Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging Holiday Hiatus

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday!

As you have probably noticed, I am on a mini blogging hiatus for a variety of reasons but mainly because we have had family visiting and my husband has been on vacation from work for the last week.  We have been spending a lot of time together as a family.

This Friday, I will be back to posting the weekly freebies and deals on that particular page.  I will be back to posting regularly next Monday with lots of stories to share.  Hopefully, we will all feel rejuvenated with a fresh new year beginning!

If you haven't yet entered, don't forget the Chex Party Mix Prize Pack Giveaway.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Mommy Ends Up on The Naughty List

Emmy was that child the other day at her preschool Christmas party...

After the children put on a short Christmas program, we went downstairs to enjoy cookies and punch.  My husband, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and her boyfriend were also there (to witness my humiliation).

Santa made an entrance a short time later.  The look on Emmy's face was priceless.  She had just taken a bite of cookie when she spotted Santa.  Her eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open.

Needless to say she had no problem abandoning her cookie for Santa's knee. 

Sitting on his lap, her shoulders hunched forward, mumbling what I thought was her Christmas list, I snapped several pictures. 

Her teacher looked at me and laughing said, "Mom I don't know know what you did but Em is telling on you!"  Apparently mommy was on Santa's naughty list, according to my daughter.

After hearing from a friend about how she was holding Santa over her three year old's head, I decided to try it the one day when Em wasn't being particularly nice to her sister. 

I guess I shouldn't have told her that if she wasn't good Santa wouldn't bring her any presents and he would give them to another little girl.

Of course that would backfire! Emmy had sat down in the middle of the kitchen and cried like her little heart would break.  I scooped her up and tried to repair the damage I had wreaked.  Emmy is a sensitive soul and I should have known my child would not take that threat well. 

I explained to her that sometimes while we are bad we have to apologize and try to be good even though it is sometimes hard.  She had to be nice to her sister and to her friends not just because we didn't want to make them sad but because it is the right thing to do.  She doesn't like when they are not nice to her so she needs to remember how that doesn't feel very good. 

I had hoped she had forgotten that day but apparently not since she told Santa!

Needless to say, Mommy has not used that threat since and I don't think she will ever again.  She has certainly learned her lesson.

Sometimes even Mommy slips onto the naughty list.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Following Your Dreams

Emmy came home singing a new version of "Jingle Bells", aka "Stinky Bells" two weeks ago.  I had my suspicions where she learned it. They were confirmed two days later when I overhead two moms talking outside of her preschool classroom.

This past weekend, Em suprised me again by the things she picks up with her little ears.  My husband was putting her train tracks back together.  Emmy stood next to him watching intently.

All of a sudden, she patted his arm and said, "Follow your dreams, Daddy.  Follow your dreams."

My husband who is rarely floored just looked at her and called out to me from the other room, "Where does she learn this stuff?"

Uhm... us, tv, conversations she overhears in the grocery store...

I could go on.

We laughed at her statement and also told her that was a very sweet thing to say since we should always follow our dreams.

Yet, how often do we really follow our own dreams once we are parents?

Last week I wrote about my New Year's Resolutions.  They were my goals for the upcoming year but also things I wanted for my family-not just myself.

What are my dreams?  What are the things I enjoy?  Traveling...learning.  I think I want to add going back to school this year to my resolution list.  Not to teach. Certainly not to earn a degree.  I already have two of those and have no interest in adding homework to my to-do list.  But, our local community college has all kinds of classes that I could find myself enjoying.

Cooking classes, craft classes, flower arranging...classes where I can learn something new.  I didn't realize I missed that until I sat down and thought about what I wanted for myself this new year.

What I want for myself seems to get lost in the shuffle of parenthood. I don't mind that because I love being a mom.  Occasionally, I go out with friends but I have never gone away for a weekend alone.  Unless you count the time I went to Florida to stay with friends who had just lost their father and father-in-law. Usually, when my husband asks what I he can do or what I want, I ask for an hour alone.   Just reading or laying around if that is what I fancy.

I keep saying I am going to go away for a weekend with friends but I never do.  I need to.  This year I am putting that on my list to.  Just for a weekend.  The decision will be where.  It really is true that you feel a lift in your mood when you plan a trip.  Just thinking about it has made me excited.  Maybe New York City or even Hershey.  I love the hustle and bustle of the city and it has been to long since I have seen a Broadway show.  Who wouldn't love to be pampered at The Hotel Hershey?  Taking a bath in chocolate, a chocolate fondue wrap, and even a cocoa facial?  I would think I have died and gone to heaven.

It took my daughter's innocent comment to her dad to really make me think about what my dreams are for the New Year.

What dreams do you have for the New Year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chex Party Mix Prize Pack Giveaway

If your like me, you entertain a lot during the holidays.  I like to have a few favorite things in my pantry and cupboards to whip up some easy recipes whenever we have guests. 

Chex makes it easy with lots of Chex Party Mix recipes to choose from based on what I have in my pantry.  Their recipes are divided into categories that make it easy to find something for everyone including salty, sweet, 15 minute recipes, gluten free, and even tasty desserts.

Some of my favorites:
Next time you are at your local Wal-mart check for free recipes cards for Chex Apple Pie Snack Mix, Tex Chex Party Mix, and Chex Lemon Buddies.

Want to make Chex Party Mix yourself?  TPMG is giving away a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack that includes a stylish tote bag, a set of measuring cups, and one box of rice Chex.

Mandatory entry (if you do not complete this entry all others will be void): Leave a comment about your favorite Chex Party Mix. (1 entry)

To receive additional entries:
*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

*Follow TPMG on twitter (1 entry each)

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*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Win a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack at #TPMG. Ends 12/31.  (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Friday, December 31, 2010. I will announce the winner on January 1st here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thanks for participating! 
*This giveaway was provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.  I also was provided a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack in order to faciliate this review/giveaway.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A New Year And New Possibilities

Every year around the holidays, I begin to reflect on the past year and to marvel at how fast the year has flown.  Can it be almost December 25th already?  Can the year really be almost coming to a close?  I start to think about what I want the new year to hold.  New resolutions for a new year are part of the New Year's celebration in our house on December 31st.  My resolutions used to be all about me. How much weight I wanted to lose, how much money I wanted to save, or what experiences I wanted to have in the new year.

It is no longer just about me.  I have a family and we are growing.  I am finding that my new resolutions for the upcoming year and any plans I make for the future are no longer about just me and my wants but what I also want for my family.

I want my daughters to know me and who I am even after I am long gone.  Obviously I want them to learn from my actions while I am alive but I also want them to know what I was thinking to.  I am horrible at journaling and have been blogging as not only an outlet but to also document my family's life.

Part of my New Year's resolution is to start writing just thirty-four words each day in my journal-a personal journal.  I am not a concise person so I can't just write a sentence but I can write a few sentences about my day.  One word for each year of my life.  I will be turning thirty-four in three short months. So my goal is to write at least thirty-four words every day.  I figure when I am older and my kids are grown I will have more time to reflect on my days and more time to write.  That is if I can keep up my journaling resolution. 

