Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheers to 32!

Guess what today is?? It's my birthday! 32. Nothing special. You better believe I've already devoured 4 tasty pieces of Funfetti Pop Cake, which at this rate means I'll eat 11 by days end. If you didn't catch that Sweet Sunday post awhile back and have never had pop/soda cake, you're truly missing out. It's definitely on my love list. Dying to know what else is on my love list? Did I hear a yes? Ok. Since you insist, here are 31 more love list items (in no particular order) that come to mind as I type. I'll keep out the obvious; family, friends, God, sunshine, the beach...

1) BRAVO television network

3) Fuji apples

5) Gummy worms

6) The television show, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians"

7) Running

8) Turkey sandwich on wheat with Sweet Onion sauce from Subway

9) A "Shandi" - 3/4 beer, 1/4 Diet Sprite

10) The song by Kanye West & Rihanna, "All of the Lights"

11) Dark Grey anything

13) Organizing

14) College Football - Go Dawgs!!

15) Traveling

16) To-Do Lists

17) Skinny Margaritas

19) McDonald's ice cream (did you know it's low fat??)

20) Mascara

21) Watching golf on Sunday

24) Wearing white

25) Hall & Oates

26) Chrystal Light On-The-Go packets

29) Ellen Degeneres

30) RunKeeper app (Free,

31) Stripes

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DOUBLE TAKE: A Fall Must Have

Fall is soon upon us. Tear. And yes, boots are back. But of course, the style is slightly different from last seasons. Shucks, looks like you'll have to buy yet another new pair. The Equestrian riding boot is a must have for Fall 2011. There are dozens of great options hitting stores now. As always some affordable and some so outrageously expensive that I wonder who really buys them.

I came across these riding boots the other day at Target and thought these would be fantastic for a DOUBLE TAKE post. So here ya have it; an expensive pair of Ugg's Australia "Channing" boots in Chestnut for $294.95 at Nordstrom vs. Merona's "Manette" tall boot in tan for just $39.99 at Target. Can you tell which one is which??

I don't know about you but I personally like the look of the Target boot (LEFT) better. And the $255 savings!

Monday, August 29, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


If you're like most people you spend at least a few hours a day in the car - whether it's commuting to and from work, running to the grocery store or picking up the kids from a soccer game. Sometimes, the car is an office and sometimes, a closet. With two kids, for me, it's often a dining room.

But though you might think twice before touching the seat on a public bus or holding the rail on the subway, you probably don't think too much about your car's cleanliness. Sure, there are coffee stains from a few weeks ago on your cup holder and an inch of dust coating your dashboard.

But it isn't hurting anybody, is it?

Studies show yes and no. The germs aren't necessarily going to cause serious health concerns but the germs lurking in one's car interior is enough to raise an eyebrow. And hopefully gross you out to the point that you will make time to disinfect and clean out your car this week.

Here are some shockingly gross stats:

Research has found that while 80 bacteria lurk on each square inch of toilet, around 700 harmful bugs inhabit the car's interior.

Surveys show that 42% of motorists regularly dine while driving. Hence why a car is the perfect place for germs to breed, especially if you leave litter or uneaten food around. Which is easy to do when you're busy loading and unloading kids, pets, groceries, etc.

The steering wheel of your car harbours nine times more germs than a public toilet seat.

The dashboard is the second germiest place behind food spills. Air is draw in from the dashboard and bacteria may be impacting the dashboard as the air is drawn in to the air circulation system. The other possibility is that this is the warmest spot in the automobile, i.e., the sun shines directly on the dashboard most of the day.

If you have children, your child's car seat is swimming in germs and MOLD. Studies show hundreds of thousands of bacteria and mold growing by the second. Just think about all the things kids touch and eat throughout their day and bring into the car with them. Yuck.

Radio dials are usually the cleanest item in the car. Theory believes because only one person usually touches them.

Cars are the moldiest form of transportation according to germ expert Dr. Chuck Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist. The reason being - germs seem to tend to build up because people aren't really cleaning or disinfecting these areas regularly. Keep in mind that germs travel with us and everybody that travels in that car carries their germs and leaves them in your car.

Grossly only a third of people clean the inside of the car once a year, while 10% said they never bothered to wipe down surfaces or vacuum.

Keep this in mind next time you make a pit stop at a fast food drive thru; One seemingly harmless burrito is all it takes to spread those germs from the gear shift onto your greasy fingers – then onto your food, the dashboard, your steering wheel, the turn signal, and finally into your mouth! If you’re one of the 16% of people who admit spilling food in the car, you’ve now got bacteria bursting all over the floors and seats.

