Hippity Hop-pity, Easter’s on It’s Way: Easter Bunny Garden with Peeps

My Mom always sang us the “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail” song around this time. And, between her and Grammy, we were sure to have plenty of candy, including Peeps! I honestly don’t think you can have Easter without these sugary, marshmallowy, packages of cuteness.

Yesterday, I needed to make a run for some labels at Dollar Tree and, as I expected, the Easter section sucked me in. Have I ever told you that I’m in love with the Dollar Tree? So many wonderful things only priced at a dollar. I got some extra-fun goodies for Easter baskets so it was a successful trip, especially since I managed to get the labels, which is what I made the trip for.

I also bought some peeps and some gummy carrots. I have been waiting on an opportune time to make “dirt cups” with pudding and some crushed up brownies I had leftover in the freezer for a while. The moment I saw the peeps next to the carrots, I knew it was the perfect time to put these gardens together for the kiddos.

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsAnna was super excited and helpful with our fun little project. Thank goodness it was an easy one…. although we did have quite a bit of “dirt” on the floor.

We made the chocolate pudding together and processed the brownies. Anna got to scoop the “dirt” (processed brownies crumbs) into the bottom and top of the dishes. Then she got to top the garden off with a gummy carrot and a Peep.  You can use processed Oreos too but I needed to use the brownies and they were tastier than the Oreos I’ve used for this in the past.

Anna’s last job was to lick the bowl. I wish I’d taken a picture of her chocolate-covered face because it was adorable and disgusting at the same time!

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsEveryone except Kate dug into their cup o’ dirt (She oddly enough doesn’t really like sweets much. It’s mind boggling that she’s mine!). Kate actually spit it out and said “Yuck, dirt!”

Even Garen enjoyed them. Ok, maybe not the Peep or the gummy carrot but he quickly ate the rest of it. The smiles and laughs made it all worth the time…and honestly, this was a pretty easy dessert/craft project. That’s the best of both worlds!

Enjoy!!!

This post is all my own opinions.  I’m not getting a kick-back from Peeps or Dollar Tree.  I just happen to be a satisfied customer.  
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Mommy Review Monday: Ceramic “Non-stick” Instant Pot Bowl

After the first two times cooking in the Instant Pot, Garen, who usually cleans the kitchen after I cook, suggested that we look for a “non-stick” version.  Sooooo….I went to Amazon.  Where else?

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlHere’s what we found and purchased:  Genuine Instate Pot Ceramic Non-Stick Interior Coated Inner Cooking Pot- 8 Quart.

Positives:

  • It is lightweight.  I read some reviews that people thought the lightweight properties made it not as great to use but I’ve had no issue with that affecting our dishes so far.  This could be a issue later potentially if it bends but I think being careful with it will prevent that.  Only time will tell.
  • It wasn’t as expensive as I expected, ringing up at $24.99 at the time I purchased it.  I really think it’s worth that much just to have a second bowl should I need one with a meal that requires multiple dishes cooked in your Instant Pot.
  • It seems to cook just as well as the original for the dishes I’ve used it for.
  • It fits fine into my Instant Pot even though I did read some reviews that some people got pots that would not fit correctly.
  • It cleans better than the regular pot it came with.  Yes, I am the mom that hates having to soak and/or scrub dishes.  And I married to a man that hates it too and since he does most of the kitchen clean-up when I cook, I’m going to make his job as easy as possible when I can.

Negatives:

  • I wouldn’t say it’s still completely non-stick but it’s still way easier to clean that the original pot.  See above comment. 
  • This isn’t really a negative so much as an added requirement- you must use non-metal utensils.  This isn’t an issue for me since I rarely use metal anyway due to almost always cooking in non-stick pots and pans.
  • You can’t use the metal steamer insert your Instant Pot comes with.  Actually, you can but I don’t recommend it because it will scratch the coating, just like metal utensils would.  Because of this I’m still using my original pot for boiling eggs, steaming, etc. but you can be assured that this silicone steamer set is my next purchase.  I’ll let you know how it works!

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlWhat are your favorite Instant Pot accessories?  I’d love for you to share!

Happy Instant Potting!

For the record, I’m not getting any compensation or free stuff for writing this review.  These are strictly my opinions.  I’m just a crazy, working mom, trying to share ways to make your life easier!

Glazed Brown Sugar & Bacon Pork Loin via Instant Pot

I’m still learning to use my Instant Pot.  And still loving it.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to have my parents over for Anna’s birthday lunch.  I made the mistake of not planning very well and couldn’t find the recipe I wanted for the pork loin I planned to make that morning.

