Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - arts and crafts fun for tween girls

As part of my follow up to our fabulous NYC trip for the Pop Art Pixies Blogger's Premiere, I should preface by sharing a little bit about the site before getting into the nitty gritty of the tourist activities.

The Pop Art Pixies site by Crayola is a website designed for tweens. Girls can register for free, find out more about the pixies and personalize their online experience by selecting a nickname, creating an avatar, sharing bits of personal information (likes, dislikes, favorite color, favorite music, etc.) Online you can also meet the Pixies: Skye, Maya, Naomi and Tatum.  Registration is free. I would give this site a "G" rating,  so totally appropriate for children in my opinion.

Once registered, your girl(s) can navigate through the site to various games and activities, look over items offered in the Pop Art Pixies product line, earn rewards, invite friends to their network, print coupons, etc.  My girls and I loved finding out more about the Pop Art Pixies and creating our own avatars. 

Before we went to NYC, the girls and I created our own avatars and sent our avatars to Crayola - see mine @misaacmom  and above. The girls thought it looked just like me!  When we arrived in NYC at the hotel, we were presented with large canvas gift bags containing our names and personalized avatars.   I thought this was SO thoughtful and it's is a wonderful souvenir.  My girls love our bags and use theirs for sleepovers, day trips, etc.  

If you get a chance, stop by the Pop Art Pixies and see what fun you can draw up!  Also, stop back by to hear more about our trip and how to bring a bit of the Pixie magic into your own home.

I was invited to the NYC event by Crayola. Our travel accommodations, meals, travel expenses and samples of Pop Art Pixies craft projects were provided by Crayola. I was not required to write a positive review. For more information on this blog and on my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy below.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas refelections

We had a nice, quiet holiday at home. Ryan had to work so it was just the girls, my mother-in-law and I.

Having my mother-in-law here is bittersweet - she and my father-in-law planned to share Christmas with us. It has been several years since we spent Christmas together. He passed away September unexpectedly in a boating accident over the labor day weekend. It was very difficult not having him here to share in the celebrations but my MIL did remarkably well.

She received a new camera and GPS from all the kids. My FILs camera was ruined in the accident and the GPS he had was in his car, which she sold. She was so happy that she received the two things she really wanted.

The girls LOVED all of their goodies. They received many things tailored to their own individual tastes. Miss C is a teen so she received clothes, jewelry, and beauty items. Miss N. loves art thus she received many arts and crafts. Miss E. is a reader. Although she received many larger gifts, her favorite gifts from Santa were 2 wonderful books by Shel Silverstein. Even though considered classics, I never owned these books as a child - they are new to me also! We are having a blast reading the wonderful, wacky, whimsical and humorous poetry.

Miss N. also had a birthday ON Christmas. This birthday was a special one so she received more gifts than usual. (Typically the girls receive more at Christmas than on birthdays). Her best gift? A surprise phone from her dad. It was a surprise for me also!

Ryan also surprised me with a few nice gifts - a DVD set of the 1st season of Glee, the new Eclipse DVD and 2 pairs of "Not Your Daughter's Jeans". The jeans were wonderful because Miss N. ruined the one pair I owned when she came back from a tye-dye b-day party and placed her shirt on top of the pants. Best of all I received Just Dance 2. The girls and I have been having a blast playing it. I love most of the new songs but the game is definitely more difficult than Just Dance 1!

My parents gave me a camera. I was thrilled - Our family camera is just not very good. It was a quick and inexpensive replacement for one that broke. When I have been attending blogger functions and all of the other bloggers bring these great cameras to document the experience and all I have my iphone.

Christmas dinner was good - Ham (great), potatoes (Undercooked), asparagus (canned) and cranberry sauce (TERRIFIC!). The next day my Mother in Law "fixed" the potatoes by cooking longer, adding diced ham, milk, cream of mushroom soup and more seasoning. The cranberry sauce recipe with our modifications is included below:

ORIGINAL recipe:
1/2 orange
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

OUR recipe (modified from the original - modifications bolded):
1 juice of one orange, freshly squeezed
1 cup water
1 cup orange juice1 McIntosh apple
1 bag fresh cranberries (12 - 16 oz)1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
orange zest
dash of vanilla (about 1/4 tsp)

I just love the cranberry sauce. We have a plain Junior's cheesecake at home. I topped my slice with a couple teaspoons of the homemade cranberry sauce and it is SO yummy!

I hope everyone had as lovely of a holiday as ours. Please feel free to share links to your blog posts of festivities in your home/family or recipes.

Snow Day

Raleigh was blanketed in snow yesterday - gorgeous! We did get dumped on but not nearly as bad as other areas of the country!

