Play Acting Can Make Manners Fun For Kids

Teaching toddlers and preschoolers table manners can be challenging. But getting little ones in the habit of saying "Please" and "Thank-You" and even "May I be excused?" is a very good thing. And the earlier kids use manners and polite words the more likely these habit will stick as they get older.

So once in a while we have "restaurant night" at our house. I help the kids make "menus" with pictures from magazines or simply have them draw pictures of three different "menu items" they can select from for dinner that night. This usually means macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, veggie hot dogs. I also add cut carrot sticks, broccoli with a dip (only way I can get them to eat broccoli!)and peas. Then the kids also make a "dessert menu" and have one or two choices to put on it like vanilla ice cream, yogurt, fresh cut up fruit salad, cookies, etc.

We all set the table with a special table cloth, cloth napkins, matching plates, and even some flowers. Usually I will play the part of the waiter first, seating the kids and passing out the menus. The hubby will come after me and pour the milk. The kids will pick out their dinner selections, and I will prepare them. It helps to have whatever items that are on the menu made ahead of time, or easily prepared very quickly. When we serve the dishes we speak very politely and emphasize saying "Please" and "Thank-you."

My daughter and 4 year old like to take turns being the waiter/server ( my 1 1/2 year old is just too little still), and hubby and I will be the customers.

It's a great way to practice manners, and it usually means the kids will eat some veggies without too much hassle ( a nice bonus!) It also reinforces the habit of staying seated at the table while eating.

Best of all though is the fun we have together doing our "restaurant nights".

What's For Dinner?

I love love love the bravo TV show, Top Chef. And it's actually one of the few shows I watch that my husband will watch also (we have way different TV preferences). When we watch it, my hubby is always saying things like, "Oh--I could have made that better, or "My recipe would have won hands down." Truth be told, my hubby is a much better cook than I am, but I do believe his dreams of being a "Top Chef" are a little unrealistic,lol.

But he makes the most delicious grilled salmon ever! When he makes this meal, I am in heaven. I get to sit with a glass of wine while I watch him prepare and then grill the salmon to perfection. He always uses sustainable salmon like Wild Alaskan as compared to farmed salmon not only because we think it tastes better, but also because using sustainable fish helps preserve the species and supports fisheries that use responsible harvesting techniques.

So as I sip my wine, this is what the hubby does:

He cleans and washes the salmon, then he slices the salmon almost but not quite to the bone.
Next, he rubs garlic all over the salmon.
Then he mixes basil, ginger, dill weed and pepper together and rubs this inside and on the outside of the salmon. He lightly brushes some butter on the salmon as well.
Then he stuffs the salmon with onions, mushrooms, green and red peppers and bay leaves.
Lastly he will wrap the salmon in foil, and then grills it for about twenty minutes each side on a hot barbecue.

It smells so delicious as it cooks, and tastes sooo good! I know he would be tickled pink if we could take his recipe and enter it in a Cook off like the one that will be held in New Orleans next month. But though I love his salmon recipe and could probably eat it everyday, I don't know that it could compete with the recipes of true chefs that will be competing in the Great American Seafood Cookoff! But it's exciting to dream about it, especially for the hubby.

Recipe For Drinkable Yogurt

My kids love those yogurts that are drinkable, like Danimals, but they are fairly expensive to keep buying at the grocery store. Plus, my three kids go through the drinkable yogurts so fast they are gone almost as soon as we bring them home!

Need Some Cheap Dinner Ideas?  3 Budget-Friendly Dinners To Make When You Have No Budget

So I was happy to find this recipe for making your own homemade drinkable yogurt. Hopefully this will last longer than the store bought yogurt, and will help us save some money.

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You will need:

* 1 can (12 ounces) frozen juice concentrate
* 2 juice cans of water (about 24 ounces)
* 2 cups plain yogurt

Simply blend all ingredients in blender until desired consistency is reached (thicker for toddlers if you like, thinner for babies).

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container and shake well before serving.

Use the 100% juice concentrate with no sugar added, or try using 1 1/2 cups of fresh fruit puree instead of the concentrated juice. That way you can make flavors like banana and peach.

Baby Shower Invitations

Just wanted to pass along a tip if you are planning a baby shower anytime soon. Vista Print has some of the most adorable Baby shower invitations I've seen. I didn't even realize Vista Print offered baby shower invitations because I associate themwith business cards and products related to business. I visited their site today and was surprised by all the items available.

As far as pricing goes, I think Vista Print is hard to beat. The prices on the baby shower invitations are fantastic, plus they have sales and promotions very frequently. There is a code for invitations, FreeInvite, that will get you 10 free invites just like that.

Now I know you'd probably think there would be limited selections as far as invitations go with Vista Print, but that is so not the case. I saw so many cute invites that I wanted to order some even though I don't need any, lol. But I will be visiting Vista Print much more often now.

And the cool thing with Vista Print is that you can customize your baby shower invitations online in minutes. Things like adding more text, changing fonts and colors, moving things around, customizing the back side, and more. Then when you are happy with your finished product, you order them and receive them in about 3 days usually. You can play around with designs and save them for next time you feel like working on them again, or want to order more. So if you haven't checked out Vista Print lately, you may want to take a peek!

