Friday, January 31, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix

Happy Friday! With the Superbowl fast approaching, I'm sharing my latest addiction.  They are made with Rice Chex, cinnamon chips, powdered sugar, cinnamon and granulated sugar.  In other words, they are tiny pieces of heaven.

The best part?  They can be made in about three minutes, which is perfect for those "oh my gosh we're leaving in twenty minutes and I don't have anything to bring!!" moments.

Happens to me all the friggin' time.

I'm thinking these are a fabulous snacking food for the big game this Sunday.  I'm usually more of a salty snack girl when football is on, but I'll make an exception for anything made from cinnamon and sugar.

1 box Rice Chex (or approximately 10 cups)
1 bag cinnamon chips (I found a bag at my grocery store in the baking aisle by the chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Pour Rice Chex into a large bowl, combine sugars in a separate smaller bowl. Melt cinnamon chips in a glass bowl in the microwave on high, in fifteen second intervals.  DO NOT OVERHEAT.  Stir after each interval and chips are ready when they stir smooth.  If you overheat they will be thick and tough to pour (you can still use them but the chex won't be as evenly covered.)

Pour melted cinnamon chips over cereal, add sugar and toss well.  You may want to add some cinnamon, toss, add sugars toss and then repeat. 

Allow to set and store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!!



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Birthday Gift Ideas via Pinterest

With all the Amy Glass hoopla, and my boys in strep throat recovery, I'm going to down shift a little.  I'm also going to disinfect the house and soak bedsheets in hot soapy water.

Lately I've found some pretty nifty birthday gift ideas on Pinterest.  In honor of my hubs celebrating a BIG birthday today (o-m-g 4-0!) I'm going to post some of these fabulous gift ideas.  He's not getting any of them so this will ruin zero surprises.

Have a kid at college?  A brother, sister, niece nephew or anyone you love living far away?  Check out these birthday balloons from She's Crafty! The shipping is minimal (it's all air!) and there are small surprises in each balloon. Amazing!

Cottage in the Oaks posted this Movie Madness Bag, perfect for tween and teens.  My kids love the movies, and this would be a huge hit.  No asking mom and dad for movie money, and snacks to boot!

Lovezilla had the super cool idea to make a tissue box full of money.  "Don't Blow it All in One Place." Adorable!

Any great ideas you fall back on when you need a gift?  Share please!

Cheers and Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Hard, Cold, Amy Glass

Amy Glass, in case you haven't read, has written a piece slamming moms who stay home with their kids (and moms in general) calling them worthless.  The fabulous piece is called, "I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I'm not Sorry."

Classy.

What gives her the right to "look down" on anyone?

In the piece, Glass talks about how women should be celebrated for accomplishments other than getting married and having babies.  We should celebrate promotions and trips and successful businesses.  This I agree with, and that's just about all I agree with.

Now for the fun stuff.  She speaks against wives and moms and the people who celebrate them, calling them “average.”  She wondered, “If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?”  she adds, "Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?"

Oh wait!  This was my favorite, "You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids."

Hmmm...how do I, the woman who is not exceptional or on equal footing, respond?

First of all, "exceptional" comes in many, many packages. Amy seems to equate exceptional with income and personal achievements.  I equate exceptional with teachers, mothers, fathers, foster parents and volunteers.  I'm thinking we are cut from a VERY different cloth.

I'm guessing Amy has never cleaned puke at 2am, 4am and 6am. I'm guessing she's never held a screaming child at the doctor's office.  I'm definitely guessing she's never sat at a preschool concert thinking it was the BEST thing she's ever experienced in her life, ever.

Nope.  Those actions and places hold no value in Amy Glass' life.  None.

I'm also going to throw this out, who raised her?  Does she see no value in her own mother?  Did her mom not sacrifice, happily, to raise a strong working woman who can obviously take care of herself?  Someone had to spend time raising her.  There had to be someone checking her homework and waking up at 1am when Amy had bad dreams.  Tell us Amy, who was it?  Who had the pleasure of loving you as grew into the cold woman you have clearly become?

What Amy doesn't understand is that mothers are exceptional.  We have ability to be exceptional and successful and raise babies.  There is nothing better than that.  Some of us work hard to have a career and a family and some of us back-burner the career to have a family.  And the world needs both kinds of mamas.

Here's another award winning line, "Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business."  Amy, this leaves me wondering, do all these doctors and engineers get there by wearing dirty, old clothes because no mother felt it was important for them to be clean?  If no one felt laundry was important than we'd have a lot less doctors and engineers.  This is because most doctors and engineers grow up with people loving them, supporting them and DOING THEIR LAUNDRY.

How about acknowledging the lawyer mother who rushes home from the office because her young kids need clean clothes for school the next day? I bet that mother thinks laundry is pretty important.  And she is pretty exceptional to boot.

While it's hard to get up and conquer the working world, it's even harder for women with kids to conquer the working world.  This isn't because they don't have the desire, it's because they are torn between two places they love so much.  She also slams them in her defense of her article, saying that as she advanced in her her career, she was " seeing the differences between my male and female peers. A man will stay at the office until 10 p.m. when he needs to: the women have to check with their boyfriends or husbands at the very least, if not leave because their family cannot go on without them the way we allow families to for men."

While I may agree that families often allow for men to be away from the home more, in today's world that is not always the case.  I know plenty of families with mothers earning most of the income.  And if a woman checks in at home because she will be late, it's probably because she has a sitter at the house.  Or lunches need to be made for the next day.  Or she needs to make sure that homework is done.  These women are worried about people other than themselves.

And they are still exceptional.