Anthony Hilton, the director of Biology and Biomedical Science at Aston University, says most of the bacteria found in a car isn’t enough to cause serious health problems, but that’s assuming you drive alone. If you frequently drive with pets or children, your risk skyrockets. Why? The Aston University study found traces of fecal matter from pets and dirty diapers tracked all over the typical family car – including the trunk, where most families store their groceries! Eww.

And if you drive with trash on the floor – as HALF of all drivers do – the news gets worse. Not only do you have bacteria growing on the floor, you have fungi growing in your ventilation system, and that fungi gets circulated around the cabin whenever you turn on the air conditioner or the heater. Add everything up, and here’s what the researchers at Aston University concluded: People typically spend three full years of their lives stuck behind the wheel of a car. In that time, they breathe more sickness causing germs in a car than they’d ever find at home on a toilet seat!

Wondering the best way to disinfect? There's really no right or wrong way. Just grab a rag and some disinfectant spray or disinfectant wipes and start with any food stains first. Work your way down to the change holder and steering wheel, the place our hands come into contact with the most. But don't stop just there. Since you're already got your supplies in hand, you might as well wipe down everything; backs of the seats, glove compartment, heater dials. There's nothing better than a clean car - not one that "looks" clean, but really IS clean!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TAKEOUT tips and traps

In a perfect world, we'd all be able to spend each morning browsing the farmers' market for the ideal seasonal produce, then spend the afternoon making a nutritious meal that would bring a tear to Martha Stewart's eye with its flawless presentation. But in reality, sometimes you don't even have time to make do with what's in the fridge. You might even have to resort to what's hanging on your doorknob or stuck in your windshield wiper, the scourge of diets everywhere: the delivery menu.

Ah, the delivery menu. A full meal (or more) brought to your door in 30 minutes or less. No cooking. No cleaning. It's like going to a fine restaurant—in your pajamas. A dream come true. But it can be a nightmare for your figure if you succumb to some of the common pitfalls of deliverable cuisine. Here are some things to keep in mind so you can order your dinner in without having to let your pants out.

What to watch out for:

Good things come in small packages. Unfortunately, most delivery food comes in large packages. It's rare that you can get someone to bring you one or two slices of pizza. You usually get the whole pie. And Chinese and Thai food come in those top-heavy tapered white boxes, so while it may seem you've only eaten half a container, you've actually gone through most of it. Before you dig into your freshly arrived repast, get a plate from your kitchen. (Come on, someone else cooked the dinner, you can wash one plate!) Put a serving on your plate and put the rest in the refrigerator for another time. By removing the extra food, you'll significantly reduce the chance that you'll power-eat your way through two or three meals' worth of calories straight out of the container.

Don't eat the "minimum." One problem with delivery, especially for single people, is that there's usually a $10.00 or $12.00 minimum. If the entrée you order doesn't meet the minimum delivery cost, don't be lured into loading up your order with fatty appetizers or extra desserts just to ensure free delivery. Instead, order two individual-sized entrées and put one in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. You'll save money on the delivery fee, plus that's two nights in a row you don't have to cook. You win!

Watch your sides. Your diet's already in trouble since you have to order a banquet's worth of food just to get the delivery guy to show up at your door. Don't get talked into the add-ons like egg rolls, breadsticks, or chicken wings. Don't let a craving, a zealous phone order-taker, or just plain habit talk you into indulging in these unnecessary extras. Your pizza's already going to run you roughly 300 calories a slice (and do you honestly expect to stop at just one?); do you really want to add 300 calories' worth of wings to that?

Read the fine print. The best thing about Chinese, Thai, and other ethnic menus is that since the dish is in a foreign tongue, they usually have to add a couple of sentences about what's in the item and how it's prepared. Look for words and phrases like "steamed," "boiled," "all white meat," etc. Stay away from words like "fried," "crispy," "cheese-filled," "creamy," etc. Also, some menus include heart icons next to the healthier items—keep an eye out for those!

Spice it up. If you can take the heat, sprinkle some hot peppers on your pizza or order your food extra spicy! While some claims that spicy food will boost your metabolism are over exaggerated, there are some other benefits to eating the hot stuff. First off, peppers and curries add a lot of flavor without adding sodium, so pick dishes that emphasize spice over salt. Secondly, if your mouth is on fire, you might be encouraged to drink more water to cool you off. In addition to its myriad other benefits, water will help keep you feeling full, which helps a lot with portion control. (Avoid drinking high-calorie sodas, beers, or Thai iced tea [200 calories a serving] to put out the fire, though.)

Wondering what to order then?

Most of the restaurants that deliver are local eateries, not national chains, so I can't give you specific nutritional information for all of them, but here are some tips for good things to order and bad things to avoid for three of the most popular categories of restaurant.

