Archive for the 'Lifestyles' Category

Christmas is almost here!

More than likely your children are out of school for the next week or two. In just a few days, they will be going stir crazy, those shiny new toys will be tossed in the corner and the kids will be saying…?I’m bored?. Let’s nip that in the bud right now.

After the presents have all been unwrapped, save the boxes and left over wrapping paper. When your children start the bored chant, break out the boxes and invite them to build. If you have any large boxes, use those as a base to a playhouse or castle. Smaller boxes can be placed on top to create spires or battlements. We recently used a huge T.V. box with a door cut out of the front, then stuffed a slightly smaller box into the door to create a hallway. Keep going until you have a ‘secret’ tunnel for the kids to crawl through.

All the paper left over from Christmas morning can be taped on the outside of the castle or inside for decoration. Make confetti from the paper, often wrapping paper is shiny and makes for a very pretty confetti. Use gluesticks to make torn paper art or cover some of those boxes you saved for neat little organizers. Kids love using organizers for their treasures they have made themselves.

But, what if your kids are bored right now? Try making snowflake ornaments. Here are two pictures of ornaments we made:

Snowflake Picture
This one is a little blurry, but you can still see the picture in the middle. You can print your kid’s faces onto sticker paper available at many office stores or just print a small enough picture to fit on the front of a foam snowflake. You can buy these ornaments at craft stores, then glue glitter on. Tape or glue your child’s face over it all.

Paper Flake
This is just a snowflake cut from typing paper. Our tree has quite a few of these on it. We decided to let the kids make most of the ornaments this year and used inexpensive materials. They are small and always take everything that they can reach off of the tree, so I can cut more of these if I need.

Let your children pop and then string their own popcorn if they are older. This can be a lot of fun for older kids. Once, my cousin and I decided it would be fun to try this. It was interesting, because we used cheese popcorn. A word of advice: Do not use cheese popcorn. It gunks up the needle and your fingers. You end up with cheese powder all over the place. I am ashamed to admit it, but we were both around 18 years old. Should have known better, huh?

In the next pictures, our children wrapped empty boxes and all of our pictures on the wall. This makes for a really festive addition to your home! The boxes can be placed on shelves and the pictures hang where they always have. When Christmas is over, see step number one, give your kids the wrapped boxes for play!

Wrapped Box
Picture Frame

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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Blackberry Merlot Cake

Do you love blackberries? Love Blackberry wines? This cake is for the adult wine lovers in your home or on your guest list. So sweet, and perfect with a garnish of real blackberries on top of the glazed cake.

For a really gorgeous presentation, save the glaze to pour over each slice before serving. Place a few blackberries (or a handful if you really love them!) on top of the slice, then drizzle the glave over. Serve warm on a cold day.

1 box White Cake Mix
2/3 cup Blackberry Merlot
3 Eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients. Pour batter into a buttered and floured cake pans. A bundt pan is great for presentation. Bake according to the cake mix instructions. While cake is still warm, drizzle Blackberry Glaze over it.

½ cup Blackberry Merlot
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix Merlot and sugar together in a small saucepan. Heat on low until the mixture is hot, but not boiling and all lumps are gone. Immediately drizzle over the Blackberry Merlot Cake.

Posted in Cooking | 1 Comment »

Cooking For The Holidays

Sorry for the delay in updates. We had a huge snowstorm that knocked out the internet for a while. I must say, that while it made things slow down, the snow is really beautiful. I am originally from the south eastern united states and while we had snow, never in the amounts I get to enjoy here in the northeastern US.

With all of the cold, we have really enjoyed cooking and baking. Not only does it provide sustenance, it warms the house up! Who doesn’t like to be cozy on a chilly winter day? We have a tradition in our little family to make cookies for Christmas. Lots of cookies. Right now we have a gallon container filled to overflowing with Mexican Wedding Cakes, a small round biscuit type cookie that has a crumbly texture and is rolled in powdered sugar. Another plate holds a mountain of Moravian Spice Cookies, brown, paper thin, and fragrant. I also have a very special butter cookie I invented that uses tea as a flavoring, but it is reserved for my relaxation time, along with either a cup of hot tea or glass of red wine.

Traditions in food provides comfort, not only for you, but for your entire family. Each holiday and it’s respective traditions can build a lifetime of comfort for your children and grandchildren. You do not have to even have a family to begin your own traditions. My husband and I have a friend who has no living family, but yet each year he makes fudge for his friends. It is his own tradition that he began because he had no family to spend time with, no mother to make him cookies, cake, or candy. Now he has his own comfort and can pass this tradition on to his children, because he did marry a few years after we met him and have two children.

