tiesandstilletos

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Chalk Talk Weekend Project

In Family, Kids on November 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Growing up, I always wanted a chalkboard in my house.  I loved playing school even if I had to be the teacher and the student.  (Yes, the downfall of being an only child).  Kids in my neighborhood would play but I guess the idea of going to school and then coming home to “play” school was not their idea of “playtime”.

Our girls love playing school and the best part is there are enough of them to play.  Count their dolls and you’ve got a complete classroom!  🙂 Thankfully, with the help of the paint industry, putting a chalkboard in a house is not as much as it once used to be.  In fact, you don’t even need to buy a chalkboard.  You simply paint and go! Besides, with the new modern-day “smart boards”, having a chalkboard may make your home “vintage”. 😉

We actually created a magnetic, chalkboard.  So, in addition to writing in chalk, you can also place magnets on it.  Admittedly, and probably due to the color choice of the chalkboard, the magnetic board is not that strong.  I think if you just wanted a basic black chalkboard, the weakness of the magnet wouldn’t be so bad because you wouldn’t need so many coats to cover up the black magnetic paint.  The magnet paint only came (or at least I could only find) in black.  So, choosing periwinkle/purple as the ultimate chalkboard color wasn’t as easy to cover the black magnet paint underneath.  Also, as a FYI, there is dry erase paint if that’s what you prefer.

This is a very quick, easy and affordable project.  I actually did this on my own.  Dennis kept the girls out of my hair while I completed the project.  It was done in a day.  Below are some step by step instructions for you to do it yourself too!  And, remember, it doesn’t have to be just to play school or for a playroom.  This paint is perfect for kitchens.  I’ve seen many people use it on pantry doors and write cute messages and reminders to their family.  Have fun!

What you will need:

* Painter’s tape
*Paint Brushes
*Magnetic Paint/Chalkboard Paint/Dry Erase Paint or Any combination desired (Magnetic Paint can be underneath Chalk or dry erase.  You can also do half chalk and half dry erase if desired).
* Trim in the desired thickness and measured to your board.  Don’t worry about sawing this yourself.  The people at the “do it yourself” stores are great and ready to help you cut your desired length.
*Paint for Trim
*Liquid Nails
*Finishing Nails
*Hammer
*Casings for the corner (if you are not using a miter saw)
*Chalk

1.  Measure out the area that you would like as your chalkboard and create a box frame or whatever shape you desire as your chalkboard with painters tape.

2.  If desired to have magnetic paint underneath, paint the magnetic paint in the box area.  Follow the directions according to the can.  I believe I used 2-3 coats of paint for the area.  (I was also painting over a green wall so you may not need more than 2 coats).  Let the magnetic paint dry.  It took about 3-4 hours.

3.  Paint the chalkboard paint on top of the magnetic paint.  Again, follow the directions on the can.  It only said 2 coats, but because the color of our chalkboard was lighter than the magnetic paint, it took about 5-6 coats.  So keep this in mind when selecting the chalkboard paint if you also select a magnetic paint underneath.

4. (As you can see, this is where I remembered to start taking pictures.  :\)  This is what you will have with the area completely painted.

5.  Carefully remove the painter’s tape.

6.  Unframed board

7.  Paint the trim in the desired color to frame the board.  We used leftover ballerina pink paint from one of the girls’ bedrooms.

8.  Liquid nails are used to hold the trim in place.

9.  Glue the trim to the wall to frame the board.

10.  Secure the trim with finishing nails.

11.  Frame is complete

12.  Casing blocks are used to finish and decorate the corners.  Or for those who are talented with a miter saw, you could corner the edges and place the corners of the trim together.  Yeah, not on that level of DIY just yet!  And, unfortunately, Ty Pennington was a little busy to come over. So, casing blocks it is!!! 🙂

13.  And, here you have your beautiful magnetic chalkboard!

14.  The hardest part of the project:  wait 3 days until use in order to let the paint set completely.  If you have little ones be ready to answer “has it been three days?”, “is three days over?”, “when will it be three days?” 😛

15.  Magnets adorn the board.

16.  Prime the chalkboard with chalk.

17.  Then erase.  Ready to write!

18.  School is now in session.  First lesson:  who runs the world? GIRLS!!! 🙂

19.  Happy faces in happy places!

Weekend Project Complete!  Chalk Talk!  That’s What’s Up!

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund – Support This Weekend

In Family, For the Stilletos, Jewelry on July 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women.  American Cancer Society estimates 22,280 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States in 2012 and about 15,500 women will die from the disease.

When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early, there is a 92%+ five year survival rate.  Unfortunately, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they’ve reached an advanced stage dropping their five year survival rate to less than 50%.

The good news is, with ongoing research, 50% of women are surviving longer than five years after diagnosis which is a vast improvement from 30 years ago when the survival rate was 10% to 20%.

