Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mama Tip Tuesday! Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies

Other than the usual turkey and sides what is your must have for Thanksgiving? 

Mine is Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies! 

I started making these about a year ago and they turn out wonderful time after time! My mom loves to make them too! They are a favorite in my house! Even my husband who doesn't like sweets loves them! I hope they become a favorite in your house too! 

Thanksgiving day I will be stuffing my belly with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, jello and the list goes on. After the marathon of eating, I'm always craving chocolate. Then again Thanksgiving cannot be complete without pumpkin. These are the optimal mix of cookie perfection. 

The original recipe came from here.

I followed all instructions but omitted the milk and nuts. I also doubled the recipe so everyone at Thanksgiving can enjoy, and I can leave some at home. Also these could be made diary free if you buy DF choc chips! 

My little helpers!

Before cooking.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Perfection!

It's so hard to stop eating them!

So, what is your must have at Thanksgiving?!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Traditions That Tie Us Together

Holiday Traditions and Memories

I've been thinking lots about all the things I want to do with the kiddos this holiday season. I want to make sure we hit all their favorites, and the things they've come to love as our special family traditions, but I also find myself searching out something special for this season just for me. Something to help me honor my own mom. She so loved Christmas, and she passed on that love to me. I love everything about it - the twinkle of the lights, finding a perfect new ornament each year, watching old movies, holiday parties, making cookies, singing Angels We Have Heard on High in church and all the festive food throughout the season. 

It's my first Christmas without her, and I find myself a little stunned at exactly how painful and raw it is turning out to be for me. I miss her immensely, and I think of her often. I wonder if it will get easier as the years pass. I also know that I don't want it to hinder the magic of the season for my sugarpies. For them, I must carry on and be that same mama they know and love, even though this year I could just hide until it's all over.

I think this year I am craving a simpler holiday. One close to home and full of simple family time. Lucky for me there are so many wonderful holiday activities so close to home. Here are a list of our top ten favorites!

1.  Breakfast with Santa: (December 7th 8-10:30) - Each year the Fortville Optimists put on an amazing breakfast with Santa event at the Fortville Community Center. Great food, crafts, fellowship and photos with the big guy.

2.  Fortville Winter Festival: (December 7th 2-8p.m.) - Kicks-off with a holiday parade down Main Street Fortville and will feature the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers this year. Additional features include kids zone with face painting and a prize wheel, zip line, carriage rides, barrel train through a holiday inflatable wonderland, live music and craft and food vendors.

3.  Reynolds Farm Equipment FREE Light Display in Fishers - Love this! We end up driving through many times during the season. Christmas music and hot chocolate is a must for us as we enjoy the display. Click here to see a previous year's display via YouTube.

4.  The "dancing house" as my children call it. It's a house on Harrison Parkway in Fishers that is coordinated to music. You tune to 100.1 FM, listen and watch the show. Watch out, as this is a popular local attraction and it gets crowded in front of the house. You may have to patiently wait for your turn to see it fully. Click here for a video. Not the greatest quality, but you get the idea.

5.  Conner Prairie holiday Gingerbread Village. We love taking in all the creations. Who knew you could make such amazing things out of gingerbread and candy! And if you have a membership, this is FREE.

6.  Jolly Days at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. The kiddos love the Yule Slide! They're already taking about it. They tried to make us follow a Coke truck the other day that had a Jolly Days ad on the back. Silly kids. The best part this year is that Jolly Days falls within two Target FREE family nights at the Museum. December 5th and January 2nd.

7.  Circle of Lights. An amazing Indy holiday tradition. We love heading downtown via Meridian and driving straight into the circle to see the tree. The kids are always in awe. While downtown there is plenty to do as well. You can even drop a letter off to Santa via his special mailbox on the circle.

8.  Christmas Teas, Cantatas, Live Nativities and Holy Walks. One of my very favorite parts of the season are these types of events that center you and help you slow down and be still for a moment while you remember the reason for the season. Our favorite is the Holy Walk Through Bethlehem at St. Mark's in Carmel. However, I believe they are taking a year off this year. We'll have to search out a Live Nativity instead. If you know of one going on this year, please comment below and share. I'd love to know.

