Generously Minted – Giveaway

Raise your hand if you’re ready to leave this frosty season behind! While I do my best not to obsess over winter’s chilly bite, it’s definitely easier to appreciate when you can find some springtime inspiration. Kind of like the gorgeously refreshing light to look forward to at the end of the icy tunnel.

So, when Minted contacted me to talk about their products, I hopped over to their website and found immediate inspiration, all with a gleam of springtime freshness and warmth. In case you don’t know, Minted is a fun company that offers beautiful invitations, cards, party products, home decor and art, all from independent artists’ designs. The fact that they have a Tree Planting Program that works with Plant-It 2020 to plant trees in order to supplant the paper that they use (some of which is actually made of 100% recycled paper) makes it a no-brainer to work with them.

And talk about gorgeous stuff! 

Here are just some of my favorite art prints that I’m having serious mental back-and-forths about choosing:


Don’t they just pull you out of the winter doldrums?? They’re all beautiful, but I’m leaning towards Float with its bright retro watercolor vibe and Indigold with its fun, floral 1960’s mood…although I’ve always had a soft spot for Forsythia.

Speaking of springtime, Minted’s Wedding Invitation Collection is sure to fit the mood of any theme you might be planning. Designs range from simply elegant to modern, graphic and colorful. No matter the design, all are of the highest quality.  Seriously, if Dave and I were planning our wedding today, I’d use these guys.

That said, aside from pretty spring art and wedding invites, I’m loving the kiddo stuff. I find myself falling for the birthday invitations (I’m mentally planning Had’s third birthday already!) as well as the adorably quirky nursery artwork since both my sister and sister-in-law are expecting babies.

As always, I’m having a hard time deciding.

And, guess what. One of you will get to experience the same wonderful “I can’t pick just one!” feeling. Yup! Minted.com has generously offered a $50 credit to one of my lucky readers! How excited am I?

Just click on the Rafflecopter options below for methods to throw your hat in the running. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Today’s post is written in partnership with Minted.com. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as usual.

Today’s Tip – Actively Fun

This is part of a new series that I’m calling “Today’s Tip.” I hope to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain that might be helpful.
 
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Hey, guys! Raise your hand if you’re feeling a bit sluggish lately. I know I am! Thanks, Obama winter weather. It’s to the point where we have so much snow piled up, it’s not at a “let’s have fun in it” stage. It’s more at the “sink down, can’t move” phase. It’s fine, we’ll deal.

But, I feel like the little guy needs to get some more physical activity. He’s a bundle of energy, and between sleeping better and acting better, getting physical only helps him enjoy his fun little life. So, I recently decided to try some “let’s get moving” games with him.

Here are a few things that I tried, which not only got me active as well, but made me realize that he’s reached a new level of “little boy, not little toddler.” His hand-eye coordination and ability to follow directions is way better than I expected! Call me proud (and a touch sad).

Mama Says – H isn’t quite ready for “Simon Says” since the “Simon didn’t say” rule evades him. But, he had been having issues with following directions, so this is my far the best activity for a 2 1/2-year-old. Just say, “Mama says…” and fill in the rest with whatever you think your little one can do. Touch your head/nose/knees/toes; act like a monkey; stand on one foot (he couldn’t do it for long, but boy was he proud that he could do it at all!); turn around three times; hop like a frog. This goes as long as your imagination can hold out.

Let’s Stretch! – You can start your “exercises” off or end them this way. There are lots of stretches that you can do, so keep them as simple as “touch your toes” or as complicated as downward dog. It’s also a fun way to practice counting. “Bend over and touch your toes for five seconds, count with me – one, two, three, four, five!” Simple, fun…and totally made me realize how inflexible I’d gotten! 

Dance With Me! – Dance party time! Turn on Pandora or your favorite workout mix and get a-movin’! You’ll see your little one start on day one using one swaying dance motion, then building up an arsenal of hilarious self expression. Our guy has been saying “oh, yeaaaah! Oh, yeaaaah!” while he does some helicoptering arm motions lately. Very Kool-Aid Man. Very awesome.

Tumble Together – One of my favorite memories as a kid was doing somersaults, rolls, leg lifts, and tumbles in our living room with my sister. Sure, it’s not always safe, but when Mom gets into it with you, you’ll at least have a spotter. Pile the pillows and jump or use the ottoman to roll on your stomach (used to do that at my grandparents’ and adored it). Just get silly and remember: horse play isn’t always a bad thing.

What indoor activities do you do to get the blood flowing and energy out? I’d love to hear!

Real Food Challenge – Week #8

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.


