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Vanessa Druckman

Vanessa, also known as Chefdruck, is a foodie, writer and mom living in Chicago with her husband and four children. Whether you're planning a holiday dinner party or small impromptu get together with friends, Vanessa has easy menu ideas and helpful tips to minimize your time in the kitchen so you have more time to spend with your friends and family. Vanessa's personal blog can be found at chefdruck.com

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Family Quality Time

Family Quality Time

Our family spends its week running from one activity to the next. Mornings are spent at playgroups with my 2-year-old, afternoons are filled with sports classes for my 5-year-old, and the early evening is dedicated to homework and dance with my 7-year-old. When I collapse into bed at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday night, I'm already yearning for the freedom of Friday and the weekend.

Because our weeks are so jam-packed, I like to make sure that we have one night a week for us to come together without time pressure or other stresses and just enjoy each other as a family. Over time we've learned that unless we're extremely committed to our family night, it can easily get skipped.

Have Some Fun with Your Family

As a result, we've designated our Sunday nights as our Family Quality Time Night. Regardless of whatever else is going on in our lives, come Sunday evening, we all stop what we're doing to finish our week as a family.

Family Movie Night

Family Night dinner is a simple affair to give me a break. The hands-down favorite is when Daddy takes charge and prepares breakfast for dinner, known in our house as "Brinner." It's impossible to resist the upside-down fun of pancakes, bacon, and maple syrup for dinner. Another Family Night favorite is the make-your-own pizza bar where everyone can decorate their supermarket pizza with the toppings of their choice.

Family Board Game

Although we're big movie buffs, my favorite family night activity is playing board games. We break out some games around the dinner table, lay out some snacks and start having some serious family fun. We focus on games that require no reading so that the younger kids don't feel left out. The kids particularly enjoy Memory as their observation skills are far more honed than ours. We've also recently discovered Pictureka too, a timed game to spot small objects amidst a jumble of others. Twister® is also a great game to reinforce the learning of right, left and colors, and always results in a good laugh.

At bedtime on Sunday nights, everyone is smiling, relaxed, and happy, with batteries fully charged to face another hectic week.

The rules surrounding Family Quality Time Night are simple:

  • Every Sunday, beginning at 5:00 p.m. is our time. No exceptions
  • No friends, just family
  • No phone calls and the blackberry is hidden
  • No Nintendo DS, no reading
  • No fighting, hair pulling, or name calling allowed

Vanessa's Chocolate Lollipops Extravaganza

Bring everyone together with this easy kitchen activity! It can be done by all ages, from toddlers to adults, and it will definitely be devoured by everyone involved!

Ingredients:

  • Rice Krispies Treats
  • Fudge Stripes Cookies
  • Chips Deluxe Cookies
  • Candy Chocolate Disks in multiple colors (sold at Michael's, Party City, and even some supermarkets)
  • Plastic Lollipop Pans
  • Lollipop Sticks (optional, can just do chocolates)
  • Plastic Baggies
  • Microwave
  • Sprinkles and Colored Sugar

Instructions:

heart dessert idea

1. Fill pint-sized baggies with chocolate disks – one color per bag. Microwave each bag for 30 seconds, adding time in 10-second increments until just melted. (Microwave time may vary)

2. Place Fudge Stripes cookies in quart-sized sealable plastic bag, and press on the counter to break up into large crumbs. Place Chips Deluxe cookies in different bag and also break into crumbs. Place crumbs in separate small bowls on table.

3. Set up small bowls with chunks of Rice Krispies Treats, sprinkles, chocolate-covered candies and colored sugar on table.

4. Give each participant their own plastic tray with lollipop shapes.

Family Quality Time

5. Cut the corner of each chocolate bag about ½ an inch in. You now have homemade piping bags.

6. Now, everyone is ready to make their chocolate lollipops by pouring in chocolate of various colors and their choice of fillings in each tray hole. Different colors can be used for eyes and other artistic effects. They will harden quickly and will not mix.

7. Once each lollipop is completed, lay the lollipop stick in the hole provided. Once your tray is complete, place in fridge for 20-30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.

The lollipops are now ready to be enjoyed. They will keep in the fridge for at least a month and out of the fridge for a week or so.

Quality Time...Hits the Road!

Sometimes spending quality time with the family takes the form of a road trip. Whether it's a trip to Grandma's house over the holidays or just a summer vacation to the state park, make the most of this rare and special time! Stave off "Are we there yet" with entertaining car games like "I Spy," the "License Plate Game" or "Twenty Questions!" And regardless of where your family is headed, make sure you're armed with the snacks to keep those little mouths happy! Here are some thoughts on our favorite on-the-go snacks:

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