Do’s and Don’ts When Your Child Leaves for College

You are going to have one less sitting at the family table each evening because you’ve got a child leaving for college. This is an exciting and scary time for everyone! You planned for this time in your child’s life. You’ve taught your child values and right from wrong. Legally, your child is now an adult. He/she is 18, mature and responsible, ready to handle college, right?

Research today tells us that the brain isn’t fully mature until around the age of 25. That is a scary thought for parents who are spending or borrowing a lot of money to send their child off to college. So, what should you do? What should you say? What should you not say? How do you know your child is enjoying social life in college without the social pressures going too far?

These questions can be overwhelming and scary but DO educate yourself. College life is different today than it used to be so it is important to try to understand what your child’s life is like on a daily basis.

OTHER DO’s:

  • DO share with your child about how college will be paid for (loans, savings, scholarships, etc..). Having him/her understand the payment plan will help your child understand the importance of being responsible while in college.
  • DO get the roommate’s phone number and roommate’s parents’ phone numbers.
  • DO send your child’s health insurance card with him/her.
  • DO show your child where the nearest minor emergency clinic is located. Don’t rely on the clinics on campus. They are not 24 hour facilities.
  • DO have a monthly spending budget in place. (Many college students eat out a lot, and travel on the weekends.)
  • DO set expectations about grades, drinking and drugs.
  • DO talk to your child on the phone or face time. It is important to hear your child’s voice.
  • DO have your child give you access to his/her school accounts. (Even if you pay the bill your child must grant you access to his/her information.)
  • DO expect that your child will ask for a week long vacation during spring break. (It is part of the entitled culture we live in.) So make a plan ahead of time. Will you pay for spring break? Does your child need to get a job to pay for spring break?
  • DO discuss an “exit” plan for social situations with your child. If your child finds himself/herself in a bad situation, who is he/she comfortable calling for help?
  • DO show up unexpectedly every few months just to “check-in” and get to know your child’s new friends.
  • DO encourage your child to get a part-time job at the university.

DON’TS

  • DON’T be naive and allow yourself to think, “Not my child. My child would never do that!” Your child is trying to make new friends and fit in. He/She will do things just to fit it!
  • DON’T call him/her every day. Your child will share more with you if he/she calls when alone and not around other people.
  • DON’T call or email professors. This is your child’s responsibility.
  • DON’T assume your child will always put academics first.
  • DON’T have bills such as: tuition, rent, books, electricity, internet, etc., sent to you directly. Instead, put the money in your child’s account and have him/her “pay” the bill. This will remind your child college is expensive and needs to be taken seriously.
  • DON’T assume your child will tell you when there is a problem. You will need to listen carefully and pay attention to changes in behavior.
  • DON’T “helicopter parent”. Your child will make mistakes. Let your child deal with the consequences of these mistakes. Hopefully, the mistakes are small.
  • DON’T be afraid to step in and take over if your child is not handling the responsibility of college. Remember, not every child is ready for college at 18.

Don’t let this list scare you. It is just a reminder that parenting is not over when a child goes off to college. Parenting a college child is a very hard job!

Here is some more information to educate yourself about the social pressures in college today:

For information on the latest drug use trends in college CLICK HERE.

College Drug Use

How-To Stock Your Freezer and Pantry for Back-to-School

It is that busy time of year again: new schedules, new activities… it is back to school! It is time to get organized so you can plan healthy meals for your family and not live on fast food. How do you start? Your freezer and pantry can help you make healthy, quick meals for your family every night if you have the right items in them. Remember, that colorful foods are your friend when trying to add healthier foods to your diet. So clean out that freezer and pantry and start over with the following items that will help you create healthy back-to-school meals for your family to enjoy around the table together even on busy nights!

Must-Have Freezer Items:

  • corn
  • cauliflower bits (They freeze beautifully!)
  • peas
  • fully cooked meatballs
  • easy peel shrimp (Uncooked, shrimp only takes 3-4 minutes to cook.)
  • ciabatta bread (freezes nicely)

Must-Have Pantry Items:

  • black beans
  • green beans
  • hearts of palm
  • refried beans
  • chick peas
  • spaghetti sauce
  • fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • green enchilada sauce
  • red enchilada sauce
  • fresh tomatoes
  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • fire roasted red peppers in a jar
  • Kind bars (A healthy snack for any time of day.)

In a hurry? Try this Easy Freezer Meal using frozen shrimp, frozen peas, and frozen cauliflower bits.

  1. Thaw and peel shrimp under warm water. (Don’t like shrimp? Try the recipe with frozen meatballs.)
  2. Sautee 2 packages of frozen cauliflower bits in olive oil or butter (No need to defrost first.)
  3. Add thawed shrimp to cauliflower and cook 3 minutes on medium/high heat stirring occasionally.
  4. Add frozen peas to shrimp and cauliflower and cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Season with garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with ciabatta bread.

