27 November, 2013

Dubai World Expo 2020

Congratulations to the UAE on winning the World Expo bid for 2020.  History in the making after 147 years, Dubai will be the first Muslim Arab country to host.

17 October, 2013

Reflection Time...Moving Half Way Around the World

I recently came across some videos I took of our house and the children right before moving overseas.  Some videos just captured our home and neighborhood as a way to share them with the kids down the road, and some were of the kids saying goodbye to friends.

This one broke my heart.  It was the last video I took before leaving.  We had been preparing the kids for the move for months in advance, but you never really know how they're feeling unless you ask.  At this point, our house was empty and we were heading out to the in-laws for our last two weeks in the USA.  The children had tearfully given their dog to a family friend just days before.  We were chaotic, running around with last minute details, and all I really wanted was to know how the kids were feeling, so I asked.  You can see moments of getting choked up, but also the excitement of a new destination.

I think they were just as confused as I was about the move, but I'm so glad things have worked out so well.  They have made wonderful new friends, seen things they'd never dreamed, and now call the UAE home.  I think its time for another "check-in" with the kids...stay tuned for an updated video!

Question:  How did your kids feel when you were moving overseas?  What were they sad about?  What were they excited about?

04 October, 2013

New! TravelingMom 101 Family Travel Tips Book

Its here and its yours!  Take a minute to check out the newly compiled 101 Family Travel Tips book compiled by the expert family travel bloggers at TravelingMom.com.  I'm sure you'll be happy you did!  Please feel free to share it with your friends, and come back and share your own thoughts!

23 September, 2013

Surviving When Daddy's Away

It's 3.5 weeks into my husband's business trip and I'm so thankful there are only three days to go until he's home.  I thought the tearful goodbye was going to be the hard part, or perhaps taking care of the heart-broken dog who thinks my husband is her best friend, or the kids missing daddy.  Nope!  I was wrong.

How do you survive balancing your personal and professional life which includes three children, night school and a love sick dog?  

You fake it 'till you make it.

Yep.  That's all I've concluded.  No wise words of wisdom.  Just that piece of advice...fake it 'till you make it.  I decided that knowing he was coming back, eventually, made things almost harder because I just wanted him back NOW.  And I knew he would be soon...this wasn't a forever gig.  So, I just pretend all is ok on the outside, keep everyone happy and balls all up in the air, and hope I don't drop one on my head.

It's been a comedy of errors since my husband left.  We've had an AC unit go out, a shower mount fall off the wall, illness, a broken arm, a giant goose egg to the back of the head, water delivered that has sat outside cause I cant lift it inside, shattered spice jar all over the kitchen floor, a vacuum that decided to break when the jar shattered, a neurotic dog who licks the door hoping daddy will walk through, a month old dirty car I just can't seem to find time to clean and grey hair growing in that I just haven't been able to color.  (When your friend points out the grey, you know you've been neglecting yourself.). One thing after another...and that's just my home life!

However, through it all, I have my little vents on Facebook with friends, I hash out the work day with a coworker before heading home and I try to keep a smile on my face and continue helping everyone around me.  So what if I wear the wrong shoes, forget to turn the crockpot on or drive to a destination only to realize its not where I wanted to go.  

I kept the dog alive, the kids fed, most of the house in one piece and managed to keep my job.  Super mom, no.  An overly organized mom who can pretend, most times, that everything is under control?  Yep.  Faking it 'till we make it...which right now, is three days longer.

How do you handle transition into one parent households when your spouse travels?  What's the funniest thing that has happened while on your own?

02 September, 2013

Kid-Free Zones on Airlines

Have you heard about the latest buzz surrounding airlines and kids?  Several Asian airlines are the forerunners in now offering kid-free zones on flights, hoping to appease those who want little to do with kids on flights.  Seriously?  AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines think they've come up with the solution, and its expected that more airlines will follow. 

I can understand not wanting to hear a baby cry, a kid scream or a frantic mother shouting at her kids to be quiet.  Have you been in her shoes?  I bet she's more terrified of your reactions and thoughts about her parenting and her kids than you even care to consider.  As parents, we do what we can, when we can.  A flight might just be one of the most unpredictable situations we can put our children in, and we just hope and pray that they make it through peacefully without anyone scrutinizing.  But "hiding" children on a flight is like having smoking and non-smoking areas on a flight...it didn't work.

Several companies, like Etihad and Emirates are doing it right.  They are providing goodie bags, toys and even stuffed animals and blankets...all with the child's peace of mind at heart.  Etihad has even just recently announced their brilliant program, Flying Nannies!  They  know families need to travel and they know its not always easy.  Here, they've come up with an idea to help parents and kids instead of hiding them.  "They’re here to provide an extra pair of hands – whether it’s helping to get the children settled for bed, keeping them entertained or simply offering advice and support to parents." -Etihadairways.com

What's your take on "kid-free" zones?  Peter Greenberg shared his thoughts as well.