Here is a great view of our back yard and the neighbors yard taken from our window:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tina Loebach Studios in Raleigh, NC

Here is a picture of the girls taken by Tina Loebach with Loebach Studios Photography (Raleigh, NC). I won a photography package from from a Blog Promotion via Team Mom. Tina specializes in Wedding, Baby and Boudoir photography.

This is one of the best things I have ever won - Tina did a fabulous job!!!! Outside of portrait packages in retail stores, I have never had the girls pictures taken professionally. This was such a wonderful experience and I plan to go again :) If you are local to the Raleigh, NC area, I highly recommend her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wake Forest Parade

Today we went to the Wake Forest parade. To be honest I was dreading it. Usually anytime we go to any large event my DH drives. He is much better than I am at arriving where we are supposed to, finding good parking and getting us out of there quickly. I am not. He had to work so I was the designated driver.

The girls were supposed to get dropped off at the back of the post office. We ended up walking and found everyone in the front. By then we were about 15 minutes late, but hey - we found it. I was happy. I only had to go around the block twice. That is pretty good considering I had no idea where we were going and everything was starting to get blocked off.

Miss C. and I dropped the little girls off and headed out back towards the main street of historic Wake Forest. I took her out to a Tea House for Scones and Tea. I love the tea house - I am a tea drinker and love the charming and quaint ambiance and enjoy the scones with Miss E. and Miss N. loved the Tea House when I took them a few months earlier. Miss C. did not. Apparently tea is not her thing. Our stay was brief - no more than 20 minutes.

We went to The Cotton Company for a little shopping. The shops are darling - they have a wide variety of items. I picked up some soy votive candles and some last minute gifts. We then headed out to find a spot at the side of the road.

It was cold and rainy outside. I was glad that we were able to stay warm during our wait but it was at the expense of getting a good seat. The positive was that we WERE at the very front section of the parade with street side seating (except that we were actually standing). The negative was that there while were several buildings with awnings, these areas were already full with early birds. We did not have an umbrella so basically we got rained on. I was just thankful that Miss C. and I both had gloves and hats.

The girls were one of the earlier groups to come out. A few groups were in front, including ROTC, Boy Scouts, friends of the Wake Forest Library - including the bookmobile, 2 other girl scout troops, a dance troupe, the United Methodist Church, etc.

My girls are in sister troops which is very convenient - their meetings are the same date, time and place and most of the activities are as well. As such both groups of girls were walking together - Miss E. with her Brownie troop and Miss N. with her Junior troop. As soon as the girls passed, Miss C. and I ran over to the other side where the parade ended.

Shortly after the girls walked by again. I quickly grabbed them and ran to the car. We were cold, wet and miserable. I have to give credit to all the kids in the parade - they really hung in there!

Unfortunately I parked in a bad spot - we could not get out as there were still groups entering the parade one one side and there were groups departing the parade on the other. We were smack dab in the middle. All we could do was wait until we could finally leave. I blasted the heat and took pictures of myself with my camera phone (I need a new profile pic). The girls ate candy canes, took off their shoes and socks and argued. Miss C. texted on her phone.

Finally the parade ended and we were able to head home. When we arrived home is when the real celebration again! Next year I will be a little more prepared.

NYC Crayola Pop Art Pixes Blogger Event - Meet the Pixies!

 Crayola Pop Art Pixies

(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

The professional photos have finally been added so I have some pictures to show from our trip.

Late last month, November, 2010, Miss N., Miss E. and myself were invited to attend a Crayola Pop Art Pixies premiere Bloggers event in NYC. All I can say is the people at Crayola are FABULOUS! We had such a wonderful time!!!

Prior to the event the girls and I created Pop Art Pixies online.  The girls also  received gift cards to select new outfits to match their favorite Pop Art Pixie.  Miss N. went casual in jeans and a t-shirt (Skye).  Miss E. went for the bling (also Skye).  I think Miss N. was a little closer as Skye is all about nature and the outdoors, (like Miss N.).  Miss E. is all about the sparkle and shine!

Here was the Agenda:

Friday afternoon
- Flight from RDU to NYC - The girls and I got dropped off by DH.  Made it through security fairly painlessly considering that I over packed (as usual).  We grabbed lunch, then our flight.  The girls were giddy with excitement and goofy the entire way up.

Friday late afternoon/early evening 
- Arrive in NYC; Picked up by shuttle (We got to share a ride with Melissa and her girls from "Your Fun Family" and Anne and her daughter "Drama Queen" from "The Megalomaniac Mommy"). 

- Arrive at the Hotel, check-in at Pop Art Pixies reception desk, pick up t-shirts, badge and personalized swag bags; 

- Go to room; settle in, freshen up and get ready for the welcoming party!

