Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Things I Can't Live Without: Hand Soap


Not just any hand soap. Lavender scented Mrs. Meyers Clean Day liquid hand soap is magical. It's a little pricey ($4.99 12.5 fl. oz. bottle) for liquid hand soap. Most hand soaps cost around $1.99 for 7.5 fl. oz. But Mrs. Meyers is sooo worth it. Just squirt and lather and you'll feel as if you are standing in the middle of a lavender field in Provence. The smell is amazing, and lavender has scientifically been proven to relieve fatigue. Excellent! There's always a bottle next to my kitchen sink. What's even better is that all Mrs. Meyers products are cruelty-free and are not tested on animals. It's also available in a hand lotion.
Mrs. Meyers products can be purchased at www.mrsmeyers.com and at www.amazon.com (where you can purchase a six pack for $27.49...nice deal!). You can also find these products at Whole Foods Market.
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Random Ramblings - Christmas Vacation

Ahhhh, I remember this week fondly from my childhood. However, as a parent, this week has taken on new meaning...

This is the week that every parent, working or stay-at-home, comes to dread. The Christmas break. For me, it means that my babysitter (free in this case as my daughter attends public school) is on hiatus for 12 days. Yes, I said 12 days...December 23rd until January 5th (including weekends). Probably one of the longest breaks due to the days of the week on which Christmas and New Year's days fall. It's all quite manageable until about three days after Christmas. This is the witching day when the kids wake up and realize that Christmas is over. Santa has left the building. In the three days since Christmas, they have, quite frankly, become tired of playing with the 50 new toys that Santa brought. They are shopped out after having spent every cent of every gift card they've received. Yes, the novelty of Christmas has completely worn off of my children, and it's only December 28th! What's a parent to do? Organize activities to occupy 12 days of vacation for restless children??

These days it seems as though children need to be constantly stimulated. The overwhelming amount of organized activities in which children participate has conditioned them to think in this manner. They have no down time. The only life they know is the one in which they are being shuttled from activity to activity. So, this vacation, I am taking a stand. It's a week of play dates where Emma will play with her friends, her little sister and me. We will play with toys and use our imaginations in a fun and constructive way. That's how I spent my Christmas vacations as a child.

I should point out that there are some pros to this holiday vacation. For me, it means no rushing around in the mornings. Emma is notoriously slow moving at times when she needs to have a sense of urgency. I'm lucky enough to have a 12 day break from my morning struggle with her to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get coat and backpack on, and rush to the bus stop. It also means a chance to sleep late even if that means only until 8 am!
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A Child's Imagination

I recently took my daughters to see their 17 year old cousin at her workplace, tula, an upscale boutique in Shrewsbury, NJ. I wanted to see the much raved about boutique and to visit my niece, show her our interest in her work. Plus, I was dying to see the clothes, bags, jewelry and shoes. I honestly thought the girls would be bored in the shop. After all, what 2 and 6 year olds want to browse a shop in which there is nothing for children?

While I looked at every single piece of clothing, my niece occupied the girls (when she wasn't helping customers). She showed them scarves and how to wear them. She showed them different styles of bags, clutches, wristlets. She showed them jewelry and the best tops to wear with the jewelry, being sure to emphasize how not to over accessorize!

As we were leaving, I thought the trip to tula was just another tag along shopping excursion for the girls. They love to shop but don't see it much beyond the acquisition of new clothes. But this trip to see my niece was different. In the car on our way home, Emma asked Harper if she wanted to play store when they get home. Harper said that she did...what else would she say? Emma explained how they would set up either the playroom or their bedroom like the store where Hayley works. It was an elaborate explanation of how they would set up tables with clothing, purses and shoes on display. Earrings and necklaces would be placed on a different table. Emma continued by saying that they would put music on but it wouldn't be very loud because music is never loud in stores. She said that it's loud enough to make you happy and make you want to spend more money. How does she know this? I know it works for me, but I wasn't aware that it works for her too!

