Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

It's those moments...

that melt your heart. You know the ones I'm talking about. The gentle whispers, the quick kisses, the looks that let you know just how much your children love you.

I had one of those moments yesterday.

It was a typical busy Saturday. Errands to run, birthday parties to attend, shopping  and cleaning to do, and somewhere, somewhere in there, I tried to squeeze in a little exercise. As is typical for a Saturday, I didn't get everything accomplished. I have yet to learn how NOT to overplan and overschedule a Saturday. And so, of course, last night I was feeling a little defeated. I was disappointed in myself.

At 6:45, I ordered a pizza and some other goodies for dinner. I volunteered to pick it up. I needed 10 minutes alone...to listen to some music...to regroup. As I was putting my coat on to leave, Harper ran over to me and hugged me as if she wasn't going to see me for a week. She looked up at me with eyes filled with adoration and said, "I love you so much, Mommy".

That was all it took. I was a puddle on the floor, and suddenly all those things I didn't accomplish that day just didn't matter anymore. That's what the love of a child will do to a mother.
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Curbing the gimmes

If you're anything like I am, you've got kids who are constantly saying "I want" or "May I have". For the past two weeks my 7 year old has come home almost everyday craving something that a classmate has. It's not always practical or financially feasible to give in to your child's every want. Rather than say "no" constantly and turn down the requests, we've implemented these strategies for empowering our children to work for what they want.

1. Keep a wish list
We make frequent trips to Target, and every trip yields a visit to the toy department. When either of my daughters wants a new toy at the store, I add the toy to a wishlist which I keep in a small journal style notebook. My girls like knowing that their requests have been noted, and I like hearing "Thanks, Mom, for adding it to my list". It's a great alternative to crying or a tantrum. An added bonus: these lists make holiday and birthday shopping much easier.

2. Make allowances
Start giving your child an allowance. A good rule of thumb is to give a weekly or bi-montly allowance that is equal to their ages. For our 7 year old, we decided to give her $7 every two weeks. However, we've made it very clear to her that she's not entitled to this allowance. She'll have to work for it by keeping her room clean and doing her homework neatly and immediately after school. If she goes over and above the expectations, there's a possibility that she could earn more.
Since they know that they'll be required to use their own money to buy toys, they no longer beg for "stuff" when we shop. Instead they calculate how long it will take to earn the money required to buy the toy and they have an added incentive to help out beyond what is required of them. This system has also taught my kids how to manage their money and their expectations.

3. Give "Positive Points"
Reward positive behavior by giving points each time your children use good manners, follow directions, are helpful to siblings and parents, etc. When the kids accrue 20 points, they are permitted to choose a small toy or have the option of receiving $5 to put towards their allowance collection. Now when we shop, and Emma or Harper ask for an item, I tell them that we'll return as soon as they've earned enough points.

It's important for children to understand that the world operates on limitations and boundaries. The sky is not always the limit. The earlier in life they understand the importance of boundaries, the better they will be at abiding by them. Using these helpful tips will enable both you and your children to have enjoyable shopping experiences free of whining, crying and the occasional temper tantrum.
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Time Out for Theta Mom Thursday

The goal of Theta Mom Thursday is to carve out one hour a month for yourself...without the kids!! Sounds easier than it actually is, but I'm up for the challenge, and so I'll be participating with other fantastic moms each month. Wanna join us? Click here for all the details! Come on, you know you want to!

I have 6 hours each week of alone time when my youngest daughter is in preschool. But the number of times that I actually use that time for myself is minimal. Time Out for Theta Mom Thursday has incented me to take the much needed and much deserved time for myself.



As with most years, I start slacking in the exercise department right around Thanksgiving. By February I am ready to rev up my fitness regime before bikini season rolls around. A few weeks ago I won a book as a giveaway on a blog I visit quite frequently, Katie's Nesting Spot and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

This week I set aside some uninterrupted, ME time to browse the book and try some of the exercises. Since I love anything sleeveless in the summer, I want my arms to have some definition. Taking the time to start reading the book and doing some of the exercises has given me the motivation I need to keep going. Plus, I'm already seeing some results after just a few days of light weight lifting. Gotta love that!

Thanks, Theta Mom for giving me the inspiration to get moving!