The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund supports research:
• to find better tests that can diagnose ovarian cancer earlier and more precisely,
• to understand what causes ovarian cancer, and
• to develop improved treatments.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT THIS WEEKEND with a purchase from Stella & Dot

http://www.stelladot.com/ts/fpth5

All proceeds from the “tribute bracelet” purchased July 27th – July 29th will directly benefit OCRF.  This is a beautiful bracelet for a beautiful and worthy cause.  Show your love this month by supporting a worthy cause!  Let’s help fight this disease one beautiful bracelet to one beautiful woman at a time!

Generous and Gorgeous!  That’s What’s Up!

Disney Cruise – Part 2

In Family, Kids, Travel on June 9, 2012 at 3:27 PM

 

 

Wow!  We’ve gotten quite a response from our blog regarding the Disney cruise.  Seriously, several people have taken us up on the offer of cruising with us next year.  That’s even more exciting!  We thought the cruise was awesome with just our family but it will be even better with some of our friends and extended family joining in!  We can’t wait.

Over the course of talking with those friends and family, it came to mind that many of the questions and answers discussed weren’t included in the last post.  So, we wanted to share some of that information.

A very unique bonus to cruising with Disney is that you can bring your own alcohol.  Yes.  You read that right.  We know this may not be the deciding factor for some but for others who like to sip on their favorite wine at dinner, this could be a valuable feature.  And, this is definitely unique to the Disney cruise.  There are no limits.  Basically, as much as you can carry, you can bring.  There were plenty of people carrying cases of beer, wine, and yes, water.  (By the way, cases of bottled water – highly recommended!)  There is a refrigerator in the staterooms so keeping beverages cold is not a problem.  And, if you forget that favorite bottle of scotch, there is a very reasonable duty-free store on board so that you can purchase alcohol or even perfume and cosmetics.

We also recommend packing a small cooler tote bag to take waters (or other cold beverages) to the beach.  They offer water and a cooler for sale on board but that could run you $35. 

Another question that came up regarding kids was whether there was a time limit to how long the kids could stay in the playroom.  That would be up to you and your child.  The playroom was open from 9a-1a so if your child is content staying there the entire time, then, I guess, there you go.  We don’t recommend it considering you’re on vacation together as a family and, so, we’d think that you would see your child at least a few times during the day.  Well, that is if they want to see you! 😛  The children are given “Mickey Bands” that are placed on their arms.  It provides GPS to determine where your child is within the playroom. (Yes, the playroom is large enough that when you go to pick them up, it’s nice to not have to walk around and around looking for them).  If your child is 8 and older, you can grant them privileges to check themselves in and out of the playroom by themselves.  If you have multiple children and one child is 13 and older, they can check the younger kids out of the playroom if you grant them such permission.

Two cell phones are provided on the ship that work both on the ship and on Castaway Cay so that you can keep up with family while on board or on the beach.  This also gives you peace of mind while your younger children (who can’t check themselves in and out) are in the playroom.  If they are ready to leave or need to just be with you for any reason, the staff can give you a call to come to the playroom to check on them or to let you know your free time is over.

The ship is pretty cool (during the summer travels, at least).  So it is recommended that a light jacket and a pair of jeans are brought for walking around the ship.  And, speaking of clothing, unlike many cruise lines, there is no captain’s dinner.  So, ball gowns and tuxedos are not required at anytime on the cruise.  There are two upscale, adult only restaurants, Remy (French cuisine) and Palo (Italian cuisine) that are on board (additional fees will be charged for dining).  Although it is recommended that you are dressed well for dining, full formal is not required.  For main dining, Kenya and the girls wore cute summer dresses and “prettied up” for the evening.  Dennis wore Polos and nice jeans, khakis or shorts.  That was just our style.  Dining dress for others varied from shorts and t-shirts to suits.  Of course, many princesses were on board so you could find sparkle and tutus all around.  You’re pretty much in swimwear during the day so as far as packing goes, you really only need clothes to dine and/or walk around the ship at night.  After dinner, the girls would go play and we would go into the 687 lounge to enjoy the NBA playoffs on the 150+ inch screen while sitting in recliners.  Again, however you want to dress is fine.  Some days, we would go straight from dinner.  Other days we would go change and would be in jeans or sweats and a t-shirt.  Just come as you are.

If your kids (or you) are into pin trading, there is a pin trading night where the captains bring their lanyards full of swanky pins to trade with you.  This is a great way to get some unique pins for your collection!

