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!

14 July, 2011

Mmmmm, Umm Ali!

Another recipe found everywhere here...and slightly reminiscent of bread pudding back home!  This one is a wonderfully delicious and sweet desert, combining the most rich flavors and surrounded by warmth.  Surely to become a comfort food for you and your kids. 

It's called...Umm Ali, meaning Ali's Mother.  The story of Umm Ali is as follows:

**Umm 'Ali is said to have been invented during the reign of the Ottoman Turks. One day while hunting in the Nile delta, the sultan developed a ravenous appetite and stopped in a small village. The peasants wished to please the sultan, so the best cook of the village, Umm 'Ali , pulled out a special pan and filled it with the only ingredients she had around: some dried wheat flakes (perhaps stale broken pieces of gullash, a phyllo-like pastry), sultanas, nuts, and coconut. She covered it with sugar and milk and put it into the village's oven. It was so good that the sultan asked for Umm 'Ali 's dessert the next time he visited.**

You'll find Umm Ali made either firm or sloppy style...basically more baked and set, or still swimming in the delightful sweet creamy milk.  Basically, bake it the full 15 minutes or stop when it's the consistency you'd like.


 Recipe for Umm Ali

17 oz. phyllo/puff pastry frozen (However, baked croissants broken up is actually widely seen!)
3 C. milk (not low-fat)
1 C. sugar
1 C. whipping cream
2 TBS. unsalted butter 
1/2 C. chopped pistachios
1/2 C. sliced almonds
1/2 - 3/4 C. coconut flakes (to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 C. sultana raisins (golden)
2 tsp. orange flower water (if you can find it) OR 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 450º F.
2.  Unroll puff pastry sheets and place on greased baking sheets.  Bake until dry and crisp, but not brown...approximately 45 seconds each. When finished with puff pastry, turn oven down to 350ºF. 
**skip steps 1 & 2 if using already baked croissants**
3.  Break puff pastry into 1-2in. pieces.  Add the nuts and coconut and mix well.  Reserving 2T. of raisins, mix the rest of the almonds in as well.  Place in a 9x12 baking dish.
4.  Combine milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.  Remove from heat and mix in cream and orange flower water or vanilla.  Pour mixture over phyllo mixture.
5.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and reserved raisins.
6.  Bake until pudding puffs and sets, about 15-20min., or to desired consistency...set or sloppy!

So, there you go.  Another treasure from the Arab world.  I hope you enjoy!

10 July, 2011

Summer in the Kitchen With Kids

Summer is the PERFECT time to get in the kitchen WITH your kids!  I know the thought of that horrifies some type A's out there, and others are wondering quite frankly, why?  Well, cooking with your children is not only a chance to spend quality time with them, but it's also a great way to keep them brushed up on Math, Science and Reading skills over the summer!  For the itty bitties out there cooking with mom or dad, they will learn valuable skills too!  Itty bitties will benefit from learning skills like how to pour, stir, and clean up, as well as overhearing and seeing all the other aspects of cooking.

First, choose one of Laura Numeroff's books such as If You Give a Moose a Muffin or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to read together, and then make some muffins or cookies!  I think it's pretty evident as to how cooking with your kids can incorporate subjects learned in school, but just in case you're not quite sure how...here's some ideas!

Math can be very abstract to some children.  Cooking can actually help these abstract concepts become concrete. With cooking, you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want.  You can teach addition, fractions, measurement all the way up to volume, chemistry and data analysis!  We'll just stick with some of the easier ideas here.

*  Let them use the measuring cups and spoons.  Ask them for the basics...1 "whole" cup or 1/2 a cup of flour, sugar, chocolate chips, etc. Show them how 1/2 and a 1/2 makes a whole.  Get more technical and ask them to use the 1/4 cup to make a 1/2 or a whole!
*  Make the recipe bigger than it is.  You can teach the concept of doubling here by adding fractions for the older kids or just measuring it out twice for the little ones.  Introduce multiplication if you'd like!
*  Don't be afraid to use math vocabulary while cooking, so that they are hearing the word while doing...halves, whole, add, combine, etc.
*  Teach time...you need to know how long to bake the cookies in the oven or let the vegetables sautee!
*  When you're done baking something like cookies, have them count out how many were made, then "divide" them into groups to give to people!