When we arrived home, they immediately went upstairs and set up their store. About 15 minutes later, Henry and I were invited to go shopping. Of course we jumped at the chance, we couldn't wait to see them in action. It truly is amazing how the imagination of a child works. I realized how they, certainly Emma, were so observant of Hayley and her co-workers, watching every move they made and listening to every word they spoke. Emma took a real world experience and transformed it, using her imagination, into the world of a child. She didn't miss a detail. Emma suggested taking my clothes and starting a fitting room for me. She recommended tights and shoes for my outfits. It was so much fun to play with them.

I miss that kind of childhood role playing. As adults, we rarely role play. I did so much of it when I was young...mostly in the form of playing school and being the teacher. Playing store was unexpected family fun, and isn't that the best kind? We can't wait to do it again!
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Friday Fillins

There's a clever blog called Friday Fillins (see badge below right). Each Friday, there is a new list of seven fill-in-the-blanks statements that you complete. I like the questions...they always make you think about yourself, what you like, what you want, etc. Here are this week's fill-ins with my answers italicized and in red.

1. I must write a screenplay (or a book) before I die.
2. You can't stop hoping.
3. I wish I never had to buy contact lenses again.
4. My husband has helped me change my life.
5. I know the song Satellite by Dave Matthews Band by heart.
6. If I weren't so afraid, I would either skydive or learn to scuba dive.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to going to bed early, tomorrow my plans include feeling better (seems as though I have caught yet another cold) and Sunday, I want to watch the NY Jets (hopefully) win!
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A Girls Day

The girls and I embarked on our first annual holiday girls day over the weekend. We had it planned carefully (this is a must with a two year old). First, we'd have lunch at a restaurant which overlooks the Manasquan River. Afterwards, we were having manicures. And lastly, we'd end the day with some shopping. Quite honestly, a perfect day. I was excited to spend the day with Emma and Harper, and other than a possible late afternoon meltdown from Harper, I was anticipating smooth sailing.
We enjoyed our lunch at the Sand Bar in Brielle, NJ. We had a table by the windows with a fantastic view of the river. Next, it was time for our nails. We had an appointment, but it was crowded when we arrived and they were behind schedule. We had to wait but used the time to choose our polish colors. When a manicurist became available, Harper volunteered to go first. It was her very first manicure, and she was overjoyed. She was so proud of her nails that she showed everyone in the salon her fingers...long after the nails had dried!
It was now Emma's turn to have her manicure, and what happened next caught me completely off guard. When the woman came over to escort Emma to the chair, Emma grabbed me and hung on for dear life. What is the matter with this child? I was stunned. My six year old is acting as if this woman is going to take her out of the country to do her nails. The tears started streaming, and the begging me to sit right next to her started. Is she kidding me? Her two year old sister is sitting perfectly still in a chair about 25 feet away from me exhibiting behavior of a six year old, but my six year old is crying, whining and exhibiting behavior of a 2 year old.

Eventually (after about 15 minutes) Emma calmed down and sat down at the station next to mine to have her manicure. She was happy about her nails, and I decided that she won't be getting another manicure until her senior prom. All's well that end's well...even if it ends in frustration!
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Headline: Arkansas Family Welcomes Eighteenth Child, Girl

This headline, as seen on Yahoo!, intrigued me. So, I click the link. Eighteen kids? Seriously, who does that? It's true. A couple from Arkansas welcomed their eighteenth child this weekend. UNBELIEVABLE. She was pregnant eighteen times. Her uterus stretched eighteen times. She gave birth eighteen times. As I read the article, I can't help but to think about the two times I've gone through what she's gone through eighteen times. I'm awestruck. Only in Arkansas, people.

How is it that I am overwhelmed with two children, and she's got eighteen and admits to wanting more? Helloooooooooooo. Is anybody out there? I want to call this woman and ask her how she does it. Her oldest is 20 years old, and her youngest is a few days old. I. Can't. Even. Imagine. And I don't want to imagine. What is her day like? Does she sleep? Does she have time for herself? OK, that was a stupid question. Does she get help from family and neighbors?