1) Get steamed. Order steamed rice, not fried, and go with brown rice if they have it—it has extra fiber.
2) Veg out. Look for the dishes that are mostly vegetables and are steamed rather than fried. If you order dishes like beef and broccoli, ask them for extra broccoli.
3) Soup it up. Egg-drop, wonton, and hot-and-sour soups are good low-cal, low-fat options (although they usually have plenty of sodium, so no extra soy sauce!). Fill up on some soup and put away half your entrée for later.
4) Grease: not the word. Stay away from deep-fried dishes like egg rolls, crispy orange chicken, General Tso's chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, etc.
5) Lay off the sauce. Watch out for sauces made with corn syrup or oil. Request low sauce or no sauce. An order of kung pao chicken seems healthy but it's sautéed in enough oil that it can have up to 76 grams of fat—more than an entire day's worth. If possible, ask how it's prepared.
6) Pass up the salt. Ask for low-salt options. Don't use the full-sodium soy sauce packets that come with your meal. Instead, invest in your own bottle of low-sodium soy sauce. Also, make sure your restaurant is one of the many that no longer use mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) in their dishes.
7) Switch it up. For dinner combos, see if you can substitute healthier options for the normal items. For example, at Panda Express, they'll give me an extra serving of steamed vegetables instead of the side of starchy chow mein or fried rice that it typically comes with.
8) The future is bright, and light! A fortune cookie has only 30 calories and no fat, and potentially brings good news or a daily affirmation—treat yourself!

My advice - Don't pick up that phone. It's hard to find healthy pizza and it's far better to make your own. If delivery's the only option, however, read on...
1) More veggies. Load up on veggie toppings like peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh garlic, jalapeños, etc.
2) Less fat and/or less cheese. Ask for low-fat cheese, or ask them to use half the cheese.
3) Defeat the meat. Try to stay away from fatty meat toppings like pepperoni, meatballs, and sausage. Instead, try leaner options like Canadian bacon, chicken, or shrimp.
4) Bust the crust. Not all pizzas are created equal, and neither are their crusts. Most pizza chains list nutrition info on their Web sites. So make sure you take a look before ordering to ensure the smartest choice.

1) Lighten up. Many of the same tips for Chinese food apply to Thai food as well. Try to get steamed brown rice and lots of vegetables and stay away from heavy sauces and high-sodium dishes.
2) Don't get saucy. Satay is a good option, but try not to use too much of the peanut dipping sauce, if any; that's where your calories will start to add up.
3) Don't go (coco)nuts. Watch the coconut milk. It's delicious, but usually extremely fattening. Try to look for dishes flavored with ginger, citrus, curry, or chilies instead. Or ask if they can prepare your dish with low-fat coconut milk.
4) Hold the milk. Thai restaurants offer a lot of delicious low-fat soups that you can fill up on. They also have some soups that are high in fat because of coconut milk. Try and order soups that don't include it. And as with all soups, keep an eye on the sodium.
5) Green and lean. Thai cuisine includes many salads that are a meal in themselves, such as Yum Nuah (beef salad) or Pla Goong (grilled shrimp salad). Many of these have simple lime juice dressings that are low in fat. But, as with American salads, ask the restaurant what's in the dressing.
6) Go fish (or tofu). Check out the fish and tofu options. Even more than their Chinese counterparts, Thai restaurants have lots of dishes that feature seafood and tofu. And if you don't care for either, the Thai spices might just help you overcome your aversion.

So there you have it. While it's unlikely you'll lose much weight on a takeout diet, there are still a lot of ways you can minimize the damage.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On the Menu: FISH TACOS

These are a must make before summer winds down. My mother-in-law made them last week and they were the perfect meal for a warm night when you're not super hungry and you're looking for something 'light.' She used frozen Tilapia fish fillets from Costco to make it super easy. She baked them for 10 minutes while she made the deliciously fresh coleslaw topping. Talk about a super simple (and healthy) meal in minutes! I personally liked the combination of the coleslaw topped with the Peach Mango salsa from Costco but the Cucumber Ranch dressing was a hit as well.

Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

8 Tilapia (fish) fillets - or fish of choice
8 Corn or Flour tortillas
4 cup sliced cabbage
1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
2 TBS. lime juice
1 TBS. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Sour cream, Kraft "Cucumber Ranch" Dressing, or Salsa

Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, green onions and cilantro.
Toss in the lime juice, olive oil and salt to the medley.
Cook the Tilapia (or fish) in oven as directed.
Warm tortillas.
Drizzle fish and coleslaw with either sour cream, Kraft "Cucumber Ranch" Salad dressing or salsa.

