Six #RealLife Tips for Hosting Guests and 7 Passover Recipes

Do you like to host? Or maybe it makes you get a little intense?? Between my husband's family and my own, we have people staying with us somewhat often. Once in a while, we'll have friends or people we don't know very well over for a Shabbat meal. But that doesn't mean I have a handle on it yet. When I was in my first year of marriage, I thought if I didn't absolutely love hosting, then something was wrong with me. It meant I couldn't get it together and that I was a failure of sorts. But now I'm older and wiser, right? No, I still struggle with crazy expectations. So without further ado, here are six pieces of advice I try to keep in mind.

  1.  If you don't like to host (or you don’t enjoy it at this point in time), then don't do it. ­If you like to or sometimes have to, then read on...
     
  2.  Buy prepared food if possible. You can use it to supplement your home-cooked dishes. Many times, I don’t cook a single thing I serve to our families when they come to visit. I secretly love plating food that I didn't have to slave over.
     
  3.  I still struggle with this one a lot, but…. Repeat after me: You are not responsible for your guests' happiness. Sometimes, guests won’t want to talk. They’ll never say thank you. They’ll cast a gray cloud. And while it may feel very unpleasant – Girl, it is not your problem. Try to enjoy the meal if you can and no need to invite them again.
     
  4. What do you like about hosting? Making a flower arrangement? Mixing drinks? Using paper plates? Great conversations? Do what you enjoy and try to forget about your neighbor who breaks out her wedding china for all seven courses.
     
  5.  If you have plans to host and life all of a sudden decides to hit you like a ton of bricks... try to reach out to a friend/a loved one and tell them what’s up. Maybe your wedding-china neighbor has tons of dessert to spare so you have one less thing to do. Yes, you can even talk to your guests. They may understand if you really just need to rain check.
     
  6.  Hosting can be very expensive…. It’s the untold secret you don’t realize until you’re checking out at the store. If you still want to have guests, try not to compare yourself to other people’s elaborate meals. Having a simple table is something I appreciate as a guest. I always feel uncomfortable if I don’t taste all five platters of meat I was served.
     

You’re doing great. I promise. You have a place to come back to and vent if you feel like everything went wrong. Just remember… the flops often make for really great stories. Let’s hear them. What are your words of wisdom for hosting? What are some of your nightmare hosting stories??

 

And if you're hosting for Passover... here are seven Kosher for Passover Recipes to try out. Click on the pictures!

Scroll down for this recipe on my Joy of Kosher post. Swap the crackers for matzah crackers 

Scroll down for this recipe on my Joy of Kosher post. Swap the crackers for matzah crackers 

Scroll down for this salmon and pesto recipe on my Joy of Kosher post

Scroll down for this salmon and pesto recipe on my Joy of Kosher post

Strategies for Getting Out of the House in The Morning

sneak peak of some fun projects coming up...

sneak peak of some fun projects coming up...

What are your strategies for leaving the house in the morning? 

I asked you guys this question on social media and there was a big conversation that came out of it. For me, my mornings would benefit from a makeover (which was my motivation for this post!) But I've accepted that they're never going to be hyper-organized with a minute-to-minute schedule. Do you have a militant schedule you follow, or is it more "moment to moment"? Here's what some of you had to say about how to get yourself (and your kids) out that door. 

Chava
Do as much the night before as possible. Make lunches, tidy house, set out clothing, set out winter clothing, pack backpacks.... I don't do this as often as I should but when i do, the morning is blissful

Mollie
I don't make lunches which helps a lot. My oldest gets hot lunch at school. Next year my toddler is going to a play-group that serves lunch. I bought a good thermos and a coffee cup and make my breakfast to eat at work while the kids are eating their's. I regularly thank God that school and work are super close to home or I would be toast.

Rachel
I only have one baby lol and I can't even figure it out yet... It takes awhile because brushing my teeth while singing the wheels on the bus isn't easy... serious respect to moms with more kids!!!

Ira
As a guy, I am weighing in here. We have 5 to get out the door in the AM. Unless my court schedule does not allow for it, the answer is that both parents have to help. In my case, it means [getting to shul (synagogue)] early or later and it means that my wife has to rely on me to do certain things. Again, I am not always perfect and sometimes the schedule does not allow. But generally, that's the best answer.

Wendy (on leaving when the kids are staying home)
Yes if you can leave before they get up, that tends to be the quickest. But if they are not old enough & there's not another adult in the house, you could also get charged for that. So you gotta sit down & do a real cost/benefit analysis first.

Shulamit
Kids out to the car in PJs or naked

Sarah
This is what I do to get my 3 out each morning (most of the time I have help from my husband but this week he's gone) 1.) pack lunches the night before 2.) Get up a bit before them 3.) Get everyone dressed right away before breakfast 4.) I tell them it's cereal for breakfast but they can chose which 5.) I finish getting myself ready but I call out to them with updates and reminders, esp how many minutes left. It's not easy to leave the house (ever) but I'm a stickler for time, especially if I'm paying for it. Don't do more than the basics, whatever that is for you.