30 August, 2013

Fresher Food Overseas?

Now this is what I call fresh eggs.  Since living in the UAE, we've noticed things are more "organic" than back home.  We often find our eggs covered in feathers (and other chicken 'stuff'), instead of cleaned and pretty.  This doesn't just go for eggs either!  We've found feathers on chicken too!  

Vegetables in the local markets (excluding Spinneys and Choithrams) come in odd shapes and colors and are frequently covered in dirt, or at least spots of dirt.  They aren't uniform in size nor shiny and colorful.  You can find produce represented by at least ten different countries in one store alone.  Kenyan avocado anyone?

29 August, 2013

Our First Vine Video

Have you heard of Vine?  It's an app for iPhone or Android and its pretty much amazing.  Take up to 6 seconds to feature whatever you want, like a mini-preview.  You can shoot, upload and share right from the app.  Shoot scenes from where you are, of a project you're working on or highlights of your day of sightseeing.  Vine gained 13 million users in only 5 months.  Are you Vined yet?

The Packing Timeline

Last night, six hours before having to leave for a week long trip, my husband was finishing his packing.  Is this a guy thing or a person traveling alone thing?  If it were me, traveling alone, I'd be organizing, checking off a list, laying out outfits and planning at least two days before the trip.  I know, this is totally a girl thing to do.  But how can you pack last minute like that and be sure you have everything you need?  I'm waiting for that text message from my husband telling me he forgot something.  Of course, if I were traveling with my family, I'd be planning a week out.  But I'm curious, when do you pack? 

06 August, 2012

Removing Moles with Apple Cider Vinegar?

*Consult your doctor first, and get your moles checked out to make sure they are ok to remove.

Every since I remember really caring about what I look like, I remember becoming more and more self conscious about certain things.  Some people struggle with weight, body image, wrinkles, stretch marks, etc.  Sure, I do too.  But some things just bugged me even more.  Moles.  I come from a "moley" family...is that even a word?  Every few years the doctors would check my body, looking for anything out of the ordinary, and only once has any of them caused concern.  I had a pre-cancerous mole removed on my back in college which left a significant scar that I've learned to accept. 

Through the years, as I've grown older, there have been two on my face that I have never liked, and a skin tag on my throat.  There is one on my forehead near my hair line, which always gets hit when brushing my hair, and another on my cheek which many refer to as a beauty mark...not me.  It was big and dark and I just didn't like it.  I've asked doctors over the years if they'd remove them, and they said yes, but warned that I'd have scars on my face, so I brushed the thought aside.

Until recently.  I was on the Internet (surprise!) and came across an at home remedy using Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for removing moles.  Really?  Could it be this simple?  No lasers?  No scalpels?  I was intrigued, and started reading all the forums I could find with success story after success story on using ACV.  Some warned that you will most likely have a small pink scar area after it's all said and done, but heck, that covers with make-up!  So, I gave it a try...and it worked!

Now, as my husband said, you might not want to start on your FACE!  Try another area that you can cover to see how your skin and body react.  But I was determined to get rid of these things, so I started on my face.  :)  Here's what I did.

1.  Scratch the surface of the mole with something like a pumice stone, needle, emery board, etc.  Just a little, not 'till you're bleeding!  You only need to do this one time...never again in the process.

2.  Put Vaseline around the mole, not on the mole itself though.  We're trying to protect the skin around the mole.  Do this every time you're going to apply ACV.

3.  Dip a Q-tip into ACV, then hold it directly onto the mole for about 2-3 minutes.  You'll feel stinging, it's worth it.  Rinse the area when finished, and repeat 4-5 times a day.  Leave it alone overnight (some people keep a cotton ball on it overnight, but I think that's overkill).  For one more day, do the 4-5 applications of vinegar, so to sleep.  On day 3, your mole should be dark brown/black and scabbed over.  LEAVE IT ALONE!

4.  You'll notice on about day 4 or 5, that you'll get out of the shower, and the scab will have loosened and fallen off by itself, or would be easily taken off, you shouldn't have to force it.  As soon the scab comes off, you'll want to keep it from scaring the best you can.  I used Helichrysum essential oil.  Some use honey and other scar remedies and ointments, but my "wound" is healing better than expected using the oil.  Every time I wash my face, I put a little oil on the marks and leave it.  I also leave it on overnight.

I'm on day 8 of the whole process, and the one on my forehead is almost completely healed, my cheek is getting close and my neck skin tag is non-existent.  This has been amazing!  Again, check to make sure your moles are normal, and then if you want, give it a try.

04 August, 2012

An End to Cursive Writing?

As my son prepares for another year of school, I've been working on his handwriting skills over the summer.  I love nice penmanship.  As his manuscript became better and better, I decided to start the skill of cursive writing.  I was so excited to teach him, as I remember loving cursive in school.  We sat down, we went over letters "a" and "b", and he mastered it in his first try.  I was so proud of him that I took a picture, posted it to Facebook and we even showed grandma and grandpa via Skype.