Science just means fun for most kids!  Cooking can get as messy as you want for the purpose of teaching it!  In the kitchen is one of the best places to teach science to kids as so many things can happen.

*  Teach about the 5 senses.  Encourage them to look at the ingredients, smell them, touch them, taste them...and for hearing, ask them about the sounds of a kitchen (whisks, blenders, water, eggs cracking, etc).
*  Go ahead, make a mess and start mixing!  Have the kids combine different ingredients to see what happens to them!  Mix cornstarch and water, always a fun one!  How about flour and water?  What happens?  Why?
*  Let them watch the changes of state from solids to liquids, liquids to solids, and liquids to gasses while you're cooking various things.  Melt some chocolate, boil some water, freeze some ice cubes and then leave them out again.
*  Make ice cream in a baggie!  This is great for letting kids see the stage of liquid to solid as well as feeling something get colder (thanks to the salt).

Reading always becomes more fun when it's brought to life.  A cookbook is something where what you're reading always comes to "life"!  First, start with a book where something is being eaten or made, and take that idea into the kitchen and make your own!

*  Read the recipe to your child or have them read it to you (If they are too young to read, have them bring you the ingredients you read...following directions is an important literacy skill)
*  Once you have all the ingredients, double check!  Make sure you have everything needed by re-reading...another important skill
*  Now read the steps for combining the ingredients.  Check comprehension...do they know what the steps are?  
*  Explain abbreviations...what are they, what is the abbreviated word, why do we use them?
*  Define words in the recipe like whisking, folding, spreading, and whipping.

See, taking your kids into the kitchen can be a GREAT learning experience this summer...and a great bonding experience!  You can stretch it even more by creating a shopping list before you go to the store, examine quantities of ingredients in packaging, paying for groceries, or writing a note to someone who will receive the delicious baked goods when you're done!

Happy Summer!

27 June, 2011

Egyptian Kushari...Vegetarian Delight

I've now had Kushari made for me a few times, and each time seems to get better and better.  Kushari is an Egyptian dish, and is almost always vegetarian (even Vegan), but it's becoming more popular to add shawarma chicken to the dish or to cook the rice in a chicken broth.  You could essentially make it any way that appeals to your taste buds and your family.  The tomato based sauce on top can be made without spice or with an added kick.  I prefer the added kick!  Here's how to make this delicious dish.

What you'll need:
3 large onions
1/2 C. oil (add more if needed)
1 C. lentils
6 C. water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
1 1/2 C. long grain rice or Egyptian rice (uncooked)
1 1/2 C. elbow macaroni (uncooked)
8 oz. vermacelli (uncooked)
1-2 cloves of garlic
1T. cumin
Salt (to taste)
1 bottle hot sauce
2 tomatoes chopped
1 chicken broth cube

1.  Chop the onions into small pieces.  I like fine slices like caramelized onion style.  Reserve 1 T. for the sauce later.  Pour 3 T. vegetable oil into a pan over medium high heat and add onions.  Add the onions in batches, frying until they reach a nice brown and slightly crunchy.  Watch carefully as this step will happen quickly!  Drain onto paper towels and set aside.

2.  Bring to a boil lentils in 6 C. of water or stock, along with 1 clove of garlic (quartered) and 1 T. cumin, simmer for 25 min. until cooked...drain, reserve water.

3.  Fry vermacelli in a pan with some oil until brown.

4.  Add the rice to a pot with the reserved lentil water, along with rice and fried vermacelli, and cook until rice is tender.

5.  In another pot, boil macaroni in lightly salted water until tender, drain, and combine with lentils, vermacelli and rice.  Top with fried onions.