Friday Evening
- Walk the Pink Carpet - Arrive at the reception area and meander over to the Pink Carpet!  The girls were interviewed, filmed and photographed.  Once their interviews were complete, we entered the banquet room for the main event.

Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

- Eat - After traveling for 1/2 a day, most of us were very hungry.  A lovely banquet filled with a load of kid friendly foods was waiting for us -  mini burgers, mini hot dogs, fries, chicken nuggets and more!  We dug right in :)

- Introduction - Most of us did our homework beforehand, but we learned more about the pixies and discussed who our favorites were.  We then had a brief overview of what crafts were available in the Pop Art Pixies line.

- Crafts - We got to try our hand at various Pop Art Pixies crafts - specifics and pictures soon to follow :)

- Ice Cream Bar! - finished the evening with an ice cream bar while we finished our crafts. 

Here is a picture of the girls.  Oh, and one adult off to the left.  Hey - that adult is me!  I guess I am special :) 

Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

Here are Drama Queen, Miss N.,  and Miss E. looking visiting the Pop Art Pixies online:
Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

Miss N. as Maya and Drama Queen as Naomi hamming it up:
Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

LATE Friday Evening
 - 52nd floor - Anne stayed on the 52nd floor of the W hotel and told us we had to come up to their room to  see the view, so we did.  On the way up our ears popped and I got dizzy when going down the hall.   When we got to their room it looked identical until you looked out the window.  I could not believe the view!  I also cannot believe I did not pass out.  I am deathly afraid of heights.   
 Times Square - Anne, Melissa, myself and our girls ventured down for a walk around Times Square.   We went to M&M world, where I spent a ridiculous amount of money on 2 toys.  Our other big purchase were 2 hats for $5 each from a street vendor.   This was our best purchase - the girls would not take these off their heads.   Stopped at a deli next door to our hotel - the girls grabbed chips and I grabbed sushi.  (I just LOVE that in NYC you can get sushi at the deli LOL).

- Hotel - BED!  and a voice mail message from the Pixies.  The girls put on their PJs, and for some reason their new hats.  They checked the voice mail and them climbed into bed.  Both fell asleep the minute their heads hit the pillow, hats and all.

Early Saturday Morning
Rise and Shine - Get up, shower, and get ready! 

- Breakfast - We went back to the banquet room by the pink carpet.  We immediately found Anne and her DD (aka the Drama Queen).

- Can you guess where we are going?  The agenda was a surprise.  We obtained some clues to the day's events

- One last craft - We did one last quick craft before hitting the streets of NYC

Breakfast.... We are in the far back, right corner.

Crayola Pop Art Pixies
(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

Saturday Morning through Evening
- Par-tay Bus - Our bus was awesome!  The outside was decked out in images of the pixies and the Pop Art Pixies logo.  The inside of the bus was just as fun - white leather seats, neon lights, music, snacks and beverage.

THE bus!

Crayola Pop Art Pixies

(Photo by William Thomas Cain/ for Crayola)

The rest of the day was a true NYC adventure.  I will be posting pictures and details of each event, including more info about the pixies.  Also, stay tuned for a great pixie giveaway!!! I will be giving away a fabulous craft package including Skye’s Wind Chime Kit, Skye’s Water Bottle Kit, Tatum’s Decoupage Glass Plate Kit, and Naomi’s Color Glow Lamp Kit! Stay tuned for more details

I did not receive monetary compensation for this post.  Crayola is providing the giveaway, invited us to NYC for the special event and paid all costs.   I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.  For more information on this blog and on my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy at the bottom of the page.

Monday, December 06, 2010

House painting....

We are having the entire house painted. My Xmas gift!

Unfortunately this has delayed our annual decorating efforts - hopefully we can get Christmas decorations up next weekend.

  • Our new guest room is a beautiful, vibrant; shade of blue. It is a little brighter than a wedge wood blue but not too bright. I had debated between a kiwi green or the blue. I am so glad I went with the blue over the green - it is calming and versatile - it goes perfectly with our comforter but will be easy to coordinate with other bedding sets if we ever switch it up.

    The main entryway is an odd color; I wanted taupe and my husband wanted sand - I had to quickly select another color; I picked a color in which the shade was in-between our individual 1st choices; In the light of day (and on our walls) not so much -it gives off a lilac hue.