However, my parade was rained on when grandma and grandpa told me that cursive is no longer part of the Utah curriculum since 2010, and they aren't in the minority.  Districts all over the country are dropping it from curriculum, as keyboarding skills become increasingly important.  Really?  You're just going to drop writing?

I'm torn on this subject.  Cursive is beautiful.  It requires coordination, motor skill development and the use of the left and right sides of the brain.  It looks pretty.  People love getting mail addressed in cursive.  There's just something special about it.  And now it might be gone. 

Apparently Utah schools will decide for the upcoming 2013 school year, whether or not cursive will be brought back into the core curriculum.  Here's hoping so.

Where do you stand on the cursive debate?

23 July, 2012

Chicken Nuggets Your Kids Will Love

This recipe has become an all time favorite in our household.  My kids beg for them, and tell me they are better than any other nuggets they've had.  I hope yours feel the same way!

Preheat oven to 350F


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
seasoned bread crumbs
butter (for 4 breasts I use about 2-3 Tbs)
milk...room temp.
Parmesano Reggiano

1.  Cut your chicken into good size pieces or strips...however your kids will eat them.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together equal parts seasoned bread crumbs, panko and Parmesano Reggiano...enough to coat your chicken.
3.  Melt butter, then add 1/4 C. milk.
4. Throw a bunch of chicken in the butter/milk bowl, swish it around, then dump into the bread crumb mixture.  Get your hands nice a dirty...cover them completely, and place on a cookie sheet.  Continue with the remaining chicken.
5.  Bake for 10-15 min...depending on the size of your chicken bites, flip, and continue baking for another 10-15 min.


Pumpkin Apple Soup

It may be the middle of July, and it may be hovering around 117F here in the UAE, but that doesn't stop my six year old from asking for pumpkin soup.  I've been reading different recipes, loving parts of each, but no one recipe really grabbed my attention.  So, once again, I have combined them until coming up with something we all loved.  Here it is.


4 C. Pumpkin Puree (pure, not flavored)
2 apples, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs butter
1/2 large onion
4 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6-8 C. chicken stock
1-2 C. white wine or sherry
3-4 C. heavy cream (this will also add some sweetness at the end)
1-2 tsp cinnamon (to suit your taste)
1-2 tsp nutmeg (to suit your taste)
salt & pepper (gradually add throughout the simmer process to your liking)

1.  In a pot, saute the butter, garlic and onion just slightly.  Add the chopped apples with 1/2 C. water, cover and simmer until apples are tender enough to mash.
2.  With a potato masher, gently mash the apples and onions together.
3.  Add the pumpkin puree, 6-8 C. chicken stock, bay leaves, wine, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and salt.  (Slowly add the stock to get the consistency you desire.  This will simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, so you can add as you go to reach what you desire.)
4.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer on low for 30 minutes.  Watch your consistency, if you want a thicker soup, don't add too much water...you'll be adding cream later.  Taste your soup as it simmers...if you need more seasoning, this is the time to add it.  Everyone has a different tolerance for cinnamon and nutmeg...so I always say add as you go.
5.  Take the soup off the heat, add the cream, again, getting it to your desired consistency.
6.  Garnish with a bay leaf on top or with chopped apples.  Serve with a good dipping bread.


29 June, 2012

Cinnamon Kissed Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

You may wonder if we ever eat anything else other than confectionery delights after seeing all my posts on my latest treats to share with you!  I can assure you, I love to bake, but I love to give it away.  I eat very little of what I've made...the fun is in watching the faces of others enjoy what I have made.  Here's another one for you that's sure to please.  They are moist and more muffin-like than a dense bread.

Yields 24 Muffins


3 C. of flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 overly ripe bananas (not ones you've ripened in the microwave...really counter ripened! The sugar the bananas make helps.)
3/4 C. white sugar
3/4 C. brown sugar
2 eggs...do not over whisk, just beat lightly
2/3 C. melted butter (substitute a little applesauce for a portion if you want a healthier version)
1/2-1C. chocolate chips (more or less depending on your sweet tooth)
*for topping, think cinnamon toast...mix a little cinnamon with a little sugar and sprinkle on top before baking


1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line muffin tin with papers or grease.
2.  In one bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3.  In another bowl, mash bananas, then add both sugars, whisked egg and melted butter.
4.  Gently pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and begin to fold...don't stir!  And don't go crazy with the folding...only until everything is combined and moistened.  
5.  Add your chocolate chips, give one more fold, and pour into muffin cups.
6.  Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture and put in the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Use a toothpick to test.  Most people OVER bake, thinking they aren't cooked all the way through.  This creates a dry and sometimes burned muffin.  
7.  Enjoy!