To participate in Time Out for Theta Mom Thursday, click here for all the details!
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Review: Hot Wheels Tub Racers Play Set

A few weeks ago I was chosen to review the aforementioned bath toy by Gather.com. I was excited to road test (pun intended) the toy as my girls aren't big on playing with cars. With this toy being such a departure from their regular bathtime entertainment, I thought we'd be a great choice for objective and constructive feedback.
The Tub Racers Play Set is made completely of plastic and is designed to float on water. It is equipped with 2 ramps that launch cars into the water, a water squirter, a secret trap door, and a glass bottom boat. It is bright and colorful, and the assembly is super easy, requiring the locking of a few pieces into place.

As soon as I took it out of the box and assembled it, my 4 year old immediately began to play with it. She was seriously enjoying it on dry land. A good sign. I thought to myself, if she's having this much fun out of the water, just wait until she gets in the bathtub with it. Later that evening, it was time for the rubber to meet the road and the water.

The girls eagerly jumped into the bathtub with their new toy. And all I can say is that the sounds of the squealing and laughing were ear splitting. I kid you not. I was in the hallway just outside the bathroom, and if I could have found earplugs, I would've had them in my ears.

Overall, the Tub Racers Play Set is a delightful toy which offers plenty of enjoyment for boy or girl, in or out of the bathtub. In fact, this would make a perfect toy for the swimming pool. The only downside I found with Tub Racers Play Set is that the manufacturer includes only one car with the product. Considering that the average American household has 2.3 children, I thought including only one car was odd. You can use other Hot Wheels cars, but they don't work as well as the car designed to be used with the toy.

The Hot Wheels Tub Racers Play Set retails for around $20 and be purchased at the following locations:
Walmart

*Disclosure: This is a non-sponsored post. I received this product at no cost to me in return for an honest review. I was not compensated to write this review. All opinions expressed herein are strictly mine and are based on an in-depth review of the product.
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Meatless Meals: couscous salad

As promised, I've submersed myself in vegetarian cooking. I've found some great recipes and am really excited about cooking up some veggie goodness in the upcoming weeks. My first dish is a delicious couscous salad.


Ingredients:
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 medium English (unseeded) cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup dry instant couscous
1/4 cup halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup of your favorite oil-based salad dressing (I use Gazebo Room Greek dressing)

In a small bowl combine tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and 1/4 cup of dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in couscous and a pinch of salt. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large serving bowl. Allow to cool completely. Stir salad mixture into couscous and add remaining 1/4 cup dressing. Add olives, feta and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss completely. Serves 4.

Need more protein? Add grilled chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken with the olives and feta.
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The follower

As a mother, I'm always encouraging my daughters to be independent thinkers. It's important to me that they are able to make their own choices and decisions. Granted, they still are very young, but I want them to learn at a young age that they are capable of making even the simplest decisions on their own.

Lately, and much to my dismay, Emma has fallen under the influence of some of her peers. She has a great group of friends who do well in school and have wonderful families. So, what's the problem you ask? Problem is that if one of the girls has something that Emma doesn't, she suddenly wants it. A few weeks ago it was a $3 lipgloss. Not a big deal with the exception of going to 4 different places before we finally found the exact item. Earlier this week, it was a Pillow Pal. We didn't buy it for Emma. I told her she'd have to save her money for it. Yesterday it was a new backpack. It's exhausting.

I try seeing things from her perspective. I can remember being in high school and being envious of some of the other girls. They always seemed to have the "it" shoes, clothes, hair styles. I wanted so much to have what they had. I completely understand where Emma's coming from. I don't remember feeling that way in second grade. In fact, I can't remember it being important in second grade. But still, I know that feeling of wanting what others have.

We are trying to accommodate her within reason and at the same time teach her that she can't get everything she wants on a whim. It's just not practical or financially feasible. They are tough lessons for a seven year old, but they are lessons that are important to teach. It's tough love. She'll be thanking us when she's 25.

Alas, did she get the backpack? Well, yes. I bought her the $40 Jansport backpack, but I did stop short of the $100 Northface ski jacket. See, I'm setting limits.
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Kicking off the Lenten season

It's that time of year again...the time when Christians all over the world make a personal sacrafice in the name of Jesus Christ. It's a practice in self-discipline not punishment. It's a test of our self-control. This year the Hubby and I are giving up those things that are near and dear to us.

This year, as last, I have decided to give up Diet Coke. My beloved Diet Coke. I wake. I need a Diet Coke. Not coffee. Not tea. Diet Coke. Lunch? Diet Coke with whatever I'm having, please! Not anymore. :( I will miss my tasty and delicious Diet Coke. But the sense of accomplishment I have at the end of Lent is incredible. I have a huge sense of pride knowing that I was able to give up something I enjoy each and every day, several times a day.