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Review of Week #7: This past week, our challenge was to eat only 100% whole grain foods (breads, pastas, etc.). Let’s just say I’m terribly happy that this one was during my week off! Our normal grain intake has generally been either on the organic or “5 ingredients or less” realm, so after a week of terribly dry or gritty foods, I’m looking forward to getting back to our usual way of doing things.

That said, I did a LOT of baking and planning this week. The 100% whole grain bread I had purchased went bad almost immediately (plus, it sucked), so I finally tried a hand-me-down bread machine. While it was also quite dense, I would definitely try a mix of organic all-purpose flour with whole grain in the future. Could be fun to make more! I also had success with these cheesy biscuits — yes, they tasted “wheaty”, but the cheese and garlic powder made them too delicious to care. 😉 So, I’ll be taking some of this week along with me and try to have more homemade options available…but I won’t be doing it “100%.”

Week #8 Challenge: This week will entail listening to our internal cues in order to stop eating when we’re full. It’s definitely a great thing to be mindful when we eat, so I look forward to this one! It doesn’t take more planning than any other challenge and it’s a good lesson to teach the little guy. (He will eat an entire HUGE lunch and insist that he’s still hungry…when I’m positive he probably isn’t.) 

Here are some ideas I have for this week’s meals:

    

Impatient Parenting

Today’s Tip – Keep It Movin’

This is part of a new series that I’m lamely calling “Today’s Tip.” I’m hoping to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain that might be helpful.


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Happy Monday (and a happy birthday to our very own Dorky Daddy)! As my mom always asks, “Did you get much done over the weekend?” If you didn’t, don’t worry. Today’s tip is my new motto for weekends (which I’m still struggling a little bit to uphold).

On weekends, it’s easy to give yourself carte blanche to put your feet up and relax or go out and fill the time with fun. I mean, that IS why weekends were invented, right? Then, come Monday, it’s tough to get back into the swing of things, motivated enough to get anything done. And, honestly, this tip is as much for me as it is for anyone else out there. I struggle with it.


My tip today might not be a popular one (heck, I don’t like it sometimes) but it’s effective. Here it is – 

This tip isn’t about health, but we all know how hard it is to start exercising when you’ve let it fall off your radar for awhile. That’s what happens on a Monday after a weekend (or vacation) of inactivity of any sort.

I’m not advising you to give up all of your precious free time to complete housework and projects. However, by giving yourself a small list of things to do and then allowing yourself a well-deserved movie or time to chill (or whatever!), you tend to feel like you earned your downtime and were simultaneously productive with your spare time.

I know this may suck since you work your tail off all week. I understand; really! But, come Monday morning, it’s a lot easier to transition into your duties for the day and you still feel like the weekend was well-used.

Real Food Challenge – Week #7

Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Crafts

Happy Friday the 13th! So, the one and only way that we get anything done around this place is by taking everything in several small steps. That said, it’s no surprise that I just finished our Valentine’s Day crafts last night. Under the wire, yeah!

I love what we did SO much and for several reasons. One, they’re completely handmade. Two, they’re 100% F-R-E-E. Three, they’re easy enough that even H and I could do them (albeit over several days). Four, and most importantly, they’re downright adorable.

Here are the Valentines we’ll be giving the special ladies in H’s life:


All I did was give him a white piece of construction paper to paint. We stuck the paintbrush in a mix of white and red, then random splotches of magenta which ultimately gave for mostly pink splotchfest artwork. Then, just last night, I cut the art into three strips and free-handed Xs and Os (as you can tell…fancy) that I then glued to more folded white construction paper. Instant card!

The fact that he wears my old theater shirt from my high school senior year as a smock melts my heart. That thing has splatters from every set I ever painted, and now splatters from every piece of art he has done.

Anyhoo, I love that this art was free form and simple. The only instruction he needed was “here’s some paint, go at it!” He’s still not great at taking directions, so the fact that I took what he created and made it into something practical is pretty rad. Oh, and it has a total Eric Carle vibe to it, which I absolutely adore.


In that last picture you’ll also notice a rainbow heart stack. We started with this tutorial and simplified it to only a few colors. Simply put, I cut down a diaper box into 1″, 2″, 3″, 4″ and 5″ squares, had him paint them, cut them into hearts and glued them together. Then, I punctured holes on the top and strung them with some kitchen twine, and ta-da! Cute little decoration and gift in one.

So, that’s it! Cards and hanging hearts, but they were made with pudgy little fingers and love.

Did you make anything homemade to celebrate V-Day? Food? Gift? Do tell!
(I’ll be back tomorrow with my clean eating challenge. Half way, folks!)