Fun Twist For a Crayon Craft

crayon craft project

If you haven't heard of this idea before or have not tried it yet with your kids, add it to your list of crafts to do! It's fun and kids love the end result.

All you do is have your kids draw a picture with crayons on a piece of paper. Then use watercolors to paint over the crayon. The crayon will resist the watercolor paint, but the rest of the blank paper will be filled in with the paint.

It comes out looking very cool and a picture worthy of framing.

Younger Looking Skin

If you read here sometimes,you know I am often pondering the plight of wrinkles (mine) and overall aging of the skin. And you know that I'm basically a chicken when it comes to needles and such.

So I am really excited to share about something new I read about today. It is Ethocyn -- a unique, patented molecule that is scientifically (love science!!) proven to be essential in the fight against and treatment of skin aging, and was developed by biochemist Dr Chantal Burnison. Want to know more? I sure did.

As we age, our skin unavoidably loses the elasticity and firmness it once possessed in younger years. Ethocyn treats and reverses this Aging by increasing skin's ability to produce elastin fibers. When we are young, our skin has high levels of elastin – on average, 14-18 percent. As we age, our elastin levels naturally decrease. Clinical trials confirm that in patients 40 years and older elastin levels drop to as low as .1% and on average are in the 9% range (ACK!). For this reason, after the age of 25–30, our resilient and taut skin gives way to sagging and wrinkling.

Now here is how ethocyn comes in. Studies done on women between the ages of 40 and 72 years of age showed that within 8 weeks of their twice daily applications,the Ethocyn users showed an average of 100% improvement in their skin's elastin content, and restoration of skin's firmness and snapback quality! And the results were the same for men as well.

Check out Chantal Pharmaceuticals and learn more about ethocyn and the studies done. There are some wonderful products that I can't wait to try.

Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk

Here is a recipe for making your own sidewalk chalk. You can use different shape molds to make fun unique chalk shapes.

You'll Need:

1 cup Plaster of Paris
1 cup water
Powdered Tempera Paint
Molds (paper cups, toilet paper rolls, etc.)

How To Make:

Mix Plaster of Paris and water.
Add powdered tempera paint until desired color is achieved.
Pour mix into molds.
Allow to dry completely (time varies depending on thickness)
When completely dry, remove from molds and enjoy!

Vacation Time!

Well really more of staycation time for us this year. We are planning some fun day excursions and such, but no big travel plans.

But if we were going on a real vacation, I'd love to go back to San Fransisco! We had the best vacation there a few years ago. Part of what made that trip so special was that a lot of extended family also went. We all stayed at the Fairmont Hotel and it was wonderful. The ambiance of that hotel is so classic and elegant. As soon as we stepped into the lobby I was in heaven! Really, I could have enjoyed myself spending our entire vacation inside that place!

But when you are in a fabulous city you just have to get out and enjoy all the wonderful things to do in San Fransisco. So we did. We had so much fun sight seeing together, walking around the city, and visiting the wharfs and pier 39. We took the kids to the science museum and to the Aquarium of the Bay. It was a great vacation and I fell in love with San Fransisco. I had never been there before, and sadly have not been back yet. But I would love to go there again, and hopefully we will soon.
Before you go on a vacation this summer, I'd suggest checking out some online travel guides, especially if you are going to a city such as Boston so you can find out what fun things to do in Boston such as visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Trusted Tours & Attractions has lots of information for vacations, and right now if you sign up for their free newsletter, which will give you lots of vacation ideas o drool over, you can have a chance to win a $150 itunes gift card:
Planning your next vacation? Looking for ideas on what to do? Sign up for the Trusted Travels eNewsletter and enter to win a $150 iTunes gift card Offer ends July 31st, 2008.

Earthquake Preparedness Kits -- A Reminder

Woa--we just had an earthquake! If you are in Los Angeles/San Diego areas, did you feel it? It registered 5.4, and there have been about 20ish or so after shocks so far. Eeks. Time to update our earthquake preparedness kits ready I guess.

My daughter and my 4 year old were visiting a friend up the street when the quake hit, and did not seem upset or scared at all when they came home. Thank goodness, really. Nervous mommy here can't quite say the same thing. My 1 1/2 year old was here with me watching teletubbies, and he didn't react at all.

Thank goodness there are no reports of injuries anywhere according to the News, which I've been watching since the quake --just broken stuff that has fallen off store shelves and such.

Phew. Hope all is okay with everyone that experienced the big shake today!

Interesting Information On Growth Hormone

I read about an interesting product that is actually supposed to help people with their growth. It is a supplement that triggers the production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), and when taken daily, this supplement may increase your height by 1-6 inches. Wow.

The supplement, Maxagen® Human Pro-Growth Hormone, is a blend powerful, natural compounds that have an effect in causing the body to naturally produce higher levels of HGH (Human growth hormone) which may have a positive effect in causing increased height and bone growth, even after the body has gone through puberty.