Monday, August 22, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


Does going out on a date sound inviting, but the reality of actually doing it is overwhelming? Are you so disconnected from your spouse that you fear you'll have nothing to talk about? Finding a reliable sitter isn't always easy, and paying for a sitter can be even more painful. Plus, after dealing with work and kids all day, who has the energy to stay up late enough to go out?

Alright that's it, stop right there! When Dave and I got married we made a pact that our relationship is #1 no matter what. Yes, we love our children and they will always be a top priority but they come second to our marriage. It always kills me when I hear people say they haven't gone out with their spouse in months. Months??? Are you kidding. I'd kill myself. Dave and I are very intentional about going out once per week without kids. Usually Saturday night. Whether we have plans or not. I always get asked, "what do you guys go do?" Sometimes it's a well planned out night. We might be meeting friends or have a function to attend. Other times we hop in the car, drive to a new city and end up at a restaurant that has great Yelp reviews for round one of cocktails. Then hop to a new place for appetizers. Then on to a different spot for dinner. Followed by a fun place for dessert. Those are my all-time favorite nights. They are spontaneous and exciting. There have been times though that I've ended up in Home Depot in heels picking out paint colors. And other times we might just go on a walk. A super fun night that pops into mind was when we were driving home from dinner and Dave pulled off the freeway, handed me $20 as we walked into the Casino and told me that once the money was spent, we were leaving. No matter what the date night entails, we know going out, being around one another without the kids is what keeps our marriage healthy and vibrant and is well worth the time, effort, and money - for both us and our kids.

But after a busy day, I get that many of us have little energy left for our mates. The needs of work, children, and the household are real and often immediate, leaving our spouses' needs last on our lists. Yet while an infant's needs should take priority—and yes, infants have a lot of needs—denying your spouse's needs and worrying only about the kids can be detrimental to your marriage.

One might assume a strong family unit focuses on the children, yet experts agree the heart of a successful family is a secure marriage. In Parent Power!, author John Rosemond states that the marriage is the nucleus of the family. It creates, defines, and sustains the family unit. Rosemond says, "Children's needs are met if the needs of the marriage are met."

Dr. Judith Siegel, PhD, author of What Children Learn from Their Parents' Marriage, agrees that couple time is a necessity. "I have found that couples who rarely spend time together are not able to support and take care of each other, and that there are painful consequences," says Dr. Siegel. Having children is stressful enough without the added burden of an unhappy marriage. Instead, experts agree couples should spend time together as a way to keep the marriage a priority.

Finding alone time with your spouse may not be easy but it is achievable, and having fun together enhances a marriage. According to Linda and Richard Eyre, co-authors of The Happy Family, dating your spouse keeps your relationship fresh. "Married couples who still have a weekly or biweekly date on a set night tend to keep a courtship mentality that prompts better communication and a more lasting romance," they write.

But what about the children? Isn't leaving them behind unfair? Experts say no. Going out with your spouse teaches your children that marriage and partnership are important. Dr. Siegel notes that children learn what to expect from a marriage through their parents' relationship. "When children see how much their parents value each other and their relationship, they are learning about an important source of fulfillment and gratification," writes Dr. Siegel.

Here's a thought: Your children might actually enjoy having a babysitter. For many, a babysitter is a change of pace, someone new to interact and play with, someone whose rules and ways of doing things are different. Even children who have difficulty at first will come around. Everything takes time. Learning to have fun without you is a good lesson in independence for all children. And just remember - they need a break from you just as much as you need a break from them!

Last but not least, what about you? When is the last time you felt like a person instead of a parent? Being a good mom or dad does not mean being a martyr, and even the best of parents get tired of changing diapers, playing Barbies, and picking up toys. Remembering that you are a human being with a personality and interests can be very refreshing—and make you a better parent.

Trying to think of fun dates that won't break the bank? Unfortunately the cost of dinner and a movie isn't what it used to be so look into a matinee. If money is an issue for you, get creative. A free concert in the park, a hike together, a stroll through the art museum—the possibilities are endless. Find a place to go dancing (Dave's ultimate date!). Instead of doing out to dinner, pack a picnic and go watch the sunset at the beach. Or grab appetizers during Happy Hour for half the cost. Or sip on coffee at a local coffee house while listening to a local artist play. Even an hour to grab ice cream can be all you need to reconnect. Any money you spend is an investment in your marriage. No matter what you do, you'll bask in the freedom of no stroller, no diaper bag, and no interruptions!

Dating your spouse is fun and healthy for the whole family. The key is to do what feels comfortable and right for your crew. With a little ingenuity, you'll find a night out with your spouse is a positive experience for all. My one rule: No checking email and no texting during your time together. It will be there when you are done. So go on, line up sitter and give yourself a break! Pretty soon, your kids will be asking, "When can we have the babysitter again?"

