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If holiday ennui makes for a bad parent, then I’m downright terrible

I am not religious. And I’m not really interested in celebrating the Hallmark holidays, either. Add to this an aversion to candy and an inherent laziness when it comes to decorating/cooking/shopping/costume-making, and you end up with a person who doesn’t appear to do very much in the way of “celebrating.”

This would be a non-issue, except that I have four small children. These four small children attend schools and daycares. And these schools and daycares are CONSTANTLY reminding said children that they need to wear green, or buy Valentine’s Day cards, or bring their Easter baskets with the plastic grass to school on Friday. But it’s okay! Holidays are OKAY. They just tend to make me look like an abhorrent parent when… I’m actually pretty good.

So celebrating traditional, universal holidays isn’t where I SHINE as a mother. I’m generally not the mom that offers to make cupcakes for the Christmas party. I’m not the mom that volunteers to paint eggs or make a Thanksgiving turkey. I have a really hard time coming up with cute ideas for a Halloween costume. And… (prepare to cringe) I might very well forget to call my mom on Mother’s Day if it weren’t for the fact that school teachers remind my kids to shower me with homemade cards and slobbery kisses on said day.

BUT.

Turn turkey leftovers into this turkey and napa cabbage salad with lime-ginger vinaigrette

When I was a child, my grandmother used to roast up two enormous turkeys during the holidays. And of course, that was on top of all the usual gravies and sauces, sides and pies. For days after, the entire family would eat Grandma’s famous “blue plate special,” which was our euphemism for leftovers.

Fast forward to today, and I think turkey actually has a bit of an identity crisis. On one hand it is associated with a day reserved for feasting with abandon. On the other, turkey is a lean protein whose versatility should be celebrated. Just one serving of skinless turkey meat has over half the protein you need for an entire day (and less than 1 gram of fat!). Plus, turkey is a good source of vitamin B and selenium.

Not only is turkey a healthy choice, but it’s a versatile one, too. And its versatility is the key to avoiding leftover fatigue. So instead of ladling out leftover gravy on yet another open-faced turkey sandwich with stuffing, trick your palate into thinking it’s getting something altogether different.

In this turkey and napa cabbage salad with lime-ginger vinaigrette, I take the taste buds someplace decidedly un-Thanksgiving-y in a couple of ways.

I lean toward the anti-feast by making a fresh dinner salad with crunchy veggies and a bright, citrusy dressing. Also, I completely change the flavor profile by bringing in ginger and lime, which feel more Asian than pilgrim. Also consider using leftover turkey to go Mexican (try tacos and a chunky salsa), or Vietnamese (how about a bahn mi?) or Thai (add turkey cubes to a pad Thai or a coconut curry).

However you decide to give new life to your protein-packed leftovers, here is a tip: It’s always easier to remove the meat from the turkey bones the same day it’s roasted. The meat comes away more easily, it won’t dry out (because it’s easier to wrap than a whole bird), and it’s fast and simple to grab just what you need.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. melissadarabian.net

[yumprint-recipe id=’49’] Photo: Matthew Mead. Recipe: Melissa d’Arabian.

Happy Thanksgiving From the Mamas!

Today’s inspirational quote:

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.

~J. Robert Moskin

Today’s not-so inspirational quote, as shared by Mile High Mama Connie via Twitter:

Ordered my Fresh Free Range Thanksgiving Turkey…feel good knowing it was raised in a caring environment before it was beheaded.

We’re grateful for your continued support of Mile High Mamas. Happy Thanksgiving!

Contest: Win Catering from Noodles & Co. for 20 of your friends!

“I’m so full!” my son declared after going to a tasting at Noodles & Company  with me. Understand, this is not an easy task. He’s not a tiny child (at just 14 years old he’s already 6 feet and has a football build–plus, he had just played a game when we went). My daughter, The Foodie, declared “This is awesome, Mom! Can we come again?” I am not certain if everyone does this but we love to order several different dishes and share them. So they are the perfectly trained kiddos to go with and Noodles & Co. has certainly upped their game to offer so much more than just noodles.

Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by Brandice who is the manager and were ushered to seats at the back of the restaurant where there were sweet treats and drink glasses waiting for us. It was super apparent that Brandice loves her job and loves to treat people to tastings. We started with pot stickers,which were amazing and margarita flat bread. We also tried soups like the Tomato Basil Bisque, Thai Hot Pot (which was not at all like pho – but still very tasty), and the Chicken Noodle. I don’t know what they did to the chicken noodle soup – but I instantly wished I was sick so someone could bring me more! (Take note anyone who might want to be nice and be a hero taking a sick friend or loved one soup – get two because you’ll want one for yourself).

Then we tried some salads – the Spinach & Fresh Fruit was exactly what you’d expect from a salad by that name. We also tried the Med Salad with Chicken, which was great but it also had cavatappi pasta in it. I guess I should have expected that at a place called Noodles but I was not expecting it. I think the salad was fine without the noodles.

After that we really got into the Noodles dishes. I’ve been to Noodles before. However, I usually order the SAME thing all the time because I ‘m a creature of habit or maybe just because I know a certain dish is tasty. So this was the perfect opportunity to try a bunch of other stuff (and now make my decision process while ordering a bit more difficult). We tried the Penne Rose (tomato cream sauce, penne pasta, mushrooms, tomato, spinach and wine); Japanese Pan Noodles (Carmelized udon noodles in soy sauce with vegetables); Wisconsin Mac and Cheese (we asked for it with hamburger); and Steak Stroganoff. They were all so delicious – but we were very full. So we asked if they could box up leftovers and we ate them again the next night.

Noodles serves the best pasta dishes from around the world but Noodles is not just about a bowl of pasta. While we were there we tried a BBQ Pork Sandwich, which my son LOVED and asked for an extra so he could take it to school for lunch the next day.

Noodles is opening two new locations. Lakewood is scheduled for December 8 and Arvada for December 15, 2014.

Noodles now caters across Colorado. They will serve groups from 20 to 200 with the great items that we had or pick your own. Catering is just $12 per person. The catering is easy to order: Just call, pick up (they can also deliver for a charge) and then set up (they give you everything you need including chafing dishes, fuel, plates, utensils, servicing ware and napkins.) Now,  Mile High Mamas wants to give you the chance to try Noodles catering! When you register to win you will be entered to win catering for up to 20 people wherever you want.

Be sure to go here to enter!

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Denver Deal: Awesome Black Friday Deals, Reindeer Games

Shhhh! Black Friday is the best shopping day of the year. Or so we have been told. Yes, there are steals and deals to be had on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving – for those living under a rock). But more and more, I am finding out that while there are some deals that day – the days leading UP to Thanksgiving may be better. Also, several stores have released their ads early (it used to be such a family tradition to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and peruse the newspaper for plans on the next morning’s shopping excursion – but now I don’t get the paper and everything is online).

For some really great tips, don’t miss Black Friday retail veterans share their secrets to buying smart.

The majority of the Fantastic Black Friday door-buster deals are similar to what they have been in years past. These include great deals on TVs (many near $115 at Best Buy, Target and WalMart), Laptops (Best Buy and Staples), Tablets (Target, Best Buy, and Office Depot), and loads of Housewares (Macy’s, Best Buy, Target, Kohl’s and J C Penney). But as a parent, I am always looking for the “toy of the year” and great deals for the kids stuff.

Target will have great deals like 40% off Lego Sets (goes well with many ages). Target and WalMart will have Barbie dolls for $5. Perhaps the best all around sale on toys will be at Kohl’s with Fisher Price toys, Playskool, Little Tykes, Barbie, Monster High, Hot Wheels, Nerf and more on sale for 50% off plus you can get $10 Kohl’s cash for each $50 you spend.

Target Gift Cards. On Nov. 28, from 6 a.m. to noon, get 10 percent off on Target gift cards, up to $300 per customer. This is the first time the giant retailer has offered a discount on its gift cards (The cards won’t be active until Nov. 29.).