19 June, 2012

Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroons

I've always had a thing for coconut.  The smell of suntan lotions, surfboard wax and tropical drinks.  Something about the smell of coconut sends me to vacation mode, if only for a moment.  Add the sense of taste, and I'm in heaven.  Mounds and Almond Joy candy are my first picks when in the grocery store candy aisle.  And then there's the supreme coconut macaroon.  This past weekend I allowed myself to pay $4 for one macaroon at a Nestle Toll House Cafe.  Yep, $4.  After the moment was gone, I decided I was going to make a tray of them for that $4.

If you're a regular reader, you know I always bend and twist recipes I find, in order to try and make them just a little better...in my opinion. Here's what I came up with for making them yourself at home.  Quick and easy!  Here's what you need:
  • 16 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (you might add more if your mixture is too "runny")
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbs mixture 1/2 heavy whipping cream 1/2 milk (you might need to add more depending on consistency) 
Directions for macaroons:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. (no, parchment paper is NOT waxed paper)
  2. In a medium bowl, mix coconut, condensed milk and vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, whip egg whites and salt on high until you get medium hard peaks of egg.  Fold the egg white into the coconut.
  4. Drop heaping tablespoon size balls onto the baking tray. They don't need to be perfect balls, I like the look of mounds instead of a ball.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown...watch carefully that they don't burn...lots of sugar in there.
  6. Remove and cool.
Directions for chocolate drizzle:
  1. Stir the chocolate and cream over medium heat until melted smooth.  Remove from heat.
  2. Spoon the chocolate ganache mixture over the tops of the mounds of coconut, allowing the chocolate to ooze down the sides.
  3. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set, keep in refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to serve.

Trista Sutter on Traveling With Kids

It looks like everyone is excited to read about The Bachelorette's Trista Sutter and her travel tips for families!  Have you taken a peek at how she plans for vacations with her kids?  Get some tips and ideas on places to go with your family when traveling this summer!  Head over to Travelingmom.com.

11 June, 2012

Hello Kitty Party For Two

This year, my girls wanted a Hello Kitty party.  Hello Kitty is big over here, featuring a Sanrio store in every mall and Hello Kitty guest appearances quite often.  They didn't really know who Hello Kitty was before coming here, but now, they are in love with her.

It's been a challenge for me to let my creative party planning juices flow over here.  We don't have a Michael's, a JoAnn's, a Target or even a real Dollar Store.  Even tissue paper can be hard to find and expensive if you do (although I now know Paper Chase carries it, 15 AED for 5 sheets...roughly $4.)  I can't go to garage sales and stock up on mismatched shabby chic items, or vintage dessert bowls and cake stands.  And with my kids' birthdays falling in some of the hottest months of the year, June and September, I'm left with indoor options for hosting.  Combine all these elements, and I'm put to the test.  Sadly, for the first time, I was left with hosting a party at a local venue.

*Note to OCD party planners...using a venue means giving up control and not bringing in your own confectionery delights!  Prepare to have something not falling into your exact wishes and desires.

I chose to have the party at the golf club here in town.  They have beautiful green lawns with a full playground for the children to keep busy, we had indoor and outdoor options for entertainment and seating, and someone else would cook, clean and I could relax.  The girls colored Hello Kitty pictures, they played on the trampoline and swings, we had a pinata custom crafted by a local company and plenty of giggles.
The tables and chairs were all decked out in white linens with bubble gum pink satin running down the middle.  White china graced each setting, perfect for a little girls tea party.  I placed a Hello Kitty water bottle at each setting, labeled with the girl's names that I fashioned, as well as a hat and party blower.  A pink lemonade with a pink straw also awaited the girls.  In the center of the girls table, I placed the tissue paper flower bouquet I made using skewers.  On the cake table, I placed individual party favor bags, which I designed after my girls' party dresses and put together, and filled them with Hello Kitty silly bands and Hello Kitty Jelly Belly candy and topped with pinwheels I made as well.  I even made a sign to match the invitation to place above the cake table.  I wish I could have made cake pops and had a pink and white dessert table, but when you use a venue, you typically can't bring in your own food.  However, it really did look sweet and perfect.  I was impressed so far...most of my vision had come together.

But remember that note about being OCD and giving up control?  It was time for lunch to be served. Here, you're dealing with lots of different languages, always trying to make sure you understood what was said, and hoping you have the same interpretation in meanings.  I thought I had relayed my messages about the menu clearly, even providing pictures from my inspiration board for the staff to use as visuals!  However, we ended up with some interesting versions of our food.  Instead of petit peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we had monstrous peanut butter and Jell-O sandwiches!  Instead of yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit, we had yogurt parfaits with jelly...the jelly meant for the sandwiches.  I think a few bites of each were taken by the girls.  But the adults, they laughed, took pictures and thought it was a classic memory.  They even joked that peanut butter and Jell-O sandwiches are going to be all the rage soon!

