Sunday, December 13, 2009

Warm Wishes

I haven't disappeared, or dropped of the face of the earth. I haven't posted in a while, not because I'm buried under laundry or swamped with Christmas shopping (even though I am), but mostly because I still get chills when I read the bake sale post. So, with that in mind, I'm going to let that post carry us through to the New Year.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate this wonderful time of year. And my wish for you all in the New Year is that you find some way to give back. You will be amazed at the gifts you will receive in return.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The day we made a difference

Several months ago, when I read about the Cookies For Kids' Cancer organization, I knew I would host a bake sale and raise money for pediatric cancer. What I didn't know is what an amazing experience it would be, how much it would change my life, and how thankful I would be to have been a small part of a big need.

The planning started a month ago, when I sent out an email asking family and friends to help with baking, sign making, working the sale, etc. My good friend, Amy, was doing the same and within hours, we had a list of over 50 people wanting to help! Great White Hunter also got involved, soliciting help from his business connections. Hubby really came through with some nice donations and even four Spurs ticket, which we raffled off and brought in an extra $1,000. Even our big, beautiful banners were donated to us.

The week prior to the sale, friends drove all over town putting up signs. We had signs everywhere: in shop windows, at the checkout counters of major retailers, at schools, everywhere.

The day before our Bake Sale, our volunteers began delivering us boxes and bags of the most incredible baked goods. In fact, we had so much stuff, I truly thought I would have to host a two-day sale to sell it all. There were three tables loaded with goodies, and under each table were boxes filled with things waiting for space to be put out. You name it, we had it. A myriad of cookies, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, breads, biscotti, brownies, lemon bars; basically everything but fudge. Which is funny, because one of the first people to visit our sale looked at the three tables full of baked goods and asked, "You got any fudge?" Nope. No fudge.

Location, location, location! How true this is. With a little perseverance, I managed to get a booth space donated so we could hold our bake sale at a local outdoor Market Days. This turned out to be so worth the effort. We were given a prime spot at our town's Market Days. Front and center, you couldn't miss us. Our booth was constantly swamped with people, even 30 minutes before Market Days officially opened. We sold everything, which I didn't think was possible in one day. We also raised over $5,000. In one day. Amazing.

Our sweet Dorothy was a big helper, too. She handed people cookies and put their donations in the jar. She blew lots of kisses and gave lots of hugs and said many thank yous. And she remained happy and playful all day. Not one single melt-down. Not one tear shed. FOR SEVEN HOURS. I think she was just grateful to be outside enjoying a beautiful day, and not stuck in the hospital.

During our bake sale, we met adult survivors of pediatric cancer, survivors of all types of cancer, and people currently fighting the battle who were so glad to give. For me, there is not one moment of this day that wasn't meaningful, or special, or didn't make me teary-eyed. Absolutely everything was awe-inspiring. Something that made this day even more special, though, was that I was able to share it with my family and good, good friends. And knowing we were able to contribute to such a great cause, well, no words can describe that feeling.

It's a been a week since our Bake Sale, and I'm finally recovering. I still think about it all the time, and it still gives me chills to know how generous people were. Even right now when so many families are struggling, they still gave without hesitation. It was an awesome day, and I can't wait for next year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

With heartfelt thanks

I woke up Sunday morning a different person. Our Cookies for Kids' Cancer Bake Sale on Saturday was a life-changing experience, and one of the most amazing days of my life. I am so proud to say we raised $5,075.27 (and thanks to The Glad Products Company, our total is $10,150.54). I will post photos and more about the event very soon, so please check back. For now, I have to give a heartfelt thank you to some very special people. My sweet friend Amy, my partner in putting this event together. There are no words big enough to express my gratitude. And to my friends Jen and Anne. They spent their day helping out at the Bake Sale, and it was amazing sharing this adventure with them. I love you all very much and could not have done this without you. Also a huge thank you to this hip momma. She took countless photos to help us relive these memories forever. I am so grateful for your help.

Most of all, the grateful hearts of sweet Dorothy and all the other children bravely battling this very ugly disease thank you. To everyone who was a part of this event, you will never know how much we appreciate you. Let's keep up the fight and continue to be good cookies, because too many children need our help.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baking for a cause

Sometimes we feel helpless when faced with something we have no control over or cannot change. We want to do something. Something that will make us feel as if we've made a difference. And sometimes the situation just requires us to sit back and deal. You know, accept the things we cannot change and all that mumbo jumbo. I don't do the "deal" part very well. I want to help. My biggest challenge is finding out how.

