Menu Plan Monday- Feast of the 7 Fishes Christmas Holiday edition

I can't believe that Christmas is only 4 days away!  I probably do more cooking and baking during this week in December than I do any other time of the year.  Considering there's so much going on this week, not having to answer the dreaded, "what's for dinner?" question helps to alleviate a little stress.  Having a few go-to quick & easy dinners can lower your stress too.  And if your anything like me this time of year, anything to lessen the stress load is like a tiny miracle.

I grew up in a BIG Italian/Irish Catholic family.  That means birthdays and holidays were spent celebrating together and I mean all of us.  My mom's 1 of 5 siblings, who all had families of their own and all lived pretty close.  My generation had a few groups of close in age cousins so we grew up pretty tight knit.  It was a great way to grow up.  Since everyone lived so close, getting together for celebrating was never a problem. But no one EVER missed Christmas Eve at Auntie Linda's!

The whole family- consisting of the 12 kids of my generation, the 8 from my mom's and her siblings (which includes spouses)- as well as many close family friends that celebrated with us, all crammed into Auntie Linda's for Christmas Eve.  Food was the star that night as we celebrated The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or La Viglia, as it's also known.  It's an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition with seafood 7 ways!  Now generally, these are family recipes passed down from generation to generation but they usually include a fresh catch of the day fish like haddock or swordfish along with lobster, mussels, clams, oysters, squid and shrimp.

Add to that some lasagna or stuffed shells, broccoli rabe, eggplant parmigiana and you've got yourself a feast!! Seriously, there was a TON of food that night and it was all delicious, fresh and homemade.  No feast is complete without dessert which included pizzelles, tiramisu, rum cake, anisette and a slew of other cookies.  You can find some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes on The Kitchen page of Life, as it is...

It's a little bit of an easy week here, dinner-wise, since there's so much to do to prepare for Christmas.  Sadly, with time and family moving away, health issues and experiencing loss, we don't celebrate Christmas Eve like we used to.  I'm including links to recipes for all 7 fish dishes though I won't be cooking them all this year.  The rest of the week is quick & easy, as it should be.  Here's the menu for the week.  Head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday and link up your own menu for the week!

Monday-  Crescent Dogs made with Pillsbury refrigerated dough.  I've made these with the corn biscuit dough as well and they were delish corn dogs!  Served with sweet potato fries and sweet peas.

Tuesday- Sausage Potato & Peppers is easy to prep, bake (you can be making something else while it does!) and clean up!

Wednesday- Cold cut sandwiches, don't get much easier than that!  We all like our sandwiches different but HERE are 10 ideas for you to try next time cold cuts are on the menu.

Thursday-  The Feast of the Seven Fishes and though there are probably a million different recipes to use, as well as different seafood, this is what we generally ate.
Baked Stuffed Haddock with Ritz Crackers and lotsa buttah!!
Shrimp Scampi with pasta (usually spaghetti or angel hair) and Shrimp Cocktail
Mussels in White Wine and Butter sauce
Baked Stuffed Clams and Clams Casino
Fried Calamari
Oysters Rockerfeller
Baked Stuffed Lobster

Friday- Store bought spiral sliced ham with mashed potato, butternut squash and balsamic roasted brussels sprouts

I'll also be making some cookies which you can find the recipes for HERE

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!  Be sure to link up your menu at Menu Plan Monday!!

Family Fun Friday- Winter break edition

I don't know how the weather's been where you live, but here in Boston its been amazing!  We've actually had a few days that have come pretty close to 60 degrees!!  Considering we spent the majority of last winter buried in feet of snow with subzero temperatures, you won't hear any complaints outta me!  It is making it a bit tougher to get into the Christmas spirit though.  Which is probably why it just dawned on me that in less than a week, my daughter will be on Christmas break from school until January 4!

Now, I can't speak for your kids, but for my 8 year old, that's an awful long time to be home spending your days trying to find something to occupy your time.  Sure, the brand new Christmas gifts will kill a few days but what about after that??  What do we do for the other 8 days of vacation??

I tried to think back to when I was a kid and what I used to do over my 2 week vacation from school.  What did you do over Winter vacation?  What do your kids do over Winter vacation now?  Here's what's on our list for the upcoming Winter break...some crafts, recipes and indoor and outdoor fun too!

Try your hand at a giant 500+ piece jigsaw puzzle

Clean out all those old toys & books to donate to your local Goodwill

Find the perfect hill in the neighborhood to sled down

Have a pajama day and try one of these 6 amazing popcorn recipes from Real Simple magazine

Make some homemade Glow In The Dark Slime or PlayDough

Hot Cocoa just tastes better with these easy homemade marshmallows

Bake some delish cupcakes and have a cupcake decorating contest

Don't throw out those old, broken crayons just yet!  Try some melted crayon art

Homemade ice cream is easier than you think!  Try one of these no churn ice cream recipes

Set up an obstacle course with things to jump over, run around and jump through-more than one kid?  Make it a contest and present ribbons for fastest time or highest jump

Make one (or more!!) of these homemade bird feeders to hang on your tree and wait for the birds to come eat.  This Backyard Bird Identifier might come in handy too

And for any local Boston Moms, there's always skating at the Frog Pond where pricing is based on height!  Under 58" is FREE and it's $6 for above.  They offer skate rentals too- $8 for kids and $12 for adults.  Friday nights at the Boston Children's Museum from 5-9pm admission is just $1 per person!  And for all you thrill seekers, head on over to Rock Spot Climbing in Southie and spend the day on the rock wall.  Day passes are available and they include the gear rental!