 Toys R Us has the best deals on toys (no surprise there) with most toys being 40-50% off during their Black Friday Doorbusters on Thursday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and great family DVDs – buy one get one for just $1. Play-doh 4-pack is just $1 as well. I couldn’t identify the toy of the year – so if you see a trend please let me know.

Soybu Discount. Last spring, Mile High Mamas was thrilled to partner with Soybu women’s activewear to collaborate the grand opening of their flagship store in Greenwood Village next to Trader Joe’s. Their “Life is a Workout” messaging particularly resonates with moms; their feminine, stylish and comfortable clothes are perfect, whether you’re chasing a toddler around the house or fitting in a hardcore workout. On Black Friday: Everything will be 25% off for one day only – 11/28/14. Enter code “Merry25” at check out. Cyber Monday: Free Dianna Scarf for all purchases of $100 or more on Dec. 1, 2014 ($35 value).

glenwoodGet 50% off Winter on the Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. For an unique day of winter fun with your family, the new Winter on the Mountain experience at Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs, offers a host of holiday-themed activities for kids of all ages. Everyone will be dazzled by over a half-million lights, holiday-themed displays, music, and more.  Relax by outdoor fire pits and roast s’mores while watching the giant Christmas tree with its choreographed light show.  During the holidays, Santa will be greeting children and posing for pictures in the yurt. Smaller kids can ride with adults on Colorado’s longest Alpine Coaster or, a 600-foot zip ride. And, kids love the Wild West laser tag arena and Colorado’s first 4D Motion Theater. In the evening the mountain-top restaurant serves amazing family=-style dinners with unparalleled views of the valley below.  Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves are rated one of the country’s “10 Best Family Places to Go Underground” where it’s always a comfy 52 degrees. Call for hours or go to their website and enter the promo code MHMAMA14 for a 50% discount on the Winter Funday Pass.

Reindeer games. For kids who need some holiday magic, head over to Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops (7970 Northfield Blvd.) through Dec. 24. The event may be the best holiday deal in town for parents, as everything is free — animated and “live” elves, nutcrackers, reindeer, an old-time model train area, remote-control trucks, games and activity tables. Children can write a letter to Santa, color, make ornaments or decorate cookies. Kids even get a free photo with Santa. If the line is long, grab a Bass Pass and return at a set time. Santa’s Wonderland operates from store opening to closing daily, with special hours for crafts and visits with the big, jolly guy. Complete schedule, go to basspro.com/santa and choose Denver from “Select a Store.”

Denver Zoo. Through Nov. 30, just tell the cashiers, “I love turkeys!” and they’ll give you a $7 discount on admission, making it $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Also check out a special discounted $30 Glow Package (regularly $50) online through Dec. 4 for Zoo Lights this holiday season. The deal includes two adult tickets, two souvenir mugs with free hot cocoa and two 3-D glow glasses. denverzoo.org

YMCA of the Rockies. For one day only, on December 1, both Colorado locations of YMCA of the Rockies will offer $15 off per night in lodge rooms when booked online.  Guests can book a lodge room that sleeps up to 6 people for as little as $64 per night.  A perfect opportunity to book a spring break trip to the mountains at prices you won’t find anywhere else. This offer is valid only for individual reservations, staying between December 2, 2014 through May 31, 2015.  Not valid from December 20 – January 4, January 16-19, or February 14-17. http://ymcarockies.org/

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Email me if you know of any great Denver deals!
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If you’re on Twitter follow me on Twitter (GeeWhy93).  If I find a great deal during the week, I’ll tweet it out.

Kids Eat Free Mile High Mamas has rounded up a huge listing of local restaurants where kids eat free or for a discount with a paying adult.

 

10 Fun Activities & Tips to Reduce Holiday Travel Stress

There is some good and bad news about the Thanksgiving travel season.