Monday, August 15, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


With your dog. Around a track. Through your neighborhood. While you travel. If dieting, or better yet eating "right," isn't your thing, it is believed - based on a study conducted by Cris Slentz, Ph.D of the Duke University research team involving sedentary overweight men and women (aged 40-65 years) - that the minimum daily requirement of exercise to prevent weight gain is 30 minutes a day of walking, 3 times per week. A control group of non-exercisers all gained weight and fat during their 8-month study.

Given the increase in obesity in the U.S., it would seem likely that many in our society may have fallen below this minimal level of physical activity required to maintain body weight. This is sad. You must take time for yourself and walking is one of the lowest impact, aerobic activities you can do that has fabulous health benefits.

Wondering what are the top 10 reasons to walk?

1. Walking prevents type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.

2. Walking strengthens your heart if you're male. In one study, mortality rates among retired men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day.

3. Walking strengthens your heart if you're female. Women in the Nurse's Health Study (72,488 female nurses) who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk.

4. Walking is good for your brain. In a study on walking and cognitive function, researchers found that women who walked the equivalent of an easy pace at least 1.5 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. Think about that.

5. Walking is good for your bones. Research shows that postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances, and walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss from the legs.

6. Walking helps alleviate symptoms of depression. Walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression as measured with a standard depression questionnaire by 47%.

7. Walking reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer. Women who performed the equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes to two and a half hours per week of brisk walking had an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer, and even if an individual person develops colon cancer, the benefits of exercise appear to continue both by increasing quality of life and reducing mortality.

8. Walking improves fitness. Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness.

9. Walking in short bouts improves fitness, too! A study of sedentary women showed that short bouts of brisk walking (three 10-minute walks per day) resulted in similar improvements in fitness and were at least as effective in decreasing body fatness as long bouts (one 30-minute walk per day).

10. Walking improves physical function. Research shows that walking improves fitness and physical function and prevents physical disability in older persons.

And the list could go on and on. But piggybacking on #8 & 9 above on the topic of fitness; many people are curious on how many calories walking actually burns. In short - a 150-pound man burns 100 calories per mile; a 200-pound man burns 133 calories per mile; and a 250-pound man burns 166 calories per mile. Of course, to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume no matter how much you exercise, so make sure to reduce your calories if you want to lose weight, even if you're walking a lot. Click here to be directed to the Calorie Burn Calculator to find out how many calories you burn during walking at different speeds and body weight.

Wondering what is a good average walking speed?

A good average walking speed is 3 to 4 miles per hour (mph) and depends on your leg length and how quickly you can move your legs. You may need to start at a slower pace if you're out of shape, but you will build up quickly if you walk regularly. Once you exceed 4 mph, it gets tricky because you don't know if you should walk or run. Proper speed-walking technique will help at fast speeds. And yes, treadmill and outdoor walking yield the same benefits but set the treadmill elevation to 1% to mimic outdoor walking.

If you're super busy and can't seem to find 90 measly minutes in your week (3 - 30 minute walks), I encourage you to split up the 30 minutes into 3 - 10 minute bouts. Here are some suggestions to incorporate walking into your day and accumulate 30 minutes:

Get off the bus before your destination (you may even save time this way).

Park your car farther from the store.

Take a walk at lunch instead of having your food delivered.

Walk for errands instead of driving short distances.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator or even escalator.

Get rid of your riding lawnmower or for most, mow your own lawn.

Keep your walking shoes handy. Leave a pair at your office or trunk of your car for quick 10-minute stress-reducing walks.

So this week I encourage you to think of and set a weekly plan for walking if you struggle with motivation or sticking with it. Planning increases compliance. Write down the day(s) of the week you'll walk, the time of day, how many minutes, and where you'll do it (location). Set and review your weekly plan every week for three months and then reevaluate at that time.

There you have it. It's as simple as walking out the door. And you'll be in good company. Walking is the most popular physical activity among adults in the United States. It doesn't take all that much time (you can incorporate it into your life), you've been doing it your entire life, you can do it just about anywhere, there are plenty of health and fitness benefits, and you'll feel good once you get going. How hard is it to incorporate 30 minutes of walking into your daily routine? Maybe you need to cut the time you spend on Facebook and Pinterest in half. All I ask is that you don't cut out the time you spend reading this blog! ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SAVE it or SHRED it?

I was recently asked by a friend of mine what we do with old bills. I can't take credit for Dave's 3-ringer binder system but it's very effective in keeping paper organized. Unfortunately I don't have time right now to go into detail on how this system works but I think with any organizational project it's important to weed out the bad before you do anything good. The same principle applies when packing to move - don't waste time packing stuff that you know doesn't have a place in the new house. Toss (or donate) beforehand.