Recently, I have learned a lot about pediatric cancer. I discovered that only about 30% of children diagnosed with cancer survive. 30%. That's not even half. The reason for such terrible odds is directly related to how little money is being spent on research by both the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18. In fact, it kills more children than asthma, AIDS, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis combined.

Research can make a drastic difference in cancer survival rates. Take breast cancer for example. Due in part to all the research being done and all the organziations that help fund the research, the breast cancer survival rate now averages 90%. I'm not that good at math, but I know 90% is a lot better than 30%.

One day while glancing through a magazine, I came across an ad for Cookies for Kids' Cancer. The ad caught my eye so I jumped on the computer to check it out. Cookiesforkidscancer raises money for pediatric cancer research through local bake sales. I thought to myself, "Seriously? I love to bake. I can do this. I will do this." I mentioned this idea to someone who did not share my enthusiasm. "Why don't you just ask for teddy bear donations and deliver them to the pediatric cancer patients at the hospital?" While a noble thought, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. Teddy bears are nice, but they don't save lives.

So, in a few weeks, we're "doing this." One of my very dear friends is taking on this challenge with me and we are organizing a bake sale. The outpouring of friends willing to help has been overwhelming. So far, we have 20 bakers and counting. We've set a big goal for ourselves, but I accept the fact that whatever we are able to raise will be wonderful. It might be a drop in the bucket, but it's a start. It's something.

In addition to raising money, I hope we are also building awareness. Please visit this site and learn more about how you can throw a bake sale in your area and help fund pediatric cancer research. Or simply make a donation. After all, as the mother/founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer says, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the world to fight pediatric cancer.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do the mash

I love mashed potatoes. To me, they define comfort food (with homemade mac and cheese coming in a close second). This is a shared love in our house, but I have received some hints lately that we've entered the mashed potato doldrums. So, I have been trying to find new ways to enjoy what our house affectionately calls "mashers." I have found some pretty good alternatives to the basic mashed potato, and people seemed to be pleased.

Our favorite so far is white bean mashers. They have been a big hit with both the big and little man around here. And the best part is, they are super easy to make. Here's what you'll need:

3 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed (I use great northern beans)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the EVOO, garlic and lemon zest in a sauce pan on med-low heat until it becomes fragrant and warm. Don't let the garlic brown. Add the beans, and with the back of a wooden spoon, smash the beans against the side of pan until they become mashed. Heat through, then add salt and pepper to taste.

If beans aren't your thing, try adding some steamed cauliflower or butternut squash to potatoes just before mashing. When blended with the potatoes, they boost the flavor and nutrition. Or try harvest mashers: a half-n-half blend of russet potatoes and sweet potatoes, mashed together with sour cream and a dash of horseradish. Yum.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prophetic Lyrics

"Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies..."

Do you know the story behind the Beatles song, Lucy in the sky with diamonds? It's a rather sweet story, and has nothing to do with John Lennon wanting to spell out the initials LSD in code. In 1966, Lucy O'Donnell Vodden made a friend in preschool. That friend was Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son. 4 year old Julian came home from school one day with a drawing he had made of a girl with diamond-shaped eyes. He showed it to his dad, and when asked about it, Julian said it was "Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

"Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, towering over your head."

The song is widely regarded as a psychedelic masterpiece, replete with haunting images of "newspaper taxis" and a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes." But listen to the lyrics now, with this story in mind, and you can see the world through the eyes of child.

"Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies."

Last week, Lucy died after a long battle with lupus. She was 46. Julian and Lucy lost touch after he left the school following his parents' divorce, but they were reunited in recent years when Julian tried to help Lucy cope with her disease. He sent her flowers, and upon learning of her love of gardening, sent gift cards for use at a gardening center near her home in southeast England. He also sent her frequent text messages in an effort to bolster her spirits. Julian said he wanted to do something to put a smile on her face. I'm not sure if he accomplished that, but I admire him for taking the time to try. Sometimes it's the little things. Just like the little picture that Julian brought home from school one day.

"Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away. Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and your gone..."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wanna trade?

School's back in session, and many Moms across the country are getting up extra early to pack lunches, me included. Yes, my son's school has a cafeteria. I've seen the food. I'm not impressed. I know the years when I will lose all control over what he eats are fast approaching, so I'm hanging in there while I can. I am trying to be creative with lunches, make them fun to eat and healthy at the same time. You know, stuff that will make other kids say, "Wanna trade?"

