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UltimateMama started her Valentine’s Day shopping early this year to ensure everything would arrive on time.  With items from Williams Sonoma, Amazon.com, and Lindt, UltimateMama’s kids will be in for a great holiday treat!

American Girl by Williams Sonoma Cookbooks $11.99 each (from $19.95)

Gray Malin 500 piece puzzle $20.29

Ravensburger 300 piece puzzle $18.49

Lindt assorted chocolates $5.99 (from $11.99)

Disney Frozen II Holiday Mug with Double Chocolate Cocoa Mix & Marshmallow Pop $5.99 each


UltimateMama loves to serve watermelon to her kids after-school or for parties.  The trick is to make the fruit both appetizing and mess-free.  UltimateMama slices it rather thinly then cuts the rind so that only a little “top hat” is left and kids can’t get enough of it!


UltimateMama often forgoes serving soda at her children’s birthday parties or family holiday parties due to the high sugar content.  Seltzer water is a decent alternative but UltimateMama has heard a few complaints about the carbonation on more than one occasion.  Over the years, UltimateMama has created infused water recipes for special gatherings.  It is a quick, healthy, and cost-effective way to appease both children and adults (not to mention no-mess, no-stress).  And, if your guests close their eyes they will feel like they are at a top spa!

A few infused water ideas include:

– Cucumber slices

-Strawberry, mint, lime

– Raspberry, pineapple

– Apple, cinnamon stick

– Strawberry, cucumber

– Rosemary, grapefruit

– Honeydew, watermelon, mint

– Thyme, lemon

– Orange, blueberry

– Blackberry, mint

– Orange, kiwi

– Cucumber, lemon

– Lemon, lime, mint, ginger

– Cucumber, celery, lemon

– Blueberry, lemon

– Blueberry, orange, basil

– Jalapeno, cucumber, mint

– Orange, lemon, basil



Whether your child is celebrating a birthday party, first communion, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, holiday event, or end of season team championship, UltimateMama believes a Donut Wall would make everyone excited. A Donut Wall is perfect for any occasion and is great for kids of all ages (not to mention adults).

To add a bit of pizzazz, one could offer assorted toppings for the donuts, including frostings, icings, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, caramel sauce, nuts, shredded coconut, sprinkles, red hots, nonpareils, dried fruit, candy (M&Ms), cookie crumbles, (Oreo, Fruit Loops, Rice Krispies, etc.), or candied citrus peel.

Donuts are the perfect dessert for any kids party or even an ideal party favor to take home in a box (hello tomorrow’s breakfast)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


UltimateMama discovered a clever way to entice her kids, their friends, and any adults nearby to eat more vegetables.  Shot glass crudité!  These fancy appetizers or after school snacks are easy to make and incredibly pleasing to the eye.  They are great to serve at parties, picnics, or BBQs too.

The 2 step shot glass crudité recipe takes only a few minutes to complete:

– Fill the bottom of the shot glass with hummus, ranch dressing, smashed avocado, or other vegetable dips

– Place pre-cut vegetables such as carrots, celery, asparagus, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, or peppers in the glass

– Serve

If serving kids vegetables in shot glasses sounds a bit risqué (or inappropriate) UltimateMama suggest you try using boiled egg cups or holders instead!


UltimateMama realizes the holidays are sneaking up on everyone so she wanted to give her recommendation on a quick and easy centerpiece idea for entertaining.  Pre-made, fresh, floral bouquets are an affordable and convenient way of sprucing up any table place setting.

UltimateMama loves to use fragrant flowers such as roses.  She always lets her children select the colors.  It is so easy to create a festive centerpiece as one just places the bouquet (or bouquets) in a vase and the table is ready for any party or event. For longer tables, UltimateMama is a fan of alternating the bouquet colors in beautiful crystal vases.

Since the fresh flowers in the bouquet arrangement usually last for a few days the bouquet vases are great addition to the table for all meals when one has overnight or weekend guests!

 


UltimateMama believes an easy way to spruce up boring cupcakes is to pipe frosting in a creative pattern and place a decorative cupcake pick on top.  Cupcake picks (which are basically toothpicks with clever themes or messages on top) can be found in many grocery, party, or craft stores and are an inexpensive way to jazz up cupcakes for any occasion! A pack of 36 costs under $5 and if you have leftovers you can use them for appetizers too.


UltimateMama will admit that in the past her children were less than enthusiastic about eating a wide variety of fruit in the morning madness rush of breakfast.  After years of washing fruit and placing it into individual, colorful bowls on the breakfast table, UltimateMama realized that much of it was going to waste.  The children were only eating a strawberry here or a blueberry there.  Not exactly a healthy, well-balanced start to the day.

A thought occurred to her–the real trick to make eating fruit fun at any age is PRESENTATION!  UltimateMama realized that placing the already washed, cut, and prepared fruit into colorful, elegant glass trifle bowls created a fancy, holiday feel to the breakfast table.  UltimateMama’s children couldn’t stop smiling….and eating!


UltimateMama and her girls can’t resist thinking back to their trip to Spain a few years ago and longing for the excitement of Barcelona.  Since flying to Europe was out of the question last weekend, UltimateMama decided to do the next best thing–make paella with her girls for Friday night dinner. Using a brilliant Matiz paella rice recipe, the girls made an out of this world seafood paella! The one catch–make sure you have saffron on hand–expensive but worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matiz Seafood Paella recipe:

Heat 8 cups of fish or chicken broth with 1 teaspoon of saffron (we used a bit more) in a pot.  In a separate (very) large pan, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat.  Add 1-2 medium sized diced onions to the oil and fry until translucent (6 minutes, approximately). Add 1 chopped red bell pepper and 1 chopped orange-yellow bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 16 oz diced artichokes (canned), 28 oz diced tomatoes (canned), and 4 cloves of diced garlic — simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour in 4 cups of Matiz Paella rice and stir until the rice is fully covered with the sofrito tomato mixture.

Carefully add the broth to the paella. Gently move the rice mixture around until evenly distributed. Do not “stir” the rice after this part.

After 10 minutes place your fresh seafood (white fish, uncooked shrimp without the shells, mussels, clams, etc.) into the mixture one by one and evenly distribute the seafood. After about 10 minutes add piquillo pepper to garnish and add color. In another 15 minutes or so the water should be completely absorbed and you can remove from heat. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. You can serve it directly from the pan (add wedges of lemon or lime if you want to impress).


Summer months are made for relaxing with some new books.  Whether your child is reading while resting poolside, laying on a hammock, or cuddling in bed, it is always fun to pleasure read in the summertime in the absence of time pressures that the school year often brings each fall.  A few of UltimateMama’s favorite summer reading books for those who are 10, 11, 12, and 13 years old as follows:

My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald which happens to be book one in a series for tween girls

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby which is also book one in a series

The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl by Stacy McAnulty about a post-lightening strike math genius

The Penderwicks: A Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall is a classic summertime tale and just one book in Birdsall’s witty series