The cake.  Those of you who know me know I always make my cakes.  But I wasn't allowed to bring in any outside food.  So, in my effort to get exactly what I wanted, I drilled in the fact that I HATE fondant, and I want butter cream ONLY.  I wanted bright red and pale pink with white to match the invitation and my girls' dresses.  Again, I provided a picture from the inspiration board.  Out came the cake, and my face dropped.  My disappointment showed to my guests.  The cake was fondant.  The red was a burnt, deep red (I enhanced the red in the above picture for my pleasure.)  The cake...was frozen.  It wasn't my vision.  Overall, my friends were having fun, regardless of the food and what was supposed to be.  The little girls didn't care.  I was the one who knew what I ordered, not them.  But I was the one who felt the need to disclose the mistakes.  Hostess party foul number one.  Don't show your disappointment.  Chances are, no one even notices but YOU!

My girls?  They LOVED the party.  They profusely thanked me for it.  Other little girls told their moms' that they wanted to have a party like it at the gold club too.  I guess if people talk about it, loved it and want one of their own, you can consider it a success, no matter how much you beat yourself up for the mistakes.  In the car on the way home, I was actually able to truly laugh about it and get over it.  Not easy for me, but the grins on my girls' faces was all that mattered.  Not some crummy old fondant cake.

21 May, 2012


Enchiladas are a favorite in my house, but I often feel "weighed down" by all the ingredients and sauces used.  I wanted to feel a little more guilt free after eating one of my favorite dishes, so I came up with an altered version of the classic...Fajitaladas...Fajita Enchiladas.  I don't often give exact measurements for dishes that are all about personal taste...so add enough to feed your family and satisfy your palette.

Preheat your oven to 350...pretty standard for most things, isn't it?  After slicing your peppers, saute them with onion in a small amount of olive oil until slightly tender.  Add some crushed garlic, and saute for one minute.

Just when you think everything smells super delish, add your ground beef, ground turkey or chicken.  Continue cooking until the pink is just about gone...about 4 minutes. (Beef note: for my Middle East readers...I used to only buy the Australian or Brazilian beef here...thinking it was "safe"...whatever that means.  However, my eyes have been opened to the "Local Beef" section.  What a difference in freshness.  I mean if you think about it...how long is that Australian and Brazilian beef in transit before hitting the shelf?  We now choose the beef we want, and ask for it to be ground or in a specific cut of beef.  We don't even buy the pre-cut and packaged local beef...we get it as fresh as possible.  They also trim it to my liking.  Go ahead, if you haven't already, try it out.)

At this point, add some salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika and if your crowd can handle it, cayenne.  Mix, and add the black beans.  I'll admit it, I just use the canned ones...but organic.  For some reason, the "organic" label just makes me feel better.  Great marketing.

(Spice note: Don't be afraid of your spice rack...don't let them sit around forever.  Make sure you replenish your spices with fresh ones every so often.  Also, take stock of your supply...I've been known to over-buy some spices, leaving me with more than I know what to do!)

In a casserole style dish, coat the bottom with one of three choices: canned enchilada sauce, jarred salsa or my option of choice, "homemade" enchilada sauce.  I say "homemade" because it would be so much better if I took the time to dice and crush tomatoes and gently saute over a low heat until they were nice and cooked, as if making a spaghetti sauce from scratch.  But I have a family of five, a full time job, a few side jobs and the desire to see the outside of my kitchen once in a while. So, I take the short cut...Pomi Crushed Tomatoes.  To this, I add salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder and a bit of sugar.  Voila..."homemade" enchilada sauce.

Fill a flour tortilla with some of the filling and add a little cheese...or no cheese if you're watching your figure.  (Cheese note: I will almost always choose a medium or sharp white cheddar over a yellow cheddar any day.  I love the flavor, and think it really compliments most dishes.)

Roll up and place seam side down in the dish.  Roll and fill until all of your ingredients are gone.  Top with the rest of your enchilada sauce, and then some cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes covered, then 10 minutes uncovered.  Enjoy!

04 May, 2012

Woody's Roundup Birthday Party

My son was turning five and moving out of the country.  This meant saying good-bye to all his friends and everything he knew as "home."  So, I felt that I needed to throw him an amazing party where he and his friends could create some final memories together.
Enter Woody and the gang!  We transformed our neighborhood park into a Toy Story themed play zone.  The food was was nostalgic and somewhat named after characters, the games too!  We had cherry bites, lemon heads, laffy taffy, Mr. Potato Head's Chips, Rex's Chex Mix, Jessie's Haystacks, Alien Limeade, Cow Tales, hard candy sticks, licorice and more.  For cupcakes, I created grass looking cupcakes with toy soldiers hiding in them.  A smorgasbord of confectionery delights for children to devour, get hyped-up and send home with their parents.  LOL!  
The games included Toy Story Flying Saucers for distance, Pin the Tail on Bulls-eye and other relay games centered around the movie.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, acting out scenes from the movie and getting into character.  It helped that the local Dollar store had everything we needed for the games...they seemed to carry quite the selection of Toy Story toys perfect for party favors and games.
Chickadee Prints made everything for this event, down to the Woody invitation.  My son was thrilled, and still talks about it all the time.  For some reason, the boy themed parties are harder for me than the girls.  It's hard to top this one, but I'm still trying!