Whether it's almost 60 degrees, if there's 3 feet of snow or anything in between, the kid's will surely have fun and stay occupied this Winter break!  And hopefully you'll be able to keep your sanity, or what's left of it anyway!

How will you spend your Winter break this year?  Have anything special to keep the kiddos occupied while home from school?  Leave a comment and let me know what you plan to do over Winter break.

Find more fun family stuff at Family Fun Fridays hosted by Happy and Blessed Home

Menu Plan Monday-December 14

With everyone's crazy schedule these days between work, school, friends & family, not having to think about what's for dinner every night is like a small miracle. Imagine my joy when I discovered that one of my favorite bloggers, Laura from I'm an Organizing Junkie , was still hosting her weekly menu plan Monday! It's a goal of mine for the upcoming year to shop and cook more effectively, using a list and menu plan to help save some money.  Figured I'd get myself into the habit now and hopefully it'll be easier to stick with once the new year comes.  Here's my menu for the week:

Monday- Perfect Roast Chicken (or save time and use your local grocery rotisserie chicken!) with sweet corn and cherry tomato salad

Tuesday- Mango Chicken over rice with garlicky green beans

Wednesday- Bacon cheeseburger tater tot casserole (which you can actually prep days ahead and freeze then just pop in the oven!)

Thursday- Creamy chicken and biscuits in the crockpot (like a lazyman's pot pie)

Friday- Marinated steak with roasted potatoes and garlicky sauteed broccoli

Be sure to head over to Menu Plan Monday and link up your weekly menu or get inspired with tons of new recipes!!

Just gotta make it to Labor Day!

I think secretly, Labor Day is most mom's favorite holiday.  Very soon after Labor Day is when the kiddos return to school! Woo-hoo! There are some super lucky Midwest & Southern moms I know of who's kids return to school this week and next, but for me-it's Labor Day!  And though it'll be here before we know it, it does seem so very far away.  Luckily, Boston is a great city to live in and explore and is just brimming with cool things to do like Astronomy After Hours at the Museum of Science.  And there's always The Frog Pond  at The Boston Common where you can play in the spray pool, ride the carousel (for only $3!) or just relax under a big tree.  On August 21st they'll be celebrating Frog Appreciation Day and have cool stuff like frog racing and face painting!!

     A perfect Friday night date night for me?  Catching a Free Friday Flick at the DCR Hatchshell like Despicable Me, Daddy Day Care or Tangled.  If your Friday night dates are a bit more grown up, then check out the Boston Harbor Hotel's Summer in the City guide, which includes their Movies by Moonlight series.  If you happen to be down by the Wharf, why not check out Boston Harbor Cruises whale watching tour or catch a boat to one of the Boston Harbor Islands like George's Island, which housed a military fort you can still explore or one of the other islands where you can hike and camp out!

"One if by land, two if by sea!" as the famous battle cry declares, you can also explore Boston by water.  Charles River Canoe & Kayak offers rentals of canoes, rowboats and kayaks, both hourly and daily.  They offer lessons for newbies and guided tours for those who feel at home in a tiny piece of wood that can barely hold you, let alone another person-and refuses to move in the direction you want it to, otherwise known as a rowboat.  If your kid really enjoys the experience, ask about their camp at their boathouse at Lake Cochituate State Park in Natick.  

Boston Harbor Cruises

     Maybe your kids are more the creative type?  Be sure to head to the Museum of Fine Art for one of their weekly classes in a variety of subjects!  What better place in Boston for your kids to spend a week learning the fine art of glassblowing or fashion drawing?  

 And be sure to head to the Children's Museum before September 10th and see the interactive exhibit that celebrates the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz!  Oh, and on Fridays from 5pm-9pm, admission is only $1.
Boston Children's Museum

     Adventurer or creative type, every kid loves a water park!  And you can almost guarantee that we will have a few scorchers this summer, and we all know how important it is to keep cool on days like those.  Even if your not a member of the Salvation Army, they're nice enough to offer day passes like $15 for a family which includes up to 2 adults and 3 children.  And why do you want to purchase a day pass you ask?  Well, because it gives you access to their new aquatics park, The Kroc Center which features a heated lazy river and 150-foot, 2 story translucent water tube slide!  They offer swim lessons from infants to adults, CPR and lifeguard certification and a host of aquatic exercises including Aqua Zumba.  This place is absolutely on our Summer Bucket List!

The Salvation Army Kroc Center

Let me know if you check out any of these activities as well as something  cool you and your family did or plan to do this summer!!