Although genetics plays a large role in determining one's height, evidence shows that restoring the declining HGH (Human Growth Hormone) levels in the human body even after puberty and can have significant effects on your height even as an adult. Max

The company does caution that height increase will depend on how much potential you have for growth, and how much of an effect the supplements contained in Maxagen® have on your body.

I am familiar with the human growth hormone, and I know doctors have treated patients in order to trigger the production of the hormone, but I did not know that there was a supplement available as well. It is said to be as safe to take as a multivitamin, and you do not need a prescription. And apparently this is the only supplement scientifically proven to add permanent gains to your height.

Milk Recommendations For Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending babies 12 months to 2 years of age drink 2 percent milk, and then a switch to 1 percent milk at 2 years. According to a Finnish study, there were no ill effects in babies given 1 1/2 percent milk and there were even health benefits such as lower cholesterol for boys and less obesity for girls.

Too much saturated fat from milk is not healthy for babies and toddlers, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians, especially if the babies are already getting enough fat from other sources.

But before you make the switch, it is advised that you talk to your baby's pediatrician. Several things are taken into account including family history, your child's current weight and possible cholesterol screening.

We actually use rice milk with our 1 1/2 year old as he does not tolerate regular milk well. But for my 4 year old, it is either 1 percent milk or soy milk sometimes.I'd give him rice milk as well but he absolutely hates it.

My Daughter The Beautiful Tomboy

I have a beautiful wonderful daughter, if I do say so myself, lol. Watching her grow is so different in many ways than it is with my sons. She definitely has more emotional highs and lows, and loves pink (yea-- a break from blue!!), and everything make-up! Where my daughter loves shopping, putting outfits together,and changing clothes about 5 times a day, my boys would prefer to just wear underwear, nothing at all, or at the very most...yesterday's clothes.

There are happily many differences, and I am so delighted I get to experience having a daughter as well as my boys.

But there are similarities as well. My daughter loves anything and everything to do with physical activity and sports! One of her latest interests was karate. She had been to a birthday party for a friend which was held at the karate studio he took classes at. So, long story short, a few weeks later, we ended up signing my daughter up for karate lessons as well. And she was sooo happy. And really truly, she was very good (really!).

Then came "The Accident." Ugh. One evening, instead of following the normal class routine for that day, the instructor for that day decided to surprise the class by letting them try some karate/gymnastic moves that by all rights, these kids were not prepared to do as they had not had any training yet for these moves.

Anyway, long story short again, my daughter injured her arm that night. What the injury turned out to be was a broken arm, and more specifically, a growth plate fracture.

We ended up seeing a couple of different doctors, and ended up with an orthopedic surgeon who decided to put her arm in a cast, and through follow-up x-rays determine if she would need surgery.

Thankfully her arm healed perfectly, without the need for any orthopedic surgery. And there were no resulting problems like her arm not being able to bend or straighten completely, as we were warned could be the case.

But though everything turned out okay, it was terrible at the time seeing her in pain and not knowing if she'd need surgery or not. Having a good orthopedic surgeon was so important. He answered all our questions, was great at easing my daughter's fears, and really showed he cared. I researched on the Internet about growth plate fractures when this happened to my daughter, since I knew nothing about them, and I found a lot of information at Peninsula Orthopedic Associates. Even though we were not looking for orthopedic surgeon San Francisco area, it was very helpful to get information that was easy to digest from board-certified orthopedic surgeons so that I could know the right questions to ask my daughter's doctor.

My daughter is as active as ever. She is simply a beautiful girl/ tom boy who will never accept that a girl cannot do what any boy can do. And if she gets her way, will do anything a boy can do even better than the boys!

I will have to find pics of her in her cast and post them later!

Six Months ofFree Diapers With Amazon

This sounds like a very cool deal being offered by Amazon right now. If you open a baby registry with Amazon, and friends and family purchase $750 in products from your baby registry, you can qualify to receive as much as 6 months of Seventh Generation diapers.

So if you are expecting, or know someone who is, you should check out this deal. Just go to and read their offer and terms.

Tea Time

I grew up appreciating a good cup of tea thanks to my mom. The love of tea was something she shared with everyone in our family, and though not all my siblings shared that love of tea, I sure did, and still do today.

Now it is common knowledge that tea can provide great health benefits for us, such as providing powerful antioxidants. There are so many benefits that scientists are discovering about tea that we should all make time in our day to enjoy a cup or two.

Before bedtime, organic herbal teas can be a wonderful treat. There are blends of soothing teas that are especially good for promoting sleep if you have trouble falling asleep at night. For me personally, a cup of heral tea before bed brings back wonderful memories and a sense of contentment.

I really have a deep appreciation for companies that respect the earth by using organic and biodynamic agricultural practices to help preserve the environment and consumer's health. I know I want mysel and my family to eat and drink products that do not have chemicals.

Organic India is a company that not only produces wonderful teas, they also show their respect for the environment and for the farmers they work with who cultivate thousands of acres of organic farmland. Organic India pays all the fees associated with acquiring the necessary organic certifications for their farmers, and then they purchase the crops and wildcrafted herbs that they produce at a premium market price.

