Monday, April 30, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


Think of removing your shoes when you enter a home as the equivalent of washing your hands. First, it couldn’t be easier. Second, it allows for a more "green" home by prevents the outside gunk like car exhaust, chemicals, and pesticides from being tracked all over your home.  And third, it leaves the nasty outside world out. After walking into public restrooms, city streets, yards where there are animals, etc., do you really want all that bacteria and filth in your home?

There was a study by the EPA conducted in 1991 titled the “Door Mat Study.” It measured the amount of lead dust that was in homes. The study found that in homes where there was a doormat at the entrance and where shoes were NOT worn, there was a marked reduction (about 60%) of lead dust and other chemicals in the home. Not only that, but in homes where shoes are removed, there is a reduction in allergens and bacteria being tracked into the house. 

Try it for a day. A week. A month. Soon enough, it will become a painless habit for a healthier, more eco-friendly home.               

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sweet Sunday

There's something so fresh and light about lemon. The refreshing tang that balances out the sweetness makes these lemon pudding cakes the perfect dessert as we get further into these spring and summer nights!

~Lemon Pudding Cakes~
Courtesy of Real Simple

Serves 6 | Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 1hr                                                                                   

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled3 large eggs, separated2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons turbinado or some other coarse sugar

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Place six 4-ounce ramekins or a 2-quart baking dish inside a large roasting pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and flour; set aside. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and butter until combined. Whisk in the milk and lemon zest and juice. Add the lemon mixture to the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on medium-high until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. In 3 additions, gently fold the egg whites into the lemon-sugar mixture.
4. Divide the pudding mixture among the ramekins or pour into the baking dish. Dividing evenly, sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. To the roasting pan, add just enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins or baking dish. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes for cakes in ramekins and 30 to 35 minutes for a cake in a baking dish.

Make ahead tip: The batter can be prepared and poured into the ramekins or baking dish up to 4 hours in advance. If you do this, do not sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Refrigerate, covered. Top with sugar just before baking.

Hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Must Do: Personalized Alphabet Book

Saw this idea on Pinterest and became inspired.

And no don't go searching for my Pinterest page. I don't have one. How does anyone find the time??? I think I'm a pretty ahh-mazing multi-tasker but the thought of adding a Pinterest page to my to-do list makes my head spin. And yes, pretty much everything I do gets put on a list to be checked off. Just how I roll. Over the top? Alittle. But highly effective. You should try it.

Moving on.

How cute is this personalized alphabet book? If you've never checked out "Modern Parents, Messy Kids" blog, I highly suggest you do. It was named one of the top 50 Craft Blogs for 2012 by There are so many ideas for DIY projects and activities for the kids and organization tips.

But don't you start reading that over HHH. I'm watching you. ;)

The purpose of this alphabet book is to get your child excited about reading and to become familiarized with the letters of the alphabet with personal objects or experiences that are salient to your child. For my Chase it would be: A for Ambulance. L for Lightning McQueen. S for Swim Lessons. F for Firetruck. All big things in a 3 year olds world.

If you're inspired to make your kid(s) their own personal alphabet book, I suggest spending a little more money for a hard cover. You don't want the kid's ripping the cover of this adorable keepsake. I like Blurb for creating online books but I know Snapfish and Shutterfly always have really good sales on photo books. In fact, Shutterfly is advertising a 50% off photo book sale from now until May 2nd.

If you wish to see MPMK's entire alphabet book for ideas, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Organizing 101: Kid's toys

Alright Jana, this post's for you - and all the other mom's that are pulling their hair out at the sight of their kid's toys and need a toy storage solution.

Jana asked:

Do you have any suggestions for toy storage? Namely, do you prefer big baskets/ toy chests, etc. that hold a lot of toys, or do you prefer smaller boxes or bins that you can use to sort based in type of toy?  I would imagine that this would lead to more work when cleaning and putting away, but may be worth it for the organization?

My response:

I personally prefer smaller baskets or bins sorted by type. My observation with my two boys is that if it's too messy - aka a hodge podge of random toys all thrown into one big toy chest or closet - they won't touch it. It's too overwhelming and the toys don't look nearly as inviting. While the clean up might save you time in the short term with a big chest, it will cost you more time in the long run as they are bugging you to help them dig around to find it.

I love the idea of "by type" bins or baskets because the toys are organized but not. You just toss them in and call it good. No staking. No lining up. This achieves the "put all your toys away so you can't see them" rule and makes clean up time quick and easy.

I also like this approach because it teaches kids at a very young age to group like things together and to understand that all things should have a place. A good life lesson to instill now to save mom from any extra unnecessary hours spent cleaning up after our children.