When I was young, one of my favorite books was Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban. In this book, Frances liked one thing: bread and jam. She ate this at every meal. Her friend, Albert, however, had the most amazing things in his lunch at school every day. Finally, at the end of the story, Frances catches on and her lunches become amazing, too.

When it comes to packing lunches, most parents are not intentionally being boring, they're just being pragmatic. If your child likes peanut butter and jelly and it's easy to make, your child gets peanut butter and jelly every day. If this sounds boring to you, it probably is to your kids as well. Here are some ideas to help you get creative with your kid's lunches and ditch the brown bag blahs. Variety is the spice of life, so expose your kids early and allow them to try new things. They may take a while to warm up to your culinary experiments, but they will thank you for taking the time to pack a little love in with their food.
  • Since sandwich bread every day can get boring, experiment with ciabatta rolls, focaccia, wraps, whole wheat english muffins, mini baguettes, pita pockets, etc.
  • Use cookie cutters and cut out the sandwich after you've made it to make fun shapes, or use a circle cutter and make a face with raisin eyes and carrot lips.
  • Make different variations of BLTs, like adding sliced avocado or making a turkey BLT. Try spreading cream cheese instead of mayo for nice change.
  • Send a healthy stuffed potato. Bake large potatoes in a hot oven for 1 hr. Halve, scoop out the flesh, mix with canned tuna or chicken, broccoli and grated cheese. Pile back in the skins and crisp in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and, voila, a perfectly packable lunch.
  • Make a fruit wrap: thinly slice apples, grapes and strawberries. Spread pineapple or strawberry cream cheese on a honey whole wheat wrap and roll. Inlcude carrot sticks on the side to squeeze in those veggies.
  • Pack a cold pasta salad with chunks of ham and peas.
  • Try a Mexican Mango Madness lunch: pack a bean and cheese burrito, sliced mangos and a green salad with dressing on the side. Add a chocolate cinnamon pudding for dessert.
  • A new twist on PB&J (and good for those allergic): Almond butter and honey and whole grain bread, carrot and celery sticks and applesauce.
  • Pack chicken noodle soup in a thermos, include a whole wheat roll and rice pudding for dessert.

Oh yeah, including a little note is also a great way to pack some love in the lunch box. I love these Lunch Grams - cute papers to write your notes on. Find them here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Birthday

You are six today

Happy and full of fun

You are six today

Seems like yesterday you were one

You are six today

Healthy, handsome and smart

You are six today

And your smile still melts my heart

You are six today

Slow down, don't grow up too soon

You are six today

And I love you up to the moon.

xox, Mommy

Sunday, August 30, 2009

When the going gets tough...

I hit the kitchen. Some women shop or hit the spa; I morph into a marathon chef. It's my answer to stress relief. I love to cook and bake anyway, but during tough times I become unleashed. I bake, and my mind clears because I can totally submerge myself in the process. I also cook, comfort food mostly, because there's something about a home-made dish that seems to wash troubles away. And it's not just me that reaps the benefits. My family eats pretty darn good when I get stressed. I can't wait for cooler weather so I can spend three days making Julia Child's boef bourginon.

At present, life seems to be dishing out its fair share to many of my loved ones. This past week alone, I knocked out two loaves of whole wheat bread, enough broccoli cheese calzones to fill my freezer, and six dozen banana-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. I'm addicted to them right now, and thank goodness the recipe came from Cooking Light magazine, otherwise I could add weight gain to my list of woes.

Want to share how you cope under difficult times? Or better yet, want to give me some recipes to try? It'll help take my mind off things. Besides, I love to cook and bake, but I also get by with a little help from my friends.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hi ho hi ho, it's off to school we go

How did the first day of Kindergarten go? Not as bad as I thought. My child's uncanny ability to be a pill kept my tears to a minimum. The craziness of the morning was too overwhelming to allow much fear or emotions. We just focused on getting to school on time, which we did by the skin of our teeth (note to self: make lunches the night before!). After getting his things settled and finding his seat, he looked pretty unsure of things. Until the most adorable little girl sat down across from him. Their conversation went something like this:

her: "This is my first day of Kindergarten!"

him: "This is my first day of Kindergarten, too!"