The bottom line is that I'm pretty darn certain Amy Glass is not a mother.  At least I hope she's not.  Being a mother means putting people who need care ahead of yourself, and coming back into your own as those people grow and mature.  It takes time and effort to raise babies, and its a damn worthwhile job. If moms weren't putting their babies before themselves, and their families ahead of their personal needs from time to time, we would have a world chock full of kids in need of love and attention who wear dirty clothes and crap in their pants.

And any mother knows what a kid looking for love and attention is capable of.  Let's not even mention them crapping their pants.

There is more to life than work, income and conquering Wall Street.  If you don't have a family to go home to you aren't nearly as rich as you think you are.  My happiness isn't about myself, it's about my kids and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Your calendar may be full of meetings and deadlines, but that amounts to dink if you live your life concerned only with yourself.  I know women who couldn't have kids, or who chose not to, and they still respect the work a mother does.  They surround themselves with people and have extended families because of the warmth in their hearts.

A warmth you are clearly missing judging by what you have written and defended so publicly.

Most importantly, I feel the need to let Amy Glass know one thing.  While you may be high on your horse climbing that corporate ladder, and backpacking across Europe, you will be mighty lonely in your old age. At least with all that hard work you surely will be able to afford a comfy old folks' home.  Again, I'm assuming this because you can't possibly be a mother if you claim it to be such a worthless venture.  And you most likely don't have tight bonds with mothers or children that are not yours.

I, and every mother (working and stay-at-home) that I know will have families around because we raised them.  I might be poor and living in my daughter's extra bedroom, but I'll have my family.  I'll have the memories of my kids Christmas morning.  I put the time in and I can tell you this, there is nothing more sweet than raising (or loving) babies and children.  It softens you, makes you a better person.  It makes you more aware of the world around you.

Amy, to come to think of it, you should try it sometime.  It might shut you up.

*I refuse to link her piece to my blog.  If you care to read it, you'll have to google.  Cheers!"*

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cryin' Wolf

When my oldest child was younger he constantly cried wolf.  If he sneezed, he thought he was sick.  If he fell, he worried he fractured something. I say this with love, because it was, and is, COMPLETELY my fault.  He is my first baby, and I was a tad overprotective of this child.  I still am.  As a result, he has always worried about injuries and illness more than he needs to, and we like to tease that he loves the doctor.

He doesn't really love the doctor, I think he just takes such comfort in seeing one.  He needs to know he is in fact, okay.  While he has improved on his tendency to "cry wolf," the damage has been done.  I warned him for years that if he always claimed he was ill, or something hurt, one day it will seriously hurt and I won't believe him.

I'll take it lightly.

Even though he's older and he knows when he is really sick, I still question him when he claims he isn't well.  It's not like my other son who can break his wrist and pretend he's fine for twelve hours (true story).  Last week my older son woke up and said he didn't feel well, and didn't think he should go to school.  I was skeptical.  I finally believed him when he fell back asleep for two hours and then didn't eat until four.

I can't remember the last time he waited until 4pm to eat.  At twelve years old, he claims he's starving every thirty minutes.

After a day at home resting, I gave him pain medicine for his throat and sent him back to school.  That was last Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, my younger son fell ill.  I knew it must be what his brother had, and sent him to bed.  He was sick most of the weekend, but started to rebound Sunday afternoon.

Despite the boys acting normal today, they both sounded funny and still complained of scratchy throats.  I decided to have them checked.  I took them for a throat swab (aren't those fun?) this afternoon; six days after my older son told me he was sick.

Hey, this is what happens when you cry wolf.

The good news is they are now both on medicine, and my older son has learned what I meant about crying wolf.  The bad news?  They've been carrying around strep throat for the last week, and they both get to chill at home tomorrow even though they seem (mostly) fine.

I'm certainly not up for mother of the year, but I never knew you could have strep and feel better while STILL having strep. 

Happy Monday all. Hope yours was a little less crazy than mine.

 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Walt Disney World's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: Fairy Princess Hair Tutorial


I've been to Disney World every year since I was born.  Sometimes twice a year.  I've learned just about every trick of the trade when it comes to bringing kids, and I go into great detail in my new ebook Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks

This tutorial can help parents trekking to Disney World save money if they don't want to spend extra on the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or if they just want to re-create the style at home.  I started taking my older daughter to Disney's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique when she was four.  We did a very expensive makeover package that was fan-tab-u-lous.  We never paid that money again, but the memories are golden. 

The next few visits to the boutique were easier on the wallet.  We opted for hair, nails and makeup and brought our own dress and shoes.  On one of our visits to the boutique, I studied how those "Fairy Godmothers" get the hair into that adorable Fairy Princess bun.

This hairstyle is one of four that is currently offered at the boutique.  It is classic and easy for parents to re-create at home with a few simple items that can be found in any beauty store such as Claire's.  I even used this hairstyle for my daughter when she was a flower girl in my brother's wedding.  It's adorable.

Have fun with it, and I hope you enjoy the tutorial!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Complicated Tale of Sisters

On Christmas Eve, as I was entertaining my in-laws, my cell phone rang.  It was my sister.  What followed was an upsetting conversation that started with a surprising boyfriend break up and ended with "I have no where to go...where am I supposed to go?  And it's Christmas..."

My answer?  You're coming here.

My sister lives in Chicago.  She is currently loving and enjoying life as a twenty-something in the city.  I am in Pennsylvania.  But when she called heartbroken, the answer was simple.  I asked her if she was in her car, and when she told me she was I instructed her to drive to the airport.  We'd figure it out from there.

And we did.

Hubby left for the airport on 3pm Christmas Eve to pick up my sister; I took the kids last minute shopping.  My mother had sent her gifts to Chicago, which she brought with her on the plane.  I gave my kids the important job of stocking stuffers, which they took very seriously.  We stuffed that stocking with a "Bah-Humbug" Santa hat, beef jerky, a toothbrush, an Eeyore stuffed animal and many more goodies.