How cool is that?

Kids Handprints Make Great Wall Borders

For a personalized "wall paper" idea in your kids' bedrooms, draw two straight lines in the middle of the wall with a few inches between the lines. Then let the kids dip their hands in paint (primary colors work well) and have them place their hand prints in between the lines.

Do this on each wall and you'll have a cute personalized wall border that's fun, easy and inexpensive. And will bring memories for years to come!

Simple Mom Having a Great Give Away!

There is a wonderful interview and give away going on at Simple Mom. The interview is with Amanda Soule, author of the wonderful book The Creative Family, and writer of the hugely popular blog Soule Mama.

I loved the interview and visited Amanda's blog, and of course loved that as well! There is something so down to earth, back to basics about Amanda that just reading her views on family and life is calming and reaffirming.

And if reading the interview is not enough, Simple Mom is giving away a copy of Amanda's book to a lucky reader. I have every intention of winning this one though--just to give you fair warning (hehe).

So go check out Simple Mom and enjoy the interview and don't forget to enter the give-away!

picture by Meg McElwee/courtesy of Simple Mom


Shopping for police uniforms can be a daunting task. Finding the best prices for the regulated uniform gear is not so easy for busy families. But the most important aspect of shopping for police and firefighter clothing and accessories goes beyond comparing prices- it is finding the high quality 5.11 tactical clothing and accessories that is all important. These products are so essential for police and firefighters because they offer the safety and innovation required in these challenging careers. So although things like prices and free shipping may be nice, it is far more important to be sure to purchase the safest equipment and clothing possible.

Hiding From The Kids

Do you ever try and hide from your kids for just a few minutes or so? You know --- not long enough to cause a panic or anything, but just a couple of minutes where you can take a few long breaths and just "be" for a minute?

I confess I am guilty of this. I will hide out in my bathroom long enough to regroup, or until I've been found out (which usually happens first). I do this when my youngest is napping, and my 4 year old is happily watching Blue's Clues. I will seize the opportunity to hide out a few minutes and simply do nothing but sit and meditate and enjoy the silence. And for as long as it lasts, it's heaven.

So do you hide out? And if so, where is your favorite hiding spot? Come on,'fess up--I won't give your hiding place away, I promise!

Personal Loans

Personal loans are probably more and more on people's minds these days with the economy is such a slump. But even though many people are feeling the pinch these days at gas stations, grocery stores,and well just about everywhere we go, taking out a personal loan is a decision that should be given a lot of thought to first.

There are pros and cons with most things, personal loans included. Maybe a way to start deciding if you should get one, if you are even considering a loan at all right now, is to make a list of the pros and cons. Even people that think they may need Personal Loans Quick due to their financial situation, it is important to understand the terms of such a loan, and that those terms are manageable for you. It is not easy staying on top of things financially these days, and if you decide a personal loan is the way to go, make sure you have all your questions answered first by the company that you get your loan from, and stay current with your repayment terms so that your credit stays intact.

Is Your Life The Way You Want It To Be?

Today I read a wonderful article on Zenhabits about reclaiming your life. It offers advice on how to create the life you want and make the most of the free time you lay claim to.

Free time? what's that?

We all can create free time for ourselves, we just need to work at doing it. Some people already do make time in their daily lives to do the things they love, and others of us just get swallowed up in hectic crazy lives where we cater to everyone else in our lives and their needs/demands.

These words from the author of the article, "I finally got smart and decided that my life is my own, to do with as I wished, and so I took a time out to decide what I really wanted my life to be like. Then I designed my life, and made a series of decisions and steps to get my life to what I wanted it to be," really struck a chord with me. I especially took to heart the words, "...what I really wanted my life to be like."

To be truly happy, it is so important that we envision our lives the way we really want them to be, and then take real action to have it be that way. Otherwise we are simply going through the motions and just getting by each day. Life goes by too quickly--and soon enough we may face the day where we look back with regret.

Are you settling? Is there more that you want from life? If you have a passion, are you following it, nurturing it, and growing with it? Have you had dreams about your life that you have let go of? These are all thoughts that went through my mind as I read the article on Zenhabits. I know life is all about compromise, and that is ok. I mean staying home with my kids does mean I will compromise and not have a new Fall wardrobe, for example. Compromise is good indeed, as long as you are happy with the results. But even so, we need to not feel as though we compromised, got the result we wanted, and therefore can ask for no more. I should be able to feel that while yes, I am at home full time with my kids, I still get to do things just for me. I still get to hold onto my dreams and my vision of how I want my life to be. And if it is not, then it's time to take action, as the author of the article did, and make time for the things you love to do.

Finding time for just you may be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Read the article on Zenhabits, and find 20 ways to reclaim your time. Not everything in the article will necessarily be applicable to your life, but read through it and the suggestions given, and just pick out the tips and advice that you find valuable.