My favorite organization shelf is the Ikea Expedit shelving unit. It comes in all different configurations but I like the 2x2 ($39.99) and 2x4 ($69.99) the best. If you have a small space I suggest the 2x2 but for more storage, I suggest laying the 2x4 on it's side. If you have the wall space, I like the idea of keeping all the toys in one central area. The 4x4 ($149) is perfect for that. They come in several different colors and can be hung on the wall or placed on the floor. Ikea also carries baskets that fit in the cubicles or Target's Itso fabric bins work as well if you want to add some pops of color.
The possibilities are endless as to how you can configure and organize the toys. Put baskets in every cubical for little pieces like legos, trains, cars, wooden blocks, doll clothes, balls, etc. Or put baskets in 1/2 and keep the other cubicles open for larger toys like dolls, books, firetrucks and puzzles. It also makes for a great seat or to display items on top.

And if you want to get uber organized, you can label the bins or put pictures on the front so clean-up is even faster and easier. Talk about teaching your children how to organize like a pro!

I hope that helps answer your question Jana and gets your ideas flowing for how to make your space practical and organized.

Oh wouldn't it be nice to be this organized!?!?

Monday, April 23, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


It's that time of the day - overnight guests are gone. lunch mess is cleaned up. boys are napping - and it's time to rally together an inspirational blog post for y'all before it's off to swim. When I sat down to the computer, I myself needed inspiration and thanks to Facebook, an article just popped into my news feed that is a great reminder for the week. So thanks to my "real" friend Jodi, here is a blog post from Marc & Angel's Hack Life on what it means to be a real friend (and a good partner) ---

As we grow, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.

{Isn't that the truth? Something I feel I didn't really grasp until I hit my 30's. What a breath of fresh air.}

Remember, life is kind of like a party. You invite a lot of people, some leave early, some stay all night, some laugh with you, some laugh at you, and some show up really late. But in the end, after the fun, there are a few who stay to help you clean up the mess. And most of the time, they aren’t even the ones who made the mess. These people are your real friends in life. They are the ones who matter most.


Here are 15 things real friends do differently:

1) They face problems together. – A person who truly knows and loves you – a real friend – is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else still believes the smile on your face. Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems; look for someone who will face them with you.

2) They give what they can because they truly care. – One of the biggest challenges in relationships comes from the fact that many of us enter a relationship in order to get something. We try to find someone who’s going to make us feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last, and give us joy in the long-term, is if we see our relationship as a place we go to give, and not just a place we go to take. Yes, of course it is okay to take something from a relationship too. But both sides should be giving. It can only be a ‘give and take’ if BOTH SIDES are GIVING. That’s the key.

3) They make time for each other. – It’s obvious, but any relationship without any face time is going to have problems. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot in someone’s life. Never force someone to make a space in their life for you, because if they truly care about you, they will create one for you. (Read The How of Happiness.)

4) They offer each other freedom. – A healthy relationship keeps the doors and windows wide open. Plenty of air is circulating and no one feels trapped. Relationships thrive in this environment. Keep your doors and windows open. If this person is meant to be in your life, all the open doors and windows in the world won’t make them leave.

5) They communicate effectively. – It’s been said many times before, but it’s true: great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship. If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow. If you are jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities. If you have expectations of your partner, you must communicate them. If there are any problems whatsoever, you must communicate them and work them out. And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too.

6) They accept each other as is. – Trying to change a person never works. People know when they are not accepted in their entirety, and it hurts. A real friend is someone who truly knows you, and loves you just the same. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you. If you feel like changing something about your friend, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead.

7) They are genuine, and expect genuineness. – As Leo F. Buscaglia once said, “Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations. Don’t over-analyze your relationships. Stop playing games. A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.” Don’t play games with people’s heads and hearts. Remember, love and friendship don’t hurt. Lying, cheating and screwing with people’s feelings and emotions hurts. Always be open, honest, and genuine. (Read The Mastery of Love.)

8) They compromise. – Real friends meet in the middle. When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in.

9) They support each other’s growth changes. – Our needs change with time. When someone says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it just means you grown. Don’t apologize for it. Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.

10) They believe in each other. – Simply believing in another person, and showing it in your words and deeds, can make a huge difference in their life. Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was someone who believed in them. Do this for those you care about. Support their dreams and passions and hobbies. Participate with them. Cheer for them. Be nothing but encouraging. Whether they actually accomplish these dreams or not, your belief is of infinite importance to them.

11) They maintain realistic expectations of their relationship. – No one is happy all the time. Friends must keep realistic expectations of each other. Notice when you’re projecting something onto the other person that has nothing to do with them, like a fear from a past relationship, and then make an effort to let it go. Recognize when you’re looking for that person to do something for you that you need to do for yourself, like making you feel lovable or take care of your needs, and then release those expectations and do it for yourself.

12) They honor each other in small ways on a regular basis. – Honor your important relationships in some way every chance you get. Every day you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by making small gestures to show your appreciation and affection. Remember, making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. Your kindness and gratitude matters. Make an effort to really listen – not just wait to talk. See the other person as if for the first time. It’s all too easy to take someone for granted. Really notice all the wonderful things they do, and let them know what you see.

13) They listen, and they hear every word. – Giving a person a voice, and showing them that their words matter, will have a long-lasting impact on them. Less advice is often the best advice. People don’t need lots of advice, they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement. What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them. They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.