How hard can it be?  I know it will not be so easy especially in the summer months when the warm evenings and a chair on our patio beckons along with a nice glass of iced tea. Or if it has been a long day and all I long for is to stretch out on my bed and to close my eyes.  But I hope that unlike some of my past resolutions, I persevere and try to keep this one. I am doing this for my children and for me for when I can no longer remember those precious minutiae of our daily lives. 

I never make just one resolution but I do limit them.  Both my husband and I want to give back to our community.  We want our daughters to learn from us about the joy in giving back and in helping others when we have so much.  This year we put money aside to give to charity during the holiday season.  As a family we are deciding how the money will be spent.  Even though the girls are young, we want them to be a part of our decisions and to have a say.

Yet, this year I realized this wasn't enough.  We are not active enough in the community.  It isn't just about giving money to help out but also time.  Not just in volunteering but also in attending community events.  I'm active in our local mom's group and even sit on the board but in all honesty that is about it.  I want to be more involved.  We also haven't taken advantage of the events in our local town and often find ourselves taking advantage of the events in the local cities instead.  We want our daughter's to have a sense of community and the only way for that to happen is to become part of the community.  

I have two resolutions that matter to me.  I want to to keep these resolutions.  I have already decided on the journal I want and plan to go the book store to pick it up next week.  My favorite black gel ink pens will be my writing instrument of choice.  As far as my other resolution I have already started thinking of ways to get more involved.  I've already started a list.  Now if I can just follow through once the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and a new year is rung in.  It is just about wanting it enough.  I do.  I really do.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network blogging program, for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

When You Shudder At The Thought of Going to the Mall

I love to shop.  Just not for certain things.  And just not at this time of year. Going to see Santa and going to get new eyeglasses are two completely different things.

Recently I decided to take advantage of our eye insurance and get new glasses.  Not to mention that our yearly FSA expires on December 31st.  It had been over two years since I had got new ones and since it was almost the end of the year, I figured I had better shake it to the doctor's office especially since I had started getting more headaches and I suspected it was because my prescription had changed.

Can I tell you that I am pretty decisive when it comes to clothing shopping and even car shopping but eyeglass shopping ranks up there with deciding on what new haircut to get.  I rely on Consumer Reports and friends recommendations when car shopping.  Clothes are easy-just pick whatever looks good and is comfortable.

Glasses?  They are another story.  I can spends hours trying to pick out a pair of frames.  I've had gold wire frames, clunky black Ralph Lauren ones, and in high school (long before Harry Potter ever came along and these glasses were in vogue) small round brown wire frames.  Looking back I shudder at how ridiculous I looked in those glasses and my prom dress.  Recently I was faced with it on Facebook when a friend had posted pictures from our senior prom.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Then they throw in the choices of whether or not to get insurance (I have toddlers after all) or special lenses (deal with the glare or get no glare-whatever that means or get ultra thin lenses) and it makes it even harder.  Apparently my lenses (even though my doctor says my eyes are not that bad) would be thicker than most and that limits the types of frames I should get unless I get special lenses.  That is according to the salesperson who helped me.

Normally, I wear my contacts but since I have astigmatisms in both eyes my contacts are thicker than regular ones and dry out easily.  There are some days where my eyes get easily irritated or dry and I end up wearing glasses so I want to like whatever I get.

My choice?

The color of the metal frames reminds me of maple syrup.  They also have an abstract pattern on the sides.

I have decided that glasses are like shoes.  You might have several pairs but you can always use a new pair.  You get comfortable with them and it isn't until you need to that you venture out to replace your favorite pair.

Thank goodness I won't have to do this again anytime soon. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Cookie Dilemna

This past weekend Emmy's preschool had a bake sale.  On Tuesday, notes came home with a request for donations of baked goods by Friday. 

Not a problem.

My husband made a batch of banana nut bread Thursday night and Friday morning I churned out a couple dozen vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing and sprinkles for both the baked sale and a holiday party we were attending on Saturday. 

It was easy deciding what to make. 

But for the life of me I can't come up with what kind of cookies to make for a cookie swap.  On the invite it said regular old chocolate chip cookies would not do.  Do my favorite homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies count?

People are bringing Linzer cookies, mexican wedding cookies, chocolate chip biscotti, and the list goes on...
I am clueless and overwhelmed by the options out there.

I had no problem buying Christmas gifts this year, choosing which decorations to put up (we are going light on decorations this year since a one year old can wreak havoc pretty quickly), and even who was hosting Christmas this year (not me for the first time in a long time).

But I am stumped on this whole cookie thing.   

I don't want to spend a lot of time making these cookies since I need to make 8 dozen.  I don't want to deal with anything that requires an electric mixer with special attachments (like paddles) or a food processor.  The less steps the better.

I'm a purist.  I love sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies.  Snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies.  I hate any cookie with fruit or nuts like pecans or walnuts.  I want to make something that I like to eat to because how will I know if it is edible good otherwise. 

My mom is coming down Wednesday and bringing Michigan rock cookies and some other kind she made.  She was so excited since she used my grandmother's recipes.  She forgot that those are her favorite cookies.  Certainly not mine.  The girls don't eat them either and Bob will be tempted but he has been showing how strong his will power is since he started dieting.  He won't be eating them either.  I didn't have the heart to tell my mom that though when she called.  We go through this every holiday.  Nor do I eat pies yet every holiday my family tries to force me to try a piece of lemon meringue or strawberry-rhubarb or pumpkin pie.  I do not like pie, says I.  They never listen.
Do you see my dilemna? 

Choosing a cookie recipe that is suitable (ahem, fancy smancy enough to stand up to the other cookies) and that I like is looking like it is going to be a difficult task.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Our Family And Friends Are Getting in the Mail

They finally arrived!

Our Christmas card order.

I was so excited I immediately ripped open the box.  I always listen for the mailman in the afternoon especially around the holidays for all the goodies that come in the mail.  One of my favorite parts is the Christmas cards and letters that we get from our friends and family.

There were only about two pics from our last photo session that we could use for our Christmas card.  Madison and Emily had just napped before we went so they were little bundles of energy.  We hadn't had a family portrait done since the Christmas after Emily was born and I was determined that we were getting one this year.  We have maybe two pictures with our whole family in them from this year.  Either my husband or myself are usually behind the camera.

I almost wish the girls had been a little more tired for the session.  One went one way and the other went the other way.  As my husband said, "it was like herding cats."  I now understand the expression.

Emmy now also walks around putting her dolls on her head and saying "aaa-choo" so that they fall off her head just like the photographer did to get them to smile.

Inside the cards we did a timeline of sorts of our year.  It wasn't until after I placed my order that I realized the typo on the card. Emmy's birthday isn't in July.  I doubt anyone will even notice. Okay, I hope not!

Now all I have to do is print out the mailing labels and send them in the mail.  What, you actually thought I hand write all fifty of those envelopes?  Not this year, I'm not.

What kind of Christmas cards are you sending this holiday season?

Monday, December 6, 2010

What Wonder Looks Like Through The Eyes of a Child

Emmy is a huge Disney fan.  She is especially enthralled by anything princess related.

We had a girl's day on Saturday.  Just me and her while her daddy had some quality time with her sister.

We went to see Tangled.