The Good: According to AAA, the national price of gasoline has fallen below $3.00 per gallon for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010. AAA predicts most U.S. travelers likely will pay the cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices in five years. More than 89 percent (41.3 million) of holiday travelers will drive to their destination, a 4.3 percent increase from 2013.

The Bad: AAA also cautions that the Thanksgiving holiday travel volume is expected to reach the highest level since 2007, with 46.3 million Americans taking a trip.

That’s a lot of people on roadways and in the air.

Don’t miss our travel tips for staying sane this holiday season!

Family medicine kit. It never fails: When I fail to pack vitamins and medicine, someone inevitably gets sick. So, I’ve started packing beyond just our first-aid kit and include everything but the kitchen sink. Some things to consider: Sunblock (summer and winter) * Cough/cold medicine *  saline spray for stuffed noses (particularly helpful when flying) * pain reliever such as Tylenol/Advil * anti-allergy cream for cuts and bites *  *Vicks for nasal congestion *Otrivin for stuffed noses * Thermometer * Bandaids *Antiseptic cream like Neosporin or equivalent. For babies: diaper rash cream * teething gel for teething pain *earache drops * colic/gas drops *syringe.

Healthy snacks, individually packaged. In the past, our trip offerings have been solely junk food. While we still love treats, my goal is to take plenty of fresh fruit, nuts, trail mix and granola bars. I also give each child their own snack bag so they don’t fight over the food (I speak from experience.)
 
Dollar Store. I am convinced the Dollar Store was made expressly for traveling kids. The week prior to our vacation, I assign my kids various chores around the house. With the money they earned, I set them loose at the Dollar Store to relish in the glory of cheap plastic toys that I do not care if they get broken. Or, if you have a long flight or drive, buy them inexpensive toys and surprise your kids at the moment they need it most (or right before that precarious moment!)
 
Books and Audiobooks. We have fallen in love with audiobooks and often take a trip to the library or download them from iTunes before long road trips. This article from Mashable is a great resource for free audiobooks: 10 Free Audiobook Sites to Get Your Bookworm On. If you need book ideas, Travel Savvy Mom has a fantastic age-by-age guide to the best audio books for kids http://www.travelsavvymom.com/blog/resources/the-best-audio-books-for-kids/.

In the Car

  • Winter driving kit. For our first winter road trip, I always update the emergency kit we keep in our car. For winter, we not only stash blankets, extra warm clothes, food, water and pillows but also items in case of a mechanical emergency.  Make sure you have jumper cables, a flashlight with fresh batteries (there’s nothing worse than a dead one when you need it most) first-aid kit, ice scraper, roll of paper towels, duct tape and if possible, a small shovel. Stop and buy a bag of salt or sand at a gas station before you get going.
  • Balance between electronics and old-fashioned games. Sure, we love to watch movies and play with our iPods/gaming devices but my best road trip memories are when we’re singing our favorite camp songs and classic games like Would you Rather?, I Spy, the License Plate Game, 20 Questions and for for younger kids, the Alphabet Game where it’s a race to find letters A-Z visually written on billboards, store signs and street signs. Check-out more ideas here: 50 road trip ideas for kids.
  • Make toys and devices easily accessible. This one seems like a no-brainer but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop the car and dig in the trunk for a book or toy that was forgotten. Every summer, I take a 50-hour roadtrip–solo with my kids–to Canada. I put a big laundry basket in the middle of both of them with their toys and snacks and it is marvelous how little they needed Mom to entertain them.
  • Let Them Move: Plan frequent pitstops into your travel time. Experts say it’s a good idea to get out and stretch every hundred miles or two hours.