6.  For the sauce, put the hot sauce, tomatoes, garlic and chicken cubes in a blender.  Puree.  Then heat on the stove to let the mixture thin out.

7.To plate the food, first put the Kushari mix (lentils, rice, macaroni) in a bowl or on a platter.  Top with onions.  Add a small amount of the sauce on top (you can always add more later, but start slowly).  You are now ready to enjoy the meal!

Serves 6.

If you decide to try this dish I have come to love, let us know how you liked it!

22 June, 2011

Creating Stress Free Kids

I'm becoming more and more aware of over scheduled and highly stressed kids these days.  Dance lessons, soccer lessons, after school drama club, chores at home, homework, and let's not forget about the stresses of being a kid alone!  Kids might be dealing with school work frustrations, bullying fears, lack of friends or too much popularity...there's a lot going on in kids' lives, and we need to help them stop once in a while and give them a breather.  Recently I came across four great moms, all providing advice, services and products to help children relax, reflect and renew.  I personally believe that everyone needs some of this in their lives. 

The first mom I talked to is Heather, a LMT, from Utah.  Heather is starting a program within the Utah Valley, targeting children in schools.  This past year, she has worked with a group of 3rd graders, teaching meditation.  Thanks to the powerful response from her students and the news, this has potentially opened the door for meditation classes to become a part of the 6th & 7th grade curriculum next year!  Below you'll find parts of my interview with Heather, hopefully shedding light on how and when you can bring meditation into your children's lives.

Chickadee Prints: 
At what age do you think a child truly benefits from meditation? 

Heather:  I think the earlier it is introduced the better, for a number of reasons. First like yoga meditation is a practice. Each time you sit you learn to go deeper into a state of mind or space that allows for enlightenment. So the younger you start the longer your practice and the more you get out of it at an earlier age. It creates a good healthy habit.  The younger you are the less perceived ideas you have and this allows for the experience to be more pure.

Chickadee Prints:  Does there have to be a formal setting, or can a child/family do this anywhere?

Heather:  No formal setting is required. For some a particular setting may be helpful to minimize distractions, but truly you can experience this state of mind at anytime, even when doing dishes. One of the techniques we covered this year was walking meditation. The students learned to pull into a zone while walking that allowed them to stay in the current moment. We talked about how this can even be done at recess.

Chickadee Prints:  If a child meditation course is not offered in someone’s area, what do you suggest to help a family introduce it into their lives? 

Heather:  There is a plethora of books and websites with great information and ideas of different techniques to help you meditate, but the basic premises is to practice being in the absolute moment. 

Our next mother actively involved in bringing meditation to children is Lori Lite.  Lori developed the program Stress Free Kids, which includes a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens and adults decrease stress, anxiety & anger.  Her program can be used at home or in school. 

Chickadee Prints:  At what age do you think a child truly benefits from meditation and relaxation? 

Lori: It is never too soon for a child to reap the benefits of relaxation and meditation. There are reports that state that stress levels during pregnancy can affect an unborn child. I used deep breathing throughout my last pregnancy and I believe that my newborn was easier to soothe when I focused on my breathing because of this. In general the age of 4 is when a child can start to participate in relaxation exercises, but I have seen children as young as 18 months copy breathing and positive statements. 

Chickadee Prints:  Does there have to be a formal setting, or can a child/family do this anywhere?

Lori:  I am an advocate of a more playful, matter of fact approach. Parents should use relaxation tools throughout their day.  Each day brings numerous opportunities for parents to apply stress management and healthy solutions. Blowing bubbles is a stress reducer and fun activity enjoyed by all ages. A mom or dad that practice meditation can invite their child to sit beside them or climb onto their lap with a toy or a book. Demonstrating is always the most powerful teaching tool. 

Chickadee Prints:  What are the major keys to successful meditation/relaxation, and what does that look like for a young child?  

