Friday, February 10, 2017

Creme De Thin Mints

Girl Scout cookies. They're kind of a big deal. And if you haven't gotten the shake-down yet from your local green-sashed entrepreneur, you will. Oh, you will. But despite cute smiles and heart-warming pledges to create a better world, there's one thing those thin mints can't give you. Booze.

Move over, girls. Let mama show you how it's done.

Boozy Thin Mint

These adult thin mints are creme de menthe infused wafers, dipped in chocolate and mint coating. And if you've always been a sucker for those green trefoil boxes, you'll fall head over heels for the boozy version.

Boozy Thin Mint

These minty cookies begin with just a few simple ingredients. And that bowl in the middle? All booze. You're welcome.

Boozy Thin Mint

You're going to be tempted to just start pitching forkfuls of dough into your mouth. And I'm not gonna lie. That's not the worst idea you've ever had. But this recipe gets better so just hang on.

Boozy Thin Mint

Yeah, see? Aren't you glad you waited. Cut these circles out and slide them into the oven.

Boozy Thin Mint

I know. They're missing a little something, right? Yep. Let's go for a little dip, shall we?

Boozy Thin Mint

I use coconut oil for chocolate coating because a little birdie told me it's the only reliable, reasonable thing to do. It makes chocolate not seize, but it also taste amazing. I felt like our boozy scouts needed some more flavor, so I kicked it up a notch with some more creme de menthe in the coating.


via GIPHY

And there you have it, kids. Boozy Thin Mints. An adult-only Girl Scout cookie that'll give your local troop a run for their money. Until next week, keep it sweet and mostly sober. Mostly.

Boozy Thin Mints

Boozy Thin Mints

Boozy Thin Mints

Boozy Thin Mints

Creme de Thin Mints

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. Creme de Menthe
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour

For the coating:
16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 tsp coconut oil

1 Tbsp. Creme de Menthe

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F
Cream softened butter, then add powdered sugar, mixing until combined. Stir in salt, creme de menthe and cocoa powder. Add the flour and mix until combined.

Form dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, then freeze for 15 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and roll it out to  about 1/8-inch. Cut cookies using  a round cookie cutter. (I used a shot glass).

Put cookies on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. 

For the coating: Chop the baking chocolate. Melt with coconut oil in a double boiler until smooth. Slowly stir in creme de menthe. If you like your cookies extra minty, you can add 1 tsp. peppermint extract here instead.

Dip cooled cookies completely in chocolate coating. Place on parchment or wax paper and set in freeze or fridge to firm. 

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How to Protest like a Boss. A Mom Boss.

Buckle up, everybody. This is gonna be a long four years.

It’s V for Vendetta boots on the ground time, mama bears. If you care about your kid’s education or the safety of your neighbors and community, then this is what we’re going to be doing from now on. Every damn weekend.


There’s just one teensy problem. Actually, in my house, two. My pint-sized entourage. I’d like to just hit the pavement and protest but I’m a parent. And that means sometimes I exercise my first amendment rights with kids in tow.

Protest Parent
Utah Women Unite March, Photo Collective Studios
Yes, I can feel the heated glare from a million Moms bearing down on me like a judgmental freight train. Look, it’s not ideal. I agree. But sometimes, it’s necessary and even (GASP) a fantastic learning opportunity. So if you are going to protest with babies on board, I’ve got solid tips. They won’t keep you safe from the righteous indignation of all your pseudo Facebook friends but who has time for that shit anyway? We’ve got work to do.

1: Don’t Bring Your Little One

But wait- you just said? Yeah- hold on a sec. For safety’s sake, I’d rather you just left your little one at home. While tweens and teenagers might learn something about civic duty, it’s probably well above the pay grade of your five-year old. If you can get a sitter, great. If not, proceed to number two.

2: Do It in the Daylight

Protests during the day tend to be more transparent and provide less opportunity for troublemakers to infiltrate the crowd
. Plus, you don’t want to be in the dark searching for your kid whose hand slipped out of yours for just a second. Not a good scene. I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it.

