Friday, March 30, 2012

Fancy Friday: Hanging with one of my favorite {Peeps}


My college roommate, best friend, and teammate (yes I played collegiate golf) was in town this past week and I thought it was only fitting that I give her a shout out in the blog being that my time with her is what tickled my fancy. There's nothing better than catching up with an old, dear friend. One that knows the best and worst of you. One that has loved you through the good and bad. One that has seen you in your highs and lows. One that you could spend days, if not weeks, laughing about all the memories you share. That is Kelli to me. Although we live completely different lives now, we will forever remain "Kailey." Get it - Kelli & Hailey combined?!? I know, cheesy but it was a name given to us in college since we were never seen without eachother. We were inseparable. We even had dreams to start a women's golf clothing line together named Kailey. Unfortunately that never happened.

One interesting fact about Kelli - she loooooves Peeps, those sugarly marshmallow candies in the shape of a bunny. I've never met another person that can eat enormous amounts of Peeps without wanting to throw up like Kelli can. Talk about cavities in the making. And sugar OVERload. No wonder the girl could go days without sleep.

Although I don't care for Peeps in that same way, I do think using Peeps for Easter decor is a must. So much of a must, I'm going to blog about them again. They come in the perfect Easter colors and are super inexpensive. Think beyond the tops of cupcakes. Although those are pretty stinkin' adorable...

Think centerpieces. Wreaths. Place cards.

Need inspiration? Thanks to Pinterest (nope still don't have a page), here are a few I personally love in addition to my Peep for Thought post from last Easter:


Tutorial found HERE.

Tutorial found HERE.

Love the simplicity and pops of color

Peeps Topper {free download} ~ And at the end of the day, give your favorite “peeps” a special treat with these free printable toppers. One row of your favorite colored peeps chicks fit perfectly in a snack-size ziploc bag.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The food battle: Getting your children to eat


Thanks to the stomach flu this past week, Lance, my almost one year old, hasn't been eating. And I've been a complete s.t.r.e.s.s-ball. The no-eating thing just doesn't fly with me. As a mother, I feel like preparing healthy food and filling their bellies is one of my top motherly duties. And when they don't eat, I feel completely out of control.

Chase my almost four year old eats like a bird. Always has. It drives me bonkers. One bite here. Another bite 15 minutes later after he builds an entire farm house with wooden blocks and places all the animals in their appropriate stalls. Then he'll mosey on back for a drink. No bite. And off he goes again. Come breakfast and lunch time, I sound like a broken record - "Chase come finish your food."

Side note - that last visual is soooo not my parenting style. If you were to put me on the spectrum of hardcore, you will do what I say, I'm in control mom and the let's work this out together, tell me what you want mom, I am dangling off the edge at the hardcore end.

Anyway -- I've lost sleep over how I get him to eat everything in one sitting. I've tried locking him in the babies' highchair, making fun food shapes, taking toys away, threatening him to no end. I even this week told him that an astronaut came to our house in his spaceship and prepared his breakfast and if he ate it, he'd have super flying power. While he did think that it was pretty cool that the astronaut came down the chimney like Santa (he made that part up), I still got the same result. Pick here. Pick there. I've learned that it's not that he doesn't like what I put in front of him (he wouldn't have a choice anyway), he just eats like a bird.

And after countless, aggravating "Hail, stop trying to force that sandwich down his throat" comments from my husband who sees just a small glimpse into the frustrations of my day, I've learned to just put this battle to bed.

Kind of.

I'd be lying if I said I'm completely at peace with it. I still wrestle inside with a voice that screams, "But it's lunchtime now. Not later. NOW. He's got to be hungry. He needs to be hungry." Per my scheduled routine.

But I get it. This phase won't last forever. He'll sit and eat. Eventually. In fact, there will probably be a time where I'm excited that he's done eating. When my cupboards are picked bare. And I can't get food on the table fast enough.

If it's not one thing, it's another right?!?! Umph.


Do you struggle with getting your children to eat? If so here are some helpful answers to questions that have helped me during the "what the hell do I do" phase:

How much should my child eat? How much your child eats may be very different from how much another child eats. Don't worry if it seems that your child doesn't eat enough at one meal. Children often make up for a small meal or a missed meal at the next mealtime. If your child has plenty of energy and is growing, he or she is most likely healthy. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about how your child is growing or if you are concerned that picky eating is slowing your child's growth.

What if my child is a picky eater? Many toddlers are picky eaters. Being picky about food is a normal behavior for many toddlers. There may be times when your child wants to eat a particular food again and again for a while, and then not want to eat it at all. Offer your child a variety of nutritious foods and let him or her choose what to eat. You may want to serve something you know your child likes along with another new nutritious food. But try to let your child explore new foods on his or her own. Don’t force your child to taste new foods. You may need to offer a new food several times before your child tries it.

You may need to be flexible with the meals you prepare to make sure your child gets a balanced diet. For example, if you're making beef stew for dinner and your child will only eat potatoes and carrots, you may need to cook some of these vegetables separate from the stew so that your child will eat them. You may want to make a list of foods that you know your child likes so you can make sure he or she eats a balanced diet. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web site, ChooseMyPlate.gov, offers good information about nutrition for children and adults.

Setting a good example for your child can also help. If your child sees you eating a variety of healthy foods, he or she will be more likely to give them a try.

How can I make sure my child is getting enough to eat? Offer your child food that is tasty and looks good, and offer the right amount. A good rule of thumb is to offer 1 tablespoon of each kind of food for each year of your child's age. If your child is still hungry, you can serve more. Don't force your child to clean his or her plate. Once he or she is no longer hungry, your child should be allowed to stop eating.