Emmy had never been to the movies before and as I watched her she seemed to be starring with huge eyes at her surroundings.  You forget how different everything looks in the eyes of a child (especially one who is only about three feet tall).

We ran to the theater trying to get out of the chilly wind.  Luckily we didn't have to wait in line since I had picked up the tickets when I was out running errands earlier.

Standing in line for popcorn she spied a huge cardboard sign for what I assumed was another Pirates of the Caribbean.  It had a skull on it which Emmy didn't particularly like.  That was when my worrying started.  I worried a little that she was to young to see a movie.  What if the theatre was to dark or it was to loud or what if there were to many people?

Armed with our popcorn, a bottle of water for Emmy, a soda for me, a box of M&Ms which I was hoping to not need to break open, and our tickets, we made our way to the theater.

Emmy wanted to sit in the very front but I convinced her the middle was the place to sit.  It took a minute of convincing but we settled into our seats at the end of the aisle.

I never even thought about bringing a booster seat.  Emmy had to sit at the edge of the seat.  When she moved back, the seat started to close up on her.  It looked like it was trying to swallow her up whole.  She was to light for the seat!  She didn't mind sitting on the edge though and turned down my offer of sitting on my lap.

The nice gentleman sitting in front of us who was there with his family offered us the use of their extra booster seat but Emmy didn't want to sit on a booster seat so we politely declined.  How nice of him to offer though! 

Emmy's excitement was evident from her head to her toes.  Her feet kept moving as she swung them forward and back.  Her little arms clutching the bag of popcorn.  It was as though she was holding on to precious cargo.  The sides of the bag all squished in from her holding it so tightly.  Her fingers were all salty and buttery from the popcorn on which she munched.  Her head kept moving from side to side looking at the people and then the screen.  Her little body wriggling in her seat as the commercials came on. 

"Where is Tangled, Mommy?  Why is it so dark, Mommy?" she whispered. 

"Because it makes it easier to see the movie and these are just commercials," I whispered back, smiling.

She finally moved onto my lap as the movie began.  She was completely still as soon as it started.  The popcorn in her hands forgotten as the story unfolded.

She was engrossed until the credits began rolling at the end.

"Can we come again, please, please, please?" she asked as we gathered out coats and things.

"Of course we can," I replied wondering if she looked like I did at my first movie The Muppets Take Manhattan.  I was about seven when my mom took my sister and I to see it.

What was the first movie you ever saw in the theatre or that you took your children to see?  What were their reactions?

Friday, December 3, 2010

If You Hear a Mysterious Noise... Ignore It

The other day I heard what sounded like our cat swatting around one of the girls' toys on the floor.  That was what it sounded like at least.  When I went into the room, the cat wasn't there nor were there really that many toys on the floor or at least not really any small ones that I saw that were paw-swatting size.

I shuddered wondering if it was a mouse.  It has gotten really cold here and we even had big wet snowflakes falling on Thanksgiving.  What animal wouldn't want to take refuge in our nice, toasty warm house?

I hate rodents.  I get shivers down my spine just thinking about them.  I am not ashamed to admit I do not do mice.  That is my husband's job.  That is one job that he can have.  No remarks from me about spousal equality there.

Anyway, the sound had stopped when I went into the room.  I had checked out the room thoroughly and there was no sign of any living creatures in the room (besides me).  Okay,...

Call it denial.  I figured it may have been the cat who had just snuck out before I entered the room.

Then, the next day I heard it again.  It always happened when the girls were napping.  Fate telling me to get away from the computer, perhaps?

I decided to be more stealthy in my approach to check out the noise.  I needed a weapon.  You know in case it was a mouse.  I needed to be protected.

I grabbed the first thing I saw that would work in a pinch.  It was my daughter's mallet from her Parents Pound-a Ball toy that happened to be sitting next to her doll house in my husband's office. Not that I would get anywhere near enough to use it since I am a wimp.  Not to mention I could never bring myself to even hurt a mouse but if it was a mouse and it came to close I could always throw the mallet to scare it away.  Well, that was my thinking anyway.

I tiptoed into the doorway and the sound continued.  It was coming from underneath the coffee table.

You know what it was? 

Emmy's bag of Mega Bloks had torn and I had repaired it about a month ago using tape (of course) and the tape had lost its stickiness. I had tried to repair it using the same tape and just readhering it the other day when I had noticed the Mega Bloks spilling out of the bag.  Incidentally, it was the same day as the mysterious noise.. 

The mystery was solved.  I had found what was making the mysterious noise.

It was just the Mega Bloks spilling from the bag.  As I watched a few fall out, more continued to gradually spill out.  The reason it kept happening when the girl's were sleeping?  We do their before-nap clean-up before they go upstairs and that included picking up their blocks which the bag refused to hold due to my lousy tape job.  At night, they weren't falling out because the bag usually sat up against the wall which helped hold in the blocks.

I laughed at my own foolishness and then heaved a sigh of relief at the thought that no mouse had indeed taken refuge in our house (and that I wasn't going to have to whip out the Clorox and thouroughly clean every blessed toy in the room). 

Then, I was glad that the girls weren't awake to see me in all my cowardly glory.  Big bad mommy is afraid of a few measly (albeit noisy) Mega Bloks.

What would you have done if you had heard this mysterious noise? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pickle Man

We ventured out to a local farmers market for the first time the other weekend.  My husband was looking for some quality health food items that the local stores didn't really carry. 

One of the booths was called The Pickle Man.  There were a lot of people crammed inside the little store/booth.  A jolly man, aka The Pickle Man, handed over a large dill pickle wrapped in a white napkin already soaked with pickle juice to a young woman.

An entire booth devoted to pickles?  Seriously?

Inside we went. 

Emmy watched excitedly, staring at the pickles as they were scooped out of the barrels, placed into little plastic tubs and handed over into her daddy's hands.  She loves pickles.  She would eat an entire jar if we let her.

The Pickle Man asked if she could have one.  Would we be able to stop her since she was staring openly at the pickle he had already chosen and was ready to hand her?  Her arms were already stretching forward ready to accept it as soon as we said it was okay.

She bit into it enthusiastically and smiled.  And then the humming began.  Yep, it was good.  Really good.

He asked if Madison could have one. She watched everything from her seat in the stroller.  I said she could but warned that she probably wouldn't eat it.  He readily handed one over proclaiming she needed to try one.

I put it on her little tray.  She poked it, wrinkled her nose, and pushed it away.  Unlike her sister, she is not a fan of pickles.

Madison refused even a nibble.  Emily though didn't mind since it meant one more for her. 

Emily takes after me apparently.  My parents loved to tell the story of when my paternal grandmother had given us a jar of her homemade pickles during a visit to their home in VA.  When we got home, I had opened the pickles, ate them all, and proceeded to drink the pickle juice.  My response to the story was always, "...and you let me?  What if I had got sick?"  They even admitted that they were surprised that I hadn't.

Ewww.  Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn.  Needless to say, we rationed the pickles but Emily had about four of them even before we got home.  Luckily she doesn't seem to have a penchant for pickle juice.

We'd really be in a pickle if she did.

Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Simple Tips To Keep the Holidays From Stressing You Out

The holiday season that we love (and sometimes dread) is finally here.  The precursor-the holiday decorations and music that popped up in the aisles even before the Halloween goodies were all sold told us this season was soon upon us.

