A new family member

Sunday, January 31, 2010
Yes. I'm a pushover. I admit it. Today I allowed the girls to convince me to buy them another betta fish. Another fish that I will feed. Another bowl that I will clean. Another pet in my care. They were so excited. Ever since the hermit crabs left us for hermit crab heaven, there's been a void that the girls had been looking to fill.

Introducing Miss Ruby Redfish...

Friday Fun: Freebies!

Friday, January 29, 2010
I love the free stuff! Here's a goody I hope you enjoy!

A $10 coupon book from Pillsbury. Go HERE to get yours.


Fun swag

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Two weeks ago I attended a Twitter party* for Episencial, the first company to develop all natural and sustainable skin care specifically for today’s actively healthy families. I am always on the lookout for natural skincare products for the girls. I was attracted to Episencial's company philosophy as well as their fun products. They were tweeting from the Boom Boom Room at the Golden Globes.

Several days after the party, I received a message from a representative of Episencial who informed me that I would be receiving a gift from the company for my participation in the party. I figured it would be one or two products to sample. Nope. So much better than that! Here's what was on my doorstep today! It was the exact same swag they were giving to celebrities who visited the Boom Boom Room. How cool!

So much fun! An Eric Carle themed t-shirt, a stuffed Hungry Caterpillar, The Hungry Caterpillar book, flash cards, mini library (4 storybooks), Episencial better body butter, and Miracle Lips lip salve. It was all placed in the reusable Hungry Caterpillar bag at the top of the picture. I absolutely love it!

You must check out Episencial for a great selection of all natural bath and body products that are made with solar power. You can't beat that!

*A twitter party is a fast and fun virtual party, using the twitter platform. Usually held in the evening, twitter parties typically last 1-2 hours and are a wonderful way for people to connect and discuss a topic of choice. Most twitter parties have an expert panelist and party host to keep the party on topic.

For more information on Twitter parties, click here.

Tuesday's tasty treat: cold spaghetti salad

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Last week when I stopped by our favorite Italian specialty store, they had a pasta salad that looked delicious. I ordered a 1/2 lb, and drove home as fast as I could so that I could devour the salad. It was yummier than it looked. But at $8.99/lb., it was pricey. Too pricey to indulge a few times a week. :(

So, I set out to make it for a fraction of the price and with a healthy twist.

1/3 lb. spaghetti (I used whole grain from Barilla)
10 grape tomatoes, cut in half
7 oz. fresh arugula, chopped (I used the prepackaged arugula)
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
12 boccochini (bite sized mozzerella balls), quartered
Lite Greek or Italian viniagrette salad dressing (I used Gazebo Room Greek, available here)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Boil the pasta according to package directions and allow to cool. In a separate, medium sized bowl toss together the tomatoes, arugula, red onion and boccochini.  Add the pasta to the tomatoes, arugula, red onion, and cheese mixture. Add dressing to taste. Toss to evenly coat and add salt and pepper.

Enjoy as a snack or a meal!

Emma's First Reconciliation

Monday, January 25, 2010
Religion was not a major part of my upbringing. My parents rarely took us to church. I can recall a few occasions where I attended Sunday school with my cousin, Garry. Otherwise, I draw a blank. Whenever I attended a wedding, I became uncomfortable in a church. It was intimidating to me. I felt like a mouse surrounded by dinosaurs. I was well aware of what little I knew about Christianity and Jesus Christ.

As an adult, I would attend services occasionally, always trying to do the right thing, but seemingly coming up short. Again, the intimidation factor was a roadblock for me. Once Emma was born, Henry and I made a point to go to church more frequently, most especially during the Lenten season. Two years ago, once we signed Emma up for her Catholic religious education classes, we decided to start attending Sunday mass each week.

If we were expecting our daughter to attend a weekly class, we certainly should set a good example by attending weekly mass. Two years and many Sunday masses later, Emma reached her first milestone in her Catholic education, First Penance or First Reconciliation. On Saturday, we joined Emma as she celebrated her first act of confession. She confessed a sin to the priest who, in turn, gave her an act of penance to complete for redemption.

It was very emotional for me, as these things always are. She wasn't nervous. She knew exactly what she wanted to confess. After we presented her to the priest, we were asked to step away to allow her privacy. As she sat with the priest, we were beaming with pride. We were not permitted to take pictures or video footage during the service so I had to settle for a few snapshots during our lunch out afterwards.

The celebrant...

The proud little sister...


Friday Fun: a quiz

Friday, January 22, 2010
Can you name these popular coporate logos? I got 32 out of 36. Click here to see how you do!

Have a fun Friday!

Chicken Stir-Fry with a twist

Thursday, January 21, 2010
When I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart, I was unsure. Basil in stir-fry? An Italian herb in a Chinese dish? I wasn't convinced. I was pleasantly surprised! I really enjoyed the flavor of the basil.

