Timber Ridge Visit

Did anyone realize I didn’t post the last night of Hanukkah Bears?

The Jelly Belly Tour was just a detour from something much, much bigger.


Last Wednesday we woke up, hastily packed our bags and after a brief stop at Jelly Belly, drove to Lake Geneva to spend four days at Timber Ridge Resort.

It was a perfect vacation for all the kids.


This picture looks so happy and carefree, but you have no idea how long it took Adam to orchestrate it.

We couldn’t take it on the first day because Ben wouldn’t go down any of the slides. It made me very sad, since we’ve been to this park before and Ben did all the slides and was fearless. How could getting older develop MORE fear?

If Ben is the model of determination, Adam is the mold. He kept gently but firmly bugging him, asking him, joking him into these slides. It took him 2 days, but eventually he got Ben to ride 4 slides with Adam, then he got Ben to ride them by himself.

I always joke that Adam negotiates for a living and that is why we never fight but I saw him first hand in action this holiday. He never gave up, never got frustrated. It was amazing.

Adam also treated us to many, many other treats this holiday.

One morning we had Breakfast with Thomas.


It was very kid friendly. They let us keep our food during the show and the kids were encouraged to get up and interact with the show many times.

Front Row Seats to the Show.

Front Row Seats to the Show.

Decorating 'Cookies' during the Show.

Decorating ‘Cookies’ during the Show.

Dancing under the 'Snow' during the show.

Dancing under the ‘Snow’ during the show.

We also did a trolley ride one night to see the holiday lights. DSC_0463

We ended up at the sister hotel, the The Grand Geneva, for gelato.


One night we went downstairs and enjoyed story time with milk and cookies in our PJs.


Bruce the Moose made an appearance after story time.

Bruce the Moose made an appearance after story time.

Another night, BINGO! Jack won us three free pretzels by answering many questions right and afterwards everyone got a voucher for a free cookie for participating.


Adam took the boys to the game room during nap time so the twins and I could sleep.


And the older boys sweetly brought back toys and candy for the twins from their winnings.

Besides the luxury of a nap, I thoroughly enjoyed not having to plan, shop and cook three meals a day.

We ate through the entire children's menu and more!

We ate through the entire children’s menu and more!

Even just being in a hotel room with the kids and having no distractions made me less cranky and more able to pay attention and spend quality time with them.

Twins playing with their new sticker books from Hanukkah while the older boys do a new puzzle with Adam.

Twins playing with their new sticker books from Hanukkah while the older boys do a new puzzle with Adam.

It was a really nice holiday. I highly suggesting it for families with kids our age!

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Jelly Bellies

imageYesterday we took a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can just imagine the look on the kids faces when we told them we were taking them to a candy factory!


Look they have a sample bar where you can ask for as many samples as you want! I tried egg nog. They seriously have like, every flavor you can think of.


Here we are waiting for the tour to start.


They cart you around the warehouse showing you different videos. You see candy made on these screens, not live like I envisioned. But it was still cool to see the mosaic jelly bean pictures and clothes made of jelly beans! (No pictures allowed during that part of the tour.)


Afterwards, the fun part! The boys picked out their candy! Here is Jack loading up on 10 pounds of jelly beans.


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Busy Weekend

Man it was a busy weekend.

So much for hunkering down for the cold weather!

First, the Hanukkah bears have been up to their usual stuff the past few nights…

Hanukkah Totem Pole

Hanukkah Totem Pole

Superhero Hanukkah Bears Battle Godzilla

Superhero Hanukkah Bears Battle Godzilla

DSC_0365Then there was the holiday train one night followed by a dinner out at Dee’s Restaurant.IMG_2639

Another night, Zoo Lights followed by a dinner out at Eleven City Diner. Nothing like a little deli food to warm yourself after a night out at the zoo.


3D glasses for zoo light viewing.

3D glasses for zoo light viewing.

Then every night there were candles and presents…

DSC_0360And one night there were Hanukkah cookies too….

DSC_0362DSC_0363It was a great start to the older boy’s winter holiday and just wait, we have A LOT more planned for them for the rest of it as well. If I didn’t have such a happy childhood I think I’d be pretty jealous of these kids right now!

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Fresh Picks (Dec 3)

It’s been such a busy few days between getting the flu, volunteering at school, holiday parties, and all the extra work that comes with Hanukkah that I forgot to post this! already another order has come in!