9.  Movies, cookies and special meals. My little man has had a love of Home Alone since he was tiny. It's become one of our very favorites. We love to watch all three back to back with popcorn and a batch of Santa cookies. We also have favorite meals through out the season. Ones that everyone looks for on special days, such as my mom's Christmas pulled pork BBQ.

10.  Holiday Theater Events. As a young girl, my mom would take me to all sorts of plays and musicals throughout the year. I loved doing this with her! My brother used to buy her Clowes Memorial Hall season tickets every year, which included the beloved Nutcracker each December. I loved getting dressed up and taking in the theater with her, especially during the holidays. I try to do this as much as I can with our little ones. Exposure to the arts is a wonderful thing! It can get expensive so I try to find low cost local options. Ten West right here in Fortville is a great source, along with the local high schools! Right now Mt. Vernon High School and Hamilton Southeastern have holiday plays scheduled with tickets at affordable prices.

In pulling together the list of our favorites, I think I have discovered just the thing to help me with this first year without mom! Afternoon tea with my sisters at The Ayres Tea Room and The Nutcracker at Clowes with the sugarpies!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Indiana State Museum Ice Age Exhibit - Meet Fred!

Touch. Listen. Interact.

Have you been down to the Ice Age Giants Exhibit at the Indiana State Museum?

If not, you are missing out! It runs 11/16/13 - 8/17/14. I have to say our kiddos thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of it! Well, I have to admit, so did we! We took the whole Fortville Mama crew out, both mine and Jenny's.

As an art education major in college, we studied many things including prehistoric art. I remember going through page after page thinking, these pictures surely cannot do these justice. I, myself, have always had tough time learning from a text book. I have to touch, listen and interact with things to truly learn from it. This exhibit did just that.

First stop was digging for dinosaur bones. I think the kiddos would have stayed in there all day if we let them. They loved the hands-on nature of it!

In the past, I have seen employees of various attractions occupy their stations and do just that, the bare minimum. However, it seemed that every one of the Indiana State Museum employees were hand pick to make the Ice Age Giants Exhibit special for small minds. Every one of them had something interesting to say and were so happy to teach both the kiddos and the parents!

Yes, they would have stayed all day, if we let them!
After we wrestled them out of the pit'o'bones, we kept exploring. Most stations had the little red button that kids love to push, or they could place their little hand on a hand outline to make the station come to life. Almost an "easy" button for learning. The interaction of watching a dinosaur chew was a bit mesmerizing! 

This, my friends cannot be experienced in text books. They couldn't believe how big they were! They also were intrigued by the differences between a mammoth and a mastodon.

We took in the sights while thinking about the past. Would I have survived taking down a mammoth, so my family could eat? These guys are massive!

Next we moved on to something a little less massive, building a baby mammoth. Which my girls had to take apart and put back together at least 3 times. Such fun!
It may not be massive to an adult but to a 20 month old, two 4 year olds and even the 8 year old, it was pretty big! 
So many hands on and mind enriching activities! I love watching all our sugarpies little minds take it all in and discover the past. Jenny's little man enjoyed digging through sand to find stick "bones" that when put together made a puzzle picture. A great day for a sensory loving kiddo!
Truly activities around every corner at this exhibit! Fun for the whole family! It's one that cannot be missed! Oh and follow Fred the Mastodon on Twitter. Who knew a Mastodon could have a Twitter account! He has a funny side - you won't want to miss his tweets! #IceAgeISM @FredIndiana
One of our amazing blogger friends, Chaos Is Bliss is running a amazing #IceAgeISM giveaway right now! Hop on over to her site and enter to WIN Indiana State Museum Admission Tickets.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mama Tip Tuesday! Venison Mexican Manicotti

It's deer season in Indiana!