I used to get really stressed out when the holidays were here because I was overwhelmed by how much there was to do.  Nothing like being pregnant or the mom of an infant for the last four Christmas's to put things in perspective because if mom is not happy, no one is happy.

Five Simple Tips to Keep The Holidays From Stressing You Out

I need to remind myself of these things frequently since it is to easy to get caught up in the craziness. 

When the holidays are over, you will have to take down the decorations and face the credit card bills that come rolling in and also face that scale after all of that indulging so be holiday SMART.

Stay out of debt and simplify.

Don't use your credit card if you can help it.  Deferring your bill until after the holidays always sounds like a good idea until you get the bill in the mail and end up using the money you got as a Christmas gift to pay off your credit cards.  If you find yourself overbuying because of all the great deals, keep some goodies for Easter or birthdays or give them to charity. Your kids can only play with so many toys at one time.

Make a list of what you want to do this holiday as a family.  Focus on a few main things and don't make it about doing everything. One holiday event a week is plenty. Also, don't over schedule.  You don't need to attend every single event you are invited to. This is also not the month to schedule unnecessary appointments.  That teeth cleaning can wait until after Christmas.

Make it ahead and make memories.  Don't wait until the last minute for DIY projects.  Stock up ahead on hostess gifts, stocking stuffers,and gifts for last minute parties.  Also, freeze a few meals ahead (and some cookies) so when you are running behind, you have a ready meal and dessert at hand.  Don't forget to savor the experiences of Christmas (including the laughter) and capture the emotions and sights with your camera. 

Attitude.  This is the season about giving and counting your blessings.  Don't let yourself get caught up in things that are not important like family politics or who is the best gift giver.

Rest & relax.  Try to get plenty of sleep at night.  Drink plenty of fluids and try to eat right.  If your going to be out in the crowded stores, dress appropriately and have a bottle of water and some light snacks in your bag.  Also, don't get run down which will only make you feel more stressed out and it may make you sick.  Being sick at the holidays is no fun.

Togetherness. This season is about being together with friends and family.  This is more important than focusing on what you didn't do (like kicking yourself because every single aspect of the holiday meal wasn't from scratch).  Been there, done that.  Cut yourself some slack.  In all honesty, no one will even remember but if you are not happy or there is holiday drama, they will.

Embrace the holiday season. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I Have to Be Thankful For

It's Turkey Day! It's finally here. This is one of my favorite days of the year from a gastronomical standpoint. 

Growing up my family occasionally got together for Thanksgiving but after my dad died we were more likely to go out to eat at a restaurant than actually eat a home cooked meal.  That was okay because in typical teenage thinking that meant I didn't have to help clean up after dinner.

Thanksgiving for my husband's family is a huge holiday feast.  When we get together it may be a few days before or after Thanksgiving but there is always copious amounts of delicious food.  This year it is only my husband's mom who will be here along with a family friend and my family. We will have another "Thanksgiving worthy" holiday feast  with Bob's family before Christmas when both of his sisters are in town.

Not one but three turkeys to be cooked this year.  One on the grill, one in the smoker, and one in the turkey fryer.  This is the only time of the year where I surrender my kitchen and become the sous chef of sorts.  By the end of the day, we will be stuffed like the turkeys.

I have crafts for the girls ready to keep them occupied and a holiday video at the ready.

Another reason for this being my favorite time of the year is because we get to celebrate our blessings. I know, I know, we should celebrate our blessings all year long but how often do we ever really verbalize what is in our heart (besides to our significant others and to our children)?

What do I have to be thankful for? 
1. My happy & healthy family.  This is something we to often take for granted.  Last Thanksgiving my grandmother had a series of small strokes and my grandfather had a major heart attack.  We are thankful that they will be with us again this year. 
2. A full pantry.  Many people are not so lucky.
3. Sleeping in even if it is just for fifteen minutes.  Being able to roll over and put the pillow over my head  if I want to is what it is all about.
4. Black Friday.  Maybe it is my competitive nature coming out but I love to drive to the store, maneuver through the crowds to get deals, and then drive home with my loot.  Satisfied is how I feel at breakfast.  That is not to say you will see me at the mall after Black Friday because you probably will not.  That is usually my last or almost last shopping trip.  Usually I am done. If I need anything else I will be at Target at an off-peak hour doing my shopping.
5. Contentment.  Loving life and what I have in my life is a blessing.  Being able to see it and appreciate it is doubly so. When we're younger we often take our lives for granted. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  May we all have much to be thankful for and many blessings to count this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Old El Paso Prize Pack Giveaway***CLOSED

When I don't have a lot of time to cook dinner, I usually rely on the typical (and quick) standbys like tacos.  Normally, I already have all of the ingredients in my pantry and fridge. All I have to do is heat up the taco shells and cook the meat which only takes a few minutes. Not to mention this is a cheap meal to make.

We always do "make your own" tacos.  Out go all the fixings and everyone fixes their own.  Less work for mom.

My husband's family has a family tradition of having tacos whenever they get together-including at Christmas (or around Christmas) when everyone is in town.  Sometimes you can't mess with family traditions.  So saying tacos have a special place in my family's heart is putting it mildly.

With family dinners being a hot topic lately in the media, what about a family taco night?   Old El Paso has even created El Tacodor.  With funny activities like saying everyone's name backwards and acting out animals without making any noise, you'll be laughing around the table in no time.

Old El Paso has a whole line of everything you would need from refried beans (which I wouldn't touch but my husband loves), chilies, dinner kits, taco shells, taco sauces from mild to spicy, seasoning mix, salsa, and more.

Looking for some unique taco recipes?   Here are two to try: Double-Layer Tacos and Chicken Ranch Tacos.

TPMG readers can also get a Old El Paso printable coupon for $.60 off on any two Old El Paso products.  There is another Old El Paso printable coupon for $.60 off any two Old El Paso products on the Old El Paso website.

Enter to win an Old El Paso family taco night Prize Pack
The prize pack includes: a packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, a Cactus Chip & Dip Serving dish, a set of 3 Fiesta Chili Pepper reusable serving dishes and a $10 gift card to purchase your taco fixings. 
Mandatory entry (if you do not complete this entry all others will be void): Leave a comment about your favorite aspect of a Family Taco Night. (1 entry)

To receive additional entries:
*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

*Follow TPMG on twitter (1 entry each)

*Become a fan of TPMG on Facebook (1 entry each)

*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Win an Old El Paso "Family Taco Night" Prize Pack at #TPMG. (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 7, 2010. I will announce the winner on December 8th here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thanks for participating! 

This giveaway was provided by Old El Paso through MyBlogSpark.  I also did receive an Old El Paso Prize Pack in order to facilitate this review/giveaway.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Long Drive

Does this mantra sound familiar?

"No, Mommy!  I can do it myself".

Every time I hear it it makes me a little sad but a little relieved as Emmy does more and more on her own.

She WANTS to dress herself, choose her clothes, spread the butter on her toast, get her own yogurt out of the fridge, and even climb into the car by herself.

In my head I am saying "you go, girl".  It makes it a little easier on mom when they CAN do these things on their own.