Click here for the recipe.

Note: I used brown rice rather than white rice, and I used Italian basil rather than Vietnamese.

Afraid of heights but love theme parks?

You'll want to steer clear of Tema Park in Las Vegas. This theme park, built atop a skyscraper, is for the avid adventure seeker indeed!


I'm published!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
My writing is going to be featured on Examiner.com. Yay! I'm a published writer! I'll be writing primarily about local events, activities and goings on from a stay-at-home mom perspective. But don't let that stop you from checking out my articles. Some of them will be general parenting topics and general interest pieces.

Click here to see my profile page and read my articles. Click! Click!

Blue Monday: Birdhouse

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hop on over to Blue Monday to visit other entries.

A new home

Saturday, January 16, 2010
My sister Brenda moved into a new house today. For some reason, this is a bittersweet event for me. I'm excited for her. She's wanted to downsize for quite a while, and she was fortunate to sell her home quickly. On the other hand, I have a lot of wonderful memories of time spent at Brenda's old house. Before Emma started preschool, she and I would spend the entire month of February in Florida with Brenda. Our time was spent mostly outdoors at local parks, taking long walks and playing at the beach.

Those Februarys offered us a break from the cold Northeast winter and from the daily routine at home. It was a nice vacation with my sister with few other distractions. We'd drive to Disney and as well as take advantage of the Tampa tourist attractions. After a month, we'd return to New Jersey rested, refreshed and ready for spring.

This is going to sound silly, but what I'll miss most is the smell of my sister's house. It always had this fresh, just cleaned smell. Always. Even after changing a dirty diaper, her house still smelled good. Sounds weird, I know.

I wish my sister well in her new home.  I know it will hold lots of good memories for all of us.

Life's Challenges

Thursday, January 14, 2010
As a writer, it can be so difficult to hold back at times. Ever since I can remember, I've known that I can express myself more effectively on paper than I can verbally. My first instinct is to write. Writing is a healing process for me. Blogging is certainly no different than writing in a journal with one exception. Through blogging I get an outpouring of support through comments. Much needed comments.

There are other times when sharing is difficult. It involves conveying deeply personal information and emotions. Such is my case today.

This morning when I dropped off Harper at preschool, one of her teachers motioned me inside. Ugh! I got that feeling in my stomach. You know the feeling...when you're about to hear something that you don't want to hear...whatever it may be. A few things raced through my mind before the teacher began to speak. When she finished, I had the message, and to me, it was heartbreaking.

Before I tell you the issue, let me begin by saying that it's all relative. I know there are oodles of parents out there who are worse off than we. They are dealing with tougher medical issues than we are. As I said, it's relative. OK, that being said here's the deal. Harper's primary teacher is concerned with her speech progression. She's having difficulty forming certain letters and speech patterns. Apprently, it's not affecting her socially, but the teachers and classmates have difficulty understanding her. Her teacher fears that if it is left untreated, it could be a problem years from now, and worse yet, her peers could mock her.

Now, I don't know about you, but that's enough incentive for me to address this problem immediately. There's nothing worse than being mocked by your peers. Nothing. We are aware of some speech problems, but we thought they were indicative of her age. I'll be addressing this with her pediatrician when she goes for her follow-up visit for her ear infection.

I want to write about this, but I have mixed feelings about detailing my children's medical issues. However, I do feel that blogging can be a powerful tool that results in support and shared experiences. This is just another bump in the road called Parenting Highway, and I'm certainly not the first traveler down this road.

Hello! My name is...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It's a simple introduction. But it goes a long way. Yet so many people just don't introduce themselves in social situations. Why? Do they not care?

Yesterday, I was a volunteer at our church during Emma's religious education class. I was a hall monitor which basically means that I'm there to keep an eye on kids so that they don't become distracted while going to and from the bathroom. Oh, and I am also given some busy work to wile away the time. There are always 2 hall monitors, and prior to yesterday, I've always known the other volunteers. No need for introductions.

However, yesterday I didn't know the other woman. I waited about 10 minutes to see if she'd introduce herself. I like to do this. I know most people will not willingly introduce themselves. It really bothers me. I'm not there to make lifelong friends, but I would like to be able to refer to the other person by name should I need to do so. So, I introduced myself and in turn, forced her to do the same. She didn't seem happy about it. This isn't the first time I've experienced this sort of thing. I've volunteered in Emma's classroom where the exact same thing has happened...on several occasions. Unbelievable.

Is there something I'm missing??

Valentine's Day is just around the corner

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It's not too early to start thinking about Valentine's Day. I can't bear the thought of giving those cheesy, store-bought Valentines to Emma's and Harper's classmates. Where is the creativity in those things? They lack originality. They're blah. This year, I'm raising the bar. Click here to see what I gave to the girls last year and what we gave to Emma's classmates.