We also had a pirate theme night while on board. Our theme was a pirate party.  When you book your cruise, ask about the theme night.  I have a feeling that the theme is always a pirate party mainly because the graphics and scenery are equipped and designed for it.  (But, then again, this is Disney so scenery can change in an instant if they wanted it to).  For the most part, this was basically a costume party night on the ship.  Most people brought their pirate “gear” and wore it for the party night.  The party night also included a display of fireworks directly from the ship.  This is also a unique feature to the Disney cruise.  Because, after all, what’s Disney without fireworks! 🙂

There were 3 main dining restaurants on board and each night we rotated through the restaurants.  The menus also changed each night but I believe every night the menu was generally the same for each restaurant, it was just a matter of where you ate that night.  The Royal Palace was enchanting as the name suggests.  It was like being in, well…a royal palace.  The Enchanted Garden was like being in Tinker Bell’s garden.  And, Animator’s Palate was very cool as you get to see various sketches of your favorite Disney characters.  It also offers interactive animation where the characters that surround you throughout the screens of the restaurant actually start talking to the dinner guests.  The turtle on the screen called out our oldest daughter and she was able to share her name with him and what she liked most about being on the ship.  They had about a 5-minute conversation that brought nothing but big smiles.  The girls really got a kick out of that.  That was pretty cool.  That Disney.  I tell ya!

Besides all of the tangible aspects of the cruise, what was best about our trip were all of the intangibles and the memories that will last a lifetime.  This is a VACATION!  Many times when we go on “vacation” these days, we don’t get the opportunity to really vacate and leave everything behind.  We still have our laptops, cell phones, iPads, and the like.  We’re still connected to people outside of the family whom we’re on vacation to connect to.  On a cruise, you have to disconnect from the “wide world” and connect only to the people who are there with you.  Hey, you may even meet real people by having face to face conversations like back in the day before Facebook!  You have no cellular or internet data so all of those electronic media devices become obsolete.  It is the ultimate “No Tech Thursday”!!!  It’s the greatest way to reconnect with your family and make memorable moments that you may not always get to do when you’re at home.  You all get to sit together at the dinner table without someone running around to make plates or making sure the table is cleared and the dishes are cleaned afterward.  EVERYONE gets served and can relax and just enjoy.  You and your children (if you brought them) are treated like royalty.  There is an endless supply of food, drinks and….did we mention ICE-CREAM!!! 🙂  In this day and age, we can all use a few days to pull the plug and just play! (Of course, this makes coming back to work the next week a 200 e-mail dig but, it is well worth it!)

Hopefully this follow up blog answered many of your questions.  We’re glad we got such a great response from the blog.  Hey, Disney!  Did you hear that?!?  We’re bringing you business!  Can the Pierre’s get a park pass or a room credit? 😛

Regardless, we will be so happy you joined us and you will too.

Disney Cruise. See Ya Real Soon! That’s What’s Up!

 

Why We Didn’t Like Our Disney Cruise……

In Family, Kids, Travel on June 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM

………..We LOVED it!  Isn’t that such like a kid?  Maybe, we caught a little of that from our week on a ship with Mickey and 4,000 of his friends.  But, we really enjoyed ourselves so much that we booked our cruise for next year before we even got off the ship.

As I’m just beginning to feel the subtle rocking of our ship cease, I am still elated from our 5 day cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Cruise ship: Dream.  What an amazing trip!

We first cruised with Royal Caribbean on our honeymoon almost 13 years ago on Majesty of the Seas.  We thought that was pretty fun although we also agreed that 7 days of cruising in the Caribbean was a bit long.  Our next cruise was about 5 years ago.  Again, it was a 7-day cruise but it was perfect to sail through the Mediterranean seas and visit the beautiful lands of Italy, Croatia, and Malta.  We sailed on Holland, which is known for their luxury, style and accommodations.  And, we absolutely recommend that trip and cruise line, as that was an amazing trip.

Well, again, while those are both highly recommended cruise lines, we both agree that Disney reached a new level and outdid both of them.  From the staterooms to the service to just the energy that everyone on board brings, this was by far the best cruise, vacation and family time that we’ve spent so far.

For some of you, I know what you’re thinking.  I don’t have kids so why would this interest me?  EVEN WITHOUT KIDS, this is a GREAT cruise.  Do you know how many people we met on that cruise without kids?  OMG!  You’d be so surprised!  In fact, we met a couple that said they were on their 8th Disney cruise; the 7th Disney cruise WITHOUT their kids.  Classic.  😛  We often heard that this was the case but now that we’ve been on it, we completely understand.  There’s an entire 18+, adult only section of the boat that makes you forget that you’re even on a Disney cruise.  From the adult pool including a bar, lounges, sections of the beach, etc…, you can really be on the cruise without interacting with kids.  But, the energy from the other side is so amazing that catching it is actually welcoming and joyous.  This is definitely not the 4-hour plane ride with the crying baby all the way.  And, did I mention the spa with the breathtaking view?  Spa-aah-mazing! 🙂

Now, for those of you, who, like us, look to the Disney cruise for a family vacation, we absolutely say it’s a must.  We understand that it may amount to a couple of mortgage payments for some but it is absolutely possible to save up for the year and do this.  Really.  And, there are plenty of options to make this trip affordable for every income level.

