Margarita Mama

An Hour of Code

Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Activities, Ava, Featured, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, school | 3 comments

I was thrilled that my sassy little bit came home last week asking to play on Code.org after Ava’s school and many others held an “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week.

Hello Kitty glasses

Ava looking smart in Hello Kitty glasses

If you haven’t heard about it before, this the mission stated on the Code.org website:

Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.

While that may sound intimidating, these people clearly know how to get into kids’ heads and work with them. (Note: Although there are several options to try, Frozen still rules the world.)

Elsa and Anna on Code.org

Early readers like my first-grader will probably need a little help going through the steps. And an hour is a really long time to hold a young child’s interest in anything.

But there are options for different age groups, the steps can be done in pieces and the point is really to introduce something that many children would not otherwise experience. So even just checking it out and paging through it a bit to see what happens is pretty cool.

Give it a shot!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Home for the holidays fashion

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Christmas, Featured, holidays, home, Margarita Mama, shopping, The Promenade at Chenal | 6 comments

With only a few weeks until Christmas, it’s time to get decorating and make things warm, cozy and welcoming for family celebrations and other guests.

I’ve been out at the Promenade at Chenal quite a bit lately, and I’ve seen all kinds of things that can help finish up those holiday preparations.

The brand new Home Goods store is packed with goodies. There are so many things to fall in love with that it’s hard to choose just a few. I especially adored these boxes that could pull double duty as decor or gift packaging. They’re a steal at $5.99, $7.99 and $9.99.

Santa's Workshop boxes

reindeer wreatj

Wreaths in various sizes and prices

Home Goods barware

A decanter and cocktail shaker to covet at $12.99 and $16.99, perfect for Christmas parties involving bigger crowds

Nearby at Sleep Number — a store you might not think of dropping into — there’s some truly beautiful bedding. And my fave, a super soft cranberry-colored throw blanket that’s got a touch of seasonal sparkle.

Smart Classics plush throw

Smart Classics plush throw, $39.99

A stop into Tipton Hurst is sure to get your Christmas vibes going. Nearly every inch of the store is stocked with something beautiful, and it’s hard to choose just a few things to buy. Everything is so pretty and sparkly!

Hundreds of beautiful ornaments

Hundreds of ornaments in every color you can imagine.

Santa and snowman

Sweet Santa and snowman decor

Holiday accents

Holiday accents to fit every theme

Anthropologie is a perfect place to drop in if you’ve got company coming and you want to find a few small touches to make people feel at home.

Seasonal candles to warm up any space, $18

Seasonal candles to warm up any space, $18

Gorgeous soaps, perfect for guests, $8

Gorgeous soaps, perfect for guests, $8

Another new store, Mrs. Polka Dot, has plenty of things to round out your party setup.

Mrs. Polka Dot's Christmas collection

Just a bit of Mrs. Polka Dot’s Christmas collection. Personalized plate, $29

tea towels, bowl

Reindeer tea towels, 2 for $16, and bowl with spreader, $14

Happy shopping everyone! If you have any tried-and-true tips for making guests feel at home — or even just making your home feel like Christmas for your own family — I’d love to hear them.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

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Note: This is a compensated post. However, all opinions are my own, of course.

The Promenade at Chenal

It’s Elf on a Shelf time

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Activities, Ava, Christmas, Featured, holidays, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, twins | 1 comment

Elfie has returned! (Probably a few days later than most of the rest of the Elf on a Shelf dolls of the world.)

Elf on a Shelf, having fun

Elfie, our Elf on a Shelf

Yes, it’s a little creepy. And kind of a pain to keep up with. But last year I gave in after quite a bit of begging and arranged for a Santa to send us one of his magical behavior-reporting elves for the season.

However, I don’t go all out with this gig. Our Elf on a Shelf mostly does lame things like ride the banister. Or hang on a doorknob. Or show up sitting near the bathroom sink. This cup gig is about as creative as it gets.

You know what? They love it all the same. Ava, Kayla and Kendall will all jump out of bed and go running to see where Elfie has popped up.

No need for fancy, Pinterest-worthy arrangements. (I can’t bare to waste all those marshmallows people use in making those cute setups!!)

Besides, it reminds us all that there should be a little magic in Christmas. A little wonderment. And a lot of love.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

The long weekend

Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Activities, Ava, daddy, family, holidays, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, shopping, Thanksgiving, The Promenade at Chenal, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Well, that holiday didn’t quite go as planned.