Which means I must be sure to use any leftover frozen meat from last year and get ready for the new. Let me count the reasons why I love venison: It's almost free for us! The nutrition of the deer is free range as they forage on things in the woods. I would say the meat is pretty organic. Some people cannot phantom the idea of eating dear, but it is what I grew up eating. My dad hunts and I was lucky to marry a hunter. Bare in mind, we are highly selective only harvesting mature deer. They spend many hours in the woods, but I cannot blame them as the views are spectacular.

Filling our freezer means countless meals for our family. We make burgers, chili and use it in place of beef in so many dishes. It's ultra lean, making it perfect for many dishes, including Venison Mexican Manicotti! I want to say first that I did not completely come up with this recipe on my own. My inspiration came from here 
After some tweaking here is my version:
1 lb venison or super lean ground beef
1 16oz package manicotti 
1 16oz can black beans
1 package taco seasoning or 1/4 cup homemade taco seasoning
2 cups of water
16 oz picante sauce 
2 cups Mexican style cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 can of black olives

Preheat oven to 350. Mix venison or beef, beans, taco seasoning, and 1 cup of cheese. 

Stuff uncooked shells with mixture.

Be on the look out for little cheese thieves. 
Once shells are stuffed, top with picante sauce then add 2 cups of water. 
Cover with foil then cook at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. 

After an hour and a half, it will look like this. The noodles are tender and full of flavor.

Next top with sour cream, cheese, and black olives. Then slide it back in the oven 10 minutes. 

It becomes a fabulous comfort food! 


On a side note, I had meat mixture left over. Which was made into little patties. These were great for my little ones who can't wait for dinner. Maybe lunch the next day? 


Mama Tip Tuesday! Shop local and create!

This holiday season, will be epic.

How do I know this? I have decided that everyone we gift to will recieve something made with love.
First of all, I love to repurpose things. Second of all, it's so great to get products locally!
I never know when I will find inspiration. Usually I look for things that are unique or stand out to me! My latest find was in a little consignment store much like Vendors Village. https://www.facebook.com/VendorsVillageCraftsAndConsignments

We have shopped Vendors Village a few times after a neighbor raved about the treasure she found. I admit, I was envious. I watched her transform a great table into something better then what you could find at pottery barn. The table was solid wood, with claw feet, and was a beautiful quarter sawn oak. She gave it a sand down, adorned the base with a deep charcol gray then added a few coats of polyurethane to the top.
Moral of the story? We can repurpose and create something epic.
Lets go back to my latest find that I couldn't pass up. This vintage treasure whoooooted "Ashley take me home! Give me a new life!" So I did. A little sanding, taping, new hardware, stickers and spray paint later, I have something with personality that I can call my own.
This little whoot will become a necklace holder for my daughter. What fun!
Tell us, what is the neatest thing you have found at a consignment store?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fortville Mama's Favorite Things

Fortville Mama's Top Picks for 2013

Looking for a unique gift for someone special on your list? Fortville has some amazing small businesses with great one-of-a-kind items perfect for your someone special! We may not be Oprah, but here are our top ten "Fortville Mama Favorites" in no particular order, and boy was it hard to just pick ten!

1. The Fort Grille! Who wouldn't love a gift card from this Fortville Indiana hot spot! I have a feeling Guy Fieri will be visiting one day soon to check this local favorite out for himself! The mac and cheese, peanut butter burger, spicy bbq fried chicken salad, fried green tomatoes and s'mores cake are all FortvilleMama tested and approved! Yum!

2. A custom pendant from The Girl Neck Store. Local resident Suzanne whips up amazing custom pendants with all sorts of designs, including your favorite photo or scripture verse. Love them! Have two and have given them as gifts as well!

3. Gift certificate for The Paint Cellar! How could you not love this place! They let you bring your own wine and they are located in the coolest place - Ten West Center for the Arts! Plus Fortville Mama's very own Ashley is one of the instructors! FYI - They also have a Carmel location or will travel and do a party at your location.