Botox On My Mind

When I think of Botox, I think of needles. And as I have mentioned before, I am somewhat of a scaredy-cat. I remember an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County where some of the "wives" had a botox party. It was funny watching them get the botox injections, and they actually seemed to be very happy to be getting it done even though it looked uncomfortable (to say the least) as the botox was injected. But if you are going to have botox injections done, that sure looks like the way to go--with friends and drinks all around you!

So I have had botox on my mind lately as another birthday has just come and gone, and the wrinkles I'm seeing now seem to be setting up permanent residence on my forehead. I did some reading about Lakeview Dermatology's Park Ridge Botox procedure done in their leading dermatology clinic in the Chicago area ( they specialize in laser acne treatment, hair removal treatment, Restylane treatment and other skin care treatments as well). And I am getting a bit braver reading about it, and am seriously starting to give this Botox thing some thought.

Anyone want to have a botox party with me? I'll bring the drinks!

Baby Steal.Com Offers Great Deals On Baby Products

If you haven't heard or checked out, you may want to! But be warned--it is addicting!

BabySteals is a unique website for baby and maternity products because they only offer one quality baby or maternity product everyday. Yep--just one. But the item offered is at 50-80% off until it sells out.

BabySteals drops one amazing steal a day at 9am MST until it's gone, and they sell out fast. Once they are sold out, you lost out. But.... on the weekends there is usually a second chance on steals that they still have, and you might get lucky and find more than one Steal a Day!

It's best to visit early every day or sign up for their Daily Steal Email Alert. It's fun,addicting, and can definitely save you some money if you're lucky.

California Cooking Without Trans Fats

So California today became the first state to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants. Several cities already have banned the use of trans fats, and many fast food restaurants no longer use trans fats in their cooking, but California is the first state to apply the ban to restaurant food.

California and Oregon also have laws banning trans fats from school lunches.

That's the good news. Bad news is that the restaurant ban, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger doesn't take effect until 2010.

Artery-clogging trans fats are strongly linked to heart disease. Studies also have linked trans fats to diabetes, obesity, infertility in women and some types of cancer.

Birthday Present Tip

Instead of buying a present at a toy store for the next birthday party your child is invited to,make a craft box to give the birthday boy or girl. In a cute box, basket or other type of container, put in a list of ideas for some crafts and projects. Include directions for each project, and be sure to include all the supplies that will be needed.

Edible Play-Dough

Yea! This is what we'll be doing at our house today. My kids love play-dough, and are really excited to make this edible play-dough variation. If you haven't tried this yet,you may want to!

Edible Play-Dough Recipe:

2 Cups flour

4 Cups oatmeal

1 Cup water

1 Cup white corn syrup

1 Cup peanut butter

1 1/4 Cup nonfat powdered milk

1 1/4 Cup powdered sugar

Combine flour and oatmeal in a blender, and set on "grind" speed for one minute. Add water and knead. Add corn syrup, peanut butter, powdered milk, and powdered sugar. Knead well. Add more flour if dough is too sticky. Try letting kids add chocolate chips, peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds, M&M's, lemon drops, etc. to make their play- dough creations even more yummy.

Weight Loss and Surgery

I have a friend who will shortly be undergoing lap band surgery in order to lose weight. The idea of any kind of surgery makes me beyond nervous, but I understand her frustrations with her situation and respect her choice.

If you or someone you know is considering having this type of surgery done,I think it is imperative to talk to doctors, to people that have had lap band surgery if possible, and do as much research yourself on the procedure, insurance issues, finding the right surgeon etc. The more information and advice you get will help you decide if this procedure is right for you or not.

Encouraging Your Kids To Read

Summer can be fun and offers lots of possibilities for outdoor play. But keeping kids interested in reading might be a little more challenging during summer. Our family does a few things to make reading fun and I thought I'd share them here for anyone looking for some ideas. Try having a different book each week that the family can read together and make themed activities for that week based on the story.

For little kids, about 3-5 years, read a book together.

Make a play about the story, and have kids pick the character they want to play. Mom and Dad can get involved too-especially if there are more characters in the story than kids in your family.

Make costumes together, and collect "props" that fit in with the story.

If there are any recipes in the story, make them during the week.

For older kids make word scrambles using words out of the story.

Have everyone write a new ending for the story and share them. For very young ones, have them draw their new ending.

Have everyone draw a new picture that would go on the cover of the book.

Take family trips to the library to pick out the book for the next week.

Any tips you'd like to share for helping your kids to enjoy reading?

Christmas in July

Well it feels like it today for me because I found something online that I'm thinking of adding to my list of possible Christmas gifts for people.

You can take some favorite pictures and have them made into cozy Photo Blankets, pillows, beach towels, or even shower curtains! How cool is that? I'm thinking my daughter would love her own beach towel personalized with a picture of her puppy on it. And the blanket with maybe a picture of all the kids on it for the grandparents? Hmm.

So although it is still July, I feel the beginnings of Christmas coming on!

Will You Be Taking a Staycation This Year?

The term 'Staycation" is being heard and seen everywhere these days. From TV News reports to magazines and ads from stores selling "staycation" supplies--everyone is becoming aware of the latest buzz word.