We had planned a Thanksgiving meal with relatives and then a smaller celebration at home afterward. Instead, Kendall woke up in the middle of the night with a raging fever, and began purging her insides out first thing in the morning.

Daddy fled the house with the other girls to the lunch destination, while Kendall and I hunkered down for 48 hours of living in the Hot Zone. It wasn’t pretty, and  I nearly took her to the hospital since she couldn’t keep down anything at all and seemed to be getting worse. Somehow on Day 3, it all stopped. And for that, we were thankful.

After she rested most of the day Saturday, we knew we had to get out for just a few minutes to get everyone some fresh air and de-crankify. Fortunately, we were right on time for the Promenade at Chenal’s tree lighting ceremony, which I figured would help us get back in the right spirit.

Believe it or not, this is the best Santa visit we've had yet, even though Kendall was exhausted and crying

Believe it or not, this is the best Santa visit we’ve had yet, even though Kendall was exhausted and crying

These sweet kids handed out teddy bears from Bale to kids visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus

These sweet kids handed out teddy bears from Bale to kids visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus

Clearly, we weren’t up to the shopping I had planned to get done this weekend. I’ve never actually gotten to go Black Friday shopping — ever. And clearly, that streak was unfortunately unbroken this year. To appease Ava, who had been looking forward to starting in on our Christmas list together and who was an extremely good helper through all this, we ducked into Crazy 8 and got her a new dress off the clearance rack. (And ran into Ava’s kindergarten teacher and her adorable kiddos!)

But we at least got in one cute family pic with the Christmas tree with everyone managing a smile before we had to run back home.

A family selfie

A family selfie

Wishing you happy holidays and good health!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Holiday activities in Little Rock

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Activities, Christmas, Featured, holidays, Margarita Mama, The Promenade at Chenal | 1 comment

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Family pizza night

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in daddy, dessert, eating/food, Food, home, Margarita Mama, Uncategorized | 3 comments

You’ve heard happy wife = happy life, right? Well, I’ve got the real secret to marital bliss and family harmony.

Marry a pizza guy.

When I met Daddy, he was a pizza delivery driver. Shortly thereafter, he regularly wooed me with perfectly placed toppings brought straight to my door.

And he’s still got skills — they especially come in handy on dreary nights when it’s too cold to go out.

pizza daddy skills

Daddy’s got mad pizza skills

I mean, really. Look at this beauty (or what’s left of it, anyway):

pizza night

Oh yeah. That’s half pepperoni with cream cheese (a Nebraskan special) and half pepperoni, ham and onions

No one turns this dinner down. Especially when they get to help make their own. (Cheese only, obviously.)

pizza kids

Pizza lovin’ kids

Last but not least, this.

dessert pizza

Brown sugar cinnamon dessert pizza with a scoop of vanilla

It’s pure love. Family pizza night rocks.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp

Posted by on Nov 16, 2014 in Arkansas Women Bloggers, cocktails, Dips & appetizers, eating/food, Food, holidays, Margarita Mama, Recipes, seafood, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | 4 comments

In preparation for the holidays, a group of us from Arkansas Women Bloggers were treated to an amazing day filled with fresh food, drinks and even a few cooking lessons at Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp.

I’d never once before strayed from having Cajun’s dinnertime-only Boston casserole, which features shrimp, King crabmeat, lobster and scallops, linguine, broccoli and water chestnuts bathed in newburg sauce and topped with mozzarella. It’s so ridiculously good. (My husband always gets the Six and Six — bacon-wrapped shrimps paired with grilled sea scallops. We’re predictable people.)

But now Cajun’s is open for lunch, too, giving me a chance to cheat on my Cajun’s favorite with something else.

Cajun's appetizer platter, featuring blackened chicken eggrolls, artichoke dip, crab au gratin and my favorite, oysters bienville

Cajun’s appetizer platter, featuring blackened chicken eggrolls, artichoke dip, crab au gratin and my favorite, oysters bienville

shrimp and crawfish cakes

shrimp and crawfish cakes — sweet Gulf shrimp and crawfish tossed with Cajun spices and served atop a Cajun cream sauce

After sampling a few wines and an amazing array of appetizers with my fellow bloggers, I settled on a classic for lunch — the Cajun Po’Boy with shrimp. As much as I loved the sandwich, I could have eaten a whole vat of the loaded hashbrown casserole. I’ll most definitely be returning for that.