We have a family of 5 and we stayed in an oceanview stateroom with verandah.  It was very spacious, particularly compared to our other cruises with a similar room.  There were 2 bathrooms.  One with sink and toilet and another with sink and shower.  This made it very easy to get ready.  And, the showers are the most spacious we’ve seen for this style of room including a rain shower.  Considering you’re not really in the room much, this style would work just fine for a family our size.  And the beds are super comfy.  Again, above average and even more comfortable than some nice hotels.  Each of the girls had their own beds and their beds were pretty cozy too.  Now, if you’re more of a royal suite upgrade type, these rooms are available, of course, full of luxury and also recommended.  Again, considering you’re not in your room much, we’d only recommend splurging on such a room if you just have to because you have it like that or if you really plan to be in it and so you’d like extra space and glitz.  Otherwise, again, the oceanview staterooms are good.

If you’re looking to cut costs a little, try for an inside stateroom or just a stateroom with a porthole window (no balcony).  These rooms, are slightly lower in costs.  These rooms, however, only sleep 3-4 comfortably.  So for a family size like ours, the inside rooms weren’t an option.  What we’re saying overall though is that you can save up and pay for the cruise if you start saving now and sail with us next year! J  Of course, you’ll have to actually book the cruise and place a deposit down but you don’t have to pay the whole thing right now.  Again, you can save up so that next year, you can sail into some fun, some sun and a little Mickey too.  Also, compare the dates and destinations.  Some dates and locations are more expensive than others.  Although our kids were out of school, many kids are still in.  So, our rate was a little less than had we waited until the next trip 2 weeks later because at that point most schools will be out for the summer.  That increases the rate.

From the great tasting food to the all you can eat ice-cream to the cleanliness and service, this cruise doesn’t miss a thing.  And, to top it off, you can ride the Aqua Duck, the water roller coaster that circles most of the ship for added adventure.  If you just want to sun bathe on deck while the kids jump in the pool, you can do that too and catch up on a Disney classic movie while you’re at it.  There is a nursery that I would absolutely entrust my baby to that is open from 9a to 1a.  And, if your child is old enough to go to the Oceaneer room to run, jump, play and create, we absolutely say to drop your kid off here and let the adults go to their “play area”.  The Oceaneer room made you want to be a kid again.  What an incredible place.  Our 10 year old gained a little independence as she ventured out to “The Edge”, a club designed just for tweens.  One night, we beat her home as she met her 2 am curfew after hanging with her new found friends.  Yes, she was loving that.  And, it helped all of us to learn about responsibilities and that our baby is really growing up.

Our trip left from Port Canaveral, FL and cruised to their private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, then to Nassau, Bahamas where we beached at the famous Atlantis hotel, we then sailed for a day at sea, then back to Castaway Cay and then home.  Next year we take the same trip on the same ship except it will be 4 days as we will not visit Castaway Cay twice.  We didn’t even get off the boat at Castaway Cay the second time.  I think many stayed on the ship.  Maybe this is why they decided that one stop there was plenty and just cut it out for the future.  Everyone saves money and time that way.  And, now it encourages us to use that extra day to just go to the park when we get back.  Okay, so maybe only Disney saves money and THAT’S the plan. LOL!  Because, going to the park for that extra day definitely doesn’t save us anything.  But, considering that they cut the price, maybe it balances out.

So, next year, take advantage of the 4-day deal and sail the seas with us.   You will NOT be disappointed! Do it for your family.  Heck, do it for yourself!

Family Fun.  Family Memories for life.  That’s What’s Up!

For the Love of a Challenge!

In Family, For the Stilletos, For the Ties on June 4, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Here’s our challenge for June.  For the love of a challenge.  For the love of fitness.  For the love of YOU!

Every year, my company has a challenge to get everyone geared up for summer or maybe even to get you back on the wagon from that new year’s resolution you made a while ago to get back into shape.  Well, we’re sharing the challenge with you.

For the entire month of June, complete the Ironman.  Now, for those who want an extra challenge, time yourself for each leg of exercise you do daily.  For others (like us), just complete the challenge.  If you’re really up for a challenge, see how many ironman’s you can complete in the month.

Here are the details for completing the ironman

Run 26.2 miles

Swim 2.4 miles

Bike 112 miles

You can do it in any order and you can start and stop during the entire month.  Just keep track of how much you’ve completed so that you can pick up where you left off.  Again, if you really want to push yourself, also keep track of your time.

For some great tips and nutrition guidelines for completing the ironman (remember, we’re doing it over the course of a month), please visit their website.