Need a quick side dish? Try this pantry and freezer Black Beans and More side dish using black beans, chick peas, fire roasted diced tomatoes, sautéed peppers, and cauliflower bits. (Add shredded rotisserie chicken or browned ground meat and you’ve got a complete one dish meal.)

  1. Cut 2-3 yellow or red bell peppers in strips and saute in olive oil until tender.
  2. Add frozen cauliflower bits to peppers and continue to cook until cauliflower bits begin to brown.
  3. Add black beans, chick peas and fire roasted tomatoes. (Drain and rinse black beans and chick peas.)
  4. Cook on medium heat until warm. If you need a sauce for this dish try 1/2 cup picante sauce mixed with 1/4 cup Ranch dressing.

If you like these easy, healthy recipes please click HERE is sign up for my email list so you don’t miss any new ideas.

Here are some more easy back-to-school recipes using freezer and pantry items to try.

Perfect Pea Salad Click HERE

Cauliflower Spanish Rice Click HERE

Veggie Filled Spaghetti Sauce Click HERE

Frozen Meatballs Click HERE

Sauteed Peppers and Onions Click HERE

5 Back-to-School Mistakes to Avoid

Back-to-School is like New Year’s Day. It is a time for a fresh start. Make it a priority this school year to eat together as a family most nights of the week because the secret to a healthy family is gathering around the family table. Avoiding the following mistakes will make it easier to have time to eat together as a family.

  1. Not Planning the Week’s Menu: It is as easy as making a list! Try sitting down on Sunday and listing 4 meats, 8 side dishes, and 2 left-overs using 2 of the meats. (I’ve included an example below.) This takes just a few minutes but will give you a plan and a grocery list for the week. You can assign a meal for each night if you like or make a decision day by day depending on the time you have. Try making 3 different plans that you can rotate through. Need some meal ideas? Click HERE
  2. Not Using the Curbside and Delivery Services Grocery Stores Offer: Using these services can be life changing. They even save previous orders you have made so you can just re-order with one click!
  3. Not Having a Set Meal Time: This is very important. If you work outside the home and don’t get home until later try setting a 7:30 or 8:00 meal time. Your kids can do homework and snack on an apple or carrots or even bathe while you make dinner. It is all about creating a routine that works for your family and sticking to it.
  4. Over-Scheduling Your Kids: This one might be a bit controversial. Try putting each child in only one extra curricular activity each semester. Children get tired and need down time. Many times kids are expected to go for 12+ hours a day with school, sports, music, drama, homework. Some kids are putting in longer days than many adults. Having your children in every single extra curricular activity does not make you a good parent, it just makes you a tired one! “The Race to Nowhere” is a wonderful film and resource. Click Here to learn more.
  5. Not Talking to Your Family About Making Gathering Around the Table a Priority: You must get your family to buy in so they are making it a priority too. They need to understand the importance of family meal time and have some input in it so everyone has ownership in the plan. Try creating an evening plan together. Write it down on a piece of paper. Have everyone sign it. Explain that the plan can always be altered when needed to accommodate changes. (Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step toward a healthier family.)

MENU PLAN:

Pick 4 Proteins/Meats for the Week

Example:

  • pork tenderloin (Cook enough for left-over sandwiches for one meal.)
  • chicken breasts (2 per person for left-over menu.)
  • ground meat for hamburger patties (1/2 lb. per person)
  • salmon (one piece per person)

Left Over Plan (Plan for 2 meals using protein/meat left overs.)

Example:

  • tenderloin and grilled cheese sandwiches (NEED: bread and sliced cheese)
  • Use left over chicken in tortilla soup, casserole or on a pizza (tortilla soupNEED: chicken stock, onions, peppers, monterrey jack cheese, diced tomatoes, beans, tortilla strips)

8 Side Dishes

Example:

  • roasted vegetables (NEED: broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
  • green salad (NEED: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, olives)
  • Spanish Cauliflower Rice (NEED: cauliflower bits, diced tomatoes, orange bell pepper, black beans)
  • green beans (canned)
  • mashed cauliflower (NEED: cauliflower head, butternut squash, cream cheese)
  • pea salad (NEED: frozen peas, onions, cheese)
  • cucumber and tomato salad (NEED: cucumbers, tomatoes)
  • frozen French fries (NEED: French fries)

Hope these ideas help your family gather around your table more often this school year! Like these ideas? Click HERE to get more.

Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Recipe

Your family won’t believe there aren’t any potatoes in this dish!

