Friday, October 17, 2014

Less Spooky Alternatives for Halloween

With news reports of contaminated candy, neighborhood safety issues, and dietary concerns varying from child to child, Halloween is becoming more problematic these days. Health-conscious single parents do not want their kids to have access to an endless supply of candy. Besides, any elementary school teacher will attest to the alarming number of sore throat cases that occur the week after Halloween due to excessive sugar consumption breaking down little immune systems across America. Furthermore, many negative connotations are associated with Halloween, and other single parents simply do not want to teach their children to celebrate evil or glorify death. Finally, most neighborhoods are going dark these days due to fewer trick-or-treaters coming around each year, so why waste money on candy and time waiting around for the doorbell to ring? Why not try a less spooky alternative?

Organize a block party. Keep it simple and plan the block party potluck style where participating neighbors can bring fall treats like popcorn balls (see recipe below), apple butter, or pumpkin bread. The little ones can bob for apples, play pin the spider on the ghost, and make caramel apples. Of course, the party would not be complete without a costume contest to inspire a little neighborly competition and comradery at the same time. Another benefit of the get-together is getting to know the neighbors and establishing a support system so essential for single parents.

Volunteer at a church harvest party or trunk-or-treat. For single parents of teenage kids who already have plans with their friends, Halloween is a great opportunity to help out the community and potentially meet new people. Don a favorite costume and help pass out candy at a harvest party, direct traffic in the parking lot, or run a game booth. Younger children can partake of the trunk-or-treat celebration and older children can volunteer along with parents.

Visit a local pumpkin patch. Going to see a community pumpkin patch and snapping pictures of the little ones in costume is a fun activity that creates lasting memories for the family. Many pumpkin patches now provide rides, games, and entertainment for everyone. Another benefit is taking home a giant pumpkin to carve with the kids.

We discovered that the larger apples are at the top of the tree!

My daughter with
the apple picker 
Plan a family outing that celebrates the autumn season. Enjoy a true autumn treat by spending the day in the countryside before the apple season ends. Relish in a myriad of activities like apple picking, making apple cider, and creating fall crafts. Top off the day with a slice of homemade apple pie, sure to delight both parents and children. If that is not enough satisfaction for the sweet tooth, come home and make Halloween popcorn balls with the kids!!! (Stay tuned for the recipe) 
A beautiful day in the country

Linking to: Pink SaturdayWeekend Retreat Blog Party

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Something to Make You Hungry for Breakfast ...

This semester I offered to bring breakfast for my sweet friend and co-worker every Friday morning since she is pregnant with her fourth child and also teaching a Thursday night class. I knew she would be more tired than usual on Friday mornings, so I thought I could help out a little. We've had some scrumptious breakfasts the past few weeks, but my favorite was the Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who like it because I purposely hid a big piece in our office fridge to eat the next day prior to teaching my Saturday class, but to my shock, all that was left was my round baking dish! I took it as a complement.

Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche 

  • one unbaked pie shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 6 slices diced Canadian Bacon  
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place pie shell into round baking dish and allow to thaw a little if frozen.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together. 
  4. Place spinach, mushroom, and Canadian bacon into the pie shell and top with the cheese.
  5. Pour milk and egg mixture into the pie shell, evenly covering the other ingredients. 
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes, covering the crust with foil to avoid burning the edges. (Note: I ripped off the top crust edge prior to baking since it usually burns, and I am following a low-carb diet, so I do not eat the crust). 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Thrifty Chicks Take on the Rose Bowl Flea Market

My philosophy on budgeting is basically that one can be as frugal as possible while also living in a cute home and dressing with style. Even struggling college students, moms who stay at home and help stretch out their husband's income, and single moms who carry their financial responsibilities alone have NO EXCUSES not to decorate their homes and wear flattering clothes. Why? Because with a little creativity, you can fix up your home and makeover your personal style on a tight budget if you take the time to be smart about shopping. That means frequenting thrift stores, vintage shops, flea markets, and discount stores for frugal finds.

Any opportunity to discover a thrifty deal gives me a little thrill. When two of my co-workers told me about their side businesses of selling vintage items at flea markets on the weekends, of course I got inspired to check out the creme-de-la-creme of all flea markets, the larger than life Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. My mom, the queen of thrift, took the adventure with me. Despite the heat, we toured about 75% of the market, came across my co-worker's delightfully shabby chic booth (where I bought a vintage handkerchief), and scored some deals (like a 1970's dress) among the rows of clothing booths. You never know what you might find. Sometimes you don't even need to try very hard because the deals find you.