Try not to bribe your child to eat (such as offering dessert as a reward). Threats or punishments aren't good ideas, either. If your child doesn't want to eat, accept his or her refusal. Even though you may be concerned, don't show your child that you are upset by this refusal to eat. If your child is seeking attention, your disapproval fills that need, and he or she may try to gain your attention in the same way another time.

What about snacks? Your child should have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Toddlers usually don’t eat enough in one meal to remain full until the next mealtime. Offer your child small, healthy snacks in between meals. Some examples of healthy snacks include low-fat string cheese, yogurt cups, apple slices or strawberry halves, slices of lean turkey or whole-grain crackers with peanut butter.

Try not to offer your child snacks close to mealtimes. If the next meal is several hours away, it’s okay to serve a snack. If the meal is in the next hour, avoid offering your child a snack. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she is more likely to eat the meal.

If your child doesn't eat at one mealtime, you can offer a nutritious snack a few hours later. If your child doesn't eat the snack, offer food again at the next mealtime. A child will usually eat at the second meal. With this approach, you can be sure that your child won't go hungry for too long or have other problems associated with a poor diet.

How can I make mealtimes easier?
  • Give your child a heads up. Ten to 15 minutes before mealtime, tell your child that it will be time to eat soon. Children may be so tired or excited from play activities that they don't feel like eating. Letting your child know that it is almost time for a meal will give him or her a chance to settle down before eating.
  • Establish a routine. Children are more comfortable with routines and predictability, so set regular mealtimes, have people use the same seats at the table or create a tradition to have each person talk about something fun or interesting that happened to them during the day.
  • Reserve mealtimes for eating and for spending quality time with your family. Don't let your child play with toys during mealtimes. Reading books or watching television shouldn't be allowed during mealtimes either. Explain to your child how good it is to eat together and ask him or her to stay at the table until everyone has eaten.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant. If mealtimes are pleasant, there is a good chance that your child will begin to look forward to eating with other family members. Try to avoid arguments during mealtime.
  • Manage your expectations. Don't expect manners that are too difficult for your child. For example, don't expect a child who is 3 years old to eat with the proper utensil. For many children, a spoon is much easier to handle than a fork.

Want a little household help? While I don't believe in cooking different meals at dinnertime, breakfast and lunch are exceptions which is why I like the idea of a magnetic meal chart. If you have alittle older children, this is a helpful project thanks to Martha Stewart to get them eating. Experts agree that a child may be more likely to eat if they help choose the menu. Mapping out the meals for the week, also saves time and helps make grocery shopping easier.

How to: Just download the magnetic chart onto a full-size magnet sheet. Then print the food name label onto a second magnetic sheet and cut it out. Together, come up with a variety of sandwiches, fruits, healthy snacks, and desserts; then print them out and let the child fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Safety 101: Do you know what they are after?


Spring is here and home break-ins are abloom. Want to know what they are after?

Prescription drugs.

While electronics, jewelry and cash are still on their radar, prescription drug related break-ins have significantly increased over the past few years. Burglars will first and foremost bee-line straight to the master bathroom to raid drawers and closets for drugs that 1) they can re-sell for instant cash and/or 2) they themselves are addicted to.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the warmer weather that brings out more burglars. Criminal tendencies and addiction continue year round and when times are tough financially, people become desperate beyond rational behavior. Burglary however is a crime of opportunity and when homeowners get increasingly careless about security when spring weather arrives, it's an open invitation for such behavior. People leave open their windows. They start spending longer days out and about and are less careful about closing windows and doors when they leave. And traveling increases.
  
One common characteristic of most all burglars: they are keenly observant. You know those bothersome door hangers people put on your front door, plugging a service or product? Police say burglars look for homes where the hanger stays on, because that’s a sign no one is around. There have been cases where burglars have even created bogus door hangers advertising fake businesses and services as a ruse to see who’s home and who’s not.

It is recommended that before you go on vacation, you take a “visual snapshot” of your routine over a typical seven-day period. For example, if you usually go to bed at the same time, install timers to turn the lights off at a set time in certain rooms, and then turn on again when you normally would. You also can set radios or televisions to go on and off at certain times. Or just leave the radio playing.

Burglars also have their eyes on your trash. They will allegedly target homes where trash cans are put out several days early, or where empty receptacles were sitting curbside several days after. It is suggested that you find a neighbor or someone you can trust to put out your trash and bring it back while you’re gone.

And if you have a lawn service, continue to have them cut the grass while you are away. Burglars love a house that is overgrown.

Some other helpful tips straight from the horse's mouth:


1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at
http://www.faketv/.com/)

14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

16. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

17. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

18. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address. Parents: caution your kids about this. This happens everyday. 

20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

21. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina , Oregon , California , and Kentucky; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs
http://www.crimedoctor.com/ and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job.  

Ways to have a burglar-resistant home:

— Consider a home security system.
— Leave the key with a neighbor or someone else you trust, not under a flower pot or in an easy-to-find-spot.
— Don’t announce your vacation plans to the world on Facebook and Twitter.
— Keep your lawn mowed and your large trees and shrubs trimmed back from windows and other entry points.
— Keep lights on inside or use timers to turn lights on and off at specific times. Put outdoor lights in places a burglar might hide.
— Keep doors and windows closed and locked, especially when away for any length of time.
— Install deadbolts on exterior doors.
— A piece of wood placed inside your window can keep a burglar from sliding the window up from outside.
— Engrave your driver’s license number on valuables inside the home.
— Putting all your valuables in a safe does little good unless the safe is properly mounted to a wall.
— Have mail and the newspaper stopped if you are away for several days.
— Be aware of what burglars are seeking: prescription drugs, jewelry, laptops, iPads, cash and valuable coins. Stash them in unassuming places.