14) They keep their promises. – Your word means everything. If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT! If you say you’re going to be somewhere, BE THERE! If you say you feel something, MEAN IT! If you can’t, won’t, and don’t, then DON’T LIE. Real friends keep promises and tell the truth upfront. (Read The Four Agreements.)

15) They stick around. – The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need. When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave. The good news is, if you tough it out, you’ll eventually weed these people out of your life and be left with some great people you can count on. We rarely lose friends and lovers, we just gradually figure out who our real ones are.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Thanks to Tobi Fairley's Pinterest page, I found this easy peasy no bake recipe from My Baking Addiction that uses the ever so popular chocolate goodness, Nutella. Wondering who the heck Tobi is? Unfortunately, Tobi is not a friend of mine. Nor does she even know I exist. She just happens to be one of my favorite Interior Designers that I love to follow who uses colorful, bold patterns to liven up her fresh and simple design. If you want to be inspired like I continually am by her, check out her blog here.

~No Bake Nutella Cheesecake~

Yields: 4-6
Prep: 15 min


For the Crust:
12 Oreo Cookies, crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,  melted

For the Filling:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

For the Garnish:
whipped topping, optional
chocolate shavings, optional
toasted, chopped hazelnuts, optional


1. In a medium bowl, stir together the Oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter. Evenly divide the crumbs between your individual serving dishes and press into the bottoms of the dishes to form a crust layer.
2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and Nutella until smooth. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until well blended and no streaks remain.
3. Evenly pipe or spoon the filling into individual serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
4. If desired, garnish with additional whipped topping, chocolate shavings, and/or toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

20 unhealthy foods you think are "healthy"

Let me preface this post by saying: “I eat these foods.” Especially Diet Soda although it's significantly decreased from one a day a few years ago to about one per week, usually longer. And I give into the "healthy" food labels - fat free, sugar free. I'm a sucker for fat free salad dressing. Although I hate that it's loaded with sugar.

If you take this list literally, it will just aggravate you, so take it with a grain of salt… or maybe a rain of whole wheat.

There are many terms that are misleading in the food advertising industry today. Think of how many times you see healthy phrases plastered all over food containers.

Some examples of “healthy food” words on product labels:
  • Fat Free
  • Reduced Fat
  • Low Fat
  • Sugar Free
  • No Added Sugar
  • Diet
We are supposed to believe that each of these categories makes a food healthier. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here is what those “healthy food” phrases actually translate to:
  • Fat free, but full of sugar and chemicals.
  • Reduced fat, but increased carbohydrates.
  • Low fat, but high glycemic index.
  • Sugar free, but artificial everything else.
  • No added sugar… because the all natural version has enough sugar to give you type II diabetes anyway.
  • “Diet” food, but it causes cancer in lab rats so don’t drink/eat too much of it.
Consider the logic that food manufactures would have us believe: fat-free is good for you; jelly beans, jolly ranchers, and cotton candy are fat-free; therefore all those sugary candies are good for you. Makes sense? Think about it.

In fact, a study at John Hopkins University recently determined a link between high blood sugar and heart disease. This means high glycemic foods, such as the candy I just mentioned as well as many similar products, are inherently unhealthy.

Let’s examine some examples of nasty food according to that are supposed to be healthy, but will secretly kill you faster than the Terminator (and no not Arnold). While these are only a handful, I hope they get you thinking about what you reach for at the grocery store.

1. Diet Soda
Why is it good? A sugar free version of the popular carbonated beverage that you can drink on the go.

Why is it bad? OK, so soda is horrible for you, but take out the sugar and add in carcinogenic artificial sweeteners, combined with the artificial flavors and colors that are in all sodas, and you have a recipe for a Tumor in a Can.

Then of course you’ve got the caffeine factor, which is linked to hyperactivity, high blood pressure, and can mess with your blood sugar. Unfortunately the caffeine is an oh-so-good afternoon supplement.

Instead choose: filtered water and the occasional glass of milk.

2. Sushi made with white rice and imitation crab meat or vegetables

Why is it good? Seaweed contains essential nutrients such as selenium, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fats. Sushi is nearly always wrapped in seaweed.

Why is it bad? This garbage doesn’t deserve to be called sushi. They are just small, compact, high glycemic, high calorie, carbohydrate nuggets. There’s not even much protein in these things. Eat 3-4 of them and you’ve had your serving for the day.

Aside from that, imitation crab meat isn’t even good for you. It is mostly just a crab flavored tofu-like substance fortified with sugar, sugar, and more sugar. It isn’t tofu, it’s actually a bunch of processed white fish, but it tastes like tofu. Blah.

Instead choose: In order to get some healthy carbs, some high-quality protein, and the benefits of omega-3 fats, choose real sushi made with salmon or tuna. To make it even healthier, order sashimi instead of white rice.