With that being said, any good organizational project requires time to figure out if you really need it. So the big question is; what do you save and what do you shred?

Keep for 1 month:
Credit card receipts
Sales receipts for minor purchases
Withdrawal and deposit slips - Toss after you have checked them against your monthly statement

Keep for 1 year:
Paycheck stubs
Monthly bank, credit card, mutual fund, brokerage and retirement account statements

Keep for 7 years:
W-2's, 1099s and other tax return items (Checks to back-up tax returns)
Year end credit card statements, brokerage and mutual fund summaries

Keep indefinitely:
Receipts for major purchases
Real estate and residence records
Wills and trusts

Keep in safe deposit box:
Birth and death certificates
Marriage licenses
Insurance policies
Divorce papers

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Are you tired of nagging your kids about chores - and hearing the same lame excuses? I'm not quite there yet but you better believe my kid's will have jobs to earn their keep around the house.

I came across this magnetic job chart from Martha Stewart and although it takes some crafting, it seems relatively easy to keeps track of who has done what. The entire thing is designed on a computer, then printed on ink jet magnet sheets (found at your local craft store), which are thin and easy to cut. What I like most about this particular chart is you have the flexibility to change the child's chore each week without having to make a new chart.

Job Chart How-To:

Design colored rectangles with the names of chores typed inside them. If you like, color-code magnets according to level of difficulty or frequency (every day, once a week, and so on). Kids' photos can be scanned in or downloaded from a digital camera. Assemble chore names and photos on one computer page, then print onto a magnet sheet; cut out.

To make the chart, design a column for each child, with areas labeled "chores to do" and "chores completed." Print onto a magnetic sheet, and post it on the refrigerator, adding kids' photos and chore magnets.

Monday, August 8, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


Not your regular utensil drawer, with forks, spoons, and butter knives. Unless that of course is a disaster too. I’m talking about my serving spoons, whisks, measuring cups, you name it. If yours is anything like mine, it's out of control!

Do you know you use 20% of your utensils 80% of the time? And most likely you waste 90% of the time digging trying to find the one you are looking for because you have just a hodge-podge of thrown-all-in-one drawer miscellaneous utensils.

I can almost guarantee that your drawer fits under one - if not all three - of the scenarios below:

1) You can't find anything. Okay, maybe some things, like those items that were just used, washed and placed on top the pile, but where was that black serving spoon we used to have? Or the whisk?

2) Even if you could see what you wanted, it's not always easy to remove. Take the rolling pin for example. You might have it neatly organized on the side of the drawer but now it's buried underneath the peeler and the spatula. The effort it takes to dislodge the rolling pin almost makes you want to pat the dough rather than roll it. And what about the intertwined potato masher and pastry cutter? Not an ideal set-up if you're in a hurry. And nowadays - who isn't?!?

3) The drawer doesn't even open or close properly. Now you know you have a problem when this happens. Wooden spoons and ladles get contorted so much that the drawer gets stuck on its way open. Or you can’t remember how to arrange the funnels so that the drawer will actually close again.

If you have any of these issues, this week it's time to conquer the chaos. But I can just hear the naysayers now: Hailey, you can’t possibly keep this drawer looking nice and tidy for very long. And my response. Yes you can.

Drawer dividers are ideal for this type of organization but if you don't want to spend the money, you can neatly organize the drawer to be functional and orderly. It's only criteria: (1) everything can be found, (2) everything can be easily removed, and (3) the drawer opens and closes with ease. And this may mean in the process of cleaning, you also get rid of some (i.e. you already had one (or two) and don't need yet another) or totally unknown to you (i.e. um, what does this do?).

And keep in mind when you're wondering why you started this project - clutter control is a healthy, beautiful thing.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Take advantage of the juicy flavors of summer fruit while you still can with this mouthwatering cake. The colorful, ripe plums make this delicious cake look as fabulous as it tastes.

~Plum Upside Down Cake~

Serves 8 Hands-On Time: 20m Total Time: 2hr 20m

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan, at room temperature
4 firm, ripe plums, each cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350° F.
Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the plums and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook, tossing, until the sugar dissolves and the juices from the plums become syrupy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Arrange the plums in the cake pan in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting from the outside. Spoon any pan juices over the top.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of the butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar until fluffy.
Beat in the egg, sour cream, and vanilla.
Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
Pour the batter over the plums and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Place a large plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note! xo

Friday, August 5, 2011


Walking through Nordstrom, I laid eyes on a fall makeup palette that I will be splurging on. Did I really just say fall? Sadly yes. The makeup and fashion world already have their sights set on the season of autumn leaves and pumpkin pie.