Monday, March 26, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


STREAMLINE YOUR MAKEUP.

If your mornings are a race against the clock, give yourself an edge by corralling your toiletries in the smartest possible way. Conquering your cosmetic clutter not only will save you time, but is also the easiest way to start making your looks a priority. Once you downsize to what you actually use - and use it - you will be looking pretty in more ways than one.

So to streamline your makeup, you need to separate your necessities from your nonessentials. Here's some tips how:

1) Designate a spot for your "5-minute face" - aka whatever products you use every morning to get you out the door. A drawer with dividers or a box lets you see everything you need. The goal is to not be digging around for the essentials. If you're tight on space, a makeup bag works too. Especially if you travel a lot or are on the go.

2) Part with the 10th place lipstick. The rest of your makeup (if you're the most of us) needs a serious purge. Dump what's expired of course (anything you've had longer than 18 months or six months for mascaras or other liquids used near your eyes). But don't stop there. Hit the heart of the problem by getting rid of the runner-ups. Lipsticks and glosses especially. Because we are constantly trying to find the right shade or hop from colors between seasons so quickly, we have a stockpile that accumulate. If you haven't used it in the last year, toss it. The same strategy goes for anything else you're prone to stockpile whether it's eye pencils or night creams. Ask yourself, "If all this was gone tomorrow, what would I miss?" Those are the items you should keep.


3) Be your own editor. If you're still attached to the 10 eye shadows or 20 lip colors you've used once each, put them in a covered box on your bathroom counter or toilet tank and apply a sticker dated their months from now. I love the Short Acrylic Box ($10 at The Container Store) which keeps everything in sight. Try a product every day or week and make a decision - incorporate it in your "five minute face"  or occasional items or toss it. Dump whatever you haven't bothered to try by your preset expiration date.

4) Simplify your storage. Anything left, like eye shadows you love for evening looks, can go in a drawer. Tight on space? Usually two sets of stackable drawers can fit under the sink. Divide items by categories  - eyeliners and mascaras, blush and bronzers, extra makeup brushes, etc. The Stackable Acrylic Drawer Organizers ($3-5 each at The Container Store) are very functional for this but I love the Antonius Basket Insert ($3 at Ikea) for drawers too. Heck you could even it up the $1 for plastic baskets. The goal is functional and organized so buy whatever you see fit. If you have a pedestal sink, use a clear shoebox which can double as a portable "drawer" that can fit in a nearby linen closet.


5) Stage an intervention. Often with drawers people start throwing stuff in, and then it's not organized. Beauty of the drawer is that you can shut it so it's out of sight, out of mind right? Wrong. If you're facing a jumble in a few months, take an extra measure and put every category in a small resealable bags and then in it's designated section or bin. That way, you'll be less likely to pile products on top of the bags.

If you want more tips on how to conquer your toiletry chaos, click HERE.

FYI - the Spring Organization Sale is going on NOW at The Container Store so stock up for all those spring cleaning projects.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fancy Friday: Springy Sandals


You know you're a mom when you get to Target right when the doors open at 8:00. This morning I went in for two things; 1) to return an item and 2) to get Cranberry juice. That's it. But nooooo, $66.59 later (mind you that was my 4th trip to Target this week. Eeek.) I walked out with almond milk, coconut water and two pairs of shoes. Oh and the Cranberry juice.

Damn Target.

While I wasn't successful in sneaking out of there with only the $3.09 bottle of Cran, I did think I scored big with my two sandal purchases for a total of $49.99.

Wondering which ones tickled my fancy?

Item #1: Merona "Eireen" Wedge Sandal ($24.99). I bought the blue/white stripe but the coral is super cute too! Fashion alert: Stripes are HUGE for spring/summer. As is the Nautical theme. And corals and tangerines are showing up everywhere.Tangerine is actually the Home & Fashion Pantone color of the year! Such a vibrant, feel good color. Can't go wrong with either.


Item #2: Mossimo "Peace" Gladiator T-Strap Flat Sandal ($24.99) - I bought the Animal Print (they look wayyyy better on) but they have a slew of other colors. Unfortunately Target has a glitch in their website for this particular sandal. They have the same sandal listed as two different names with different colors so click HERE for black and animal and HERE for brown, black glitter and gold glitter. Fashion alert: Bold, wild parades of patterns and prints are big for spring/summer - floral, leopard, tropical, tribal. Pretty much anything goes.


FYI; I blogged last spring about a pair of cute braided flats that I noticed they still are selling online. Only $14.99 and available in a handful of colors. I personally love the pewter.




Thursday, March 22, 2012

Colored Jeans: Yay or Nay?


The fashion world was buzzing earlier this week when Kate Middleton stepped into the biggest trend of 2012: colored jeans. She chose tangerine jeans, a preppy blazer and scarf combo to visit Great Britian’s hockey team and then she changed into a hoodie and sneakers (paired with the same jeans) to hit the hockey field.