I read on. She and her family have a reality TV show on TLC...called 17 and Counting. I've never seen it...never even heard of it. I've seen other shows on TLC featuring families with lots of children. But I don't think I want to watch a show about a family with eighteen children. It's downright disturbing to me. How fair is this to all of the children? What kind of time do the parents have to spend with the kids?

Obviously, I advocate procreation. But there is a time and place to draw the line. In this case, I have to consider the kids. I am sure their basic needs are being met each day, but what happens over and above their basic needs? Are there special outings and time spent with one or both parents alone? Those are the moments I live for with my daughters. I love the trips to the zoo, the aquarium, a special picnic on the beach, etc.

I guess I need to watch the show before I judge. OK, too late for that. I'll check my local TV guide to see when it's on. After I watch it, I'll post my thoughts. Until then, if you've seen it, please leave a comment for me. Thanks!
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Preserving Christmas Memories


If you're anything like I am, you want to capture and remember every holiday memory. Other than taking pictures, I was never able to effectively record our memories. Several years ago, my sister-in-law, Susan, sent me Susan Branch's Christmas Memories keepsake book for my birthday and just in time for Christmas. I have used this book each year since having received it to record all of our Christmas memories.

The book is divided into five sections or years. Each year's section includes areas for pictures, traditions, recipes, letters to Santa and even Happy New Year pages. Every imaginable memory can be recorded in this wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys recording special memories. My family loves to break out the book at the beginning of each Christmas season and reminisce about the years that have passed.

This book and other keepsake books by Susan Branch can be purchased at www.susanbranch.com.
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A Perfect Gift for a Little Girl

I love to read, and I take every opportunity I can to instill that same love of reading in my children. I started collecting children's literature before I became pregnant with Emma. I try to read to my children on a daily basis, but that doesn't always happen.

Recently, Emma's elementary school had it's fall Scholastic Book Fair. On Emma's wish list was a book called Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. I hadn't heard anything about the book although I had seen it's cover previously. I sent Emma to school with money to buy the books on her wish list. I was hooked after my first reading of Pinkalicious. It is a delightful book about desire and discipline, and as is evident in the title, all about the color pink. For a girl, is there such a thing as too much pink? Any girl, favorite color pink or not, will absolutely love this book.
Pinkalicious can be purchased here and here.
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Random Ramblings

Why is it that when a woman becomes a mom, she thinks it gives her carte blanche to forget about her appearance? What's up with wearing sweatpants and t-shirts that look like they belong to the husband? How about fixing the hair a little? How about dashing a little pressed powder on the face? For some reason, I am very bothered by this. I know, and my husband will admit all too readily, that I spend way too much time on my appearance...even to rake leaves. I don't always spend hours, of course. What mom of two (or even one) has the time to do that? But I will not leave the house wearing sweatpants. In fact, the closest I get to sweatpants outside of the home is the bus stop which happens to be directly in front of my house. And after the bus pulls away, I run inside the house before my neighbors can catch a glimpse of my hideous outfit.

Don't get me wrong...my family is all about the "comfs" or "comfies" as we call them...sweats, fleece, pj's...anything that makes you feel all warm and comfy. But the baggy sweatpants and big old tees need to remain in the husband's closet. If you must wear comfs out of the house, there are many stylish options.
  1. Yoga pants...very cute and people might actually think you just came from a yoga class.
  2. Victoria's Secret Pink sweats...super cute and people will think you're 25.
  3. Juicy Couture tracksuits...a bit pricey but again people will think you're 25.

Remember, a little effort goes a long way, and isn't it worth it to be a yummy mummy?

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The 100 Most Common Words...Do You Know Them?

How many of the 100 most common words in the English language do you know? Wanna find out? Just click the link below to take the quiz.

http://quizicon.com/100-Most-Common-English-Words-Quiz.html

I have a B.A. in English. I am a writer and an avid reader. I guessed 66 out of the 100 words. I expected my score to be higher for my educational background, but it's harder than you think. Try it. If nothing else, at least it's fun!
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To Be Green or Not To Be?