4. Tana's Kreation's can make anything! She is quite crafty. All kinds of unique handmade items. Place your holiday order soon.

5. Jennifer's Flower's on Main Street Fortville. Jennifer has many adorable little items all over her store. Perfect for stocking stuffers! Our favorite is her new handmade scarfs!

6. Gift Certificate from Indulge! Give the gift of a PINK ELEPHANT this season!

7. Something from the "Not Just Furniture" category at Beauty from Ashes! Adorable! Love their cool chalk boards!

8. Gift card for Java Junction/Indy Block Party. Give someone you love the gift of quiet enjoyment of a signature Java Junction coffee while their kiddos get all their energy out bouncing! I know quite a few mamas that would kiss your face off for this gift!
9. A unique Christmas ornament from Piney Acres Farm. While you're out picking out your family Christmas tree the season, stop in the farm store and check out the BIG selection of hand pick ornaments on display! My mom used to give me a new ornament each year. Something that spoke to her and made her think of me or the kids. I love that she did that. They adorn my tree each and every year and make me think of her. Piney Acres Farm is the perfect place to pick one that is out of the ordinary and memorable.
10. Tickets to an upcoming show at Ten West Center for the Arts! What a treasure Ten West is for our community. Great productions throughout the year including plays, musicals, comedy nights and gallery art shows!
- The Fortville Mamas
(Jen and Ashley)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mama Tip Tuesday! Bulk Bin Bargains

Savings, Sustainability and Good Eats

Are you a foodie on a budget? Love to try new recipes that call for ingredients that you really would rather not have to buy a whole container or box of just to try out one new dish? I have an amazing tip for you! Bulk bins! A cost-effective way to buy those high price ingredients in smaller amounts, just enough for your recipe. You never know - what if you hate the recipe and never want to make it again. This way you won't be stuck with a bunch of something you don't want or need. No waste. Also a great way to be greener...by buying from the bulk bins you lose the packaging. Some stores even let you bring your own reusable bags as well!

And we're in luck, just up the road from Fortville is Earth Fare at Hamilton Town Center! A perfect place to find bulk bins with all sorts of items, from staples such as whole grains to beans, raw nuts, spices and mixes! Plus I love the specials and coupons they run! For example, right now on their Facebook you can enter to WIN an all natural turkey and a $20 gift card! It always pays to keep up on Earth Fare's FB page. Tons of deals.

So with the holidays coming up and recipes to try, keep bulk bin shopping in mind for those recipe lists! A shout out to Indulge's very own Crystal! This great bulk bin shopping tip came straight from her!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bargersville Daddy Comes to Fortville

Up Close and Personal with Some Fortvillians

A few weeks ago I got the pleasure to meet Bargersville Daddy and my lovely sister at The Georgetowner Draft House for a little impromptu appetizer and beverage. He and my sister came to town for their high school reunion, which was being hosted at Ten West Center for the Arts. I won't say which milestone reunion it was, but I am the younger sister, so take your guesses!

Early that particular Saturday I had gotten a text message that they were making the trip up to our neck of the woods and would love to visit the famous bar on Main Street! They had recently read about it in the paper and heard from others of its charm! Sure! I always jump at the chance to show off this little town I call home. Truly I adore it. #iheartFortville indeed.

I always love to hear others feedback when they visit. I enjoy hearing about their individual experience and what quaint charms of Fortville catch their eye. In the spirit of that, I asked my brother-in-law (aka Bargersville Daddy) to guest blog and tell us about his experience in our little town.

To give you a little back story: When I started Fortville Mama earlier this year, my brother-in-law Davey, lovingly poked a little fun and would sign his notes to me on Facebook as Bargersville Daddy. To all of our surprise Fortville Mama took off and continues to grow. For that I am very blessed. I keep telling him there might just be something to this Bargersville Daddy thing!

