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:
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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 an Old El Paso "Family Taco Night" Prize Pack at #TPMG. (1 entry per tweet)

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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