But what about the night when she says "no" to our nightly bedtime ritual?

Jammie time, monster hugs (or dinosaur hugs or just plain hugs depending on our moods) and kisses, a bedtime story being read, and I love you's being said.  It hasn't wavered since she was an infant. 

I can picture it now.  I will be the one with the pout on my face as it feels as though my heart is being squeezed by her little hands. 

When will she be to big for bye-bye hugs when I drop her off at grammy's or at preschool?

As I was driving home from delivering her fundraiser to family I was thinking about how Emmy is growing (her sister to) and becoming more and more independent. 

They are going to continue cutting that cord day by day.  It is like a rope fraying over time.  But does it ever really get cut all the way?  Even when they are grown?

I'm still a new mom by mom standards-my kids are far from grown.  Does it ever really feel as though that cord is cut?  I never thought to ask my mom.  I need to ask her. 

I always think of these things when I am driving.  I remember asking my mom lots of questions-usually in the car on the way to one place or another-about life, love, or anything else on my mind.  I can still remember driving in the car one night and asking her about how she met my dad and how she knew he was the one.

Next time I see her I'll have to ask her.  It will probably be on a ride somewhere.  I wonder what her response will be?  Because will it be what I want to hear?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So Much For Thinking Ahead

Emmy's preschool had their annual fundraiser.  Her first fundraiser ever.

Of course it was cookie dough and crumb cakes.  Yum yum and double yum.  Luckily, the holidays are almost here so the dessert portion of dinner is taken care of. 

Nothing like sharing the yummy (albeit fattening goodness).  The more others eat the less we will have left over and the less likely WE will be the ones to eat it.

Sneaky, huh?

The only thing I didn't think about was the logistics of delivery for when I picked everything up.

Emmy brought home a note yesterday saying that the orders are coming in tomorrow and everything is FROZEN.  What the heck am I going to do with all those frozen cakes and tubs of cookie dough??? For some reason I wasn't thinking about what I was going to do with everything once I had it.


They would take up my entire freezer.  My family lives an hour and a half away and friends of ours are not coming in until this weekend from MA.  Luckily my mother-in-law who lives a half hour away is on the way to where my family lives.

Emmy has playgroup after preschool tomorrow so my only solution is to fill our huge cooler with ice and put it in my trunk.  I can store everything in the cooler and make the drive to drop everything off tomorrow.  That is a lot of cake and cookie dough to deliver.

The downside to  Getting the orders was the easy part. 

Luckily they only do this once a year. I don't think my fridge or the scale could stand it any more frequently.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gift Stockpiling and My Mother

Do you have a special shelf or a designated place for those gifts that you have on hand for when they are needed? 

You know the gifts.  That cute recipe book that you bought that wouldn't be perfect for you since you don't cook but would be a great gift since all of your friends do. Toys that you didn't give your kids from last Christmas because you bought to much and then decided they didn't need them anyway? You have been slowly doling them out to your child's friends at their birthdays.  Or maybe several bottles of your mother's favorite perfume that you got at a good price?

Or am I alone?

My mother loves this particular perfume. She used to wear it for special occasions since it was rather pricey and one bottle would last her for about a year. 

Never take your mom shopping with you. 

One day she had been visiting and we had gone shopping together.  This was about two years ago.  I took her to Marshall's and TJ Maxx since she had wanted to go.  They had this perfume that she loves.  It was less than half the price of what I paid for the bottle I got her for Christmas. 

I bought 3 bottles.  You know, to save for other holidays.  Who could resist that bargain? Especially since perfume does not ever really go on sale.

My mom knew how much it cost me though.  She then started asking for it for EVERY holiday. 

Mother's Day...her birthday...Christmas.  She had her own stash.

She also started wearing it every day so she was going through it much quicker. 

Once I had exhausted my supply, I tried to find more at that discounted price.  No luck.

I had two choices. Not buy the perfume or dole out the money.

I don't even mind spending the money.  Really, I don't.  It just galled me a little knowing how overpriced it was in the stores.  Instead of just getting her a bottle of perfume I could be getting her a bottle of perfume and a gift certificate to go out to dinner with a friend.

That meant for last Christmas and this past Mother's Day, I bought the perfume at full price. I know my mom sees the perfume as an indulgence and she wouldn't buy it for herself.  I want her to have it because I know how much she enjoys it.

I visited TJ Maxx the other day and there it was-my mother's perfume-sitting on a shelf amidst the other perfumes.  I grabbed all three purple boxes with swirly script and headed for the checkout.

I now consider that perfume "her perfume". 

So this Christmas, my mom is getting a new watch and her perfume...and a paper shredder.  Only my mother would ask for a paper shredder for Christmas.

Anyway, I now have her Mother's Day and birthday gifts all picked out.  Since this upcoming year is going to be a crazy year, maybe it is a good thing that I am already planning ahead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An "I Love You" Card

Recently, we had to say goodbye to friends of ours-at last temporarily.  It was bittersweet. My friend's husband had been working in MA during the week and coming home to PA on weekends to see his family for the last few years.  His several month project had turned into a several year project.  Recently he switched jobs and his new job is in MA so they decided to move there permanently.

A few days after they moved, Emily asked about if she could see her friend C.  I explained to her that he moved to MA with his mommy, daddy, and baby sister.

She looked at me and said in her three year old wisdom, "He's with his mommy and daddy?  Okay, Mommy.  Will he be back?  I have to send him an "I love you" card!  Can I mommy?"

I worried apparently needlessly about how she would take with her little friend moving away.  Now she has someone to send her drawings to which is exciting in her eyes.

Last weekend when my friend came back to visit friends and family, I had told Emmy that her friend C was coming to visit.  While she was excited she wasn't "I'm to excited to nap" excited or "asking when is C getting here repeatedly" excited.  It made me a little sad and worried for when she saw him.  What if she had forgotten how much fun they had and reacted nonchalantly to him while he would be super excited to see her?  What if she refused to play with him? Or worse what if she got super cranky and refused to share her toys?

I need not have worried.  When she saw him she immediately went to him and hugged him-hard.  Of course she told him she loved him to!  They played together as though no time had been spent apart. Of course, then I worried about when it was time to say goodbye again.  But again Emmy said goodbye as though she would be seeing C again in a few days-even though it will probably be closer to a few weeks. 

Of course I had a harder time saying goodbye.  I have had to say goodbye to three of my closest friends-all three were my bridesmaids when I got married.  K still lives where I grew up.  I was the one who moved away.  Of course not far but with kids it is harder to make that one and a half hour drive to often. A moved to Florida and we still talk often.  They are planning on moving back and I can't wait!  Now J has moved to Massachusetts but it is closer than I thought-only about four hours away.  Now we have an excuse to visit Boston.

Today, we are doing our Thanksgiving cards so we can get them in the mail.  What are we thankful for?  Good friends and an endless supply of laughs, love, good times, and unending support. With phones, airplanes, Facebook, and all those other things that make our lives easier and able to stay connected those miles are pretty insignificant.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When My Husband and I Disagree Over Decor

My husband and I have different tastes when it comes to home decor.  Sometimes this leads to the inevitable-me returning things to the department stores where I made my purchases. 