28 April, 2012

Hello, Cupcake! App

Have you downloaded it yet?  Have you?  Have you?  The Hello, Cupcake book just got even better...it's now available in app form.  You can bring the cupcakes to life wherever you are, any time of day.  With stunning visuals and step by step instructions on your iPad and iPhone, you'll be able to create all your favorites.
You are in charge of how fast or slow the instructions proceed, giving you time to master all the techniques and turn out your perfect cupcake for that special someone (or yourself!).  There's even a baking tray to keep all the cupcake projects you want to work on for easy finding.  The app starts you off with ten great cupcakes, and then for only .99 each, you can buy more libraries of cupcakes just waiting to be brought to life.

 You think this is just for you adult cupcake enthusiasts?  No way!  Hand the app over to your kids.  They can watch all the cupcakes "play" using animation.  My kids could sit for hours just watching these, as they giggle away, especially my little animal lover. 

You know me, I LOVE to bake, and ALWAYS make my kids' cakes and cupcakes.  This app just helped me step up my game, and I'm so excited to start baking now.

My favorite things about it
* It's portable.  I can be in the store selecting all the items needed while referring to the recipes.
* It's full of vibrant photos and videos to keep me entertained and wanting more.
* It's kid friendly...I secretly hope my kids get my addiction for baking, and I think this might help.

22 January, 2012

One Mom's Solution - Electronics on Vacay

Tell us what you think...how do you handle electronics on vacation?

15 November, 2011

Knock-off Shopping, Oh My!

So many purses!
I recently had the experience of a lifetime!  I was surrounded by Tiffany & Co. jewelry, Pandora bracelets, Louis Vuitton hand bags, Jimmy Choo purses, Hermes scarves, Mont Blanc pens, and Juicy Couture sweatsuits, just to name a few!  And it was all within my pocketbook's reach.  Throughout my life, I've been given a knock-off purse here and there, but never really understood the "allure" of owning the name brand.  Now that I live in a place where name brands are the in thing, I've learned a little bit about the "must-haves" in fashion.

What a section of Karama looks like
Women here may dress in head to toe black abayas and shaylas, but they are dressed to the T underneath...including the designer handbag!  They've got them all, and even matching the trim on their abayas!  Every day at work, I'm joined by Hermes, Louis, Jimmy, Chanel and Prada.  They are so nice, so pretty, and SO out of my league!  Well, I thought they were!  I too could have them, at a fraction of the cost.

My new Louis baby
I was recently privileged to learn some key information...I could LOOK like I belonged here, and on a smaller budget.  There is a place in Dubai, an area really, called Karama.  Karama is a long street with tiny, jam packed shops...ALL knock-offs.  You want your Ed Hardey?  It's there.  Your Coach purse?  Yep, got it.  Your Tag Heuer or Rolex?  Done!  It was amazing.  We arrived at 11:30 am, just when shops were beginning to open.  It was like a candy stores waiting for me and I wanted to taste them all!  We shopped, and shopped, and shopped...all the way to 6pm!  And kids in tow!  Skull Candy, Diesel, Apple Bottom...it was endless, and all REALLY good quality!

If I didn't know any better I'd have thought everything was real.  However, before going, I did some research.  I wanted to know what to look for.  How many stitches on the tab?  Where would the real silver stamp be?  What is it traditionally lined with?  Does the real one even come in that color?  I was prepared for the mission.  I ended up with a loot...hello Christmas presents!  There's even a whole other aspect to this place that I can't get into detail about on here, but message me if you're coming and I'd be happy to share that information with you...you won't regret it!

Christmas gifts going home!
Have fun if you make it, and be prepared to shop 'till you drop!

02 November, 2011

Pumpkin Heaven!

The season of Fall is officially upon us.  The leaves have changed, some have fallen, and piles are being raked.  Wind is blowing, snow might be falling rain in pouring.  The ACs have turned off and the heaters are starting to crank.  Familiar scents of candles are burning in homes, reminding you of holidays in your past.  Halloween costumes have just been tucked away into the black and orange storage boxes, and soon the green and red boxes will come out once again.
Tasty lasagna from Robert Irvine.

Oh WAIT!  That's Fall back home in the States!  This was just me missing the holiday spirit back home, wishing some of it would make it's way here.  But if I squint my eyes and keep picturing it, I get just a hint of everything I mentioned above.  I can pretend the leaves here are changing, the weather has come out of the 100s at night to the 70s, I have my Scentsy burner and my oils diffusing, and we have sand filled winds.  ALMOST like home.