My sister arrived at 7pm Christmas Eve and was with her nieces and nephews to make cookies.  I'm sure there is no better cure for heartbreak.  Family tends to put everything in perspective, and little kids right the mind even faster.

All of this sister love got me thinking these past few weeks.  When my sister was born, I was eight years old.  I had enjoyed a long standing position as the only daughter, sandwiched in between four boys.  My love for her was fleeting.  Excitement for a new baby quickly turned to indifference.

She was kind of cramping my style.  I never realized how much cramping there was until I went a tad off the teenager deep end and went to a session of therapy.  The therapist asked simple questions about my family and home life, and I answered them all.  With minutes left in our session, I mentioned a sister in a story I was telling.

The therapist paused, checked his notes, and looked at me.  "You didn't mention a sister when you told me about your family...I think we may be onto something..."

I guess it was a long fall from the top of the pecking order.  But a very necessary one.  Even though it took probably 20 years for me to appreciate her, and another five to understand her (we're different birds) I'm so very grateful I have her. I spent years annoyed that she never had to watch younger siblings or clean bathrooms.  By the time she came along, my mom was done with discipline and chores.  She just kind of floated along, while I had memories of cleaning toilets and wiping toothpaste off sinks.  Along with stealing my thunder, she had a totally different set of parents.

But they weren't necessarily better, just different. This resulted in two totally different women; one that is extremely laid back (her) and one that is a little more high strung (me).  It's amazing how we compliment eachother now.  We are just different enough to balance the crazy in both of us.

We both had to travel through our teens into adulthood to forge the bond we have now, and it was a worthwhile wait.  When she calls, I answer.  I can tell her anything, and my kids have an aunt that treats them like they are the coolest cats in town.  They love it, and to know her love for them makes me love her more.

Relationships are complicated.  Mine with my sister has proven this over and over again.  I'm happy to announce to all parents currently concerned their daughters won't ever have a tight bond; it happens.  Give it time.  They may hate eachother now, but they'll need eachother one day.

They'll be so happy to have a sister, even if they wanted to smack her every day for years.  I am proof of this.  We drove eachother nuts for a solid 20 years before this happened:
Hang in moms and dads.  Hang in.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Rut

I'm officially in my January "rut."  I have a desire to go nowhere (too cold), clean nothing (what's the point the kids are inside all the time) and stay in sweats (I'm not going anywhere right?).

Add to all this I've gained 5 pounds since Thanksgiving.  I know, I know; some ladies will laugh at my 5 pounds.  But here's the thing, I never just up and gain 5 pounds.  And I was already three pounds heavier than I wanted to be at Thanksgiving.  Making my real weight gain this year 7 pounds. 

Such a slippery slope.

My metabolism always helped me eat candy and Christmas morning brunch and all the other good stuff.  I might have come out of it a little bit bloated but a week later all was normal.  I'm thinking that was my metabolism in my twenties.  Hello thirty four, and by the way you stink at keeping me in my skinny jeans.

The last time I saw this number on the scale I was trying to lose baby weight. O-M-G.  Reality check.

I'm back on the hamster wheel and I'm determined to get my butt comfortably back in my pants.  ALL my pants.  Not just the drawstring kind.  I'm confident I'll have a much easier time when I'm outside again, playing in the yard with kids instead of snuggling under blankets watching television with kids.

I really do like the snuggling under the blankets though. Maybe this January "rut" isn't too bad.

Happy Monday all.  Enjoy your day!



Friday, January 17, 2014

Raising Happy Kids

*a repost*

I'm not an expert on anything.  I just want to put that out there before I continue on with this post.

Although I'm not an expert on raising kids, I've seen my mother raise six and I'm on my journey raising four.  I have learned quite a bit over the years, and I'm still learning. 

I've yelled (still do), I've grabbed arms and I've thrown out toys that were left on my floor.

I've even spanked a bum.  Gasp.

Parenting is a tricky business, and it's the hardest job anyone could ever have.  You wear your heart outside your body, you worry about tiny people who don't even know how to worry about themselves.

You second guess youself.  About a zillion times.  In a day.

Until someone is a parent, they could never, ever understand what it takes to raise a child.  The job never ends and the mind never stops working.

I've gone to bed many nights telling myself,  I could have done better today.

Many nights.

But the next day, I get up and I do better.  Or at least I try to.  That's all any of us can ever do.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I've learned about raising happy kids.  I'm not talking about raising doctors, engineers or NFL football players.  I'm not talking about perfect kids, because no child is perfect, and no child should ever try to be. 

I'm just talkin' happy kids.

1.  Respond with love.

This seems easy, but I'm talking about loving them all the time.  Even when you want to grab their arm and pull it out of the socket for misbehaving in a store.  Even when they are screaming.  Even when they make you so mad your blood is ready to boil. 

When my oldest was a toddler, I spanked his bum.  He was screaming and flailing that he didn't want to take a nap.  In the moment, I was over the top frustrated and I spanked his little bum right through his pants.

And then he hit me back.

I never spanked him again.  I decided from that moment on, I would just love him.  If he was crying, screaming, tantrum-ing or throwing toys he still deserved my love.  I decided that if I loved him, I would teach him love.  If I'm always angry, all I teach is anger.

And so I loved him (and all my other babies) all the time.  I became their happy, safe place and I remind them constantly that no matter what my reaction may be to something, I'm a "place" they can always go.

2. Give them your time.

There are about a zillion things to do every day.  We all feel it, and time is a precious luxury many of us can't afford.  We're raising kids in a new era, an era of cell phones and the internet.  We have to navigate waters our parents never even dreamed of navigating.