It seems as if everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon...politicians, celebrities, athletes, fashionistas. I like to consider myself somewhat green. I do my (small) part to keep this earth a bit healthier. I recycle and use canvas bags when shopping. But being green means doing so much more than that. I recently hit the Web to research some of the ways that I can be green in my home as I do my day to day chores. Here are a few baby steps that I am taking.
  1. Make the switch to chemical-free cleaners. My general rule of thumb is this, "Can't spell it, can't say it, won't use it". Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners are ideal for any household with children. So, if you're not prioritizing the environment at least prioritize the health of your children. "Green" cleaners aren't cost-effective, you say? Try your own concoction of vinegar, baking soda and water. It is just as effective, and I'll bet you've got those ingredients in your cabinets.
  2. Use canvas shopping bags. Not only are those ugly plastic bags deadly for the environment (they remain in landfills for almost 1000 years), but they are also a safety hazard in your home. They can cause suffocation in children and pets. Get rid of them. Invest in a few stylish canvas bags. Most cost about $2, and you'll look so fashionable carry canvas rather than plastic.
  3. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Most communities make it incredibly simple for you to recycle. They pick it up curbside, and most centers allow you to co-mingle plastics, glass and aluminum as well as newspapers, magazines and cardboard. Here's a challenge: recycle the above items for one week and notice how little trash you have.
  4. Conserve water. Be aware of the many ways you use water on a daily basis. Turn it off while you brush your teeth. Install water-efficient shower heads and use cold water to do laundry.

These suggestions are just a few to start. Implement them over time. It's not practical for a busy modern day mom to aim to make the switch in one day. Let's be real.

Just remember that even a small step is one step closer to a cleaner, healthier earth.
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Random Ramblings

I mailed out 74 Christmas cards a few days ago. Is 74 alot? Not alot? I don't know. What I do know is that it took me a long time to personalize each card, place the address labels and stamps on the envelopes and lick the envelopes.

Do I receive 74 in return? No, not even close. Judging by the fact that we have received 3 to date, I am guessing 35 might be alot this year. I don't expect to receive a card from each family to whom I send a card. I don't send one because I want one in return. I send them because it's a polite way to offer greetings of the season to those you probably won't see and some you will. There was a time when I recorded my Christmas card data in a spreadsheet. Needless to say this occurred when I had only one child. I kept track of the cards that I sent and those I received. I am still obsessive that way, but I no longer have the time to be nearly as meticulous.

Selfishly, I have to admit, I send my cards because I want to show off my daughters. I want every recipient to see how my girls have grown and how beautiful they are. But than again, I would venture to say that's the motivation behind most of the cards you receive from families with children. Why else would they use a photo card?

I enjoy each and every card we receive. I look at them carefully while fully understanding the effort it takes to send even just one card. I don't mind the afterthoughts cards...you know, the ones you receive only because you've sent one. At least it was sent!
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Christmas Craft: Recycled Wreath

Looking for a cool and simple (not to mention not too messy) craft this holiday season? I've got the perfect solution for your creative dilemma.The recycled wreath is a festive way to recycle your holiday wrapping paper debris.

Here's what you'll need:
  1. Leftover pieces of gift wrap, tissue paper and ribbon
  2. A paper plate
  3. Glue or a glue stick

Here's how to create it:

  1. Cut a circle out of the middle of the paper plate (I trace around a CD or DVD).
  2. For younger kids, cover the paper plate with glue. Older kids can use a glue stick.
  3. Trim the paper plate with gift wrap, tissue paper and ribbon to create a colorful wreath.

To hang the wreath, use a hole punch to make a hole in the wreath. Loop ribbon through the hole and tie it. Hang the wreath where all your holiday guests are sure to admire it!

Note: This craft is perfect for Dad or a babysitter to do with the kiddies while you're out doing your holiday shopping!

It's obvious from the picture below just how much fun Emma and Harper had making their wreaths!