Lori:  Just being able to stop the chatter or train your mind to focus on an image or thought for more than a few seconds is an accomplishment. The focus should be on introducing tools to children so that they can integrate practical tools like visualizing, breathing, and positive statements into their lives. Storytelling is an age-old method of passing along lessons. I created stories that incorporated research-based stress management techniques for my own children to learn to self-soothe. All of my stories can be found in my Indigo Dreams® Series .  

Chickadee Prints:  How do you suggest helping a family introduce it into their lives?  

Lori:   Show your children how you use relaxation throughout your day. Take deep breaths when you are driving or rushing to get out the door. Try a candlelight dinner or breakfast. See who can hold their gaze on the flame for 30 seconds. Introduce your family to relaxation music or classical music. Explain to your children that you are calming yourself down or use positive statements when you are feeling frustrated. With a little practice, relaxation techniques will become second nature to you and your children.  

Katie, another mother believing in the benefits of relaxation for children, uses Yoga in her own life and with her children.  "Yoga and pilates have always been a huge part of my adult life.  Even through my pregnancies and postpartum, I credit alternating both to keeping my mind and body fit!  It never occurred to me to to share my practice with my children, until I was going through yoga teacher training."

While in her training, Katie learned how much yoga and relaxation in general, could improve test scores, concentration, and sports...even behavioral issues.  Katie kindly shared with us some of the yoga poses and their benefits.  

Pranayama breathing reduces acidity in the body, increases VO2 max, is good for the respiratory system, and is energizing.  

Childs pose slows down the heart rate, quites the mind, creates full body rest & neutralizes the spine.  

Down dog calms the brain, helps relieve mild depression, decompresses the spinal column, is a total body stretch, relieves headache, backache, fatigue, insomnia & as an inversion can stimulate the brain.   

"I find yoga and meditation especially useful with my two boy's.  It helps calm them down and I find that they listen and focus better!  I do simple pranayama breathing , childs pose, cat/cow, down & up dog.  If I want to challenge them I add in a few simple sun salutations, and maybe a balancing series."

 Our last mother I had the pleasure of speaking with is Kristy.  She is the genius behind the all natural line of essential oils and other products called Sweet Knee.  "I decided to go back to my roots and turn to nature."  

In her line of products are Giggle, Snooze and Breathe oils, which we use in our own home.  The Snooze, Kristy states, "helps promote peaceful relaxation for mom and baby though natural plant essential oils that have sedative and nervine properties. These organic oils help relax and ease tension and are easy to use. Simply dilute them with distilled water in a spray bottle or put a few drops on your pillow or stuffed animal."  Giggle and Breathe also contain oils to help with the moods of your children (or YOU), in a natural way.

Hopefully you have been able to find some treasured tidbits of information that you could bring into your life for you and your children when you find things getting a little to tightly wound.


15 June, 2011

How Do You Work On YOU?

For the past two weeks, I've been a single working mom.  My husband flew back to the States, and I have been left in charge of the house, the dog, the chores, the errands, the working, and then the children when I get home.  It's A LOT to handle and so overwhelming at times.  I now have a new found appreciation for single working moms who do all of this every day.  I knew I needed to find some treasured moments of time to work on ME.  Some time to get away to build myself up.

Every day since my husband has been gone, I have been listening to lovely Mr. Jim Rohn in my car on the way to and home from school.  I get 15-20 minutes of nothing but positive going in my head.  I start my day on a high, and then give myself that winding down time at the end of the work day to find another high before joining the kids.  The one quote that has stuck out over the last 14 days has been..."The same wind blows on us all."  As Jim says, "It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go."  I needed this quote this week, and I needed to hear it over and over and over and over again.  I've had a wind blowing on me for two weeks that I didn't like, but I had to choose, each day, how to handle it and how to guide my boat of emotions.

I forgot how good it feels to surround myself with personal development on a daily basis.  To listen to positive words, encouraging words, and BELIEVE them.  My husband and I used to listen to Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn daily.  We'd read books nightly.  We soaked up anything and everything to help us become better, more positive, more goal oriented.  Over time, kids got in the way, work got in the way, TV got in the way...you name it, there was an excuse as to why we fell off the wagon.  We were not taking advantage of setting our sails in the right direction, and we lost sight of so much.  We've slowly been getting back on track lately, and now, over the past two weeks, I've really been taking advantage of some time during the day where I can focus on it.