Now ladies, particularly some of my soul sistahs, I know you’re probably thinking.  Girrrrrrl….I was with you until you said to swim.  My hair! Oh, my hair!  The running and biking is already going to sweat it out but dang, swim too?  So, here’s a tip.  Swim last!  Complete the biking and running first.  Then, swim the last week.  Or, try to swim the 2.4 in one day.  It’s the least of distances, so push yourself.  You can do it.  I wish I could recommend the best swim cap to completely keep your hair water free but I’m still waiting and looking for that one.  To be fair, I am completely natural so all I can do is recommend some good hair products.  I personally love Elucence  or you can also purchase at curlmart.  The entire line is great.  From the clarifying, to the shampoo to the conditioner.  And, because of the swimming, the clarifying is good to use.   Anyway, If I need to straighten, I blow dry with an ion brush and an ionic blow dryer with Paul Mitchell’s smoothing super skinny serum.  I then flat iron with a flat iron that got me in the mall.  While I usually don’t go for these kiosks, I must say, I don’t regret this purchase at all.  It’s the Bellezza flat iron and I’m all about it!    It really is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.  You can also always two strand twist, put a little moose or gel in to make it curly if your hair does that, or braid it up, weave it up, whatever.  Whatever will make it easy for you to complete the 2.4 miles by the end of June!

Now, let’s get to work people.  We’re already 4 days in so my apologies with the late notice.  But, we can do this.  Ironman (Iron-woman) here we come!!!!

Ironman.  One month.  That’s What’s Up!

Catching Up

In Family, Kids on June 1, 2012 at 12:59 AM

For those who are following us at Ties and Stilletos (or, maybe I should say were), our apologies.  As with many people, life has its tendencies of interrupting, taking over, and next thing you know two months have passed since you’ve last blogged.

So things have been running a little hectic and crazy but that’s to be expected from a family with 3 kids.  After all, this blog is supposed to be about keeping some kind of sense around family life and having fun in between.

Even though our blog has been bogged, we haven’t lost our “love revolution”.  So to catch us up on some past moments, here’s what we have to share:

March was rolling for a moment as we talked about issues that focused on women.  After all, March is women’s history month and so it is always great to tap into the dynamic that is the human backbone of our existence.  Hopefully, there is a great woman in your life that you celebrate and honor be it today, yesterday or tomorrow.

March was also a milestone celebration for our very own Dennis as he hit the big 4-0! Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh my gosh!!! J  And, did we ever celebrate.  Much love was shown as his boyz flew from the banks of LBC to show shawty some love in the A.  Much of our family also came down and we had a really good weekend that we will never forget.  What a great way to bring in a new decade.  Yes, this is his lovely and just as delicious cake!  Everything was edible (except the tray and the wire that created the cigar smoke).  The cake was made scrumptiously by our neighbor Karen from Made With Sugar.  Seriously, the best cake ever and all I did was sent in a picture.  She did the rest!  If you are in the Atlanta area, give her a shout out and order on her page!

In April,we celebrated our oldest daughters birthdays with the oldest having her own milestone 10. I can say that I had plenty of emotions as going into double digits with her was more than I thought. I just couldn’t help thinking of how I first held her and when we first brought her home and how we had no clue with what to do with a baby but just went with the flow anyway. And, now she’s 10! Wow! Congratulations to our little Scooby! 🙂 And, this is a picture of Kalyn’s cake which was also good but was not professionally made. This was only lovingly made by mommy with the help of Duncan Hines and some cute, edible cake tattoos that I bought from Michael’s. It was delicious and even more so, Kalyn LOVED it!

In April we also started a garden and planted a bed of herbs and a bed of vegetables. We show our love for nature and filled our backyard with some organic grown foods. As of now, the garden is doing pretty well as our vegetables are finally starting to sprout. We’ve already eaten many of the herbs, stuffing them into chicken and salsa dishes. In the herb garden we have lemon balm, mint, sage, parsley, cilantro, basil, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, and rosemary. In the vegetable garden we have 2 tomato plants, jalapeño, spinach, lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, yellow pepper, green pepper and cucumber.  This is all experimental but so far it has been really fun planting and watching our garden grow.  We’ll keep you posted on any tips or learnings we get from our whole “farmer Joe” experience.  As long as snakes keep their place and out of our garden, it will be all good!

Of course May is for the love of mothers.  Whether you’re a mother, stepmother, mother-to-be, or just mother figure, we all love our mothers.  Our girls showed the best love on the morning of mother’s day.  We were on our way to church and as I came down the steps, they asked me to sit on the couch for a special surprise.  They had put together an entire performance, just for me.  The oldest started with an introduction to why they love their mom, then they all came up and sang a couple of songs that I guess they found on YouTube that were just for loving mom.  They read me poems, sang songs, and gave me a special performance that words couldn’t begin to describe. They then served me “breakfast” on a cookie sheet with a bagel, cheese and chocolate milk and gave me handmade books each telling me why they loved me so. They read me poems and finished off with handmade gifts that they made just for me.  Let’s just say, we didn’t make it to church.  But, as I said that day, there wasn’t a priest or preacher in sight that could have delivered that message to me that day.  That was all of God’s love for me and that was a celebration that will always be cherished. That was definitely the best Mother’s Day ever! ♥  How blessed we are with these three beautiful girls.  What beautiful spirits.