Staycations--staying home for a vacation instead of traveling to some far away destination, seems to be the key for many families this summer. Planning small day trips, backyard fun, video days, craft days, whatever your family chooses, staying home together can be a great experience for a family to share.

Simple Mom
has some very good tips for having a wonderful staycation with toddlers. She has some great advice since her family just took a staycation themselves. After reading Simple Mom's tips, I thought of a couple of ideas myself for making a staycation a wonderful experience.

Make sure laptops stayed closed, no business related phone calls are made or taken, no memos written, and no emails slyly checked or sent.

It can be tempting to sneak a peek at your email since you are at home anyway, but really you should lock up your computers and laptops for the entire staycation.

Kids (and parents) need to feel they are on vacation --not just at home on a regular routine. Ask yourself what you would do if you were away on vacation. Would you be chatting on the phone with your friend? Running over to a neighbor's house for a visit? Mowing the lawn? Uh--probably not. You'd be sleeping in (maybe), planning your day with the family, swimming, picnicking, touring the place you are visiting, taking pictures, etc.

Make your staycation as much of a family experience as possible, and as true to a real vacation as possible. Have postcards for kids to write and mail to family and friends. New pool toys, or bathing suits or even bathrobes will help make it feel like a real vacation as well. Do not let friends and others just pop in and spoil the 'vacation feeling'--after all, if you were away someplace in a hotel, chances are your neighbor would not be there, right?

Parents could get tempted to combine a staycation at home with getting some house projects done at the same time. Projects will wait though. This time is meant for special quality family time. Your kids deserve it, and so do parents.

So plan a staycation as if you really will not be available to other family members and friends, to computers and emails, to texting and phone calls, and to household projects.

Plan each day with fun events, whether it be staying at home in pajamas all day watching movies and playing games, or a day visit to an amusement park or to the beach. And don't forget to take pictures of your perfect staycation!

Cocktails Gone Healthy

Yum! I had to pass on this recipe I found on Yahoo!Food. It's for a 'mocktail' cocktail and is not just delicious, but it's full of healthy antioxidants. It is so good-- I had to try it out--and I am so happy I did!

What you need:

8 oz. near boiling water
1 bag Chinese white tea
1 Tbs. aloe vera juice
1 Tbs. agave nectar
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
6 oz. Reed's Original Ginger Brew, or other natural ginger ale

How To Make:

Steep the tea bag, aloe vera juice and agave nectar in a mug of hot water for about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Remove the tea bag, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Fill two tall glasses with ice and pour in tea mixture, lemon juice, and ginger brew. Stir and garnish with a lemon slice.

Believe me, this mocktail cocktail worth making.

Frozen Juice Flavored Icee Drinks

Perfect for hot summer days, these easy to make fruit juice icee drinks will kep your little munchkins cool and happy.

What You'll Need:

3/4 cup pureed fruit of your choice such as watermelon, lemons or oranges, (use as much of the fruit's juice as possible)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup

What You'll Do:

Combine all ingredients and cook on low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.
Allow to cool.
Pour into sturdy plastic cups halfway full.
Cover and freeze until solid.
Eat by scraping a spoon across the top. Or let sit out and melt a little to get slushier and softer.

Pizza Ala Fruit Style

A fun recipe for pizza with a fruity twist that I found at Allrecipes

What you will need:

One package ready made sugar cookie dough
8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract:

What you 'll do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spread cookie dough evenly into pizza pan
Bake in oven 8-10 minutes; Let cool
Beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla until light. Spread on cooled crust.
Add fruit on top such as strawberries, bluberries, apple slices, etc.

photo: jessmersereau

Quick Tip For Easing The Morning Rush

Now that it is summer, our mornings are a little less hectic in that we have no school bells to answer to. But when Fall rolls around, so will the crazy mornings of getting three kids out the door clothed, fed, and reasonably groomed.

One quick tip I have to help with hectic mornings is a simple one: Put a hook on everyone's closet doors. Make sure that an outfit for each family member is on their hook before going to bed. This will save time and headaches in the morning. Make sure underwear, and shoes are also at the ready!

Do You Use The Concepts Of Feng Shui in Your Home?

Many people follow the principles of Feng Shui when decorating their homes. The concepts of Feng Shui have always fascinated me, though I admit I do not actively design my home around with Feng Shui in mind.

But I have been reading more about Feng Shui as it relates to interior design and am now seriously considering trying it out. Basically, Feng Shui principles state that one can achieve balance in their home by arranging furniture and other objects so that energy flows more freely, and you are able to attract everything from relationship satisfaction to financial health.

Objects and furniture need to be placed in certain ways as to attract good energy, according to Feng Shui. In a living room for example, couches and chairs should never have their backs to the door. People should be able to see the door from wherever they a esitting in the living room. And having a grandfather clock in the living room is also appropriate in Feng shui as the movement from the clock is supposed to be good for bringing energy to the room. I was especially happy to read that grandfather clocks are positive sources for energy in Feng Shui, as I have my eye on one that I'd like to get as a sort of gift for our family this Christmas.