So what do you think - yay or nay? I guess if Kate Middleton is sporting them, they're a yay -  right? I mean she is a fashion icon these days right?? Personally, if it means anything at this point, colored jeans are a bold play. One that will definitely get people looking at your legs (or booty) before your face. One that screams confident, "I don't care what you're thinking" women. If that doesn't bother you, I say go for it! But if you're at all self-conscious about your lower half, don't even bother. The eye catching color coupled with your timid "I want to be trendy but hate my body" demeanor will ruin any chance you have. Bottom line - if this trend is a yay for you, wear them fearlessly.

The spring and summer 2012 trends are calling for big, bold colors so if there's a time to buy, it's now. I've even seen fluorescent neon popping up everywhere. (Insert Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth!). Since I am a sucker for POC (pops of color), the colored jean falls more in the yay than nay category for me. Throw on a black or white shirt and a multi-colored flat or wedge and you've got yourself an easy outfit for day or night.

Grab a pair of tangerine jeans like the ones Kate's sporting with this wallet-friendly version by Mossimo at Target for just $17.99 (currently on sale, originally $22.99). Mossimo also offers a cropped version in a more coral-hue called "Crabshell" for the same price. Both pants available in a wide range of other eye catching colors.


Want Kate's entire look? Thanks to the Budget Babe, she's broken it down for you HERE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Techy Traveler


Traveling over Easter? Spring Break trip on the calendar? Getting anxious about what that all looks like with kid's in tow? I've blogged in the past about travel tips and products (if you missed them, click on the links) but the reality is, the best travel resource is right in your fingertips - your smartphone.

Did you know that 44% of US travelers plan on using their smartphones more as a travel resource during trips in 2012? Long are the days of printing out MapQuest directions (although I don't feel like that was that long ago) or stopping in the gas station to ask for help.

So before you pack, check out these sites worth surfing and apps worth downloading to streamline your vacation and make it as memorable as possible. And if you missed my previous post on travel apps that guarantee a hassle-free trip, check them out HERE.  

Sites to surf before traveling:
Budget Travel - http://www.budgettravel.com/ - everything from how-to's to trip ideas and of course, some amazing budget friendly deals.

Traveling Mom - www.travelingmom.com – ideas for affordable family vacations, including such tips as house swapping.

Goby - www.goby.com - 6 million things to do and discounts on attractions. Plus receive recommendations for cool things to do - all personalized to your unique interests - even in your own city!
Traveling with Kids - http://www.travelingwithkids.com/ - lots of travel tips, entertainment ideas, product recommendations, and actual vacation destination ideas for travel with kids.
Travel Apps to download:

Postino – Create a real postcard and send it FREE!

Trip Journal – Track, record, document and share your travels ($2.99)

Pack and Go Packing List – Family to-do lists, tasks and packing lists ($.99)
Beautiful Planet – Pics and facts about amazing travel destinations ($1.99)

myTSA – Reminds you what is and isn’t allowed when flying (Free)

iStoryTime – The best children’s books ($.99)

Mom Maps – Helps mom's find kid friendly places when you’re on the go ($2.99)

Want to know if it's a travel deal or dud? Click HERE. Happy and safe travels!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

If you do one thing this week...

DE-GUNK THE KITCHEN CABINETS.

The kitchen is one of the dirtiest rooms in our homes. Because it is usually a high traffic area that gets daily use, kitchens get dirtier, faster than other areas of the home. Kitchen cabinets are often the dirtiest area of the kitchen because we are often afraid to clean cabinets for fear of ruining them.

Kitchen cabinets can get really dirty over time though, if they are left unattended. Everything that comes in contact with them, or that is in the air in your kitchen builds-up over time and causes your cabinets to look dull, dingy and old. Grease, food particles, smoke, moisture, finger prints, grime, smudges and more are all found on the face of cabinets, with the bulk of it being found on handles and other high contact areas. In most cases, if your cabinets are starting to look bad, a good cleaning is all they need.

Cleaning kitchen cabinets can be a quick and easy job, but many people make it harder than it has to be. One rule of thumb is that the longer you wait to do it the more time it will take to complete. All that dirt will pile up over time if you let it. The main problem, though, is the grease. This sticky substance is like the glue that holds all of the other dirt and grime together and makes it so hard for you to remove.

Wondering what to use to cut the grease? Vinegar. All natural undiluted, white vinegar. Vinegar is one of the best cleaning materials in the kitchen. It's slightly acidic to help with the grime, but with no harsh chemicals to damage anything. Conventional household cleaners are usually not the best choice when cleaning your cabinets. They often don’t work as good as you would like them to, and sometimes don’t work at all. When they do work, you are still left with a sticky residue due to the chemicals in those cleaners. Your cabinets will sometimes look clean, but this residue actually attracts dirt and the stickyness causes it build-up faster. You will actually have to clean your cabinets sooner than if you used a cleaner that leaves no residue. These chemicals can also be dangerous for the cabinet surface, as well as hazardous to your health. The practice of spraying a bunch of chemicals all over the room where we prepare food and store all of our cups and plates can’t be too healthy though. This is why it is so beneficial to use a chemical-free cleaner in the kitchen. You won’t have to worry about damaging your cabinets or jeopardizing your health if you use an all-natural cleaner like vinegar.

So this week I encourage you to get out your bucket or spray bottle and step stool and get degunking for an instant, all natural - and free - facelift to that worn-looking, germy kitchen.

What you will need: Vinegar, spray bottle or bucket and rag.

Step 1: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part warm water in a bucket or spray bottle, depending on the number of cabinets you need to tackle. Mix a stronger vinegar solution if the grease buildup on the cabinets is thick by altering the ratio to ¾ vinegar and ¼ water.