I've gotten some super cute ideas from Skip To My Lou. Click here to take a look at some of the uber creative Valentine's Day projects, ideas and free printables.

Old toys are new again

Our playroom needs a serious makeover. I want to add some shelving to better organize board games and puzzles and to allow the girls easy access to these toys. But before I do that, I need to invest some time in purging. We've collected toys over the years, but have not rid ourselves of the baby toys. Over the weekend, I identified the toys that I think are no longer age appropriate and have questioned the ones that are age appropriate but just haven't been touched in months.

Let me say this, if you want your kids to play with a toy, just threaten to donate it. Yes. I know. I'm a mean mom. But, I'm telling you, it works! Such was the case with our Barbie kitchen. It was placed in a corner of the playroom and has long been forgotten. When I suggested that we donate it to our church, you might have guessed that I had suggested amputating their right arms and donating them. Seriously. I never knew they had such an emotional attachment to that kitchen. They presented a somewhat convincing argument to keep it. Fine. But I better see some action in the kitchen!

And action there was!


A Better, Fitter Me, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010
Who isn't on a fitness quest this year? It seems everyone I ask has some kind of fitness or weight loss resolution this year.

I officially kicked off my personal fitness campaign on Friday. To follow along and hopefully become inspired, check out The Fitness Diaries.

Here's my inspiration picture. I think I can! I think I can!


Check out this giveaway!

Friday, January 8, 2010
My bloggy friend Becky at Farmgirl Paints is hosting a giveaway. Not just any giveaway either. She's giving away one of her custom made paintings!! Becky is so talented. I adore her paintings for their whimsy, and it's obvious how much of Becky's fun personality is reflected in her artwork.

This custom made tree can be yours! All yours! You pick the theme. Becky creates the artwork!

Hurry! Becky will pick a winner on January 11!
To enter, click here.
image courtesy of Farmgirl Paints

How adorable are Becky and her painting?
image courtesy of Farmgirl Paints

Pick me! Pick me!

Burlap Bags

Thursday, January 7, 2010
Looking for something funky yet functional to help with your new year organizational needs? I've found the perfect solution. I've made it a goal to de-clutter this year. What I'm choosing to keep will be organized...and remain organized. While searching for some offbeat organizational tools, I found these burlap bags from Funkyshique at Etsy.com. I'm gonna get me some of these!!!!!
Check Spelling

Pictures (Not So) Perfect

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Over the past couple of months, I've spent a lot of time taking pictures with my DSLR and winging it. I've taken many practice shots with little knowledge of most of the features and functionality of my camera. I'm hoping this year will be a big photography year for me, one in which I'll fine tune my skills, learn plenty of new ones and take tons and tons of pictures. So, here are some "warm up" shots that were taken prior to taking a photography class.

Goodbye lazy mornings

Sunday, January 3, 2010
Ever since the girls have been off from school for Christmas break, we've enjoyed long, lazy mornings. Lounging in our PJ's and lingering over breakfast have become our primary purpose. It's been nice. Really nice. But tomorrow all that ends when Emma returns to school.

The alarm will annoy me at 7 am. We barely stumbled out of bed before 9 am during the break, and starting tomorrow by 9 am, I will have made and served breakfast, packed lunches and snacks for 2 hungry children, gotten Emma on the bus and driven Harper to preschool. Whew!

Plus, tomorrow begins my new fitness and exercise regime.

I'm not ready for this...

Wine of the Week: Mionetto Prosecco (Sparkling)

In honor of ringing in the new year, toasting friends, family and good health, this week's featured wine is Mionetto Prosecco Brut. Prosecco is Italian sparkling wine. And if you've never tried it, you need to get yourself a bottle.

In contrast to it's French counterpart, Champagne, Prosecco is softer, fruitier, lighter and fresher. When I first tried it, what I noticed most was there was no bitter aftertaste. I've watch Giada de Laurentiis use Prosecco for cocktails on her Food Network shows for years. This winter I finally tried it, and I'm not sure I'm ever going back to Champagne or American sparkling wines.

Prosecco has gained popularity recently here in the States for two reasons. The first being that it's so reasonably priced for the quality. The average bottles costs about $14. Secondly, it pairs well with many foods.

The Mionetto Prosecco is very dry, fresh and light with hints of golden apples. It's perfect alone or makes a delightful complement to salads and mild cheeses. It's excellent as a base for Bellinis (for Harry's Bar's famous peach Bellini recipe, click here) or for other sparkling wine cocktails.

Next time you have a special occasion to celebrate, consider this or any Prosecco. You won't be disappointed!

Project 365

Friday, January 1, 2010
I'm embarking on a new endeavor for 2010, Project 365. It's a blogumentary of 365 days of my life. I'm incredibly excited! This is just the discipline that I need.

For more details and to take a peek, visit http://sheilasproject365.blogspot.com.