So, in true Liz-fashion, I searched Pinterest and did a combination of things to come up with what I’m now calling Glazed Brown Sugar & Bacon Pork Loin.  I served it with whipped new potatoes and broccoli.  According to the family, it was pretty tasty so I’m sharing in case you’ve got some pork to cook!

Glazed Brown Sugar & Bacon Pork Loin via Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Pork Loin (mine came in two pack, about 1 lb each)
  • 8-10 slices of bacon
  • 2-4 tbsp Tone’s Rosemary Garlic Seasoning Blend (I’m sure you can find a similar homemade version but I buy this at Sam’s club)
  • 4 tbsp Dijon mustard (grainy gives it a little better)
  • 2/3 cup Brown sugar
  • 1 cup Chicken broth

Instructions

  • Rub the pork loin with the Rosemary Garlic Seasoning Blend
  • Wrap the pork loin(s) with bacon strips.
  • Place the pork loin(s) into the Instant Pot bowl.
  • Combine the Dijon mustard and brown sugar with the chicken broth.
  • Pour the chicken broth mixture into the bottom of the Instant Pot bowl.
  • Close the lid of the Instant Pot and set the valve to sealing.
  • Press Manual and adjust the time to 30 minutes.  It will take a while to come to pressure and then start the count-down.
  • When time is up, allow the Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for about 5 minutes. The display will indicate how many minutes since the Instant Pot completed the cooking cycle.
  • Then quick release the rest of the way.
  • Open the lid and remove the pork loin to serving dish or platter.

Optional Steps:

  • To make the bacon a little crispier, put the cooked pork loin into the oven on broil for a few minutes.  BE VERY CAREFUL with this step because you can very easily over cook the pork this way, which would be super sad.
  • You can make gravy/sauce out of the juices.  To do this:
    • Combine 1-1/2 tbsp cornstarch and 3 tbsp of water.
    • Add this to the juices left in the Instant Pot bowl.
    • Whisk this mixture and juices.
    • Continue to whisk for about 1 – 2 minutes while the sauce thickens into a gravy.
    • Turn the Instant Pot off once this has thickened.
    • Pour some of the gravy onto the cooked pork loin and put the rest into a gravy boat.

There you have it.  It was super easy and tasty.  You can cook your broccoli and whipped new potatoes while it’s going so your meal is ready in about 45-50 total start to finish and it looks like you’ve spent hours.  Next time, I may try to add the potatoes, knowing this may not allow me to make a gravy.  We will see…. I’ll let you know if I do!

Happy Instant Potting!

Photo Friday: A girl and her doll

We got Anna her first American Doll for her birthday. She loves it. Garen got this photo of us “doing hair.”

I love it. So real. So special.

Here’s another great one that Garen took.

Happy Photo Friday!

Dashboard Randomness: Sunrises and Bluebonnets

Today I had a golf tournament for one of the regional associations I’m part of in San Antonio. Usually, when I go to San Antonio I will drive down the night before but I have been on the go so much lately I decided to just wake up early and drive this morning. And, boy, did four o’clock a.m. come early?!?

However, I really enjoyed drive. I got the opportunity to be let my mind wander and through anything and everything. No music. No audiobook audiobook. No podcast. No phone calls.

Just me and the open road, a beautiful sunrise, and miles and miles of beautiful bluebonnets.

The 130 loop around Austin is absolutely gorgeous right now. That might not seem like a logical place to go look at bluebonnets but there are miles of them in the huge median between the north and sound sides of the tollway.

Add to that, this afternoon I got to play golf on a beautiful course with some awesome customers, who made it a blast!

The only thing that would be better would be to be at home tucking my kiddos in tonight because I sure do miss them (and Garen too)! I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?!? Thank goodness for FaceTime!

Mommy Review Monday: Care.com for Finding Childcare

I have excellent babysitters/nannies that help us out.  And, with four kids and both of us traveling for work, boy, do we need it?!?  When I tell people that we have great sitters they typically ask me how I found them.  It’s hard to find good help from word-of-mouth.  If you hear about someone who’s great, guess what?  They’re already busy helping someone else.   Or they’re busy with school or extracurricular activities.

Moms and Dads, the struggle is real….

So here’s how we found our awesome helpers:  We have used Care.com twice now to find regular babysitters/nannies for our litter.  And we’ve been pleased with the result both times- in fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had our first babysitter that we found there for over two years now.  Time flies when you have good help I guess!

We recently found another babysitter- only because our regulars are getting busier as they “grow up” (they’re nursing students and school and “real jobs” keep them from helping out as much).  The process was good again.