3. Peanuts

Why are they good? Peanuts contain healthy fats that contribute to the reduction in triglycerides, which are known to promote cardiovascular disease. In addition to monosaturated fatty acids, peanuts also contain magnesium, vitamin E, arginine, fiber, copper and folate all of which help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Why are they bad? Aside from being high in fat and calories, peanuts also are loaded with omega-6 fats that distort the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This ratio says that your intake of each omega fatty acid should be 1:1. The reasons why this ratio is recommended is a topic for a whole other article.
All we need to know is that the American diet is typically from 20:1 to 50:1 in favor of omega-6, so any effort to reverse this trend is important for combating over 10 different common diseases including Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.

Peanuts are often contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin, and they are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops.

Instead choose: Almonds or all natural organic peanut butter, but pour off the top layer of oil and replace with olive oil if the resulting peanut brick is too stiff. Olive oil is very low in omega-6 fats.
(But honestly, if you want the peanuts you should just eat them. They’re not that bad for you diet-wise.)

4. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Why is it good? All peanut butter provides a heart-healthy substantial quantity of monounsaturated fat.

Why is it bad? Most commercial peanut butters are made with the same type of sugar that cake frosting is made with. Reducing the fat makes it even worse because even MORE nasty sugar is added and they contain less healthy fat. I’d rather just eat the extra calories.

Instead choose: As with peanuts, choose almonds or all natural organic peanut butter instead. Just remember to pour off the top layer of oil and replace it with olive oil if the resulting peanut brick is too stiff.

5. Corn Oil

Why is it good? It contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are unsaturated fats that don’t raise cholesterol. Sweet.

Why is it bad? In the true spirit of peanuts, corn oil has 60 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation, which boosts your risk of cancer, arthritis, and obesity. This is why we prefer a balanced ratio of omega-3s, which are found in walnuts, fish, and flaxseed.

Instead choose: Canola or Olive oils, which have a far better ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. In my humble opinion, choose olive oil instead since canola oil has some less important issues of its own.

6. Fat-Free or Reduced Fat Salad Dressing

Why is it good? Less fat means less calories. Plus that salad dressing fat is lard just like mayo and crisco. Sick.

Why is it bad? Firstly because when fat comes out, sugar goes in. Either that or artificial flavors and sweeteners.

Secondly, since many vegetables are fat soluble, taking away the fat from the dressing means fewer of the salad nutrients will be absorbed into your body. This was confirmed by a study at Ohio State University wherein a higher fat salad dressing resulted in an increased uptake of the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene.

Instead choose: A salad dressing made with olive oil, or just use olive oil and vinegar as your salad dressing. If you try it you might like it.

7. Anything made with Soy

Why is it good? It’s not. But in the spirit of argument: vegetarians and vegans eat the stuff so they can get protein in their diets. Yay ::sarcasm:: Plus the stuff is apparently low in fat and an alternative to whey for the lactose intolerant.

Why is it bad? Straight up, soy is thought to be linked to increased estrogen in males and increased breast cancer in women. The estrogenic effects are sometimes said to merely be the presence of the phytoestrogens and estrogen mimicking compounds found in soy.

Because of these estrogenic compounds, infants in particular can be adversely affected in many negative ways from exposure to soy, including premature development in girls, and underdevelopment in boys.

Soy also promotes hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, and infertility just to name a few additional disorders. Phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines are all highly present in soy products.

Instead choose: any high protein whole food such as brown rice, goats milk, coconut milk, almond milk, whole grains, nuts, seaweeds, seeds, beans, and lentils.

If you must have a protein powder, choose any of a variety of protein powders available on the market today, including whey and egg protein. As a side note, goats milk is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet today, so give it a try.

8. Yogurt cups, especially those with fruit at the bottom

Why is it good? Individually, fruit and yogurt are two of the healthiest food choices at the grocery store.

Why is it bad? Manufacturers load these products up with corn syrup, which effectively doubles the amount of sugar. All the better to entice kids to ask you to buy this crap.

Instead choose: Activia yogurt, which contains additional live active cultures to help your digestive system. Choose the Light version if you wish, but know it is sweetened with sucralose (Splenda). (I personally still opt for the light version.)

9-11. Fruit Juice, Dried Fruit, and Fruit Cocktail

Why is it good? Well because fruit is good for you. It has a ton of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; not to mention fiber.

Why is it bad? Fruit juice and fruit cocktail normally have sugar added. Some fruit cocktails come in a thick sugary syrup, and there’s more sugar in a glass of fruit juice than in a candy bar and as much as in a glass of soda (grape juice has about 40g of sugar in one serving). You get no fiber from fruit juice, and the stuff usually has preservatives added to it.

Dried fruit is similarly bad because it is also loaded with sugar, although not with added sugar. Think of it this way: take any fruit, which is naturally loaded with sugar, remove all the moisture thus shrinking it down to a fraction of its normal size, then sell it by the bucket load to consumers who don’t understand that this little tiny piece of fruit still has nearly all the calories and sugar of the original fruit!

Can anyone say “portion control”? What about “blood sugar coma”?