So, for the next 40 days, you won't find this in my refrigerator...

Henry is giving up meat. Meat, people! That's huge for him. He's a total meat and potatoes guy. He will be going crazy by the end of the first week. I'm anxious to see how he does. I'm looking forward to trying lots of vegetarian recipes, which, by the way, I'll be enjoying with a glass of water. :(

So, for the next 40 days you won't find any of this in our refrigerator...
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Procrastination

A procrastinator I am not. In fact, procrastination is one of my biggest pet peeves. I've tried to understand why people do it. I think, for most, it's an emotional thing. Putting off something that could force someone to face emotions is not fun. I get it. We have fears that prevent us from tackling difficult situations. It's human nature. But in the end, isn't it easier to face it head on and resolve it quickly rather than agonizing over it for minutes, hours, days, and sometimes weeks?

Why wait until tomrrow when there's today?

So, tell me, are you a procrastinator?
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Tackle It Tuesday: Assembling a play kitchen

Saturday was Harper's 4th birthday. One of the gifts on which her heart was set was a new play kitchen. Keep in mind that we already have a perfectly functional play kitchen in complete working order. But Harper wanted something new.

I sent my husband on a mission last Friday to pick up the gifts. Much to his credit, he came home with everything for which I asked, in the colors I requested. Well done, Hon!

At about 11 pm, I sat down to assemble the kitchen, assuming it would take up to an hour, tops! At 2 am I was placing the last of about 20 stickers on the kitchen. Ugh!

Here's what I pulled out of the box:
Overwhelming, to say the least.

Forty minutes later, this was the scene:

By 1 am, I had made some serious progress, but still had to place the back on the unit.

Voila! Mission accomplished, but not without a little blood, sweat and tears!!

To view other "Tackles", click here.
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On this day...

four years ago, my sweet baby was born. I can still remember seeing her precious face for the first time, and the first words my hubby spoke. "She looks just like you", he proudly said. And she did. She was an angel sent from God.
I didn't want to have a second child. A year after Emma was born, I was pregnant and it, unfortunately, ended in a miscarriage. I couldn't make sense of this tragedy and was certain that I didn't want it to happen again. It took me two years to muster the courage to take that leap of faith...to try again. I kept my fingers crossed and prayed that I'd carry the baby to full term.

On February 13, 2006 just as Emma and I were returning from shopping for her Valentine's Day party for preschool, my water broke as I stood in the kitchen preparing to make heart shaped cookies at 4:45 pm. By 5:30, my obstetrician confirmed that I was in labor. I was elated! I couldn't wait to meet my new bundle!!

At 10:29 pm, my baby Harper arrived and our lives have never been the same since. She is the sweetest little love bug on earth, stealing kisses and whispering "I love you" in our ears. Full of wonder and delight, she's brightened the lives of all who know and love her.

And so, it is on this very special day of her life and mine, I wish her the happiest birthday a little girl could ever have!
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Fashion for Haiti - wear your support!

The tragedy in Haiti is uniting retailers around the world in raising money for the victims of the earthquake through a national “fashion for Haiti” campaign. Fashion designers around the world, including Stella Mcartney, Tory Burch and Betsey Johnson to name just a few, are coming together in support of Fashion for Haiti and my favorite online apparel and shoe retailer, Zappos.com, is teaming up with them!

Beginning February 16th, you will be able to purchase this exclusive t-shirt that not only shows your support for Haiti, but does it fashionably! The t-shirt will be on sale at Zappos beginning February 16th for only $25. $16 of every purchase will be donated to the Haiti Relief Fund! With Beyonce as the official face of the Fashion for Haiti initiative, who can resist?


Watch your favorite designers sporting the shirt in their unique style!



Join your favorite designers and celebrities by visiting Zappos this coming Tuesday, February 16, to purchase your Fashion for Haiti t-shirt. For a small amount of money, you’ll get more than a fashionable t-shirt…you’ll get a good feeling every time you wear it!
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Handmade Heart-Shaped Crayons

After racking my brain for an idea for Valentines to give to Harper's class, my girlfriend saved my cerebral cortex from a meltdown. She made these heart shaped, melted wax crayons last year for her daughter's class. They are super cute and incredibly easy. Oh and inexpensive, if you're anything like our household and just happen to have about 4 million crayons lying around! If you don't, go to your local dollar store to stock up.