May was also the final days of school.  Our youngest just finished kindergarten!!!  Wow! Unbelievable! Life is moving WAY too fast!

So, now we’re here in June where we start each summer with a vacation to focus on the love we have for our family.  We just wrapped up a five day cruise on the seas of the Bahamas with Mickey and about 1,000+ of his friends.  Do we recommend it?  Like a man in a desert likes the rain! We’ve got you covered next on our trip, our tips and why we already booked our next Disney cruise even before we got off our first one.

Thanks for catching up! That’s What’s Up!

Tuesday Tacos. Simple.Delicious.Nutritious.

In Family, Kids, Recipes/Food on March 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Tuesday Tacos are always a great quick and easy meal in our house.  Ya’ll know that I like alliterations so, of course, the best day to do a simple, easy and quick taco night is on Tuesday.  Certainly, you can consider Mexican Miércoles as an alternative but for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, Tuesday Taco night may be easier to remember. 😉  (By the way, Miércoles = Wednesday).  Nevertheless, tacos rarely find themselves as the most nutritious option for the day.  So, in an effort to up the nutritional value while still keeping the delectable goodness in every bite, try these options.  Even your kids will like it!

  • Ground turkey is a great substitute and, in fact, I really think it gives a much better flavor than ground beef.  Besides, the pink slime recently discovered in beef should make you want to consider a more stomach-friendly option. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/pink-slime-supermarket-ground-beef_n_1332429.html?ref=food
  • Ortega Seasoning.  I’ve tried several pre-packaged taco seasonings and, personally, I believe this is the best.  Actually, I’m a pretty loyal fan of many Ortega products. http://www.ortega.com/
  • Add cilantro while cooking the meat in the seasoning.  Fresh or dried, it will really bring out the flavor in your taco meat.
  • Spinach!  Instead of the no-value-add lettuce, use spinach to top your taco and increase your fiber intake along with several other health benefits. http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/11-health-benefits-of-spinach.html
  • Reduced fat or no fat shredded cheese.  We all love cheese but let’s face it, it either doesn’t love us (especially as we age) or we really could get the same taste without all of the fat if we just drop down in the milk fat used to make it.  You will have the same great flavor without the extra calories.
  • Whole grain corn taco shells.  Again, you get the same great flavor with a few extra benefits of fiber.  You won’t even know the difference.

Even though the tacos are more nutritious, I always feel I’m cheating my children when I don’t see veggies on their plate.  (The spinach that falls off the taco doesn’t count).  So, either I’ll add broccoli to the dinner (which doesn’t really compliment tacos that well) or I’ll make them “Shrek Juice”.  It’s the perfect way to give them juice while they drink away all of their nutrition via raw fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t have a Vitamix, honestly, I highly encourage you to get one.  It’s one of the best appliances in my kitchen and well worth the money.  I pretty much use it every day whether it’s for breakfast, a weekend lunch, or dinner.  And it’s SUPER easy to clean.  Even better, my kids love the juice that comes out.  They would never eat the likes of raw spinach and kale voluntarily, but put it in the Vitamix and they drink it like it’s sweet punch.  Below is our favorite recipe and an easy add-on to any meal!!!

“Shrek Juice (1 cup of ice)/Sorbet (if you add the 3 cups of Ice)”
.    100% Juice (we use Welch’s – Passion Fruit, White Grape / Peach or Pineapple / Orange).  The amount can vary.  Usually 2 ozs. is plenty but it will depend on how much you are making.  I usually eye it and then save the rest in a freezer-friendly container.
.    Banana
.    1 Slice pineapple
.    Handful fresh spinach and/or kale (I use both)
.    1 wedge fresh lime
.    3 Cups Ice

Turn machine on 1 turn to 10 then to high speed. Push ingredients into blade with tamper until machine “catches” (low grinding sound) all materials. Blend until smooth (4 “pillows” should appear on top). Should take no more than 30 seconds.

Other all-natural juices can be used instead of Welch’s – Use your imagination!

Note:  Welch’s has 2 types of frozen juice. 1) Yellow Cap (This is the preferred type as the sugar used is all natural fruit sugars) 2) White Cap (This is not preferred as the sugar used is High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Also, this recipe is pretty much the base for any juicing I do.  So, feel free to add carrots, beet, celery, apples, etc….