The bedroom should be a sanctuary according to Feng Shui ( ah, hard to do this one with kids!)and be kept very quiet. Do not have an office in your bedroom. Do not have a computer there. Do not eat in bed. Do not have a TV in this room. Clocks should be very small if in a bedroom, and perhaps best if battery operated.

I have more reading about Feng Shui to do, but I am intrigued, and hope to try out some principles soon and report back about it here. I'd also love to hear from anyone who follows Feng Shui and what you think about it!

Avoiding Nuts When Pregnant

Recent research has found that eating nut products during pregnancy raises the odds of having a child with asthma symptoms by nearly 50 percent.

The study, done by Dutch Researchers, was published in The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In their study, more than 4,000 pregnant women completed a dietary questionnaire that asked whether they consumed vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, eggs, milk, milk products, nuts and nut products rarely, regularly or daily. Researchers then assessed the children's diets and looked to see who had developed asthma over an eight-year period.

Children whose mothers ate as little as one peanut butter sandwich a day had a far higher risk of asthma, according to the research results.

Daily consumption of nut products increased the odds that a child would have wheezing by 42 percent, shortness of breath by 58 percent and steroid use to ease asthma symptoms by 62 percent, compared to children born to mothers who rarely consumed nuts. Overall, the odds of developing asthma symptoms for a child whose mother ate nuts daily were 47 percent higher, according to the study. Now those are numbers worth paying attention to.

The study seems to suggest that eating nuts or nut products everyday while pregnant is the problem, not moderate consumption of nut products.

But even so, if you are pregnant, and especially if your family has any history of allergies to nuts and nut products, it could be best to avoid nuts completely. Read the complete article about avoiding nuts when pregnant in full, and always check with your doctor about your diet while pregnant.

Baby Announcements

If you have or will soon be welcoming a new baby to your family, you are probably thinking about birth announcements to share your wonderful news with. Photo Birth Announcements make a wonderful way to share your special news. There is nothing sweeter than a custom photo announcement with baby's first picture on it!

Photo affections offers stylish and affordable birth announcements, custom photo cards and designer announcements for weddings and holidays. Their artistic team offers stylish yet affordable personalized birth announcements, as well as wedding announcements and custom photo holiday cards ( we are halfway to Christmas already!).

The most difficult part will be deciding on which picture to use for your personalized announcements!

3 Tips To Get Your Kids (and You! ) Active

It may be easier to let kids sit in front of the television or computer than it is to get them up and moving outside. But we all know how important physical exercise is for our health and the health of our kids.

Here are 3 simple ideas that could help get kids excited about the outdoors.

1. Once a week pick a new outdoor activity for your family to try. Take a hike, go to the beach, or just take a walk around your neighborhood. Make the walk more fun by creating games such as finding certain objects that you have written down and see who finds the most items on the list, start a collection of something--buttons, coins,--and try to find those items to add to the new collection, make up a story as you walk, each person adding to the story as you go along, etc.

2. Go to the park and organize a baseball, softball, or kickball game. Invite friends and family and make a day out of it.

3. Encourage new hobbies or interests by buying birthday and holiday gifts that promote physical activity, such as inline skates, a bike, a scooter, or a skateboard. Just remember to also buy the protective gear such as helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads as well.

Looking For Some Family Fun Time?

What about the rodeo? My two little boys would seriously go nuts if we went to a rodeo. They may be just a bit too young (imho), at 4 and 1 1/2, but maybe not.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be here in December-- which is basically right around the corner at this point (!). The NFR is the ultimate championship rodeo event in the United States. It's sponsored by The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association ( Cowboys--oh my 4 year old would be in heaven me thinks), and is being held over 10 days in Las Vegas.

The actual dates for the NFR are Dec. 4th through Dec. 13th. There is also a Cowboy Christmas Show held concurrently with the rodeo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This is the final event of the PRCA season. At its end, eight world champions are crowned in the following seven events:

* Bareback riding
* Steer wrestling
* Team roping

* Saddle bronc riding
* Tie-down roping
* Bull riding
* Barrel racing, the only event exclusive to women

Las Vegas gets so involved with this extremely popular annual event, that many casinos carry the events live in their sports books or host special parties to accommodate all of the fans in town who can not get tickets for the events. Most of the major hotels and casinos book special entertainment into their showrooms with a country theme offering many of the regular shows an extended break.

But the catch is that NFR Tickets sell out months in advance. Which means if you have thoughts on going to this fun event, it is best to get started checking out seating and available tickets soon, if not now.

Are You Happy Being a Mom?

I read an interesting article on, 8 Ways To Be a Happier Mom, today that got me thinking and made me feel less guilty. Because, guess what? Sometimes I am too overwhelmed to actually say I am happy being mommy when at the moment I am struggling with a 4 year old to get dressed while trying to maneuver a 1 1/2 year old away from the toilet bowl where he is happily discovering what items float and which will sink.