Step 2: Climb up your step stool and wipe off surface dust and cobwebs from cabinet tops with a damp rag. Rinse and wring out your rag.
Step 3: Spray down upper cabinets with the vinegar/water solution, or apply it generously with your rag. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Wipe the surface, using some pressure, in small circles, moving from the top of the cabinet face down. Open the cupboard door and wipe the edges of the door opening as well. Move to the next cabinet.

Step 4: Wring out and rinse your cloth frequently, applying additional vinegar/water solution and pressure to particularly tough areas. Allow the cabinets to air dry or buff with a dry cloth.


Step 5 (optional) - Buff the cabinets with lemon oil for instant shine and to hide the vinegar smell.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Courtesy of Can You Stay for Dinner
What if I told you that you could have your cake and eat it too for only 100 calories? And whole grain. And nonfat. And made from real, wholesome ingredients? 'Nough said right? Thanks to the cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, you can now enjoy a dessert that both feels good and tastes good too!

Each of these cupcakes is moist, tender, soft crumbed, and plenty chocolatey. And unlike lots of healthy baking projects, these are ones I would serve to someone other than my husband. Healthy yet fabulous enough to share with friends and strangers. They’re gently sweet and have a decidedly lighter texture than most of the non-fat cake recipes I’ve tried. Splendid.

Courtesy of Can You Stay for Dinner

~100 Calorie Chocolate Cupcakes~

Ingredients:
1 cup nonfat or low fat milk, dairy or nondairy
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour –OR- whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Spritz them lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

2)  Combine a cup of milk with 1 teaspoon of vinegar, preferably apple cider vinegar. Set that aside for a few minutes so that it can curdle, like buttermilk.

Note: You can use dairy milk or nondairy milk, nonfat milk or whole. All varieties- everything from almond milk to 1% to soy - work well. The point is to create a light buttermilk (though using less acid than a traditional buttermilk), which will chemically react with the baking soda in the recipe to help the cupcakes rise while baking.

3)  In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients: 1/2 cup all purpose white flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you can also use whole wheat pastry flour with even better results), 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set this mixture aside.

Note: Using all white flour produces the lightest, fluffiest texture, and the one most closely resembling a standard, full-fat cupcake. Using 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat is quite perfect. Nutritionally, you’re getting a better-for-you dessert, and the texture isn’t compromised. Using all whole wheat flour turns out well too, it’s just that the cupcakes bake up denser. If you want to use 100% whole grains in the recipe, though, use whole wheat pastry flour, as it lends a softer, more tender texture than traditional whole wheat flour. Use whatever you like.

4) In a large mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup brown sugar with 1/2 cup of apple sauce and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Note: Replacing the fat in the recipe with applesauce yields great results. The cupcakes are extra moist from the substitution, but they are a bit heavier in texture because of it.

5) Pour in the milk mixture. You’ll notice that the milk has begun to separate and curdle. Give all wet ingredients a thorough stir.

6) Add your dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir just until incorporated. The batter will be much thinner and more runny than traditional cake batters, almost like a pancake batter.

7) Divide the batter evenly among the cups and bake for about 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

8) Let the cupcakes cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan set on top of a wire cooling rack before removing from the pan to cool completely. When they’re cool, frost with your favorite fluffy whipped vanilla frosting - See below.

Cupcakes -- Calories: 108.7, Fat: 0.6g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 15.4mg, Carb: 29.7g, Fiber: 1.2g, Sugars: 20.5g, Protein 2.2g

Need a frosting recipe? Try this Whipped Frosting from Missy Dew over at Tasty Kitchen. It's a smooth, silky, fluffy, subtly sweet frosting - almost like whipped cream but more substantial. One that will leave you saying, "that's the best frosting I've ever had!"

Courtesy of Can You Stay for Dinner
~Whipped Frosting~

Ingredients:
5 Tablespoons Flour
1 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)

Directions:
1) In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix is.

2) Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If I’m in a hurry, I place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step.

3) Stir in vanilla.

4) While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left.

5) Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fancy Friday


What tickled my fancy this week? The House of Smith's pantry make-over.

Who says your pantry has to be blah-zay? Shelley Smith over at The House of Smiths took her cluttered food closet to an organized pretty pantry. From the inexpensive organizing jars and bins, her simple labels, and the Quatrefoil design vinyl sheets (I'm officially in LOVE with these), this is truly a successful design on a dime project with a lot of useful tips on how to tackle the mess.

Check out her other fabulous wall decals, fun labels to for your linens, spices, and food and other seasonal items in her shop!


Spice up a drab laundry room, office, linen closet - decals can be cut to fit your space!


Jars from Walmart & Ikea

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Deal Alert: One day only!!


With 4.5/5 stars, I think Target's Daily Deal deserves some recognition. Today ONLY (sale ends tonight at 11:59 PM EST) you can score a stylish, modern 5 piece Metal Patio Furniture set for only $300 (originally $499). The green is so cheerful and will add a pop of color to any backyard. If green isn't necessarily your thing, you can always add navy and white pillows to tone it down. Love that combo.

What I love about Target Daily Deals is it's always FREE standard shipping and you can bring it back to the store if it doesn't work out.

 Click HERE to check out this fabulous Daily Deal.


Tame the Tum: Spare tire or stress bulge?


For many women, getting bikini ready means tackling one dreaded area in particular — our tummies.
Most of us still think the best way to achieve a washboard stomach is by doing hundreds of sit-ups. Not so, says A-list trainer and body guru James Duigan.