    My husband was upset about the color and I became defensive. He was initially giving me such a hard time about the taupe so this color was selected as a compromise. He really could not say anything else because of this. I can say that moving forward he did not say anything else about any of the other colors I selected.
  • We quickly decided NOT to do the entire downstairs in this color - instead it is only on the main entry way (vaulted ceilings) and stairway . It is a unique color to say the least but is growing on us quickly. We selected a deep yellow for the rest of the family room; the gold complements the lilac sand-taupe-putty in the main area and matches the sheer wheat shaded curtains.
  • The master bathroom is a great shade of grey - all the men LOVED it. It also compliments the deep mauve / light burgundy that is in our bedroom (previous homeowners had selected that color)
  • The girls bath will be a beautiful, deep turquoise. This room needs a paint job the most. I am not sure what the kids have done to the walls in the 2 years we have been in the house, but they look terrible.
  • The dining room will be a deep sage.
  • Miss N.s room will be a light lime green and bright pink. We may do her room after the holidays.
  • Miss C's room is still in planning mode - she wanted all black and we told her "no". We are trying to determine a color.
  • The kitchen is currently yellow but is adjacent to the family room - the gold against the yellow is a bit much so we will also be repainting that room as well. Apricot or taupe are two colors that have made it to the shortlist. I would love to do a patina green but not sure if I could pull it off.
I will try and post pictures sometime this week!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


The girls and I are back from the Crayola Pop Art Pixies NYC event. Wow! We had a WONDERFUL time. It is over 15 years since I was last in NYC, so just going back for another visit was cause for celebration alone.

We had so much fun. Our accommodations were at "The W" hotel in Times Square. The hotel was very up-to the minute, trendy, modern and contemporary. The bar was a hot spot at night. If I had been sans children, I would have ventured in for a glass of wine, but obviously that was not the case :)

Friday night we hit the Pink Carpet, complete with videographers, photographers and an interviewer. We proceeded to the main event room where we had a dinner of kid friendly foods (mini-cheeseburgers, mini-hot dogs, chicken tenders, fries, etc. We also had an evening of crafts lined up with the girls. (I will be posting more about that later, when I have good pictures to share). After the party ended, a few of us hit the Streets and shopped.

Saturday we started early at 8:30am. We had breakfast, a small craft then we went on our all day adventure. More about that in future posts.

For now I am recuperating from the trip - unpacking, catching up on sleep, etc. I cannot wait to share with you details of where we went, what we saw and how we got there :) Thanks to Crayola for a fabulous trip and a lifetime of memories! Check back soon for all of the Pixie details.

I was invited to the NYC event by Crayola. Our travel accommodations, meals, travel expenses and samples of Pop Art Pixies craft projects were provided by Crayola. I was not required to write a positive review. For more information on this blog and on my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy below.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Times - Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris

I am a fan of David Sedaris, so when an opportunity came up to review a book by Amy Sedaris, I could not resist googling her name - Sedaris is not a very common name. Sure enough, Amy Sedaris is the sister of David Sedaris, but she is certainly not following in his shadow. Amy Sedaris is a well known comedian, actress and author. (the two movies I strongly recall watching her in are "Elf" and "Maid in Manhattan". She was great in both - very lovable in "Elf", and intentionally not so much so in "Maid in Manhattan".  And she is from Raleigh, NC!   

For her new project Amy has worked on bringing her readers " a new book that will forever change the world of crafting".  According to Amy, it's often been said that ugly people craft and attractive people have sex. In her new book, SIMPLE TIMES, she sets out to disprove this theory.  By demonstrating a wide variety of crafts for a wide variety of uses, Amy attempts and succeeds in building her case. 

This book is a riot.  Most of the crafts are hideous but a few are passable for actual crafts.  Either that or I have extremely poor taste.  Amy's comedic style really pushes the bar - you know you really shouldn't be laughing but you cannot help it!  

My favorite chapter from Simple Times is "Unreturnable Gift Giving".  No explanation needed here except these are crafts the recipeinet would probably WANT to return, if possible.  Other gems are the "Making Love" which seemed oddly out of place, even with the crafts included, and "Teenagers have a lot of pain" .  Unfortunately, I think the teenagers would have more pain if subjected to the handicrafts featured in this chapter but I also think that is the point.

You can see Amy in true character.  For the theme of each chapter or craft, Amy is photographed in the proper setting and attire.  From "Out of This World"  - sniffing the glue cross-eyed -  to Gift for the Single Working Women - wearing a horrific not-in-a-good-way retro 70's denim skirt and fringed vest combo while toting a lovely handmade denim pocket portfolio.  I am still confused about the matching yellow-green chenille robes in the sex chapter, but the cheesy, spoofy and yes, scary photos vividly capture of the essence of a campy sexual self-help book.  (Not that I would know from personal experience of course.....)  Each page is filled with a new adventure, whether you are prepared to take it or not.   