Reading this article made me realize that for me, being a mom, is more about the overall deep genuine feelings I have from being a mother and being a part of something much greater than I am. It may not be rosy and smiley every second--that is not a true measure of deep happiness and fulfillment; rather it is, as the article so perfectly coins it, the 'grand slam home run' moments that completely overcome daily frustrations. It's in having that deep strong awareness that I would do this again in a minute.

Peter Ubel, M.D., a professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Michigan says on their list of pleasurable activities, moms rank child care lower than eating, exercising, or watching TV, according to a University of Michigan study. And kid care rates only slightly higher than housework, working, or commuting!

Ironically, once you stop expecting motherhood to feel warm and fuzzy all the time, life as a mom gets easier. "It's okay to feel frustrated, angry, or irritable sometimes," says Dr. Ubel. "You're not a bad parent. It's not even a bad parenting experience. It's just normal" posted eight tips to be a happier mom. It's geared towards mom of kids under three because that age set tends to bring the most parenting stress. But It offers great tips that I think pertains to moms with kids of all ages.

Check out the tips and the article if you get a chance. The tips are not really anything new or unheard of before, but as busy mommies we forget to do things for ourselves.

Dentists May Soon Be AbleTo Test For Breast Cancer

Wow-- this is pretty amazing. Scientists are developing a developing a saliva test that dentists will be able to use to screen patients for breast cancer. This test will, it is hoped, be able to check saliva for certain proteins whose presence indicates breast cancer, thus giving women a priceless early warning. Thus far, although based on a small population of women, the study results look promising.

I know this is a good thing, and far easier to undergo than a mammogram, but I worry that as hard as it is to get myself to the dentist now, being nervous about cavities and breast cancer all on the same trip may end up making me even more reluctant to visit the dentist. But apparently studies have shown that women are more likely to go to the dentist a couple of times a year than they are to visit a mammography technician for their annual mammogram.

Saliva analysis has been used in the past to monitor patient response to chemotherapy and to surgical treatment. So scientists realized it only makes sense to also consider what else saliva may be able to tell us about breast cancer.

This will be pretty amazing if it works out. A saliva test sounds much easier than a mammogram, and the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of beating it!

Personal Safety in Today's World

Unfortunately these days we need to be more aware of our surroundings than ever before. This seems especially true for women and girls. Just about everyday there are news reports about abductions and assaults. Though it is a sad commentary on our society today, I think it is important for us to acknowledge the potential for personal attacks we face.

There are personal safety measures we can all practice daily, such as never jogging alone, avoiding walking at night alone ( even to our parked cars), not opening our doors without knowing who the person on the other side is, etc. There are also things that we can buy and have with us for extra protection such as mace, pepper spray, stun guns, taser M18L guns, and even shrill whistles that make such a loud alarm that would be assailants would hopefully just take off.

I have really been thinking about having something for protection with me when I am out and about, especially since I have my kids with me much of the time. I am leaning towards the shrill whistle or pepper spray. I do feel that pepper spray would be more of a sure way to stop an assault, and that is probably what I will start carrying with me. The style I am most comfortable with is the kind that is attached to a key chain and can fit in your hand. I doubt I would be able to fish one out of my purse, especially under stressfl situations.

But I am curious as to what others have used and do use, if anything at all, when it comes to personal safety items. If you carry something, does it make you feel safer? Have you ever had to use your self-defense product? And what would you recommend for personal safety?

One last note--if you are also looking into personal safety products, be sure to check with your state/city regulations on what is legal and not legal for you to carry!

Make Computer Play Count

Web sites with games for kids and teens are all the rage it seems these days. I know my daughter has several sites she is a member of and visits and plays on daily. While they seem to be fun for her and her friends, I don't think there is much value in these online games however.
But there is a website that I am excited about and I am hoping my daughter will enjoy. is a free online community for ages 8-15. The cool thing about this site is that it's like a virtual town in which citizens can run for Senate, write for The Whyville Times, and learn about civics, art, science, and economics. Citizens can even start their own business.
Kids can socialize while running their town. It sounds so much more beneficial to me than playing dress-up games online. I am going to have my daughter join today and see how she likes it. Hopefully she will be giving Whyville a thumbs up-I will let you know!
If your kids already are on Whyville, can you let me know what they ( and you) think about the site? If you haven't heard of yet, you may want to check it out with your kids today.

Natural Care Products For Babies

I love using natural baby care products on my son, and wanted to share about a site that offers natural and organic baby skin care products: - Upscale Baby Gifts & Unique Toys. My absolute favorite product for my baby's skin right now is Naked Baby Skin Essentials, so I was delighted to see that Spiffybaby carries this line!
Spiffybabies offers designer clothing and footwear for babies, as well as gifts for mommies too. And an extra bonus when visiting spiffybaby is the online contests they hold every month with some pretty cool prizes offered.
But the best thing about spifybaby is their parent resource center. It is worth checking out even if you are not interested in shopping online. The forum, "Spiffy Baby Talk - where one savvy parent meets another" is a great resource for parents to discuss and share tips on subjects like potty training.
Check out's fun to look at their latest products, enter to win fun stuff in their contests, and connect with other parents!