James, who sculpts supermodels Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley among others, insists there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for getting a flat belly. Instead, he’s identified five key ‘tummy types,’ all of which require a different approach to achieve successful toning.

Once you figure out your tummy type (mine is the STRESS BELLY) thanks to the UK Daily Mail , you'll be on your way to getting the perfect midriff...

THE SPARE TIRE TUMMY


The spare tire: This is one of the easiest tummy troubles to eliminate because it's caused by eating the wrong foods and not exercising enough.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE

These people are likely to lead sedentary lives, perhaps with jobs that keep them desk-bound. They may also have an emotional attachment to sugary foods.

Luckily, this ‘spare tyre’ is one of the easiest tummy troubles to eliminate as, according to James, it’s caused by eating the wrong foods and not exercising enough.

TYPICAL BAD HABITS

If you exercise very little, eat lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates in products like biscuits, cakes and white bread, or rely on starchy carbs like pasta and rice, you you probably have an overweight tummy with accompanying fat on your legs and hips,’ says James.

MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
  • Cut down on alcohol. ‘Alcohol is a fat bomb for the tummy — pure sugar which goes straight to your waist and stops you burning all other fat until the booze has been processed,’ says James. ‘Just a few glasses three to four times a week will lead to a “wine waist” — a thick midriff and pudgy tummy. ‘If you want to drink occasionally that’s fine, but the bottom line is that you have to cut back on booze to get a flat belly.’
  • Once you cut out alcohol for two weeks, it’s time to overhaul your diet. ‘In a nutshell, eat well and move more,’ says James. Avoid low-fat and so-called ‘diet’ snacks. ‘These pre-packaged products are often packed full of chemicals, refined sugar, salt and preservatives to give them flavor.
  • ‘Ditch calorie counting in favor of a healthy diet full of unprocessed fresh foods such as fish, eggs, organic meat and vegetables. ‘Start the day with eggs and smoked salmon, or even grilled chicken and vegetables, and snack on sliced lean meats. ‘And don’t be afraid of eating good fats, such as avocados, nuts and oily fish. These encourage your body to burn midriff fat, giving you a flat tummy.’
  • ‘Exercise is the key to helping this tummy type,’ says James. Simply going for a long walk, doing lunges, squats or dips at home or a yoga class will be beneficial. You don’t need a gym.

TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY

If you regularly reward yourself for a hard day with a piece of cake or deal with bad news with a biscuit, it’s important to remember that being beautiful is as much about how you feel as how you look. The starting point for any tummy transformation is feeling happy.

THE STRESS TUMMY

Stress tummy: These types are typically over-achievers with perfectionist personalities
Stress tummy: These types are typically over-achievers with perfectionist personalities.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE

Stressed-tummy types are typically over-achievers with perfectionist personalities. They are usually also susceptible to digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can cause bloating and make their tummies look far worse.

‘Stress tummies are easy to spot, as the weight is specific to the front of the midriff and the umbilical area,’ explains James. ‘When stressed, we produce cortisol, a hormone which encourages the body to cling on to fat around the stomach.’

Stressed tummies will also be fairly hard to the touch, rather than wobbly.

TYPICAL BAD HABITS

It’s likely you skip meals, abuse your adrenal system with too much caffeine and grab junk food for convenience.

MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
  • Get an early night. ‘Stressed women nearly always sleep badly, which disrupts the production of leptin, the hormone which helps regulate appetite and metabolism,’ James explains. ‘This is why we eat more when we are tired and crave fat-depositing sugary snacks for an instant energy boost.’
  • Combat exhaustion with a relaxation strategy of deep-breathing, meditation and long baths before bed to encourage a good night’s sleep and limit coffee consumption to no more than two cups a day.
  • Don’t go for the burn when exercising. ‘Excessive cardio which increases cortisol levels isn’t the answer,’ says James. ‘Instead, yoga, long walks and resistance work with weights is perfect for sculpting and building up strength while calming the system.’
  • Magnesium is a calming mineral to help soothe a stressed belly. James advises eating lots of magnesium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY

Stress-busting stretches and yoga poses at night time can help to lower cortisol levels, while chamomile teas or James’ own Bodyism Body Serenity supplement (bodyism.com) can also help the body unwind.

THE LITTLE POOCH

The little pooch: These women are likely to be busy mums or have demanding careers - hey may even be a gym junkie
The little pooch: These women are likely to be busy mums or have demanding careers - hey may even be a gym junkie.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE

These women are likely to be busy moms or have demanding careers. ‘They may even be a gym junkie, but stuck in a workout-and-diet rut, perhaps always eating the same foods and doing the same routine at the gym, which keeps you slim but leaves you with a lower belly that spoils your silhouette,’ says James.

TYPICAL BAD HABITS

‘Doing excessive crunches and using gimmicky gym items such as ab-rollers can place a strain on the hip flexors and the lower back, causing the tummy muscles to protrude so your belly sticks out,’ says James.

MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
  • Good nutrition and plenty of fiber are essential to improve digestive conditions such as inflammation, bloating and constipation, which can make a pooch tummy worse. Green leafy vegetables, oat bran and whole grains are good, natural sources of fiber.
  • Sit-ups done incorrectly increase your lower back curve and accentuate the ‘pouch’ effect. Swap sit-ups for planks. Do these by lying face down on a mat, resting on your forearms. Push off from the floor, rising onto your toes and elbows, so your body is parallel to the floor from your head to your heels. Start off doing ten seconds and build up to a whole minute.
  • It’s a common misconception that using weights bulks women up. In fact, the opposite is true. Using weights will burn serious amounts of fat in a short space of time, so try introducing circuits — repetitions of exercises like squats or lunges which work individual muscle sets.

TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY

Be kind to your tummy, reduce inflammation by drinking lots of water and eating easy-to-digest foods such as green vegetables and lighter proteins such as fish and chicken.

THE MOMMY TUMMY

The Mummy tummy: Women with these bellies have usually given birth in the past few years, and, being a typical mum, have little time for themselves
The Mommy tummy: Women with these bellies have usually given birth in the past few years, and, being a typical mum, have little time for themselves.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE

Women with these tummies have usually given birth in the past few years, and, being a typical mum, have little time for themselves. ‘After giving birth, the uterus drops and is much heavier than it was pre-pregnancy,’ says James. ‘It takes at least six weeks to return to its usual size, so don’t even think about trying to get a flat stomach until after then.

‘You need to re-train your pelvic floor and lower abs to increase blood flow and strengthen loose muscles.’

TYPICAL BAD HABITS

Rushing back to exercise too quickly. ‘I would suggest waiting around two to three months,’ says James. ‘Being stressed about getting rid of your baby weight will only make you cling onto it more. Give yourself a break!’

MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
  • ‘Fish oil supplements turn on fat-burning hormones and turn off fat-storing hormones,’ says James. ‘Begin by taking three 1,000mg capsules a day with meals and build up to five. I’ve trained Elle Macpherson through two pregnancies and she takes these every day.’
  • Try to eat good fats — found in sources such as nuts, oils and olives — every day. ‘Not only do they help you burn fat and absorb vitamins from food effectively, they also help combat tiredness — a big help for tired moms,’ says James.
  • Gentle pelvic floor exercises (known as Kegels) act as a natural corset for the body to flatten your tummy from the inside out. Squeeze and clench your pelvic floor muscles 15-20 times, in five sessions a day.
  • Steer clear of sit-ups. ‘After giving birth, the linea alba muscles — which run down the mid-line of the abdomen — separate and you need to allow them to recover,’ says James. ‘Crunches are the worst thing you can do, as they will force these muscles farther apart. Instead, breathe deep into your tummy while on all fours, then slowly exhale while doing a pelvic floor exercise.’

TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY

Daytime naps (try putting up blackout blinds) and stretching before bed are important ways to restore sleep hormones and boost fat-burning.

THE BLOATED TUMMY

Bloated tummies: These are often flat in the morning, but swell throughout the day with gas or indigestion
Bloated tummies: These are often flat in the morning, but swell throughout the day with gas or indigestion.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE

Bloated tummies are often flat in the morning, but swell throughout the day with gas or indigestion. Bloating affects both slim and overweight women. It is almost always caused by food intolerances and allergies, or sluggish bowels as a result of a poor diet.

TYPICAL BAD HABITS

You eat the same foods and may have done so for a lifetime without realising you’re intolerant to them.

MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
  • ‘The most common intolerances I see are wheat and gluten (bread, pasta, pastries, pizza, cakes and cereals), alcohol, yeast (in muffins, beer and pastries) and processed dairy (cheese, milk, butter),’ says James. ‘Gluten in particular can inflame the bowel and make the stomach look bigger.
  • ‘Experiment to work out what bothers your belly as you know your body better than anyone else. Try eliminating key culprits such as gluten for two weeks to see if your bloating reduces, or worsens when you reintroduce foods. Focus on a diet with lots of fresh veg, meat, chicken and fish.’
  • Sluggish bowels are often a result of eating the wrong foods in the wrong way. Make breakfast your biggest meal, as this is when digestion is at its peak, and avoid eating late at night which leads to bloating. Chew food properly and drink plenty of water to keep the digestive system moving.
  • Bloating can be a sign of imbalanced gut flora. So to get your tummy really flat you need to repopulate it with friendly bacteria. Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are the simplest way. Natural sources include miso soup, sour cream and some fruit and veg including kale, garlic and onions. A healthy gut means a flat stomach.

TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY

Believe it or not, breathing can be the best thing you can do for this kind of tummy. Try this each morning: lay on your back, completely relaxed, and breathe deep into your tummy ten times. After eating, a walk will help the digestive process, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You're my pot of gold...


Every time you see a rainbow, do you look to see where it begins and where it ends? We've all heard the “pot of gold” story since we were young, but where does that legend come from? It dates back to Old Europe, where the Irish will tell you "fairies put a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow with leprechauns guarding it." It's folklore that has become part of the symbolism of St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, when many celebrate Irish culture and count themselves as “Irish” just for wearing a little of "the Green."

Saw this idea on Pinterest and thought what a cute project/gift idea for St. Patty's Day. Courtesy of It is what it is. 

Idea #1: Using cellophane pretzel bags (you can buy them at Michael's), put four rolos in the bottom of the bag and added layers of m&m's. Or any type of your favorite multi-colored candy - skittles, gumballs, jellybeans, etc. Close the bag with a twist tie (they come with the bags) and add the banner tag.
Print banner tag HERE.


Idea #2: Using the same cellophane pretzel bags, add rainbow Twizzlers and gold foil-covered chocolate coins to the bag with the custom 3" tag, and call it done!

Print circle tag HERE.


Idea #3: If you'd prefer not to give candy, this is a pretty cute alternative. Simply trim the banner tag, adhere to a rainbow of watercolor paints, and add a rolo candy. Glue works fine to adhere everything. See banner tag link above.