Instead choose: eat the whole fruit including the skin if possible, but limit it to one serving of fruit per meal/snack to avoid insulin spikes. If you must have fruit cocktail, choose one that comes packed in its own juices instead of syrup.

12. Smartfood (Cheesy Popcorn)

Why is it good? Because cheesy popcorn is oh so tasty.

Why is it bad? Because you are really just eating the popcorn equivalent of potato chips. Seriously, compare total calories and you will find that you are not saving much on the calorie front by eating Smartfood instead of chips.

Instead choose: pop some plain popcorn, spray a light coat of spray butter on the popped corn, sprinkle various spices on the corn (but go easy on the salts), and shake it up in a bag. Now you have a low fat tasty treat.

Smartfood isn’t as bad as a candy bar or a Twinkie though, so go ahead and splurge every so often.

13. Beans packed in sugary syrups such as Boston Baked Beans

Why is it good? Baked beans are good for you because these types of beans are loaded with fiber.

Why is it bad? The sugary syrup, just as much as in a can of soda, is just going to spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is never good for preventing heart disease or type II onset diabetes.

Instead choose: Red kidney beans. These things are packed with protein and fiber, and can be mixed with any sort of salad or pasta. Sometimes I enjoy kidney beans straight out of the can; no cooking, just wash and chow. Or cook up some nice black beans; high in protein and fiber, low in everything bad.

14-20. Granola, White Pasta, Pasta Salad, English Muffins, Bagels, Croutons, and Pretzels

Why are they good? Granola has some fiber, pasta salad has some vegetables, croutons make our salad crunchy, english muffins are one step up from bagels, and pretzels are a quick low-fat snack.

Why is it bad? One word: carbohydrates. All of these foods are made with corn syrup and/or processed white flour. These foods will spike your blood sugar faster than Bruce Lee could have kicked you in the face. You also won’t get much nutrition in the way of protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals from any of these foods.

Instead choose: 100% whole grain or whole wheat pasta and English muffins for increased fiber and protein. Egg salad because, like it or not, eggs are good for you and are high in protein. Almond slices are high in omega-3 fats and are crunchy like croutons. Substitute healthy nuts for white starches whenever you can and you too can receive a 30% less chance of heart disease.

Clearly there are many alternatives to sneaky consumer foods. Fruits and vegetables remain a key ingredient in a healthy diet, and now you can look for tricky catch phrases when purchasing ‘health foods’. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and eat wholesome low-sugar, healthy-fat foods; I bet you will end up doing OK as a result. Cheers to a healthier, longer life if you make wise decisions about what you put in your body!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On the menu: Not your average burger

Forget the drive-thru and those full fat burgers. This hearty, meatless meal with a Tex-Mex twist is high in fiber, packed with protein and low in fat. Eat alone or place on top of a whole wheat bun and some avocado. Delish. And ready in less than 25 minutes. Yep, you better "Pin" this.

Recipe calls for jalapenos but in fear of it being too spicy for the kids, I didn't add them. Surprisingly it still had tons of flavor. You can even swap out the corn meal with rolled oats.

~Black Bean Patties with Salsa~
Courtesy of Better Homes & Garden

Yields: 8 patties
Start to finish: 25 minutes

1 1/2 cupsprepared salsa
1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
2 - 15 ounce canblack beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 8 ounce corn muffin mix (or rolled oats)
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1) In colander, drain 1/2 cup of the salsa.
2) Seed and finely chop half of the jalapeno; thinly slice remaining half.
3) In large bowl mash beans with vegetable masher or fork. Stir in muffin mix, drained salsa, 2-1/2 teaspoons chili powder, and chopped jalapeno.
4) In 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add four 1/2-cup mounds of bean mixture to skillet. Flatten mounds with spatula to 3-1/2-inch-round cakes. Cook for 3 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining oil and bean mixture.
5) In bowl combine sour cream and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder.
6) Top cakes with remaining salsa, sliced jalapeno, and seasoned sour cream.

Monday, April 16, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


It is recommended by nationally known nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, author of "Fat Flush for Life" and other books to start your day with a hot glass of water flavored with lemon. The combination can benefit your body in numerous ways, including helping you to lose weight and keep hydrated, improving your digestion and upping your vitamin C intake. You can even spice up this morning drink to boost its benefits.

Types: Gittleman recommends combining the juice of half a lemon with 1 cup hot water. If you don't want to squeeze your own lemons, you can substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Make sure to use 100-percent organic lemon juice. You can spice up this drink and further rev your metabolism by adding a pinch of ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground ginger, Gittleman says. Lemons will keep for up to 10 days at room temperature, so you can shop for them weekly. You also can store fresh lemon juice in an ice cube tray without losing any of its potency.

Function: Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning stimulates your digestive system, according to Louise Atkinson's "Daily Mail" article, "Lose Weight for Christmas with the Lemon Juice Diet." This improves your body's ability to absorb nutrients. Poor absorption of nutrients can cause you to feel hungry, even when you are not.

