Archives for February 2016

Foster Care and Aspiranet

It’s rare that I have anybody other than bloggers guest post here on my blog. I have to feel very passionate about something to allow a brand or business to share their own words. When Aspiranet reached out to me about helping them spread the word about foster care for older youth, my heart hurt when I realized how many older kids don’t have families, a hot meal, love, or a place to call home.

If you are or have ever considered helping a child through foster care, please take a few minutes to read what Aspiranet wants us to know about foster care for older kids. And please help spread the word!

Information about Aspiranet extending transitional foster care services to eligible youth between 18 and 21 years of age.


Foster Care and Aspiranet

When you hear the word foster care what image comes to mind? For most, it’s usually babies and young children who are in need of homes. While that is true for some of the 62,000 children in foster care in California, several thousand youth who enter the foster care system are teens, or begin as a young child and never become adopted before turning 18 when they “age out” of the system.

Like young children, teenage foster youth are also in need of loving families, a roof over their heads, stability and mentors who can guide them through their transition into adulthood. Most young adults have parents who will support them during this time in their lives, whether it is helping them open a checking account, applying for their first job, or driving them off to college with a car full of necessities. However, for many in foster care, the scenario can be dramatically different.

In California, about 5,000 foster youth turn 18 each year, thereby marking a transition in which they must begin to prepare to leave the foster care system by age 21 with full self-sufficiency. Studies have shown that this group of young adults is faced with greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, unplanned pregnancies, mental illness, and involvement with the criminal justice system. Aspiranet, a leading human services agency of California for more than 40 years, understands that most 18-21 year olds are not ready to fully live on their own. Many young adults continue to need support after leaving foster care, particularly around housing.

Thankfully, since the passage of AB 12, The California Fostering Connections to Success Act, which was signed in 2010, Aspiranet and other agencies are now able to extend transitional foster care services to eligible youth between 18 and 21 years of age. According to a John Burton Foundation 2015 report, the Transitional Housing Placement Plus Foster Care (THP + FC) Program was created through the passage of AB-12, providing participants with safe, affordable housing and supportive services, as well as court oversight and child welfare supervision. Since the program was introduced in 2012, 52 counties in California now offer THP+FC services for youth, providing care for more than 1,400 to date.

Information about Aspiranet extending transitional foster care services to eligible youth between 18 and 21 years of age.

family laughing using laptop

Aspiranet has long been a proponent of transitional foster care and is dedicated to providing foster youth with a continuum of programs and services so that they can enter adulthood armed with the skills and confidence they need to succeed. Through Aspiranet’s Extended Foster Care and THP-Plus Foster Care Programs, this innovative human services agency is able to give foster youth a bridge of support and the platform they need to fulfill their educational and professional goals.

The program provides transitional age youth throughout California with a safe living environment with the option to live in a foster home that promotes independent living for young adults, or in an apartment with supervision and support. In addition, young adults in the program also receive services to provide for basic needs, emotional support, job attainment and education goals.

“As a provider of Transitional Age Youth Services, the funding we receive allows us to meet the basic needs of foster youth,” explains Jeannie Imelio, Executive Director for Aspiranet. “However, Aspiranet is always in need of foster parents to serve as mentors to young adults, or donations from the public, such as new or lightly used furniture and household items to further provide enriched opportunities. Additional support from the public helps to create a warm, safe, and well-equipped space for them to start their adult life.”

Take the first step to creating a lifelong connection with a foster child. Talk with one of our family recruiters at 877.380.4376 or visit

This post was written in partnership with Aspiranet. All opinions and ideas expressed are my own.

How To Clean A Foreman Grill: The Easiest Tip You’ll Find!

Last night, I posted this picture on Instagram with the caption: Kids have an engineering class after school, soccer practice, homework….LOVE my Foreman Grill on busy week nights! 

If you have a Foreman Grill, you know how hard they can be to clean. This tip is the easiest one you'll find -- and it works every time!

I love that you can grill everything at once and that I can even grill different things for my picky eaters. A friend of mine replied: I have a love/hate relationship with that thing… I HATE CLEANING IT!!!!

Well Alexi and to everybody else who hates cleaning their Foreman Grill, I’m about to change the way you feel about it!

Now you may be thinking “Hey! You have the 5 Serving Foreman Grill that has the removable plates!” I do. I can unclip them and pop them in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. But I didn’t always have this one – I used to have the Classic Foreman Grill on which the plates don’t come off. It really was a bitch to clean. I’ll tell you something, I like the Classic grill better. It seems to get hotter and cook foods better. The drawback is that it’s smaller. If I had to chose again though, I’d pick the Classic.

If you have a Foreman Grill, you know how hard they can be to clean. This tip is the easiest one you'll find -- and it works every time!

How To Clean A Foreman Grill: The Best Tip EVER!

This tip is a game changer.