The 10 Things You Innately Know from Living with Winter

So, I live in Central New York. (Some might call it “Upstate,” but I beg to differ.) It’s definitely not the snowiest place in America…but it has its moments. This winter hasn’t been the worst by any means. The snowfall, so far, hasn’t been as bad as initially predicted, but the temperatures have been pretty arctic. For those of you who happen to live in a warmer climate or who get minimal winter-ness, here are some of the things I’ve learned from being a lifelong snow dweller.

– The words fallwinter, and spring have no real definition. MWAHAHAHAAAA!!! Calendar?! Ridiculousness. Our Halloween costumes have to be made/purchased at least a size or two too large to account for the puffy coat that we inevitably wear underneath. Heck, we’ve had a snow day or two the day after. So, needless to say, our weather sticks its icy tongue out at pretty much all seasons except for summer. It generally means that we REALLY have to make fall and spring count (and sometimes spring lasts only a couple of weeks).  

– But, wait, there’s more. Just as “seasons” should always be in quotations, so is it that March 20 should not be considered the official start of spring. We often get some high snow totals late in the season (although the accumulation doesn’t always stay as long, whew). So, even when we get a nice, balmy 40-degree day in early March, it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods for more of the white stuff. You pretty much have to hold your breath and wait.

– Complaining is futile. Ha ha! No, really. It is. This is a big pet peeve of mine. I don’t like the “why don’t you move some place else?” response because, well, it’s not always viable and when people DO head down south (I’m talking to you, snow birds…you muckety mucks), they call or post on Facebook about how gorgeous it is. When they head back up north in the summer, they say nothing of the horrible humidity or bugs the size of your fist that they’ve escaped. I call them fickle. And apparently muckety mucks.

But, seriously, as with almost everything in life, it’s uncontrollable. Does complaining really get us anywhere? Show your class and suck it up. (I went there.)

– You can instantly tell by the size, velocity and shape of the snow whether it’s good for playing. The best snow for building snowmen and snowballs has a slightly higher moisture content; it’s gotta be packable. The light, fluffy stuff is dryer and won’t hold together. So, yeah. Useless knowledge. Thanks, NY. 

– Weight is your friend. I never took Physics, but living in a snowy spot has taught me a thing or two. I was recently following a pick-up truck (almost every pick-up driver thinks that they are immune to the slippery nature of the season, BTW; they’re often the first heard complaining about how slow others are driving). We were both behind a school bus, and while starting back up after every stop it made, I observed as the truck’s back wheels spun from side to side, along with the flatbed. I also noticed that the front was weighed down by an attachable plow.

So, scientifically speaking, this pick-up was on the small/light side. The heavier front caused by the plow blade + slick road conditions – proper weight in the back = stupid driving conditions.  

I learned this when I had a half hour drive on some very steep hills and on back country roads while driving a tiny Nissan Sentra. Before the winter hit, I always put weight (there are bags specifically designed for this purpose) in my trunk, directly over my back tires. While it didn’t solve the problem completely, it helped tremendously and allowed my tires to grip better and avoid fishtailing. It worked so well that I still do it in my 4-wheel-drive SUV. It surprises me how few of the locals I know do this. Dave didn’t when I met him, and it was totally normal for him to spin out and lose complete control over the vehicle. Obviously, he uses them now with the little guy in the car.

– Slow is a good 4-letter-word. Okay. This is a bone of contention between snow people. Some say that if you’re accustomed to the weather and have your vehicle prepared properly, you can drive the speed limit, or higher. Others feel that if there’s snow in sight – like snow banks anywhere, even when the roads are perfectly dry – you need to drive super slow. I pretty much disagree with both and fall some place in the middle. 

“Slow” isn’t necessarily a hair-pulling trigger; it’s caution and shows that a driver is actually using their head. There can be too much of a good thing, though. So, if it’s snowing and the streets have a layer of it, or the roads are a bit wet and the temps are below freezing, slow the heck down. Don’t worry about the moron riding your tail (except that when you hit an icy patch and are forced to slow, yes, they will reside in your car’s back seat). Black ice is real and it’s terrifying.  

 The day will come when 30 degrees means a party. We had this last week. Several days of below-zero weather, then out of the blue a glorious near-30 day was predicted. “Head for the drifts!” the teachers shouted to their students. A 30-degree day in the spring or fall (or in, say, Georgia) can be unbearable; a 30-degree day in January is downright comfortable. (And don’t even get me started about 40. Heeeaaaaven!!) 