Two weeks ago I received green cabbage, spaghetti squash, yellow onions, parsnips, cranberries, red potatoes, and chard.DSC_0181

I immediately got to work the next day whipping up some soup and cranberry bread. I thought both turned out good enough to share the recipes with you!

I used up half the cabbage, the potatoes, and one parsnip an adaption from Ciao Italia’s Cabbage Potato and Bean Soup. I was able to throw in some of the kidney beans from a few weeks ago that fresh picks delivered too. I really liked the way the parsnip added a sweetness to the soup.DSC_0195

I used all the cranberries in a Cranberry Cake recipe adapted from The Kitchn.


It did have a lot more sugar than I would normally let myself but it was so good people.

Cranberry Cake
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Breakfast, Afternoon Treat, Dessert
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature for 1 hour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 Oz cranberries
  • ½ cup crushed candied pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray loaf pan.
  2. With a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium speed for 4 to 7 minutes, using the whip attachment. The egg and sugar mixture will double in volume and turn very pale yellow, leaving ribbons on top of the batter when you lift the beaters.
  3. Beat in the butter and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes or until the butter is smoothly incorporated.
  4. Use a spatula to fold in the flour, salt, and cranberries. The batter will be quite thick. Spread gently into the prepared pan.
  5. Sprinkle crushed pecans on top.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 20 minutes then run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and remove the cake. Cool for an hour before serving.

So good people, sooo soooo good. Seriously think about it for the holidays.

As for the spaghetti squash I just want to thank Fresh Picks for giving me this gift. I’ve never tried it before and I’m pleased to say it is SO easy to prepare and top with whatever and it comes out delish.DSC_0223

I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted it, cut side down on foil at 375° for about 45 minutes. Let it cool enough to handle then ran a fork through it and it made beautiful, spaghetti-like strands. I topped it with the steamed chard from this order, marinara and mozzarella then stuck it back in the oven and let the mozzarella melt. Would definitely make this again, and not just when Fresh Picks delivers it to me.

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More Hanukkah Bear Mischief

The Hanukkah bears were up to more mischief these past few days.

Yesterday morning when the boys woke they found the Hanukkah bears dressed up just like them…


Then this morning they found the Hanukkah bears taking a joy ride in their make shift hot air balloon…


Meanwhile the past two nights the boys opened up legos, lego calendars, huge garbage trucks that my sister bought for the twins, Harry Potter movies and more.

Jack brought home gift for all his family members from his school’s holiday bazaar. Very thoughtful stuff like a photo frame for me (even my 7 year old knows I’m addicted to my camera), a clock for Adam, and little ice cream bowls for all his siblings.

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Hanukkah Starts

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah and the kids were ecstatic that their wait was finally over.

DSC_0308Yes, they’re baaaaack. The kids were greeted with the Hanukkah bears yesterday morning.

In the evening they almost burst with anticipation waiting for Adam to get home from work.

We sang the Hanukkah prayer and lit the candles.

DSC_0310Well, Adam and I sung it. Ben and Jack watched. Aaron and Sam sang ‘Happy Birthday’.

DSC_0314We opened the first night’s toys. Jack and Ben actually picked out all their toys and wrapped them themselves so they knew exactly what they were getting. There is Jack’s remote control Dino car. Ben got mini superheros and villains, also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hot chocolate mugs from his aide. The twins got matching ambulances. We also opened up gifts from Aunt Aloha and Uncle Ronnie. Puppets, books and Macadamia Nut Chocolates.

It was a great haul for the first night! Or any night!


Then it was time for the dreidel game. Aaron tried to eat his whole stash and Ben got really upset when he lost, but Adam was able to bring him back in and show him how to play. I was proud he was able to come back and recover from his upset. Shows he’s getting better.

This morning, the bears were up to no good again…


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Star of the Week

With all the holiday show hoopla, I forgot to mention that Ben had another very good week last week.

He was ‘Star of the Week’ in his kindergarten class and proudly filled out this poster about himself all on his own. He wouldn’t let me help write a single letter. I noticed for Jack’s Kindergarten ‘Star of the Week’ poster I wrote everything. (First time mom rookie mistake!)


Highlights include Ben’s chosen profession when he grows up: Lawyer and Police Man. Jack wanted to be a truck driver on his.

Ben’s favorite food is Egg Rolls, Jack’s was Sushi. Yes, I’ve managed to pass on that asian gene!

For the things he does at home her wrote “iPad and TMNT” (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and for the things he does at school he wrote “be good for treats”. Ha ha ha ha.