It was pretty cute. The two of them kept talking so I gave a kiss, told him I loved him and would see him later, and left the room. I expected to begin boohooing, but instead I felt so excited for him. About what he'll learn and accomplish this year, the new friends he'll make, how he'll grow, and how I get to watch and share in all of this. I feel very blessed. Of course, I signed up, along with my friend, to be room mom and joined the PTO and all that other stuff. I want to be involved while my little man still wants me to be. (but I'll still be involved even after he doesn't.)

And who knows, maybe there's new things on the horizon for me as well. My horoscope for today read:

There are valuable experiences waiting for you around the corner. The important thing for you to do now is simply recognize the opportunities when they come. Roads to success aren't always well marked. Take a chance on one that has no signs at all. You have the courage and pioneering spirit to pursue the adventurous route, so go for it.

When I picked him up after school and asked him how his day went, he told me he was ready for Kindergarten (good thing, because there's we kind of have to go back!). Whatever lies ahead, I think both my little man and I are ready. Ready for the adventures life brings our way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

T minus 7 days

You know when you're pregnant and everyone tells you not to blink because kids grow up so fast? Well, I must have blinked, because exactly one week from today my son will start kindergarten. I can't believe it. And of course, I'm not exactly ready. My little boy is talking about learning math and science, and I'm still wondering where the time went. We're buying backpacks and school clothes, and I'm looking through baby photos. We've done so much stuff together, my little man and me, during the last six years. Really bonded. I wouldn't trade those times for ANYTHING.

With kindergarten fast approaching, I'm full of nervous excitement and overwhelmed with emotions ("Hello Boo-Hoo Club? Reservation for one, please."). To ease his anxieties, though, I haven't made a super big deal of it. I tell him, "It's just kindergarten, no big deal. It's going to be great." We talk about all the fun things he'll be doing and learning. We've been practicing our reading and writing over the summer. We've read our favorite new book:

I want him to love it (I know he will). I want him to have the most wonderful teacher (I think he will). I want him to make new friends and keep the old. I want him to be safe. I want to be a fly on the wall just one day to see him in action.

For my son, this is one of the biggest adventures yet. For me, it's the beginning of loosening the grip a bit. Just a tiny bit, though. It's only kindergarten, after all...

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's tough being a woman

(click on the image to enlarge)

Women. We really are pretty complex beings. To men, we must seem strange and incomprehensible. But really, would we have it any other way?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warrior Princess

This is Dorothy.

She is one adorable two-year old.
She exudes sweetness, and you want to hug her every chance you get.
Her mommy says she sings the cutest rendition of "Mockingbird" you've ever heard.
Her laugh is infectious.
She loves to look at the moon and the stars.
Last weekend, I got to hold her hand as we walked to the beach.
We made dribble castles together and she was fascinated.

She thinks everything is beautiful. ("Look at the clouds, they're beautiful!")
She's also fighting the biggest battle of her little life.
Dorothy has cancer.
It's one of those things you can't grasp, can't understand no matter how hard you try.
She's so little, yet she's fighting something bigger than most of us will ever have to.
Spend a few hours with this amazing child and you will find inspiration, courage, and warmth.
You will also feel anger and frustration.
But you will fall in love with her, and be amazed at the life lessons you will gain from this two-year old.
What a gift.
I thank God for her every day, and I pray for her.
I know she would love it if you could pray for her, too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

When life gives you 100 degree temps and severe drought conditions.....have a camp out?

Early Saturday morning, my soon-to-be six year old little boy decided he wanted to have a camp out that night. "A what?" I said. "You want to camp out in this heat? It's the middle of summer! Let's wait until fall when it's cooler, OK? " He looked less than thrilled, and as I started hearing the song, "every party has a pooper that's why we invited you!" in my head, I rethought my answer. Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today, right? Besides, if I put it off, we all know their ain't no camp-out happening over here. As my friend so eloquently put it, the act of following through means so much.

So, since we own zero camping supplies, we set out to Wallyworld and purchased a modest tent. Great White Hunter was pretty jazzed at this idea too, and my men spent a better portion of their Saturday setting up "camp."

According to my son, what's a camp-out if you can't include a cook-out, and he wanted nothing to do with our gas grill. Since we're in the midst of one of the worst droughts in Texas history, we nixed the idea of an authentic camp fire. Instead, we drug out our old fire pit, cleaned it up a bit and got it ready for cooking. We cooked the appropriate camping food: burgers, hot dogs and corn on the cob. Well, sort of. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed buffalo burgers with cotija cheese, guacamole and cilantro lime salsa, and grilled corn with ancho chili butter. I found these new buns today, which I LOVE because they're super thin so you don't feel like you're getting a mouthful of bread with your burger. (Orowheat Sandwich Thins, 100% Whole Wheat)

Grilling on our old fire pit produced very earthy, smokey burgers that were so good. A few roasted marshmallows for dessert and our meal was complete.