A few years ago I read a magazine article about using time wisely.  It resonated with me.  The article made me think about how if my kids are home, they deserve my time.  Not Facebook.  Not my cell phone.  Not a computer game.

But my kids.

If there is one thing I learned over the last eleven years it's reevaluate my time.  I still Facebook, blog and Pinterest very (very) often.  I still chat with all my mommy friends.

Just not much between the hours of 3pm and 9pm.  

3.  Don't give them everything.

Truthfully, this lesson was learned by default.  I've never been able to buy my kids anything they wanted.  I've never been able to sign them up for everything they want to do or take them wherever they want whenever they want.  I have no nanny, no third arm and no bottomless bank account.

I have four kids.  I'm one person.  That's life.

Even with Hubby home, we're still outnumbered, we're still working in a zone defense.  

I've found my kids to be much more understanding of money and other people because they've had to be since they were born.  I trust that this lesson will be very helpful in life, because as The Rolling Stones so eloquently sang, "You can't always get what you want...."

4.  Sleep is essential.  Food is too.

Sleep is a must.  At least it is in my house.  I can't deal with overtired kids, and I'm very unhappy when I'm overtired.  If I ever wake up really annoyed and grumpy I try to fall asleep to wake up in a better mood.

True story.

My mother was the first person to stress the importance of naps, routine and bedtimes.  Turns out she knew what she was talking about (isn't that always the case?).  I need quiet time, I need rest and my kids do too.  We're all much more civilized when we're rested (and well fed).

(The well fed part is for my Hubby.  You don't want to run into him in a dark alley when he's waiting for dinner.)

5.  Teach them by example.

I do my best to teach my babies by example.  I say please and thank you.  I wait my turn.  I clean my mess and return my shopping carts (well, 99% of my shopping carts..).

I use the word "appropriate" a lot.  I also use the word "inappropriate" a lot.  Truthfully, I use a few other words a lot that I can't write in a mommy blog.  But hey, no one is perfect. 

Rather than tell my kids everything they shouldn't be doing, I try to show them what they should be doing.

So far, it's seemed to work well.

And now, having shared what works for me so far, I'll continue to learn and evolve and adapt.  My kids will continue to teach me more than I teach them, and I'll continue to stumble through this thing we call parenting, hoping not to screw up too much.


What have you learned about raising happy kids?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So You Want to be an Author?

I'm SUPER excited to introduce my very good friend and guestposter author Michelle McLean.  First, she was pivotal in helping me finish and publish my first book, Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks.   Second, she writes incredible historical fiction romance novels that are perfect for Mamas who need a minute (or two, three..) to themselves.  Enjoy!

How I Juggle Writing and Mommyhood

I started writing my first novel while my firstborn was napping in the afternoons. Then I had another baby, who was born two months early. This sort of threw my carefully crafted plans out the window and I took an unintended break for a couple of years. I finally decided to finish what I’d started. For some reason I thought this was a good idea despite the fact that I had two babies, was in grad school, worked full time (luckily from home) doing data entry for my brother’s company, and had a husband who was out of town on business more often than not. I was insane, that’s all there is to it ;-)

How did I accomplish it? Well, I gave up a few luxuries like television…and sleep :-D I’ve since gotten a little better at balancing everything out, and the fact that both my kids are now in school full time has been a tremendous help. Still, I often find myself struggling to meet deadlines and making sure I’m getting everything done that needs to be done every day, both for my writing and for my family. There are a few things I try to do in order to help myself out.  

1. Always carry a notebook and pen, a recorder, laptop, etc. I love taking my son to soccer practice. There is no WiFi on the field, so I can bring my laptop and am forced to sit there for an hour and work. No distractions. It’s great. Writing at my daughter’s gymnastics practice is a little more difficult because that’s sort of my only social time with actual adults, but I still keep a notebook handy in case some brilliant idea pops in my head. I forget everything nowadays…a notebook is my lifeline!

 2. Get chores and errands done in a timely manner. Yeah, so we’ll just file this one under GOALS. This is something I struggle with, constantly. But if I can get my household chores and errands completed then whatever spare moments present themselves can be used to write. My goal is to get the house cleaned up before I go to bed every night so I can wake up to a clean house. This has probably happened a grand total of twice. But I try to get at least ONE chore done every day. Try being the operative word. So…working on it :-D

3. Treat it like a job. This is another one I struggle with. Being an author is an actual job. It’s an awesome job :-D but it is a job all the same. Just like a “real” job, writing is not always fun. It’s HARD work. Editing, rewriting, researching…this stuff all takes time and can sometimes get downright tedious. This is why treating writing like a job can really be helpful.

To keep myself on track, I do two things.

 • Make a writing schedule. My work hours are from 8-12, M-F. Yes, I have the luxury of this being flexible but I try like you wouldn’t believe to stick to it. If I don’t, I end up with a week left before a book is due trying to churn out 10,000 words in the middle of the night. That’s not fun. Much easier if I can stick to some regular work hours.

 • Set goals. In addition to having my scheduled writing time, I set a word count goal for each day. This changes depending on how close my deadline is, (and how badly I’ve procrastinated beforehand), but in general, my goal is to write 1000 words a day. Sometimes I do better than others, but regardless, it gives me something to shoot for.

 4. Prioritize my activities. We all have spare moments in the day. What we do with those moments is what is important. This is where having a writing schedule really helps. If I stick to it, it means when my kids come home, I can play with them, do some chores, watch my favorite shows in the evening, and hopefully spend some quality time with the Hubs. This is sometimes easier to do than others.