Parents Protest
Photo credit: Kathryn Jones Porter, Broken Anchor Photography

3: Keep it Peaceful

Make sure the protest is specifically advertised as a peaceful demonstration. This may mean you need to pass on more spontaneous rallies. That’s okay, mama. You can’t do it all. If you’re not sure from the language on the event, contact the organizers directly. Ask if they have permits and have informed police.

4: Make a Plan

Your kids should have a clear idea of what to do if they are separated from you. I tell mine to approach a police officer or another parent who has children and ask for help. If you can, bring an extra set of hands to help or team up with your Mom posse. Protest crowds can get a bit chaotic and unpredictable and the extra help will be invaluable.

Parent Protest
Photo Credit: Gwen Dobson

5: Don’t Stay on the Fringe

In my experience, if unlawful things are going to happen, they’ll happen where the crowds dwindle. Troublemakers will often skirt to the edges of the street and onto the sidewalk, where they can damage property or pick fights with bystanders. The crush in the middle might be a little thick but it’s less likely to break out into anything illegal.

6: Report Suspicious Activity

Every time I have seen violence or vandalism, it has been the result of anarchists and others disassociated with the protesters who take advantage of the crowd to wreak havoc. I was in a march once where people in dark hoodies joined halfway up the street, carrying baseball bats and looking menacing. We drew the attention of the organizers and those people were forced to leave. Pay attention to the crowd and if you notice an escalating confrontation, leave immediately.

Parent Protest

7: Keep the Signage Small

Involve the kiddos in mocking up some fantastic statements that embody their interests and ideals. But keep it small, okay? After the first march, I vowed to always bring one less poster than we had people because somebody always needed a hand. And the smaller the sign, the easier for little ones to manage.

8: Stay Warm. Bring Snacks.

Is there anything worse than the whine of a hungry toddler? Okay. Maybe it’s the trampling of our Constitution. But hungry kid comes in a close second. Keep ‘em warm and happy. You know the drill.

9: Show Your Appreciation.

I tell my kids to look for the helpers and to thank them. Many times this is police officers, who do the unglamorous work of dealing with lots of contentious people. But let’s be careful here. I am not suggesting that this is something everyone everywhere should do. In some cases, police forces are openly hostile and antagonistic to protesters. In many communities, police are pitted against their own citizens, and have exhibited a blatant disregard for the lives of black and brown men, women, and children. I won’t condone that. These friendly officers kept us safe and smiled through it all. I wanted my kids to appreciate that, but if those same officers used excessive force in my community, I hope we’d be the first people to demand accountability.

Want some more tips about exercising your fundamental rights? The ACLU has a handy guide to protests and demonstrations:

So grab your pink hats and your protest signs and let’s peaceably assemble. Because if you’re a parent, this is what democracy looks like. 

Parent Protest
Photo Credit: Ashley Baum
Feel inspired to join the resistance? Get involved by joining Utah Women Unite or a local chapter near you.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Disneyland Dollar

Our family recently went to he happiest place on earth. I'm not a Disney fanatic or anything but I grew up in Southern California, so Disneyland is just a thing you do. You know. For the kids. But let's face it, it's hard not to fall under the spell of all that fantasy and wide-eyed magic. There's always a little something for everyone, whether it's the nostalgia of practically throwing up on the teacups or the breathless terror of jolting halfway to your death on Space Mountain.

Disneyland Most Save

A trip to Disneyland can also incite a whole other kind of wonder. The wonder of where the hell did all those zeroes in my bank account go. Disney is expensive. And while some of it is worth it, other things are just the result of poor decision making. The kind that happens when exhausted, hungry parents meet toddler tantrum number four and tears ensue. 

If you haven't been to Disneyland in awhile or you're newbies (Do those still exist? Who are those people?), I'd like to give you a few tips. Tips I have sacrificed my sanity and my fiscal responsibility to learn so you don't have to. Learn from my mistakes, friends and level up. Your wallet will thank you.