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A Terrifying Feeling

Have you every gotten that heart pounding, heart racing, blood pressure rising feeling when you've lost something? It is something of significant value whether sentimental or monetary. I know you know what I'm talking about, and I know you've had the feeling. You're on the verge on hitting the panic button.

Well, a few days ago, I had that feeling. I was sitting at my computer making my selections for a just-for-fun NFL football pool in which I participate. I reached up to touch my left ear when I realized I was missing my diamond earring. OH. MY. GOD. My husband bought me those for an anniversary gift. Losing one is not an option. I jumped out of my chair and immediately started to panic. My 6 year old, Emma, started asking me questions about the earring in an incredibly rational manner. Surely, this isn't my Emma, the Queen of Panic. I can't remember when I last touched my ears or even noticed the earring in my ear. I couldn't BEGIN to guess where the earring could have been or when it could have fallen out. It literally could have been a hundred places. Just a few float through the mind, grocery store, Starbucks, down the drain, Emma's school, my car. The list is endless.

I decided to try the bed first, after all, it was the last place I had spent a considerable amount of time. As I walked into the bedroom, I saw something silver and shiny on the floor. A wave of relief enveloped me. Could it be? It wasn't my earring, but it was the back to my earring. Great! It's a start, and I was convinced that my earring was somewhere in the house. I checked the bathroom next. I showered that morning and was thinking that perhaps it fell out while I spent hours doing my hair and makeup. (A girl's gotta look good, right?)

There on floor was my earring. I was never so happy to see something so small in my entire life. I don't care about the monetary value of these earrings (which probably depreciated 70% when my husband walked out of the jewelry store). These earrings represent the years my husband and I have been together. The good times we've shared, the children we've created, and a lifetime of memories. I was scared. Dead in my tracks scared that I had lost something so special to me.

But, in the end, I did learn something about Emma. She came through for me when I was panic stricken. She was calm and collected...something I clearly was not. She focused me. That's my girl!! Thanks, Em!
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Gratitude Journal Entry #1

Last night after everyone fell asleep and I had some "me" time, I grabbed a magazine, a cup of tea and sat down to read. I tend to skim a magazine before I actually get serious about reading it. But these days with my time limitations, I don't have that luxury. I've got to get right to it. In the health section of the magazine, there was a little blip about holiday happiness. It caught my eye...isn't this what all of us wants?

Apparently, most people are focused on getting the gift(s) that they want, and in the end are often disappointed. The article suggests that we are more likely to be happy if we appreciate what we already have more so than getting what we desire. The final recommendation was to create a weekly (or any frequency that suits you) gratitude journal and in it, jot down 3 items for which you're thankful. I like the idea, and I know, from time to time, that I certainly lose sight of the things I value most. And so, here is my first entry in my Gratitude Journal.
  1. I am thankful for healthy and loving children.
  2. I am thankful for my good health and my husband's good health.
  3. I am thankful for my sisters.
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Fabulous Find, Great Gift!


In these tough economic times, we are all looking for economical gifts and an opportunity to do good at the same time. Well, I am anyway. I found the perfect solution: Sweet Home's Gingerbread Folk Tin. The set includes 50 gingerbread people and 2 houses.
The best part, next to eating the goodies of course, is that 35% of the price goes directly to help homeless mothers and their children fund educations, find jobs and move into homes of their own. The second best part is the price, $23.50. Wow!
This product can be purchased here.
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Why Me?

Clearly, I must be a compassionate, sensitive listener who gives off good vibes. Here's the problem...my neighbor insists on having a full-blown conversation each morning at the bus stop. Now, I don't know this woman very well. We met at a block party two years ago and hadn't spoken a word to each other until the first day of school this year. Since Emma is in first grade (a full day), she now takes the bus with the "big kids". Whereas last year, Kindergarten was a half-day, and thus, she was the only child from our street on the bus. So said neighbor and I are the only two at the stop. As soon as the bus pulls away, and usually before I have a chance to blow a kiss to Emma, she starts chirping in my ear.