Remember when I said I didn’t sleep when I was writing my first novel? I wasn’t joking…I’d wake up at 4 every morning to get in a couple hours of writing and exercise before the kids woke up, then I worked all day. After the kids went to bed, I’d do schoolwork and would write some more. I’d generally go to bed around midnight or so. I was a lot younger then though :-D I don’t think I could do that now. This is why when I’m behind schedule the DVR is my new best friend. Shows get taped so I can work when the kids are in bed and I can still get to sleep at a decent time and not miss my favorite shows (which I watch the next day while eating breakfast and folding laundry).

Now, Real Life tends to get in the way sometimes. It likes to throw my carefully crafted schedule right out the window, usually on a daily basis. But I work around it. I want to write, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So, I make sure I find the time to do it.  

About the Author:
Romance and non-fiction author Michelle McLean spent 98% of her formative years with her nose in a book indulging in her love of reading and research. She has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, insane eclectic tastes, and tends to be a bit of an organized mess with an insatiable love of books. She is the author of To Trust a Thief, A Bandit's Stolen Heart, A Bandit's Broken Heart, A Bandit's Betrayed Heart, and Wish Upon a Star through Entangled Publishing, and Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers (Career Press, Jan 2011) When Michelle's not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. She resides in PA with her husband and two children, an insanely hyper dog, and three very spoiled cats. For more info on Michelle and her books, please visit her at her website. Michelle’s newest release is the final installment in her Blood Blade Sisters series, A Bandit’s Betrayed Heart.
Not your typical Southern belle... Lucy Richardson's bandit sisters may have taught her to sling a gun and pick a stubborn lock, but nothing prepared her for the agony of her first heartbreak. Her sisters taught her to fight like hell for what she wants... and she wants Finn. Not your proper Southern gentleman... Finn Taggart is bad news. His dark and tortured past always catches up to him, and Lucy deserves better than to be tainted by his touch. He couldn't have her years ago, and he can't have her now, no matter how enticing she is. If only he can convince her of that before the danger that follows him brings them both down. Not your classic love story... Danger doesn't exactly scare a girl like Lucy, and she knows how to use all kinds of weapons... including her feminine wiles. Finn doesn't stand a chance. And if they need backup... the Blood Blade Sisters are never far away... This and the rest of Michelle’s books are available at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, or your favorite online retailer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever.  This happens every winter around this time, which is why I start planning vacations and checking the calendar every few hours for a possible week to go away.  There never seems to be one, with school and activities and everything else that goes on around here.  Schedules are fairly hectic when there are four kids to accommodate.

And every year as they get older it gets worse.  

Yet I check airfares, check the calendar, check the bank account.  I'm a checking machine.  We all look pale and my gorgeous little blond kids are getting brown hair....and it's all because of WINTER.  Bleck.

With no vacation in sight, and no funds to squeeze one in, I'm going to post pictures of my family on vacation to torture myself. 

Disney World, 2013. On the boat to the Magic Kingdom.  We're wearing shorts and tees.  I'm actually in need of giant sunglasses.
The beach, 2009.  Warm water.  Warmer sun.

Disney World, 2008.  My sleeves are actually rolled which implies extreme warmth.  Make it stop now this is too much.
Disney 2009.  I'm 7.5 months pregnant with my fourth baby, yet I'm smiling.  Hubby is tan, kids bright and blond and sunkissed.
I'm officially stopping now.  Hope you all enjoyed my trip down vacation lane.  Anyone going away to enjoy warm sunshine soon?

Comment and share, I'd love to live vicariously through you.

Cheers!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Golden Globes vs. Playoffs

Before I was a married mama to four kids (two of them boys) I watched awards shows.  I still do occasionally.  But when awards shows are scheduled during playoff football?

Not happening.

I did however, just scroll through some Golden Globes photos of what all the elegant ladies were wearing.  There is nothing more harsh than the "Best and Worst" list after any awards show.  To add insult to injury I usually think everyone looks beautiful, and then I see my favorite gown on E!'s worst dressed.

Never, ever fails.

This year, I must admit I was taken aback by only one celeb getup.  And to make matters worse I'm about to make fun of a pregnant lady.  Drew Barrymore, what on Earth?  All those flowers all over?  She looked like she was wearing drapes.  And with all the money she has at her disposal, along with stylists and designers...

She needs to fire someone stat.

Yesterday, while all these people were walking the red carpet, I was glued to the television (along with most of my male crew) from kickoff in Carolina to the end of the game in Denver.  My older son is a die hard Chargers fan since sometime around 1st grade.  I have no idea how it happened, it just did.  He's endured years of ridicule and taken many jabs because we live no where near San Diego.

The Chargers are not popular on the east coast.  Add to that they usually stink and haven't made post season since he has been a fan, I give the little guy major credit for sticking with his team.

I even went to the store and bought $3.00 cupcakes ($3/a piece) because they were Chargers cupcakes.  He's never eaten any bakery item that was decorated for a Chargers fan, aside from his birthday cakes.

The game was a good one, as were all the games this weekend.  And even though his Chargers lost to the Broncos, he was still happy to have enjoyed two post season games. 

Look at this little face.  Totally worth $15 for five cupcakes.
Now, it's time to root for my Patriots.  Another not-so-popular team in many areas...but my Chargers fan was born in New England...and ever since they've been my team.

Happy Monday everyone! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks (my story)

Over the past few years, I've written a dozen or more posts on Walt Disney World.  As a child, I went every year.  Sometimes twice a year.  My parents had six kids and new baby or not, they took us on our annual vacation to Disney.

Hubby visited Disney World for the first time (with my family) the year we were engaged.  We then started the same tradition of taking our kids every year.