Do you have family traditions? Have you started your own? Share!

Posted in Uncategorized, Cooking, Holidays | No Comments »

Holiday Productivity (or non-productivity)

How many times have you made plans in the evening, right before going to bed only to find the next day that everything you plan to do has gone *POOF*? During the holiday season this happens more often. I notice that my plans go awry almost from the time I wake. Breakfast slows down because the kids need this and that, baby decides to wash his hair with syrup, big sister un-decorates the tree. These minor mishaps through the rest of the morning into a down spiral.

I don’t post too often about my writing here or my own experiences at home. But, today seemed to be the perfect idea for a post to share with you. If you are a mom or dad who works at home, or maybe you work outside of the home only to come home and have your plans go falling apart worse than Aunt Mary’s crumbly cakes, then this is your post.

I try. I promise you, I try to get things done. Just don’t take a peek into my laundry room or my kitchen right now. The bedrooms? Forget about it. My productivity levels have dropped to an all time low. It’s not that I have much more work than normal. I think it is the lack of support that we who work to support our families get from the same family.

Have you ever sat down to your computer only to have a little one pop up beside you asking for a snack? You just fed her, but suddenly she has the capacity for food of a beluga whale. Or maybe you have just come home from work and everyone wants to go shopping. Can’t a person have a break? Can’t your partner handle the shopping for one night or hold off on the need to go out for one more day?

If you are a home worker, most of the time everyone thinks you are sitting in front of the computer, knocking back the wine while nibbling bon bons. Heck, even my husband seems to think that writing is no big deal. So I have eight articles that need to be 1,000 words done in three days, that doesn’t get his boxers washed, now does it? If only they made self washing-drying-folding-putting away clothing. I’d be in heaven! Oh, and what about self washing dishes? Euphoria. If my house could sustain itself while I work, it would be a dream. I thought we were supposed to be living like the Jetsons nowadays, anyway.

Here are some things that might help your productivity levels rise. Well, only if you aren’t like me and forget to put the tips into motion.

1. Forget what mom told you about separating your laundry. Try doing it more simply. Keep whites separate, but wash everything else in one big lump. If you are worried about reds running onto other colors, just throw reds and blacks into the same load. If this doesn’t work for you, find a laundry that does your clothing for you. Load them into your vehicle, drop them off, forget them until it’s time to go get’em.

2. The vacuum is your friend. Just pick up everything that is too large to go into the thing and vacuum the whole house. Forget dropping it for a broom. That wastes time. If your dog or cat sheds badly, grab them and take care of the excess hair while you are cleaning the floors. Voila, two birds with one big whirring rock.

3. Enlist help. Even the smallest kids can help you get things done. Give older children a bag and the directions to “pick up all that junk you put there?. Usually they’ll get confused, so gently point them in the right direction. Motivate them into helping, only if you meet resistance, by holding a favorite toy hostage. A squirt gun to the head of a favorite doll is an amazing motivator.

5. Don’t put off today what you will have to do tomorrow. If something really needs to be done, go on and do it. Waiting will make it worse. If you need proof, come look at my kitchen. Bring pepper spray.

So now you have a short list of tips that may help you. Understanding the mechanics of your home will also help. Understand that no matter what you do, sometime tomorrow the mess will come back. If you are sneaky and attack after the kids are asleep, you are more likely to have a clean home for most of the next day. Unless your kids stay at home all day, if that is the case, then I suggest getting a dog to clean crumbs they leave behind and a snow shovel to pick up toys in the quickest manner. At least you will have a few extra minutes here and there to devote to work, holiday decorating, or holiday cooking.

Posted in Parenting, Daily Living, Holidays, Writing, Humor | 3 Comments »

Inexpensive Gift Ideas:

Every Christmas millions of families find themselves in credit card debt within the month. Deep debt. But is there any real reason for this? Not really. Christmas has become commercialized to the point of ridiculousness. Of course we all want to make our children, family, and friends happy. But, are you really making them happy when they feel as if they need to be in competition to spend the most money on the best gift?

I don’t think so. Some may disagree with me. Some people enjoy spending a lot of money, but the vast majority of people on this planet are not rich and look for ways to get the most for their money. So I offer you, the thrift-minded, a list of ideas.

cookie tree

1. Does the person you plan to buy for enjoy coffee or tea? If so, pick up an pretty but inexpensive coffee cup, then tuck a bag of their favorite coffee/tea inside. A square of colored cellophane brought up around the cup, tied with a ribbon, then garnished with a bow makes for a lovely presentation.