Even though all the decorating falls to me I always try to keep his tastes in mind when I buy things for our home.  Since he finished the basement, the decorating and finishing touches have fallen to me as will the selecting of any furniture.  Of course, he does get veto power.

The long stretches of  empty walls have been slowly driving me crazy and I have been itching to put something on them.  The day my husband finished cleaning the basement of all dust and construction debris off I went to select some things to hang on the walls.  I perused some of the local department stores that were close by our home including Kohl's and Bed, Bath, and Beyond before our basement warming party this past weekend.

I came home proud that I had found some tasteful things to put up on the walls.
Abstract Skyline Canvas

Every man cave needs a clock

Of course shelves to display my husband's baseball "stuff" and other things

I thought I had done good and even knew which walls to hang the decor. My husband did his usual grunting and uh-huhing when I showed him what I had bought.  At least he didn't hate it.  Since he doesn't usually give me any help when it comes to picking out decor, I figured it passed his requirements (no flowers and no pastels).

Unfortunately, he didn't like ANY of the choices I brought home in regards to wall decor. He didn't mention this until after a friend of his came over.  After one look at the picture, his friend asked him if I could still return it because there was no way he would ever put that Abstract Skyline piece of art on his walls. The clock was proclaimed "cheesy". 

THEN, my husband tells me how much his friend hates what I picked.  He then also admits how much he doesn't like what I picked out either.  Not even the shelves.

Now he tells me...

So now our walls still look like this:

Blank.  Empty.

I can't wait to see how we agree when it comes time to pick out new furniture.  As you can see we just have a hodge podge of furniture downstairs (including my kitchen stools that my husband "borrowed" for the bar) which I will be reclaiming today.

How hard can it be to pick out a leather couch and chairs?

Silly question.  I am starting to think that when it comes to my husband's man-cave, I may want to step back and let him finish what he started alone or at least with the help of his guy friends who apparently have better taste then me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hunt for Holiday Cards Begins Now

I had friends send us baby announcements earlier this year.  I remember oohing and awwing over how stinkin' adorable they were.  I don't even remember who I went through to get ours.  It turned out she had did them through Shutterfly.  In the past, I had only ever used Shutterfly to make photo books. 

It turns out they have a huge selection of cards-including holiday cards.  Are you like me and already starting to think about those holiday cards and what pictures you're going to use or maybe where you are going to go to get them done?

I usually try to have all of my cards printed, in envelopes, addressed, and ready to mail by Thanksgiving.  I've already started scoping out the designs and looking through pictures.  This year I am even printing the address labels to so I don't have to write out the addresses year after year. No more writing cramp! Not to mention that my handwriting gets sloppier every year.

The best thing about holiday photo cards is you get to personalize each card with a message and your family's name.  You pick the pictures.  You pick the design and customize the card how you like.  That means no having to write a message inside each and every card or having to sign your cards.   Lots of time saved. But it is still personal.  It just seems like the perfect compromise for our family. 

My Favorites!

As I was browsing through their site, I looked at the invitations for the holidays and they actually had Thanksgiving invitations.  I loved the idea of sending everyone a fun invite with all the information because we always spend time calling around (or my mother-in-law does).  This would also make it a little more festive. My favorite was the Happy Turkey invite. I could just picture a cute pic of the girls playing in the leaves on the card.  Best of all they are only about $.32 per card.
Tell me this isn't the cutest!

Each year we (including my sister-in-law's family) get my father-in-law a calendar with all the birthdays and special events written inside.  Shutterfly allows you to personalize the photo calendars with not only photos but also special dates so no more having to handwrite them. 

Shutterfly is constantly offering deals so it pays to constantly check out their site if you have something in mind that you want to purchase. Right now they have 20% off  calendars, cards, address labels, mugs, stationary gifts, ornaments, and select gifts.  They also have up to 30% off photo books and free shipping on orders over $30 with the code SHIP30.

*Disclosure: I will be receiving 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm a Rock Star

Oops, sorry.  That was some dream I just woke up from...

This weekend we had a party with neighbors and friends in our completely finished basement. Talk about breaking in a room.  It was our Halfway to Cinco Day Mayo Party or if you want me to be honest, our Hooray! The Basement Is Finally Finished Party. After months of tweaking and putting the finishing touches on his Man Cave, my husband was finally done.

My husband had his friend bring over the Rock Band game for the Xbox 360 complete with drums, keyboard, guitar, and microphones (3 to be exact). 

We live in a nice neighborhood and while it is a friendly neighborhood, I told my husband that he was going to be laughed out of his own house if he thought our neighbors would partake in that kind of craziness.  Our friends, yes.  Our neighbors, probably not. 

Okay, so I was wrong.  In a big way.  You would think I would have learned that we have some pretty laid back neighbors after our Labor Day party

I learned that one of our neighbors used to be in a band and that he played the electric guitar. And I was reminded what an amazing voice one of our other neighbors has. As for some of the others,  I no longer feel quite so out of place with my lack of musical ability (of any kind). And I got to stay up until 3 am in the morning again (minus any screaming children). I did start yawning at about midnight.

A friend's four year old was rocking out on the drums and sat there pretty much the whole night content to play til her heart's content. Lots of our neighbors tried their skill at singing along karaoke-style.  It was hysterical to watch.  I lost track of how many people got into the spirit of it. Several played the keyboard or guitar.  Yes, even me at one point at the encouragement of my husband.  My highest score was an 89%.  Not bad for a novice and a not so musically inclined person.
Let's just say I think I know what I am getting my husband for Christmas now.

And now it's time for me to go back to bed.   This time change is killing me.  Rock on!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Helping Hands Vs The Snapping of My Control

Awhile ago I had been shopping at our local grocery store.  They have a service called Helping Hands.  An employee will take your shopping cart of groceries and bring them out for you and help load your car.  I had never taken advantage of this service even when I do my grocery shopping with the girls because shopping with kids is just life to me and part of our normal routine.

Is it difficult sometimes? Oh, yeah even if I do everything right like take snacks and toys to entertain them or go when it is nowhere near nap time. In fact I always park next to the cart return to make loading and unloading the groceries and kids easier. Getting out of there fast is sometimes necessary. 

One day when I was checking out, I happened to have an older woman checking me out.  She mentioned the Helping Hands program. I didn't need any help I assured her.  She persisted and even waved the young man over to take my groceries while I took the girls to the car.  Even when he came over, I explained that I didn't need any aid but I thanked them both anyway.  Neither of them listened explaining that they were there there to help and I had my hands full.  Away he walked with my groceries.

When I pulled up and got out of the car to help him load my groceries he told me to get back into my car and that he would do it for me. I didn't but I thought he was really nice to offer and thanked him profusely for all of his help.

This is why I am a customer for life at Wegman's and how you can tell these people love their store and their jobs.  It is easy to see why the company is one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to work for.  From the teens who work there to the older women and men, everyone is pleasant and well trained.  Even on those days where the girls are not so patient or are cranky they try to make them laugh or give them stickers when we are in line. 

Then there is That Other Store. Early last week I had stopped there to get a few groceries before I left to visit my friends who had just lost their dad/father-in-law.  It was supposed to be just a quick trip for a few sale items that I needed. I had the girls with me and Em and Madison were not in real good moods.  Madison had a meltdown in line and it was easier to just continue checking out then to just leave a cart sitting there.  I tried to soothe her but she was having none of it.  She was having a temper tantrum fit for a one year old. 