Now, I'm all for small talk. But, pleeeeease, I don't have time for mini therapy sessions with someone I'm not close to. I've heard about her financial crisis (she and her deadbeat husband haven't paid income taxes in years and have had to fold their business and borrow money from her parents to avoid a lien on the home...which she co-owns with her parents), her squabble with the neighbor up the street, her sick dog and how it requires expensive knee surgery, and her stressful classes at the local community college. It's too much information for me. I don't want to know this much about my neighbors.

But I can't exactly duck and cover. She may not back off even if I did. But why does she bare her soul to me? And I know it's November, but she has divulged the above details to me during the first week of school. So, I've decided that the next time she needs to vent, I will tell her that I am flattered that she feels she can confide in me, but at the same time, I'm not the best person to help her.

Stay tuned for more on this subject.
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"It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year..."

Yea, yea, yea...whoever wrote that song obviously didn't have two young children. We ventured out on Saturday to buy our Christmas trees. We always buy two, one for the girls and one for the family. We've been going to the same tree farm for years. I like to support the local guy rather than a big chain, but this year we broke down and went here. Not a bad idea. The trees were reasonably priced and they had undecorated balsam wreaths and pine garland, too. But I seriously missed the little red barn where we buy hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and handmade holiday tchotchkes.

Brought the trees home, set them in the stands and decided to let the trees "settle" until Sunday. On Sunday morning, we decide to tackle the girls' tree first. I string on the rainbow lights and let the girls put the ornaments on. About an hour later, we stand back to admire our handiwork. We are beaming with pride. The tree looks great and the girls have a huge sense of accomplishment. A job well done.

Six hours later as the husband and I are cleaning up dinner, there's a crash. I mean freight train coming through my house crash. I can't look. I just can't. But soon my worst holiday fear is realized. Yes, sure enough, there on the family room floor is the girls' tree. Ornaments scattered all over the floor. The fallen ornaments seem to go on forever. This can't be. I can't do this. Not. Now. It's 7 pm on Sunday night. We never quite get an honest answer as to how/why this happened. I can tell you this...there was some dancing going on the room and the music was loud. But no one was confessing to anything. Not a good ending to an otherwise great weekend.
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Things I Can't Live Without


There are just some things a girl absolutely must have. One of those things is nice hair. I don't necessarily mean a fancy, expensive haircut, but I do mean healthy, shiny, vibrant hair. My hair stylist (who I can't live without) told me about a product which is a must-have for those with over-processed, abused hair. That would be I. She called this a miracle product and told me that once I used it just one time, I'd be hooked. Several months later, I have to admit that I am an addict.

Enough already, you say? You can no longer bear the suspense? Can't wait yet another second? OK, the product is Bumble and bumble's Creme de Coco hair masque. Go ahead. Go out and get yourself some.
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Beginnings of a Blog

OK, here is my foray into blogging. It's my therapy...well, hopefully. We'll see how it goes.

Today is the day after my 41st birthday. Wasn't I just 30 yesterday and 21 two weeks ago? Well, not anymore. Of course I don't feel any older than 21. Just the circumstances of my life have changed and for the better of course. I had a fantastic birthday with my husband, Henry, and daughters, Emma (6) and Harper (2). It was filled with lots of love. The girls made me the most beautiful homemade cards, which I absolutely adore. It's those homemade gifts that tug at your heartstrings.

It's back to normal today. The minimal effort that I so enjoy on my birthday has come to an end. Today Harper and I will be shopping for holiday cards. I usually have our cards printed by
Tiny Prints but this year, we are taking a different approach. Henry insists that we take a more personal approach rather than the "cold" one we've used in years past. This cold approach would be the one where I receive the card from Tiny Prints and stick it into an envelope and send it off. I don't necessarily see this approach as cold but rather efficient. We send about 75 holiday cards. It's quite time consuming for one person, yes, that would be I, to spend hours upon hours personally addressing the inside of each and every card. But this year, it is the way we are doing things. And you can bet that I'll be recording the time it takes to complete this task.

And after card shopping, we will do our grocery shopping which I will have little patience to do because I will be too anxious to get home to start the holiday cards.
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