Effects: Lemon water cleanses your palate on the way down. Once in your body, it helps to gently flush your kidneys and your liver of wastes and toxins, says Gittleman. It also can help cleanse your lymphatic system, another body system that eliminates toxins.

Significance: Both lemons and water are on Gittleman's list of fat flush foods. Water helps you stay hydrated. Your body stores more fat when you are dehydrated because your kidneys need help from your liver to function when your body is in this state. This hampers the liver's ability to burn fat. Water also is a natural appetite suppressant. Being dehydrated, in contrast, can cause feelings of hunger. Lemons may help reduce cellulite because they stimulate blood flow to your skin and help your body flush out waste. Lemon also boosts your body's ability to metabolize fat, Gittleman says.

Benefits: Lemon juice provides a high amount of Vitamin C, notes Atkinson. One lemon gives 30.7 mg vitamin C, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The recommended daily amount is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. People who consume more vitamin C have more efficient digestive systems than people who don't. Lemon also increases acidity of your digestive system, which helps you better absorb calcium. Calcium absorption helps you lose weight, says Atkinson, because calcium is stored in fat cells. The more calcium in your fat cells, the easier it is to stimulate their burn. Vitamin C also boosts your immune system, helps prevent coronary heart disease, and lowers your risk for stroke, cataracts and gout. This antioxidant vitamin also may help lower cancer risk when consumed via fresh fruits, according to Oregon State University.

Potential: Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice along with some of the lemon's zest can provide 1,600 oxygen radical absorbency capacity, or ORAC, units to your diet, according to "Women's Health" magazine. An ORAC unit is a measurement developed by the National Institutes of Health to measure a food's antioxidant capacity. The higher the value, the higher the antioxidant benefits, such as fighting cell-damaging free radicals. One antioxidant lemon juice provides is eriocitrin, which may protect against oxidative stress in the liver.

Want to lose some weight? Studies show that water can improve the speed of your weight loss too. Here's how;

Hot water, like the heat of hot tea, causes the body to begin to detoxify. Stored toxins slow the metabolism. When you flood the body with hot water, this causes the muscular action in the stomach, liver and intestine which squeezes and releases toxins. This moves toxins out of the bowel, liver, lymph system, and out of the body. Water is quickly absorbed in extreme temperatures. This helps stabilize blood sugar, which will stop food cravings as well.

Lukewarm water is even good for suppressing the appetite by depressing the activity of the digestive system. Hunger pains diminish and you tend not to overeat. 

The key to health with anything is consistency. If you start your day with a glass of hot lemon water and drink a glass of lukewarm water 15 minutes before meals and snacks, you'll be on your way to losing 31 pounds this year if you stick with it. Statistics show that you will consume 104 calories less daily as a result of drinking water which over the course of a year, averages to about 31 unnecessary pounds.

Water facts:

- 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
- 37% of Americans mistake the thirst sensation, which is weak for the hunger sensation triggering them to begin eating instead of drinking,
- Mild dehydration can slow the metabolism by 3%.
- Drinking just one glass of water can shut down the "midnight munchies."
- Lack of water is the number one trigger for daytime fatigue.
- 8 to 10 glasses of water can ease back and joint pain in 80% of sufferers.
- When you dropped just 2% in the body's necessary hydration you will likely experience fuzzy, short-term memory and have difficulty with basic math, focusing on printed work and computer media.
- Just by drinking five glasses of water daily you decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, reduce the risk of breast cancer by 79% and 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Mini Buns. Majorly quick. Yes please. Now.

These gooey cinnamon rolls take just 20 minutes and pack few than 75 calories apiece. Hooray for healthy shortcuts!

~Cinnamon Rolls~

Pillsbury Simply Buttermilk Biscuits (they're made without high-fructose corn syrup or trans fat)
Land O' Lakes Cinnamon Sugar Spread
Reduced Fat whipped cream cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Coat a 9-inch round pan with cooking spray.
Flatten 10 biscuits on a cutting board.
Top each biscuit with a teaspoon of the sugar spread.
Roll and cut into thirds.
Place in pan overlapping as needed, top with cinnamon.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Let cool; frost with cream cheese (optional)

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note! (Or starts your morning off right!!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fancy Friday

Curious what tickled my fancy this week?

The OTTERBOX Defender Series iPhone 4/4S Case. The case you need if you want to be careless, work in harsh conditions, are tough on technology, anticipate heavy use or are just plain clumsy.

This case is a  must have for someone like me - a mom on my 4th iPhone due to carelessness. My husband keeps threatening that if something happens to my current phone, I'm done. Cellphone less. I call bull but I'm doing everything in my power to avoid that conversation. I'm hoping the Otterbox will be my saving grace.

Yes this case is a little beefier and bulkier than most but it's design is made to protect. All those trendy, cute plastic one sided cases are crap. It has a robust 3-layer protection, built-in screen protector and port covers to keep out dust and debris.

One flaw I see in the design is that you have to undo the bottom flap to plug the charger in. Granted it's a soft silicone so it's easy to undo but with it not being exposed, it does take a few more seconds to plug in. And you mom's know, sometimes we don't have those few extra seconds when we're on the run.