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1. You Can't Do it All in A Day

Disneyland has this thing called California Adventure now, so it's basically two parks in one. And like Rome, it can't be conquered in a day. Don't get me wrong- it's totally worth it. Just know that you need to get a Park Hopper Pass and spend at least three days to do this right. This is especially true if you've got younger kids and lots of little legs. 500 acres of packed park is no small feat to navigate when you just learned to walk a year or two ago.

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2. Leave the Littles at Home

Which brings me to my next point. Don't bring the littlest ones if you don't have to. In terms of getting your money's worth, I wouldn't take anyone younger than five through those iconic gates. I get it- sometimes you gotta drag the littles along because there's no other choice. If you do have young ones, the best areas of the park geared towards younger kids are Mickey's Toontown in Disneyland and A Bug's Land in California Adventure. 

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3. Mousewait is Marevlous. Use it.

Download it already. You can see wait times as reported by actual park guests, get updated status for rides, and see current FASTPASS wait times as well as the overall park crowd index. It'll help you organize and prioritize so you can make the most of your time. Mousewait even lets you sort by dining spots, create customized views for your favorite attractions, and set alerts. Just note that it isn't an actual Disney app and if there aren't many users in the park on a particular day, it may be less accurate.

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4. FASTPASS it All the Way to the Bank

Learn the rules of FASTPASS and exploit the hell out of them. This is the single most important strategy that will get you on the most rides in the least amount of time. A few quick tips:

  • One at a time: You can only hold one FASTPASS at a time. When you've used it, you can pick up a new one. So the rule here is ALWAYS be in possession of a FASTPASS for something. 
  • Every two hours: After two hours, even if you haven't used your other FASTPASS, you can get another one. This helps with rides like Radiator Springs, where even the FASTPASS wait times get ridiculously long.
  • There is one exception: The World of Color FASTPASS doesn't count against you, so you can hold that one at the same time as another one. And you should, because it gets you priority seating and the ability to actually view the show. The World of Color water show needs to viewed straight on for the full effect and FASTPASS does run out at some point during the day depending on visitor volume in California Adventure. Grab one first thing to be safe. 
  • Pass on it for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland: You can use your magic morning to go on rides in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, so unless you're still waiting to knock a few more off your list, tackle FASTPASS attractions in other parts of the park first.


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5. Magic Morning It, Mama

The other advantage to getting a three or five day park hopper pass is that it allows you access to the park an hour earlier than other visitors with a little thing called Magic Morning. And it is definitely magical. Check the park for specific rules as they do change, but it's usually confined to rides in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland on certain days of the week. I highly recommend knocking out these rides first as their waits can be long later in the day when the park fills up. None of these currently have FASTPASS options:

  • The Matterhorn
  • Autopia
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • It's a Small World (especially the holiday version)
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6. Pack it In

Disneyland is one of the few parks that still allows you to bring food and drinks, just not into the park. Officially. They do search your bags for security reasons and specify you can picnic at a park provided just outside the gates. But unofficially, I've brought water bottles, granola bars, fruit, nuts and more in our backpacks and never heard a peep from anybody.  It's a smart move to bring at least a few snacks to tide the kids over or to stretch your dining dollar a bit.

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7. Don't Bother with Fancy Dining

The last time we went, I decided to play it smart. Instead of eating junk food at random carts and dealing with crowds at some of the smaller buffet-style restaurants, I scheduled some sit down meals. It was a terrible mistake, at least in Disneyland proper. The food was horrible, severely over-priced, and worst of all, the kids just picked at it and then were hungry two hours later. Unless you want the delight of sitting in the semi-dark enchantment of the Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean, skip the dining reservations. They are a grand waste of money and time.