Po'Boy with fried shrimp

Cajun Po’Boy with fried shrimp, presented on a hoagie with chipotle remoulade, tomato and coleslaw with a side of cheesy, loaded hashbrown casserole

After stuffing us to the brim, co-owner Mary Beth Ringgold presented us with a cooking demonstration that included an elegant mussels and clams dish, tips on how to make a great turkey and a new take on sweet potato casserole.

Prepped and ready to get cooking

Prepped and ready to get cooking

A cooking lesson with Mary Beth Ringgold

A lesson with Mary Beth Ringgold

Ringgold suggests brining and later stuffing a turkey with leeks, lemons, pears and honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples. Another pro tactic she shared was crisping the turkey skin to a golden brown first at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Afterward, turn down the oven to about 340 degrees and foil tent your turkey for the remaining cook time, without opening the door again to get a juicy yet perfectly done breast.

She also shared her mom’s sweet potato casserole recipe. It’s sneakily similar to one on the Gourmet-to-Go menu at Cajun’s sister restaurant, Capers, so you know it’s a winner.

Main casserole:

  • 4 lbs. sweet potatoes, sliced and oven roasted ahead of time
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Topping (can be made ahead and frozen):

  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Mix main ingredients and spread in a casserole dish, then evenly spread the topping. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. If the topping browns too quickly, cover with foil until finished. (Or, heck, pick one up at Capers!)

Another thing Cajun’s Wharf is famous for is its Play-De-Do drink, a delicious pink concoction served in mason jars that never fails to please. Its seasonal twist on the classic is a Holly-De-HoHo — and I can attest that it will make you just as happy.

holiday sangria

Holly-De-HoHo pomegranate sangria

If you want to try making your own version, here’s the recipe:

  • one bottle of red wine (use the kind that you like!)
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

Cajun’s suggestions for adding holiday flair are to garnish with pomegranate seeds, orange slices, green apple slices and grapes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Surprise snow

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Christmas, crockpot, Food, Margarita Mama, snow | 1 comment

While the rest of us are dreading the SNOW PANIC of the season, at least someone was genuinely thrilled to wake up to see the extremely light dusting of white powder on trees, decks and cars this morning.

The girls of winter

The girls of winter

Among the morning howling for oatmeal to warm their bellies and dogs scratching at the door to get out, I realized what had happened and yelled out, “Snow!”

Kendall was immediately overcome with the sense of excitement and yelled out in return, “Christmas!” (Ava quickly explained to her that, sadly, it’s not Christmas every time it snows.)

It’s looking like we may get another shot at this snow thing this weekend. So everyone, do as we do in Arkansas and run out to claim all the milk and bread you can find at the store. Meanwhile, I’m feeling well stocked already. I’m about to fill up the crockpot, as nature instructs you to do on a frozen day.

Stay warm out there.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

Seasonal meals with Strippaggio

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Alaina, Christmas, dessert, Dips & appetizers, eating/food, family, Food, holidays, main dish, Margarita Mama, shopping, side dishes, Thanksgiving, The Promenade at Chenal, Uncategorized | 1 comment

We’ve reached what is officially the busiest time of year. It’s full steam ahead from now until January, when the holidays are over. But a little advance planning can help take the edge off from the stress of seasonal meals — along with stocking up for unexpected party invitations and guests of your own.

While you’re out shopping, eating or running errands, a quick stop into Strippaggio’s at The Promenade at Chenal can help you gather up a few supplies to carry you through.

One of my in-laws’ favorite appetizers is a zippy jelly or sauce over cream cheese with crackers or Triscuits. It’s a tasty snack to put out with a fruit or veggie tray while you’re cooking, and it’s something easy to stash away for one of those times when an event pops up with little notice.

New Canaan Farms raspberry chipotle and peach jezebel sauce

New Canaan Farms raspberry chipotle and peach jezebel sauce

The best part is that you’ll nearly always have some sauce left over for another use. I’d pick the raspberry chipotle sauce to recycle as part of a guest-worthy lunch panini, featuring turkey, brie and spinach.