It doesn't matter how or where you get your personal development.  Maybe you read the Bible, or just the proverbs.  Maybe you listen to other people I haven't mentioned.  Maybe it's just going to the park and reflecting.  Maybe you journal your thoughts, ideas and dreams.  Maybe you have a creative outlet such as dance, music or art.  Whatever it is, I hope you have something that builds you up inside.  Something that keeps you on the path to achieving your dreams.

How do you work on you?

If you'd like to know of some books to get you started, here are a few compiled from personal experience reading, and some from friends' recommendations that are on my list to read:

* How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
* The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
* What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles
* Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
* Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
* Watermelon Credo by Wally Amos
* Life On Purpose by Dr. Brad Swift

06 June, 2011

Our Alice in Wonderland Birthday Party

 Invitation by Chickadee Prints
These ADORABLE Tutu Tees were made by Tutu Mamas
Mission:  To host an Alice in Wonderland birthday party for my 3 & 5 year old girls...in the extreme heat of the Middle East.  Also, to do it on a budget and indoors.  I think we succeeded.

I'm always browsing online for birthday party ideas.  Much of what I see is very high end and expensive, or in some beautifully landscaped backyard...neither of which I have.  However, when I came across the Alice in Wonderland parties, I knew I had to have one for my Alice obsessed girls.  The only hitch was, I had to bring it indoors as it's reaching 116 on a regular basis now.  I hope this inspires you not-so-crafty moms out there to know you CAN do it.  Also, don't be intimidated to try it indoors and on a budget.

I'll start out with the tablescape.  Tables and chairs were not readily available since my situation is unique, so I had to rent.  However, if you have neighbors and friends with card tables, patio tables, etc...get creative!  Do different height tables and mismatched chairs for a true Mad Hatter feel!  Borrow what you can!  We kept it simple since we had ages 1-7 attending the party!  I had to keep breakables to a minimum!  I also needed to stay within a budget.  So, picture the Dollar Store of your area.  You will surely find table cloths, plates, napkins, forks, tea cups (of course...it's a tea party!), tea pots, straws, a mirror (the Looking Glass), and you might just be lucky enough to find a stuffed mouse or a bunny rabbit depending on the season.  There you go, your table at the Dollar Store.  I'm sure you could go to a place like Salvation Army and find tea cups for 25 cents...but new just seemed like the better option, at least for the party favor!  Easy Peasy. 
Get creative and have fun!  The simplest things make a statement!
The decorations were relatively easy as well.  It just took a little prep work to pull it off.  My husband made the tree.  Remember, we had to pull our tea party indoors, and the tree was a critical part of setting the theme!  So we covered a bookcase with brown wrapping paper (Kraft paper!), and purchased green crepe paper/tissue paper for the leaves...Dollar Store!  The signs were cut like the shapes from the movie (go back and watch for the Tulgey Forest scene...you'll see they aren't just arrows).  You'll also find what you need for the tissue paper flowers at the Dollar Store, as well as the lanterns.  For the flag banner, I thought of making my own, but time was an issue, so I luckily stumbled across this one from the Creative Hostess!  Just print, cut, string and hang!  Don't forget your Cheshire Cat smile in the tree!  To pull the area together, my son just happened to have a green shag carpet that we put in the middle to represent the grass.

You can do so much with a limited space. This was all in our living room!
Games are always the fun part of a party...or is it eating cake?  Well, the games we chose were a hit with the kids, and worked well for the age group we had.  We chose musical chairs, sugar cube tea cup race, and pin the smile on the Cheshire Cat.  For musical chairs, we had two circles of chairs, one for the younger babes and one for the older kiddos.  For the sugar cube tea cup race, we formed two teams and gave each a bowl of sugar cubes and a spoon.  They had to race to fill up the tea cup with sugar cubes.  Amazingly, we actually found sugar cubes in the shapes of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds!  I thought that matched the Queen of Hearts idea perfectly!  And lastly, pin the smile on the Cheshire Cat...almost everyone knows SOMEONE who can draw.  Just draw, paint or color, and voila...a DIY game for your party.  So far, cheap but fun entertainment!