An interesting fact about rainbows: No two people ever see the same rainbow. As the eyes of two people cannot occupy the same place in space at the same time, each observer sees a different rainbow. Why? The raindrops are constantly in motion so its appearance is always changing. Each time you see a rainbow, it is unique in its own spectacular way! Many people consider rainbows to be an omen of some kind. It is an ancient desire rooted in our cultural mythologies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's for dinner?


You can thank the fabulously witty Andie Mitchell over at Can you Stay for Dinner for today's dinner recipe. And no that's not a quesadilla. Back in 2005, Andie lost 135 pounds and has an inspirational story of trying to find happiness in her new skin. If you have time, I encourage you to read Parts 1-3 of her Exercise History. A true testament that you don't have to KILL yourself in the gym to lose/maintain weight. She walks. That's it. A girl after my own heart.

On a quest to eat healthy while not depriving her of the thing she loves most - food - she has a library of wonderful recipes that you can add to your everyday repertoire. Although these are in the appetizer section of her recipes, I thought these tasty little wraps would be a fantastic light, hand-holdable dinner option - perfect for the kids. They are a cross between a hand pie and a calzone, but much smaller and without that high carb doughiness. The egg roll wrappers allow you to experience the full flavor of the filling- the sweetness of tomatoes and the savory strands of chicken and melting cheese. - and provide a light crunch, almost like layering chicken Parmesan on top of tortilla chips (which I imagine would make a lovely plate of nachos).

So with no further ado, here's what's for dinner:

~Chicken Parmesan Wraps~
Makes 6

Ingredients:
8 oz raw chicken breast
1 cup marinara sauce, plus more for serving (see Andie's favorite recipe here)
6 egg roll wrappers (each 7 inches squared)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1) Place the chicken breast in a small pot and fill with enough water just to cover. Bring to a boil on your stovetop, reduce the heat slightly, then simmer for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and let cool before shredding with two forks, pulling against the grain of the meat. Mix the meat with the marinara sauce in a small bowl.

2) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the egg roll wrappers on a clean work surface. Layer each with a few leaves of spinach, then chicken, followed by mozzarella and Parmesan.


3) Lightly brush two adjacent sides of the wrapper with water and fold the upper left corner downward, covering the filling, and press to seal on the bottom right corner. Press to seal each of the sides. Repeat with remaining wraps.

4) Place all 6 filled wraps on a greased wire rack set over a cookie sheet, coat each in cooking spray or a light brushing of olive oil, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a golden brown.

Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Nutrition information for 1 wrap: Calories: 178, Fat: 4.4g, Cholesterol: 32.8mg, Carb: 17.7g, Fiber: 1.1g, Protein: 15.7g


 Don't those look delish?!?!?

Monday, March 12, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


STREAMLINE YOUR SPICE RACK.

My mom always had the most disorganized spice cupboard. I am convinced it had (and probably still does) spices from the '70's. She's got at least two of everything. If not five. It's just a hodge-podge of randomness and it brings me anxiety any time I have to rummage through it.

If this sounds like you, it's time to do some spring cleaning. Contrary to popular belief, spices do have a shelf life and even if you possess a perfectly organized kitchen, a twice-yearly reassessment of your seasoning situation is smart.  You'll be amazed at how much faster meal prep goes after doing this.

To streamline your spices, follow these steps and you'll have it done in no time:

1) Gather all herbs and spices in one place. Empty your spice cabinets and spice racks. Grab seasonings from drawers, countertops, the fridge, or wherever else you've got them stashed. Gather everything on a clean table or countertop, so you can see what you've got and start to take stock.

2) Wipe down the cupcoard or drawer with  a warm, soapy rag. And tops of spice bottles/jars.

3) Divide and conquer - my favorite part!! First, get those jars in order. Group/sort cooking spices together, baking together. Next check for freshness. Use your senses: Are colors vibrant, or do herbs and spices look wan and washed out? Do herbs feel brittle and crumbly? Are spices still aromatic? Do the sniff test and if it's lost it's aroma or are expired, get rid of them. Next consolidate if you have open duplicate jars of fresh spices. Salvage the seasonings in near-empty bottles by making impromtu blends. And if you want to be uber organized and make your cabinet fabulously uniform, you can re-fill them into matching glass jars or bottles found at the Container Store and label them. How lovely does that look? This is a project in my next life.


4) Assess what you've got, and what you need. Which herbs and spices do you use most? Did you toss spices you like, and wish you'd used? Are your seasonings in useful form (I once got rid of some ancient ground oregano, because I only used fresh or dried leaves.) Next make a list of what you need. Are there recipes you pass over because you don't have the right seasonings? Have a favorite ethnic cuisine, but lack the spices to make it at home? Add them to your wish list. Not sure what's available, or what to do with certain seasonings? Check out this Herb & Spice Gallery for ideas.

5) Before putting them back, think about your storage needs. Do you want your spices out of sight, or on display? Where do you have room to store all or most of them? Did your old organizing system work or need an overhaul? Start by counting your spices: How many jars need storage? Are they uniformly sized? How many spices are on your wish list? Consider picking an organizer that can handle your collection as it grows. If you don't already have this, dedicate a storage space, and make sure it protects herbs and spices from light and heat (in other words, skip the windowsill or the drawer beneath your cooktop). Measure to make sure the space will hold your spices, and whichever organizer you choose.

6) No two cooks or kitchen are alike, so check out your organizing options. There are so many options and fabulous organizing systems out there now. Magnetic ones. Hanging. Traditional lazy susan or shelf option. I personally like the adjustable behind the door spice rack but my best advice is pick what works and functions best for you!