Simple. Delicious. Nutritious. That’s What’s Up!

Connections

In Family, Relationships on March 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Connection.  What a powerful word.  Imagine if it were used more frequently between individuals.  It seems that as a society, we have found a way to have less connection amongst each other even though we have some of the most state-of-the art technology that even George Jetson couldn’t have dreamt.  We have the ability to connect with people with the touch of a button; talk with people face-to-face while being positioned on opposing sides of the world; or even send a thought to the world by a communication that only a bird was known to do.  We have the technological ability to connect in more ways than we ever imagined yet we are the most disconnected society that I have yet to witness.  And, while I’m not even close to being old enough to have “seen it all”, as a GenX-er, I have been a part of a generation that has evolved with the rapid change of time and tech.  Yes, we are more disconnected today than twenty years ago and the gap is seeming to widen every day.

So what’s driving this?  What is causing the disconnect when we have the means to connect and even re-connect?  Remember when I spoke about common bonds and difference barriers?  I believe that the tools we have inherited from the genius minds of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Jack Dorsey, et. al. , and the like have ultimately allowed us to bury ourselves in the corners of our worlds and merely connect solely through devices.  And, through our devices, not only do we disconnect from many human attributes such as eye contact, touch, presence, environment, we disconnect from the most human aspect of all – common bonds.  With our disconnected connections, we are able to think we are sharing in our world because we involve ourselves in a communication mechanism that crosses county lines, state lines and even oceans.  So, because we’re able to reach across channels that we couldn’t reach 15 years ago without a major bill from MCI, we think we’re doing something.  We think we’re connected.  We’re tweeting and facebooking and LinkedIn and YouTubed and Meeting Up and texting and all that.  We’ve got more social media connections than we do time.  Yet, we fall into this dichotomy of disconnected connections.  With all the means and platforms out there to connect shouldn’t we be more bonded and living the true meaning of this being a “small world”?

For the most part, the world has become connected through the advancement of technology, but as individuals, I believe we have become so disconnected because instead of using our devices to leverage our bonds and connect to different people or cultures that we may not otherwise experience, we, as a society, use these devices and platforms as difference barriers that we hide behind.   It’s easier to throw a rock at a man while standing behind a fence than to stand directly in front of that man and throw the same rock at him.  (Of course, I’m speaking in general and not in consideration for the inhumane and evil souls that will “throw a rock” at whomever, whenever).  Our devices have somehow become a means for disengaging and focusing on issues that divide us so that we can throw rocks.  People can tweet some pretty bold and crazy remarks or write an audacious status on Facebook but that same person would never say the same to a persons face.  Some of these same people can’t even speak in public or even ask a question in a meeting because they’re afraid to speak or can’t find the words to express themselves.  (Again, I’m generalizing for those who are open by any means, but we all know these people.)  And, unfortunately, most of these people aren’t offering words of wisdom as Wilson did in Home Improvement (Tim Allen’s neighbor who was usually behind a fence, was multi-cultural in travels and studies, and used such knowledge to share wisdom and help resolve Tim’s problems). If only Wilson was able to tweet such words of wisdom to the world.

Do not get me wrong.  I love my devices.  I love social media.  But, I also love connections.  Real connections.  Connections that are even made through these devices.  Connections that bring the human element out of those devices and turn them into bonds.  Connections that plan parties, reunions, book clubs and bring people face to face.  Actual connections.  When we use the devices as a means for connectivity, we optimize the benefits and opportunities to create meaningful bonds that coat our human existence.  We form momentous relationships that can tear down barriers of differences.  We connect.

We don’t need to ban our tools and devices for connection.  But, we must learn to use them as a leverage for bridging our society together and forming the bonds that we all have in common.  As I shared before, we have way more in common than we have in differences.  Don’t let our means for greater connectivity be the means for disengaged, disconnected existence.  Let’s not hide behind our devices as the barriers of differences but leverage our platforms as bringing forth that common element.  COexist! COnnect.  Notice how those two words are even bonded in similarities.  Find your “CO” in each other.

Connections. Make a real one today.  That’s What’s Up!

What Color is My World?

In Family, Kids on February 18, 2012 at 12:01 AM

The other morning I was listening to the TJMS when I heard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the radio.  Now, some of you remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a legendary Laker known for his dominant basketball skills, particularly his famous sky hook.  He’s an icon in basketball and has definitely earned the respect of those whom, like myself, love that era of the NBA.  While championship rings adorn his trophy case, he has now added an additional honor to his repertoire as co-author of a wonderful children’s book: What Color is My World?

As a black, female patent attorney who yearns to hear the history of black scientists and/or inventors, of course I immediately put in my order without ever seeing a page.  It didn’t matter.  Someone was telling a part of our history that was rarely told and put it into a children’s format?  I’m in!