As soon as the sun set, a story was read and we were off to bed. OK, I'll admit that after a few hours, my back had enough camping so I snuck into the house and climbed into my bed (Daddy and son spent the entire night in the tent).

This morning when I asked my little camper how he liked his night in the tent, well, the look on his face said it all. What's the moral of my story? Never put off tomorrow what you can do today, and take some lessons from your kids every now and then. It seems they really do know how find pleasure in the simple things.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Viva Cilantro!

Cilantro, with it's very strong flavor, is one of those herbs that people either love or hate. Me? I LOVE it. The other day I was dumping handfuls of this flavorful herb on a bowl of brown rice tossed with fresh mango salsa (try this, it's super yummy). I began to wonder if this pungent green herb had many health benefits, which would be nice since I eat so much of it. So my big cilantro-filled bowl and I sat down at the computer, googled a bit, and were amazed at what we found. Grab a sprig and chew on this:

Cilantro, considered one of the world's oldest spices, is an excellent source of nutrients which can be easily added to your diet. Physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander (the seed from which cilantro is grown) for its medicinal properties. The health benefits associated with cilantro are extensive, but it gets major recognition for diabetic support and is known in some parts of Europe as the "anti-diabetic plant." (get out your bowl, Dad :-). Another health benefit is that Cilantro reportedly works as a natural chelation treatment, which means it can help remove mercury from the body. In India, it is renowned for its anti-inflammatory benefits and in the United States used for fighting cholesterol. Cilantro helps digestion and settles the stomach, helps treat symptoms of arthritis, protects against urinary tract infections, helps lowers bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol, is a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, and iron.

Still need a reason to add this wonderful herb to your diet? Try this easy recipe, it's one of my favorites and has been known to convert many into cilantro lovers!

Cilantro-Lime Salsa

  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons white vinegar (I use 2)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 1 jalapeno, minced

Mix all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. This is great served over grilled steak, chicken and fish.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stay Tuned...

OK, so a while back I was Running on Empty; feeling a bit overwhelmed and thinking I Can't Find the Time to blog anymore. Well, over the last few months I've really missed being part of the blogoshpere. Sure, things are still busy and they probably always will be, but I'm Missing You and I Want You Back. I've gotten rid of the powers that be who were dictating how often I had to post, and now I'm ready to get my grove back. I can't promise how frequently I'll post, but I'll be sure what I write is Worth It.

Right now, I 'm Leavin' On a Jet Plane, heading home to spend some time with family, but I do know when I'll be back again. So, Hold On, I'm Comin'. I can't wait to reconnect with everyone and hopefully some new faces, too. Until then, take care and See You Soon!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Farewell, for now

You know that feeling of "something's gotta give" when your life gets busy? I do not function well when my balance shifts heavily to one side, probably due to my need for a sense of calmness and peace. And tending to be a perfectionist does not help when I get a bit overwhelmed! My life at the moment is not allowing me much time to blog, as I know many of you have noticed. Whether I like it or not (not), I need to say farewell to the blogoshpere for a while.
I wont bog you down with details of why, mostly because I know we're ALL busy, each in our own way. I did, however, want to say goodbye. I'm not sure if or when my blog will be back, but I have hopes that it will. Until then, I wish you good things and happiness, and thank all of you who visited my blog and connected with me in the ether.

Love you up to the moon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A skate back in time

Tonight I will strap on some roller skates, something I have not done in many moons, and hit the local roller rink with my fellow mammas. I can't wait. When I was young, roller rinks were the thing to do and I loved to skate. If I close my eyes I am back in time; the lights are flashing and the music is loud, and I'm rolling without a care in the world (except hoping my hair looks good, because a cute guy just skated past me). If it was just me and my friends at the rink, we'd stand at the railing during every couple's skate hoping someone would ask us to skate. Oh, youth. What a simpler time. If only our worries back then were the extent of our worries now. Well, at least I'll have tonight to take me a place...where nobody dared to go...(sing it with me, then say a prayer I don't break anything!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Get outside - leave the guilt behind