All this Disney vacationing with kids has taught me many, many things.  I know every park, every hotel and just about every trick.  Of course with Disney there is always more to learn, which keeps us coming back for more.

Two years ago, I wrote my first Disney World post.  A few months later, I "pinned" that post on Pinterest.  My blog has never been the same.  That post catapulted my blog from a few hundred pageviews a day to thousands.  I wrote more posts and my blog continued to grow.

I opened my blog email for questions, and answered dozens of emails on my own time.  I knew none of these people.  Some of them started the email with "My husband thinks I'm crazy for emailing...."

I always emailed back.  I've given advice and even written itineraries. 

My dream was always to write a book, but without a college education (I went straight to "mommy-ing") I felt all of this was against the odds.  My style is from the hip.  I don't care much about fragments and starting sentences with "and" when I blog.

After two years of helping Disney planning families and blogging about Disney, I started taking all my posts and adding to them.  I turned them into chapters.  I edited, and edited again.  I disappeared from my Hubby and my kids hours at a time.

It was a labor of Disney love.

Finally, I finished my manuscript.  I'm so very excited to say my book, Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks is available on Amazon.  And this morning, before it had even been available twelve hours, I had 2 sales.

I almost crapped my pants.

This post is a HUGE thank you to all my readers.  Many of my readers cruise on for Disney advice and I don't see them for weeks at a time.  I still thank you.  I apologize my Disney posts have been modified, I tried to keep some great information on without spoiling all the super awesome advice in my book.

My book is 100 pages of easy-to-read, mommybrain proof Disney World advice.  Pictures, top picks for each park and more.

I saved you from the 500 pages of Hidden Mickeys and height requirements.  I realized through my emails that parents aren't looking for information overload, rather a way to simply survive with kids and strollers in tow.

If you know any Disney trip planners, please refer them to my site of even better, my book.  It can be downloaded on Kindle and other smart devices.  The paperback version will take another few weeks, or you can order it through CreateSpace now.

My bills thank you.  I do too, from the bottom of my Disney lovin' heart.

Much love,
Jodie

Thursday, January 9, 2014

3 Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

One of the very few bonuses to winter in my house is that my family actually gets home cooked meals.  Every year, from June through September, I go on a cooking hiatus.  I do this for two very good reasons:

1.  I refuse to stand in front of a hot stove without central air-conditioning.
2.  I love, love, LOVE to eat out in the summer.  I love to be out.  I love the sunshine and warmth and not having to put my kids in coats and armor to survive the sub-zero temperatures.

It's called "everyone get on your flip flops and get in the car."  Ah, heaven.

This week, because it's winter and the house is freezing, I cooked up a house favorite.  These Turkey Meatballs make the cut because everyone eats them.  I have two kids who dip the plain meatballs in either barbeque or ketchup, and I have two kids who eat them jazzed up with sauce and mozzerella cheese.  All munchkins eat the warm rolls I add on the side.

And hubby?  He eats them as meatball subs.

Win-win-win.

And me?  I love them because they have only three ingredients.  Simple, easy and delicious.


1 lb ground turkey
Squeeze ketchup (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 Italian bread crumbs

*I add more Italian seasoning. However this is the most basic version!

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray baking dish with nonstick spray or drizzle olive oil on bottom and set aside.  Using hands, mix all three ingredients in a large bowl.  Shape turkey into 2" balls, and line in a baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 40 minutes until center is done.

Serve with red sauce, plain or make subs.  Add mozzarella cheese and warm rolls.  If you have salad mix serve with a salad.  The possibilities are endless.

Stay warm and remember...it's almost the weekend!

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

5 Fun Cold Weather Facts (bet you didn't know some of these!)

In keeping with the cold weather theme, I've decided to compile a list of fun cold weather facts.  If you can't beat the weather, join it.  I can sit here until Spring complaining it's not Spring (I will still do that) or try and embrace the Winter season.

This is me trying to embrace winter.  

And now, 5 fun facts for you this Wednesday...

1. No two snowflakes are the same (I know, you already knew that).

2. It is so cold in some areas of Russia that they sell milk in frozen cubes.  (Bet you didn't know that one!)

3. Canada and the northeast USA experienced bitter cold and snow all through the summer in 1916. This was because dust from a volcano blocked the sun.

4. 60% of the Earth's water is frozen in the polar ice caps.

5. The capital of Finland, Helsinki, has 51 days in winter when it is dark for 24 hours a day, and 73 days of daylight in summer when the sun does not set.  Imagine that.

And a bonus #6  and #7 fact that have nothing to do with cold weather?

"Cool as a cucumber" actually makes sense.  A cucumber is 20 degrees colder at its core.

The temperature of lightning can reach 54,032 degrees Fahrenheit. When a tree is struck by lightning, the water inside the tree boils and the tree explodes.

And now, off to school because it was sooooo cold outside we are enjoying another 2 hour delay.  

Cheers and happy hump day! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Baby it's COLD Outside

This time of year is especially painful for me because Christmas is over and Spring is a solid three months away.  Most days the sky is gray and I can't even bear to stand outside for more than ten minutes before my toes start to tingle and go numb.

Along with poor circulation, I'm suffering from a severe lack of vitamin D.  If you see me out and about it's either something I totally and completely love, or I have to be there.

There is no in between.

The past two days, I'm taking the weather a little more in stride.  This is solely because even in Florida it's chilly.  There are literally very few places I could be right now that I would consider warm.  I should articulate that warm, to me, is above 75 degrees.

With three delayed openings a row (can anyone say SLEEP?? I can and it's heavenly) I'm getting spoiled over here in central Pennsylvania.  I haven't had to get up and function much since the kids returned to school from winter break.  We went back last Thursday; Friday, Monday and Tuesday we've had delays. 