Creamy and Delicious Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash
  1. Steam cauliflower florets and butternut squash cubes until tender. This usually takes 15 minutes.
  2. Mash cauliflower and squash just like you would for potatoes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 4 ounces cream cheese and 2 cups of grated cheese to warm vegetable mixture.
  4. Finish blending mixture using an immersion blender to get a creamier consistency.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For more delicious recipes click HERE.

Sauteed Peppers and Onions Recipe

  1. Cut 4 orange or red bell peppers and 2 large onions into strips.
  2. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize.
  3. Add the peppers to the onions.
  4. Add 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to 1 1/2 cups of water and stir together.
  5. Add soup mix to the onions and peppers.
  6. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the liquid cook down to thicken. This will take 12-15 minutes.

These delicious peppers and onions are a perfect topping to chicken, pork tenderloin or steak. They are also great on a toasted crostini topped with smoked gouda cheese.

Perfect Pea Salad Recipe for Any Occasion

Pea Salad Recipe

  1. Saute a chopped onion until it caramelizes in olive oil.
  2. Defrost a 1 lb. package of frozen peas.
  3. Mix onions into peas.
  4. Add 1 cup of cubed cheddar cheese (small cubes) to the peas.
  5. Add dressing to salad and mix.

Pea Salad Dressing Recipe

  1. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup mustard

This recipe serves 4 people and can be made day ahead. It is an easy pot-luck dish. It goes great with grilled chicken. Click HERE to go to grilled chicken meal ideas.

Grilled Chicken – 3 Delicious Meals

It is summertime so fire up that grill on Sunday afternoon. If you will cook the meat for more than one meal on Sunday, it will save you time during the week so you have more time to relax and gather around your table spending quality time with family. Try grilling 3 packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs to use in 3 meals including everyone’s favorite… pizza. These meals ideas are heavy on the vegetables so gather around and enjoy!

Grill Once – Make 3 Meals

Meal #1:

  • Grilled chicken thighs
  • Mashed cauliflower and butternut squash (great alternative to mashed potatoes)
  • Pea Salad

Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Recipe (You will fool your family with this recipe. They will think it is potatoes.)

  1. Steam cauliflower florets and butternut squash cubes until tender. This usually takes 15 minutes.
  2. Mash cauliflower and squash just like you would for potatoes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 4 ounces cream cheese and 2 cups of grated cheese to warm vegetable mixture.
  4. Finish blending mixture using an immersion blender to get a creamier consistency.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pea Salad Recipe

  1. Saute a chopped onion until it caramelizes in olive oil.
  2. Defrost a 1 lb. package of frozen peas.
  3. Mix onions into peas.
  4. Add 1 cup of cubed cheddar cheese (small cubes) to the peas.
  5. Add dressing to salad and mix.

Pea Salad Dressing Recipe

  1. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup mustard

Meal #2

  • Grilled chicken thighs cubed served over sauteed peppers and onions
  • Canned green beans with chick peas (alternative to potatoes) Yes, canned green beans and chick peas. Heat the green beans (don’t drain) and chick peas (rinse and drain). Add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tablespoons of butter and salt to taste.

Sauteed Peppers and Onions Recipe (You can serve the peppers and onions over rice if you’d like a heartier meal.)

  1. Cut 4 orange or red bell peppers and 2 large onions into strips.
  2. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize.
  3. Add the peppers to the onions.
  4. Add 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to 1 1/2 cups of water and stir together.
  5. Add soup mix to the onions and peppers.
  6. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the liquid cook down to thicken. This will take 12-15 minutes.

Meal #3

  • Bar-b-que chicken/coleslaw pizza with almond flour crust (use regular crust if you prefer) Use both pizza sauce and bar-b-que sauce on this pizza. Add shredded chicken and cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese and then top with coleslaw.

Almond Flour Pizza Crust Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix cheese and flour in microwave safe bowl.
  3. Melt mixture in microwave. (Heat for 2 minutes. Stir. Heat another 2 minutes.) The mixture needs to be sticky enough to form into a ball.
  4. Form into 5-6 balls then flatten the balls on a greased sheet pan.
  5. Cook at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until light brown.

Hope you enjoy these recipes. If you are looking for other recipe ideas like a yummy and healthy Cauliflower Spanish Rice recipe please CLICK HERE.

Simple Veggie Filled Spaghetti Sauce

This spaghetti sauce is full of colorful vegetables. It is simple and full of vitamins and is a great option on a busy night instead of take-out.

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 3 yellow or orange bell peppers diced
  • 24 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce of your choosing
  • 1 package of zucchini noodles
  • 1 package of cherry tomatoes
  • mozzarella cheese

First, brown the ground beef and season with Uncle Chris’ Gourmet Steak Seasoning. Add bell peppers and tomatoes to ground beef and saute for 5 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Next add spaghetti sauce and zucchini noodles and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Last top with mozzarella cheese and serve over spaghetti noodles or zucchini noodles.

