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Posts tagged ‘kristen J Duca’

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).

UltimateMama always likes to have on hand the ingredients to make simple summertime small pita sandwiches to coordinate with a healthy yet easy lunch.  This summertime lunch takes only 10 minutes of preparation.  It is not only pleasing to the eye but also to the appetite.

Simple Summertime Small Pita Sandwiches recipe:

-Package of small whole wheat pitas

-Either honey maple turkey or honey maple ham thinly sliced (1 pound)

-Wisconsin cheddar cheese thinly sliced (1/2 pound)

-Mesclun or Boston lettuce

-Hummus and/or honey mustard

Slice all the small pitas open (leave one edge in tact for easy handling or “grab and go”).  Spread hummus or honey mustard on the tops of the pitas. Add the meat, cheese, and lettuce. Serve!

 

 

 

 

 

All natural tortilla chips with fresh salsa as well as vegetables with ranch dressing or Greek yogurt dip accompany the sandwiches nicely!


UltimateMama and her family recently spent 4 days and 3 nights in Berlin, Germany and organized a great family friendly itinerary.  The details:

– Stay at the Berlin Marriott Hotel near Potsdamer Platz (Inge-Beisheim-Platz 1 Berlin) as it is centrally located and offers an extensive, affordable buffet breakfast option when you book in advance. Plus, it has an indoor pool! If you want luxury the Ritz-Carlton Berlin hotel is a stone throw’s away

– See the Watchtower at nearby Potsdamer Platz

– Dine at Café LebensArt Berlin which is a short walk from the Marriott (UltimateMama suggests it for lunch)

 

 

 

 

 

– Walk through some of the 300 stores at the Mall of Berlin if shopping is your passion

– Stroll to Brandenburg Gate which is Berlin’s top landmark and represents a united Germany, post Cold War when it sat between East and West Berlin.  Tiergarten Park is nearby if you need a quick rest amongst greenery (additionally, visit the Berlin Zoo if you have time)

– Walk to the Topographie des Terrors museum which was the former headquarters of the SS during World War II

– Spend time at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

– Go over to see Checkpoint Charlie, which the Western Allies called the Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

– Hit the Pergamom Museum on museum island (or another of the many museums in that area)

– Head to the middle of Berlin to see the Berlin Wall Memorial which is quite expansive as well as educational

– Spend a Sunday afternoon at the Flea Market at Mauerpark.  UltimateMama’s family loved the freshly pressed juices

-Visit the Reichstag (Parliament building) which has been destroyed by arson, bombed, and reconstructed with a glass dome.  A tip to get a tour of the impressive dome is to book dinner at Kafer but be sure to make reservations in advance as you will most likely need to bring passports

 

 

 

 

 

– Travel over to the East Side Gallery which was UltimateMama’s favorite part of the trip as it represents an open air monument of murals to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Context Travel offers an amazing Berlin Wall for Kids tour for families that also includes a trip to the TV Tower where UltimateMama’s children enjoyed the 360 degree views and Bubble Bar’s bubble tea nearby


 

 

 

 

 


 

UltimateMama recently surprised her children with heart shaped omelets for breakfast with her new Norpro nonstick pancake/egg rings. The result you ask? Nothing short of utter amazement with lots of laughs from her kids. Worth it! Whether you are celebrating the start/end of the school year, birthdays, summer camp send off, academic/athletic achievements, holidays, or really anything, your child will love starting the day with egg (or pancake) hearts for breakfast!

 

Finding Childcare in Summer Months

By Kristen J. Duca

06-26-19 June 2019 NY Family Finding Childcare in Summer Months article by Kristen

With summer right around the corner, it is not too early to think about childcare alternatives, especially considering your busy life doesn’t end with the school year.

Nannies and sitters need breaks too, but parent need not fret. Sometimes a little vacation is good for all – the family appreciates the childcare provider more, and the provider realizes her strong bond with the family.  Work, social obligations, and activities never stop, so when your child’s caretaker needs a well-deserved break from your family, you need to be prepared with arranging back up childcare.

Respect your childcare provider and let her know far in advance (if possible) when you will be on vacation or taking a day off and do not need her to work. Ask her to give you the same courtesy of advance notice regarding the days she needs off. Remember, you and your childcare provider are a team, and if backup child care is necessary, you need to be prepared.

Some families work with their childcare providers to coordinate vacation schedules, so either limited, or no backup, childcare is needed. Of course, this may be ideal, but not practical in every situation.

Your first thoughts may be “nobody is around” in the summer months, but take a step back, breathe, and tap into your network (that which you have been building since your child was born).

There are myriad childcare options in the summer months for your family to ponder together.   These examples below are creative solutions to your summertime childcare needs that will enable your family to continue your routine in a safe, efficient, and seamless manner without disruption.

1 Family members. You may not have wanted to hit up grandma or grandpa or your child’s favorite aunt during the school year, but summertime is a great season to reach out for extra help from those who share your genes. Keep in mind that is it okay to ask family members for help with your child.  But be aware of what assistance you are asking for, and make sure it is reasonable. If a family member does not feel comfortable accepting monetary compensation from you, then find another way to express your gratitude – possibly with gift cards, event tickets, restaurant certificates, and so on.

2 School teachers. Many are looking for extra cash during the summer months and are more than happy to see your children outside the formal classroom setting. Your child will beam when their beloved teacher enters your home.  Many times school teachers have flexible summer schedules that enable them to be “on call” for families when babysitting requests arise.

3 Camp counselors. These workers who are typically high school or college aged may be able to help with your child during pre-camp drop-off and post-camp pick-up hours. Parents usually structure the time a camp counselor spends with their child by suggesting or putting out a few different play-based activities or projects for them to work on together. Most formal camp programs have already vetted the counselors who work with the children, but it doesn’t hurt to further check into their credentials, training, and backgrounds, before you reach out to them as possible caretakers for your child.

4 Nannies of friends. Take advantage of your friends who leave town in the summer months by offering their nannies an opportunity to make additional money by working extra hours with your family. Be clear upfront about what you expect the nanny to accomplish each day with your child, as it may vary from what your friend has them do.  Typically, a nanny’s responsibilities may include assisting your child with feeding or grooming, as well as transporting them to classes, parties, day camps, social functions, and appointments.

Just remember, thinking about your summertime childcare needs starts with you, and it is never too early to plan for your family. A multitude of summertime childcare possibilities exist for you to consider.  You are in the driver’s seat and can choose the path that best fits your family’s needs and remain sane in the process.

Kristen Duca and her husband are the parents of two girls in New York City. She has worked in the financial services industry for more than two decades. Duca is the author of “Ultimate Nanny:  How to Find, Interview, and Manage the Most Important Person You Will Ever Hire – Your Child’s Nanny” available on amazon.com.  She blogs at ultimatemama.com.

New York Family magazine June 2019 (published)

06-26-19 June 2019 NY Family Finding Childcare in Summer Months article by Kristen

https://www.nyparenting.com/assets/print/queens/2019_06_qf.pdf