And, because I’m “that” mama, this was, of course a Valentine’s Day gift for one of the girls (along with books for the other girls: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by my favorite illustrator, Kadir Nelson and Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters by my favorite president, Barack Obama).  I ordered it from Amazon.com and had the books at my door the next afternoon (Prime membership definitely has its benefits!)

From the time I picked up this book, I was immediately drawn in and impressed.  First of all, it’s beautiful.  It’s beautiful and bright with vivid colors (and of course the cover is basketball orange) 😉  And, although it’s a history book, the story is written in such a way that it doesn’t bore it’s young (and young at heart audience) from long drawn out facts and lists of timeline information.  Instead, it’s a creative story of young teenage twins, Ella and Herbie who are moving into a new, but not so “brand-new” home.  Their handyman, Mr. Mital, takes them through a historical journey of how basic parts of their everyday lives have transformed from the ingenuity of black scientist and inventors.  From major inventions like the traffic signal of Garrett Morgan to the potato chip of George Crum (thank you, Mr. Crum! 🙂 ) and even the future vision of 3-D with the illusion transmitter of Dr. Valerie L. Thomas), the authors really take into consideration an imaginative way to intertwine history with modern-day teenage patience.  And, this isn’t just a list of a few names that we should pride in our history; there are several pioneering and modern-day inventions like the Super Soaker that make the entire story fascinating.  I also love that “Ella’s Fast Facts” flap onto the edge of each page to give you a detailed but concise insight into a particular scientist/inventor that was just mentioned in the story.  What I loved most was that I was able to learn more about my every day world that I either knew nothing about, in terms of origins, or I only knew half the story that may have left out a few proper accolades.

As a former high school science teacher in Watts, California, I required my students to not just take “Black History Month” as a simple passing-by of time but to learn something that would help them grow in knowledge and confidence about their roots.  Each year in February, my students were to pick one black scientist/inventor for a paper and presentation assignment.  It was a great exercise for them and for me as we both learned a lot about our history and the greatness of Americans, who because of their color, had a story untold.  Any student who completed the assignment was awarded an “A” (although they didn’t know this) because what they really received from their research was more than what I could give them on a report card.  I just wish I had this book during those years so I could show them a vivid compilation of what I wanted them to learn.

I am truly inspired by this book and will order an extra copy just to keep in my office.  I’ll keep it as a conversation piece for those who stop by.  Because, that’s where it begins.  It begins with a conversation; a positive communication of our history and the intelligence of a people who were written out of history books as such.  This isn’t just a story of black history, it is a story of AMERICAN HISTORY.  Their story is the foundation of many of America’s staple success stories like Thomas Edison, Glidden Paint and Lay’s potato chips.  The scientists in this book are our heroes and she-roes that our children need to discover so that they know that science is a part of their bloodline as much as sports and rap.  These are the revolutionist who dared to read, learn, think and dream despite being told that they didn’t know how, they weren’t supposed to or no one believed they could.

I bought this book for my children for Valentine’s Day not just because we love them but because we want them to love themselves.  For, “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside,  Give them a sense of pride………”  (R.I.P. Whitney Houston)

May we all get a sense of pride by understanding the Color of Our World.  That’s What’s Up!

*For more information on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar including some of his other great literary works, please click here.*

Kiva Follow-Up

In Family, Kids on February 17, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Many people wonder how Kiva actually works in regards to the payback.  I’m sure it depends on the borrower, but I have to say that we have so far had a good return on our micro-loan philanthropy efforts.  We just received an e-mail that our most recent loan had begun to be repaid.  So, this post is just to share with our followers how the messages are communicated involving the payback. Hopefully this makes you more aware of how Kiva works and encourages you to think about this organization in your “12 for 12 Love Revolution” journey this year.  Apologies for the mis-aligned paste from the e-mail message to the blog.  I’m sure there are some computer whiz codes that would alleviate the issue but I think the overall message is clear.

Microloans that change lives and keep their word.  That’s What’s Up!

Loans that change lives


Hi.  We’d like to give you a repayment update on the loans you’ve
made through Kiva. A total of $10.00 has been repaid over the past month!
As of February 18, 2012, you now have $10.00 in Kiva Credit in your account.
You can re-lend to another borrower,withdraw to your PayPal account or donate
these funds to help cover Kiva’s operating expenses. (The minimum
lending amount is $25, but you can easily add new funds to existing
Kiva Credit to complete a loan purchase.)Below is the repayment update
on your Kiva Portfolio.

Robinah (#381330)
Country: Uganda
Activity: General Store
You Loaned: $100.00
Newly Repaid: $10.00
Total Repaid So Far: $10.00 (10.00% of your loan)
Repayment Status: Paying back on time

Best Wishes,
Kiva Staff

If you have any questions, please contact us at any time.
Thank you.
— The Kiva Team

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