Make these AMAZING muffins from the Pioneer Woman!

But really, it's the small things that make the holidays now.  Not the 9ft Martha Stewart tree.  Not the pumpkin patches chalk full of perfect carving pumpkins. Not the Thanksgiving table set with my special china.  It's now about finding the bits and pieces and putting them together to create the feeling of the season.  That's what's most important, right? 

To DIE for pumpkin pie from Bobby Flay

What have I found to bring a smile to my face as we start November?  The smallest thing really...canned pumpkin!  Not Libby's pre-made pie filling either, just canned pumpkin.  I was so excited I started baking away from my favorite recipes!  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin lasagna...that's just the beginning!  The house smells wonderful, neighbors are happy, and my attempt at grasping onto the holidays is within reach.  I'm so excited to come up with more pumpkin baking ideas as we near Thanksgiving.  We went to three stores trying to find more pumpkin, and it took the fourth store to find it.  My husband bought me ten cans to get me through the holiday season!

So, here are my questions...what one thing sets the holiday mood for you, and what pumpkin recipes do you love most (I have 10 cans waiting!)?

24 August, 2011

I've Gone Fabric & Ribbon Crazy!

All these crafts I'm attempting lately, you'd think I was nesting, waiting for the arrival of another baby!  (Just in case you're hoping this is true...NOPE!).  I don't know what it is...having so much quiet free time this summer, longing for products from home and getting overly excited when I find SOME here, or just being a total homemaker (wow, never used that word to describe myself), but I've gone fabric and ribbon nuts!

It all started about two weeks ago when I picked up a roll of paper towels and thought, hmmmm, this would be the perfect size to hold all my girls headbands!  Sure enough, I started placing their headbands on the nice cushy paper towel roll, and they fit perfectly.  All I needed was some fabric to make it pretty!  

From there, I went to a friend who makes beautiful hair bows, and I finally learned how to make them myself!  That day, we made 12 hair bows for my girls...at a fraction of the cost in the stores.  

Some of the bows I made...fun!
 Well, I was now hooked on ribbon and fabric!  What else could I make???  I started thinking cheap wall art to coordinate with the kids rooms.  And there it was...I would make a memo board, using coordinating fabric to the room, and the memo board would turn into their dream board. 

My son's memo/dream board
 Next, I needed a nice place to hang all those bows I'd made, and all the ones we've collected over the years.  So...I made bow holders for each room.  

Ellison's bow holder made on canvas with different types of ribbon.
 Lastly...I had all this left over ribbon of different sizes, textures, and lengths...what would I do with it?  Throw it away?  NOOOOO!  Using a wire hanger, I made one more piece of coordinating wall art...ribbon monograms!  I now had beautiful pieces of "wall art" for each of the girls' rooms, all made with very simple supplies.

The "E" made from a wire hanger and scraps of ribbon
 I thought about doing the step-by-step directions for each item, but then I thought I'd just send you on your way to check out the tutorials on other sites explained much better than I would!  Of all the ones I searched, I found these to be the most informative and cute!  So, take a look at how to make these adorable ideas for your little girl's (or boy's) room the next time you're feeling crafty!

*I did not paint mine as I didn't want to room too busy.

*I used a roll of paper towels as I liked the softness of it.

*I used a blank canvas and did not use batting.

*If you want the real templates for his, buy from Nobownogo.com

09 August, 2011

Why Hold On To The Pen & Paper?

Eden proudly showing off a letter she received in the mail!
Lately I've been wondering how many people out in the world actually write pen and paper letters anymore.  Since living overseas, I'll admit, communicating has been quick and easy with relatives and friends back home using text and email and Skype, but we still find ourselves sending a post card here and there for fun.  A postcard you can keep, you can stick it on your fridge for a bit to remember the sentiment, you can stick it in a box of keepsakes, you can hold it, touch it, and actually use that tin box in your front yard for something.  My fridge, way over here in the Middle East, is plastered with birth announcements, photos, drawings and cards from friends and family back home.  I love it...it's personal.  They took the time to write us...with a pen.

In speaking with some people, they feel that e-mail just says I don't care enough about you to sit down and write from the heart.  Instead, its about writing from the head, in the moment, and off to the next task.  Having been guilty, like many people, we send off e-mails in the heat of the moment that we wish we could recall later.  A letter, you write, you address it, and then still have time to reconsider before mailing it.  We now live in a world with an I-want-it-now-and-I-want-it-instantly mentality.

I'm reminded of the movie My Best Friend's Wedding, the scene where Julia Roberts types an email in haste, saves it to mull over, but it's sent out anyway...eventually ruining her friend's career.  Email is just so easy to push "send".  Texts are even faster and with fewer words!  But, let's face it, most of the world is emailing and texting, and it's the quickest way to chat back and forth.  To me, that's all the more reason to hold on to the pen & paper.  And no, it doesn't count to type the letter in your Word program, print & send.  Write it with a pen..haven't you ever loved someone's style of writing?  The curves or the block writing, or the little hearts or swirls they added?  I love to look at people's writing.  It's so personalized, unique, artistic.
More cards sent overseas...hand written!