One cannot help but wonder where she came up with all of these bizzare crafts.  Then one cannot help but realize sometimes the truth is best left alone.  This book is a great gift idea for the crafter, the anti-crafter or  for the person that just likes truly inappropriate humor.  List price is $27.99 USD.  If you present to the serious crafter, you may want to do so with a disclaimer.  I also would not suggest giving to the easily offended, but everyone else should be fair game!

Thank you to Hachette Book Group for this review opportunity.  All opinions expressed were my own.  I did not receive any form of compensation for this review, but did receive a book for review purposes.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Headed out this weekend (3 trips this month!) but will be catching up on reviews and giveaways next weekend. Regarding my trips - one is personal (friends), one is business (work) and one is blogging (Fun!).

Here are upcoming reviews, blog tours and/or giveaways:
Dichoric Glass necklace
Skin Peel
Holiday dog bib
crafts book - Amy Sedaris
Aurora gift guide and giveaway
Ergonomic mouse review
Paris Wall Decal
Healthy women blog tour

Until then! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Social Media "experts"

It seems like there are quite a few social media "experts" out there. Wow! That is impressive seeing that social media (as we know it today) has only been around for a few years and has only within the last 2 - 3 years experienced the explosive growth that now makes it such a hot topic. Apparently this growth is also giving birth to experts at every turn. Thank GOD we now have someone to turn to for advice.

On the serious side, there actually are individuals and firms that are more knowledgeable than the average Joe-Schmoo about social media. They DO understand strategy, statistics, monitoring, analysis, ROI, etc.; they generally know what works, what doesn't and can offer useful advice.

I was able to meet with a PR firm that specialized in Social Media only for a project I am working on for my day job. (Many PR firms are branching out to include Social Media strategy in their service offering, but there now are also PR firms dedicated to Social Media alone cropping up). To be honest I was not expecting much from the firm but was very pleasantly suprised - they were knowlegeable, understood the different aspects of what social media is and what a company would be looking for in executing a social media strategy, from risks and challenges to benefits and growth. Their client list was impressive for such a young organization (young both in the estimatged age of the staff - 20's - and in how long the firm had been in existence).

There are a few people on the net and/or twitter who I would also consider experts in the field of social media. These individuals usually have a large following, post useful content on various sites with tips that work, and are considered by others to be experts in social media. These people will be quoted in articles, speaking at conferences and posting frequent, reputable content to their twitter accounts, facebook pages, blogs or other. These people are for real.....

Then there are the other ones. These are the people on twitter who will post about helping you get "10,000 followers", yet they themselves only have 99. These same people will post about the millions of dollars you can make on twitter and how successful it has been for them. If you look closely though, you will notice that their account is less than a week old.

Many of these are also the same people who will open 50 twitter accounts. You can tell it is the same person based off of the timing of the account being opened, avatar, username or tweets - all of the sudden you will have 50 new followers but it is very obviously one individual. It is a PITA to remove and block these spammers one by one (Does anyone know a better way?). I am not sure what they are hoping to accomplish other than aggrevating and wasting my time, spamming me with porn or get rich schemes and uneffectively telling me how to become Queen of social media universe.

10 years ago we had never even heard of Facebook or YouTube. Now many of us are tweeting, blogging and posting FB updates from our smart phones, netbooks, ipads. It will be interesting to see the direction Social Media takes over the next decade. Of course that will probably also mean more experts, but by then, maybe there will be some credence to most of these claims vs a small percentage of such. Until then I will visit the sites / blogs of others whose opinion I DO value.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How do you use quality time with your child?

As busy parents, the quantity of time for our generation has decreased significantly from earlier generations where the traditional structure was a working father and stay-at-home mom. Many families still fall under the “traditional” structure but sometimes it is the dad who is the homemaker and the mom who works outside the home. More often, it is common for households have a single parent or two working parents. Blended families are also now very common; often that means the child is splitting time between two homes, reducing the time spent with either parent. Regardless of the makeup of an individual family, our lives are busier than ever.

As part of the Cherrios Blogger's Circle, I was one of the bloggers tasked with the challenge of answering. “How do you use quality time with your child to ensure the best nourishment for body and mind.”

As a mom who works outside the home, quality time with my kids is limited - is crucial to try to make the most of the time that I have with my children. Work and school, coupled with everyday responsibilities, leaves free time at a minimum. After cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, homework and after-school activities, there is only so much time left for anything, much less anything fun.

When my children were little, it was actually more difficult to get quality time. You would think it would be easier since I spent so much time with them and we seemed to have more time at home, but most of this time was spent caring for the kids in addition to all the other normal responsibilities. Now that the girls are older, it is easier for me to incorporate quality time into our daily routine. I still care for them of course, but because they are no longer babies / toddlers, they are much more self-sufficient.