I do have one caveat. And that's Carthay Circle in California Adventure. It's the most expensive dining option Disney has on the park premises, but if you're willing to pay for it, it's a little slice of heaven. Decent food, solid craft cocktails, and excellent service in a quiet, sophisticated atmosphere that seems entirely removed from the hectic bustle of the park. You can get more value for your dollar if you purchase the World of Color dining package, which gives you special front row seats to the show.
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8. Pass on the Princess

Dear God, why oh why did I reserve character dining? I'm not sure what my thought process was, but it was a fantastic fail. My daughter could have cared less, my son was so sick to his stomach he couldn't eat, and my husband and I felt like our feminist fingernails were being pulled from our nail beds. And we got the joy of paying nearly forty dollars per person for some of the most mediocre food I've ever had to swallow. Don't do it. Unless you've got a die hard princess or disney junkie, give the character dining a pass.

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9. Take a Break

Go early, stay late, and leave in the middle. If you're staying close by, your best option is to make use of the park when it is less crowded in the early and later hours of the day and go rest in the afternoon. Nap, watch TV, catch a bite, then head back in for parades, fireworks and more. A few timing tricks we've learned:
  • Many of the lines get shorter during parades and the fireworks, so if you've already seen the excitement, head to a nearby ride like Thunder Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean during the hoopla. The exception to this is Fantasyland and Toontown, where some rides close to accommodate safety procedures during the fireworks.
  • Head to the kiddie areas late and they'll have shorter lines. Areas like Mickey's Toontown, Fantasyland, and a Bug's Life start to empty out as the little kids get tired. Just be aware that Toontown closes at 8pm typically, so wander over after dinner.
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10. Set Limits

Disney is an utterly overwhelming wonderland of fantasy and it's easy to fall under the spell of indulgence. Everybody is walking around with glowing balloons and light up swords and princess costumes galore. Sit down with the whole family before you go and decide what's important to you. Set a spending budget per person for the day and stick to it. Disney has made this worse by insisting everybody walk through half a mile of Downtown Disney's shopping to get to the park entrance. Yep. It's horrifying for parents. Keep on keeping on, folks. You got this. And that rainbow light saber will be broken by the time you fly home. Worst $25 ever spent. You know it's true.

Enjoy the drama and the delight that is Disneyland, kids. It's possible to walk away with a few dollars left in your pocket and you'll need them. For new shoes.

Did this Disneyland advice attract your attention? Come follow A Sweet Little life on Facebook for more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Little Pony Party: Friendship is Magic

There are some things that I do for my children that I just wouldn't do for anyone else. Allowing another human to spit chewed food into my bare hand. Wiping someone's butt. Wiping anyone else's butt. Nope. Not happening. Pretty high on that list is throwing a glittery, rainbow-festooned girlie party. But this is my daughter and it's her birthday. So basically I'll crawl across broken glass for that kid. And apparently throw a My Little Pony Party. Not sure which is more painful.

My Little Pony Party

I let my daughter into Pinterest again. It was a bad idea last year and an even worse one this year but there it is. It happened. And we ended up throwing one heck of a pony party, complete with hearts and sparkles on all the things. All of them.  It's hard to know where to start with all this colorful insanity, so I'm just gonna wade right in.

First, the decor. I did ALOT of this party DIY and much of it was paper. Recycled paper but still. As you can see, everything was dusted with a generous handful of rainbow confetti.

My Little Pony Party

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Yeah, me too. I cut out and strung those rainbow heart wall coverings from scratch.

My Little Pony Party


I  also did these colorful puff balls myself, then gathered them in clusters and hung them from the ceiling with fishing line.

My Little Pony Party

As you can see, everything was dusted with a generous handful of rainbow confetti. But we didn't stop there. Because when have I ever known when enough was enough? Pretty much never.

My Little Pony Party

I decorated this "Welcome to Equestria Tree" in the foyer with leftover hearts. And I handmade each of the signs for the food activities with adorable little cotton ball clouds. 

My Little Pony Party

Next up is the food because after all that work I was hangry. Definitely hangry.

My Little Pony Party

As you can see, we decided not only to decorate with rainbows but also to eat them. Apologies to all the parents next day because pooping rainbows can be a bit scary. It was all in good fun. I promise.

My Little Pony Party
Rainbow Sherbet Punch
A bit of ginger ale and lots of rainbow sherbet gets you rainbow clouds. Who knew?