2. Buying for someone who is deep into the green movement? Buy local foodstuff and put it all into a rustic handmade basket. Local wines, local sauces, anything made in their immediate living area. For these folks, it is all about sustainability!

3. Jar gifts go over great with just about anyone. Recipes are very easy to find to make gorgeous layered mixes. Be sure to decorate the top with a bit of fabric and include cooking instructions.

4. For the overworked female in your life, why not put together a spa basket? I am sure you know of discount stores in your area to find luxurious bath items at a low price. Put that knowledge to work for you. If you are a bit thrift challenged, enlist a friend who always finds the best deals.

5. Popcorn lover? Movie lover? Mix the two. Fill a basket with gourmet popcorn and flavored oils. Check out eBay for some interesting popcorn.

6. For the cook in your life, choose some small kitchen gadgets and pop into a basket or metal cylinder with a removable top. Good cooks can never have to many silicone spatulas, pancake turners, whisks, serving spoons, slotted spoons, and other gadgets with handles.

7. If you are buying for a pet lover, why not a gift card for the local pet store? Chances are this will be the best gift this person gets all Christmas. Taking care of a furry friend is expensive, your help will be appreciated.

8. Have a son, daughter, or other family member who lives far away? Pick up a few pre-paid phone cards for them.

9. Kids on the list? Coloring books, crayons, and other art supplies are easy to find at discount prices and children love them. Keep the parents in mind when you buy, look for art supplies labeled ‘washable’.

10. A subscription to a magazine is welcomed by many. Either ask or have someone else covertly discover the favorite magazine of your ‘target’. Then all you have to do is fill out their information and pay for it. Many subscriptions run under $20.

Posted in Holidays | 8 Comments »

Holiday Eating For Diabetics.

If you have diabetes, you probably look at the holidays with dread. All of the cookies, pies, tarts, and cakes that are offered by your friends and family can really wear on your determination to ‘be good’. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you can enjoy the holidays and the food that comes with them, safely.

1. Eat a light meal before leaving home. A healthy snack can curb your appetite, making you less likely to over eat which can force your sugar levels to high numbers.

2. Check your sugar levels before leaving home. Carry your glucose monitor with you, along with lancets and test strips. If you feel the slightest bit off kilter, excuse yourself to a restroom and check your glucose.

3. Bring an insulin injection pen with you. You can discreetly inject yourself in a rest room. Have alcohol pads in your insulin kit. If you do not wish the host or other guests to know about your kit, pack it in a small soft cooler that can fit into a purse or coat pocket with a small ice packet.

4. You don’t have to deny yourself from the dessert section. Just take much smaller portions.

5. Do not eat any sugar laden or refined foods during the day or when you are not at a party or family gathering. Consider these outings as your treat and reward for carefully following a diet the rest of the weeks/month.

Being a diabetic doesn’t mean losing out on sweets entirely. Everything in moderation and only when your sugar is in an acceptable range. Be sure to make healthy choices when you are eating, paying particular attention to vegetable side dishes. If you are filled with healthy foods it will be easier to not over indulge at the dessert table.

Posted in Holidays, Diabetes | 2 Comments »

Choosing A Great Tree.

Christmas Tree
If you haven’t already chosen a tree for this year, it’s time to begin looking. While every family has their favorite type of tree, be it cedar, white pine, or artificial, not everyone is sure how to pick out the best one for their home. So, before you head out to the store or nursery, let’s go over a few basics.

1. Where do you plan to place your tree? Get an idea of where the tree will be standing and clear a large space. Take in account room you will need for presents underneath. As discussed in the safety post, stay away from used fireplaces. Be sure a power outlet is nearby for the lights.

2. Measure the height of your room. While a live tree can be trimmed by cutting a few inches from the trunk, an artificial tree will need to be returned. Save your time and gas by knowing how tall of a tree your home can accommodate.

3. Choose a tree with strong branches. Not only will they need to hold up the ornaments easily, but if you have children or pets, the tree will need to be able to spring back from hugs and bumps.

4. In the case of a live tree, look for a dark green color and needles that do not fall off easily. This means the tree has been well taken care of. A tree that has a light, splotchy color, sometimes yellow or brown in any place means the tree has not had enough water and will begin to shed it’s needles very quickly. A dry tree is a fire hazard!

5. If at all possible, look for a nursery that sells trees with roots. Replant your tree in your yard or donate it to a friend, city park, or community garden. Evergreen trees are wonderful for combating the green house effect and every one that can be saved is a step towards a healthier planet.

Picture credit to Free Gifs and Animations

Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments »

Xbox Live: Predator Game Space

Do you know what your children are doing online?