My vintage hanky, only $4
My 1970's dress, only $10
Shabby Chic . . . I love it!!!
Vintage bottle and jars
Look, a daisy and cherry dress that I would totally wear!
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is held on the 2nd Sunday each month in Pasadena.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Protecting Kids from the Internet

Kids and the internet. What was once a novelty is now commonplace, and there are some serious issues that need to be addressed.  Not only are there many sites that kids should not be accessing, there are also many unsavory people waiting for the opportunity to exploit them. 
Here is a list of ways you can protect your children without shielding them. The reason I believe shielding is not an effective approach is because it rarely works. For example, there are many parents that just completely block internet access at home, but when a child goes to a friend’s house, a whole new world is opened. It is usually a much better idea to educate your child and properly introduce him or her to safe internet use. Of course, this is not an exclusive list, and I welcome comments and other ideas.
 1)      Know which devices have internet access. We all know about the computer, iPad and smart phones, but how about the TV? Some of the newer electronic games have internet access also.
 2)      Make sure that all computers are located and used in a centralized location--no corners or bedrooms!
 3)      Establish time limits for how long the child is allowed online per day.
 4)      Make joint surfing times. Go online together and practice internet safety.
 5)      Talk to your kids. Explain that it’s like driving. You might be a careful driver, but you need to watch out for others.
6)      Install internet protection and/or supervision for younger kids.
7)      Do a little background work before letting your kids go to a friend’s house. Is there parental supervision when the kids go online?  You do not need to be obsessive; just do a little homework first. 
 8)      Keep an eye out for recently deleted history or weird pop ups.
 9)      Make sure your kids understand that people might not be who they say they are, and they are not to share information, or even chat, with strangers.
 10)   Educate your kids about hyperlinks and the dangers they pose. Disable them if possible.

Guest Post By: Aaron Ross/Internet Security Expert & CEO of RossBackup

About the Author: 

Aaron decided to create a backup program that would be simple, fast, and inexpensive.  A few investors joined in, and RossBackup was born. After working with a few different developers,  Aaron  was ready to launch in BETA at the end of 2012. As the years have passed and the company has grown tremendously, Aaron has stayed very involved in the day-to-day operations. He loves taking support calls, and still believes that the customer is always right.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why I Broke up with Facebook

Tired of checking my phone umpteen times per day to see who’s doing what, going where, and with whom (and why does she always get more likes than me?), I took a rather bold step and deleted the all too familiar AND time consuming Facebook app from my phone.

Truth be told, Facebook was like an addition. It temporarily brought me up when I got likes or comments, but then left me down in the dumps when no one noticed my blog posts. Yep, my self-esteem actually suffered because I know I will never have as many friends or likes as so-and-so and—let’s face it—I’ll never be popular. Never have been, never will be. I just turned forty, and I’ll be damned if I waste the next forty years trying so hard to get you to like me. Besides, I’d rather not resurrect my high school feelings of angst and insecurity that come with the constant obsession of comparing of myself to others via Facebook on a daily basis. Down with that.

Besides, is it so wrong to have a little privacy? Does everyone need to know where I checked in today, what I ate for dinner, who was with me, what I was wearing, what I was thinking at any given moment of the day? Must I do selfies for a little attention these days? Can I have a real face-to-face relationship with you, or must I resign myself to checking your Facebook status to know what’s new in your life? Is it a sin to want to meet the old-fashioned way, in person over coffee, to catch up rather than chat on Facebook?

I may never know. But I do know this. In the last month or so since I deleted the app, officially broke up with Facebook, and carried on with life thinking less about likes and more about what I like, less about the number of my Facebook friends and more about who my real friend are, less about checking statuses and more about having a contented state-of-mind, my self-esteem found its way back.

The deed is done. I raised the white flag. I surrendered and left Facebook to the popular people of this world. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Giveaway!!! Get a Head Start on Holiday Planning with this Nifty Organizer You Can Win

Each September, I try to get a head start on my holiday planning by using discount coupons or going to sales to begin my Christmas shopping with a few months to spare so I have extra time to search for items that fall within my budget rather than making impulse buys under pressure. By starting early, I am not so strapped for cash or overwhelmed with too many tasks come December. Often I am finished with all my major Christmas shopping by early November, so I am free to focus on hosting Thanksgiving at my house, sending out Christmas cards, baking for friends and co-workers, and planning for an ornament or cookie exchange party. Since I love calendars, organizers, and planning in general, I was especially excited about The No-Stress Holiday Organizer: An All-in-One Guide to Planning and Recording Your Holidays. Summer is officially over and, believe it or not, there are only 13 more Saturdays until Christmas. The great news is that getting ready for the holidays can be fun--especially with and organizer like this. Even better, you have a chance to win it!