I’ll admit that I was very leery of using Care.com.  It seemed so unthinkable to find a babysitter online.  I mean, they’re your kids!!!  But, like I said above, the struggle was real.  Really real.  We need the help with our work schedules to maintain sanity in our household.

Here’s what I liked about it:

  • You can post a position with exactly what you’re looking for in a sitter from hours to age to experience, etc.  Do you want them to have reliable transportation?  Great.  Add that to your requirements.
  • You can view their profile- not just their photo but also their experience and information.  I sorted through these carefully.  I don’t care what people look like but it is important to have that so that when you meet them, if you want to meet them in a public place, you’ll know who to be looking for.  You can avoid awkwardly walking up to someone in Starbucks and asking if they are so and so there to interview for a babysitting job.
  • You can ask for certain certifications such as CPR and first aid.  This is important to me if I’m going to leave my kids alone with them.  Our sitters are all nursing students, so we feel very comfortable.
  • There is the ability to read and post reviews about the providers.  This is very helpful in seeing what other families’ experiences were.
  • There’s the ability to message on the system with them without giving them your phone number or address, etc.  (See below for the flip side of this too)
  • If you’re interested in Au Pairs as an option, you can look at different companies and some of the Au Pairs that they offer.  We seriously explored this as an option but since we currently don’t want to pay for that level of care when the girls are still in pre-school, which would be an additional cost.  Oh, and our extra bedroom is currently serving as my office too, so that would be something we’d have to work out.  Maybe someday.
  • There’s a good search feature.  That is an obvious must.  As you are reviewing them you can add them to your favorites so you can easily find them later. See below image for these search filters available.

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  • The app is pretty good as well.  If you’re like me, the time in between errands, work, etc. is not at your computer so being able to quickly look at this on your mobile device is very helpful.  You also have the option to get notifications.  I personally hate phone notifications.  My semi-ADHD personallity gets overwhelmed by them so I’ve got them turned off.  It’s nice to have the options should I ever get in a position where I really, really needed help quickly though.

Additional options that I haven’t used but could also be helpful:

  • If you’re looking for child care centers, you can look at them online- although, there aren’t that many reviews online for that so you’d be better off reviewing them on another search engine than this site.  I also would say that there’s a good chance they don’t have all centers on here since it’s likely the center has to pay them to be hosted.
  • Family childcare (what I always called in-home daycare) is an option you may want to explore.  You can view their information, reviews, and whether they’re certified, etc.
  • If you’re in need of someone with experience with special needs, that is something that you can easily search for.
  • They have a search function for senior/elderly care, which is great if you have a family member you may need assistance with.
  • You can pay your babysitters through them.  We don’t do this but if we were having someone full time this might be something we’d look into, so it could be a good feature if that’s what you’re considering.
  • You can schedule them online.  Again, we don’t do that.  I find that texting our sitters works just fine and I feel like it’s more personal.  It’s always nice to have the option I guess though.
  • Do you need housekeeping or other help around the house?  You can post a job or search for candidates on here.
  • Do you need help with your fur babies?  You can get a dog sitter or walker or even someone to feed your pet lizard on here.  Our cat fends for herself while we’re gone most of the time but we’ll be looking into this if we ever go on an extended vacation.
  • Not sure if you feel confident in their record?  You can do background checks on here as a extra precaution.
  • You could put yourself out there as a caregiver/provider as well.  I’ve not tried it but sometimes I feel like, hey, what’s a few more when you have four???  Just kidding but some extra money might be good.

What I would change:

  • I’d love for it to cost less.  This year the subscription was $168.00 without tax.  I’ll admit that I feel as if I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it just finding our gem of a babysitter and knowing that I can find additional help pretty easily, but still…. that’s a lot.  The only good thing about it is that it automatically renews for me yearly so I don’t really have to think about it too much until I’m up for renewal and it shows up on my statement.  I think there are shorter subscriptions but it’s nice to be able to find help all year long and the yearly subscription is the best rate available.
  • I had a hard time getting our sitter’s contact information outside of the site, which doesn’t allow you to share phone numbers.  You can call them through the site but not text.  Please, please correct me if this is “user error” on my part.  I think this is a safety thing but it did make it harder than I’d like.  I had to get her email to have her send me her phone number so I could text her.  (You know us (barely) millennials and younger- we like to text each other rather than actually talk to someone on the phone)

There you go- Care.com- from a busy working mom.  It’s been good to us.  I’d love to hear your tips on finding good sitters/nannies.  What has worked best for you???

ALSO:  For the record- I am NOT getting paid or any discount from Care.com, although if anyone from there is reading this and wants to give me a discount, I’d take it!!!