Looking for another week night recipe so your family can gather around your table? Click HERE for more recipes.

A Pretty Table…Not Just For Holidays

A pretty table should not just be for holidays and special occasions. Imagine that it is the end of an ordinary, busy day and you are talking and laughing with your family around a pretty table. Sounds great but is it realistic? Yes it really is! Many of us have good intentions to sit at the dining table as a family but life takes over and it just doesn’t happen. I’m going to help you get started creating a pretty table to gather around because I believe that gathering around the table is the secret to a healthy family.

The nice thing about creating a tablescape is there is no right or wrong. The end result just has to make you happy and create a welcoming dining table for gathering that you will actually use regularly. I like to think of my tablescape in layers. Thinking in these layers will help you build your tablescape without becoming overwhelmed. You probably already have items for each layer so try pulling what you already have out and taking inventory of it. Then you will know which layer you need to buy for to create a welcoming table for friends and family to gather around.

Layer #1: The bottom layer is made up of table cloths, place mats and/or chargers. You can use one of these or all three. I leave place mats and chargers on my table all the time. That way even on busy nights my family knows there is a spot saved for them at the table. The charger is just waiting for a plate to be set on it. After the meal we leave the chargers on the table and I wipe them down with a Clorox wipe so they will be ready for the next meal.

Hints:

  • If you don’t like to iron choose woven or natural fiber placemats.
  • A table runner is great because you can leave it on the table all the time without it looking too formal.
  • Table cloths do not need to cover the entire table. You can scrunch or gather your table cloths on the center of your table to create a casual look.
  • Choose solid colored table cloths. Add pattern with your napkins.
  • Gold chargers are a good beginning choice. They go with everything and can be dressed up or down.

Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #1.

Layer #2: The next layer is the main centerpiece. This can be vase of flowers, a container filled with items or even a grouping of candle. This gives you a center focal point to work around.

Hints:

  • a lantern
  • a wreath
  • a cake stand
  • a basket
  • a tray
  • a favorite collection such as: pitchers, kitchen tins, or even rabbits for spring

Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #2.

Layer #3: In this layer you need to think about how you want to branch off the main centerpiece. Layer #3 depends on the size of your table and how much space you have to work with. Do you want candles of varying heights, a runner of greenery, or smaller containers filled with flowers or fruit?

Hints:

  • Use small mirrors under items in this layer to add sparkle to your table.
  • Quality artificial greenery such as magnolia leaves and penny eucalyptus can add a lot to this layer.
  • Glass votives work well in this layer.
  • Fill small glass containers with clear glass gems and top with a small candle.

Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #3.

Layer #4: Now you can add your plates, glasses, silverware, napkins, and place cards.

Hints:

  • Don’t be afraid of pattern when choosing napkins. Choose a color palette that matches the season you are focusing on.
  • Keep water glasses clear. If you want to add some color do so in your wine glasses.
  • Definitely put napkin rings on your list. You can never have too many!

Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #4.

If you are looking for gift ideas for the entertainer who likes to have family and friends gather around her table CLICK HERE to view my post “11 Gift Ideas Under $50 For The Table Top”.

11 Gift Ideas Under $50 for the Table Top

These gift ideas are perfect for that special friend, sister, mother, aunt, or daughter who loves to gather family and friends around her table. Click the highlighted text for more information.

You can never have too many pitchers when you have family and friends gathered around your table.

46 ounce Glass Water Pitcher

Every table needs a touch of texture!

Koyal Honey Brown Rattan Charger Plate, 4-Pack

These unique shaped jars will add an interesting focal point to any table!

Mantello Decor Glass Apothecary Jars (Clear, Medium Large, Set of 3) Perfect for a Table Centerpiece Grouping

Use these for outdoor dining or mix with crystal candlesticks for a “rustic meets bling” look.

MyGift Wooden Log-Pillar Design Tealight Candle Holder with 5 Clear Glass Votive

All your wine glasses do not have to match. A mixture of glasses makes an interesting table.

Dublin Goblets, Set of 4

A pretty piece perfect for baked goods or as a base for a centerpiece.

Alexandra Glass Square 10 inch Cake Stand – Blue

An elegant runner is an easy way to dress up a table.

Linen Clubs Hand Made Beaded Table Runner 13×36 Inch in Gold/Ivory Combo

These mosaic candle holders will look great year round!

Creative Scents Schonwerk Pillar Candle Holder Set of 2- Crackled Mosaic Design

Every table top needs a large lantern to use as a centerpiece inside or out.

Large Garden Lantern

For other tablescape and table decoration gift ideas visit “47 Must Haves on Your Wedding Registry”.