My husband is the more "active" parent, meaning that he usually cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes. He is the one that does more of the traditional fun activities…. taking the girls swimming, on a bike ride, to the park or just out and about. I, on the other hand, am a homebody. I also take them out to the pool or for a walk, but more often we enjoy our down time at home. We do many activities around the house. Although many of these activities are fun ones such as arts and crafts, watching a movie or baking, other activities, primarily chores, are not.

In addition to personal care, decision making, problem solving, ethics, manners, etc., it is my priority to also teach the girls life skills. Whether it is buying, unloading and putting away the groceries, cleaning up, separating laundry, mailing a letter, making a bed, separating trash from recycling, writing a check or setting the table, each chore is an opportunity to teach. Of course the girls don’t always appreciate the value of what they are being taught :) So how do I turn “chores” into quality time? I try and make the activities AND chores fun for both kids and parents.

One to two nights a week is "fast food night" or "eat and run" - not by choice, but by necessity. On the nights were we actually DO have time to eat at home, we try to make a home cooked meal. One thing my girls LOVE helping with and I love having them help is baking and cooking. Last night we made a pot roast – together we peeled potatoes, cut carrots, celery and onions, and seasoned the roast. Some of the potatoes were diced, others were slices and a couple were whole. Tonight we made Asian Stir fry. I showed Miss E. how to steam raw shrimp. Earlier I had taught Miss N. the difference between chopping, mincing and cutting in julienne style; she immediately was testing out her new skills on the veggies at hand while preparing dinner. In addition to learning about the important skills of food preparation and cooking, they are also learning about creativity, nutrition and eating a balanced meal.

Afterward, when we are eating at the table, we usually relax and discuss the day, or play dinner games. The girls love playing “What am I” or “The Name Game”. I am actually planning to invest in one of the table conversational dinner card games to mix it up and keep things interesting. Afterward we cleanup and then have another hour or two - baths, TV or games, then bed.

Obviously this cannot be done for ALL chores, but by turning some of our tasks into quality time, I am able to capture a few more moments with my kids, while simultaneously taking the opportunity to teach. These moments with my children will result in both skills that they can carry into adulthood and life long memories of growing up in our home.

I would love to hear your experiences or ideas on how you spend quality time with your children. What tips to you have to share? What worked and what didn’t? How do you find balance? It is important to find what is successful for your family – what works wonderfully for a neighbor, friend or family member may not do well for you. Determine what both you and your kids love doing and somehow incorporate that into your chores, your weekly routine or your planned one-on-one time. And then plan to have some fun!

This post was done in partnership with General Mills and MyBlogspark. I did not receive any form of compensation for this post. For more information on this blog and my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy at the bottom of this page.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Family Dinner - Review and Giveaway

I have posted on more than one occasion how much I love my vintage (1960's) "Betty Crocker Cookbook", I have a couple others that I use - "Fix it and Forget About It" is another favorite. I really did not think that I would need - or love- another cookbook but I now do.

I recently had the opportunity to review THE FAMILY DINNER by Laurie David, Kirstin Uhrenholdt.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cookbook. It really is much more than a cookbook - With chapters dedicated to topics such as green living, incorporating more meatless meals into your life, dinner conversation starters, kid friendly recipes, etc, this is more like an activity book, lifestyle guide and cookbook rolled into one. I am not the only one that loves this book - on "The Family Dinner" is currently has a 5 star rating by consumer reviewers.

I found the book very informative and entertaining overall. I intently read the information on green living. I learned why it is better to use recycled foil, and what is a great alternative to plastic wrap for storing leftovers. I learned some more reasons why meatless meals contribute to a greener planet. (Ironically the author referenced "Eating Animals", another book I recently reviewed.).

The book included poems, games and various recipes. I would consider most of the recipes gourmet, but not SO gourmet that you would be afraid to attempt to bake or cook what was being featured. Most of the ingredients There is even a section on dinner for divorced families and how the author made it work for her in a unique way. * In reading about the author Laurie, I was surprised that Larry, her ex who was featured in the book in the divorced dinner section, is actually Larry David, actor and co-creator of the Seinfeld TV series. She is also famous in her own right - as environmental activist.

I especially liked learning about Danish culture(guessing Kirstin here) - something that I honestly do not know much about. The only thing I did not like about the book was there was a large bit dedicated to the Jewish Shabbat (and guessing Laurie here) but not too much about other cultures. I was not opposed to the Shabbat feature - quite the opposite. I cannot wait to try some of the recipes! I would have just loved to see what other cultures do for the weekly family meal or how they celebrate holidays with food such as Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Kwanzaa, Bodhi, Hanukka, Winter Solistice, etc. I really feel that with all of the other content the book contained, this could have easily been incorporated. Considering though that the authors come from Danish and Jewish heritages though, it makes sense that these were central.