Our weather has been pretty wonderful over the last week, providing a glimpse of spring (and even summer) and a bit of a problem. How is nice weather a problem, you ask? Mostly because I'm choosing to spend so much time outdoors while things inside are becoming a bit neglected. This morning I heard my husband grumbling searching for some clean socks (which he didn't find) and then griping because we're out of half-n-half for coffee. Needless to say, the laundry needs to be done and groceries need to be bought, and the house really needs a good cleaning. However, my time has been occupied with other things, like planting flowers and herbs in pots on my patio, having a picnic outside with my son, and being outside just to be outside. I was starting to feel a bit of guilt until I stumbled across this little tidbit from The Old Farmer's Almanac:

Every woman should take a certain amount of exercise out-of-doors. It is necessary for good health and good nature, too. If by doing so you will be obliged to leave some of the work in the house undone, who will know or care 100 years from now?



Friday, February 20, 2009

Teach your children well

There are many wonderful things you can say about the small town where I live. It's rich in history, still pretty safe, has good schools, the people are very friendly, the list goes on. One thing you cannot say is that this town is culturally diverse. In fact, it's more like culturally devoid. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, a huge melting pot, so I was surrounded by different cultures. My son, however, is not being provided this experience. At the tender age of five, his mind is like a huge sponge and absorbs everything around him. So I decided if he is not getting a glimpse of cultural diversity in his surroundings, I would need to provide that for him.

That is how we came up with Culture Night at our house. It is centered around dinner time, and the meal is what guides our learning. Last night was taco night, so we learned about Mexico. I got out an old but trusty children's world encyclopedia, put on some Latin music, and let the learning begin. We look at maps so he understands where this particular area is located. We talk about the people, the food, the language, the music, and something he really loves, the games children of that culture play. The whole experience has turned into something he truly looks forward to. I have to admit there is a bit of work involved, so Culture Night takes place about every other week, but I want it to be a fulfilling experience for him, not something he gets bored with. The time in between helps him to look forward to it and helps me to get better prepared.

Even if you do live in a culturally diverse area, this is still a fun activity for your family. Besides being educational, it also promotes sensitivity to other cultures. Our next night will be about India, and I think my biggest challenge will be cooking something my picky eater will eat (I'd welcome any suggestions you may have!). Below are some great web resources I use to help me plan these learning experiences. Check them out, and try this with your family. You'll be surprised at how fun it is for everyone. Viva La Culture!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Finding peace in what you "do"

Have you ever had a feeling you just can't shake? A sense that someone is trying to tell you something you're not so sure you want to hear? Welcome to my life at the moment. I've ruled out mid-life crisis and any mental disorders, and what I'm left with is my own paradigm shift. I can't explain it and at times it's a bit scary, but something inside me just wont let up about the need to DO GOOD FOR OTHERS. No matter what I'm doing these days, everywhere I look I see needs. Needs that, is some way, I feel called to help fulfill. Believe you me, I did not actively search for a new purpose for my life. Lord knows I was trying to be content with my stay-at-home-Mom life and all it involved, thinking that was my purpose and it was good.

I tried to ignore it, but no such luck. I told myself it was hormones that were causing me to feel so off kilter. That didn't work for me either. So, I'm finding time in my life to give to those in need. I'm starting small, since baby steps work best for me, but I'm starting. Once a month some of my friends and I give manicures at a local nursing home. Other times I volunteer at this local organization that provides meals and other services to families in need. Sure, this adds to the load already on my plate, but the giving of my time pales in comparison to the gifts I receive.

We all think we're busy, and we are. We fill our time with kid duties, work duties, house duties and some days barely have a moment to breath. Where is the peace in that, and where, amongst our busy schedules, will we find time to do for others? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself, but I encourage you to seek. Only good things can come of it!

(PS, If you're unsure of how to get involved, visit this site, it's a great place to start.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why we really buy purses

The most important thing about a purse is that it's cute, right? Sure it may have a pocket for your cell phone, a clip for your keys and have lots of space, but if it's not that attractive, we aren't buying it. Let's be honest, when we choose a purse what is the main selling point? Aesthetics almost always wins over functionality, at least for me. I never get compliments on my "smart" purses, but I get stopped on the street with comments on my cute and unique ones.

In the name of super cute bags, I wanted to share with you a line of handmade purses a friend of my Moms recently started selling. She discovered these purses during a trip to Bali, and now imports them and sells them in the US. I have several of these bags and love them. They are beautiful, well made and very unique.

