; cooked according to package directions
  • 8 pieces bacon; cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 tbsp bacon grease*
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 head of lettuce (or whole if small), chopped**
  • 1 cup croutons (optional)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup casesar dressing (or more to taste)

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook bacon, reserve 1-2 tbsp of the drippings/grease.
  3. Transfer cooled pasta to a bowl and toss with the bacon drippings* until evenly combined.
  4. Add in all other ingredients and stir thoroughly until evenly combined.
  5. Add in more dressing if necessary, to taste, and again toss everything to evenly coat.
  6. Serve immediately.**

*Don’t skip the bacon drippnigs! I know it might be tempting, but the flavor just isn’t nearly as robust without it. Also, it helps prevent the pasta from sticking together if you want to let it chill or transport.

**If not serving immediately, DO NOT add in the lettuce until you are ready to serve. If you add in the lettuce and don’t serve immediately the lettuce will be wilted and soggy.

Caprese Grilled Cheese

Cheese. Cheeeeeeeese. Glorious cheese. Let’s take a moment to reflect on that. A moment of silence for cheese.

Our family loves cheese. In all it’s types, colors, flavors. In all it’s cheesy glory. We might even have a mild case of cheese addiction. Ok, we do, and ‘mild’ is probably an understatement. But, can there really be such a thing as too much cheese? Definitely not.

That being said, we all love a good, crisp, slightly crunchy grilled cheese with an ooey, gooey melty center. You know that part where you cut it in two, or in quarters, and pull out strings of cheese that could stretch forever when you try to take that first bite? Yeah, that’s my favorite part. My kids’, too.

As I’ve grown, you know into a ‘responsible adult’, there are some things from my childhood I’ve never been able to let go of. Despite all the changes of adulthood & parenthood, my love for a grilled cheese has not abated or been diminished. Luckily for me, my kids have inherited that same affinity. However, in an effort to appear grown up when I devour one, I’ve tried very hard to create and make ‘grown up’ grilled cheese sandwiches. I couldn’t leave them behind, but I did have to make sure they, at least some of the time, appeared to evolve with me.

Caprese Grilled Cheese is one of my favorite ‘grown-up’ versions to date. Everything I love about the original, but heartier. The butter, parmesan crust creates the perfect ‘crunch’ when bitten into. This sandwich offers everything a grilled cheese purist would expect, but has the power to convert all new fans with it’s fancy, shmancy new style. What’s the fun in being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes too? Here’s the perfect cheesy compromise. Eat like an adult, enjoy it like a kid.

The recipe below is for 2 sandwiches, but it easily doubles, or even triples. So don’t let that hold you back!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caprese Grilled Cheese

  • 4 thick slices of french bread
  • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 6 oz. mozzarella, sliced or shredded
  • 8-10 fresh, large basil leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • balsamic vinegar, optional

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat.
  2. Spread butter on one side of all four slices of bread. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the butter.
  3. Put all four pieces of bread, buttered side down into the skillet.
  4. Lay, or spread, mozzarella on all pieces of bread.
  5. Cover with a lid to keep the heat in and melt the cheese.
  6. Once the cheese is melted, lay the basil and sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese.
  7. If using vinegar, drizzle a tiny bit ( I use 1/2 tbsp) over top of the tomatoes now.
  8. Assemble the sandwiches by putting the tops on.
  9. Enjoy!

4 Sons 'R' Us: Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Copy-Cat Wendy’s Frosty

I scream. You scream. We all scream for Ice Cream! Well, in this case, for Frostys!

My guys all go absolutely ga-ga for the cold, creamy concoction. Just mention it around them and their eyes glaze over. The excitement is just too much for them to handle. It overrides all higher functioning brain activity. They’re like little ice cream zombies at that point. Instead of watching them aimlessly shuffle around, waiting for their dessert but not knowing what to do, or how to function until they get it, I get them involved in the process.

All ice-cream induced zombie-ism aside, we don’t use an actual ice cream ‘machine’. Instead I prefer using our ice cream ‘ball’. You can find them here. Amazon carries them in a variety of colors and sizes. I use the quart sized one to make enough for our entire family at once.

This is what my boys do for fun on a Friday night. I enjoy it because it gets them working together: laughing, joking, and playing. At the end of their teamwork? A sweet treat to share and enjoy. You’ve gotta love the little things in life.

Speaking of it being a Friday night, did I mention that I’m really not trying to drag all four kids out into a fast food line? Or even a grocery store check out line? Friday is for peace & quiet. For Mommy. I think I’ve earned a little time to relax by Friday night. Making  our own Frostys at home helps buy some extra little moments for me, and the zombies still get dessert. It’s a win-win, right?!

Copy-Cat Wendy’s Frosty

4 Sons 'R' Us: Copy-Cat Wendy's Frosty

  • 1/2 gallon chocolate milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tub of cool whip, 8 oz

Directions

  1. In a blender combine all ingredients.
  2. Pour into ice cream maker, and follow the machine’s instructions.
  3. Enjoy!

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

I often hear the saying ‘Boys And Their Toys’, but after having four of my own, I feel like it should really be ‘Boys And Their Forts’. It seems boys, or at least all four of mine, are biologically programmed to build forts. Almost like clock work, their first fort seemed to signify their ‘christening’ into Toddler-dom. After that, the building never stopped. Without fail, anytime I step foot into one of their bedrooms I find sheets strung up, taped up, tacked up. Up! Bins have been used as room dividers, with blankets for doors, and pillows inside serving as child-sized divans for lounging and comfort.