From aside of me I heard a person say in a nasty voice, "Uuugghhhhh. I can't hear to listen to a screaming baby.  There is nothing worse."  This remark along with the nasty glare being sent my way was from the cashier next to me.  I was so close to loosing it - so very, very close. Obviously this person, who was rather young, did not have children.  Then another woman looked at me and remarked about how "yes, there is nothing worse" as she shook her head.  I literally saw red.  If I hadn't forced myself to take a deep breath and CALM DOWN I probably would have lashed out.  Me-who never freaks out or rants or raves came THIS CLOSE to verbally taking down someone.

A week later, I still can't bring myself to go into that store.  In many ways it was a small thing.  People have a right to their opinions good or bad but I hated that the cashiers made remarks like that.  I have seen them make remarks to other customers about various things over the years whether annoyance over them forgetting something or something as simple as a customer not using the credit card swiper properly. I have seen an employee in the meat department refuse to cut a portion of meat the way a customer wanted.  I think this was my limit.

I would rather shop at a store where there are happier, friendlier people especially when I can guarantee that I will be out again (probably soon) shopping with the girls and one of them will not be particularly happy.  Finding someone to watch the girls while I run out for a few groceries is just not possible most days especially if my husband is away on business.  I can only deal with so many unhappy people at a time.  There is a big difference in dealing with an unhappy three year old and an unhappy adult.  Of course that is my opinion as a mom.

I am not the type to rant and rave but this just hit a nerve maybe because I used to work retail in college and I never treated people like this. Maybe it just made me angry as a mom who felt criticized by someone who hasn't walked in her shoes.  I don't know.

Would you choose to shop where some good deals are and risk having an experience like this again?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One More Holiday Down, Two More to Go

Every year it seems I take more and more pictures.  This Halloween was no exception.

 Bob was in charge of pumpkin carving this year with Emmy.  Emmy was in charge of scooping out the yucky pulp and Bob did the carving.  Em wanted a princess pumpkin.

We also toasted the pumpkin seeds and ate them as a snack.  They tasted like popcorn.  I don't think I had ever had pumpkin seeds before. I didn't know what I was missing!  We even bought two more pumpkins to toast the seeds.

 Emmy's princess pumpkin was a little sad looking on Halloween day. We probably should have waited til closer to Halloween to carve it.

 My kitty cat and princess.  Of course Emmy wanted to be a princess that she didn't already have a costume for-Ariel.  She is mesmerized by The Little Mermaid  movie. That was the first movie she ever actually sat through.

Em enjoying a cupcake after Trick-or-Trunking  (moms decorated their trunks and kids went from car to car getting treats). It required a lot less walking for the little ones.

I made pumpkin patch brownies for dessert Halloween night (after a meal of baked ziti and homemade garlic knots with enough garlic that would have kept away any lingering vampires) using a tip that my friend gave me.  Instead of adding oil and egg to a boxed mix, add a can of pureed black beans (apparently she learned this from Weight Watchers).  I couldn't tell the difference and they were way healthier for the little ones (okay, and us to). 

Who can forget the after-Halloween sales! Target has all of their Halloween costumes and decorations for 75% so I picked up a bunch of stuff (costumes, crafts, and decorations) for next year and some things to add to Emmy's dress-up box. All of this stuff cost me only a bit more than what I paid for my husband's Halloween costume this year so I would say I got a great deal.

What was I for Halloween?
A Masquerader.  If you see my husband, you may not want to mention you saw him dressed as a pirate!

One more holiday down, now on to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

$45 CSN Stores GC Giveaway

Want a chance to get some free money to spend on your holiday shopping?

Here's your chance to win a $45 CSN Stores Gift Code to be used at one of their over 200 online stores. CSN has grown to be one of the Top 3 U.S. online retailers of goods for the home and office.  They offer something for everyone in the family from baby furniture to home decor to bar stools and handbags to cookware (one of my favorite sites).

What could you buy with $45?

Doesn't this Caldo-Freddo Holiday Bear in White ($22.99) remind you of the Coca-Cola polar bear commercials that are on during the holidays?

For cooking Thanksgiving dinner this Reston Lloyd Calypso Basics Roaster Pan With Rack in Red ($39.99) would come in handy

OR splurge and use your $45 GC towards the Calphalon Classic Nonstick Roaster with Rack ($59.95).

How about a clutch for that holiday party?  Check out this Special Occasions Black Satin Clutch with Silver Chain ($35.99).

If you have lots of self control and decide not to splurge on yourself then you could certainly find a holiday gift for a special someone on your list at one of CSN's online stores.


MANDATORY ENTRY: Visit one of  CSN Stores online stores and leave a comment about one product that you would buy with your $45 Gift Code . (1 entry) 

To receive additional entries:
*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

*Follow TPMG and/or CSN Stores on twitter (1 entry each)

*Become a fan of TPMG and/or CSN Stores on Facebook (1 entry each)

*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Win a $45 CSN Stores GC at #TPMG. Please RT. (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 16, 2010. I will announce the winner on November 17th here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thanks for participating!

*I was not compensated in any way to host this giveaway.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Mother's Reflections on Life

I disappeared for a while last week.  I was staying with friends who had suddenly lost their father and father-in-law. When I got the call my heart broke for them.  No matter how long someone has lived whether it is a day or 100 years it is never enough time for those left behind. 

It made me reflect on a lot of things. Like the fact that one day I to will have to say goodbye to those I love.

Last Thanksgiving I had received a call that my grandmother had a series of mini strokes.  That night my grandfather suffered a bad heart attack.  They both recovered but she is not the same person she once was.  Some days it is as though she is peering at you through a mist in her mind.  For the first time I now see my grandfather as the stronger one-physically.  As soon as he was released from the hospital he was by her side, holding her hand, praying.  They still live on their own in the house they built.

I have seen what real love, true love is.  It is a refusal to give up on the person you love. To never walk away no matter how tough things may get.   No matter how many days it storms, you stay waiting for the sun holding the umbrella to protect those you love.  Sometimes you may even dance with your partner in the rain.  There is always some good there, you just may need to dig around to find it in the muck and mud.

I am thankful every day that I recorded my grandparents oral history so that I can remember their stories and share them with my children and hopefully one day my grandchildren.  They will live on in those stories.

Sometimes I wonder when did we stop respecting the elderly?  Their bodies may be failing them but the stories and memories they have to share are priceless treasures.  When did those treasures become so insignificant in the eyes of the young?  Consider the concept of the butterfly effect.  If a butterfly's wings could  possibly cause a cyclone on the other side of the world imagine the impact of one person's life.

The last week has also made me realize that I want to be around for my family for a very long time and it reinforced why I need to eat healthy and be healthy in other ways to.  It is not about looking good. It is about being healthy, inside and out and being around for a long, long, time.  Which is why I am off to the gym on this bright, sunny but chilly morning with the girls in tow.

I know this is a bit melancholy for a Monday morning but such is life sometimes.