Rainbow Jello Shots
I made those rainbow heart stick stirrers myself. Because if you're gonna give kids jello shots, it seems like they ought to have rainbow stirrers. And yes, those are good old-fashioned mason jars.

My Little Pony Party
Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Wands with Sprinkles
If you weren't aware, they practice magic in Ponyland. Probably with pretzel wands. Isn't that how everyone does magic these days? Pretty sure it's all done with pretzels.

My Little Pony Party
Rainbow Meringue Truffle Cones
These rainbow meringue truffle cones look difficult but really they were. No, seriously. Don't make these. Pretty sure I got three gray hairs waiting for them to set. But they sure are purdy. I didn't get any pictures of the fruit skewers because it's fruit. Nobody cares about fruit at a party, apparently not even me.

My Little Pony Party
Rainbow Sprinkle Popcorn
These bags of magical popcorn were adorned with little glittered edged labels. The kernels themselves are drizzled with white chocolate and rainbow sprinkles. Some of the kids probably ate confetti by accident via handfuls of this popcorn. #sorrynotsorry

My Little Pony Party
Rainbow Rock Candy
Rainbow rock candy. Pretty much all my daughter was interested in eating for the next 48 hours. That gorgeous cake I made she picked at. But that rock candy I bought for 99 cents a stick? Best thing ever.

My Little Pony Party
7 Layer Rainbow Cake

So, let's have chat about this cake. I do lots of things well. Cake decorating isn't one of them. But I am pretty darn proud of this cake. Seven layers of sugary bliss topped by licorice rainbows and marshmallow clouds.  

My Little Pony Party
Inside a 7 layer Rainbow Cake

Yep. Probably about 2,000 calories a slice. And every one of them worth it.

My Little Pony Party

We did actually did do some stuff at this party that didn't involve eating our weight in sugar. 

My Little Pony Party

I used these fake glitter tattoos as "cutie" marks. Don't worry. I didn't put them on anyone's butts. I get enough of that with my own kids, thanks very much.

My Little Pony Party

The birthday girl was decked out in a rainbow tutu, which has since become a regular part of her wardrobe. She's five so she can pull it off in ways that just won't work for the rest of us.

My Little Pony Party

One of my daughter's friends wore this wig to the party. Seriously on point. Keep inviting that kid. She knows what she's doing.

My Little Pony Party

There were also glitter bubbles. I just basically took glitter and dumped it in some bubbles. I know, right? Genius. Here's my girl, proving that she's full of hot air.

My Little Pony Party

I also made like five batches of rainbow glitter salt dough that the kids spent exactly 5 seconds playing with and I promptly forgot about and threw away three months later. I'm such a mom cliche. Go me.

My Little Pony Party

And because I just hadn't sent those kids home high enough on artificial flavors and refined sugar, we went ahead and did a pinata.

My Little Pony Party

It was all going well. Half a dozen kids with a heavy stick trying to whack a swinging object. What could go wrong? Welp. My ten-year-old son gave me a welt across the back of my hand that bruised for weeks. You saw it coming but I didn't. And then this happened.

My Little Pony Party

It was like the godfather of My Little Pony parties. I'd like to say that I put this head next to my husband in bed and filmed him waking up to it, but I didn't. I should have though. You Tube stardom right there. Eventually we had to make it rain candy because this was the most durable thing from Mexico ever made. Just my luck. And then it was time to send everyone home. My favorite part.

My Little Pony Party

Parting gifts included. These were rainbow jump ropes that I am still trying to give away. If  I haven't pawned one of on you yet, just wait. Your turn is coming. 

My Little Pony Party
Before Sugar
All in all, I think it was a successful shindig. We glittered, we sugared, and we definitely rainbowed. Oh, how we rainbowed. 

My Little Pony Party
After Sugar
And what did we learn? Friendship is magic. And also, all that confetti is really, really unnecessary and hard to clean up. 

My Little Pony Party

Get the Pinterest party board here, complete with recipes activity ideas, and decor tutorials: 


Looking for more party inspiration? Follow A Sweet Little Life on Pinterest. 


 

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