In the Air

  • Plan ahead and get to the airport early. According to Denver International Airport, Sunday, Nov. 30 will be the busiest travel day with 166,000 passengers traveling that day (the daily average is 145,000). Today (Tuesday) and Wednesday are expected to have 10,000 more people than usual while the least busy days will be Thanksgiving and Friday. Check parking availability at flydenver.com.
  • Bring travel packs of antibacterial hand wipes. We all know airplanes and airports are filled with germs so fill purses, diaper bags and carry-on bags, with wipes to fend off microbes and don’t forget to wipe down your sticky airplane tray and arm rest.
  • Less is More.The less luggage you take, the better.  Don’t waste precious space on bulky items like diapers that you can easily buy at your destination. Bring an extra duffel bag, in case you need to haul extra presents home. Keep your holiday gifts unwrapped. TSA is stressful enough with kids; remember that TSA may open wrapped packages to check the contents.

Most importantly, be flexible, have fun and enjoy the adventure of family travel!

 

Viral video: Convos with my 4-year-old “Bedtime Battles”

Bedtime battles.

What parent can’t relate to them? Matthew Clarke, the dad behind “Convos with My 2-Year-Old” (which has now gone on so long that it’s been renamed to “Convos with My 4-Year-Old”) hilariously illustrates nighttime procrastinations.

Only instead of a 4-minute video, our battles sometimes take hours.

THE POLAR EXPRESS Delivers Big Holiday Fun for Colorado Families

For years, the Colorado Railroad Museum has been a popular destination for railway lovers of all ages. Fans of all things chugga-chugga and choo-choo always find something interesting to explore as the museum is constantly restoring and adding to their deep collection of railway cars, engines, and artifacts. They host many creative and innovative events throughout the year. Fittingly, they are capping off another fantastic year of fun with something extraordinary. For the first time, the Colorado Railroad Museum is hosting THE POLAR EXPRESS™ experience.

It is more than just a train ride. It’s a theatrical re-telling of the beloved modern holiday classic written by Chris Van Allsburg, which was adapted into a film in 2004. Elements of both are incorporated into every thoughtful detail, leaving riders young and old believing in the power of Christmas magic.

After arriving at the festively decorated museum depot, families are escorted to one of three performance areas, based on the ticket package chosen. Of course, all riders of a magical train require a special golden ticket to treasure. Keep it safe because you’re in for a treat. Right on cue, the experience comes to life. Music starts. Everyone is treated to hot chocolate and cookies served by dancing chefs. Don’t be surprised if your little ones want to dance too! Who can resist the Hot Chocolate song? Then, the tone changes as a giant picture book is brought out. As riders munch and sip, Liam Neeson narrates a recording of THE POLAR EXPRESS™ as the talented chefs turn pages. It serves as a great transition to the highlight of the night—a journey to the North Pole!

The groups are escorted into the dark night to a staging area. A whistle rings out and around the bend, an enormous engine rocks into view billowing white clouds of steam. It’s loud, dramatic, and an amazing sight. As it stops, a scene unfolds. A young boy, Will, is invited by a mysterious conductor to board the train. What will he do? As the scene ends, riders board several train cars for their own special trip. The train lurches into motion. Make sure to look out the windows. Familiar elements of the book and film unfold on each loop as memorable scenes from the film are acted out during the journey.

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ comes to a stop at the top of the world. Elves dance, illuminated by lights. But where is Santa? Maybe good boys and girls will spy the jolly man in red on the return trip to Golden, Colorado.

There are many fun family activities to do in Colorado during the holidays. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ at the Colorado Railroad Museum is one of the freshest choices for families along the front range and beyond. It truly captures the magic of the season, mixing in elements of whimsy and surprise. It’s dramatic, both in storytelling and in the setting. Being treated to an experience with a real steam engine and cool historic railcars is an experience you won’t forget.

To learn more information about THE POLAR EXPRESS™, visit The Colorado Railroad Museum. There, you can find information about different ticketing levels. They all include the show, hot chocolate and cookies, and a ride to the “North Pole.” Each ticketed child gets a bell. Was it cut from a reindeer’s harness? Probably. Every child will leave feeling special. There are other souvenirs based on the ticketing level, as well, including souvenir mugs and books.

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night between now and December 28th, 2014. There are additional performances on November 26th, 2014 and December 22nd and 23rd, 2014. With three performances each night, you’ll be able to find one right for your family.