With the internet, many parents have become more careful in the time they allow their children to spend online. Parents monitor the sites kids are visiting and have restrictions set on their computers. In some cases the kids get past those restrictions and meet adults online. While this happens, many parents are trying harder to combat this issue.

Cue Xbox Live.

A few days ago we subscribed to Xbox Live. My husband and brother in law wanted to play Halo 3 online and see what else they could find to distract them from their manly stresses. (insert a chuckle here, I know what they do all day) I didn’t mind, thought it would be fun.

Imagine our horror when we heard some sad sack hitting on a 13 year old girl! The horror wasn’t really from the man hitting on her, it stemmed mainly from the fact that she gave him information on where she lived. State, home town, and the name of the apartment building. Anyone plugged in to that particular scenerio could hear her.

Scary stuff. Parents should think twice before buying a younger teen a subscription to Xbox Live or at least monitor the child’s gaming activities. Children must be responsible enough to not relate their personal information to anyone who asks.

Predators will use any outlet to reach their target. When you use Xbox Live, remember that it is the same as the internet where any number of people came meet and chat together. Some of the people do not have the best of intentions. I cannot stress this enough: Teach your children to never, ever give out their home address, school location, or real name to people met online or via Xbox Live. (or any other platform with interweb capabilities)

Posted in Uncategorized, Parenting, Personal Safety, Technology | 3 Comments »

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Lovely Decoration

Many families like to put their Christmas trees up the day or week following Thanksgiving, or in the end of November if Thanksgiving is not part of their holiday tradition. While I will be talking about how to choose the perfect tree, let’s first discuss safety. Proper handling of your tree will avoid any potential accidents and make your holiday a safe and happy one. Use the following list to stay safe!

1.When you first bring your tree home, if you are using a live tree, be sure to cut a 2 inch section from the bottom before placing it in the stand. This will encourage the tree to ‘drink’ the water you provide. A dry tree is a dangerous one. Needles will fall more quickly and dry branches are apt to cause a fire. Check the water and replenish it each day that your tree is used with lights.

2.Check your lights whether you use new lights or the ones from previous holidays. Examine the wires for cracks, breaks, or fraying. Exposed wires can lead to sparks and fire.

3.If you must use several strings of lights, use a power strip with surge protection. This will prevent problems with your power outlets.

4.Many light strings may have lead in their construction. Wear gloves and wash your hands after decorating with lights.

5.If you have children, especially small or special needs children, please use large plastic ornaments. Small children and special needs children tend to mouth objects. Tiny ornaments can be a choking hazard.

6.When choosing plastic ornaments, try to avoid those with the label ‘Made in China’. With the recent levels of lead found in plastic toys and other products from China, it is a good idea to either avoid them or use latex gloves when handling any decoration made from materials imported from China for now. Do not allow children to touch them. Place them high on the tree, out of reach. Wash your hands.

7.Do not use edible decorations like cranberries or stringed popcorn if you have small children. As with the previous points, small or special needs children will mouth nearly anything. The strings can become entangled in their intestines if swallowed or choke them by balling up in the mouth/throat.

8.No glass around children!

9.Do not place any tree near a used fireplace, live or artificial.

10.Unplug your lights when leaving home or before bed. Removing them from their power source is much safer than just turning them off or turning off the power strip.

Posted in Holidays | 5 Comments »

A Holiday Plan.

Here it is, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday as it’s called here in the States. Do you have a holiday plan?

If you’re sending out cards, now is the time to begin addressing them. I like to have my cards out by the first of the month, just to make sure they are to my recipients in time for the holidays. But what if you want to send cards to friends who might not be of your faith?

Do a little research. Simple solutions to the quandary is to just ask how your friends plan to spend their holidays. Or maybe, “Do you and your family get together for the holidays?? is a sneaky way to find out if your friend(s) celebrate a specific religious holiday. Be sensitive to your friends, send a card that is either for their holiday or a generic holiday greeting without religious reference.

If you are going to send gifts, don’t go overboard with people you are not very familiar with. For example, I recently made a recommendation of tea or coffee for a business acquaintance. A gift is great, but your boss may feel as if you are trying to bribe them into giving you a better position or pay raise if you buy something extravagant. Keep it simple and thoughtful. The same goes for a boss, a card or gift card is a nice appreciative gift for your employee(s). If your company supplies a bonus for the holidays, then adding something extra is not perhaps the best course of action unless handled in private. Other employees may become jealous.

In the coming weeks before the holidays, keep checking back for posts concerning holiday gift buying, safety, and more!

Posted in Holidays | 4 Comments »

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