Items you'll need:

Crayons (and lots of them), naked (wrappers removed) and broken into pieces
Heart shaped baking molds (I prefer silicone molds)

After peeling and breaking the crayons, fill the baking molds about halfway with crayon bits.


Bake at 250 degrees F. for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the sizes of the bits. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool before removing from mold. Placing them in the refrigerator will speed the cooling process.


Using a glue dot or a glue gun, place a small amount of glue along edges of your heart shaped crayons and attach to a piece of card stock. Add a "colorful" sentiment for your Valentine!

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A tasty & healthy snack

The girls have a new obsession...toast (I prefer whole wheat) with peanut butter sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Emma was at a friend's house for a playdate last week, and this was the snack the child's mother made. What a great idea, and it's not just for kids!
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Let it snow!

We were hit with the second snowstorm in 4 days. It was beautiful. The snow falling on trees makes for gorgeous shots.


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How to create a distraction-free vacation

In this fast paced world, filled with all sorts of distractions, it can be challenging to keep your family focused during a vacation. Here are some tips to eliminate distractions and keep everyone on the same page. TwitterMoms and Alamo are sponsoring a blogging contest to share your 10 tips for creating a fun-filled family vacation free of distractions! Below are my tips. I hope they come in handy during your next vacation!

1. Ditch the electronics. We allow the Nintendo DS and iPods on the airplane. Once we get to our destination, those things get packed until we are ready to leave.

2. Keep cell phone/smart phone and laptop use to a minimum. I understand that my husband needs to check in each day. As an executive, it is important for him to keep his pulse on what's going on back at the office. Schedule certain times of the day when laptops and smartphones are permitted. Otherwise, it gets out of control and you never get out the door.

3. Take lots of video and photos, but don't let your camera control you. I'm an avid photo taker, but I recognize that I'm a puppet on a string with my camera. It will rule you if you let it. Put it down to enjoy time with your family.

4. Keep the TV off. Period.

5. Take advantage of kids programs. They offer a taste of the local scenery and are more often than not, educational. Throw in some learning with all the fun.

6. Don't overschedule your time. Everyone needs some downtime to relax by the pool, on the beach or curl up on the patio with a book or magazine.

7. Ask the kids to do some of the planning. Allow them to schedule a special meal out or a sunset walk or cruise.

8. Bring travel board games, puzzles, and coloring books for the kids (and yourself). These games, unlike handheld electronics, offer enjoyment for the entire family.

9. Allow everyone time to enjoy his or her personal activities. No one likes being forced to participate in an activity that he/she doesn't enjoy. Encourage individual participation.

10. At the end of your vacation, recap your favorite and funniest moments.




Travel Tips for Moms & Families Reserve Now

Quicksilver
Online Check-in
Pre-pay & Save
Self-Service Kiosk
 
To view more tips for a distraction-free vacation, visit TwitterMoms.
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Valentine's Day Craft: Stained Glass Hearts

After searching for an easy and inexpensive Valentine's day craft for kids, I finally found one. Surprisingly, it was one of Martha Stewart's ideas...easy and inexpensive? Doesn't sound like Martha, but I'll try it.



Here's what you'll need:

Required Supplies:
Crayons (varying shades of red, purple and pink)
A pencil sharpener
Snack size storage bags or small bowls/containers
Wax paper
Heart templates (for tracing) and a pencil
An iron
Paper towels
Newspapers
String or embroidery thread

1. Remove the wrappers from the crayons. Sharpen the crayons and place the shavings into bag or bowl. You can mix colors or keep them separate.

2. Place a few layers of newspaper on your work surface to make cleanup easier and to keep wax from being transferred to work surface during the ironing process.

3. Tear off a piece of wax paper making sure it is large enough to fold in half to accommodate the size heart you wish to make. Fold the piece of wax paper in half. Open it making sure the crease is visible.

4. Sprinkle the crayon shavings on one side of the wax paper. Fold the empty side of the wax paper over the shavings side.

5. Cover the folded wax paper with a paper towel.

6. With the iron set on the lowest setting possible, iron over the paper towel being sure to keep the iron moving so the wax paper does not burn. Continue ironing until all the crayon shavings are completely melted.

7. Remove the wax paper and place on a wire rack to cool for a minute or two. Once it has cooled, trace your template onto the wax paper, cut and hang by a window.




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Snowpocalypse now

It's crazy! It feels as if the snow is going to envelope the house. It's piling up all around us at the rate of 2-3 inches per hour. And we are still a few hours away from the end of the storm!