While I love the little kingdoms they create for themselves in their world of blankets and imagination, sometimes we just don’t have time for all the construction, and eventual clean-up, that that kind of creativity requires. When that happens, I go from being the beautiful ‘Mom Princess’, as the littlest son has dubbed me, to the mean old ogre storming the gates. I hate ruining harmless fun. Then I really feel like a giant grouchy, green ogre.

Stumbling upon Laura’s idea for an easy, DIY Bunk Bed Fort was a Godsend. It’s fast, easy, and there’s not a single thing to cut or sew! You can literally throw it up in 5 minutes. There’s not even a mess to clean up afterwards, and it’s always ready and waiting to play. Perfect for any ‘Mom Princess’ or ‘Queen of the Castle’, whether you’re raising young lords or little ladies, who wants to keep letting the good times roll, even when you’re running out of time.

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

4 Sons 'R' Us: The 5 Minute No Sew Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

  • flat sheet, twin sized
  • 12-14 curtain rings with clips
  • tension rod

Directions

  1. Slide your curtain rings onto the tension rod.
  2. Mount the tension rod to the bunk bed.
  3. Fold your twin-sized, flat sheet in half, lengthwise.
  4. Attach the clips on the fold, spacing them as evenly as possible so the whole sheet is evenly held up.
  5. You’re ready for playtime!

Look how it works.  The curtain can be all tucked away when not in use, but just slide it closed for your very own Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort. The sheet easily un-clips for washing, and the tension rod is equally easy to remove whenever desired.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

Delicious Dill Dip

Over the years, I’ve come to find that, in the summer, there’s nothing better for a light lunch or snack than some garden-fresh veggies. This Delicious Dill Dip is the perfect refreshing compliment for them. Even better, I like the sneaky little way it has of getting my kids to eat every last nutritious bite of good-for-them ‘green-stuff.’ I’m not sure who is more surprised, myself or my boys, when we discover a veggie plate can be emptied, and left without even a stray crumb of broccoli, quite that quickly. Never ceases to amaze us. However, even if you’re on the fence about how tasty raw, fresh veggies actually might be, could be… they do make the perfect edible spoon to get dip from bowl to mouth. Technically, you don’t even have to eat the veggies, but it might be more ‘socially acceptable’ than just digging into said dip with a spoon. And it’s that good. You’ll consider it. I’ve just got to make sure I keep that tid-bit under-wraps. You know, in the interest of trying to teach good-manners, and all those other sorts of life-lessons Moms must met out.

Delicious Dill Dip

4 Sons 'R' Us: Delicious Dill Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well.
  2. Chill for at least one hour before serving.
  3. Serve with fresh veggies, slices of crusty bread, crackers, or pretzels.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

There’s just something about ranch dressing and Mexican spices/flavors, that spells perfection in our house. I love an easy alternative to our beloved, more traditional, heavy ‘lasagna’. This recipe offers all the flavors of regular enchiladas, but with less prep work and an easier clean up. It makes a perfect meal for a summer evening when I’d rather spend more time playing with the boys, or enjoying some pool time. It’s summer, so allow this meal to help you kick back and relax while your crockpot and oven do (almost) all of the work for you.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ranch Chicken Enchilada Lasagna

  •  4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 4 flour tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • cilantro or parsley to garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle seasoning mixes over top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. Shred chicken with two forks and stir to evenly distribute juices and seasonings.
  3. In the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with two tortillas. Spread half of shredded chicken on tortillas, then 1/2 cup ranchdressing drizzled, and top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Repeat layers once more.
  5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through.
  6. Serve with additional ranch dressing as desired.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

In the rush of everyday life with a large family, and four children, there isn’t always time for a lot of relaxation. Usually just stolen moments. Even my showers have had to become ‘efficient’. However, on the weekends when the kids are in bed, I love to enjoy a nice, long soak in the tub. One of my creature comforts, despite budget constraints, has always been expensive bath products. I frequently use scented ones to create my own little atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It’s this wonderful little private bubble, where for a chunk of time, I don’t have any obligations or demands to meet. Something about the scented steam, just does it for me in the ‘reclaim a piece of my sanity’ department after a chaotic week. While I used to frequent kitschy stores and purchase the latest fragrant combinations to induce my ‘me time’. I’ve gradually shifted to making more and more of my own bath products. As I’ve found to be true with the majority of things, I like the results from this homemade version better than other’s I’ve purchased over the years toting the same ingredients. These bath salts are a breeze to mix up, and are heavenly to use. Just a few ingredients, and you can easily, and cheaply, produce your own affordable, quality bath salts. Make your reservations today for a little ‘spa’ treatment in the comfort of your own home.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

4 Sons 'R' Us: lemon rosemary bath salts

  • 2 cups epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary; finely chopped
  • 6-8 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine epsom salt and baking soda.
  2. Add in half of the essential oil drops, mix, then add in the remaining drops.
  3. Mix in the chopped rosemary and lemon zest if you decide to use it until fully combined.
  4. Store in an airtight container. 
  5. To use, add as much, or as little, as you’d like to hot bath water and stir around until dissolved.