The Peach Jezebel sauce would be fabulous to glaze your holiday ham. I’m a simple gal when it comes to cooking — just pour it over when it’s got about 15-20 minutes left to bake, and you’re done. (You could chance it earlier, but sweet sauces may tend to overcarmelize sometimes.) If you don’t want to mess with the traditional “big meal,” you can hold onto it instead to jazz up leftovers.

As I’ve noted before, I’m in a squash period right now. Can’t get enough. It’s both in season and easy to cook. And if you’ve got any guests who are going gluten-free, it’s a good option for them. My favorite pairing with it is Strippaggio’s Milanese Gremolata oil, plus a little salt and pepper.

Strippaggio and spaghetti squash are a match

Strippaggio and spaghetti squash are a match

After it’s prepped, pop it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or more, depending on the size of the squash. Once it’s done, scoop out the tasty strands and perhaps re-season a bit, if needed.

baked spaghetti squash rounds out the meal

tasty baked spaghetti squash

You most definitely can’t forget dessert. I’m a little bit in love with sweets featuring sea salt, so my heart skipped a beat when I saw this on the shelves:

Sutter Buttes sea salt carmel sauce. Yum.

Sutter Buttes sea salt carmel sauce. Yum.

I can think of so many things to do with this sauce. Ice cream. Brownies. Frozen carmel bananas on sticks. Topping an apple pie. Whatever treat your crowd is into, this would surely add a touch of luxuriousness appropriate for the holidays.

Enjoy the season, everyone! It’s a beautiful time to celebrate food and family.

xoxo,

Margarita Mama

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Note: This is a compensated post. Of course, all opinions/thoughts/feelings are my own, however.

promenade ad

How to get kids to eat vegetables

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in eating/food, Food, Health, kid stuff, Margarita Mama, Uncategorized | 6 comments

Apparently, my kids are behind the times and haven’t figured out yet that it’s trendy to dig in and eat every veggie in sight.

I’ve tried engaging them in meal planning, with limited success. Each Saturday, when I sit down with my menu board, coupons and grocery store flier, I plot out the week’s dinners. As I fill in each section, I’ll often ask the girls what they want for dinner and get crazy replies or none at all. But over time, I’ve honed in on them a bit. I’ll sometimes ask each of them directly to just pick one vegetable to go with a certain dinner, and it can’t be one that another child has already picked — otherwise we’d explode in a mountain of corn each week. Then, when their veggie lies on the plate, there’s at least some ownership of that choice.

Another way to go about it is at the actual grocery store, where they can ogle over all the choices in the produce section. This will often lead me to some random things that are harder to put together, like purple cauliflower and eggplant. And somehow less guarantee that the kids will actually give them a try, although you’d think the opposite. I suppose that they’re just like the rest of us, who are spontaneously tempted to buy jicama once in awhile and then have no idea what to do with it when it’s actually sitting in front of them.

This week, we fell down to flat-out trickery.

acorn squash, a.k.a. "brown sugar flowers"

acorn squash, a.k.a. “brown sugar flowers”

I’m in what you’d call a squash period right now. Last week, I roasted butternut squash in chunks with oil and grill seasoning. And it was delicious! I figured the  would take better to it, given that it’s almost like sweet potato. But no dice. So I knew this week’s acorn squash selection was going to be even more difficult.

I prepared it ahead of time, so they wouldn’t see it in its original state. And there was nary a peep about squash. Instead,  chef Daddy presented “brown sugar flowers” at the dinner table, with a wonderful pairing of salmon (also known as “Barbie chicken” for a more palatable presentation), asparagus and multigrain bread.

Alas, Ava moved too quickly and bit into the blechy rind of the flower, which was still intact. Sometimes, one bite is all you get — especially with picky kids like her. However, I’m willing to call that a win, because at least it’s trying something new.

Other tricks up my sleeve include :

  • adding spinach to smoothies, particularly with apple juice or pineapple masking the flavor
  • Capri Sun’s Super V pouches, a gateway toward straight-up veggie juice — someday!
  • veggie soups, which tend to go over easier in our house for some reason, especially blended up
  • dips for raw veggies, or warm spinach and artichoke dip over chicken or pasta
  • zucchini bread, most delicious served warm

If there’s something I haven’t thought of, please share. We could all use the help!

xoxo,

Margarita Mama