Ilana
Learning to be okay with being late.

Chaya
The key is training! They all go down and give themselves and my 4 year old breakfast and make their lunches and snacks. Every once in a while I call down and make sure they are doing it. Then they come up and get dressed and I dress my little one and myself last. Then they get shoes and coats on while I make little one's lunch and we go out the door. At 8:20 every day.

Discussion on waking up before the kids: 

  • Suri: My best piece of advice is to wake up half an hour before you have to wake your kids. It's such a huge difference to be able to have a cup of coffee in peace, and get dressed, before the morning madness begins.
  • Ilana: I so want to do this but I am SO HORRIBLE at getting out of bed in the morning. I'm always so tired and have never been a morning person. But my mornings would be way less hectic if I did. And I'd prob be on time to work more also :(
  • Lori: I feel the same way. Mornings were the hardest part of parenting for me. (Still are)
  • Paige: Lori, I know right. Even my baby sleeps in with us sometime too! We are raising another generation of bad morning people...
  • Suri: So, sometimes I do snooze my alarm, but at least if I am starting out 30 minutes before then, then even if I snooze it once or twice, I still have a net gain of time before kids
  • Chava: I have the same issue, just want to stay in bed as long as I can. I found that it helps to start slow. Get up 5 minutes early (prep coffee the night before). And work slowly towards a half hour.
  • Chava: Of course, the mornings I do get up early, so do the kids :)
  • Lori: My baby (who is turning 16!!) has my sleep genes lol. If we have a snow day or for some reason no push to get up, we can literally both sleep all morning!


What about you? How do you feel about the mornings? Do you get up before the kids or was that your New Years Resolution? 

 

Three-Ingredient Ice Cream! (Alternatives to Make it Kosher for Passover)

Passover is coming up fast and I know some of you are starting to look out for good recipes and to brainstorm meal plans. If you are indeed cooking for some of the meals (or maybe all of them?), you're probably about to purchase an enormous amount of potatoes and eggs... yeah? We're having the Seders at home so I'm looking forward to making my annual 8-trips-to-the-store-in-24-hours because I keep forgetting ingredients. I would loooove to hear your thoughts on how you're trying to keep things *really* simple to reduce stress and anxiety. What did you learn from last year that you're rethinking this year? 

If you're looking for another staple ingredient besides potatoes, eggs, and matzah meal... I recommend bananas. I rarely make desserts from scratch, but I thought this one would be fun for the blog because all you need are bananas and almond milk to start. Have you ever made this? To make it kosher for Passover, instead of adding something like peanut butter, use a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder, a handful of chocolate chips, and/or mix in frozen strawberries.

Is this something you would make?

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Ingredients
3 Bananas
1-2 Tbsp Peanut Butter or Cocoa Powder
Almond Milk
Chocolate chips (optional)
Walnuts (optional)

Directions
Slice the bananas into small chunks and place in a freezer-safe container. Freeze completely in the freezer for several hours or overnight. Once frozen, place the bananas in a food processor/blender. Add a few splashes of almond milk and 1 to 2 tbsp of peanut butter. Blend until the bananas look like a creamy ice cream without any chunks. Add more peanut butter (or almond milk) if desired. Serve immediately or place in the freezer covered until you're ready to serve.

Optional
Melt a few handfuls of chocolate chips in the microwave with a few splashes of almond milk. Take out the chocolate and mix around until the mixture is completely smooth. Melt a bit more/add more almond milk if necessary. Pour over individual cups of ice cream, or mix into the banana ice cream mixture and top with walnuts. 

Serves 2-4 people. But it's easy to double or triple the recipe
 

Like a Ton of Bricks

A few years ago, I friend of mine texted me when I knew she was going through a hard time. She said to me, “I feel like I finally hit the brick wall.”

It wasn’t that something horrible had happened. It was just enough “small” stressors and emotions, that one last thing happened and she felt ready to break.

I’ve definitely been there, and for most people (dare I say all people), I think it’s not something that ever goes away permanently. It’s cyclical, and life goes up and down, up and down. It’s the worst feeling when you just can’t seem to move forward. Every pebble you lift up – like perhaps, making your kid/kids' lunches in the morning – can feel like lifting a large boulder. Life just seems to go in slow, slow motion. It can be for a day, a few months, or much longer. Whether it’s depression, a “stormy” phase of life, or anxiety, it often feels like it will never, ever end.

When it feels like life is falling on you like a ton of bricks, what do you tend to do? Reach out to people? Curl up into a ball? Both? No judgment no matter what. 

How do you cope? 

P.S. The harder emotions of motherhood, PPD/Anxiety, and what anxiety feels like and how women cope in six words or less

 

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Little Kids' Lunches Four Ways

Dr. Praeger carrot puffs, green grapes, hummus, and baby carrots. 

Dr. Praeger carrot puffs, green grapes, hummus, and baby carrots. 