Remember, it's all about the fun.  Don't stress if something doesn't go as planned.
Ok, so now the yummy part, and what turned out to be the hit of the party!  Twirlie Whirlies made these wonderful pinwheel cupcake toppers to match my party colors and mis-matched theme.  I figured a splurge was worth it for the cake!  Little did I know the kids would go crazy for them!  It was so fun to watch them blow and blow and blow!

The last little treasure of the party was the adult room.  I needed a place for adults to go hang out while their kiddos played and had fun.  Let's face it, 18 itty bitties in my living room was quite eventful...I wanted to give the moms an option to "leave".  So, I had some snack foods, drinks and adult cupcakes in my dining room, along with my living room furniture that we moved in order to have an empty space for the party!  So, my dining room became a lounge.  We found white roses at the equivalent of the Dollar Store and the kids helped paint them red.  I had a friend paint the Kind and Queen of Hearts.  And the banner of characters was another fab find here online!

All in all, it was a lot of planning, but so worth it.  My girls LOVED every minute of the party, and are still talking about it.  I think I captured what they wanted.  The little guests had a wonderful time too...so many giggles to be heard.  I love a good party, but I love when it's all cleaned up too!

22 May, 2011

Kids and Rainbows...Always Magical

Something happens inside a child's mind when they see their first rainbow.  They are mesmerized.  "How did it get there?"  "Can we go touch it?"  "I wonder where it goes!"  They don't care that there's a science behind it at a young age, they don't want to hear about ROY G. BIV, they just want to oooh and ahhh and the beauty of nature.  The innocence behind a child's love of a rainbow is actually quite beautiful.  And then when they see a double rainbow!  Watch out!  
My kids are now 6, 5 and 3.  They are super rainbow spotters.  In the sprinklers or in the sky...even on the floor from a window, they find them and squeal with joy.  Every so often, they'll ask for rainbow food.  Now, as a mom, I look at some of the rainbow foods and think...ewwwww.  Look at all that food color, and really, who wants to eat green or purple food?  Ha!  But, the look on their faces when I come out of the kitchen with something rainbow-riffic is so much fun for me!

The first rainbow food fun we had were rainbow pancakes for St. Patrick's Day 2010.  It was a total surprise to my kids.  When I brought the plates out of stacked rainbows, they giggled with delight...and wouldn't you know, ate almost every bite!  That was a really fun one to do.  The secret in sharp colors is to use frosting gel colors...like Wilton's brand.  I did red first and worked my way to purple.  A lesson learned...keep your heat low enough and your butter or spray free from browning...my purple pancakes got a little singed. 

The next rainbow adventure we  had was St. Patrick's Day 2011!  Something about St. Patrick's Day and Leprechauns brings out the rainbows in our house.  This time, I went with rainbow cupcakes.  The process was basically the same.  I had one main batter, divided into individual containers, and added coloring gel to each one for each color of the rainbow.  I started with purple on the bottom and ended with red on top.  I learned a lesson here too...to fill too much...my colors kinda exploded up the middle, which made a cool effect when cut, but not what I was going for.  The rest of the cupcake stayed perfectly layered...but the middle looked like a volcano.  Now, in the frenzy of party prepping, I forgot to cut on in half and show you the inside, but you can see the tops, and imagine the pancakes.  

The most recent rainbow affair we had was for my daughter's 5th birthday.  She requested a chocolate, heart-shaped, rainbow cake.  While my first thought was to go with a layered rainbow cake much like the cupcakes and pancakes, been there, done that.  So, I opted for the rainbow frosting.  Again, I used the gel colors to get the vibrant colors needed for a rainbow.  This might have been more fun to make than the others as I got to put the color right where I wanted it, and it stayed.