Without further ado: A Note From Bargersville Daddy

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Fortville.  It sure is an inviting town with beautiful streets full of charm. Everyone looked ready for fall and Halloween. I loved how the town is situated in the middle of corn fields. It gives it kind of a cocoon feel.
I think the first thing I saw after entering the town was one enormous elephant situated by the liquor store. Who could get lost looking for their beer supplier in this place?
Our first stop this particular Saturday evening was to have a visit at The Georgetowner Draft House with the Fortville Mama.  In our opinion, "Mama" is Fortville's best and most effective cheerleader… singing the praises of this beautiful place on this new thing called "Facebook".  Wish my town had a "Mama”.  She is so effective at pointing out the highlights of her beloved hometown. She would make anyone want to visit!
We sat and visited with "Mama" and heard all about her beautiful town with the beautiful Main Street. The pub was excellent! Great selection of beer and some of the best appetizers we have had in a long time. We had pizza nachos, something I had never seen on a menu - and I have seen lots of menus in my life! They were excellent and so unique. I have been craving them for the past two weeks. Being coleslaw connoisseurs, we also tried the chef's special recipe featuring Jameson Whiskey. Wow- yummy in our tummies!  I have tasted more bad attempts at this simple dish than good, but this one was a winner.
We got to talk to the chef that evening. He was a real treat and someone with real ambition. Fortville is lucky to have him in town. They would be luckier if he stays forever. We also got to hear about his weekly $1 tacos. We will definitely be back to the Georgetowner even though it was almost an hour drive. Would rather they open up a branch closer to home in Bargersville, but this place will just give us another reason to come back to Fortville.
After hugging "Mama" goodbye, we were on our way to our high school reunion at Ten West Center for the Arts on Church Street, a former church that has been transformed into a very impressive arts center. The building was amazing and welcoming, but at the time, was full of beautiful old people- my former classmates. The center has room for lessons, receptions, weddings, art instructions, etc. What an incredible asset for any town! Hope all Fortvillians, or whatever they are called, will take advantage of this great resource for children and adults. Every town should be so lucky to have it!
Fortville seems like a wonderful place to live...a small town with great resources within driving distance of a big city. But if Fortville is to keep this small town feel, it will take some willpower by the city planners to not take the easy route and turn it into "New" Fishers- bloated, crowded, and generic.  Hopefully in twenty years, Fortville will still seem more like Mayberry than another north side mega suburb. I hope to make many trips back within that time to see how they are doing.

-Bargersville Daddy (aka Davey)


Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Fun McGiveaway - McDonald's Happy Meals & More!

Yesterday marked National Family Literacy Day and the beginning of a great new "good read" element in McDonald's Happy Meals! Limited edition books!
  • The Goat Who Ate Everything
  • Deana's Big Dreams
  • Ant, Can't
  • Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando

What a great happy meal surprise for kids! Nothing better than a good book! We are big readers in our family. We love our trips to the library and snuggling up with a book before bedtime. We can't wait to dive into these great new original books from McDonald's!

In a continued effort to celebrate the joy of reading and give back, McDonald's also is sponsoring Give a Book, Get a Book now through November 14th, along with "Happy Meal Parties" at participating libraries. Check here for the most up-to-date list of donation sites (including the Ronald McDonald house, libraries and other locations) where you can drop off new or gently used books in exchange for a "Be Our Guest" card for a FREE McDonald's Happy Meal!

In celebration of these fun limited edition books from McDonald's and their Central Indiana Give a Book, Get a Book campaign, I am thrilled to have a special FortvilleMama GIVEAWAY contest for you!
  • 5 FREE Happy Meal Coupons
  • $10 Amazon Gift Card
  • 1 Limited Edition Book
How do you ENTER TO WIN? It's easy...all you have to do is comment here on the blog, our Facebook page or our Twitter page and tell us which limited edition book you and your kiddos are most excited to read! Contest ends Thursday November 7th at midnight.

Want extra chances to WIN? Enter on these fellow bloggers sites as well.

We'd love to see photos of you at Give-a-Book, Get-a-Book drop-off sites or reading your limited edition books from your Happy Meals! Make sure to tag your photo #McIndyMoms