Overall this book is a HUGE winner. I actually tried one of the recipes that was for the kids but looked so good I went ahead and tried myself. I made the peanut sauce which could be used over pasta. In keeping them with the book, I went vegetarian on this dish. I simply prepared the sauce, boiled the pasta, chopped vegetables and coated with the peanut sauce. It was absolutely delectable and delicious! I could not believe I made it or that it was that simple.

If you are looking for something that will truly be a family heirloom for the recipient (or yourself), this is the perfect gift.I actually keep it on my dinner table. When I sit down for lunch or a drink, I read a new section or re-read one that I previously enjoyed.

One very, very lucky reader will win a fabulous copy of The Family Dinner (if you do not win, you can always buy the book!)

1) you must be a follower of this blog and 2) share something you learned about this book or the author

Extra entries - Post a separate comment for each entry:
- (1) Follow me in twitter @misaacmom and tweet this giveaway
- (1) share this on facebook
- (5) blog about this giveaway

* You must be a follower of this blog in order to be eligible to win
* Winner will be selected via or randomizer
* Winner will be contacted via email
* Winner must respond to email notification within 2 business days or another winner will be selected.
* Email address must be posted in your blogger profile OR you must post it with your entry.
* Only residents of the US are eligible to win
* Winner is responsible for taxes
* No P.O. Boxes
* Hachette responsible for prize fulfillment
* You must be 18 years old and above
* Ends 11/15/2010

I received a copy of The Family Dinner for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. For more information on this blog and on my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Busy weekend

Yesterday we had scouts and shopping - today my other daughter had scouts (an all day event), while Miss N., her playmate and I went to help a friend prepare her house for selling. I cannot believe it is Sunday evening! How do the weekends go by so fast? Back to work tomorrow and another week full of chauffering the kiddos all over town :)

Because we were so busy, I am literally exhausted this evening. If I go to bed too early I will wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. Too tired to share much more but I will be posting giveaway winners soon - INCLUDING the winner of the emom rerewards bedroom suite! Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

KT Tunstall - New Album and New Tour (10/10/10)

T Tunstall's third album, Tiger Suit, is in stores!   KT Tunstall is a Scottish-born singer and songwriter.  The first time I heard her music was on American Idol when a contestant performed one of her songs "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree".  She became an overnight sensation after millions of Americans were exposed to her music.

Her new album has more depth and is a little edgier / more serious than the first which was lighter,  full of positive and poetic fun and whimsy.

"Fade Like A Shadow, her first single is already a Top 20 hit at radio. Check out the video here.

Get your copy here!

For the latest news, tour dates and more, check out KT's websiteFacebook and Twitter


KT is hitting the road in November playing 17 US and Canadian cities. Tickets are on sale now. 

Oct 31      Crystal Ballroom                Portland, OR
Nov 1       Commodore Ballroom       Vancouver, BC
Nov 2       The Showbox SODO        Seattle, WA 
Nov 4       Knitting Factory                 Spokane, WA
Nov 5       Knitting Factory                 Boise, ID 
Nov 7       Knitting Factory                 Reno, NV 
Nov 8      Warfield Theatre                 San Francisco, CA 
Nov 11     The Music Box                  Los Angeles, CA 
Nov 12     House of Blues                  San Diego, CA 
Nov 16     Ogden Theatre                  Denver, CO 
Nov 18     Epic                                  Minneapolis, MN
Nov 19     The Vogue                        Indianapolis, IN 
Nov 21     Vic Theatre                       Chicago, IL 
Nov 22     The Crofoot                      Detroit, MI 
Nov 23     Phoenix Theatre                Toronto, ON
Nov 25     Club Soda                        Montreal, QU 
Nov 26     The Trocadero                 Philadelphia, PA 
Nov 27     9:30 Club                        Washington, DC 
Nov 29     House of Blues                 Boston, MA
Dec 1       Terminal 5                        New York, NY 

This post was done in partnership with One2One Network.  I received a cd for review purposes.  I did not receive any compensation for this post.  For more information on this blog and my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy at the bottom of this page.   

Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Bikes! (10/09/2010)

Early x-mas gifts for the girls from their Nana!

Home Organization and CSN - (10/09/10)

Even though my closet is HUGE, it was very cluttered and in dire need of some organizational assistance. See the "BEFORE" picture posted to the left.  The picture shows about 1/3 of the length.  See?  clutter and disorganization.... 