It's been such a wonderful treat.  I'm really getting maximum use out of my heated blanket.

Stay warm wherever you are, from what Al Roker described there aren't many places above freezing these days.  Wishing all you warm weather folks some sunshine.  And I'm wishing all of us northern folks temperatures in the positive numbers.

I'm aiming small.

Cheers!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Walt Disney World Deals 2014

Don't plan a trip to Disney World without my newly published book, Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks (available on amazon for kindle and kindle apps, and paperback).  My book is easy to understand with phenomenal tips on packing, planning and more!  Highly recommended for parents of little ones and first time Disney planners.

Is anyone else itching to get away to a warm, sunny place where the sky isn't gray and people don't look like they have tuberculosis?

I am.  And it's bad.

Since I am a Disney gal, and I love to assist every family in planning a fab Disney World vacation, I'm attaching all the Disney deals just posted for Spring travel dates. 

If you would like to book through a travel agency (many families prefer this because of how overwhelming planning a Disney World/Orlando vacation can be) I love the peeps over at Destinations in Florida.  Jenn and the gang know their Disney stuff!




Walt Disney World® Resort

NEW! Save up to 30% on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels: Savings apply for stays most nights March 14, 2014 - April 12, 2014 and April 20, 2014 – June 15, 2014. Upgrade to a room and ticket package with a minimum 4-day Magic Your Way® Ticket and get one more ticket day FREE! (Minimum 4-day Magic Your Way® Ticket required.) Offer excludes campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms and The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.


Save 30% at the Following Resorts:

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Villas
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge—Standard View/Pool View
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge—Standard View/Woods View
Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Save 20% at the Following Resorts:
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge—Jambo House and Kidani Village
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge—Savanna View/Club View
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge—Courtyard View/Club View

Save 25% at the following resorts:
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins

Save 20% at the following resorts:
Disney’s All Star Sports Resort
Disney’s All Star Music Resort
Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—Family Suites Save 15%

Florida Resident Rates: Florida Residents can take advantage of great rates on rooms at select Disney Resorts hotels for stays through April 8, 2014. For example, save up to 37% on rooms at select Disney Deluxe Resorts and Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts from January 4- January 18 and March 14- March 29, 2014. Book December 2, 2013 - April 8, 2014. Plan a winter getaway to Disney or a Spring Break trip to the Disney Water Parks. Book today with this incredible deal, just for Florida Residents.

Military Discount: Active duty and retired members of the US military can get specially discounted rooms at Disney Resort most nights through September 27th, 2014. Thank you for serving our country.

Disneyland® Resort

Save Up to 25% on Rooms at a Disneyland® Resort Hotel: Save up to 25% on rooms at a Disneyland Hotel most Sunday through Thursday nights from January 5th through April 10, 2014. Book through January 28, 2014.

Disney Cruise Line®

Two Disney Vacations in One for Less than $800: Combine the magic of a cruise and all of the wonder of Disney World into one amazing deal! Packages are a 3 night’s stay at a value resort plus a 3 night cruise. Sailings are from January 17, 2014 through February 7, 2014. Book now to be part of this great adventure.

Special Rates for Cruises from Port Canaveral: You can escape on your own carefree, tropical getaway with Disney Cruise Line® and save 20% off prevailing rates on select 3- and 4-Night Bahamian Cruises sailing from Port Canaveral in January 2014. All voyages include a visit to Nassau and an unforgettable day at Disney's private island paradise, Disney’s Castaway Cay, with its sparkling turquoise waters and white-sand beaches. Available sail dates: 3-Night Bahamian Sailings on the Disney Magic®: January 10 and January 31, 2014 and 4-Night Bahamian Sailings on the Disney Dream®: January 12 and January 26, 2014.

Canadian Resident Offer: Canadian residents save 20% off prevailing rates on 3 and 4 night Bahamian sailings aboard the Disney Magic® for most sailings from January 10 – February 28, 2014 (excluding January 17, 20, February 14, 17, 2014) for categories 4A – 11B.

Aulani Hawaii

Get a Free Night and Free Breakfast: For a limited time, when you purchase a minimum 4-night stay at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, you’ll get the 4th night free - including breakfast daily for two adults at the new Ulu Cafe. Book this offer by January 15, 2014, for stays most nights January 5 – April 7, 2014.

Universal Orlando Resort Discounts

Save up to 25% at Cabana Bay Beach Resort: Discounts begin at 4 nights at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, opening early 2014. Travel back to the 1950’s and 60’s for endless family fun at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. With its ideal location and fun retro atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy everything Universal Orlando® Resort has to offer. The value and moderate accommodations feature family suites (sleeping up to 6) with kitchenettes, and standard rooms (sleeping up to 4). Rates valid for travel September 1st, 2014 through October 2nd, 2014 and November 30th, 2014 through December 11th, 2014.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort: This new resort is opening in early 2014 with an incredible preview discount. This resort is inspired by iconic beach resorts of the 1950’s and 60’s. For a limited time, the whole family can experience Cabana Bay Beach Resort's new family suites with rates starting at $104 per night for a seven-night stay to $134 per night for a three-night stay. Offering up to 47% savings off regular prices, this introductory offer is available now for purchase for stays from March 31 to June 14, 2014. Package is available for purchase now through January 31, 2014.

Universal 1-Day or 2-Day Pass with Shuttle Transportation for 2014: Take a day away from the Disney World Parks to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Book a 1-Day or 2-Day Pass to Universal Studios with shuttle transportation included in the ticket. This special ticket is only available with select companies including Destinations in Florida.