What are the downsides of email, text messaging and instant messaging? People who are good writers with great use of grammar, etc, can turn into some of the laziest people when they sit down at a computer or send a text message. Grammar goes out the window along with spelling, punctuation, and correct capitalization. Now, I know I make mistakes when I am writing my blog posts, but at least I am writing, taking time, thinking it through, reviewing it before sending.  I want to communicate with you.

What about the generation of kids who might never write a letter to someone, licking the stamp, and putting it in the mailbox?  How sad that makes me.  My kids love writing letters.  Granted, they are quite small, so it usually consists of a few words and a big picture, but they love knowing they are making it for someone and sending it in the mail.  I'm trying to keep that alive in them. I try to have them send something home every so often, or in a package.

I'm not perfect by any means.  I'm a texter, emailer, Skyper, and dare I say it, addicted Facebooker.  However, I do still write notes, cards, postcards and other greetings.  I like it.  I even journal.  I guess I'm just hoping that the pen & paper will not die out.  That there's enough of us out there who still enjoy letter writing.  That we can somehow keep it alive.  If not for your generation, for the ones following you.  I know I need to get better at it...for my kids sake.

20 July, 2011

Indoor Fun This Summer

Summertime for some means boredom, trying to escape the heat (in my case of 117ºF+ each day), and pulling your hair out trying to entertain the kids!  Some don't have the money to keep a summer long schedule going of travel, camps, and amusement parks.  So, what can you do at home if you're trying to save a buck and still have fun?  Lots!  Get creative and you can keep your kids entertained.

1.  Movie Day/Nights!  We've done lots of these so far and the kids love it!  We pull out the sleeping bags and create a camp out in our living room!  Bring out the popcorn and their favorite movie, and I have three kids in heaven!  For some reason, popcorn seems to be a huge treat in our home.

2.  Cooking!  I mentioned this in a previous post on bringing the classroom home with cooking, but you can do it for pure fun too!  Haha!  Make cookies, let them go wild with frosting and topping decorating.  Bake a cake.  Choose some fun pasta shapes and make pasta and sauce for dinner.  Pretty much anything you want to make can be fun for kids...they like the mess...and being with you!

3.  Art!  Ok, so I admit, I'm a bit of a scrooge when it comes to art projects in my own home.  I grimace at the thought of glitter, glue and paint.  And don't get me started on playdough.  However, I need to get over it because those are the most fun things when it comes to art!  Dive into some art projects with your kids...ongoing like a scrapbook, or a one day project like food stamp art!

4.  Make forts!  Another activity we've been doing more of.  I get a kick out of trying to make really cool forts with my kids.  I remember making the most amazing ones when I was little (well, in my head they were pretty cool), and now I see how excited they get too! So much creativity seems to spill out of them once they decide what their fort really is and what each of their roles are.

5.  Plan a party!  Help your kids create a guest list, invitations, games and snacks, and invite some friends over for a summer party!  It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want! 

6.  Sew!  My mom was super crafty...always sewing up a storm.  We made dolls, costumes, quilts...and it was always so much fun!  She let me pick out my fabrics at the store and away we went.  I remember how fun it was just sitting with her and bringing a project in my head to life.  If you know how to sew, or another skill like carpentering, teach your kids!  Let them create something special!

7.  Pretend School...or so they think!  Grab some school materials like a little white board or chalk board, some $1 learning books at the Dollar Store, some crayons, paper, and whatever else they want to be teachers.  Have them play school with you or their siblings, teaching what they know!  This helps to reinforce what they've learned over the summer, but they think their just having fun (and being the boss of the class!).

8.  Clean out the bedrooms!  Ok, so not exactly high on the "FUN" scale, but it could be!  You could simply tell them they have to do it, or make it for a cause!  Tell them their are donating to other kids who don't have much, if anything.  Make it a fun experience for them, putting them in charge of what they'll keep and what they'll share with someone else.

9.  Travel the World!  With your kids, choose a few places around the World you'd love to visit.  Research a little bit...find out the dress, the food, the arts & crafts of each place.  Then plan some theme nights!  Try making some of the local dishes to eat, or making some clothes, or even doing a favorite craft of the local children. 

10.  Get Active!  In my case, our options are swimming out in the heat, or escaping the heat in the mall.  While I hate to admit it, I have recently let my children start playing the XBOX Connect.  At the end of a session, my kids are sweating!  They have increased their heart rates, used their full bodies to engage with the games, and it's EASY enough for them!  So, I feel ok about it as a form of exercise for inside bound children when used within reason.

There you have it!  This mama's survival guide for coping with living indoors for the summer, whether you have to or not.  What tips do you have to share with others for keeping your kids entertained all summer...indoors!