I took this picture early this morning. There was probably about a 7 inch accumulation at that point.

Before going outside to play with the girls, I made breakfast...homemade waffles. Yum!

We braved the elements to take a snow walk...

Everything looked so pretty. The only thing missing from this picture is a little brown bunny off in the distance.

A game of snow hide-n-seek...
After their fill of snow (and I mean that quite literally as they were eating it!), the girls were ready to come inside to get warm and start the Valentine's Day craft, which I will include in a separate post.

We also made cupcakes, and homemade pizza is on tonight's dinner menu. A fun but busy day!

There's just something about snow days!
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I love a good snow storm!

We've been waiting a few hours for the snow to start falling. The kids are jumping out of their skin. I, for one, am looking forward to hunkering down for the weekend. I've got a nice, warm house and some good wines to sample.

As for tomorrow, while the kids are playing in the snow with the husband, I'll be printing, framing and hanging some pictures. When the kids come in to get warm and re-fuel, we'll be doing a stained glass hearts Valentine's Day craft. We'll also be making Valentine's Day cupcakes. It will be my turn to go outside and play after the crafts and baking. It won't be long before I'm too cold to tolerate the outdoors. We'll come inside for hot chocolate, but not before I've had a chance to take lots of pictures. I love snow pictures!

I love snow days. They promise the opportunity for a day at home to do lots or nothing at all.
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What's in a name?

The problem with unisex names is that someone who has never met your child doesn't know whether said child is male or female. Obviously, we never encountered this problem with Emma. But with Harper, it has been a completely different can of worms. It's been random, mostly when the dentist's office calls, Harper is always referred to as "he". It's totally annoying.

More recently, the ENT and surgery center have been calling to check up on Harper's post-op state. Very courteous phone calls and incredibly nice personnel, but all that is lost on me when they ask how "he's" doing. I've been very tactful about it. Thanking them for their concern, and oh by the way, Harper is a female, I tell them. Hoping they don't make the same mistake twice. But, much to my dismay, they do the very next day. Now it's getting really annoying.

On a slightly similar topic, my husband was in Dallas last year for a trade show. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were at the convention center signing pictures. Of course, my husband stood in line, more than likely to get a glimpse of the gorgeous ladies rather than a signed picture, but anyway. He makes it to the front of the line and tells one of the cheerleaders the girls' names, Emma and Harper.  She writes, "Dear Emma and Harver...." Are you kidding me? Harver? Who would do that to their child? I know these cheerleaders aren't rocket scientists, but puh-leez!

One more name story. Every year we send a Christmas card to acquaintances. Every. Year. And every year they send one back to us addressed to Henry, Sheila, Emma, and Parker. Parker? Again, are you kidding me? Do they even take the time to look at our card? Obviously not. That's annoying.
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The saga continues...

If you remember, a few weeks ago Harper's preschool teacher approached me with this issue. I was distraught and overwhelmed. My head was spinning. Where do I start? What should I do? Who should we consult first?

Since she had a follow-up visit for an ear infection just days later, we decided to start with her pediatrician. The pediatrician examined Harper's ears and told us that there was still quite a bit of fluid in her ears but no more infection. It could be residual fluid from the ear infection and is still in the process of draining. Or not. Meaning the fluid wasn't draining on its own. She also performed a hearing test which Harper failed.

She then examined her tongue. Nothing changed from a year prior when it was last examined. She was still tongue-tied. She recommended that we take Harper to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist for a full evalution and hearing tests. And referred us to a speech pathologist for an assessment.

I immediately made an appointment with the ENT. The appointment was last Wednesday. Harper had a series of hearing tests performed with the result that she's hearing at 70% capacity. Not good. The doctor said she'd had to have ventilation tubes placed in her ears and her tongue clipped to enable mobility. Oh and by the way, all this would be done the following Monday (yesterday). Ugh! How would I mentally prepare myself in 4 days?

But I did. As for my little Harper...she was superstar! No fussing when the doctor and nurse took her away from me and up to the operating room. Such a brave little girl she was. Her momma? Not so much. I sat in the waiting room with my sister-in-law Bev and cried. But just as I stopped, the doctor came in to tell me that the surgery was completed and a nurse would escort me to the recovery room. Less than 15 minutes! I'm so proud of my baby!

Next up? A follow up in 3 weeks with the ENT who will assess whether she needs to work with a speech pathologist.

It's definitely not a dull life!
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