A tear is shed
Over the memory of the the life you led
A life well lived almost nine decades long
I can't imagine a life with you gone
Smiles, stern words, hugs, and looks
A catalog of memories of the paths you took
You held my hand or stood nearby
Now watching, guarding from up high
I will pass on what you taught me
The lessons underneath the triumphs and tragedies
A toast to you
Who I am is to you due

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mom Talk Radio Roundtable

Last week I had recieved an email about being part of Mom's Roundtable on Mom Talk Radio.  I debated for an hour whether to do it.

Remember my vlog that ended badly?  See I am a control freak and a perfectionist (even though we all know perfection is an impossible dream and that we should just embrace the chaos, right).

Even though I was totally unsure about whether or not this to would go well, I emailed back and said sure, I would love to even though I didn't even know what the topic was.  Inside I was quaking and wondering what the heck I was doing.

The shows are pretaped and then air on Sunday evening at 8pm and can be heard online.  The topic was on the holidays and whether you enjoy them or do they stress you out.  The show itself was called "Are You a Planner or a Doer".  I plan on downloading the podcast to my iPod and listening to it while I am traveling today to give me something to do. 

The Roundtable is on about 35 minutes or so into the show. I got to sit at home in my husband's office during the taping since it was over the phone.  The Truth About Motherhood was also on and for those of you on twitter you may know her as @TruthfulMommy. All I can say is those 7 or so minutes fly by fast and that Maria Bailey is a very talented host.

What about you?  Do you enjoy the holidays or do they stress you out?

I love the holidays but we haven't gone to the extremes we have in the past and have completely simplified our holiday rituals.  We have had to since in the past four years I have either been pregnant (and suffering from exhaustion and morning sickness) or nursing a 4 or 5 month old. The only thing I can say: Simplify and embrace the craziness, your family, and the spirit of what the holidays are all about!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Lists and Roses & Thorns Have in Common

As many of you know, I love to read.  Whether it is billboards, cereal boxes, novels, or the newspaper, I will read it.  Well that is except for junk mail which just goes straight in the garbage where it belongs.

A few months ago I was reading a woman's magazine and a famous tv actress was talking about how her family plays Roses and Thorns at dinner.  Each family member takes a turn talking about at least one good thing (a rose) and one bad thing (a thorn).  According to ABC News, President Obama and his family do it to. 

I love the idea of doing this at the dinner table.  Everyone deserves the spotlight at least for a few minutes each day.  It gives everyone a chance to be heard and to share the good and the bad.  To often we shrug off the bad and don't even acknowledge it is there.  This lets you talk about it and let it out.  As a mom I want my daughters to share the good AND the bad with their dad and me. 

This weekend in the Parade supplement there was also an article called "The Lists That Keep on Giving".  A husband and wife who were single parents with grown children and who married later in life are often away from each other due to their jobs.  They started keeping lists to share with each other at the end of the day to stay connected.

As she wrote, "The last thing you want at the end of a full day is a list of nothing to share." Those mundane things that many just ignore or give the barest thoughts to end up in the scrap heap of their mind never to be mulled over or contemplated, never enjoyed or savored.  What about those things that you read or hear that strike a chord inside you but you never talk about them? How often do we blindly just get through the day? 

Both Roses and Thorns and the idea of sharing lists is all about enjoying life, sharing it, learning from it, and laughing at it.  It may not all be a bed of roses and sometimes we may shed a few drops of blood (and sometimes it seems a little bit of our soul) in the process but it is our life and we only have one so why not appreciate the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

A How-To Guide For Consigning & Shopping at Consignment Stores

Recently I admitted to a fellow moms club member who was at my house for playgroup that I shop at a consignment store for my clothes. It felt as though I was admitting a secret that few were privy to since it was not something that most moms would seem willing to admit and I was a little embarrassed about it.

I think the conversation may have come up after discussing a children's consignment event that occurs in our area about twice a year.  I know a lot of moms that buy used kids clothes but never considered doing it for themselves.

Admitting that my clothes didn't come from the mall made me feel a little, well cheap.

In truth, I hate the thought that a lot of the clothes I bought at the mall and that still hang in my closet have only been worn a few times for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they don't fit as well as I would like, I changed my mind about the item after I got home and never returned it, they need to be drycleaned which no longer fits my lifestyle, or I just don't have anyplace to wear them now that I have kids and don't work outside of the home.  Not to mention that over the past four years I have either been pregnant or trying to shed my baby weight so my clothing size has changed several times.

In college I shopped at a consignment store and I even took clothes there to consign a few times.  I would use the money I got from the clothes I took in to buy "new" clothes. I started doing it again a few years ago.

Consigning is easy to do.  To find a store near you just look online or in your local yellow pages.  Many places require an appointment to drop off clothes to consign.  With the downturn in the economy many stores are booked a month or so in advance.

Check what the store's policies are.  Many may only take desinger labels (that does include brands found at Macy's, Sears, and even Target and not just store brands like Gap and Aeropostale).  Visit local consignment shops beforehand to see who sells clothes similar to what you have in your closet since that is probably where you will sell the most. When you arrive for your appointment, they will go through all of your clothes and may only accept certain items that they think will sell.  They will also usually only take clothes that are in season.  Right now the local shop where I consign is only accepting winter items (including boots, bulky sweaters, coats, etc.).  They don't usually take just clothes but also shoes and accessories such as belts, scarves, jewelry, and hats. Keep in mind that they are looking for items in excellent condition and in style.

Within a set period (ex. 8 weeks) you may recieve 50% of what they sold your items for. Some stores may share a different percentage of the sale with the consigner. Stores vary on their payment policies also.  Some may require you to go into the store and they will pay you in cash regardless of the amount or give you credit.  Other stores may send you a check at the end of the consignment period if the amount of your sold clothing is over a set dollar amount (ex. $10). 

At the end of the consignment date, you can pick up your clothes or they will donate them to local charities. Some stores may give a courtesy call to remind you to pick up your items.  The one I frequent does not.  You can request a tax form at the end of the year for any donations of your clothing that were made. 

Shopping at consignment stores is like shopping at garage sales or thrift stores.  Always check for stains or tears.  Only buy items that are new with tags or in "like-new" condition. Sometimes the employees checking in items may miss small imperfections in the garments.  All sales are usually final so examine the items and try them on before leaving the store.

You only want to buy clothes that you will wear and not buy items just because they are a good deal.  Otherwise, you may just be adding more clothes to your wardrobe that you'll never wear.   Also, if you don't find something on the day you visit keep in mind that they are usually getting new inventory in daily.  Many stores also run sales when they start to take clothes for the next season on consignment.  The consignment shops I have been in all accepted debit, credit, and cash for purchases just like regular stores.

These are some of the items I came home with from our local consignment shop.  The items ranged from $2 on clearance to $12 (with the exception of the Lucky Jeans which were $40 but they made my butt look good so I thought that was a good enough reason to splurge).  All of the clothing were from designers like Levi, Eddie Bauer, Ann Taylor, DKNY, and Old Navy and were like new.

So instead of sending your clothes to Goodwill right away or throwing them out, you can try to make a few dollars by dropping them off at a consignment store. Recycling the clothes in your closet and also buying used clothes is greener and a lot cheaper than shopping at the mall.  Happy consigning and shopping!