1. Once you’re done cooking, unplug the grill.
2. Get 3-4 paper towels wet with hot water. Wring them out.
3. Lay the paper towels out flat on top of the bottom grill plates.
4. Close the lid for a half an hour or so. Or if you are lazy (ahem, I mean busy) you can leave them overnight. That’s my style.
5. Open the lid, use the paper towels to wipe off the gooey mess. Done! Okay, not completely done. You still have to wash them so they’re clean and ready to use again, but there will be no scrubbing or mess!

See how easy that was? That’s the way I used to do it on my old grill, and I did it last night to show you all how great the tip works.

Another tip I found for cleaning a Foreman Grill is to cover the grill plates with aluminum foil before you use them. There’s pictures to show that it works, although the blogger mentions that you won’t get any grill marks when you do it this way.

I love kitchen tips! These are some of my favorite kitchen tips and tricks. Don’t miss my tips on how to keep berries from molding – it’s so easy you’ll be surprised you didn’t already know about it!

You’ll find even more on one of my favorite Pinterest boards:
Follow Natalie Hoage – Mommy of a Monster’s board Kitchen Tips & Tricks on Pinterest.


Mommy of a Monster and Twins is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and/or other affiliate sites.

What Ethan Taught Me: Not To Judge A Book By Its Cover

Being a parent is an awesome, amazing, frustrating, joyful, never ending experience. It’s also scary because you’re just flying by the seat of your pants, learning as you go. And while we all work so hard to teach our children life lessons and how to be good people, we sometimes forget that we are learning from them, too.

While I learn something from them everyday, sometimes they teach me something that really hits home. That amazes me and teaches me a lesson that maybe I’d learned before and forgotten about. Lessons that make me a better person.

Mia and her sixteen cents taught me the importance of slowing down and appreciating the important things in life.

Lila’s lesson was all about the importance of a sincere apology.

Each of my kids has taught me many things, some lessons more important than others. This is one of those very important ones. Ethan recently reminded me to never judge a book by its cover.


Last week, the girls went to the Father/Daughter Dinner through the school. So Ethan and I decided to head out to BJ’s Restaurant, his favorite. We sat down, and after ordering, we chatted while we waited for our food.

As we waited, a young couple sat down at the table next to us, and I see Ethan looking at the girl. I turned to look at her, and I’m sure the look on my face was one the girl had seen many times. She was a pretty girl, but she had this penny-sized black mole right above her lip and off to the side a bit.

I’m not going to lie, it was ugly. She wasn’t, but the mole was. I’m sure everybody looked at that mole with the same look that I gave her, one that said “ewww.”

I am far from perfect myself, and we all have things on our bodies that we don’t like. I have a birthmark right down the center of my forehead. You can really see it when I’m really cold or angry. If you met me, you probably wouldn’t notice it, but I see it every time I look in the mirror. I’m self conscious about it, even after having it for 40+ years and trying to have it lasered off. I’m sure she feels the same way about her mole.

And yet, when I looked at her mole it made me think Thank God I don’t have that thing on my face. Because I’m shallow. And human. And wasn’t thinking.

I could hear the couple talking, and they decided not to eat but to just go to the bar for a drink instead. After they left, I told Ethan “It’s not polite to stare at people. I know that mole was ugly and it’s sad that she has it on her face, but you still shouldn’t stare. Just be glad you don’t have a mole like that on your face.” Mother of the year, right there wasn’t I?

And that’s when Ethan said “I don’t think it’s sad, I think it’s unique. It made her face look interesting.” We talked more about it, and he told me that she is probably very nice to people because so many people aren’t nice to her. He told me that having one thing on you that’s not pretty doesn’t make you ugly. He told me he thought she was pretty.

I was blown away by my son, and at the same time I felt to be about two inches tall. I leaned over and thanked him for reminding me not to judge books by their covers. I had to explain to him that was a way of saying not to judge people by what they look like. He nodded his head and said “You taught us that mom” and I thanked him again for reminding me how important it is.

Screenshot 2016-02-22 12.25.38

I may not be Mom of the Year every day of the year, but I must be doing something right if my kids are learning – and sharing – these lessons. Thank you Ethan, for making me a better mom.

Baked Asparagus Recipe: It’s Kid Approved Delicious!

This baked asparagus recipe is simple to make, delicious, and kid approved! And it pulls double duty - make it two different ways with one recipe! Prep it the same way, wrap in bacon, and grill for a completely different taste!

Asparagus. You either love it or hate it; there’s no in between. Jason and I love it, while the kids aren’t as big of fans. So I’m always trying to come up with ways to make it taste good so they’ll eat it. And I finally nailed it with this baked asparagus recipe!

Instead of just putting olive oil and salt and pepper on it, I started playing with different flavors. I know that the kids love my Best Broccoli Ever recipe (it’s one of the top 3 most viewed recipes here on my blog and one of my most pinned ones on Pinterest) because it’s got garlic and lemon and cheese, so I decided to do baked asparagus the same way.