Through my status as a CSN preferred blogger, I was able to purchase items of my choice to review.   CSN offers a wide variety of home storage solutions!  I decided to splurge on items for my closet and fell in love with the "Honey Can Do" product line.  The CSN gift certificate covered have of the purchase price (I paid the remainder).   Most of the items were on sale and because I spent over $70,  I was able to get free shipping under a current promotion.  I am so thrilled! 

The "Honey Can Do" products are both practical, durable, and affordable.  The items I ended up purchasing were as follows:

Honey Can Do Eight Shelf Organizer and Two Drawers in White- This was used to store my PJs.  I do not have enough room in my dresser so I kept my pajamas in my closet folded up in two piles.  They are now sorted, organized and within reach.  This unit is also available without the drawers (Honey Can Do Eight Shelf Hanging Organizer in White ).  The second unit was used to store my husbands work shirts.

Honey Can Do Two Tier Expandable Shoe Rack in White - This item was the one that made the biggest difference.  I was able to store all of my shoes so that they were both visible and easily accessible.  The unit provided a highly efficient use of space.  Another huge plus was the easy assembly - it took less than 10 minutes for both items. 

I used two racks which were stacked.  Gone were the stacks of shoe boxes!  I have so many shoes (who knew?) that I did need to use full width.  If you need to store as many shoes as I did (about 24 pairs, I recommend using 3 racks as the width will be less and there will be more support in the middle.  For 20 normal pairs of shoes or up to 24 pairs of lightweight shoes, 2 racks should be fine.

Honey Can Do Ten Shelf Hanging Shoe Organizer in White - Meant for shoe storage but this was actually used to organize my collection of scarves, which were previously hiding in a basket.  I can now accessorize my scarves with outfits much more effectively!

Honey Can Do 24 Pocket Over the Door Shoe Organizer in White - I ended up not needing this so Miss E. excitedly grabbed this and claimed it as her own.  She can use it for shoes, small stuffed animals (Beanie Babies, Webkinz, or YooHoos),  art supplies, Nintendo games, etc.  She can even use it for what it is intended for - shoes!

Within 3 hours I had my closet fully organized.  I found shoes that I forgot I owned, had my PJs folded and separated, and cleared out space for more storage .  I even freed up some space on my husbands side of the closet.  Only one box is visible in the picture, but I have about 10 cardboard boxes holding gifts on the upper shelf.  I still plan to buy some storage containers to switch out.  I will also try and figure out what to store the bags of handbags/purses, but I am otherwise done!  For $100 I was able to give my closet a total face-lift.  

The picture quality is not great but you can see the results below


CSN stores provided me with a gift certificate to purchase items for review purposes. Half of the purchase was covered with this gift certificate. I was not required to write a positive review. For more information on this blog and on my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy below.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Baby Shower Brownies (10/07/10)

We hosted a dual baby shower for two co-workers who are both expecting in November- one is expecting a girl and the other is expecting a boy.  I was a co-host of the shower.  We had a wide array of desserts - 2 cakes, cheesecake, and brownies.  

Here is a batch of brownies I created using techniques I learned at Baking with Betty that was tweaked with a few additions of my own.  (These are also the same type of brownies the girls and I made after I returned from the Baking with Betty event so it is an activity your children could help with)

Baby Shower Brownies:
I used two different batches of brownies:

I baked both in 8 x 8 pans according to the instructions on the package.  Once baked, I let the brownies cool to room temperature;  Once cooled I sliced into rectangles and stuck in the freezer for about 1/2 an hour (until slightly frozen).

When I removed the brownies from the freezer and I immediately removed these from the pan one by one.  While still cool and hardened, I then inserted a craft stick into each brownie.   On each craft stick, I had hot glued a bow (pink and blue!). 

Once all of the brownie-sticks were assembled I prepared the melted chocolate using 2 bowls of white and milk chocolate; each bowl was melted in the microwave for 1 minute.  Once melted, I stirred up the chocolate to smooth it out and prepared to dip the brownies. 

For the toppings I used sprinkles, coconut or crushed pecan.  Decorating was easy!....  Dip the top of each brownie into the melted milk or white chocolate and then dip into the topping of my choice immediately following. 

I let the brownies "dry" out on a sheet of waxed paper.  Once the chocolate had hardened, I  transferred each individual brownie-stick into a cupcake wrapper.   The completed cakes were layered on a platter and wrapped up nicely in order to keep fresh for serving the next day.

Creating and hot gluing the bows took a while but the the actual baking and brownie assembly did not take long at all - no more than an hour.  These were a HUGE hit!  

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