From Ms. Bobbi Brown, the mistress of muted makeup, comes the new eight-piece Fall 2011 Tortoise Shell Collection with colors that look like they’ll be perfect to wear with cozy sweaters, tweed blazers, corduroy pants and knee-highs. Yep, we’re talking fall.

Inspired by her own tortoise shell glasses frames, Bobbi Brown has created this new Tortoise Shell Collection to complement glasses, not compete with them. I personally only wear my glasses when I'm sitting in my jammies feeding my reality show addiction, but I can see my self wearing the shades of bronze, gold and espresso.

Brown's two palettes serve up a mix of can't-fail neutrals and metallics that keep the focus on your eyes while still complementing your frames. And with a classic tortoise-shell exterior, this collection really is the best of all possible beauty worlds; stunning packaging on the outside, irresistible colors on the inside.

Tortoise Shell Bronze Eye Palette (left; $60.00 - Limited Edition)
A flattering collection of warm neutral makeup for medium to darker skin tones, this palette lets you go from soft to smoky in no time flat. The eight shadows in the Bronze Tortoise Shell Eye Palette are designed to be layered—there’s no blending required. Start with the lightest shade, then layer the darker shades until you get the desired intensity. Tortoise-shell glasses inspire the special limited-edition compact—Bobbi’s muse for this collection. Includes Banana Eyeshadow, Gold Nugget Sparkle Eyeshadow, Amber Shimmer Wash Eyeshadow, Copper Cocoa Shimmer Wash Eyeshadow, Tiger’s Eye Metallic Eyeshadow, Bronze Metallic Eyeshadow, Olive Sparkle Eyeshadow, Espresso Eyeshadow.

Tortoise Shell Sand Eye Palette (right; $60.00 - Limited Edition)A palette for lighter skin tones, with light to dark shadows in flattering warm neutrals. This collection lets you go from soft to smoky in no time flat. The eight shadows in the Sand Tortoise Shell Eye Palette are designed to be layered—there’s no blending required. Start with the lightest shade, then layer the darker shades until you get the desired intensity. Tortoise-shell glasses inspire the special limited-edition compact—Bobbi’s muse for this collection. Includes Ivory Eyeshadow, Gold Bar Sparkle Eyeshadow, Desert Sand Metallic Eyeshadow, Terracotta Eyeshadow, Antique Rose Eyeshadow, Hot Stone Eyeshadow, Sandy Rose Metallic Eyeshadow, Black Chocolate Eyeshadow.

Bobbi's tips on wearing makeup and glasses:

Less is absolutely more -- Wearing glasses draws attention to your eyes, so keep your eye makeup simple. Stick to neutral shades like Amber Shimmer Wash Eye Shadow, and save bold colors for your lips. Don't forget corrector and concealer - a must for all women, but especially if you are wearing glasses.

Eyeliner is essential -- Adjusting liner thickness is important when you're wearing glasses - if your frames are thick, apply a thicker line to the upper lash line so that eyes stand out. If your frames are thinner, a softer line works great.

Make sure the brows are defined -- Eyeglass frames draw attention to the brows, so be sure to keep your arches well groomed. Pluck or trim any scraggly hairs, and fill in holes or sparse spots with a brow pencil or powder shadow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ORGANIZE IT: The proper fold

When it comes to the perfect fold, I fit into the freak bucket. I can't stand balled up, shoved in sheets and towels in your linen closet. Talk about anxiety attack. Ok. Not really but you get it.

Once you know how to fold something correctly - and yes, there's a right way - you'll have a clutter-free closet in no time.

First the extremely awkward FITTED SHEET: Yes, folding a fitted sheet may seem like one of life’s great mysteries, but this quick tutorial will have you creating a neat and hassle-free fold in no time. Say good-bye to those crinkly, balled-up messes.

1) Lay out the sheet: Spread the sheet on a flat surface, fitted corners up.
2) Fold in half and tuck in corners: This is the key step to a successful fold. Fold sheet in half horizontally, tucking the fitted top corners into the fitted bottom corners. If your sheet has gathered sides, tuck them into each other, too. Smooth the edges flat.
3) Fold lengthwise: Fold the sheet lengthwise so that all four fitted corners are on top of one another. Again, slide the top set of corners into the bottom set.
4) Fold to desired size: Fold the sheet in half again, and fold over the smooth end to finish. For a smaller bundle, fold again.
Tip: To prevent wrinkles, fold sheets right out of the dryer while they’re still warm. Or before you fold, you can iron them like me. Yep. Told ya I'm a freak. :)

Moving on to the perfectly folded TOWEL: A properly folded towel has a neat, fluffy appearance and hidden edges. And you better believe I despise those pesky little edges that poke out.