They do also make an Otterbox case for the iPhone 3S and the iPad 1/2/3 which is a must if your kid's are the main users of the iPad.

Invest in the Otterbox and you can enjoy your adventures, whatever they may be without worry of damaging your device along the way. This case is practically indestructible.

The Otterbox Defender retails for around $49.99 but is currently on sale on Amazon. There are all different colors to chose from.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If you do one thing this week...


Ok ok, I know I'm a little late on the post. If you're an avid HHH follower, I usually post this on Monday but I had guests in town since last Wed, my son's first birthday, Easter and then I got terribly sick. Enough said.

What do I mean by fix it together? If you have somehousehold minor repairs say a leaky faucet, a furnace filter that needs to be replaced, a fence that needs to be painted, a tire that needs to be changed around the house, I suggest you never do it without your kids. Home improvements are a great way to spend time with them while teaching them about tools and life at the same time. The attic, basement and crawl spaces are wonderful classrooms for learning how things work and how to safely fix things. Hand them a flashlight and talk them through the job you are doing.

As they get older, moments will be seen as bonus chances for time with your kids amongst their busy schedules. An added bonus - they will know how to do things and fix a problem on their own. I feel the whole "work hard and figure it out yourself" mentality is lost. It's too easy to hire someone else or find shortcuts nowadays. It's our job as parents to set a good example while mentoring them about the everday things in life. These same children are going to be mothers and fathers one day so it's our job to teach them good work ethic and habits in the day to day things.

Don't have a child old enough to help? That's ok - sit them in the exersaucer or highchair and talk to them while you work. Babies are sponges. They need stimulation and love new sights and sounds. My husband did this last week while washing the car. When I got home my husband informed me that "Lance (my one year old) and him spend some good quality man-time together washing the car."

So if you do one thing this week(end), I encourage you to engage your children in little projects. And it doesn't have to be just something that needs fixing. Household chores such as folding laundry, vaccuming and dusting are wonderful ways to include your children.

While it might take a little longer, it's time well spent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring's JEWELRY trends

Does your jewelry box need a refresh for Spring? Want to add some fun pieces to your collection? Accessories are an inexpensive way to stay current and add life to some old staples in your closet.

Aside from my wedding ring, I rarely get compliments on jewelry unless it's the $8.99 pair of earrings from Brass Plum (Young Miss section at Nordstrom) or Target. Go figure. In fact, places like Kohls and Old Navy have a great selection of fashion jewelry that are cute and affordable enough to buy for that one shirt or dress.

Below are the three key spring trends and a small collection of what Target has to offer. Where else right?!?!

I personally am diggin' the Geometric collection.

1) Colorful Stones: Color is in season! So whether you’re looking to brighten up your jewelry box or add punch to a neutral outfit, turn on the shine with these eye-popping stones. Nature, meet color.

1. Gold Wired Green Agate Earrings 2. Sequin Gold Two Strand Green Necklace 3. 5-pc. Stack Colored Bangles 4. Textured Layered Stretch Wide Band Ring – Coral 5. Color Stone Rings – Multi 6. In Store Only 7. In Store Only 8. Yellow Gold Citrine Earrings 9. Global Girlfriend Green Good Harmony Glass Strand Necklace 10. Gold Over Silver Hammered Carnelian Ring 11. 5 Row Bezel Satin Bracelet – Gun Metal 12. Gold Over Silver Amethyst Necklace 13. Target Peridot 2 Row Crystal Bezel Stretch Ring 14. Target Abalone Silver Plated Earrings 15. Gold Cuff with Wird Agate 16. Sterling Silver Round Red Jasper Earrings 17. Sterling Silver Dome New Ring – Jade
 2) Minimalistic Muse: Sometimes subtle is stunning. It was Coco Chanel who said to “always take one thing off before leaving the house.” But if you won’t part with your baubles, then keep it simple. From a single gold chain to a brushed silver ring, these classic trinkets can strike a perfect balance.

1. Silver Tapered Ring 2. Gold Over Silver Ball Stud Earring 3. 10k Yellow Gold Box Necklace 4. Sequin Gold 3 Row Necklace 5. Wood Ring 6. 14k Yellow Gold Black Onyx Stud Earrings 7. 10k White Gold Stud Earrings 8. Akoya Pearl Stud Earrings in 14k Yellow Gold Setting 9. In Store Only
3) Geometric Gems: Feast your eyes on these architectural gems. From zig-zag earrings to a beaded link necklace, add a distinct edge to your overall look.
1. Color Stone Rings – Silver 2. Long Wood Circle Necklace 3. Geometric Metal Hoop Earrings – Gold 4. Cubic Zirconia Pave Link Bracelet – Gold 5. Glass Beads Link Necklace – Burgundy 6. In Store Only 7. 14k Gold Over Silver Hammered Disc Earrings 8. Natural Horn and Brushed Bracelet 9. Target Gold Open Work Cuff Bracelet 10. In Store Only 11. Gold Over Silver Dangle Earring 12. Wood and Shell Stretch Bracelet

Monday, April 2, 2012

If you do one thing this week...