Bring a little rainbow love into your life.  It's fun and brings smiles to all those little faces we love to see light up.

21 May, 2011

A Princess Ball...A Night She'll Always Remember

This past weekend, my little girl turned 5.  Turning 5 is a big one!  It's right up there with 10, 13, 16 and 21!  And as a 5 year old, her world revolves around everything princess and romance.  I find it terribly endearing...that she has such a love for true love.  She is already waiting for her prince to come.  So, for her birthday present this year, we went dress shopping for a royal ball!  

Eden had no idea why I was dragging her from store to store, trying to find the perfect ball dress.  She would have settled with the first purple dress we saw!  But it wasn't a ball gown, it was a party dress.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Anyway, two days before the ball, we found the most beautiful dress...just stunning!  It was a size 7.  No problem!  Here in the UAE, there's a seamstress on EVERY corner, and your work is done in about 20 minutes!  I kid you not, within 20 minutes, we had an altered dress that fit like a glove!

Now for the surprise.  She's dressed and ready, and still has no clue that she's going to a ball!  Daddy came out in his suit with a tie to match Eden's dress.  They looked so great together.  Then he showed her the event tickets with the horse and carriage on them.  Her eyes lit up, her mouth turned upward,and her face just beamed.  She knew she was going to a ball.

I was so giddy inside, knowing how truly happy my little girl was.  She was going to live out a dream.  She watches Enchanted and Tangled almost daily.  She talks about them, dreams about them, and just adores them.  Now she got to be a princess in a real ball gown.  So, off they went to enjoy the evening...just Eden and her daddy.  When they returned home, I got to hear all about the other princesses...the REAL princesses, Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Aurora!  That just melted my heart.  She also enjoyed some chocolate covered marshmallows, dancing, coloring, story time and other festive ball-type activities.

Happy Birthday Eden!  We love you!

19 May, 2011

Do You Goby?

Goby.com is one of my new favorite travel apps!  Now you can find things to do while planning your next vacation, or even ON your current vacation all at the push of a button.  Your iPad, iPhone and Android are now even more valuable with this new app from Goby.

I think the think I'm most excited about it how EASY PEASY this app is to use!  Seriously, just type in the location you are heading to, dates if applicable, and let Goby do the rest.  They have over 6 million things to do around the USA!  You can even narrow it down to family, music, outdoors, or even restaurants!  Kinda like that little yellow book we all know, but WAY cooler and easier to use!

I recently went on and planned our future trip to Carmel, CA.  Take a look at this link to see everything you can do in Carmel...Carmel on Goby.  It's a fabulous place to visit for families, couples and outdoor enthusiasts! 

It gets even better!  Goby is giving away an iPad2 and an iPod to a lucky Twitter party member on May 23rd!  Read all about it here, and you could be traveling in style with Goby on your side.

23 April, 2011

UAE Finds! Things I Want To Share With You!

So, shopping in the UAE is unreal.  I've never been to Rodeo Drive, but I imagine the UAE like Rodeo Drive on Crack.  Seriously, there are so many name brands and high end stores here, I'm still, 8 months later, in awe!  I'm always pointing, oooooohing, aweing, and even a little drooling.

However, I'm a mama on a budget, so I like to find the hidden treasures here.  I like to search out local handicrafts or street fair finds.  Recently, we went to Dubai and found this little gem.

 It's created by Luna Bliss, and they are beautiful and versatile!  It is a long and wide piece of fabric, adorned with silver accent pieces from around the World.  It can be wrapped in so many ways, the possibilities are endless!  Even as a head wrap!  We just fell in love with all her pieces, it was so hard to choose just one!  However, we did find the perfect on for my mother-in-law for her birthday.  I've never seen such pieces like this back home, but it sparks an idea!  One I want to be in on!

And that's a beautiful find from Dubai.