Sea World Discounts

Expedition Antarctica at SeaWorld®: Experience the Freeze! Package includes free Quick Queue (front-of-the-line) at SeaWorld’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin™, dining at the Expedition CafĂ©, a free photo and a third hotel night FREE!

SeaWorld + Aquatica Add Aquatica for just $40: Enjoy unlimited access to the sights and splashes of SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark™ during your vacation.

5 Incredible Parks, 1 Ticket, Orlando’s Best Vacation Value: See more for less! This package features the Orlando FlexTicket, offering unlimited admissions to SeaWorld, Aquatica, Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure and Wet ’n Wild during your stay. Perfect for your Orlando vacation. Stay at least 5 nights and enjoy the best of Orlando! Plus, free transportation and other great benefits available when you choose an Official Hotel of SeaWorld. Package requires a 10-day advance purchase. Stay a minimum of 5 nights and as an added value, your 5th night is FREE!

Orlando Attraction Ticket Discounts

Kids Eat Free Card: Save money on over 100 different restaurants in Orlando from the quick serve restaurants like McDonald’s to sit down restaurants like Nascar Cafe at Universal CityWalk. Purchase the Kids Eat Free Card and receive a free child’s meal with any adult meal at select restaurants.

Kennedy Space Center Tickets: Pre-order your tickets to Kennedy Space Center and save money with special prices. Experience the Space Shuttle Atlantis, US Astronaut Hall of Fame, and more; just an hour from Orlando.

Royal Caribbean Cruise

Discount Cruise Out of Ft. Lauderdale: Extend your Orlando vacation with a relaxing cruise on one of the newest ships called the Allure of the Seas. Less than 3 hours from Orlando, you can set sail with those fun loving DreamWorks Characters on the world famous Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Sail for 7 Nights to the Caribbean in an Interior Stateroom from $749 per person plus taxes/port charges or $949 per person plus taxes/port charges in a Balcony. Select cruises this January-February 2014.


Happy planning everyone!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Always Follow Your Instincts. Always.

Yesterday was one of those days that you read about in papers or see on the 6 o'clock newscast.  It was one of those experiences you see and hear about but never experience yourself.

But we did.

I'm going to make a very long, upsetting story short.  After not hearing from one of Hubby's work colleagues for a few days, we followed our gut and we went over to his home.  We discussed the situation before going, and of course our heads were validating why no one had heard from him.  There were many reasons.  The weather.  The slow start to the New Year.  He might be sick.

But in our hearts we knew something wasn't right.  I'd never even been to his house, but we just couldn't understand why Hubby hadn't heard from him in two days. We knew he lived alone, and even though he was young we wondered if something had happened.  Yesterday afternoon we followed our instincts, and we found him at his home.  He had passed away a day or two prior.

My only purpose for this blog is to remind all of my dear readers to go with your gut.  It knows more than you think it does.  We didn't know this gentleman for years.  We weren't his family.  We just knew someone was awry, because Hubby communicated with him on a daily basis.  I think of my parents and siblings and we go days without communicating.  Life is busy and without work commitments or other events people go days without speaking.  It's easy to think family and close friends will have tabs on people, but that isn't always the case.  If you aren't in daily contact with someone you won't know something is wrong until too many days have passed.

If a coworker is late to work and no one has heard, check in.  If they don't show up to work, check in.  We are here to take care of eachother.  Always.  It's not always family that will realize something isn't right.  Trust your instincts and check on people.  Be there, and lend an ear.  You never know what someone will need or what their circumstances may be. 

May this wonderful, sweet gentleman rest in peace.  In the short time we knew him he was very good to us, and his heart was always in the right place.  A very special soul called to heaven very early.

R.I.P.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hello 2014

Welcome 2014.  Seriously.  2013 brought our family many ups and downs, and it's safe to say I'm exhausted.  I'm ready for a new year with new experiences.  Hopefully there will be less "what do we do now?!" in the year ahead.

'What do we do now?!" happens when the school calls and tells you your kids have to move schools because you moved out of the "boundaries" for their elementary school.  Same town, taxes go to one place.  But if you stay with your mom while looking for a new house out of state, get ready for this call if you live in our old district.

Never mind your kids will already be switching schools and moving out of state in a few weeks.  They were almost asked to move schools twice in three months.  All with the knowledge they would be moving soon and dealing with meeting new friends and adjusting to a new area.

What did we do?  We moved sooner. 

This also happens when you get a call that you might not get your mortgage on your new house out of state, because the debt on your old house is still yours even with a renter.  All the while the school district is waiting to boot your kids to a new school.

We prayed, and borrowed money. 

The grand finale of the "what do we do now?!" was when Hubby lost his job.  The very job we moved out of state for; the one that was supposed to support us for years to come.  That was a real blow to the intestines.  We prayed, and forged ahead.  We had to buy a car to replace the company car, and get a phone to replace the company phone. 

By the grace of God, he started a new job one week before his final paycheck arrived from his previous employer.  Our prayers were answered.  In this strange, uncertain world, we weren't sure he'd find a job that would support us.

We're a big crew.

With all the "what do we do now?!'s" of 2013 behind us, we welcome 2014 with open minds and open hearts.  Life is what you make it, and what you do with the cards you're dealt.

It's hard not to feel the "why is this happening to me???"  It's tough to fight the self pity.  But in the end, if you look at all you DO have, the rest is easier to handle.

I look to 2014 with an open heart and clear head.  Not only do I want to try and do the little stuff (eat less peanut butter cups...get my butt jogging again), but the big stuff like not judge.  Keep my head held high and teach my kids to do the same.  Love and reach out instead of back away and hide.

Life is what we make it my friends.  You can't always control what happens or what others do but you can control HOW you handle it.

Heads high everyone, and hello 2014.