My favorite is the "cake purse."

You can see the full line of handmade bags here, and remember, a girl can never have too many purses, shoes, hats, bathing suits, diamonds, spa days, girl's nights out, days at the beach...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Live, LAUGH, love

Yesterday was my 13th wedding anniversary, so I've been thinking about what it takes to keep a marriage strong. You need lots of communication, compromise, compassion and forgiveness. This video involves what I think is one of the most important aspects of a marriage - a sense of humor. This couple sure seems to have started off on the right foot:

If you haven't shared a good laugh with your spouse lately, there's no time like the present. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A glimpse of Spring in January

I don't know about you, but January is such a blah month for me. My house seems so empty and plain after I've taken down all the Christmas decorations, and my yard is barren, too, with most trees and plants still in their dormant stage. It's about this time every year I get the itch to plant and get some color and liveliness back into my house. I started buying fresh flowers each week, but that can get a bit pricey. After wandering through the nursery dreaming of spring, I decided to pick up some bulbs and try my hand at forcing them indoors. There are several types of bulbs conducive to forcing: crocuses, daffodils and paperwhites (Narcissus), hyacinths and tulips. The process is very simple: choose your bulbs, chill them for about a week or two (place them in your refrigerator or store them outside if cold enough), then plant. Smaller pots, around 6" in diameter are best, and you can use either potting soil or rocks to cover the bulbs (for tulips and daffodils, leave the tops of the bulbs exposed). Water after planting, then keep the soil moist until growth is visible. If plants get tall and top-heavy, cut some tree branches and poke in the soil around the bulbs for support.

Forcing bulbs is an easy and satisfying way to have beautiful flowers indoors during the blah winter months. Your spirits will be lifted when you're surrounded by bright floral displays and fragrant aromas, another wonderful gift from nature!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oh Cedar Tree, Oh Cedar Tree

It's that time of year again here in central Texas. The one time of year I kind of wish I lived somewhere else: Cedar season. For those of you not familiar with this, every year, starting in December, the Mountain Cedar trees begin their mating ritual. The male trees put on tiny cones that eventually burst, sending brownish pollen into the air in search of the small green cones of the female tree, or the inside of your nose. By mid-January cedar season is in full swing, and for many of us here this means nasty bad allergies. The symptoms are harsh enough to warrant being called, "Cedar Fever."

How can some fairly small, pretty harmless looking trees cause so much misery? I don't know, and I don't care. What I do care about is feeling better and being able to peacefully co-exist with the outdoors right now. Seriously, it's not like we live in some snow covered, frigid place where being outdoors in winter is just silly. I am developing a strong dislike for these trees because they keep me from enjoying the outdoors for almost two months during winter. My cedar allergies laugh at OTC antihistamines, and my allergist says I'm not severe enough to warrant the shots (oh, I beg to differ). So here I sit today, INDOORS on a very nice day, googling remedies for Cedar Fever. NOT my idea of a good time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I must admit, I'm not big on making New Year's resolutions. The main reason is that I don't want make promises to myself that I can't (or won't) keep; it's a drag to let myself down. I have never made a resolution that I have followed through with, so to avoid further disappointment, I stopped making them. My resolutions go unresolved not because I set unrealistic expectations, but because I give up so easy. I'm not letting others down, just myself, and that's not such a big deal right? After getting through this holiday season, however, letting myself down is suddenly a big deal. I feel a strong urge to set some goals for myself in 2009 and beyond, and I can't seem to kick this overwhelming sense of needing a fresh start. If you think about it, each new year is like a free clean slate. A no questions asked ticket to start over. I'm not passing this up any more.

What are my resolutions this year? Nothing spectacular or unique I'm afraid, but good personal goals none the less. I'm tired of being tired; I'm done wishing for a more physically fit self and ready to be one; I want to finish my teaching degree, and I desperately need to become a more patient parent (does desperation equate impatience?) I have no concrete plan to make these resolutions happen, but maybe that's a good thing. If I put too much planning into the mix, it's a given things will fall through the cracks, so this year I'm winging it. I'm keeping in mind the things about my life I want to change, and then haphazardly changing them.

Right now I have the chance to get some exercise and take my dog for a nice long walk, so I'm going to take it. Before I go, I want to wish a Happy New Year to you and yours and encourage you to cash in your ticket for a fresh start!