1) Fold towel in thirds lengthwise. (If towel will be hung, transfer to rod; the monogram, if any, will be centered and visible.)
2) Fold towel into a rectangle, as shown. Easy-peasy.
Tip: Keep sets of guest towels together, bound with twill tape or ribbon. When visitors arrive, just transfer a stack from linen closet to guest bedroom. Ok maybe a little too Martha Stewart'esk but maybe in your next life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The VEGGIE war

It’s the age-old question for parents: How do we get our kids to eat vegetables? I get asked all the time. And to be honest - I didn't really have the answer. There’s bribery. There’s trickery. There’s all out war. But I’m not made of money, I’m really bad at lying, and going toe-to-toe with a three year-old is something I’m not emotionally or physically prepared for — Chase is freakishly strong. Thanks to Sarah Matheny aka Mama Pea, here are some of her tried-and-true techniques to get kids excited for dinner, peas and all.

1) LET THEM CHOOSE: It’s not a new concept that kids like to be in control, considering we’re usually the ones calling the shots. So it can be exciting to take a trip to the produce department and have permission to pick a new fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. The deal is: They get to choose whatever they want but only if everyone in the family agrees to try it. And yes, that means you may have to down a turnip or two yourself.

2) LET THEM COOK: Like with shopping, kids get excited about being involved in making their meals. Offer build-your-own pasta bowls, salads, or stir fries. If you arrange an assortment of veggies in small bowls and let your kids get creative, it’s amazing what they might try.

3) SHUN THE CAN: Most people grow up thinking they don’t like green beans because they've only ever eaten them canned. But fresh veggies taste far different (and in my opinion, better) than their canned counterparts. Hit farmers markets or shop for sales on fresh produce, and your kids might actually eat what they otherwise thought was “yucky” from a can.

4) MAKE IT A GAME: Everyone knows you can call broccoli “trees,” but did you know that carrots help give you super vision? So super that you can see through walls? Your kid didn’t know that either, but he or she will have fun trying.

5) CLOSE THE KITCHEN - EXCEPT FOR VEGGIES: In Mama Pea's house, the cupboards are closed between meals, aside from a planned snack. If the kids are still hungry, they know that the produce drawers are always open and ready for the picking. If they’re truly hungry, they’ll eat that carrot or celery stick, and they can even get it themselves.

6) SAUCE IT UP: Find a healthy sauce you approve of and that your kids enjoy, and let them use it liberally. Be it ranch, hummus, or peanut sauce — dip, drizzle, and mix it in, and your kids will be eating veggies you never dreamed of.

7) BE A MONKEY: Monkey see, monkey do. If you don’t eat your veggies, your kid doesn’t stand a chance. Model the behavior you want to see from them. Load up your plate with the green stuff and show them how it’s done. 8) TAKE A FIELD TRIP: Again, kids love the hands-on approach. Visit a u-pick field or weekly Farmer's Market and let your kids go to town on green beans, snap peas, and zucchini. They might not even make it out of the field before they have a tummy full of the good stuff.

9) REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT: Kids’ tastes are constantly changing and developing. Don’t give up after the first try. It may take using every single one of these tips a dozen times before they become willing accomplices. But since you are eating your veggies too, you should have all the stamina you need to stick with it.

Monday, August 1, 2011


If this doesn't stop you from going through the drive thru - then we have quite a bit of work to do!

"Mechanically Separated Chicken" is the actual name for this pink paste that looks nothing like chicken. Eventually this pink paste will be shaped into little boots, fried and placed in Happy Meals around the world!

Clear explanation of Mechanically Separated Meat:

Lets choose something else for lunch today shall we?

If you do ONE thing this week...


Not an email. Or a text. Actual 'snail' mail. An unexpected card that says you took the time to tell them you are thinking of them.

Anymore I feel like people are too busy to remember the "little" things that mean the most. Things that are so extremely simple and don't cost a lot. Remember the simple joy and excitement of receiving a card in the mail? You’d be sorting through the bills, brochures and junk mail, and there it was. A small greeting from a faraway place.

The best cards are always the ones you never expect. Those little notes of joy that arrive out of the blue. It’s a small, but effective way to bring some happiness into anyone’s day. They are reminders that someone out there is thinking of you. Sending one is a way to tell someone else that you’re thinking of them. Perhaps you've been meaning to say thank you to a friend. Maybe there's an old family friend's relative that is ill. Or maybe you just want to tell an dear friend how much you cherish their friendship.

It takes 5 minutes and $3,50. You have no excuse. ;) Have a fantastic week!