Finally, for his three supercool facts he wrote he can swim, he collected 1001 pieces of candy for Halloween, and he can do almost anything!

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Holiday Show

It was the usual morning frenzy Friday morning at the Calisoff house. Today’s frenzy du jour was the holiday show at school. Both Jack and Ben were performing and everyone, including the parents, were very excited.

It was a big day for Ben. In the past Ben has not done well in performance situations. I don’t know if you all remember the puppet show incident. He basically wandered around the stage during his performance then kicked and screamed his way off the stage. In hindsight, we figured standing alone on stage with no one to regulate him was a bad idea.

So when it was once again time for him to perform, we approached with trepidation. We actually told his aide not to let him perform. We didn’t want him ruining the show for everyone. And we’ve seen Jack’s school shows. They are AMAZING.

When we told her not to let him participate, her face fell. She told us he would be really disappointed and she thought he could do it. So we told her okay, but if it’s not working out we are okay not seeing him onstage.

The staff at school not only managed to teach him his lines and get him to practice, they also made him line leader. He was a leader! I was really, really hoping he would succeed.

So back to the Calisoff morning frenzy. For some reason, Jack said he couldn’t stand up to get dressed. He was acting very strange. But I don’t think anyone spent any time trying to figure out why. Jack really wanted to do the show and we really wanted to see him do it!

Please do not judge me when you see the picture I snapped before Adam took them so school. When I look at it I cringe. If it were in a newspaper the caption might read, “Stage Mom Ignores Sick Kid’s Symptoms. The Show Must Go On!”

DSC_0260 And the show did go on.

Ben did an incredible job. I couldn’t tell him apart from any other kid up there. He did the movements and sang the song. He waited patiently to lead the other kids off stage. I was so proud of him. HE DID IT!

DSC_0266Jack fought the sickness and performed in both shows. In between he put his head on his desk. As his teacher said, she knew he was sick because today they had plenty of opportunity to horse around with their buddies and he didn’t do it.

DSC_0283 - Version 2The auditorium was packed so there was no room for siblings but while I was watching Jack perform I turned around and saw this image in the doorway…


It was such an upbeat way to start the holiday season. Many thanks to Jack and Ben’s school!

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Another birthday! And so soon! I feel like with each passing year the birthdays come quicker and quicker.

Actually I have a theory on that. When you are 4 years old you have to wait, like 1/5 of your life for your 5th birthday to arrive. That’s a long time to wait! But when you are turning 42, it’s only 1/42 of your life since your last birthday. Which really isn’t a lot at all.

So another birthday!

Adam and the older boys were out creating some elaborate surprise that they unbelievably kept a secret from me until my actual birthday.

DSC_0235Adam took them to a pottery place and they made these great little boxes for me to put stuff in.


Then the twins came in with a card they scribbled up real good for me. They were very proud of themselves too.


I got spoiled with breakfast out at Meli Cafe, reflexology at Fit Foot, and cupcakes from Sweet Mandy Bs.

DSC_0253That evening we got the sitter and went to the gym then to dinner at Japonais by Morimoto.

It was a perfect day. I loved all my gifts and thoroughly enjoyed getting spoiled, but the best gift I got this year came from Ben.

An entire week of good behavior reports from Ben’s school…


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Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Has anyone been reading about wheat intolerance in our country? Does anyone know why we have it so bad nowadays?

Some people claim Gluten Intolerance from Roundup Herbicide is the reason. I wasn’t sure, but after reading it all of a sudden I was scared of commercially produced bread.

Enter my sister’s recommendation – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

I had NO IDEA it was so easy to make bread. And how much more delicious it would be than the stuff you buy at the store.

Jack and I have become professional bakers!

Boule and Dinner Rolls

So far we made a Boule bread and dinner rolls. Then we made Naan bread…

Naan Bread

Which we turned into pizza….

Which we used to make pizza

Next we moved onto Challah bread.

DSC_0206Jack and I made matching braided breads.

DSC_0208At first the other kids were happy to sit on the sidelines, sipping hot chocolate and watching.

DSC_0209But soon we became a full on “baker’s half dozenish”.

Here is all the great shapes we came up with.

DSC_0214Jack made ‘car challahs’. Can you spot them? Ben wanted a braid of his own.

Here are the two braids Jack and I did…


It’s been so much fun to do this with the kids. More than I imagined it would be. And as an added bonus I’m saving money and feeding my kids less preservatives and added sugars. It’s a very satisfying venture all the way around.

Next up we are tackling bagels…

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