– Cut the meteorologists a break (but do listen to them). When I refer to “meteorologists”, I don’t mean the national weather folks. I mean, pay attention to the ones who know your specific area. For some strange reason, national news outlets have paid a hell of a lot more attention to our weather models this year than in years gone by (and it’s not a worse weather year at all), meaning that they tend to report incorrectly and over-hype every storm. They haven’t come close in most of this year’s scenarios. At the same time, we’ve had one or two “were supposed to get something but didn’t receive a flake” busts, as predicted by our local experts. But, that’s okay. As a New Yorker, you learn that they’re doing the best they can while reading numerous, at times highly conflicting, models. They don’t deserve to be sacked. They deserve a damn medal.

So, yeah, living in a snowy area means that you learn how to read weather reports and generally prepare for the worst (as well as the best) case scenarios. And you generally shake your head every time some fool heads for social media to vent their frustrations…over weather…which not one single person can change or control. 

 This, too, shall pass. Some winters pound you with several inches of snow every other day, with darn-near constant blustery conditions. Those winters, it’s tough to get your brain out of a seasonal depression. (Needless to say, this winter is not this bad. It’s quite cold, sure, but we’ve had some sun, at least.) When those down-in-the-doldrums winters strike, I’ve always been good at reminding myself that one day, it would end. And it always does. Even if you have a flurry on your May 1st birthday (which I had when I was a kid), it will go away. That said,…

– Enjoy it while you can. This goes both for the snow and cold as much as for the sun and warmth. I guess this could also be said for life, but that’s a whole other conversation. My personal favorite of living in a 4-season environment is the change from one to the next. The first snowflakes of the season are magical and exciting. The first warm day of spring (or summer) is soul-charging. As I mentioned above, it will be gone before you know it, so take it in stride and enjoy the beauty. 

What can you add to the list, snow dwellers?
I’m sure I’m missing something! 😉

Today’s Tip: Prep Once, Eat Twice

This is a new series that I’m lamely calling “Today’s Tip.” I’m hoping to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain. 

Happy Monday, guys! “Today’s Tip” has been a time-saver and an early morning stress-reducer at our house, so maybe it’ll do the same for you.



With our food challenges lately, I’ve definitely been spending more time in the kitchen. It’s actually a good thing, because I’m starting to plan far better and actually end up getting a lot more accomplished in the time that I’m in there cooking. Because of this, our lunches have had a higher quality and have been, in fact, easier to throw together. 

And did I mention healthier? They’re healthier. Just thought I’d put that out there.

If I happen to be making a salad, either to go alongside dinner or as the main event, I’m sure to grab one or two of our glass containers (a lot like these ones) to make perfect lunch-sized salads. It hardly takes an extra 30 seconds per salad, and all I need to do is pour some oil/vinegar/seasonings into our small mason jars (unless I’m REALLY on top of things and do that while I’m prepping dinner, too) and grab a couple other lunch sides to round out the meal.

The same goes with dinners, in general. Most of the time, I try to make more than what we’ll eat in one dinner. (There are times that it backfires and the meal is so awesome that we attack the rest of it before making up lunches, but it’s not the end of the world.) So, if I make stir-fry, I make extra and toss it into containers. The next day, I just have to grab an apple, a granola bar, and maybe a handful of veggie sticks (which I also cut all at once in the beginning of the week and store in the fridge when I remember to) and — TADA! Quick lunch. 

Super simple, right? Do you already do this? Do you have any extra tips for making lunch a fast, easy process? Share in the comments!

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Real Food Challenge – Week #6

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Week #5 Review: This week’s challenge was to try two new foods. I’m pretty sure I’ve made some things with lentils before, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what or how or how they were received, so I’m calling lentils a “new” food. I also took this week as the opportunity to sneak some kale in. I was a little off my game this week, so I didn’t get to even considering using the stuff until later in the week. Hence, I’ll be combining the two for dinner tonight. Slacker!

(Update on Week #4: I only ended up eating one meal at a to-go joint during our funeral trip since the church and friends of the family provided a TON of home-cooked meals. Still not always the healthiest, but it was nice to only “cheat” once on the road.)

Week #6 Challenge: “Do not eat any food products that are labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” “light,” “reduced fat,” or “nonfat.” The reason for this can be seen here.

Next week is pretty much a “just keep on doin’ what you’re doin'” sort of week because we’ve already cut out all light/low-fat/reduced fat foods from our diet. Our yogurt is whole milk (except Hadman, who has a “baby” yogurt made with whole milk; I’m not moving him up to the “next level” because there’s added sugar and they’re lower in fat, which isn’t what his lil’ body needs), as is the milk we purchase. So… *shrugs* Pretty easy.

So, that said…here’s our meal “inspiration” for the week. (I’m known to switch out one or two meals here and there as availability of energy and ingredients sees fit.)