This baked asparagus recipe is simple to make, delicious, and kid approved! And it pulls double duty - make it two different ways with one recipe! Prep it the same way, wrap in bacon, and grill for a completely different taste!

Baked Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus Recipe (Kid Approved!)
Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed (the thinner the spears, the better!)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced (if you don't have fresh, you can use the dried)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Course sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the asparagus on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, garlic, cheese, salt, and pepper. Using a spatula, mix the spears around to coat with all the ingredients. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer.
  3. Bake until just tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

A note and a tip…

TIP: Do you know where to cut the asparagus spear when you are trimming them? It’s simple. Take a spear and bend it. It will break at exactly the spot where the tough stalk that nobody wants to eat meets the tender spear! You can either do this to each spear, or to save time, just do it to one and then line all the rest of them up on a cutting board and use that one spear as a guide to chop all the rest.

Note: The reason I say 1 – 2 tablespoons and salt and pepper to taste is because it just depends on how much flavor your family likes. If your family loves garlic, add more! Pepper is the devil to my kids, so I add less pepper. I add more lemon juice because they love it. Make the recipe to suit your family’s tastes.

This baked asparagus is super simple to make and takes no time at all to prep and cook, so it’s the perfect side dish on busy weeknights. And it’s kid approved!

But this recipe does double duty. Instead of baked asparagus, why not grill them? Over the weekend, the weather was amazing so we grilled baby back ribs for dinner at my sister’s house. I made grilled asparagus. I followed the instructions for the baked asparagus, but once I got them all prepped, I wrapped them in bacon and scewered them instead!

This grilled asparagus recipe is simple to make, delicious, and kid approved! And it pulls double duty - make it two different ways with one recipe! You can bake it for a completely different taste!

We grilled them for about 20 minutes, and then put the lemon juice on them at the end. They were delicious!

This grilled asparagus recipe is simple to make, delicious, and kid approved! And it pulls double duty - make it two different ways with one recipe! You can bake it for a completely different taste!

How do you like your asparagus cooked? The next time I make this asparagus, I’m adding cooked bacon. I also can’t wait to try this recipe for baked asparagus with balsamic butter sauce…YUM! I’m always looking for new ways to make it so if you have a recipe you love, please share!

For more recipes you can check out all my recipes here and follow me on Pinterest.

Visit Natalie Hoage – Mommy of a Monster’s profile on Pinterest.

Corked Wine: What Does It Mean?

Corked Wine: What Does It Mean?

Years ago, a friend and I started a wine blog for wine newbies. It’s no longer around, but I do still try to keep up its Facebook page, Have Wine, Will Drink. We answered all kinds of questions about wine, and we wrote our wine reviews in layman’s terms. Wine doesn’t have to be snobby – it should be fun and approachable, and it should be shared!

If you’re new to wine, you probably have lots of questions about it, and so I’d like to answer some common ones here. One question we never answered that’s a pretty common you you might hear is about corked wine. Maybe you’ve heard someone say “Yuck! This wine is corked!” Do you know what it means?

What does it mean when someone talks about corked wine? It doesn't mean that there's cork pieces in the wine! Get the answer this & other common wine questions.

Corked Wine: What Does It Mean?

Now you might think that “a corked wine” means that there’s cork floating around in the wine, but that’s not the right answer. When someone talks about a corked wine, what they mean is that the wine has become contaminated because of cork taint. Cork taint has a very distinct taste and smell, and if you ever taste corked wine, you will know it immediately!

According to VinePairCork is a natural substance, little microorganisms often like to eat it, either while it’s still part of the tree or after it’s been turned into a wine cork. In small instances, these airborne fungi come in contact with the cork and create a substance known as TCA. As soon as wine comes in contact with the TCA, it immediately spoils the wine. To me, corked wine tastes very acidy and sharp and you may even taste cork. It smells weird too – something similar to old, wet paper.

So what do you do if you get a corked wine? Put the cork back in and take it back to where you bought it. Most places will refund your money or replace the bottle for you.

Wine Tip: If you buy wines with a screw cap or synthetic cork, you never have to worry about your wine being corked!

I’ve covered a few other basic wine questions like:
What Is A Wine Aerator?
How Long Does An Open Bottle Of Wine Stay Good For?
What Are Tannins?

You’ll find lots more about wine, including recipes (Champagne jello shots, anyone?), wine reviews, and fun wine products (like a wine glass that tells you how many calories your drinking) here.

Love wine? Follow my Happy Hour board on Pinterest where you’ll find lots of recipes, information, and fun stuff about wine and more!

Follow Natalie Hoage – Mommy of a Monster’s board Happy Hour on Pinterest.

Do you have any questions about wine you’d like to have answered? Leave a comment below and I’ll answer it on an upcoming Wino Wednesday!

Photo Credit