Use less - of EVERYTHING.

If you’re looking to save money, there are some obvious solutions; you might want to track your spending, avoid impulse buys or try going cash-only. But have you ever thought that you might be throwing savings down the drain, literally? Do you know how much you really need of things of consumable goods like like shampoo and dish soap?

Sierra Black of Get Rich Slowly recommends using half of what you normally would. The idea is to reduce half the amount of these things you use by doling out smaller portions. Normally use a quarter-size dollop of shampoo? Try cutting back to a dime.

There’s no need to stop at half, actually. You can keep scaling back your usage gradually until you hit a point where you actually don’t have enough, and then creep back up to the last place it felt good. Maybe that dime-size drop of shampoo isn’t enough for your hair, but a nickel-size portion gets the job done nicely.

This approach  - he calls the 50% solution - works. Stock up at Costco and it will take you forever to run out. Try this next time you come home from Costco - Pour your bulk product into smaller containers — at half strength. For example, fill the soap container next to the kitchen sink with half water and half soap. You'll use the same amount when washing the dishes, but go through the soap at half the rate.

In addition to basic consumables, you can apply the 50% solution to:
  • Shopping for clothes.  Ask yourself - Do I need two of these? Stop buying multiples of the same things! (A problem of mine.)

  • Going out to bars and restaurants. This is often another trouble spot for me, since I love going out. Scaling back that type of social activity by half lets me stay close to the people I care about without busting my budget.

  • Over the counter medications. Take one instead of two. Or two instead of four. I wouldn’t suggest trying this with your prescription meds, but for simple over-the-counter stuff like headache medicine, I’ve found that a half dose is often perfectly effective.

  • Groceries. Kids will eat a near infinite amount of fresh fruit, pretzels, and yogurt. How much is enough? The only way to tell is to gradually buy less until you run out and they complain. Cut your grocery budget in half by combining this with other grocery savings hacks.  This way too you won't waste any food. 

  • Therapeutic appointments. Scale back on wellness appointments from twice a week to only twice a month. This saves time and money. As with all these measures though, the key is to get to enough. Cutting back too much on these appointments (massage, physical therapy, chiropractor) could cause pain and interfere with life. The balancing act is to be sure you get what you need, without over-committing resources that could be better used elsewhere.

Basically, try tapering off anything you routinely spend money on where you have some control over the amount you use. In general, this approach will save you money. But the more important thing isn’t how you save the money, it’s what you do with it. A dollar saved is only really saved if you don’t immediately spend it on something else. The savings from these gradual reductions in consumption are often harder to see than the clear figures one gets from canceling a subscription and saving the monthly fee.

I love the 50% solution because it acts as a checkpoint for purchases. Do I really need this? Do I need all of this? Could I make do with less? Being in the habit of asking myself those questions has saved me a lot more money than just cutting my shampoo with water does. It helps me stay in a frugal mindset when I’m shopping. That’s not easy to do. Stores are designed to push you towards impulse buys, and being armed with mental money hacks helps me fight back against their subtle (and not so subtle) marketing.

I also love this approach because it helps me find balance. It’s not about committing to a life of extreme austerity, it’s about avoiding waste. I often think of the curve at the beginning of Your Money or Your Life that shows a person’s happiness increasing as they have the resources to supply their basic needs, and then some comforts and finally a few luxuries. Beyond that magic point of "enough," the curve falls off as more and more luxuries are piled on but fail to satisfy. The 50-percent solution helps me know what my personal "enough" is. What’s enough soap? Enough entertainment? Enough snack food?

Scaling back incrementally lets me find those magic points on the curve and stay close to them. I get to have enough to be happy, without wasting resources like money, time and energy on acquiring more of something than I need or want.

Now it's your turn. Give it a try.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Sunday

How adorable are these little bird's nests? Too cute and too easy. No baking. Minimal ingredients. The perfect treat on a busy week leading up to Easter.

~Chocolate Nests~
Courtesy of Pastry Affair (with a few variations)

Yields 8-10 3-inch nests

3 cups crispy chow mein noodles or pretzel sticks
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter or butterscotch chips
30 candy robin eggs (picture shows mini whoppers, but you could use jelly beans, foil wrapped eggs, or anything egg shaped)

1) Place the chow mein noodles (or pretzel sticks) in a medium mixing bowl.
2) In a small saucepan, melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter (or butterscotch) over low heat. Stir until smooth.
3) Pour over the noodles/pretzels and stir until evenly coated.
4) On a cookie sheet covered in parchment or wax paper, take a handful of noodles/pretzels and form a nest, making an indent in the center or form in a muffin tin. Continue doing so until all the noodles/pretzels are used.
5) Refrigerate the cookies to set the chocolate for 30-45 minutes before serving.
6) Place eggs in nests. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I hope this ends your weekend on the sweet side!