Question for you...  Do you find mornings to be crazy and exhausting? Oh man... For me, they definitely are. More often than not we're running really late, I'm forcing someone to wear pants, and there's something we're going to leave at home. Plastic fork, sippy cup, a left shoe? Something. And I know that every professional out there recommends making lunches the night before to reduce morning stress but that rarely happens at our house. Woops! Consequently, I've come to rely on fast, easy-to-pack lunches. Sometimes I use leftovers from dinner, and sometimes I just grab something from the freezer to defrost until lunch. If you're looking for simple additions to your lunch repertoire, here are some ideas (above and below). Feel free to comment with your ideas because about twice a week my kids return with untouched lunches because they "don't like" their favorite foods anymore. 

Happy hunger games, moms. May the odds be ever in our favor. 

Black bean salad - black beans, rice, shredded cheese, and tomatoes. These are usually leftovers from dinner the night before so it's easy for me to pack.    

Black bean salad - black beans, rice, shredded cheese, and tomatoes. These are usually leftovers from dinner the night before so it's easy for me to pack.  
 

Angelic Bakehouse bread without crust (honey wheat raisin) with cheddar cheese, purple grapes, and canned corn.  

Angelic Bakehouse bread without crust (honey wheat raisin) with cheddar cheese, purple grapes, and canned corn.
 

Smuckers PB & J uncrustables, cheddar cheese slices, banana, green apple, and peanut butter. Little plastic containers are great when you need just one more thing to keep your kid satisfied. 

Smuckers PB & J uncrustables, cheddar cheese slices, banana, green apple, and peanut butter. Little plastic containers are great when you need just one more thing to keep your kid satisfied. 

A few more ideas to pack for lunch and/or to supplement lunch
with that weren't pictured:

Pasta with cheese or sauce - cooked at home or from the deli
Hard boiled eggs - find them pre-peeled in packages by the eggs or milk
Berries, frozen or regular
Clementines
Yogurt
Apple Sauce
Fruit and veggie pouches

Microwaved potatoes or sweet potato
Thomas mini cinnamon bagels with cream cheese
Dr. Praeger's
Turkey deli slices

Granola bars
String cheese
Veggie Straws
Animal Crackers
Crackers and cheese slices
Canned chick peas
Chicken/turkey/hot dogs

Fish sticks

I recommend bento boxes or containers with separate sections for different foods. It makes everything feel organized. Depending on the brand they can be expensive at regular price, but they can be up to 50% off at grocery stores. Also try your local dollar store or online. 

*Important Note: carrots and grapes (unless cut lengthwise/in quarters) are recommended only for kids 4 years and older* 
 

What are your tips and tricks for packing lunches? Do you feel like you need therapy after every morning hustle? 

P.S. Other quick tips to live by... 
Make-up fast, morning routines fast, and then naturally... a post on losing it ;) 

Follow us on instagram @nuritsiegal for more L & B fun! 

Wake-Up Make-Up: My Guide to Looking like a Million Cups of Coffee

Okay, so a little while back, I asked you guys for your quick and easy make-up routines in the morning. What products you use and love. This is literally what most of you guys wrote back:

Coffee
Sunglasses
Deoderant
Glasses
Alicia Keys Make Up
Magnesium
Argan oil
Sunglasses

It was pretty entertaining to get these responses. And now the rest of you all have some creative ideas for how to look more awake in the morning. Never again forget to take your deodorant and magnesium with you before you leave the house. 

In addition to coffee and sunglasses, here are a few more ideas for morning make-up. The links take you to Amazon prime but some of the products are definitely cheaper in-store at Target. Add your own suggestions in the comment section! Feel free to add to the list above too...

1. Wet n' Wild Eyebrow Kit
$4.60 - If you like to fill in your eyebrows a bit, then I highly recommend this! It's really easy to apply with the brush. To create a nice fine line and then to blend it in. Once I started using this I've never looked back. I don't love using the wax included but when I'm feeling courageous I give it a shot. 

2. Maybeline Fit Me Concelear
$6.17 - This is really good at concealing darkness under the eyes, without looking cakey. I've been using it for a long time and like to take it with me in my bag whenever I remember. 

3. NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil Shadow Liner
$5.25 - I like this product because it's so easy to apply. Just swipe it back and forth a few times across your eyelid and then use your finger to spread and blend it in. It has a very pretty, subtle color and shimmer that's not overkill. I will say that I was sad that there's no way to twist the bottom for more make up... what you see is what you get. 

4. Wet 'n' Wild White Eye Pencil in White or Nude
About $1.00 at Target - I feel so cool for knowing this trick. A little big of white eyeliner on the waterline will help your eyes look a bit more awake and bigger. I will admit that when overdone it can look weird and slightly alien-esque so be aware of that. 

5. Neutrogena Moisture Smooth Lipstick in Rich Raisin
$6.29 - Somehow I found this at Target on sale for under $3. It's super smooth and soft, and feels like a great quality lipstick with great pigment. I like to dab a little onto my cheeks too for blush. 

6. L'oreal Voluminous Mascara
$7.95 - This is the best mascara I've ever tried. It makes lashes look really long and hardly ever clumps. Every time I try out a new mascara I end up regretting it and just going back to this one. 
 

Have you used any of these? Thoughts? Additions?