TIPS:

~ Leave the stroller at home. You will be climbing up and down into historic railcars on stairs.

~ We went on a night after snow melted, so the ground was a bit muddy. No need for fancy shoes. Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty. It adds to the adventure!

~ Dress your kids (and maybe even yourself) in pajamas. It’s fun and makes a more authentic experience.

~ You will be outside for some of the time, so layer.

~ If your child has sensory issues, be aware the arrival of the train is loud and dramatic.

~ Like all trains, everything runs on a precise schedule. Be on time to your designated performance.

~ Consider watching the film or reading the book to your kids before you come. It added to our experience as my kids recalled their favorite parts and anticipated what was coming.

The tools every parent must know to keep your kids safe on the Internet

One of the parents from my daughter’s class, Chris Roberts, created this checklist for ensuring our younger “web surfers” remain safe. I think it’s a great list, so, with his permission, I am sharing it here for safe explorations.

 For the younger children – 12 and under:

1.    Create separate user accounts for each child on the home computer.

2.    Enable strict content filtering on the computer.

3.    Install anti-virus, malware software, etc.

4.    Establish a select list of sites they’re allowed to visit. (We talk about the sites they want to visit, spend time on them together, and then I go through the sites and click through as deep as I can to understand the site content, culture, links, and ads, if they have them.) If I think they’re okay, then they’re added to the list.

5.    Enable YouTube Safe Mode on all web browsers (no matter what the age of user). Remember, you have to enable the safe mode per child, per account set up.    

Barnes & Noble Discovery Weekend includes Puppet Making and Holiday Singalong

I can’t say I love love love shopping. At least not in the way that several of my friends can make sport of it. I usually am more like a “guy” when I go in get what I need and get out. It may be because of the way my mom and sister shop. When I was a child I would dread my mom telling us (my sister and me) that we were going to Lee Wards (a craft store) or lest we allow her in the shoe department of ANY department store. We could be there for HOURS trying on shoes that all seem to look a bit alike.

But everything is a bit different in a book store. I could escape to my location and my sister and mom could go to theirs. It was a discovery of something new every time I went.

I got to do a little bit of discovery myself this week. I discovered that Barnes & Noble still has a ton of books (which I love) but they also have some fun other gift ideas. In the middle aisle there are stocking stuffers, Buddha boards (everyone had to play with it – and not sure I can explain it), candles, music boxes, globes, and stuffed animals. Everyone seemed to be ga-ga about the MineCraft books (I thought it was just a dumb game that my kids played on my phone to keep busy). I had two things in mind that I wanted to get 1. Fault in Our Stars book for my daughter and 2. Psych season 8 for my son.

The people who work there were AMAZING. They lead me from one place to the other – they knew where EVERYTHING was there. They even gave me the DVD at the Black Friday price! 

I had the opportunity to talk with a few of them. One of the more difficult things for me to do is to decide on what to read next. They chatted with me about what kind of books I like and what TV shows I watch to figure out what to suggest for me. (There were also suggestions on the bottom of the receipt based on what I purchased). I was so impressed with their depth of knowledge and experience. I only wish that I lived closer to THAT Barnes & Noble or hope that the employees at the one nearer me are as knowledgeable. 

Barnes & Noble Discovery Weekend is this weekend (November 21-23) with all kinds of fun events on Saturday including a 10 a.m. Art Folds (folding the corners of the book’s pages to make cool designs the the snowflake on the book the Ice Princess), 11 a.m. Learn to Draw Like Mo Willems (author of  “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” book), 1 p.m. Puppet Making & Holiday Sing Along, and 7 p.m Holiday Fluxx Game night and Sunday at 1 p.m. Snowmen at Night Storytime (crafts and activities  – with purchase of the book for only $7.99. The book is normally $16.99). Plus you can get a fresh baked s’mores cookie for just $1!!! (I warn you they are delish and you may need more than one and a giant Starbucks to wash it down). 

I look forward to hearing what you Discover at Barnes & Noble this weekend. (Make sure to post your comments).