One of the collaborators and the designer for The No-Stress Holiday Organizer, Angela D. Baxter, was happy to answer my questions and share some tips about the organizer can make your life easier this fall and will save you time for the more important things like connecting with loved ones this holiday season. 

Q. What was the inspiration for creating the holiday organizer?

A. Our team at work was brainstorming about what would be a good idea for a book, something that would be both useful and practical, and we liked the idea of something centering around the holidays in particular. The idea came to us to create this book, The No-Stress Holiday Organizer: An All-In-One Guide to Organize and Record Your Holidays. There really is nothing else like it out there! 

We decided to focus on the three holidays that tend to take the most planning—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s—and then designed the book to be both a holiday planner and a journal, something that would act as a memento of your holiday celebrations for the year. We created the book to help save time and money, and to help put the focus of all the holiday celebrations on spending quality time with your family and friends while also avoiding the stress that can come around the holidays. 

Q. How will it help busy moms this holiday season?

A. We have compiled calendars, budget sheets, party planning ideas, cooking schedules, recipes, gift lists, and more—everything a busy mom needs to plan for the holidays. And having everything in one place makes it easy to keep track of all your holiday plans. You can schedule out all your holiday parties on the included calendars, write your holiday grocery list so you won’t forget a thing at the store, and jot down recipes you plan to use. You can keep track of who’s bringing a side dish or dessert to your Thanksgiving meal, what gifts you’re planning on giving this Christmas, or plan the decorations for your New Year’s Eve bash. And with all the details and planning taken care of, you’ll have more time to focus on your family and friends and enjoy your time together.  

Q.How can it also be used as a keepsake when the holidays are over?

A. For each of the three holidays covered in the book, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, there is specific space set aside for journaling and reflection. A few prompts are included to encourage personal reflection on some of your favorite memories and traditions for each holiday. There’s even room to include a few photos. The No-Stress Holiday Organizer acts as a time capsule for your holiday season, and a fun way to be able to look back on some of your favorite holiday memories.

Feeling motivated to seize the day and plan ahead? To enter the GIVEAWAY, follow my blog and leave a comment about what YOU are doing now to get a head start on your holiday planning. The winner will be announced on September 30. 

Linking up to: Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine's CornerMoonlight and Mason Jars Linky PartyWeekend Retreat Linky PartyPink Saturday

Friday, September 5, 2014

My New Favorite Devotional!!!

Life is tough these days for working moms because we feel stretched so thin and find ourselves constantly running from one activity to the next. Some days, we'd like to just shut the door on the world and not be bothered by one more question or demand. Remember the old commercial about the mom who needed a break and shouted "Calgon, take me away!" as she closed the bathroom door to magically soak away her problems in a nice, hot bath? That was me this week, which is why I was so excited to pick up Holly Gerth's newest release, a devotional entitled What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, and proceeded to shut the door to the world in exchange for a moment's peace with God.

It's not that I am going through a tough time or anything, but most days are hard because I'm just plain exhausted. I'm anxious, too, that I may be crushed by the weight of one more item on my single mom to-do list. When I picked up my new devotional this morning, I felt my anxiety melt away. For a few moments, it was as if Holly was right there in my kitchen, having coffee with me over breakfast and encouraging me with her empathetic words. More importantly, when I turned to the devotional entitled, "God will Ease Your Anxiety," and read a verse from the Psalms, I was reminded that I am never alone because God is always with me. To my delight, I found a few lines at the end of each devotional to write down my heart's response to God. My day started off a little lighter this morning!

As busy moms, we have many responsibilities, places to go, and tasks to complete, but that is no excuse for neglecting our quiet time with God. In fact, the more we have on our to-do lists, the more we need to lean on God. If you aren't currently doing a morning devotional, try starting with What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days for a soothing journey through the Psalms broken down into 52 nifty devotionals that you can do daily or weekly like "God Knows Your Calendar" and "God is Bigger than Your Problems." Even better, you can connect with Holly and other readers through her free face{book} club beginning on September 8th by "liking" her Facebook page! Click on her link to join the book party, get 20% off the devotional, and take a time out from this chaotic world to connect with God and be encouraged by others: Holly Gerth's What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days.


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